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Cathy de Monchaux.


Like Rachel Whiteread or Grenville Davey, among other British sculptors of her generation, Cathy de Monchaux is warping aspects of the Minimalist vocabulary toward metaphoric ends. Most of the works here show her to be more interested than her peers in the object's potential for reduplication and seriality; that is, most of them work by the multiplication of similar parts. In de Monchaux's hands, however, modularity evokes not just industrial manufacture, but a distinctly biological, corporeal dimension as well, whether the implication is of cells, organs, or entire bodies.

Cruising Disaster (all works 1996), for instance, spreads horizontally across 18 feet of wall space and consists of 111 similar vertical modules, held to the wall by steel clamps, of involuted and stitched black and red leather that has been imbued with white chalk dust. These modules resemble fleshy chrysalides; their pink pupae emerge from the folds of the darker enclosing leather in the 37 units to the right and to the left, while those in the center are bulgingly contained yet on the verge of bursting out, perhaps like some kind of breeding station for Ridley Scott aliens. At the same time, there is something deeply vulnerable and human about the work's creepiness: a better film analogy might be the atomic ash that covers the bodies of the lovers in Hiroshima mon amour, the atmosphere of which the chalk dust begins to recall.

This aspect of vulnerability is more fully evident, as the title implies, in a similarly constructed (but vertical) work, Balmy Rusty Wounds. Here the clawlike hardware gripping the stacked sequence of leather cylinders also acts to hold open their outer layer to bare the alarmingly raw and flesh-like involutions of the subcutaneous interior. This gesture of baring the wound recalls depictions of the resurrected Christ, with the viewer in place of the doubting St. Thomas. (I even felt Thomas' urge to stick my finger in to touch, though unlike him I held back.) But rather than evidence of an event unique in history, the multiplication of this gesture of exposure implies simply the ordinary price of existence.

The intimacy between the industrial and the carnal gives de Monchaux's sculpture a distinctly fetishistic flavor. Compared with the gleaming metals and richly colored velvets of her earlier work - perfect and inviolate - the new work may have a more subdued initial effect, but the aftertaste is equally ambiguous and disturbing. The still-fierce steel hardware has been subjected to a corroding chemical and the leather permeated with chalk dust, giving everything a blanched, slightly worn cast. These may still be war machines, but having been through a few battles, they're weary: "And Some Mornings I Didn't Want to Get Up at All," as the title of one work has it. In this piece a white-chalked, black leather whip/tail/snake falls from a clamp on the wall to uncoil across the floor and culminate in a brass spike, the implied exhaustion offset by the sense that something threatening in it could awake at any moment.

- BS
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Title Annotation:Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, New York
Author:Schwabsky, Barry
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Apr 1, 1996
Previous Article:Alice Neel.
Next Article:Francesco Clemente.

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