In the light of recent political turbulences in the US, GV Art’s director Robert Devčić has decided to curate an exhibition of a politically engaged Andrew Krasnow. This American artist of Jewish background has been voicing political criticism for over two decades and his work has been, and indeed still is, very controversial.
Krasnow’s controversiality lies primarily in the choice of medium for his works, namely human skin. I am not surprised that many people have a problem with accepting such a radical approach to art installations and in the past the artist has already been pressured to withdraw his work form exhibitions.
There were complaints about Krasnow’s Flag From Flag Poll (1990) which consisted of an interactive American flag made of dyed human skin straps sewn together, placed on an I-beam and ‘responding’ in a gesture ‘reminiscent of a Nazi salute’. The work was conceived in the light of the Gulf War and was too much to swallow for politicians so the flag was withdrawn.
In response, Krasnow cut out pieces of his own flesh and sewed it in the seventeenth star of this very flag to, as explained the curator, ‘reconnect with the artwork’. The flag, among other pieces, can be seen at the current London exhibition.
Personally, I went to view it with mixed expectations, driven mostly by curiosity. I was not let down but the works reverberated in my consciousness for reasons different than expected. I was not repulsed by the medium nor did I feel that some ethic boundaries had been broken. On the contrary, the pieces somehow evoked tenderness; crafted with care and respect and carefully displayed to concentrate maximum attention from the viewer.
What hit me then is not the use of skin as such but it’s metaphorical meaning touching on the subjects like commoditisation of the human body, power relations in the US, freedom of expression and economic exploitation.
The Apollo Series (1992) is a perfect example of a clever contemplation of the US expedition to the moon and the fact that ‘in the name of humanity’ they stuck an American flag in its ground. The artist questions political expansion of the country, disregarding the consequences for humans as well as for natural environment.
Other symbols of long-lasting oppression and greed found in the gallery are: a baseball cap with a bullet hole, ‘Shitkickers’ cowboy boots and a toothed hamburger or a ‘Bill holder’, as it was, empty inside. My favourite work in this series is an installation called Fist (1999) which alludes to the use of religious slogans and the propaganda of martyrdom as political devices.
What I find particularly appealing in Andrew Krasnow’s works is his ability to combine utterly personal experiences with mundane ones, paving the road of world political and economic decisions with straps of very human flesh. Subtle yet explicit. A must see.
Of the Flesh by Andrew Krasnow is showing until January 17
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