Friday, July 24, 2015

About Drugs and Art

“Can art treat social ills, or is it just a placebo?"
Beverly Fishman

The conceptual American artist Beverly Fishman’s artistic journey had its beginning by observing her younger sister’s hair color; she was a brunet while Fishman was a redhead. Considering the common parental bond Fishman began investigating how to represent that minute shift in a cell that could create such a difference.

As she explained in a lecture at Portland’s BECon 2013 “I was interested in how we could take the cellular level and speak so much about the condition of mankind.”

A child of America’s golden age of mass production Fishman began by looking at the relationship between the multiple and the individual. As she said “I was looking to bridge technology and the handmade. Where did technology end and the handmade begin? I was looking to fuse that, fuse the mechanical and the handmade and also think about something to be a multiple, an exact multiple but through making, ah, it always being individual and that has continued my practice for over 20 years.”

In the 1990’s Fishman had an “ah ha” moment that caused a radical change in direction for her work. Fishman told a girlfriend she had a headache and her friend brought out of her handbag an arsenal of pills from which to choose. An action that caused Fishman to realize “our identities are what we take! Our Identities are based on what we wear, on what we like, on what we buy, on what we ingest. Our identities are made up of all the sum parts and so for me medication and who we are is as American as apple pie.”

From then until today, through painting and installation Fishman has been critiquing the pharmaceutical industry, both legal and illegal. With an eye tuned into the branding, marketing and usefulness of the products using a variety of mediums ranging from fluorescent paint to glass in both post-Pop art and Minimalist styles.

As she says in her artistic statement “"I do engage directly with the legacies of these movements, but I pursue an aesthetic that combines abstract form with social and political critique."

About which she has elaborated, writing “I treat the museum or gallery space as a living organism by releasing pharmaceuticals into the institution’s interior. The capsule serves both as an icon and as a vehicle for abstraction, through which changing color and pattern combinations unfold. The glass pills, which cannot dissolve, present multiple paradoxes. How are we to ingest their substances? Are they cure or poison? Can art treat social ills, or is it just a placebo?"

Her current exhibition Beverly Fishman: In Sickness and In Health is on show at Norfolk, Virginia’s Chrysler Museum until the 3rd of January next year.

No comments: