Virgil Marti threw a party, but no one showed up. Or so appears his latest decor-as-fine-art installation of wallpapers and furnishings. Chromed mirrors, and anthropomorphized home trappings claiming James Whistler and Chippendale as inspiration, drive home Marti’s recurring theme, that kitsch and excess are two sides of the same coin. But while his show perfectly sets the mood for a high-camp soiree, in the quietly trafficked gallery, it leaves the lingering impression that our invitations must have been lost in the mail.
Not many artists would represent their parents as settees upholstered in flowers, fur and gold lamé (for Mom) or deep blue with black polka dots rimmed in yellow accents (for Dad), as this one does. These fabulously eccentric character studies suggest that Marti is either the secret love child of Liz Taylor and Barry White, or he’s using liberal doses of artistic license to charming effect.
Unfortunately, the seats are off-limits according to a posted sign, sinking the possibility of an impromptu gathering or interaction with strangers. Granted, Marti’s work speaks to the history of objects, but relational aesthetics has us primed to enjoy a coffee and film à la Rirkrit Tiravanija. Frankly, this show could use a little of that, especially since references to role-play, social interaction and posturing seem to run throughout, from the swagged wallpaper (resembling the curtain of an opulent old theater or movie palace) to the hardwood patterns on the mirrors (a reference to treading the boards?). Sadly, allusions to socializing aren’t as compelling as the real thing.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 748, January 28 – February 3, 2010.