Tuesday, March 2, 2010

VIP Room

Virgil Marti - VIP Room

Virgil Marti’s VIP Room, currently on view at The Galleries at Moore as part of Philagrafika 2010, really resonated with me. I cannot help but think about it in contrast to the installation he did for The Fabric Workshop and Museum over the summer of 2009 (image here). He has distilled an essence of that installation into a directness of message that is richer with connotation. Less has become more. At FWM his installation felt overly-stuffed with its four pouffe settees, multiple arranged bone sculptures and bone curtains, and Austrian Swag trompe-l'œil wallpaper. The resulting hyper-decorative funereal ambience played with notions of taste in décor, as much of his work does. But if that work was more about our society’s rituals concerning death and burial—funeral parlors and their faux-homey interiors of sitting rooms appointed with plush furniture and false fireplaces, walls draped with luxurious satin fabric that call to mind casket linings—his new installation seems to comment on what comes afterward.

Virgil Marti - VIP Room (exterior view)

The allotted gallery space lends itself flawlessly to the premise of a VIP room: the wall of windows looking out on Logan Circle, rather than a de rigueur velvet rope, form the threshold through which the select and the general mass can see one another, but cannot cross. As for the layout of the gallery, its Spartan arrangement, limited to one shaggy pouffe and a dangling mirror ball casting its pale twinkling light, foster a carefully measured atmosphere that directs all attention to the wallpaper, the installation’s real star. The floral forms of his previous bone sculptures are still in use, having been translated into the repeat pattern for the wallpaper. The ingenious part of this fusion is the reflective backing (previously used in his Lotus Room wallpaper) above which the flat plane of the bone motif seems to float. The mirror-like property of the wallpaper allows the viewer to see him or herself in the work, making the personal implications of the memento mori effect all the more immediate.

Virgil Marti - VIP Room (Wallpaper detail)

Additionally, the downright frigid color palette, coupled with the openness of the gallery, creates a solitary experience for the viewer. I felt isolated and alone in the room, strengthening also the psychological ramifications of a VIP area, even with several other visitors present. The blurring effect of the wallpaper’s dimpled surface contributes to this feeling, because though you may see your own reflection, it is abstracted, and the reflections of others are even less discernible. The sum of its parts comes over as something like what purgatory might be. Here you find yourself in a waiting room, a holding pen, where through a window you can see an outside paradise, but must wait indefinitely for purification.

Virgil Marti - VIP Room (Wallpaper detail)

For some of Virgil's own thoughts about his work and printmaking, here is a great interview published by Philadelphia City Paper.

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