Marilyn Minter’s Precious Metals


In recent years, Marilyn Minter has shot and painted icons (Pam Anderson), stereotypes (stiletto-heeled 3 am girls), and lots of mouths spewing everything from pearls and diamonds to vodka-spiked paint. All those tropes are on display in her eponymous two-years-in-the-making exhibition, opening tonight at Salon 94’s Bowery gallery. 

The most recently publicized of these works—featured in the final issue of Tar—is a collaboration with artist Wangechi Mutu, whom Minter photographed during her pregnancy. Mutu later turned those images into collages, while Minter asked Mutu to don red and Yves Klein blue lipstick and regurgitate gold-flecked paint, turning those shots into six of her finger-printed enamel-on-metal paintings. The most lusciously golden of these grill images, Chesire (Wangechi), is on display downstairs. Viewed up close, the glossy oral abstraction breaks down to reveal no gold at all, but a dull melange of whites, yellows, and greens that stunningly glisten the further one retreats from them.  

The same mastery of perspective and light can be found in a pair of multi-panel heel paintings, Heavy Metal and Meltdown, which feature close-ups of Gucci and Alexander Wang-clad gams, respectively, splashing around in puddles filled with a case of vodka and $500 of silver cake powder. “I didn’t know when she jumped, it would make that kind of puddle, or that glycerin would get on the glass like that,” says Minter about Heavy Metal, referring to the vertical glass she shoots the images against before rendering the drips in paint. “It’s almost like I was giving over control, like Pollock letting the paint fling off the brush, I didn’t know it could happen.” 


Happy accidents also abound in Me (aka I’m Not Much, But I’m All I Think About), the video playing on the street-facing gallery wall, which Minter piggybacked off a video she shot for the Whitney Gala where golden letters (W-H-I-T-N-E-Y) fall into a silvery soup. “I just took the W and turned it into an M,” she admits. The video also features two chromed-out M&M’s (she has the candies tattooed on her right arm) falling into the goo, a pretty pit of despair for the artist’s narcissistic tendencies. Though she wouldn’t let babies splash around in vodka-soaked paint, she did put some in their hair for the foyer-based video Play Pen.

Though she’s been painting babies since the ‘80s, the idea for the video sprung from a recent shoot she did with her step-grandson, Luke. The Brobdingnagian subject of the exhibition’s most arresting painting, Mercury, the blinged-out little boy serves as an overwhelmingly sharp exploration into the exotic possibilities that lurk inside an innocent. Play Pen teases that proposition into motion with a troupe of toddlers—including Luke, his sister, and the wild-haired son of one of her SVA students—filmed for an hour at a time as they splashed around in 150 bottles worth of non-toxic paint. Shot with a super hi-def camera at 2500 frames per second that are slowed to a crawl—and embellished with booming audio—the film is a visual feast that set off a bit of furor before it was even finished. “All these collectors were calling the gallery saying, ‘Why can’t we put my kid in this? Can you shoot another one?'” says Minter, with a laugh. “It’s very flattering, I’m just not that kind of artist. I like working with kids. I like working with animals. Anything you can’t control.”