Elmgreen & Dragset, “Changing Subjects”

Art, Contemporary art
4 out of 5 stars
Elmgreen & Dragset, “Changing Subjects”

Berlin-based duo Elmgreen & Dragset have a reputation for producing teasing, attention-grabbing art to match Maurizio Cattelan’s (like his of America, the Guggenheim’s golden toilet). Their notoriously absurdist public projects have included Prada Marfa (2005), a fully stocked but hermetically sealed boutique located incongruously in the Texas desert, and Van Gogh’s Ear, a sculpture of an upright swimming pool installed outside of Rockefeller Center this past summer, In “Changing Subjects,” however, the pair offers a tight selection of gallery-bound installations from the past 20 years that highlights a somewhat more intimate and occasionally autobiographical side to their output.

The show opens with Modern Moses (2006), a wax figure of a baby in a basket that’s seemingly abandoned beneath an ATM, which here replaces the traditional doorstep as a poverty-stricken parent’s last resort. It’s a punchy one-liner of the kind that fans of Banksy will appreciate, as is The Experiment (2011), in which another wax figure, this time a small boy, poses before a mirror in high heels and lipstick. The latter work’s reflexive allusion to the formation and performance of gay identity—a recurrent theme in this show—suggests that a practice that sometimes feels both conceptually glib and formally airless may have more to offer.

By: Michael Wilson

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