Christian Holstad: american standard

6 February - 14 March 2009
Victoria Miro Gallery I


16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

Victoria Miro announces the second solo exhibition in the UK by American artist Christian Holstad, whose distinctive practice encompasses large-scale installations, performances, labour-intensive collage and hand-made textiles. american standard will comprise a number of new sculptural works, as well as a new body of drawings from Holstad's ongoing 'eraserhead' series.

Taking its name from a global manufacturer of toilets, american standard presents a group of works that reflect on communal experience and activity, transforming everyday, recognisable objects into unexpected, often politically-charged commentaries on contemporary life. Encounters with such diverse environments as street corners, cocktail-parties and public toilets are implicated in various works, all of which are rendered as soft-sculptural forms. In one installation, two silver platters display elaborate party hors d'oeuvres, one half-devoured, the other with its shrimp cocktail still perfectly intact. Gathered round, a group of snake-like 'figures' pose as the indulgent, glamorously dressed partygoers. A signature motif of the artist, the snake form recurs in several works in the exhibition. In a large wall hanging, long serpentine fabric elements are inter-woven to depict an imagined confrontation that has taken place at the corner of Kingsland Road and Old Street in East London. Within the work are clues to the incident - a supermarket trolley, discarded groceries and a motorbike - representing the collision of ideals and the erosion of identity in this increasingly gentrified area.

In the upper gallery, Holstad has installed a number of freestanding urinals fashioned from pristine white towels, combining techniques of embroidery, unweaving and a modern adaptation of Victorian stumpwork. Stitched into the towels as though tossed into the receptacle are images of detritus common to wider society - cigarette butts, french fries, condom wrappers. In direct reference to the title of the exhibition, the artist playfully suggests that although America may have set a (societal and political) standard, that standard is perhaps not what it seems.

In the main gallery, alongside a soft sculpture of a stand of velvet ropes, Holstad will exhibit new 'eraserhead' works (1996-ongoing), so-called for method the artist has developed by taking clippings from newspapers and erasing and redrawing elements of the image. These works for the first time introduce an additional component - pastel drawings of pale blue Wedgwood china - that suggests a particular idea of class and status, as they offer a surreal commentary on politics, society and the deflation of power.

Throughout this show lies an investigation of 'high and low' in all its guises, and how this paradigm is employed to describe culture, class, society, and urban space. Not least significant is Holstad's use of craft techniques and materials - often relegated to the realm of 'low' art - to invert preconceptions about acceptable behaviours and practices. Who sets the standard?

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