Cinder Cone Spectography

In human eyes, color inhabits a fine metropolis of cones near the fovea, while rods populate the suburban retinal landscape.  As a survival mechanism of Crayola commerce, vibrant wavelengths register upon presharpened cone tips in central focus, while motion—in the high contrast brush of dark upon light—shadows a peeled paper commute of macular rod stubs.  They generally trade shifts night and day, which is perhaps why arriving at Sade’s purple carpeted, fern hanging installation from a waxing crescent haze etched such radiance behind the crowd.  But there is more than just a blind spot planted unsquare in the center of Ariana Papademetropoulos’ paintings, forcing viewers to look beyond evolutionary blind spots.

Like an aberrant raindrop magnifying a deskjet photograph until the inks evaporate, the temporary obstruction approaches a threshold of representative topography.  Papademetropoulos’ brushwork impulsively squashes that geodesic reservoir flat, like fly juice oozing out from mulitfaceted eyes.  There in the wrinkled edges of the color basin, foothills are revealed like sunspots in a solar eclipse.  Trudging towards the center of the cinder cone to gather rare pigments, Papademetropoulos traces away oriental patterning, her sharp periphery pirouetting against the eye’s central focus.  It’s like falling into an iris—less a tie-dye tongue twister and more a knockout punch.

One immediately feels a certain nostalgia for an elementary globe spinning pastel countried geology, with a turntable fingerprint needle reading Rocky Mountain braille in relation to Alpen accents.  The pinprick game of global travel carves fingernail itineraries, until pressure scratches vinyl lilt to a halt—there!  Papademetropoulos Djs equally humble optics, framing delicately furnished interiors before weathering the dreamy viewer through its central wormhole abstraction, diving into a coronal glow of full atmosphere.  Fovea is made to keep focus on the spinning blur, where the concentration of blue rods is minimized, as if oceans were to centrifugally redistribute up tributaries.  Or perhaps we’re spinning in reverse, with ladies and lords returning to summer doll house interiors, unwrapping time into a blurry cellophane dinner ball.  A panoramic reference to Rosenquist’s Gift Wrapped Doll series is less crinkly with the edges, having smoothly swallowed the canvas whole.  For anyone uniquely challenged in locating one’s own parked car in broad daylight, the telekinetic afterglow of Papademetropoulos’ work says never leave home.  Firmly planted between purple carpet, fluorescence, and floating ferns, why would anyone want to?

On view at Sade through April 26, 2015.

Trump of the Eye

The simple read of trompe l’oeil is its ambivalence to structure, a surface in denial of everything beneath.  Erin Morrison gives that surface weight, in her show Relief, pastel hues plaster the chalky depth as sticker appliqué.  It’s sort of the double take one gives to overpainted curbs, with gray permission flaking away to yellow or red beneath.  Flat graffiti desaturations can never match the sidewalk aggregate, but it’s enough of a color correction on behalf of Public Works to qualify an open parking space.  With her larger paintings weighing in at an upwards of 150 pounds, it’s a lane in the thoroughfare that Morrison claims with a forklift.  Her paintings lean with pillowy deception in wood float frames, balancing the hardwood footprint with a precarious gravity.  It’s in the folds and seams, like formwork expansion joints, that forces the viewer to see how paint merges with chalky surfaces—texture denies brushstroke.

The effect, trumping trompe and otherwise overwriting the taut plane, tastes like a new material language.  Syntax floats sideways, blackboard lettering without words, with eyes exfoliating like teardrops.  Triangles feel like they might be blown away in a wind of colored cardboard, to be scissored again like snowflakes and melted back flat, which is Morrison’s levity.  If the cuadro first jumping out of the wall was played like an old western tie-it-to-the-horse jailbreak, the rouge frame has now been lassoed back to the chain gang.  A palm frond drops like an unsuspecting feather from the sky above, unfolding space in the smaller paintings with an ominous material shadow.  These works hang despite the wall’s resentment.  The open mouthed pottery anchored in the central open courtyard concurs, a calcium sulfate duststorm may well have rivered in a sudden downpour, but here dry weight speaks against accumulation.  Relief is a tongue in cheek sticker, like the neon eclipse square faced unsmiling wink the entrance.  Slowing painterly surface with plaster as desiccant, the seams and stitching relieve fabric formwork from both color and pattern, sunbleached.  Morrison scrapbooks remnants for texture rather than their color, presenting a clean slate.  Though a structural burlap mesh harbors density like cheesecloth, flatness billows out into opaque cloudform bubbles.  Weft and waft collide by smooth plasticine shine, to be grayed out again by stubborn chromatics.  Overwritten but not entirely erased, an albatross dances between walls in the theatrics of escape.  There’s a warmth emanating from her stoic surfaces like concrete still curing, to pinch dreamland skeins and entirely snap away from frayed negatives—just watch out for falling palm fronds.

