Oliver Herring, Untitled (Body Bag), 1995

Lot 123: Oliver Herring, Untitled (Body Bag), 1995, knit mylar, 24 x 155 x 55 cm, at Wright20 Apr20

I feel like I lost track of Oliver Herring and his work after The Glitter1. But he’s going strong. And more to the point here, his knit mylar sculptures were a haunting and powerful presence in the 1990s, and they continue to exert an elegiac force.

Or maybe it’s seeing one called Untitled (Body Bag) that just hits a little harder. Herring began knitting mylar while still in grad school at Hunter, as a gender bending tribute to Ethyl Eichelberger, an iconic downtown drag artist and performer. Herring was at Wigstock in 1991 when Lady Bunny announced Eichelberger’s death by suicide after receiving an AIDS diagnosis. In 2014 Herring spoke on Clocktower Radio [mp3 hotlink, because Clocktower] about how knitting embodied time and mindlessness, giving him a chance to think and do simultaneously. He also talked about having to address the isolation that followed, and the inevitable end to the practice.

Herring’s move into video, performance, and community-based work makes for a quiet market for his objects. And part of me thinks I’m an idiot for posting about this before bidding on it, instead of after. But as someone who apparently needs to type to think, I’m not really in a spot to do different.

Apr 20, 2023 Lot 123: Oliver Herring Untitled (Body Bag), 1995, est. $1500-2500 [wright20]
[whoops that was today? update: went for just $221 while I was on the phone.]

1 The Glitter: The last show I saw of Herring’s work as at Meulensteen, the guy who bought into and then bought out Max Protetch Gallery, where Herring showed in the ’90s. Herring’s show in October 2010, Areas for Action, was a month-long, free-form performance/making platform for serendipity, but in the societal frame of an eight-hour workday. What that that meant in practice was a performance-art-a-day calendar pad full of random nudity, body painting, and glitter. So much glitter. Protetch-turned-Meulensteen was on the east end of West 22nd street, and so everyone coming to Chelsea would start there, and trek the glitter down the street and into everyone else’s galleries. My strongest memory of that show, and of Meulensteen’s shortlived program, frankly, is hearing other dealers complaining about The Glitter. Kudos to Herring, though, for taking that concept on the road: glitterbomb and run beats glitterbomb and stay.