For Party Number 1, a seductively polished slice of Cedar of Lebanon was hanging in the space. The velvety smooth, horizontal piece of wood has many perfectly round holes cut into it that tempt the viewer to touch it or other viewers through it in the darkly lit space.
It is part of a greater series call Got Wood and references a term used in gay and straight pornography - got wood is the term used for when the male performer is erect and ready to be filmed.
The series also includes In the Garden of Eden an installation consisting of series of vertical slices of polished wood that has an oculus cut into it. The holes were all cut at about the height of an average persons genitals. If you stood next to the work it acted as an anti-fig leaf, framing the crotch of others in the room. Viewers were able to stoke the vertical pieces which were hung by wire and they moved gently back and forth. Likewise Party Number 1 also moves as people touch it.
In all the wooden pieces the viewers who do touch the work leave some oils from their hands as a mark on the piece. This not only shows the interaction but is good for the wood, which needs oiling every now and then.
The shape of the installation was based on the video booths found in porn emporia where viewers can enter their own space to see videos. They are also at 90 degrees to each other and appear and disappeared as viewers moved about in the space similar to the experience of encounters in such environs.
Petry continues this theme with Stoppages. For each piece he has taken a wooden staff and polished a portion of it. The length of the staff that is polished corresponds to a specific man’s claim of the distance he can ejaculate. The best way to determine how much of the staff is polished is to stroke it with your hand. By doing this, the viewer not only experiences the work of art more directly but also mimics part of the process by which it was created.
In English the word “stoppages” used in association with sexual climax brings to mind another of Petry’s recent series, entitled Tie a Knot in It, shown last year at the Westbrook Gallery, which included works composed of knotted leather, wire, or rope. “Tying a knot in it” is a slang term that metaphorically refers to suppressing sexual desire or urination; in other words, a stoppage. But, of course, the participants in the Stoppages series didn’t “tie a knot in it;” instead, they were encouraged to “cut loose.”
Stoppages refers to Marcel Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages (1913-1914; Paris, Museum of Modern Art), a work created by tracing the lines left by pieces of thread dropped from a specific height; a combination of chance and planning, or “canned chance,” as Duchamp called it. The French word “stoppages” translates into English as “invisible mending.” Duchamp saw the word on a tailor’s shop as he was walking in
Paris and the word made an appropriate title since he came across it by chance and since it related to his use of the thread. But invisible mending is also a good metaphor for something that is not immediately obvious; you may need to look below the surface to find the truth.
In the case of Petry’s Stoppages, the reference to Duchamp is the clue that there is further meaning beyond the minimalist appearance of the art works. Like Duchamp, Petry employed a combination of chance and planning to create work related to measurement. And, like Duchamp, he created art that is based on the process of its own making.
Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, 2007
Clifford Chance, London, 2008
a selection of 'Got Woods' and 'Stoppages'
Got Wood has been shown at
Clifford Chance, London
Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston
Westbrook Gallery, London