Lest we get too mushy around here on Valentine’s Day, the art world is here to keep us in check. Artists have been inspired by love since the dawn of time, but these art installations dive deep to examine the complicated, sometimes ugly, and occasionally really sweet side of romance and relationships. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments, below.
Critic Robert Nelson on Australian artist Anastasia Klose’s pink staircase installation:
There is something almost treacherous about its splendour, recalling noble architecture in ticky-tacky materials. Like some magic escalator of spirit, it promises to lead to artistic heights; but the bright runway to the stars is also a kind of tomb of fallacious affection, as if a monument to a broken heart. Called The Order of the Universe, the staircase echoes with several ancient archetypes of performance: La Scala, the altar, the amphitheatre, the exedra, the aristocratic courtyard and the geometric deco catwalk. But if you ascended it, there’s nowhere to go but down again. You could tryst a while on the balcony of fluffy carpet at the top, but it wouldn’t be long before the thrill of a stellar fantasy were exhausted. Ironically, you don’t feel that you can walk up the stairs; instead, you are invited through a lit doorway into the internal chambers beneath, where a book of poetry sits on a heart-shaped plinth. From the perspective of the heart, then, the same stairs that take you up are now experienced in reverse: the space declines to claustrophobic tightness by the very steps that might have lifted you up on the outside. Videos run in this dingy attic, one with snatches of conversation ridiculing the perfunctory greetings of shop assistants and the other bedded down with the indolent artist in an unkempt garden in Coburg. Now a symbol of depression, the neglected garden is an aesthetic disgrace of people who can’t get their lives together.
Website Afterall on Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room – Love Forever:
Kusama thinks of hallucinations as moments of rapture that assault our senses within a process of self-destruction or self-diffusion. This notion is clearly present in works such as Invisible Life (2000), an installation in which the exhibition space is covered with convex lenses, and Infinity Mirrored Room – Love Forever (1996), a box with a peephole that uses mirrors facing each other to produce a infinite number of reflections. The reason these works are more than simple optical devices is because they embody Kusama’s monomaniac fears – fears that compel her to continue weaving surfaces in order to confirm her own existence. As we peek into her installations, the polka-dot patterned pumpkins, multicoloured lighting and other objects enter our perception like a dash, and slowly multiply inside our consciousness, as if Kusama’s fears were contaminating it. In other words, we share that sense of uncertainty that lies somewhere between the external and internal, and of which Kusama is always aware.
A review of Deepjyoti Kalita’s installation about modern-day relationships and expressions of love:
A close-up photograph showing artist Deepjyoti Kalita’s chest and back etched with the words “change me” and “be like me”, sends a chill down our spine as we enter the Latitude 28 gallery in Lado Sarai. The image gives the impression of self-inflicted torture by the artist. Perhaps when Kalita thought of depicting a feeling of obsessive or insane love that resonates in the French title of his exhibition, “Amour Fou”, he thought it was best to give viewers a sample of the show right at the entrance to the gallery. As he speaks at length about his work Change Me/ Be Like Me, the 30-year-old Baroda-based artist says, “It is almost a history of violently expressing our love to anybody. Hanuman cut open his chest to depict his love for Ram and Sita. In Bollywood, the hero is seen etching the name of his girlfriend on his hand. One is using the violent ways of expressing love and that reflects how people gain pleasure by torture. It is a painful process, but gives immense pleasure to the beloved.”
The Lana Sutra was created by Cuban artist Erik Ravelo and consists of 15 figural yarn installations — an homage to love, desire, equality, and sharing.
From artist Tracey Emin, about her neon “poems,” including the above work, The Kiss Was Beautiful, created in 2013:
I write a lot and when I was younger had a great deal of enjoyment reading 13th century esoteric love poems. Many of my neons are love poems but not being sent to one individual but to many. Other neons appear to be full of anger but actually it is humor, some things just shouldn’t be seen in neon. Most of my neons are left open ended so the viewer can interpret them how they wish, e.g. ‘I never stopped loving you’ (2010). This could be a declaration of love that goes on forever and ever or a statement that the person was made to stop loving someone else. Some letters work better in neon, some words work better in different colors, but essentially it is about getting the balance right between the sentiment and the garishness of neon.
Korean artist Jung Lee creates dreamy, neon text installations in nature. This work is part of the Aporia series, inspired by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, which contains fragments and musings from a lover’s point of view.
On Kara Walker’s MoMA installation, Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart:
In the work’s elaborate title, “Gone” refers to Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind, set during the American Civil War. While Walker’s narrative begins and ends with coupled figures, the chain of tragicomic, turbulent imagery refutes the promise of romance and confounds conventional attributions of power and oppression. “The history of America is built on . . . inequality, this foundation of a racial inequality and a social inequality,” the artist has said. “And we buy into it. I mean, whiteness is just as artificial a construct as blackness is.”
On Brad Adkins’ solo exhibition, Romance:
“Romance” represents something of a re-emergence for the artist, who has kept a low profile since his irrepressible flurry of creative activity a few years ago. The time was evidently well-spent, as “Romance” is undeniably Adkins’ most mature and well-realized effort to date. “Effort to date” could serve as an alternate title for the show’s centerpiece work, an 11-foot, red vinyl banner in the style of a “Help Wanted” or “For Sale” sign. Adkins’ piece wears its lonely heart on its sleeve, though, boldly proclaiming “Girl Wanted.” The sign could be read as a self-deprecating send-up of personal ads and companionship in general, or as a spoof of the true motivations that inspire so many works of art. The choice of the word “girl,” instead of “woman,” speaks to gender roles, expectations and desires in contemporary courtship.