Carole Feuerman’s hyperrealist sculpture is too elegant to feel like a joke, and no more critical of its subject matter than if it presented floral arrangements instead of attractive young women. It does not validate a moral order by composing formal energy in space, as do so many genres of historic figure sculpture. But neither does it challenge the moral order of our postindustrial world as contemporary art so often does. Like the Art Deco figurines of the 1920s, it’s more like an eye-catching bauble, suitable for display in upscale apartments.
All of the women Feuerman depicts are white, with carefully patinated skin tones strategically covered by fashionable bathing suits, so we can enjoy curvaceous bodies without the embarrassment of nudity. None are too skinny, too fat, too dark, too ethnic, too old, too awkward, too hairy, too emotional, too bored, too poor or too sick. No zits, no bruises, and of course, no tattoos. They all seem self-satisfied, but not enough to make them annoying. These perfect women represent the ideal consumer, whether of swimwear or yoga classes. They seem to have walked straight out of a 1950s magazine advertisement for the latest automobile or major appliance.
In our postmodern art world, it is bold to present such commercial idealism without a trace of irony, and quite a technical achievement too. Feuerman and her team have expertly cast and retouched all facets of the human forms, from the large shapes of the abdomen to the tiniest complexities of the fingers. The surfaces have been finished with such precision that bathing suits appear like cloth rather than cast resin. With even greater care, the artist has reconciled naturalism with elegance, holding the long lines of silhouettes where necessary. But life-casting techniques, like photography, inevitably leave shapes that feel more like the passive trace of things than asserted expressions of them. They belong to their surrounding space no more than billboards along a highway do. Like the neoclassical art of the eighteenth century, her work is a rare display of both virtuosity and proudly elite social isolation. (Chris Miller)
Extended through October 25 at KM Fine Arts, 43 East Oak
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.