Time Out New York / Oct 28-Nov 3, 2010

Liz Cohen

Appropriately for an artist based in Detroit, Liz Cohen has immersed herself in the intricacies of the automobile, presenting it as a locus of social and political histories. In a twisted take on Pimp My Ride, Cohen has spent the past eight years perfecting her skills as a grease monkey, engineering a sculpture that combines two very different vehicles into one awkward but intriguing whole. Trabantimino is a literal fusion of an East German Trabant, acquired by the artist in 2002, with an American Chevrolet El Camino. Both are Cold War vintage, but while the European model is utilitarian, boxy and beige, its domestic counterpart is a glitzy low-rider. The resultant hybrid distributes the compact bodywork of the former along the latter’s extended chassis.

If Trabantimino is, as it appears to be, a strong but simple metaphor for the traditional friction between European and American sensibilities and the rough ride toward globalization, Cohen complicates matters by adding a wall of small black-and-white photographs depicting the tools used in the car’s assembly. What might have been an entirely straightforward accompaniment is surprisingly nuanced, the images’ stark beauty rubbing up against the inadvertent poetry of their captions (SHORT TESTER, EDGE PULLER, COLD KNIFE).

Finally, a suite of color shots displayed in the gallery’s nearby Freeman Alley branch portrays the artist in a grungy garage, adopting positions inspired by those of 1970s Romanian gymnastics star Nadia Comaneci but simultaneously evocative of American pinups. Again, East meets West, with predictably uncomfortable results.

Image: View of Liz Cohen, "Trabantimino."