Paul Pfeiffer, Caryatid (Red, Yellow, Blue),2008
Paul Pfeiffer (American, born 1966) explores the relationship between iconic images in mass media and us, the audience, and examines society’s obsession with sports celebrities. As fans gathers to watch the World Cup, we would like to share with you an alternative perspective on sports, culture, and spectatorship.
Caryatid (Red, Yellow, Blue) is one of Pfeiffer’s “video sculptures,” which he creates by manipulating still and moving imagery from popular culture. His works involve an analogous labor-intensive process required in traditional media, such as painting and sculpture, but also require sorting through and crafting contemporary material.
This tri-screened artwork displays a sequence of three collapsing soccer players as they crash to the ground after a foul, feigning injury. Each player has been isolated based on the color of his jersey, in this case the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. Pfeiffer reduces the image down to the technical foundations necessary for both painted and televised works, like a painter who methodically builds up the layers on a painting. As such, the artist must be extremely meticulous when erasing or otherwise manipulating an image.
Along with synthesizing the process of creating art, the chosen imagery is deliberate. The title of the work references the caryatids of antiquity, sculpted female figures that support architectural framework in place of a column. These figures, used to hold up monumental Greek temples and structures, exist throughout history.
The three images in Pfeiffer’s work, permanently immobilized like the sculpted caryatids, highlight the rise and fall of contemporary sports heroes in what Pfeiffer calls an “eternally recurring moment of their tragic and ineluctable failures.” They appear to be competing against themselves as they writhe around on the field, seemingly defeated. By erasing other players on the field, Pfeiffer creates a beautifully choreographed sequence of events that focuses on the complexity and athleticism of the players’ movements. The repetitive sequence of the work calls attention to our observation and allows us to question in what way we view these contemporary heroes.
Image: Paul Pfeiffer (American, born 1966). Caryatid (Red, Yellow, Blue), 2008. Three-channel digital video loop. and three customized CRT monitors with embedded media players, overall: 24 3/8 x 96 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches (61.9 x 245.1 x 59.1 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Edmund Hayes Fund, by exchange and Gift of Dennis and Debra School, 2010.