Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s “Optimist’s Ennui”, from her current solo at James Cohan Gallery in New York, is almost entirely made of inlaid woods. As always with Taylor, her art runs the risk of being too much about the clever marquetry that makes it, but in this piece that craft seems an especially tight fit with its subject. That’s because Taylor’s wood represents the wood that would normally be underneath the surface of a fine picture, but literally exposes it – and also pierces it to reveal a lumber-filled scene beyond. The always-vexed relationship between pictorial surface and depth here gets an extra note of complexity thanks to Taylor’s technique. (The fact that her show is called “Surface Tension” makes clear that she understands and intends this reference.) It also doesn’t hurt that Taylor’s using the finest hardwood veneers to represent crude plywood, thereby revisiting the everpresent tension between a picture as a deluxe object, and a picture as just a bunch of crude materials in a particular configuration.
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