Virgil Marti’s Dark Fairytale Descends Upon Philadelphia
Installation view of “Virgil Marti: Forest Park” at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia. Courtesy Locks Gallery and the artist.

Installation view of “Virgil Marti: Forest Park” at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia. Courtesy Locks Gallery and the artist.

While earlier interior-inspired projects have included riffs on louche bachelor pads and wallpaper made up of the faces of high school bullies, Marti’s latest show—“Virgil Marti: Forest Park,” on display at Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery—is a bit more fantastical. But just like so many fairy tales, its sweetness hides a darker core. 

At the center of the show is a collection of Marti’s signature “looking glasses.” Made of MDF cut into the shape of luxe Rococo mirrors and then stained and chromed, these ombre rainbow pieces offer the viewer blankness instead of the expected reflection. Meanwhile, richly rendered textile prints hung from the walls offer their own windows into psychedelic landscapes filled with eerily symetrical landscapes against acrid skies darted with glowing rainbows.

Other pieces in the show take a more sculptural approach through furniture, without losing any of the magic and whimsy of the looking glass and textile pieces around them. In fact, these benches and a single têt-à-têt double chair seem to invite viewers to pause for a moment and take in the wall-mounted works around them. But these are no normal places to sit—the logs and branches that make up Marti’s furniture pieces are actually cast in cement, while gold leaf, aluminum, steel and macrame pieces emerge or grow organically from them.   

Installation view of “Virgil Marti: Forest Park” at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia. Courtesy Locks Gallery and the artist.

Installation view of “Virgil Marti: Forest Park” at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia. Courtesy Locks Gallery and the artist.

Despite the whimsical elements of Marti’s imaginary world, not everything here is childlike and innocent. A white plaster mask on a snakeskin pillow sits on a bed of tangled tree branches. This sort of memento mori presents the actual death mask of John Keats, which is on loan from The Wadsworth Atheneum, and references Marti’s recent MATRIX project there.   

Heather Corcoran

Virgil Marti: Forest Park” is on view at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Sept. 5 – Oct. 18, 2014.  

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