Gnaw (1992)

Collected Works: Art

 
 

Gnaw

by Janine Antoni
Installation art, performance art, sculpture

View an image of the artwork →

Gnaw began life as a pair of large cubes, one of chocolate, one of lard, each weighing in at 600 pounds. In their final form, elevated on marble pedestals, the two blocks are visibly diminished. The corners are rounded, the surfaces marked. Far from the result of natural erosion, though, this scarring was imposed by the teeth of Janine Antoni. Gnashing and nibbling, the artist worked to prove that sculptures need not be fashioned by hands.

The abrasions provide us with insight into the materials’ textures. We see the dental scrapes in the chocolate, the soft depressions of nose and chin in the lard. Viewing the work, we imagine ourselves pressed against the cubes, our canines contending with one, our face left greasy by the other. The untouched areas highlight the physical limitations of Antoni’s undertaking, as we picture her struggling to negotiate the difficult angles.

The offcuts were neither eaten nor discarded; the process was one of extraction. The mined resources were recast into heart-shaped boxes and lipstick tubes, then exhibited in a small room, made out of three display cabinets, nearby. Tongue firmly in cheek, Antoni presents a commercial caricature of femininity: makeup and Valentine’s Day clichés. Gone are the minimalistic blocks that sat on the studio floor. Refined approaches and rigid substances are nowhere to be seen.

By displaying the products of her labour in this manner, Antoni prompts us to reflect on her methodology. We chomp on sweets and dab our lips with fat on a regular basis, partaking in rituals that we rarely pause to consider. Why shouldn’t art chew tradition over? With Gnaw, Antoni carved herself out a place in the art world, using her mouth to subvert, innovate, and create meaning. Rarely have incisors been used so incisively.

Words by John Wadsworth


More to discover

You can view an image of the heart-shaped box and lipstick tubes here, and see more artworks by Antoni on the Luhring Augustine website. Ryan Steadman has written about Antoni's art for The New York Observer.

Stuart Horodner has interviewed Janine Antoni for BOMB Magazine, as have Robert Enright & Meeka Walsh for Border Crossings, and Douglas Dreishpoon for Art in America.


Question of the day

Which works of visual art from 1992 would you recommend, and why?
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I'm Desperate by Gillian Wearing. Wearing's revealing photograph articulates the innermost thoughts of an anonymous passerby. (→)

– Katherine Fieldgate, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

Pharmacy by Damien Hirst. By displaying drug cabinets in the aesthetic gallery context, Hirst highlights medicine's seductiveness. (→)

– Emma McKinlay, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Twitter )


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