An ordinary-looking fitted bed sheet is draped from a canvas leaning against a white gallery wall. It’s an artwork by the Argentinian contemporary conceptual artist Analia Saban currently on view at the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles.
At first impression, from a distance, one might be thinking, “Huh? Uh, ok.” Or something like “WTF?” Or roll one’s eyes and/or sarcastically utter something like “This is art.” Or, sans sarcasm, make it a question,”This is art?” Or even employ the cliche and droll “I could do that.” (Variations on this are “My kid could do that!”)
And these are all valid reactions. But there is much more going on with Saban’s artwork than the first impression allows. And there’s no debating it: It is art.
The artwork is, of course, aptly titled “Fitted Bed Sheet,” and although it looks like a sculptural object, technically what you’re looking at is a painting. Yes, it’s ACTUALLY A PAINTING!” Which is also to say the fitted bed sheet is not a fitted bed sheet at all. It’s not even fabric. So what is it? What’s really going in here?
Saban’s artwork is made up of paint on a canvas, just like many paintings. But here the acrylic has been poured into a silicone mold formed from an ordinary bed sheet. The arylic paint, cast in this mold, has then been draped over the canvas.
In this way, “Fitted Bed Sheet” is an illusion and yet tangible, as real to the naked eye as the actual object. It’s literally a painting that on casual inspection has all the visually discernible qualities and form of the mundane household object its title implies.