Exhibitions2005White Elephant

White Elephant

4 Feb 05

Sean Kelly Gallery

White Elephant at Sean Kelly was Gavin Turk’s first major exhibition at the New York gallery. The exhibition featured new paintings and sculptures. In the Main Gallery a group of works from the White Elephant series extended Turk’s investigation into ideas of authorship, authenticity and identity.

The museum scale canvases depict the artist, in the personae of Che Guevara, Elvis Presley and Joseph Beuys, all in the style of Andy Warhol. This subtle and characteristic appropriation of identity, if not immediately apparent to the viewer, is alluded to in Turk’s purposely-misspelled title “Che Gavara” utilised for one of the works. Installed in Gallery 1 was Pile, a painted bronze sculpture of a pile of garbage bags, which implicitly gives value, historical importance and permanence to superfluous refuse.

In this work and others, Turk has explored the way in which a work of art is conferred with iconic status and value. Self Portrait with Hands Around Neck, a frame previously used for a Warhol painting with a blank canvas, signed by the artist, and Metaphysical Nail, a sheet of white paper nailed to the wall and signed by the artist, specifically comment on and question the artist’s signature as sign of identity and value. These works take rigorously, yet playfully, amble through the crisis of originality and value in art, with wry humour, informed elegance and a nod to the work of Rene Magritte and Marcel Duchamp amongst others.