Petah Coyne: Everything That Rises Must Converge
Unlike many contemporary artists who focus on social or media-related issues, Petah Coyne imbues her work with a magical quality to evoke intensely personal associations. Her sculptures convey an inherent tension between vulnerability and aggression, innocence and seduction, beauty and decadence, and, ultimately, life and death. Coyne’s work seems Victorian in its combination of an overloaded refinement with a distinctly decadent and morbid undercurrent. Her innovative use of materials includes dead fish, mud, sticks, black sand, old car parts, wax, satin ribbons, artificial flowers and birds, birdcages, and, most recently, taxidermy animals, Madonna statues, and horsehair.
A selection of Coyne’s recent work, along with two new works, was on view at MASS MoCA in Everything That Rises Must Converge. Viewers were transported when entering the galleries: baroque works delicately combining taxidermy birds and dripping with wax rose up from the floor, and chandelier-type sculptures descended from the ceiling, taking full advantage of the multiple vantage points of MASS MoCA’s triple-height gallery space. This exhibition particularly focused on works from the previous 10 years including selections from Coyne’s series based on Dante’s Inferno, such as Untitled #1180 (Beatrice) which transforms Dante’s love into a monumental sculpture of black-wax covered flowers with the most subtle color breaking through, and with velvet and various taxidermy birds diving in and out of the towering form. Galleries filled with white wax sculptures were adjacent to the black works — these pale, ghostly images called forth Victorian lace and at the same time the frailty of life. Some of Coyne’s ghostly photographs featuring blurred figures of children, and Buddhist monks were also on view. 128 pages. Paperback.