Paul Morrison at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami
Paul Morrison, “Raphide” (2008)
Closing soon (May 24th) at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, (194 NW 30th street, Miami, FL, 33127) is an untitled solo show by British artist Paul Morrison. Consisting of all new works that range from drawing and painting to sculpture, this is the artist’s first solo exhibition at the Miami gallery.
Working within narrow formal constraints Morrison characterizes plant forms. Here, apart from a large metallic sculpture of a dandelion situated in the lobby, sixteen works occupy one big gray room. Quite a nice change from the usual ‘white cube’ this low-ceilinged exhibition space that has previously housed the likes of Piotr Uklanski and Takashi Murakami now gives itself (in starkness and in wealth) to Morrison’s graphic permutations of botany.
Rendering his subject matter in strict black and white, Morrison provides detailed yet equally imprecise and cartoon-like silhouettes of leaves and trees. By banishing color from his palette the artist coerces the viewer into projecting their own associative visions onto the canvas; exploiting what Morrison describes as “color from behind the eye.”
Aside from his methods of production, which involve a combination of computer graphics, print and tracing techniques, the fundamental aspect to Morrison’s oeuvre is his manipulation of scale. Depicting seed pods the size of zeppelins and trees that cower powerlessly beneath weeds, his array of visual conundrums initially begs the question “is this perspective or fanaticism?” Frustratingly the answer is elusively ‘neither’ and ‘both’ alluding to a possibility that Morrison simply takes pleasure in destabilizing the familiar.
The style of his paintings and drawings falls somewhere between the Arts and Crafts movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and Microsoft clip art. As such Morrison’s work happily converses well with a group of British pop painters, including John Wesley, Michael Craig Martin and Gary Hume, whose central aesthetic conceit is the use of graphic, contoured forms to deliver blunt, deadpan humor.1
The new works Morrison shows here feel notably slicker than his more playful signature murals and were said to overuse an already contrived engraving effect. Likewise the sculptures – reflective silhouettes of dandelions – appear to rely too heavily on the simple irony that they are flat.1 Of further concern is the clinical, somewhat detached nature of his work as it flagrantly belies the fascination for nature evident in his titles.
Often taking great, almost tender care to reference biological systems and plant anatomy with labels such as “Galbulus,” “Phylum” and “Raphide” (above) it would seem that there is an inherent contradiction between the artists approach and his work; the final result being about as far from organic as one could envision. To be fair, the work does retain a certain text book quality which could, in the right light, be said to be a handsome effort of associative construction but in the context of artists who thrive on obsessions Morrison would appear naught but bogus if compared to others who fully embrace a genuine love of nature. For example Kenneth Andrew Mroczek, a New York based artist well known for his unique visual language and encyclopedic knowledge of plants who exhibited at with Perrotin in 2007, in a group show entitled “Guild” organized by gallery artist Daniel Arsham that featured bespoke work from the afore mentioned together with Dennis Palazzolo, John Bucklin and FriendsWithYou.
Sharing the gallery’s first floor with Morrison is another untitled exhibition of new works, this time by Miami based sculptress Cristina Lei Rodriguez. Not only a more sophisticated shade of her unique flare for near-edible monstrosities these works also playfully demonstrate the artists recent experimentation with new forms and display systems which queerly complement and oppose her previous inclination towards more ‘signature’ floor, pedestal and wall mounted works.
Nevertheless, true to the experience we have come to expect from Perrotin shows, these two starkly immaculate rooms despite being undeniably lovely, unfortunately lacked spirit and intrigue. Alas the effect of this was felt most with Rodriguez whose strength, which relies on her boldness, was sadly missing here.
1. “Painting Emotion” by Michelle Weinberg for Miami’s The Sun Post.
For more information on this gallery please visit: www.galerieperrotin.com