Marianne Vitale has joined Invisible-Exports this fall for her first exhibition with the downtown gallery, bringing a single installation of handmade torpedoes that plays on concepts of military machismo, violence, weaponization, and the underlying threads of handicraft and technology that unite these elements in the utilization and application of deadly force. Looming over the viewer in the center of the gallery space, Equipment’s inverse pyramid translates the artist’s long fascination with technology and materiality into a strikingly immediate, and highly animated format.
Vitale’s work here offers a new twist on her ongoing interest in the movements and material of modern technologies, particularly those that occupy interstitial spaces. Pieces of infrastructure, tools and physical barriers frequently appear throughout her work, twisting their historical content (many, like her railroad ties, are outdated pieces) into an engagement with their role in the facilitation of travel, safety, or, in this case, violence. Often engaging with the raw material and impressive industrial heft of her subject matter, Vitale’s pieces impress a sense of both the object’s scale, and the scale of speed and industrial force that these objects facilitate.
Here, however, Vitale’s objects are notably reserved, carrying much greater impact from their immediate recognizability as weapons instead of their scale or weight. Handcrafted in wood, they are impressive simulations, held in a suspension that implies an endless vector, an absence of a target or goal that ultimately abstracts the torpedo’s purpose. The works also bear a secondary operation by the artist, each adorned with a stylized and cartoonish motif that plays on the habit of bombardiers and ship gunners to adorned their missiles with often sexualized or childish graphics. Pushing this concept to the forefront here, Vitale’s torpedoes are a striking mix of more traditionally common images with strange turns and variations. In one, she has coated the entire missile with a cowhide pattern, topped with a “USDA Fine” stamp of approval, while in another, she paints a massive eye onto the center of a pink torpedo, turning it into a depiction of a giant squid. In another, Jackson Pollock‘s spatter painting technique covers a missile from end to end.
These stylistic inflections are distinctly notable in considering Vitale’s work here, particularly in its exploration of the act of destruction. Suspending the torpedo’s path indefinitely, the artist’s work on the surface of these objects offers an intriguing interrogation of violence and sexuality in conjunction with the weapon itself. Underscoring the object as a site of fetishistic obsession for its users, her pieces allow a moment of pause to consider the authors of both these images, and the destruction their medium brings. Placed in conversation with Vitale’s past work, this exchange hints at more complex engagements with her materials to come.
Equipment is on view through October 16th.
— D. Creahan
Marianne Vitale: Equipment [Exhibition Page]