Carpe Denim (Rear View Mirror)
Jan 19 — Feb 25
Mike Bouchet’s Carpe Denim (Rear View Mirror) presents work from his ongoing Carpe Denim series, which first began in 1997. In their most recent iteration, the works on view here focus on the backside of jeans re-presented at an exaggerated scale. This view of the rear emphasizes the loop pattern stitching commonly placed on jean back pockets, which seems to mimic and exaggerate the buttocks it’s intended to encase. Seen at this scale and in repetition, Bouchet prods at the persistent presence and evolving symbolism of the once humble pair of jeans.
Historically, denim began as unsophisticated attire for American male miners and has since become an object of desire for both sexes across nearly all cultures. Therefore, the sex appeal and desire that jeans characterize is something proximate to our species and not just specific groups of people. And generally, the criteria for what makes a pair of jeans desirable to the person wearing them is the view from behind, further projecting implications of desire.
Shown here for the first time, alongside the new denim paintings, is a series of drawings based upon the original Levi’s patent application, which portrays an androgynous figure who looks remarkably like Picasso’s Marie-Therese. In this depiction, you can see neither her hands nor her rear. In response, Bouchet’s notarized illustrations provide views of and claim ownership over the same figure seen from behind, with variances on bodily interpretations, as well as hands seen holding a variety of objects ranging from a broken bottle to a roll of toilet paper.
Bouchet’s interest in the language of consumer production has long informed his work, and the Carpe Denim pieces are a distillation of this embedded vocabulary and its ramifications. By appropriating a quintessential American product, along with manifest advertising and conceptual strategies, Bouchet ratchets up the level of prurience implied in the original and magnifies the true locus of denim’s promise.