Brazilian artist Jac Lernier’s first exhibition at the Yvon Lambert gallery has its visual appeal, but sadly, no tricks or treats inside the sacks. Clear acrylic shadow boxes encase and display the objects of Lernier’s affection, plastic shopping bags whose branding and logos have all been cut and “squared” away. Despite these “voids,” they still retain their sack handles and vestiges of colors and design. The artist has also lined them with a thin padding, to give them more bulge and presence. The containers that hold our purchase are elevated for purchase themselves. Some bags with complementary lines and hues are paired together inside their protective boxes.
The bags are arranged cleanly as staggered groupings in the main exhibition room. They produce a sort of recycled, clean energy, with fluid movement to them, not unlike the modernist paintings of Mondrian. Theirs is the even flow of an undulating wave that doesn’t overwhelm or submerge, and herein lies their shortcoming.
In the front room, two columns of bags lay on the floor, with their museum store branding intact. We know that Lernier has gone to the Hayward Gallery, Smithsonian, Kunsthaus Zurich, and many others. Does she secretly love to shop and consume? Like a condensed museum mile, they overlap one another in an all-too predictable, quasi-obsessive manner. As with their counterparts on the walls, it is their inability to surpass the formal that floors them, literally and conceptually.
It is not enough that the artist has presented these symbols of artistic and institutional commodification, and re-classified them as rarefied art objects. In fact, they look very comfortable in such a state. Perhaps if Lernier had introduced other unsuspecting elements, maybe over-filled the bags with blood, paint, or something else more risky and transformative, as opposed to cheap padding, then we might have concluded that Osso was not merely an exercise in making a cheap buck out of cheap materials, but rather a substantial critique of the status quo that critics and artists so blindly love to hate.
As it is, Osso is just so-so.
--Trong Gia Nguyen
Images: Installation views and details of Osso (2010). Courtesy Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York.