Genitals Meet Victorian Architecture in Jonathan Monaghan’s Digitally Rendered Art

Artsy Editorial
Mar 20, 2015 6:58PM

Body scanners, video phones, cartoon bulls, and jewels all make appearances in the mash-up digital art of Jonathan Monaghan. Using 3D digital rendering, Monaghan remixes imagery and forms from the contemporary to the baroque, calling attention to the futuristic way in which we interact with the world around us.

Still from Jonathan Monaghan, Escape Pod, 2015, courtesy of the artist and bitforms gallery


This Sunday, Monaghan unveils a series of new work at New York’s bitforms Gallery, including videos, prints, and sculpture, in his solo show “Escape Pod.” Monaghan’s work involves rendering familiar objects, materials, and surfaces in foreign ways. These run the gamut from whimsical to pointed: he once helped MakerBot Industries sculpt a plastic model of Stephen Colbert’s head as the body of an eagle, and then launch the model into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. But his art also includes serious critiques of social dysfunction and inequality.

The exhibition features two digitally rendered videos, The Pavilion (2014) and Escape Pod (2015). Both reveal narratives about Fabergé egg-like spaceships, which are reproduced in Monaghan’s inkjet prints accompanying the videos. In The Pavilion, one of these vehicles rises to the ceiling of an opulent room that mixes modernist appointments and baroque decorations, before exiting the room through an orifice-shaped duct.

Still from Jonathan Monaghan, Escape Pod, 2015, courtesy of the artist and bitforms gallery

IT-O Interrogator Egg (2014) reprises the object in The Pavilion, displaying it on a base, rather than floating in the air. It is rendered with black-fabric textures, a name-brand satellite dish on top, and two testes emerging from the bottom. Other strange remixes and mash-ups abound: Mid-Century USB (2014), another inkjet print, shows an egg/escape pod with small mattress-like forms around its widest portion, each constricted with small belts with in-built ports for cords and other plug-ins. Imperial Genitals (2014) is an egg/pod made of the upper façades of Victorian townhouses, with a port on one side, topped with a crown. These strange collages of images and forms show the kind of possibilities that are made available to artists by new technologies and media. The Jeff Koons-like Recumbent Bull (2015) is a 3D-printed metal sculpture that operates in a similar way as Monaghan’s prints and videos, appearing like a futuristic mash-up of forms and textures imitated by real materials.

Like other digital artists such as Jon Rafman and Cory Arcangel, Monaghan takes recognizable elements from the contemporary world and shows how bizarrely futuristic and foreign they are in isolation.

Stephen Dillon

Jonathan Monaghan: Escape Pod” is on view at bitforms Gallery, New York, Mar. 22–May. 3, 2015.

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Stills from Jonathan Monaghan, Escape Pod, 2015, courtesy of the artist and bitforms gallery.

Artsy Editorial