(1) "Untitled #189", canvas/wood/metal, 81 x 81 x 22",
(2) "Un titled", acrylic on wood, each 3 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 2 1/2", 1996.
(Newspace Gallery, Hollywood) Reticent,
self-contained and impersonal, the minimalist object once insisted on its
literalness and vehemently denied possessing any content. But there are
no such things as pure ideas, only dissociated ones. Minimalism's purity
was always disingenuous, its characteristic qualities being identical with
those which for ages past have defined an idealized masculinity.
Inevitably the belated recognition of minimalism's implicit masculinity provoked a feminist backlash which over the past decade has manifested itself as a sterile obsession with degrading the minimalist canon by dressing it up in drag. Typically this has involved refabricating minimalist forms in suitably inappropriate materials such as lipstick and chocolate, the variations being as endless as the basic idea itself is monotonous. As part of the general trend toward appropriation, this response--which ironically forces those women artists who employ it into a totally dependent relationship with the male egos they wish to deflate--has served no other purpose than to reveal that if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, envy is the most abject.
Tiffanie Morrow's more fruitful response to the legacy of minimalism has focused on developing the minimalist object's evocative potential. This potential was always there. Indeed, it was the unacknowledged source of whatever engagement or interest the otherwise blank minimalist object could generate.
Morrow takes the opposite tack, exploiting the ability of the simplest geometric configurations to suggest, without ever representing, a range of natural and man made objects and phenomena. Her first show three years ago was a meditation on the mutational possibilities of that most severe and masculine of all minimalist forms, the black rectangle. At that point Morrow was still hedging between painting and sculpture. Her laboriously painted, sanded and repainted works were wall-mounted, and she seemed to be offering a feminine reworking of the finish fetish aesthetic (handbags and polished nails say, as opposed to surfboards and cars). Since then her objects have come off the wall, onto the floor and into the domain of sculpture.
The most exciting works in the current show are two room-sized installations that form closed tracks replete with linear vertical and horizontal extensions which suggest the sparse roadside structures and signage to be encountered on a solitary desert drive. If, as has so often been claimed, min- imalism is an aesthetic of silence, it seems only appropriate that it should lead Morrow to allude to the heartland of silence itself.