Staticity, the snapshot-where the photograph replicates death or at least a nanosecond of life is rarely captured in sculpture where, usually (except for the bronze tonnage of many a public artwork) the artist strives to capture the energy and movement. It is ironic therefore that this display of work could be the start of a non-movement movement owing more to the stillness of photography than the unbridled energy of say, Umberto Boccioni. There is of course a direct link to one of the greatest works of art, that of Degas’ La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (or Little Ballerina) but these are real people photographed to look like hyperrealist sculptures.
In a sense they are a healthy riposte to the human detritus portrayed by Duane Hanson but these are executive toys writ large that play host to the kitsch requirements of many a public commission-a more credible school of Franklin Mint. Here, where there are certain mucky Mueck moments, instead of tiny things made huge, these big guys look like tiny heroes made into paperweights.
They don’t carry the cultural weight of some of Jeff Koon’s iconic subjects but veer towards the banal- are these guys heroes ? Or a post-Warholian marketing man’s idea of contemporary branding that plays on gay iconography? There is an inherent vulnerability in all of the subjects-for all the uniform Men’s Health muscle, there is an undercurrent of fallibility, doubt, uncertainty, even failure floating before their eyes. There is bathos, Pathos and well... loss. What else do these figures have to say? Probably, like most sportsmen, very little but the artistry is undeniable.
So what are we to make of these figures? They are so shiny one could lick them and yet they can’t work as sculpture because you can’t walk around them. Having used hours of artifice to create these tableaux, the photographers have flattened and ‘killed’ them-this is where they start to look like a ‘brand’ this is where the viewers’ eyes are presented with the advertising art director’s idea of realism-up close and personal.
William Harvey MA