Pamela Rosenkranz (b. 1979) investigates the systems by which people give meaning to the natural world, reflecting on our need to anthropomorphize and construct metaphors to navigate our lived environment. She creates conceptual, abstract sculptures, works on paper, videos, and installations, that nearly always reference the figurative by alluding to its condition as a malleable code that has been repeatedly hijacked by commercial marketing strategies and consumerism.
Rosenkranz’s work enlists the Internet-driven thinking of her generation; her references range from politics, history, philosophy, and technology, to pop-culture and advertising. Making reference to topics we encounter in the image-saturated and information-overload of everyday life, Rosenkranz creates links that enable us to see the unexpected connections between objects and ideas, whilst also alienating us at the same time. The on-going series, Firm Beings (2009 –) comprises plastic water bottles filled with ‘Dragon Skin’: a silicone substance that is normally used for prosthetic make-up in cinema and for medical cosmetics. It is pigmented in skin-tones that refer to the ethnic demographic of consumers of brands such as Evian, Fiji and San Benedetto. These works create abstract portraits of the human body within a bottle, bringing the contours of the bottles into stark relief. Sheathed by marketing slogans such as Fiji’s, ‘Untouched by man” these works emphasize the domestication of nature within a capitalist economy, and its emergence as a lifestyle attribute that privileges the purity of ‘inner’ human nature over a balanced ecology in the wider world.
The color schemes of global corporations, soft drinks, and mineral water brands, feature heavily in Rosenkranz’s work. In her spandex paintings, which are often shown alongside the water bottles, she confronts products with their own material reality and synthetic appearance: each series of bright spandex paintings borrows its palette from the packaging or marketing campaigns of a specific water brand. The transfer of paint enacted through an abstract printing process leaves the spandex with an imprint reminiscent of a Rorschach test. Elsewhere in her work, this motif takes on a more direct bodily gesture, appropriated from Yves Klein’s Anthropométries (1960 – 62), in which nude female models acted as ‘human paintbrushes – covered in paint, they publically pressed themselves against large-scale canvases. In Rosenkranz’s version she remains clothed and the imprint she leaves on the emergency blankets is more allusive than figurative. The work makes an ironic art historical gesture towards Klein’s singular artistic subjectivity – and is woven into several other works, including Death of Yves Klein (2011). In 2015 Rosenkranz represented Switzerland at the Venice Biennale. Our Product transformed the Swiss Pavilion into a multi-sensory environment that was dominated by a pool of liquid in a Eurocentric pink skin-tone. Rosenkranz contemplated the human subject’s condition as a fluid form or body generated from synthetic materials. She confronted the audience with the implications of an engineered human nature by using materials such as Aspirin, Acrylic, Evian, Methylene, Spandex, Silicone, Titanium and Viagra, all of which have power to alter the psychic and physical constitution of the body. Her skilful interplay of supposedly immaterial elements such as light, colour, scent and sound – as well as organic components including hormones and bacteria – confronted historical, philosophical, religious and commercial images that transmit what it means to be human.
The site-specific installation Blue Runs at Art Basel Unlimited (2016), furthered Rosenkranz’s ongoing experiments with liquid forms: consisting of a continuously recycled blue stream of water flowing through the faucet of a common sink. The colour blue has been a recurring element throughout her practice. Its perception as a colour within the visible spectrum of the human eye evolved at a stage when creatures existed exclusively underwater. It was only after life started to thrive on land that the eye become sensitive to the full spectrum it can see today. Nevertheless, sensitivity to the colour blue has barely changed throughout the biological evolution of humankind, and humans still remain more sensitive to the wavelengths of blue than to all the other colours in the visible spectrum. In Blue Runs, running water created an aural effect as it splashed against the sink. Tinted with an artificial blue, the stream enhanced the viewer’s sensitivity to the molecular materiality of water, colour, and air. For her 2017 project Slight Agitation 2/4 at the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Rosenkran developed a large scale installation that explores how physical and biological processes can affect art. A huge mountain of sand, infused with synthetic cat pheromones and flooded with green RGB light, dominates the Cisterna. The work investigates a neuroactive parasite that affects 30% of the world’s population and determines attraction, repulsion, and public movement.