Allanah, Buck, Catman, Michael, Pamela and Thomas: Marc Quinn arrives at White Cube

By Kirstie Brewer | 28 May 2010
A large sculpture of man with a black face and white hair

(Above) Man in the Mirror (Monochrome Reversal) (2010). © the artist. Image: Roger Wooldridge, courtesy White Cube

Exhibition: Marc Quinn, Allanah, Buck, Chelsea, Michael, Pamela and Thomas, White Cube (Hoxton Square), London, until July 7 2010

"The world is so weird that you don't have to make things up, you just find things," says Marc Quinn, the British artist who made a sculpture of his head using ten pints of his own frozen blood.

With his sculptures and paintings, the artist persists in confronting the link between corporeality and spirituality, and his show at White Cube is no exception.

Quinn's work has evolved from the famous fourth plinth sculpture, Alison Lapper Pregnant, into a new exploration of the public's obsession with the body and all its perfections and flaws.

The sculptures at White Cube constitute an extreme plastic surgery hall of fame, branded by some in the press as a "freak show".

Perhaps what is most "freakish" is the fact that all the sculptures have been modelled from life and yet seem to exist beyond normal boundaries of classification.

Try to engage beyond the initial reaction and a more profound, sensitive agenda should begin to materialise.

The very notion of identity is called into question, exposed as a fragile, complex and multi-layered construction, interminably co-existent with our external physical selves.

A large white sculpture of a pregnant man

Thomas Beatie (2009). © the artist. Image: Roger Wooldridge, courtesy White Cube

Michael Jackson makes an appearance in the form of two sculptures that work in dialectical opposition - one with a white face and one with a black face.

These sculptures are striking, if not a bit predictable, but they compliment the series of flower paintings executed in reversed colour.

Tabloid favourite Thomas Beatie towers benignly over visitors, tenderly cradling his pregnant belly like its some sort of immaculate conception. The marble portrait is resonant of the Virgin Mary or Michelangelo's David, and its sheer size almost infantilises the viewer.

Similarly, niche transgender porn stars Allanah Starr and Buck Angel stand hand in hand, like a latter day Adam and Eve, striding out into their future as radically altered human beings.

The exhibition brings up a lot of questions that are difficult to answer- what is natural and unnatural? Do the physical appearances of these models necessarily represent an accurate incarnation of their inner psyche?

The life-size sculpture of petite Chelsea Charms dramatically illustrates just how shockingly enormous her silicone implants are. And yet a sculpture of Pamela Anderson, famous for her implants, doesn't seem very shocking at all.

A white sculpture of a woman wearing a white robe

Chelsea Charms (2009). © the artist. Image: Roger Wooldridge Courtesy White Cube

By juxtaposing Pamela Anderson with people like Chelsea Charms and Catman - the "human tiger" - Quinn points to just how quickly society acclimatises to body transformations and advances in plastic surgery.

Catman, Allanah, Buck and Chelsea exist on the outskirts of convention, but at some point in the not too distant future it is highly conceivable that they could appear no more scandalous than Pamela Anderson.

Quinn brilliantly executes the sculptures in mediums that chime with antiquity, the renaissance and idealised beauty. He maintains something classic and alluringly beautiful and yet his sculptures speak volumes about the society we live in today.

Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission Free. Under-18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Visit Kirstie Brewer's blog or follow her on Twitter

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