“Fox in the Mirror”

Pub date April 23, 2008
WriterAri Messer
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW When artists speak of found objects, they sometimes mean found — in a marketing plan. But Liliana Porter is different. The Argentine artist is the real thing, hopelessly devoted to convincing us that something is missing, not from her impeccable arrangements of miniatures and figurines — or the potent, often-hilarious feelings they invoke — but from our too serious attitudes toward the private parts of our lives.

Porter’s 2007 video Fox in the Mirror, presented in a show of the same name at the Hosfelt Gallery, reveals the artist to be a sculptural Gertrude Stein. Stein gave language body — undressed it, laughed at it, cried for it, and cuddled it. Porter does the same with Fox, manipuutf8g small, signature objects to Sylvia Meyer’s arresting musical score, which varies from lush tangos to symphonic yet anticlimactic movie-trailer music. "Oriental" pentatonic melodies are thrown in ironically to match Porter’s musical and military Chinese figurines.

The video begins with a series of vignettes more powerful than the following narrative sequence, which is eerily conducted by a well-dressed fox. They sparkle with sex and sadness as a white candle resembling a man and woman dancing in formal wear spins into tears, a bright yellow chick encounters an emotional storm, and a duo of Mao wristwatches move one tick forward and a lifetime of ticks back to Meyer’s electro remix of a song from The Sound of Music (1965). Sketches named after types of punctuation stimulate feelings of expectation as a turbaned musician seems about to swallow a bird alive. Javier Marias wrote that the present is a curse because "it allows us to see and appreciate almost nothing." He has a point, but the beauty of the statement outweighs the sadness of its meaning. The same could be said about Porter’s transcendent art.

LILIANA PORTER: FOX IN THE MIRROR Through May 3. Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Hosfelt Gallery, 430 Clementina, SF. Free. (415) 495-5454, www.hosfeltgallery.com