a.k.a. "The Thing," Oct. 13, 2003
Cody's Crude Commercialism
There's a rich relationship in contemporary art with corporate symbols and corporate identitiy, from Warhol to today; from the Art Guys' gently parody of corporate sponsorship to Hans Haacke's more ascerbic protest against same; from Diller and Scofidio's lamely formalist manipulation of corporate logos to the more successful Coils of the Serpent by Sebastian Luetgert.
In her recent show at Roebling Hall, Heidi Cody added a slick, seamless, and appealingly ambiguous entry to this procession. Her outsize lightbox sculptures closely copy the lit signs of gas stations and oil companies, abstracting and cropping their logos into glowing minimalist totems, as if paeons to the idea of corporate identity rather than any one entity.
But individual corporations, and their ever-morphing identities in the age of the mega-merger, are part of Cody's target here. Fragments of individual logos are linked to indicate their merged identities.
And though this might seem purely celebratory, like some excercise in brand hagiography, a legend accompanying Cody's show explains that their design is not determined by aesthetics alone, but also by the measure of the company's profitability: the size of each sign is determined by gross. Hence, Exxon-Mobil looms large over all its competitors, and the spinning red O becomes a never-sleeping, all-seeing eye, heightening not only the attractiveness but the creepiness of corporate signage.
This diagrammatic aspect links Cody's work to that of Mark Lombardi, who graphed corporate corruption, and to theyrule.net, which links maps among corporate boards. While Lombardi and theyrule more clearly state their critical project, Cody's is almost as plain, for how do the largest corporations get to be the largest but by greater exploitation and corruption?