Station Museum's Crude Installation Is Rather Refined

Last week, Art Attack was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the upcoming installation by Russian-born artist Andrei Molodkin, as he and the staff of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art were still loading in. The exhibition, which opens November 5, is entitled Crude and aptly so. One of the main attractions of Molodkin's creations is the way he uses oil as a part of his artwork.

Molodkin has created a series of clear plastic sculptures of familiar imagery and weighted meaning, such as the Statue of Liberty and Jesus on the cross. By using a chemical process that he invented using acrylic and Plexiglas, the monuments are literally hollowed out to become plastic casings. The molds are then hooked up to a series of pumps and injected with a tank of oil or blood, or even both. (We had to ask where he was getting this blood from and were told it was all donated.)

We were given a test run of how the oil was pumped through; we watched enamored as globs of black bubbles filled the mold. The allegorical aspect of oil running through the veins of lady liberty is an obvious one, but none the less powerful. Oil flows not just into statues, but plastic molds of carefully chosen words with weighted meanings -- "Democracy" and "F#$% You."

The pieces are then videotaped and projected against the museum walls as larger-than-life images; the jerky echos of oil pumping like an irregular heartbeat give patrons a completely different type of interactive art. It's mixed media at its best.

Molodkin doesn't stop at sculpture, even though it would be more than enough. The installation will also include massive ballpoint pen drawings of political figures and symbols.

His work is charged with economic and societal references, very purposefully so. "We don't have liberty nor victory," he tells us. "We are constantly being filled with either oil or blood and we never get full." Molodkin joked that Houston was a good place to display these specific works; we know a lot about oil in these parts.

Politics aside, just the small snippet we got from our visit (we were shown a video of how the projection will look) blew us away. The sculptures themselves, philosophies we hold dear, liberty and victory, encased in glass with no hope of breaking free, were stunning enough on their own. Once the oil got pumping, so did our own blood. Throw in a video projection, and we were, hands-down, sold that we had just witnessed something brilliant.

Molodkin is off to France next, but we can't imagine this is the last we'll hear of his work. Say you saw his art "back when" it was featured in one of the best indie museums in Houston, before it inevitably moves on to a bigger and fancier venue.

Crude by Andrei Molodkin opens Saturday, November 5, at 7 p.m. and runs through February 12, 2012. The Station Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and is free. For more information visit www.stationmuseum.com.

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