The Flag Art Foundation is currently hosting Changing Subjects, a solo exhibition by internationally acclaimed Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset. Changing Subjects, designed by the artists, presents new and existing works from the duo’s twenty-year-long collaboration that address existential issues linked to identity, sexuality, and mortality, as well as an examination of social value systems and the expectations that surround them.
Changing Subjects investigates the multiple meanings of the word “subject” as a noun. In grammatical terms, the subject can be a noun functioning as one of the main components of a clause, making it the element about which the rest of the clause is predicated. In turn, the predicate is the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject on its own. In the context of Changing Subjects, the subject of each work exists independently of the others, yet when viewed together, they shift positions, creating a complex interconnection between the autonomous works.
The works in the exhibition, ranging in date of creation from 1998 to 2016, collectively guide visitors on a non-linear journey through various life stages. However, the sculptures and installations do not mark momentous occasions; on the contrary, they show introspective, unspectacular moments, by way of a figurative representation, by the use of a minimalist symbolic language, or by employing the actual materials to which they refer. Even when a lifelike human form is not shown, presence is implied through absence. The repeated use of an antiseptic material like stainless steel underscores a sense of a clinical study and evokes solitary feelings of abandonment.
Among the works in the exhibition on the 9th floor is Modern Moses, 2006, a wax figure depicting a sleeping baby in a carrycot at the food of an ATM machine; and The Experiment (2011) a sculpture of a little boy in front of a mirror wearing his mother’s lipstick and high heels.
An early readymade by the artist duo, Powerless Structures, Fig. 19, (1998), consists of two pairs of Calvin Klein underwear inside faded Levi’s jeans lying on the floor, as if someone has just undressed and dropped them.
Side Effects (2015), fills the 10th floor with an installation of hand-blown glass vases filled with the actual pastel-colored pigments used to coat the latest generation of HIV medicines. The title refers to the physiological effects of the life-saving medication, as well as the resulting decrease in media attention that has followed these medical advances.
The exhibition also includes a site-specific sculpture on its outdoor terrace, overlooking the Hudson River.
Watching (2016) is a new, life-size sculpture of a man on a lifeguard stand, likely more voyeur than rescuer, looking out over the Hudson River with monoculars. Made out of stainless steel, the polished surface mirrors and distorts the surroundings, and shifts the perspective on who and what is being watched.
Changing Subjects By Elmgreen & Dragset will be on Exhibit Through December 17th, 2016 at Flag Art Foundation, Located at 545 West 25th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.