Just a few days remain to see Cut Worlds: Béatrice Coron at the Southampton Arts Center—now is the time to revisit the exhibition, or view it for the first time.
Coron’s intricate and whimsical cutouts absolutely captivate and draw the viewer into her tiny world. Made of hundreds, if not thousands, of shapes meticulously cut out of DuPont Tyvek—a durable, black or white “paper” used in house construction—each piece is a marvel of technical mastery, but the imagery and content far transcend any process or material.
A lively narrative unfolds within Coron’s individual works, and seems to continue from one piece to the next. One could spend hours contemplating masterpieces like “Heavens and Hells,” a strikingly large 2009 installation of two floor-to-ceiling panels featuring, of course, Heaven and Hell.
In her “Hell” panel, the artist has cutout dozens of little scenes, depicting all manner of misery and annoyance, from simple pains like missing the bus, to the historic horror of jackbooted Nazis or the mythic Charon guiding his boat across the River Styx, to more metaphoric, Sisyphean images of men carrying massive loads up an infinite staircase. The final product is absolutely loaded with delicious visual treats, appearing somewhere between Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” and a map of Dante’s nine circles of Hell.
Conversely, in “Heaven,” Coron shows flights of fancy—dragons, birds, palaces and angels putting on their wings—and celebrates the simple joys— a hammock between two palm trees, music, dancing, driving fast, sailboats, hot air balloons and so much more.
Meanwhile, another larger, narrative piece “Hooks and Hookers” (2010, pictured above) is grounded in history and place, telling the story of New York City’s Meat Packing District—good, bad and ugly. Appropriately painted to represent a sheet of rusty metal, Coron’s cutouts reveal everything for which the neighborhood is famous, along with some references, it seems, only a seasoned resident or historian would catch. Meat packers, butchers, cows and pigs are joined by the famous Hogs & Heifers Saloon, the bras that hang from its ceiling and the bikers who drink there, along with area sex clubs, prostitutes, boaters, drag queens and long gone farmers.
Other works in Cut Worlds are less specific to a place—real or mythical—and instead “paint” a more psychological or fanciful picture. “Alchemy” (pictured at bottom of post), a larger than life human figure that appears to be made from scribbled, tangled lines, with the occasional bird or person inside them, is a wonderful example of Coron’s cutting technique and the complexity of which she’s capable.
Across the room, the sea-based motif in “What James Cameron Didn’t See” (pictured above), “Abysses” and “Mariana Trench Hot Spot” (all from 2012) present a more simple, yet still fanciful, application. Plankton, jellyfish and shrimp mingle with submarines and mermaids, one of whom is holding an umbrella, and the sun. Coron’s humor often shines through with jokes like this.
After seeing everything Coron puts on display in Cut Worlds, the lasting power of this exhibition becomes quite clear. The viewer is at the very least temporarily altered to see the small things, the details around us and the shapes of things. The artist’s painstaking work brings the silhouette into sharp focus.
They are everywhere and Coron makes us love that.
Cut Worlds: Béatrice Coron is on view at the Southampton Arts Center (25 Jobs Lane) in Southampton Village through this Sunday, November 2. The gallery is open 12–5:30 p.m. Friday–Sunday. Call 631-283-0967 or visit southamptoncenter.org for more info.