The experience of Bjarne Melgaard’s current show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is a dizzying affair, gradually moving through various states of frenetic excess and slurred assemblage to create an often horrifying depiction of modern life in New York City. Addressing sexual ambiguity, drug abuse and the contemporary art world, all often at the same moment, the show is a challenging, bizarre mirror into the multi-layered worlds of art and fashion, and perhaps more importantly, their points of collision.
Split between the three rooms of Brown’s West Village exhibition space, the hyper-dense works work in a bizarrely coherent, almost narrative structure. Characteristics and clothing brands, postures, images and themes run throughout the various works on view, weaving an occasionally disturbing portrait of the contemporary young American. At the center is the Pink Panther, a classic cartoon image toying with the idea of a debonair, urbane upper class, warped through Melgaard’s haze of drugs, faux-intellectual ramblings, and thick coats of paint.
Throughout the works, the artist continually brings contemporary fashion into the mix, whether by name-dropping designers in his ink-jet printed papers stuck to his enormous, tumultuous paintings, or by actually fastening Eckhaus Latta and Jeremy Scott ensembles to the works themselves. The move is a cunning exercise, examining not only the raw retail value a high-fashion garment adds to each of the works on view, but also the signifier each piece of clothing plays.
As the viewer spends more time in the show, brands become more and more of a prominent facet in each of the works, including the wiry frames of the artist’s Pink Panther sculptures. The result is a closed system, constantly associating back and forth between the values each character places in the clothes they wear, and their interactions in the gallery environment. Nothing escapes, and the viewer becomes increasingly aware that really, the only message is that these elements have nothing to say of their own.
As the meanings behind the excessive layering of the show breaks down, the viewer is left yet again with the image of the Pink Panther, the spry, wiry cartoon with little substance behind his image. But this time, the statue in the front room, that of the character smoking an enormous meth pipe, takes on the primary image. It is this notion of the contemporary psyche that Melgaard is seeking to access, a fragmented self-image concerned with appearances, slowly degrading under the weight of its own self-obsessions, and fading away into its own loaded history.
Confrontational and multi-layered, Melgaard’s show continues through Saturday, October 26th.