THE PURSUIT OF LOVE
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Joe, Philadelphia, PA
Marilyn Holsing’s work is inspired by 18th-century French painters who held sway on the repressed British imagination throughout the 19th century. Artists like Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and François Boucher had portrayed the amours of French aristocrats as sunny and frivolous games, whereas Victorian sensuality went dark and underground.
Holsing based The Pursuit of Love on two Fragonard paintings from a series of four at the Frick Collection entitled The Pursuit and The Meeting, which were originally intended for Madame Du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV, in the early 1770s. The Meeting portrays a rendezvous of two lovers among the gardens. Both parties have premeditated the arrangement to appear an accident, and the viewer just happens to catch them. In The Pursuit, the lovers enact a playful chase, the woman designing to be caught by her admirer.
Holsing’s installation, featuring three-dimensional figures, video, sound, and animatronics, was originally intended as two separate artworks, but she realized they shared a forest and ultimately decided to place them back-to-back. The luxuriant vines and extravagant foliage that rise upwards from the table, like the works of Joan Bankemper and Nancy Blum, position plant life as a metaphor for the life force and a satisfyingly fertile existence.