Bureau is pleased to present a solo project by Lionel Maunz for Art Basel Statements 2016.
The idea for the piece came from my interest in Harry Harlow and the evolution of parent/child relations over the past 150 years or so. The discovery of microscopic pathogens led the medical community to encourage a form of child rearing based primarily on a denial of physical contact. One result was the child hatchery: a proto-incubator designed to keep infants in a sterile environment, to inhibit the spread of disease. I like the idea that love and maternal instinct are deformed/negated by the threat of disease. The incubators are the blueprint for decades of parenting...the aversion to 'coddling', a refusal of contact, antagonism towards the corporeal, all an austerity masquerading as love. -LM
With this work for Art Basel Statements Maunz builds upon the ideas examined in his recent solo exhibition, Fealty, focused on interrogating the corrupting agents of child rearing, of family and at its core, of desire and need. Maunz’s installation for Statements features four identical incubator forms built of steel and glass, installed in a row, conveying a cold and threatening institutional corridor. In Maunz’s imposing, sealed structures, a cast iron form of an infant lies, each in a successive stage of transformation. The artist has often worked with sequential decompositions: over multiple, degenerating casts or the sculpted flow of a degrading form. Here, in viscerally chilling and intricately sculpted cast iron, a defenseless infant progressively yields to an abstracted form bubbling forth, gradually emerging from disintegrating biomorphic remains. The form seems to be decomposing and eventually surrendering to the inhuman qualities of cold geometry and gleaming minerality, the child thus purified of its subjectivity.
Maunz’s work wrestles with difficult, often brutal material, inspired by diverse visual references, personal history and literary and historical sources. A triptych of drawings looms beyond the sculptural structures: a trio of portraits, each an influential figure for the artist in developing his recent work. Each portrait is meticulously rendered in graphite from a transposition of two photographs: one young, one in old age. At left, R.D. Laing, the Scottish psychiatrist who famously linked madness to what he saw as the unnatural forces applied by the family unit. As Laing wrote in 1967, ‘the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of [the child’s] potentialities.’ At right, the aforementioned Harry Harlow, whose bullish will to prove love’s necessity led him to extreme and unthinkably cruel primate experiments. And, at center, a mugshot of an anonymous sex offender taken from a book by one of the artist’s main influences, American writer Peter Sotos.
With an unflinching will to express a dark and violent vision of society; Maunz presents a powerfully visceral and affecting body of work.
Lionel Maunz (b. 1976, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) received his BFA and MFA degrees from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. His solo project in the lower level at MoMA|PS1 is on view through August 2016. In 2017 The Contemporary Austin in Austin, TX will host a solo exhibition of his work. He has been the subject of several one-person exhibitions at Bureau: Fealty, 2016; Deluge, 2014; Receipt of Malice, 2012; and Wail Eternal Scorn of Geologic, 2010. Selected group exhibitions include the forthcoming Omul Negru, Cantacuzino Palace, Bucharest, Romania; Greater New York, MoMA PS1; Rotrixagatze, On Stellar Rays; ARSC km15.1 simulation, Ramiken Crucible. In 2009 he was included in Mirror Me organized by Kai Althoff and Brandon Stosuy at Dispatch, New York. His works are in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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