Cultured Magazine

Summer 2014

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Rachel Feinstein's studio sits discreetly within a Mylar-sheathed and rolling-gate-shielded Tribeca storefront that once served as a local frame shop. The space within is workaday and white, as most of her work these days is coated with a porce- lain-like veneer of paint. It houses all elements of Fe- instein's hands-on creative process, from research to sketching to molding to full-scale construction in wood, plaster, and, more recently, terra-cotta clay. We met there on a weekday afternoon, when the artist had managed to carve out some time be- tween obsessively overseeing the production of a new series of monumental sculptures at a fabrica- tor's studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and delivering a slat of birthday cupcakes to her daughter's school. It's an exciting time, Feinstein says. She's 42. Her three kids (with husband and fellow artist, John Currin) are getting older and more independent. And the ideas that started to percolate when she was younger are crystallizing and successfully taking form in a new body of work, collectively called "Folly" and on view through September 7 in New York's Madison Square Park. "I definitely think your formation is your child- hood framework and your weird idea of what reality is when you're a kid," Feinstein adds, and hers was set among the gaudy faux-European mansions and overgrown, jungle-like conditions of Miami. Like much of Feinstein's work, these sculptures draw shrewdly from art-historical sources—grace- fully arced Rococo flourishes, Renaissance-era ren- derings of ivied Italian ruins, and the fanciful sets that enhanced and enshrined performances of the Ballets Russes and Commedia dell'arte. Feinstein first conceived the structures—made of aluminum and steel, and ranging from 8 to 26 feet tall—after Marc Jacobs commissioned her to create the back- drop for his Fall 2012 show. Whimsical white cutouts resembling ghostly illustrations came eerily to life as models filed in and out. The pieces were flat but freestanding, fantastical yet, as women marched through them, real. "Folly" will have a similar effect, she says, showing me her hand-drawn, -glued, and -folded paper models for the sculptures. Roughly built so as not to eliminate the presence of Feinstein's deft hand, one sculpture is a ship staked on an extended mass, another a Grimm's-like cabin perched on a steep and craggy cliff. The massive, finished pieces will be etched with Feinstein's sketched lines and marks, pulled precisely from her hand-hewn models. Feinstein keeps extensive files of source im- agery—manila folders packed with printed jpegs and photocopies of artworks and images she mines for inspiration, some of which have been tumbling around her frontal lobe for the better part of two decades. Her work—this new series in- cluded—often mimics the flatness of the images themselves as opposed to the specific volumetric qualities of the artworks they picture. It highlights the role of the intermediary, the flatness of all art reproductions and the ways in which each work is captured and thereby preserved. "I like the idea that it's not real space," Fein- stein says. "It's a strange compression, much like a stage set. But your eye wants to believe it." As for the sources themselves, she adds, "I've always been attracted to the completely dark and sinister, the reality of a fairy tale. It's this really fluffy gold stuff, but on the underbelly, it's all going very badly very quickly. "I like this idea of the romance of decay," she continues. "For years, a starting point in my work was these little porcelain figurines that came out of this place called Nymphenburg. A lot of them would have ruins behind them—a ruined wall or a ruined fountain. I started thinking about why they did that. It looked like it was a civilization that came before them. And I got into the idea that these people were living these grandiose lives, but they too were think- ing about the great people before them and how they had lived their lives and how they had decayed and their civilization had crumbled. And that one day, their own civilization will be long gone. As will ours. It's this layering of history. "And I love that. Really, I do. I love the way that looks," concludes Feinstein. "And so that's how 'Folly' came about. I just wanted to see these empty ruined stage sets in the middle of Madison Square Park." 92 CULTURED URBAN DECAY Rachel Feinstein talks "Folly," fantasy and mining the past. BY RACHEL WOLFF PORTRAIT BY JESSE DAVID HARRIS

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