Harrison first gained critical attention in the late 1990s for her three-dimensional assemblages that mix popular culture, politics, and art history. By combining unorthodox materials into formally astute amalgamations, she plays with the conventional oppositions between painting and sculpture, found and made, artwork and pedestal, and high and low culture.
Alexander the Great belongs to a group of works Harrison made in 2007 and exhibited that year in her show If I Did It, named after a book written by disgraced former American football player O. J. Simpson in which Simpson describes his hypothetical murder of his wife. The title of the work references an ancient emperor, and the brightly colored grouping mimics the arrangement of a parade float or a heroic statue: a sexless store mannequin in a sequined cape assumes the pose of a conqueror perched on top of a large mass that evokes a meteorite as well as a boat. The multihued pattern painted on the lumpy base recalls the elevated forms of abstract painting as much as the decorative kitsch of wallpaper or shag carpets. Heroic statues often present solitary figures, but here a child’s President Lincoln Halloween mask, attached to the back of the mannequin’s head, adds a second subject. A trash can held by the mannequin is branded with the face of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, introducing a contemporary reference into Harrison’s ambivalent presentation of masculinity.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019).