Authentic Mondrian Forgeries, from a Glittery Sweatshop
Walking into London’s Rook & Raven Gallery to take in “Bigger Than The Both Of Us (MoMA)”—a solo showing of work by British contemporary artist Corinne Felgate—viewers should be forgiven for thinking they’ve stumbled into the wrong place.
Where they might expect to see works in tune with the 21st century, they find a roomful of works resembling the iconic gridded paintings the early Modern artist Piet Mondrian, and recall the gallery filled with his creations at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They also find a hive of women in uniform, busily making more of these works, which appear, upon closer inspection, to sparkle. Something is clearly amiss—exactly as Felgate would have it.
What viewers are actually seeing are the artist’s two new installations, respectively titled Bigger than the Both of Us (MoMA) and Studio X Y Z. Both stem from the ongoing investigations that shape all of her work: our lust for luxury and status symbols; the way we engage with and are shaped by the mass-produced items that we consume; and the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of these items. These works are both authentic and fake, and call into question our habits of consumption and notions of authorship and value.
Studio X Y Z, a performance installation, is a studio-cum-factory-cum-sweatshop, in which Felgate reveals her process of producing the knock-off Mondrian paintings that fill Bigger than the Both of Us (MoMA). This involves acquiring high-resolution images of the paintings, printing them out to scale, and then fabricating the works with colored glitter and cloth on board.
Felgate’s inspiration for this meticulous and intentionally ludicrous process comes from a village in China. As she explains: “[S]ome years ago I heard an interview with an artist who works at the Dafen Oil painting village, in China. He only re-produces The Scream, working out of his kitchen at home producing 7 a day, all day, everyday… I then became obsessed with the power and also audacity of the act of replicating an artist’s entire body of work, and how it could be possible to appropriate perhaps the most appropriated artist of all time…” So she chose Mondrian and tried it herself—albeit with her own shimmering spin.
“Corinne Felgate | Bigger Than The Both Of Us (MoMA)” is on view at Rook & Raven Gallery, London, Jan. 23–Feb. 28, 2015.