November 15-December 31, 2020
Untitled Handbag: Handbag, shark, tape, thread, acrylic, acetate and floating shelf with LED lights. 2019.
A Luis Vuitton handbag is sitting on a shelf at eye level. A front flap is peeled back to reveal a window with a pretty little “shark” inside, floating as if in an aquarium and lit from below.
Friedberg says that she likes to hide quiet things behind loud ones; Here all the elements are loud: This bag is expensive; it’s a capitalist luxury and status symbol for class, taste and success. Often made of exotic animal skin (snake or alligator) it signifies the taming of the wild, and also absorbs some of wildlife’s aggressiveness into a version of womanhood.
What about the “shark” seen through the window? The shark is a predator par excellence, a misunderstood animal, that, like a snake, is seen as fearsome, dangerous, evil. The fact that the “shark” is in fact a plastic toy, underscores the distance between what it is and what it stands for.
The bag, meant to conceal what a woman carries with her, is now an open window looking inside.The viewer will think of Damien Hirst and his animals, specifically the 27 sharks that he has reportedly used in his work about death and/as spectacle.
With Untitled Handbag Friedberg encourages a collision of symbolic value and price, both in terms of the handbag as commodity and in terms of the value of the piece as art, and art as commodity. This is not new to anyone who remembers the historic collaboration of Takashi Murakami with LV.
Amy Friedberg’s work succeeds in positioning the artist as both resistant to and complicit with a certain performance of womanhood in the capitalist marketplace: feminine, polite, aesthetic and aggressive, alternating positions as object of desire and desiring objects.