Art Review

Art Beat

Some might suggest that John McEnroe's American Standard at the partly face-lifted ILK on Santa Fe Drive is simply a late entry to the ceramics bee still going on in the wake of the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts meetings held in town last month. He uses ceramic tile, doesn't he? But such an observation would be an example of the kind of smart-ass humor typically employed by McEnroe himself. After all, he's no ceramicist; the clay tiles he uses to make several of the sculptures here were purchased ready-made at retail stores.

American Standard, the company, is a well-recognized manufacturer of bathroom fixtures, and the bathroom is the obvious theme of the show. But McEnroe divorces the bathroom from the body and instead sees it as a pristine and hygienic place. He uses mostly factory-made ceramic tiles finished in monochrome glazes, the kind of tile most often seen in bathrooms, to cover frameworks that are both in the form of cubes and in elaborate geometric shapes.

Some of the sculptures seem to lampoon minimalism, such as "ADA Approved," a set of three cubes, each side of which has been clad in a single large tile. In this way, McEnroe's work is distinct from the many neominimalists working around town, and the sculptures in this show may be more correctly seen as post-minimalist. Kicking the parody quotient even higher is "Congolium II," in which sixteen cubes covered in Congolium-brand floor covering have been mounted on the wall in a grid. It's like a goofy Donald Judd.

American Standard is not only funny, it's smart, too. Check it out before it closes on Sunday.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia