Red 1999

Cathy de Monchaux, Red, 1999; Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.

Resembling armor or weaponry, Cathy de Monchaux’s sculptures present combinations of incongruous elements that imbue them with visual and emotional intensity. The heavy brass clamps and compressed layers of velvet within her large oval floor piece Red suggest a forcible and thus unsettling containment. The folds of fabric that form the concave interior of the sculpture evoke human orifices and viscera, a suggestive effect that is intentional. Yet the luxurious textures of the work’s burnished metals, supple leather straps, and soft fabric are undeniably appealing. The color red is also loaded with opposing physiological and symbolic associations—from love and roses to blood and anger.

De Monchaux graduated from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, concurrent with classmates dubbed the “young British artists” (YBA), a group that dominated the British contemporary art scene in the 1990s. While many YBA artists embraced extreme irony or explicit or intensely personal content that predictably shocked viewers, de Monchaux has used sensuous materials and obsessive details to invite myriad associations and interpretations. “I try to give form to the subconscious…I leave it to the viewer to decide what each work is about, at least for them,” she says.