Don’t go to this show looking for works that just please the eye. Some are pretty or entertaining, yes, but all have a complex theory or analyze a social issue that goes beyond the aesthetics. Grab the curator’s essay and study the plaques.
‘Better Homes’ calls up images of women in pearls with their fine china as seen on the glossy pages of the iconic magazine Better Homes and Gardens. The SculptureCenter’s current exhibit by the similar name plays with this idea.
Through the works of multiple international artists the show examines how people influence their homes. The works zoom in on the changing idea of family — one in which a stay-at-home-mom doesn’t often sit serenely in her dining room with her pearls — and on materialism as well.
“It’s about the human,” SculptureCenter Associate Director Frederick Janka said as he walked through the gallery, which once served as a trolley repair facility.
“The works on view raise a range of questions, highlighting the changing ways in which individuals interact and inhabit domestic spaces today,” curator Ruba Katrib says in her essay about the exhibit. “The home is an object of desire, loaded with fantasies and realities and affected by economic, social and political attitudes and policies.”
Many of the pieces could be written off as simple, but the theories behind them add layers, such as the photograph of a cute blond toddler smiling, crying and staring off, entitled “Adoption,” or Carissa Rodriguez’s piece in which a Cartier “Love” ring, which comes with a screwdriver one’s partner can use to tighten the band onto a loved one’s finger and then wear the key around his neck, is embedded in a slab of marble hinting at the commercialization of feelings and how perhaps that notion is ingrained in the foundation of a home.
Robert Gober’s untitled print is of himself dressed as a bride and printed to look like a Saks Fifth Avenue ad printed on a page in The New York Times. Above the “advertisement” the article’s headline reads “Vatican Condones Discrimination Against Homosexuals.”
Gober looks elegant and like the many pictures of serene brides on the internet and in bridal magazines, yet the article above him juxtaposes the issue of same-sex marriage, something that Americans have been debating for decades, with states, families and religious institutions taking varying stances.
Anthea Hamilton’s work “Kabuki Chefs” looks at the kitchen, a growing centerpiece of many modern homes. Two male mannequins suggest a changing landscape where men cook and women are elsewhere.
There are other elements as well. The floor is white and the kitchen appliances minimalist.
“The installation fits somewhere between a department store display and theatrical stage,” Katrib writes. “The staging of the works suggests a certain lifestyle.”
Is that a lifestyle in which the inhabitants are too busy to use the pristine kitchen or one that gives them ample time to clean everything just right?
It’s up in the air.
Another piece in the show by Rodriguez comprises two large photos of her boyfriend’s sperm. These photos, together called “Yesterday I Tried to Paint You” and captured by a lab technician, like the “Kabuki Chefs” comment on the idea that a family must have a mother and father.
“Due to new, advanced medical technology, it is increasingly common for women to have children on their own — reducing the dependency on a traditional family structure and contractual relationships,” Katrib said.
The woman has ownership of the sperm.
Downstairs a video by French artist Neil Beloufa shows a real estate agent catering to each of his clients. It’s the same Ikea-furniture-filled space but depending on if he is talking to a grandmother, a father looking for a place for his daughter or a gay couple, he changes how the space will work for them. He does not appeal to just their sense of function but their emotional needs as well.
Can one space “accommodate all individuals?” Katrib asks in her essay.
Something that New Yorkers are much familiar with.
There are many other pieces — from instructions on how to turn a single bed into a double, collages of interiors with bodies posed as like they were statues or pieces of art to plastic bottles repurposed to look like crystal.
When: through July 22, Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves St., LIC
Tickets: Free, (718) 361-1750