“Cold Blood” (all works 2012) was the young British artist Alice Channer’s first solo exhibition in New York and, in the manner of many of her peers, she offered less a display of individual objects than an overall atmosphere. Also, as is common today, much of the essential information about the work could not be determined from looking alone.
Context was available in the press release, which stated that Channer’s practice is concerned with the disappearance and mutation of bodies and materials in a “post-industrial” environment, by which she means the virtual realm. In the exhibition, objects related to the human body had often undergone complete transformation. For example, she stretched an image of a Pantene shampoo bottle and printed it at a monumental scale. For MAR108 and MAH684G, she made resin casts of a Topshop skirt, plying the casts while still warm to create forms that resemble large blue leeches suctioned to the wall.
Even without background information, however, the exhibition radiated a strange, sentient life. The viewer was swept into a space that almost seemed to breathe—a feeling heightened by Gills. Four disparate sculptures, vaguely recalling Sol LeWitt’s modular units, protruded from the left and right walls of the main space. They are composed of massively distorted images of Channer’s arms that have been printed on Spandex and wrapped around thin aluminum poles. The armatures are curved into lines mimicking Yves Saint Laurent’s sketches for his Le Smoking Suits. The results appear nothing like either an arm or an outfit; rather the open structures lent the flat walls an organic swelling quality.
Spread along the length of the floor, Backbone 1 and Backbone 2 consist of nine undulating chromed aluminum rods and six curving pieces of polyurethane resin in purple or green; the resin objects, also taking their shapes from Saint Laurent’s sketches, seemed to slither across the rods like salmon swimming upstream. They led viewers to Primordial Fluids 1 and Primordial Fluids 2, which from a distance look like strands of colored thread cascading down sheets of heavy white fabric suspended from the ceiling; the title implies that here is the stuff from which new life evolves. Up close, the white spaces reveal themselves to be stretched digital images of the aforementioned shampoo bottles; the colored threads are enlarged images of strands of the artist’s hair. Hair and shampoo are turned into flat surfaces, and are then given fluid qualities in this sculptural work.
While Channer frequently combines representations of her own body parts with inanimate materials to create forms that have no resemblance to the human body, Fingers in My Eyes is recognizable. It’s a small cast bronze made from a distorted 3-D print of the artist’s own finger. Attached to a wall, it points the viewer to the main space. Similar fingers appear in Tectonic Plates, a floor sculpture of sinuously curving metal sheets, about 1 foot high and 5 feet long. The piece suggests a miniature Richard Serra, except for the nine disembodied digits pressing down on the top edge of the metal. The exhibition could have done without the fingers, which reasserted the presence of human life in what seemed otherwise an exciting ecosystem of nonorganic creatures.
Photo: View of Alice Channer’s exhibition “Cold Blood,” 2012; at Lisa Cooley.