On view at Samuel Freeman through April 4, 2015.

If Walls Could Speak

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Time has come to a stop.  And not by it’s own accord.  Listen, and try to tune out the thermostat’s pacemaker ticking with complete indifference to the late afternoon air breathing naturally.  Even the walls hold their breath—but with gallery, office, and “wine cellar” doors open to clear sky, the HVAC at M+B just sighs.  Reluctantly uncaged, yet still filing away the at bars, three carbograph 5 air samplers drive through the frosted plastic of a standard clock face.  There are no shadows.  Hour, minute, and second hands come to rest precisely upon 10:19:30, like a tranquilizing lead weight to mid-calf, demanding we kneel to its silence.  Though a sentimental ear-level poem wraps the office interior behind framed photographs, most of Jesse Stecklow’s Potential Derivatives reclaim the equatorial desert landscape of electrical outlets, sprung to life without the due ceremony of a wall switch.  Listen again, as the fan kicks in and gears whirr behind floodwhite walls and fluorescent hum.  Or does the sound come from within his nondescript boxes, anchoring depthless walls to concrete floor?

Either someone forgot to kill the AC or the lapdog-sized varmint traps are alive, rattling away with mini-minotaurs automated along unseen interior mazes, about to unhinge, or explode with the full horror of mechanical animation.  Like the (x, y) biaxial controls of the gravity-bound game Labyrinth, ping pong sized escape hatches reveal little of interior, just the clunk of a marble.  Scratch.  Memories flood the gray concrete and pool around these aural cornerstones, spinning freewheel sensory loops.  Cue the purple scent of our grandfather’s garage, autumn-time, at threshold between Erie gusts and heavy pipe smoke.  The fan clanks like frostbitten oak leaves dancing across the driveway.  We derive no smoke and mirrors here, nor flame, just opaque objects—vented sheet metal panels, empty egg slicer pet cages, and the nondescript doormat delivery of fine cardboard packaging—curio penalty boxes to trap our hyper-active visuality.  Listen.  Like the myth of sandbags weighing down kilowatt-hours, these architectural ankle bracelets arraign a legacy of automated suburban surveillance, deterring unauthorized eyes from trying hack rusty circuit boxes, where shrubbery shrouds whirligig analog utility meters.

Having located our blind spot precisely between two ears, it’s worth WeHo window shopping to return elsewhere along Stecklow’s 40-minute spin cycle and reclaim hearing, to wring out saturated afterimages from cochlear coil, and hang dry.  But with eyes still darting like kamikaze houseflies towards incident sound, Stecklow counts us photographically, like victims on fly paper, in quicksand sentiment—all abuzz yet unable to see more than what is placed directly before us.  The experience is intensely satisfying, like Louis Kahn’s servant spaces protesting to the ritually served. If walls could speak, would they echo the hive mind of hierarchical partitioning?  Stecklow’s suspended time allows us to feel heavy opacities feeding off electric atmosphere, the scent of oil and sawdust and blackberries thrown into the heat pump’s ornery ventilation fan.  Listen.  The door to the cube is creaking open.

On view at M+B through February 7, 2015.

Greenscreen Fertility

Jacolby Satterwhite is not the second coming of Christ, but his technoqueer projection of late Renaissance painting through midnight QVC inspiration drops a fresh beat on the immaculate conception.  It’s a flash mob performance in tableau vivant virtuality, and even if you missed the memo about adopting his mother’s schematic inventions as source material, Hollywood can soon anticipate a new workout regimen.  By wearing video screens on his own body, Satterwhite resurrects Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St. Peter, directing a doubting finger to probe the wound in Christ’s abdomen, thereby baptizing viewers under rotoscopic greenscreen fertility.

