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Charles Long
by Leonard Bravo

Charles Long, "In Every Dream Home A Heart Ache" 1996

Although the "amorphous" body has become the latest token category to be celebrated by an art world starved for easy alignments and definitions, Charles Long is one of its most consistent and savvy practitioners. His most recent show of new sculptures, "Our Bodies, Our Shelves," explores the relationship of the body to its objectification and/or projection/materialization. The show is divided into two bodies of work: one part being a series of amorphous shelves either freestanding or wall-mounted; the other part, a trio of blob-like floor pods that physically embody their contents.

In one of these pods, blob job, 1996, Long has created a silicone rubber container stuffed with a myriad of pornographic magazines and videos. The receptacle serves as a container of the extremes, through which, the body is objectified and removed from any type of grounding beyond a pure object of desire. These pod pieces can also function as receptacles for memories, embodying various other forms of desires and longings, as in the case of family outing, 1996--another floor piece, this one featuring a slide projector with an image of a generic, early-1960s family snapshot on the wall. This idealized image of the perfect familial "body" functions merely as a projection of our nostalgic longings for the security of the constructs of home. It is these assumed constructs of identity, and the objectification of our bodies in it, that Long seems to undermine with his work, evoking the hollowness of these fictions.

The other part of the show, taken up by the shelf pieces, deals with the body as an unstable, ever-shifting, mutating form, from which it is impossible to fix or ascertain a sense of identity. Now, these forms, obviously inspired by functional furniture pieces, are emptied of any type of functionality and used purely as ideal form from which to expand. The closest any of these pieces comes to the actual form of furniture is built-in desire, 1996, a freestanding, bookshelf-like, organic mass made out of rubber and Styrofoam. Long, here, evokes functional form as aberration, a transgressive shift, wherein the inorganic becomes saturated with the formlessness of corporeal desire.

Other pieces in this series are infused with a similar sense of repressed sexuality and desire. shelfishness, 1996, a wall piece made from rubber and wood, suggests the form of flaccid limbs, done in by their own inertia as they hang lifeless from their shelf structure.In in every dream home a heart ache, 1996, Long takes this aesthetic to an absurd extreme, wherein the rigid structure is overcome by all the forces it is trying to suppress: the organic, pulsing, eroticized life force of the primordial ooze.

Ultimately, this latest body of work by Long, deals with repression and anxiety. Embracing a sense of instability and allowing for the very things we suppress to bubble up to the surface.

Leonard Bravo

Los Angeles, California
1996

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