Archive: Issue No. 74, October 2003

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Alex Trapani

Alex Trapani
Imperfect Drawings, 2003
Oil on canvas

Buy one, get one free
by Suzie Copperthwaite

Located on Jan Smuts Avenue, in Johannesburg, Merely Mortal is a trendy day/night venue: a gallery-cum-showroom-cum-lounge caf´┐Ż offering its patrons, amongst other things, an opportunity to explore (and own) bits and pieces of local visual culture. Currently the venue is being used to exhibit, in collaboration, the work of Antoinette Murdoch and Alex Trapani in a show titled 'Pure Pop'.

Murdoch's work consistently addresses the aesthetic politics related to identity and sexuality, as well as the complex, multifaceted and often contradictory roles occupied by women. This exploration has manifested itself in the appropriation of a selection of common, everyday feminine objects with some seductively quirky results.

Here, her work is quite literally domestic, blatantly referenced from and produced within traditional female practice. Murdoch's work slips easily into Pop models. For this show she has included T-shirts, text-embroidered hospital linen scatter cushions and other items packaged for retail. These artistic products can be read as part celebration, part critique of popular feminine culture. Although I believe that these strategies may potentially allow for transcendence of stereotypes, I am just a little short of feeling convinced.

Through multimedia production, Trapani, it seems, aims to negotiate and communicate elusive and untraceable origins and endings. Situated it conceptions of the sublime, Trapani's themes appear universal. In search of a poetic of time and space, he investigates notions of purity, the immeasurable, the 'absolute', and the indeterminate.

His obscured, large-scale digital prints and Imperfect Drawings (2003) reveal an interest in limitation, departure and process, suggesting his questioning of the re- presentation of images and ideas. The indistinct images held in Copy of a Copy of a Copy (2003) are intriguing in aesthetic terms.

Destined to arrive at some kind of inconsistency, Trapani's subject matter begs cool, detached models in both the making and viewing. This impassiveness or removal presents dilemma and difficulty when immediacy and accessibility has been anticipated. Far from neutral, the space itself inhibits this type of observation.

Murdoch has pushed the parameters of her already 'pop' work. Embedded in consumerism and the commercial, affordable merchandise is offered for purchase. On the positive side, perhaps we have eventually moved away from the (apparently inexhaustible) high art/ low art debate. If you look hard enough, you probably will find thematic or conceptual motivation for collaboration, but, struck by incongruity, I honestly struggled with these two artists exhibiting their work together.

Opens: September 4
Closes: October 4