Gallery 30 South Presents ‘Barbie: The Plastic Religion’

The Editors

 

You have to have guts to mount an exhibition like the ones that the Argentine artists Pool & Marianela (Marianela Perelli and Emiliano Paolini) exhibit these days across the globe.

 

The Plastic Religion plays with religious iconography, with special emphasis on the Christian religion, disguising the popular Barbie and her boyfriend Ken as virgins, saints and Christs. Past shows have faced staunch criticism and controversy from right-wing factions who have applied their own agendas onto the artwork, but simultaneously this work has found acceptance from Pope Francis (who owns one of the couple’s loose Barbie figures), Mattel (the makers of Barbie), and the Palais du Louvre (which displayed four of Pool y Marianela’s boxed Barbie & Ken dolls in their museum of decorative arts).

 

 

This current presentation at Gallery 30 South features some of the same striking pieces that were featured at the Louvre, and they’ve produced new unique versions of pieces both owned and beloved by the Pope.

 

“More than bravery is taking on the commitment,” says Pool with energy. “We live in an increasingly ugly world where the extreme right threatens our freedoms all the time with artists frequently becoming unwitting collaborators.”

 

Pool is resounding when it comes to talking about this. In his opinion, art of today that does not say anything (specifically that which is limited to pretty pictures with the sole purpose of selling), is a treacherous, empty art that only serves to bolster fascism.

 

 

Explains the Argentine artist, “We, Pool and Marianela, do not conceive art if it does not have rebellion. The enemy of good art is the artist who makes nice things in support of vapidness. That is unforgivable. They are occupying space in the zeitgeist that should go to someone who wants to shout a real message into the ether. We cry out by testing the limits of the nexus between religious mentality and consumerism.”

 

But criticism is in the eye of the beholder and the duo count the Holy See among the owners of their work. “This exhibition, like all our work, focuses on the boundary between satire and homage,” says Pool, who speaks on behalf of both. “We move in duality; we are neither good nor evil.”

 

“We try to make people think, to put their heads to work so that each time there is less authoritarianism and less preconception of thought – which is what allows dictators to operate unopposed. Always, for them, it will be more difficult to deceive when the public is thinking clearly.”

 

 

The couple of Argentine artists does not consider, however, that Barbie is an icon of consumerism. For them, Barbie is more the representation of canonical beauty and an icon of feminism.  “We say hembrismo,“ qualifies Pool, since it represents a woman who does what she wants, as she wants and when she wants. So much so that her boyfriend, Ken, is simply an accessory.

 

That’s why they chose these two pop icons. “We had been incorporating the most popular figures into our work, and Barbie was the number-one pop culture doll. This was in tandem with connecting the rite of play with the first things imposed on us: religion through baptism. Once we mixed the two, we knew we had a project with broad, international appeal. From this was born our oeuvre, which gets a bit of updating in this evolving but superplastic era.”

 

 

The exhibition runs through December 29 at Gallery 30 South.

 

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