cape reviews

'Morbid Appetites'

Frances Goodman at Goodman Gallery

By Sue Williamson
12 November - 12 December. 0 Comment(s)

Frances Goodman
MINDONTHEMONEY (det), 2009. Mixed media .

In her installation MINDONTHEMONEY, Frances Goodman satirizes both the iconic creators of luxury branded goods and those whose insatiable desire for these objects leads them to buy backstreet knockoffs at a fraction of the price.

All across Europe, immigrants from Africa, struggling to survive, sell belts, sunglasses, and particularly handbags, all copied from the brands which dominate the pages of Vogue down to the famous logos. These illicit wares are transported in suitcases and carrybags, so the itinerant salesman are ready to pack up and run at the first sign of the police.

MINDONTHEMONEY, then, echoes just such a scene.

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Unseen voices repeat urgent mantras like 'Armani Armani Armani', 'Gabbana, Gabbana' and 'Miss! Miss! Miss!' Across the gallery floor, suitcases and carry bags lie apparently abandoned, an open one revealing a stock of ‘designer’ sunglasses. But these are no ordinary suitcases.  Goodman’s remarkable achievement is that each piece of luggage is as exquisitely fabricated down to the last detail as any to be found in a Fifth Avenue emporium, worked on by a team of skilled craftspeople. (Goodman makes her pieces herself, assisted by a small trusted team of women).

And in reproducing the revered logos of Chanel et al, and their signature designs in glittering sequins, so that they sparkle and refract the light, Goodman renders these logos more conspicuous than ever, exposing the level of superficiality which causes shoppers to pay far more than they would for a similar item without the showy stamp of the designer.

Although made in a spirit of irony, Goodman’s objects are also beautiful sculptural objects. It is probable that they are too sophisticated for local collectors, and that the buyers for these gleaming artworks will be found in the art fairs overseas, adding another layer of complexity to this project, and to the codes which dictate who buys what where, and for which reasons.

Obsessions and addictions of one kind or another, particularly those usually attributed to women, have long provided a focus for Goodman’s work. The overall title of the current exhibition is ‘Morbid Appetites’ and in a darkened room, insistent whispered voices emanating from a fridge with a slightly opened door impart an urgent  message to anyone driven to sneak a snack.  ‘Always eat in front of a full length mirror’. 'Nothing tastes as good as being thin’. Goodman has entitled this piece Dear Ana, as in anorexia, and in the catalogue which accompanies the show, a letter written in an adolescent hand begins: 'Dear Ana, You are the only one who understands me. I give you my heart, my dreams and my body, Everything I am is yours, and in giving you all of me I hope to slip into the lightness that seems unattainable without you.’

‘The lightness that seems unattainable without you…’ In that phrase, Goodman pinpoints the motivation, the morbid appetite, that fuels the addict, and so often seems incomprehensible to those who are outside this vicious spiral.

In her glittering installation of designer luggage and mutated handbags, in the discs of dressmakers hooks and eyes used to tighten clothing to ever smaller dimensions,  with texts such as STARVE ME SANE, in her sequinned models of the chemical structures of the prescription drugs like Valium which so lethally invade the lives of many, the artist reflects upon these desires with sharply conceived work which in its exquisite execution, itself borders on the obsessional. Goodman deals with superficiality in a deep way.