Maurizio Cattelans works are concise fusions of the comic and the conceptual, using humour as a vehicle to dissect serious questions of structure and authority both inside and outside the art world. Executed in 2002, Frank and Jamie comprises two life-size, upside-down life-like sculptures of New York policemen. These two guardians of law would normally be seen securing the exhibition space. Here, turned upside down, they become objects of fun. Discussing this work in an interview, he explained that, 'In my mind its the third part of a trilogy about power' (Cattelan, quoted in ibid., p. E3). The other two works in this trilogy were Him, the model of Hitler which from behind seemed just to be a kneeling child but revealed itself on closer inspection to be a youthful, even angelic moustached miniature of the genocidal dictator, and La nona ora, a notorious work that caused controversy as it showed a model of the Pope having been crushed by a meteorite. Perhaps it was in order to reinforce the cops' place in this triumvirate that Cattelan shows them upside-down, an inversion that, in the work of an Italian artist, cannot help but recall the photographs of Mussolini and his secretary, whose corpses were hung by the feet in public at the end of the Second World War. Cattelan's decision to choose the police as his theme was all the more intriguing a trigger in New York in the wake of the events of 9/11, although he disingenuously played down the connection while bringing it up: 'We tried to do iconic cops, like in the movies. It's the right moment because it's the wrong moment. I didn't want to make a comment about New York City's police or Sept. 11th or Amadou Diallo' (Cattelan, quoted in ibid., p. E3). Amadou Diallo was a Guinean immigrant killed by four white policemen in 1999; Cattelan's reference to those events is not merely mischievous: it is provocative, and indicates to what extent he is playing with and skewering questions of authority in the figures of his jovial housing policemen Frank and Jamie. The more obese of the two has his arms folded and a grin on his face: this is an image of the everyday, of New York's finest standing at a street corner, perhaps even of good cop and bad cop; yet these custodians of the peace have been inverted, and have infiltrated the wall-space more commonly occupied by art.
Cattelan has repeatedly created works in which he has disrupted and thereby thrown into question the entire concept of the exhibition and the exhibition space. When first invited to show at the Venice Biennale, he rented out the space for advertising and called it Lavorare è un brutto mestiere, or 'Working Is a Tiring Job.' When exhibiting there in 1997, he installed taxidermised pigeons in the rafters; thus the classic, even iconic Venetian pest was incorporated in the exhibition under the title Turisti, aligning these creatures with the visitors to the show. Meanwhile, his 2001 Untitled featured a model of the artist emerging through a hole in the floor of the gallery space, subverting again the usual boundaries. Frank and Jamie presented another highly Cattelan solution to the problem of the exhibition when they were shown in 2002, as Carol Vogel explained: 'tucked away in the south room of Marian Goodman's gallery on West 57th Street in Manhattan is Frank and Jamie, a pair of New York City policemen - life-size wax figures - propped upside down along a wall. 'They're like broomsticks, Mr. Cattelan said (C. Vogel, 'Don't Get Angry. He's Kidding. Seriously., New York Times, 13 May 2002, p. E3).
Of course, within the context of an art exhibition, these two officers from the now-defunct (since 1995) New York City Housing Authority Police Department, which carried out police duties in housing authority buildings, become the dumb substitutes for security guards. Presented standing on their heads, these figures of authority become ineffective, while the gravitas and authority usually linked with their uniforms and badges has been irredeemably punctured. These two policemen recall Cattelan's 1997 Dynamo Secession, in which two (real and live) security guards were installed on bicycles linked to dynamos which in turn powered the light for the space. These guards, clearly unable to perform their job properly while they pedalled and even less able to perform it should they stop, as they would have been unable to see, were intrinsically linked to their exhibition environment. And so too do Frank and Jamie, as they have a extraordinary photo-real physical presence similar to those of Duane Hanson's guards and policemen. They are life-sized and life-like, and despite being upside-down, this lends them an uncanny character. Intriguingly, this verisimilitude in Cattelan's works reportedly resulted in his sculpture of the infant Adolf Hitler being shot at in the Castello di Rivoli in Turin: at night, the security guard thought it was an intruder.