Hunting and Gathering

Plundering the Image Bank With Cattelan and Feldmann

A celebration of the generic, the debased, the marvelous, and the pathetic through eccentric inventories of pop objects and imagery, Feldmann's "Une Exposition d'Art" includes work from the '70s to the present, much of it photographic, nearly all readymade. Though Feldmann also takes his own photographs—of, for instance, the views from various hotel rooms or one woman's entire wardrobe—they have an amateur snapshot quality that blends in seamlessly with the many anonymous snapshots he collects and re-presents in his work. Among the exhibits in his retrospective, along with a display box of Milky Way bars, a glass bowl full of pocket watches (all set to different times), and a toy train running in circles on a patterned rug, are an arrangement of 22 color photos of the Eiffel Tower, a small valise filled with flea-market photos, black-and-white Xeroxes of kitsch imagery pinned like posters to the wall, and a long grid of color-copies of mass-market photos of dogs, cats, soccer players, sunflowers, the British royal family, and Jayne Mansfield. Artless, authorless pictures like these were fetishized by dadaists and surrealists and prized by Pop and Fluxus artists, but Feldmann doesn't seem to care about the choice artifact (either object or image) so much as the perfectly banal throwaway.

Ugly, infuriating, historic: the cover of Charley, John Bock's photo
photo: D.A.P.
Ugly, infuriating, historic: the cover of Charley, John Bock's photo

But you don't need to fly off to Paris to get a pungent taste of Feldmann at his best. The spring-summer 2002 issue of Another Magazine, the hefty, high-gloss biannual put out by the publishers of Dazed & Confused, opens with 12 pages of black-and-white photographs chosen and laid out by Feldmann in a style that will be familiar to those who have seen his various newsprint publications and two small books he calls Voyeur. Veering from the corny to the horrific, from the immediate to the historic, and mixing art photos with photojournalism and stock shots, Feldmann's scrapbook-like pastiches borrow from visual culture at all levels. The resulting slice of life, presented without an organizing narrative or any apparent intent, is, like Cattelan's magazine projects, both canny and chaotic. Dipping into the universal image bank, these artists come up with junk and jewels. However casual his projects, Cattelan is a judicious editor, but Feldmann is much more promiscuous, sampling high and low with such freewheeling élan that the distinction evaporates. Maybe we are the world.

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