Wagenburg, 2001. Wood, high-gloss enamel paint, and hinges, installation view.

Humor, Sex, and Philosophy: A Conversation with Rachel Feinstein

Rachel Feinstein’s quirky humor and aesthetic playfulness made her recent show at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York a great change of pace. Humor is often the most direct way to confront the artist’s favorite issues, which include sex and religion. Feinstein, who majored in philosophy and religion at Columbia University, is as comfortable talking about an obscure tapestry as she is talking about the asshole in her sculpture Satyrs.

Whether or not a viewer can identify all of her disparate references to art history, cultural history, and contemporary life, she somehow unifies them, mixing, for example, Cubism, Deconstruction, Mexican crosses, furniture-making techniques, Puritan spartanism, and Viennese elegance to create Puritan’s Delight. Feinstein uses solids and voids, light and shadows, fractured geometries, and symbols to explore the aesthetic psycho-sexual dimensions in each work. The surfaces range from reflective to non-reflective, smooth to rough, lightweight to heavy, and dark to off-white. In her most recent work, Feinstein has downplayed color.

Paul Ha gave Feinstein her first important show at White Columns in 1999. Since then, she has had three solo exhibitions at Tommaso Corvi-Mora, London; one at Le Consortium, Dijon; and three at the Marianne Boesky Gallery. tarSiz just published a book on her work, with an essay by James Frey and an interview by Sofia Coppola.