Astaire operating as the former in the form of an over-the-top movie idol. As many know, the name of the work is taken
from a book, Mythologiques, written by French anthropologist,
Claude Lévi-Strauss. The book states that quotidian opposites
operate as a means of understanding cultural constructs via
binary qualities. Consequently, “raw” and “cooked” easily
segues into a juxtaposition of “natural man” and the dashing
and tuxedo-clad Fred Astaire. We’re climbing the ladder of
ascent toward the consummate gentleman. Or are we? The
grid in the background seems to lend each image equal heft
and, thus, this is a piece that, once again, leaves us in a
metaphorical twilight that is enigmatic and indeterminate.
Is it true that clothes make the man? Or, more likely, are
snappy sartorial threads simply an indication that we are
easily duped by the thin sheen of fraudulence?
In the back of Fisher’s studio, a door slides open and
reveals an overgrown garden. This seems somehow fitting.
Up front are the cerebral, mind-busting koans in the form
of perfectly crafted art. Out back, it’s nature gone semi-wild.
We’re back to the raw versus the cooked—then yet another
door slides open where, surprisingly, there is still more art.
the treetops / You feel hardly / A breath moving. / The birds fall silent
in the woods. / Simply wait! Soon / You too will be silent.
This is hardly a lyric idyll, yet it melds seamlessly with
Fisher’s body of work. It speaks of isolation and death
and offers up yet another moment of “Zen-Dumb.” We’re
lassoed by darkness and the contemplation of transcendent
things. In other words, we’re in Fisher’s universe and he is
demanding that we go into places that are discomfiting and
unsettling—which, of course, is precisely what great art
The Raw and the Cooked is yet another one of Fisher’s
works that is absolutely fascinating. In fact, I could scarcely
believe that I was standing about a foot from it. The piece
is created with a grid background and features a young
Johnny Weissmuller as the movie character, Tarzan, in
the upper left corner. Adjacent to Weissmuller is his pet
chimpanzee, Cheetah, staring out of jungle foliage as well
as an array of men in pith helmets. Also pictured are a
stereotypical tribesman, a Renaissance gentleman, and lastly,
Fred Astaire. This serves as a quick compendium of what
ostensibly constitutes Western civility, or lack thereof, with
Vernon Fisher, Basutoland, 1986, umbrella, neon, and wall text, 120 x 120 x 36 in.