Comprising a flesh-coloured body print upon a bright blue swathe of Spandex, Pamela Rosenkranz’s Untouched by Man (Seep Down)
belongs to one of her most important series of works. Within a practice that seeks to interrogate our position in what she describes as a ‘human-indifferent universe’, these works represent attempts to understand the relationship between mass-produced, man-made materials and the living, breathing bodies that use, exploit and wear them on a daily basis. Informed by research into fields as diverse as marketing, advertising, philosophy, religion and medicine, Rosenkranz is fascinated by the void that exists between human beings and the various mechanised systems and products through which we conduct our lives. The title Untouched by Man (Seep Down)– given to her 2010 exhibition at the Kunstverein Braunschweig in Germany – speaks directly to this concept, and has given rise to a number of other works: branded water bottles filled with fesh-coloured liquids, and running shoes clogged with skin-toned resin. Following the completion of her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Bern, and the University of Zurich in 2005, Rosenkranz has received widespread critical acclaim, with exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland; the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; the Kunsthalle Basel Switzerland, and a residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam in 2012. In 2015, her work featured in the Swiss Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.
Whilst Rosenkranz’s body prints have invited comparison with Yves Klein’s legendary Anthropométries – a series of works created by naked female models coated in the artist’s patented blue pigment – she does not share the French artist’s metaphysical concerns. Instead, by imprinting natural fleshy tones upon a synthetic fabric, she is interested in the primal psychological allure of human skin. ‘When I work with skin colour in a monochrome form, it is to present an element from daily experience – both from advertising and from our interactions with real people – as an abstraction’, she explains. ‘Successful marketing is mastering how people react to things automatically. It’s been said that the more skin that is in an advertisement, the more people will look at it. I am interested in how this trigger works on us biologically. I wanted to work with flesh tones at first because I was attracted to the colours. By asking myself why this was so, I became aware of the biological trigger, and I tried to establish a distance from it ... Art is very powerful, I think, for encouraging greater independence in our perception of what is attractive’ (P. Rosenkranz, quoted in conversation with A. Rosenmeyer in Art in America, 5 January 2015).