Mizota, Sharon. Review, Art LTD, West Coast Art & Design, March 2007.
In her latest show—consisting of seven large photographs, five sculptures, and a selection of small drawings––Bari Ziperstein takes a humorous look at the juncture of modernist aesthetics and consumerism. Having filled her own home with perfectly white, utterly pointless architectural forms––reminiscent of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau (1923–1947), eccentric, room-size installations of jumbled abstract volumes—she invited a professional magazine photographer to document them. The resulting images confer a sheen of commercial desirability on interiors where modernism runs amok.
Ziperstein’s architectural interventions seem to follow a formal logic; for the most part, they extend the profiles of everyday objects along straight-edged vectors to generate new forms. In Untitled (Home Office), a white column defined by the rounded shade of a hanging lamp extends all the way down to the floor, tunneling through a desk (and rendering it useless) in the process. It’s a quietly hilarious image of formal purity trouncing practicality. Other works poke fun at the foundations of modernist style. In Untitled (Hallway) the extruded forms of three picture frames project horizontally into space and then pivot arbitrarily at right angles down to the floor. Erstwhile a staple of modern design, the right angle is here rendered gleefully superfluous. Ziperstein cleverly undermines “form follows function,” by subordinating it to the “more is more” logic of consumerism. Her crazy, multiplying volumes are modernist tchotchkes.
The show’s three-dimensional works amplify this idea. Untitled (Alexandra) encases a kitschy figurine of a showgirl in a pile of white planes and angles, and in Untitled (Brass Lamp) a column descends to the floor from a generic, mid-century chandelier. Initially, these works feel more like supporting evidence than independent objects, but they gradually effect their own perceptual shifts. Playing off the gallery’s architectural details, they start to cast doubt on the structural necessity of its own walls and columns.
Ziperstein focuses our attention on the ways in which environments are constructed, while astutely charting how modernist utopianism has become (or perhaps always has been) camouflage for consumerist aspiration. By using the high, pure language of modernism to create something so homely and absurd, she makes us laugh and frees us from the strictures of modern life to embrace real life.