On view at the recently renovated Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA – Beverly Fishman recreates a makeshift pharm party within the museum’s interior. Among the continued strain of interpretations on pill-based art, Fishman’s In Sickness and In Health chases the biting sensation medication elicits in the viewer. Blown to massive scale, reduced to their stark forms and injected with electrifying reflective color Fishman’s pills mirror the extreme selling tactics of the medical industry while simultaneously causing the viewer to reflect back on their own engagement with the trade.
Immediately entering into the glass gallery, we’re seduced by a glowing ringed red bar, its sections fading into itself, barely interrupted by paling blues. A candy-coated multicolored representation of (Anxiety, Depression, Panic), we begin to fade in front of it, forced to stare at our own chemically altered selves in the urethane-coated wood.Untitled, as are the majority of Fishman’s little helpers, precedes the wall label’s parenthesis prescription allowing museum goers, to take turns listing the series of pills we understand to ease these pains.
Thus a shift from definite blame on those that market these methods to a certain shame occurs as one names the (Pain Reliever) Oxy or Hydro, the former Xanax, and spots Adderall in the glass Mini Spill so readily. However minimalist in form, this familiarity with pill figures and branding coalesce into what experts in trademark law dub an “element of the medication that was not functional in its original design [which] begins to serve a purpose over time.”
Therefore pieces from Fishman’s Pharmeko series, modeled after drugs such as Valium and Prandin stamped with insignias, prolong abstraction as they immediately register to our own iconography of pill branding, which gained popularity in the 1960’s era of recognizable simplicity.
By infusing such a stark style with a critique of the pill marketing industry and subsequently its consumers, Fishman advances the modernist aesthetic of detachment to one of contemporary concerns. In Sickness and In Health satisfies our visual craving only to disappoint the physical. The notion of railing powder is exchanged with grinded glass, but that bite is similar, upsetting our own prescribed, but more often, recreational decision to ingest.
Beverly Fishman: In Sickness and In Health
Chrysler Museum of Art
One Memorial Place, Norfolk, VA 23510
July 16 – January 3, 2016
Written by: Amanda Acosta
Photographs provided by the Museum, the artist and Amanda Acosta