In Price’s artistic universe, plastic, a pervasive presence in contemporary life, is transformed into a highly valuable fine art commodity. For these works, Price makes use of a technique developed in the 1950s during the boom of industrial plastic-use, whereby heated sheets of plastic are vacuum-formed to take on the shape and volume of various moulds. Here, Price has chosen the bomber jacket as his mould around which opaque plastic sheets have cooled to form a hard shell; a shell that serves to iconify the bomber jacket as an item of twentieth-century cultural signification.
Interested in the ways in which information mutates and meaning shifts over time, Price chose the bomber jacket as a symbol, or indeed vessel, owing to its own varied history of appropriation. First used by fighter pilots during the First World War, the bomber jacket was thereafter adopted by a myriad of social factions. Made famous by heartthrob Hollywood movie stars of the 1950s including James Dean and Marlon Brando, the bomber jacket has since experienced a shift and flux in signification: graduating into the world of counter-culture fashion, this item of clothing was adopted by punks and skinheads in the 1970s, then by hardcore techno and hip-hop counter-cultures of the 1990s, through to its present day currency as an accepted sartorial staple.
Aesthetically, Price’s bomber jackets invite a dialogue with Henri Matisse’s monumental Backs, a series of sculptures created between 1909 and 1930 and posthumously cast in bronze that boldly reimagined the classical nude. Taking on the same monolithic, bas-relief format of Matisse’s famous works, Price transforms the twentieth-century master’s bold figurative abstraction through the jacket as a corporeal cipher rendered in a faux-luxe cheap material. We might also be inclined to channel this connection through the legacy of Bruce Nauman, whose seminal sculpture Henry Moore, Bound to Fail is readily evoked in Price’s pseudo-body fragment. In Nauman’s work we are presented with an iron cast of the artist’s loosely rope-bound and baggy cardigan-wearing back. As an abstract corporeal fragment, Nauman invokes the legacy of important twentieth-century sculptors such as Henry Moore (for whom Matisse was a significant influence), who, during the 1960s had fallen out of fashion with the emerging avant-garde. Trapped, bound, lifeless and still, Nauman’s iron body cast offers a complex meditation on the possibilities of figuration and abstraction in the emerging twentieth-century discourse of post-modernism. Price’s Vintage Bomber updates this narrative for the Twenty-First Century. By adopting an unashamedly commercial facture that would have made Warhol envious, and by choosing an item of clothing that itself has undergone a series of symbolic changes – from its original military origins through countercultural subversion to its present-day quotidian use – Price presents the shifting currency of corporeal representation in art. In Vintage Bomber the human body is rendered both vacant and superficial, a veritable death-mask cast in facile gold plastic.
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