It is certainly a rare treat for me, and other art lovers like my chief partner in crime, Geoffrey, when a modern artist of the caliber of Damien Hirst opens a new exhibit here in the city. G and I were understandably excited to attend the opening night reception for an exhibit of Hirst’s Medicine Cabinets at the L & M Arts Gallery on the upper East side this past week. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a couple of Hirst’s exhibits previously and they are always extremely emotionally powerful and visually captivating. Hirst is a controversial artist whom many dismiss as being shallow or excessively hedonistic to a degree of pointlessness. Obviously, not everyone “gets it.” Personally, I think his art is beautiful and I enjoy losing myself in the cult of enigma that surrounds his message and motivation. The Medicine Cabinets show at L & M is probably going to leave just as many people puzzled, while those who care not to seek a solution will find them to have a message and meaning that’s open to interpretation and still fully satisfying.
Photos By Geoffrey Dicker
I first saw the Medicine Cabinets series as part of the 2008 exhibit, School: The Archaeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity, and the Search for Knowledge, where they were contrasted with institutional wall clocks that ran backwards or otherwise told incorrect time, and row upon row of sheep carcasses in formaldehyde tanks. At the L & M show the cabinets stand starkly against the gallery’s white walls, which can’t help but conjure the perception of a clinical setting. As Geoffrey pointed out, everything Hirst puts forth as an artist adds to the conversation, and there is always much to discuss.
Assembled together for the first time are the seminal Sex Pistols cabinets from 1989. Each cabinet takes its name from one of the twelve title tracks of the legendary 1977 debut punk album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Art Critic Arthur Danto writes in the show’s catalog essay that Hirst’s, “Medicine Cabinets constitute a constellation of still lifes that express and reflect the human body as a field of vulnerabilities and of hopeful medical interventions that have replaced the body as a narrative agent that artists must learn to depict in heroic stances.” The exhibition also includes the first two cabinets Hirst ever made: Sinner (1988), in which the artist incorporated drugs from his grandmother’s medicine cabinet and Enemy (1988-89), both of which presage the Sex Pistols cabinets. Also on view is a monumental four-part cabinet The Sex Pistols (1996-97), shown publicly here for the first time.
A separate gallery room on the upper floor displays a range of Sex Pistols memorabilia including prints, posters, t-shirts and framed, collected 7-inch singles in their original covers (note: I own the “Silly Thing” b/w “Who Killed Bambi?” single that’s exhibited – nice!) all from the seventies and eighties.
Medicine Cabinets by Damien Hirst is on exhibit at the L&M Arts Gallery, Located at 45 East 78th Street, NY New York through December 11, 2010. Gallery hours are 10:00 am – 5:30 pm Tuesday – Saturday or by appointment by calling (212)861-0020.