Wed Aug 22 2007
Courtesy the artist, The Wanas Foundation,Sweden, The Horticultural Society of New Yorkand Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
Peter Coffin is known for his work with plants and the paranormal, and with “Tree Pants,” his new series of color photographs, the New York artist combines these elements to quasi-ironic effect. Quasi because the work feels a bit too comfortable surrounded by the botanical books and reproductions of plant-related artworks that Coffin has chosen to accompany his work. Ironic because “Tree Pants” consists of pictures of trees wearing upside-down blue jeans (custom-made by Levi Strauss & Co., no less). But even if Coffin’s approach seems a little too green, his solo debut offers a welcome respite from the usual NYC fare with results that are likable, if not amusing.
The four images here were taken at the Wanas Sculpture Park in Sweden, and highlight changes over the course of a year. Spring depicts the forest’s lush green abundance with a trouser-endowed tree sprouting up in the background. The gold and yellow hues in Summer and the barren, snow-covered landscape of Winter bring to mind Brueghel’s atmospheric paintings of seasons and labor.
Though the images are attractive, the sight of anthropomorphized trees wearing jeans is less than transcendent. Coffin seems drawn to an awkward, if free-spirit sort of sublimity, as evidenced by such previous work as a corkscrew of light made from 30 postcards of rainbows arranged in a spiral, and “aura” portraits done with a rigged Polaroid camera. “Tree Pants” is more absurd than either of those, but its ambiguous juxtaposition of nature and nurture will leave you wondering just how far removed from real, untouched beauty we’ve become.