Words > Selected Catalog Essays and Press


"Scattered around the gallery space of Flat, which is actually an apartment on the Upper East Side, the group of artists in "Flatterers" comment on the fulsome chattiness and cattiness that oils the wheels of social exchange today, just as it did in Moliere's time. The shows punning title conjures 18th-century court comedies, in which flattery's manipulative allure was a repeated motif; the installations fit the uptown atmosphere like guests at a cocktail party, sycophantically seductive yet absurdly hypocritical. In a sound piece that plays over a set of headphones, Kristen Oppenheim repeats Janus-like sentiments in a girlishly subversive whisper. She pairs obsequious phrases, dressed up like flirtation, with contemptuous and antagonistic undertones by purring Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday Mr. President" through one earphone, while murmuring her wish to "burn your house down" in the other. Babes in Toyland and other riot grrrl bands might have played a similar game, but Oppenheim's piece stands chillingly on its own as her soft tone both lulls and seduces. Nastier is Gabriele Stellbaum's video of two white mice crawling and nipping at each other, seeming like dueling rivals in an old MGM flick, embodying the trickery often involved in flattery.

Pieces by Sabina Ott and Lauren Ten Eyck summon gushy admiration, flattery's more demonstrative side. Like a proud mommy, Ott employs the adage "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" by assembling Gertrude Stein's poem "Tender Buttons" as digitally produced Day Glo refrigerator magnets. (It's an odd, but appropriate representation, considering how often Stein wrote about food.) Such adoration transforms the poem into an intimate, digestible form, making it light and girlish. Working with light more literally, Ten Eyck's installation of flesh colored latex grid marks running across the window adds new complexity and beauty to the view. Within Flat's familiar apartment context, such visualizations of slick conversation are sly and witty enough to deserve sincere praise."

Ana Honigman
TimeOut / NY
July 19-26, 2001

by Ana Honigman
Time Out / NY