The Help

May 4, 2012

Greene Naftali is pleased to present The Help, an exhibition by Rachel Harrison. The Help marks the New York artist's sixth solo show at the gallery since 1997 and the first since If I Did It in 2007. The exhibition shares its title with Harrison's photograph of the back door maintenance entrance to Duchamp's Etant donnes, which is visible in the exhibition galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and alludes to the entangled roles of the Artist, the Muse, and the Help. The twelve sculptures on view in the exhibition combine formalist inspiration and tragicomic epiphany and are imbued with Harrison's signature sense of slapstick timing. The Help also introduces a group of drawings in which Harrison explores the passion and pathology of the tortured artist, a figure suspended between the pressures of ambitious creative vision and the public hunger for performance.

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There is an old tale, almost certainly apocryphal, that is told about Picasso.
A man approaches Picasso at an exhibit of his work and says with great exasperation, “Why can't you paint more realistically?”
Picasso thinks for a minute and says, “Realistically. I guess I don’t know what that is.”
Frustrated, the man takes a photograph from his billfold and says, “Look! Like this. This is my wife.”
Picasso takes the picture in his hand and looks at it. “She's so small,” he says, and turning the photo sideways, “and so thin!”
What could this man do to help Picasso see who his wife really is? Bring him a life-size photograph? Too flat. A statue? Too rigid. How about his actual wife? But which one? The happy one? The one who is angry with him for going off to the Picasso exhibit without doing the dishes? Will the real reality please stand up?