Adam Stennett

at 31 Grand

Adam Stennett has a thing about mice. In his first show at 31 Grand, he had them scurrying around the gallery, through PVC pipes attached to the wall. He houses his pet mice in his studio and captures their antics on camera. Stennett explores our daily proximity to these creatures in Everything Tastes Better When You Are Blind (2005), A film in which the artist and a glamourous blonde dine à deux, oblivious to the dozens of white mice sniffing around their plates and teetering on the edge of their wine glasses. The couple continues to eat and flirt as if nothing were amiss. A stringy leek is momentarily allowed to hang, tail-like, from the corner of the woman's mouth and one adventurous creature topples off her shoulder and down her cleavage. Despite some suppressed giggles the two remain stoic throughout.

Stennett who also creates his signature realist paintings from photographs as is clear from the dramatic angles of the works and the snapshot moments they capture. The tension in his 2005 series is mostly due to the precarious situations his pet muses find themselves. Balanced on faucets, atop doorknobs and playing with matches, the mice have a mischievous glint in their beady black eyes, and one wonders how they eventually extricated themselves from their predicaments. True to the sharp images caught on camera, Stennett paints each whisker with utmost precision. In Thirteen Fish and Two Mice (72 inches square), the foreground is blurred, as in a close-up photograph. The focus lies on a large brown mouse in the background, squatting on a tray among dead fish.

In these paintings each detail of the mouse world is captured in proportion to its protagonists. Doorknobs loom large and treacherously high, as tails snake and get lost inside a lock, and a few matches and an ashtray provide a tricky obstacle course for Stennett's models. These closely observed pet portraits elevate the mice to a status well above that of the pesky rodent. His mice appear harmless and vulnerable, and we see the world as a mouse might--huge, frightening and full of potential disaster. --Constance Wyndham

Adam Stennett: Everything Tastes Better When You Are Blind, 2005, DVD, approx. 10 minutes; at 31 Grand

Source: Wyndham, Constance, Adam Stennett at 31 Grand, Review of Exhibitions, New York, Art in America, No. 5, May 2006, pp 184-185. (image Adam Stennett: "Everything Tastes Better When You Are Blind", DVD 2005, approx. 10 minutes at 31 Grand)