Robert Downey Jr. Plays Jesus for Artist Sam Taylor-Wood

Anything for Art

Ascension is just one example of Taylor-Wood's fascination with flux. She explores states of suspended animation in two photo series on display. In Bram Stoker's Chair, the artist appears to balance on a wooden chair, which is also precariously balancing on one of its legs. Her shadow is cast against the white wall, but not the chair's shadow (hence the vampiric title). To realize these impressive images, Taylor-Wood carefully rigged herself from a support with cables, and then digitally erased the rigging (and the chair's shadow). There's a vague eroticism to these photos, given that Taylor-Wood's in her underwear — then you notice who's on her underwear. It's Elmo.

The artist explores suspended animation in Bram Stoker's Chair.
Courtesy of CAMH
The artist explores suspended animation in Bram Stoker's Chair.


Through October 5.
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

In the Self Portrait Suspended series, Taylor-Wood is in her underwear again (no Elmo this time), and she appears to actually float in the middle of a room. Created essentially the same way as the Chair series, these images convey a more serious emotional quality. We've seen conceptual explorations of physicality and suspension in the outrageous, lustrous and pop-­referencing film projects of Matthew Barney, but Taylor-Wood pulls us in a more minimal direction, in which singular tasks or states convey a wealth of emotional stock. In all the "suspended" photos, Taylor-Wood's face is hidden, either turned away from the camera or concealed by her blond hair, and that adds a theme of anonymity to the artist's conceptual design — as in the "chair" photos, the faceless shadow. Juxtaposed with the presence of celebrity in the show, it adds a valuable dynamic to the exhibit. As we wander the gallery, we float somewhere in the network between the faceless and the famous.

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