Helene Appel Carves Up a Cliché

THE DAILY PIC: The artist makes paint stand for butchered flesh.

Helene Appel

To say that paint evokes flesh is one of art criticism’s oldest clichés. But in “Beinscheibe” (“Leg Steak”), on view at James Cohan Gallery in New York, Helene Appel gives that bromide, well, legs. Appel’s enthusiasm comes as close as any paint could to actually being flesh; it is trompe-l’oeil meat, presented at life size. As you move away from the work, you expect to see the fatty side of its bloody cut. Which brings me to something else I enjoy about this piece: the perfect homology between the size of the canvas, in width and height and depth, and the size of the leg-steak it needs to represent, as though the canvas were as much a box to hold its subject as a surface to depict it on. Appel injects a ghoulish, zombiefied note into a cliché that’s usually tradition and market friendly. The sweet erotics of painted flesh turn into butcher’s work. (Photo by Marcus Schneider © The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai)


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