Erick Swenson

January 26, 2003 - May 4, 2003

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Polyurethane resin and acrylic paint. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York, and Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, (white deer – both images).

For Texas artist Erick Swenson’s West Coast debut, the Hammer will exhibit an untitled sculpture of a young deer scraping the tender velvet from his antlers onto a resin cast of a large Oriental carpet. Using digital technology to scan the original carpet and an inkjet billboard printer, Swenson has painted the design and color onto the polyurethane resin cast. The room-size installation offers us a haunting juxtaposition of object and creature, both displaced from their original identities and place. Swenson’s Hammer Project exemplifies his sculptures of fantastic creatures caught in surreal situations. These works, startling in their originality and humor, are the result of his lifelong obsession with dioramas, prosthetics, stage sets, and special effects.

About the Exhibition

By Charles Dee Mitchell

When I look at notes I've taken on Erick Swenson’s sculptures, I see that I constantly refer to them as something-like. I have notes on creatures that are apelike, sheeplike, and weasel-like. Cast in polyurethane resin and more or less life size, they are sometimes very much like these animals. But the apes wear mountain-climbing gear, the weasel sports a Fair Isle sweater, and there seems to be something off about the sheep’s legs. There is also often a disturbing amount of attention paid to their tiny, very even teeth. If you discount their pristine hairlessness, the young deer Swenson has created over the last two years would possibly pass muster in a natural history diorama, except that in nature fawns don't wear leather chokers around their necks and hind legs. These recent deer, however, are certainly more naturalistic than Edgar (1998). Part horse and part poodle, he was a pitiable and laughable creature who nevertheless, posed atop a snowy crag, maintained a beleaguered dignity. He struck me as Edwin-Landseer’s-Monarch-of-the-Glen-like.

The high level of consciousness and adaptational skills displayed by Swenson’s creations suggests an alternative evolutionary path that has placed them, or perhaps stranded them, in a humanlike position in their world. All we see of EB (2002) is his simian head, which is white and aged, with wrinkles around the eyes and on his cheeks. He is hairless and white, but his red eyes suggest world-weariness rather than albinism. As a sculpture, EB has the sagacious presence of an ancient bust of a Roman senator. More

Charles Dee Mitchell, a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas, is a regular contributor to Art in America and the Dallas Morning News. He has written essays for publications accompanying exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Dallas Visual Arts Center, and many other museums and galleries.

Organized by James Elaine, curator of Hammer Projects.


Hammer Projects are made possible, in part, with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Special thanks to the Cooper Family Foundation for the loan of Untitled, 2001.

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