Hunter Reynolds at Artists Space

Hunter Reynolds Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007 [detail of installation]

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

Hunter Reynolds's elegant installation, "Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007", is currently installed in one of the galleries of Artists Space. The performer/artist/activist's elegant, couture, strapless ball gown hangs from a torso mannequin in the SoHo gallery, not-so-slowly spinning on its axis (as it did when so memorably inhabited in the past by its creator himself), accompanied by an ambient piece of music composed for and contributed to the installation by the contemporary composer Edmund Campion.

This is not just another cold tally of the epidemic, but rather a very human, a very personal collection of thousands of memorials, and a rich artistic gesture as well: The names on the dress were initially drawn from the list of names on the AIDS quilt as it existed in 1993, so it embodied the memories of friends and family members. Since then, wherever the dress has appeared the artist has invited visitors to write additional names, also of people lost to the disease and remembered by friends and family members, in an accompanying ledger book.

Is the supply of names running down? No. While the death rate for this epidemic may have slowed or declined in industrial nations during the last ten or fifteen years, at least within the population segments hit first and hit the hardest, the toll for the planet as a whole has skyrocketed. More significant to the specific groups which have seen his installation, when Reynolds's project was begun in 1993 the friends or families of people with AIDS were far less likely to admit they were friends or families of people with AIDS; they were very unlikely to come forward with names to be added to a memorial of any kind. Reynolds confirmed to me on Friday that even in the American and European cities visited by the Memorial Dress, cities where life-sustaining HIV drugs are most generally available, the frequency of the ledger entries continues unchanged. It seems the survivors of a plague whose casualties themselves the world branded odious from the start are still coming out of the closet today.

What can be seen at the gallery this month is the second (1996) realization of Patina du Prey's mangown. The first was the 1963 dress; the current version is constructed of a rich dark (faux-black?) silk fabric covering a fitted bodice and crinoline skirt printed in gold to include thousands of additional names added during the travels of the original. The artist hopes to create a third dress, which will incorporate the four to five thousand new names which have been added to the books in recent years.

This image is of a detail of one page from one of those books:



On Tueday, April 10, between 6:30 and 8 pm at the Artists Space gallery on 38 Greene Street in SoHo, Visual Aids and Artists Space will co-host a panel discussion, "Diamonds and Pearls: Remembrances and Recent Thinking on the Memorial Dress", with Hunter Reynolds, Lia Gangitano, Alexander Gray and Simon Watson, moderated by Benjamin Weil and Amy Sadao.

Following the panel, from 8 until 9, guests are invited to party with Patina du Prey; there will be food and drink. [suggested donation: $5-7].

About this Entry

Published on April 2, 2007 1:32 PM.

previous entry: sitting ducks?

next entry: "The Art of the Deal" at Kantor/Feuer