Exhibition room 4. Rachel Harrison

Rachel Harrison’s work draws from a wide range of influence, wittily combining art historical and pop cultural references through a diverse play of materials. Grotesque and funny, Harrison’s humour derives from its carefully structured, yet open-ended suggestion, each element building up to a plausible punch line. Using visual language as a subversive tool, Harrison [...] appropriates styles and motifs with subtle knowingness, wielding artistic process as a mode of investigation.

Source: The Saatchi Gallery www.saatchigallery.com/artists/rachel_harrison.htm

Harrison assimilates Picasso’s Harlequins into her sculpture. The work suggests a pile of boxes wrapped in a painted patern, that of Harlequin’s diamonds, and Harrison took the specific color scheme of red, yellow, and green (along with blue) from the Harlequin in At the Lapin Agile (1905), which she had studied many times in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The repetitive design unifies the irregular structure and this interplay of similar shapes in both two and three dimensions, both painted and real, creates an ambiguous presence that is matched by the exchange between real and virtual performances that it projects.

She took the sculpture’s title from a New York Times essay that discussed a private equity firm called Cerberus Capital Management, the multiheaded watchdog Cerberus who guarded the way to Hades in Greek myth, and the phrase “sops for Cerberus,” meaning “‘an insignificant price to pay for averting much discomfort.”

To her title’s interweaving of classical Greek mythology with the contemporary worlds of commerce and politics, Harrison adds film, building into the work loudspeakers and a projector. Hollywood’s pirate fantasies collide with financiers’ self-mythologizing and the pitches of a street salesman, all wrapped in the theatrical costume of Harlequin.

Source: exhibition catalogue for “Post-Picasso: Contemporary Reactions,” Michael FitzGerald