Michael Fried has distinguished Saint Peter’s immersion from the specular composition addressing viewers through the frame; Satterwhite’s characters are likewise so wholly engrossed as to be entirely oblivious to their circus stage, or the nativity cut-scenes set in the natural landscape.  The interface presented at OHWOW renders desire at atomic scale, subduing day-glo material mapped fluorescence to milder hues for prints and sculptures.  Still we remain in orbit throughout the videos, while each hypersaturated carnivalesque of internal anatomy footnotes a Bethlehemic asterisk of fractal copulation.  In this Bardo beyond the Biennial, Satterwhite’s supernaturally gyrating pigtail probosci recoil to a Powers of Ten awareness of human scale, canvassing screen captures like film posters for a new video in the works.  Articulated Poser cheerleaders act as clipart Devas in an exercise of pre-Cremaster zygotic potentiality, without cheat codes or the flexing muscularity of a first person shoot ’em up environment.  It’s a Bradbury-esque carousel spinning away with nodamnbrakes, the only limits are hard drive capacity and processing speed, not to mention attention span.  The dynamism of Satterwhite’s ecliptic, in nesting Fried’s mirrored reversal back onto itself, finds depth by disguising the painter’s palette in endless hours of editing.  Satterwhite indeed harvests his family archives for structure, but between the soundtrack and guest stars, the kingdom remains his and his alone.

Seeing both New and Old testaments hanging together is a treat, the show How Lovely Is Me Being As I Am, though a balanced seesaw between past and future leaves little room between worship and cynicism.  According to Pascal’s wager, the safe bet is to believe God exists, though Sanskrit’s neti neti would still resist the illusion, not this, not this.  If only Pascal was a better dancer, our binary chiaroscuro might dissolve immaculate codes into a spectral array from Satterwhite’s disco ball refractions.  Virtuality can’t get any deeper than schematic wireframe vectors, but with Christ and Peter still locked in a frozen embrace, it seems Satterwhite has hacked the stoic genome and is Pied Pipering performance to the next level.

On view at OHWOW through December 31, 2014.

Haussmann’s Web

13_haussmansweb_700“Excuse me…  Excuse me, you actually can’t go in there, it’s not part of the exhibition.  That’s where they feed the spiders.”  Nothing like a wrong turn in the foyer.  Given the options: (A) white wall, dark room, dead end ahead, or (B) to the right, still echoing, still echoing full given names announced by the host, immediately dive from embarrassment between the drywall framing.  We arrive already in pieces, a reverberant sine, as characters in Pierre Huyghe’s piece Name Announcer—although perhaps not as scattered as Mr. and Mrs. Greene, who both arrive twice within a single minute.  Time is collapsing onto us, but this 11” x 17” map of Resnick Pavilion, uncreased, should help light the way out.

Gone is the gaze of a retrospective fly on the wall, with necks craned to engage the drop ceiling Pong game, or await neon enlightenment from RSI, un bout de réel it’s impossible not to get caught in Pierre Huyghe’s web.  Even if the spider, or RSI, never directly announces its presence.  Above in plan, single lines cannot exist, because all materials, even video projected through mist, exists with thickness.  But Huyghe has subdivided that double line schematic between opposing sides of the perceptible, weaving an immersive interplay between hive and mind.  Even weather systems obey HRM, the reclining concrete nude adjusting her 360° hairdo out back.

In her 5 Car Garage, Emma Gray has exhibited an artist, John Knuth, who in his own garage feeds sugared pigment to flies, who in the bitter excrement of Solomon Grundy’s lifespan, compose action paintings.  Huyghe’s fauna perform under the monarchy of that food chain, pyramided towards more or less liberated reincarnations of The Host and the Cloud’s mascot, face buried in LED literature.  With ears and tail unclipped like a conscientious protester, his lithe white hound Human curls on furs arranged in cold corners, tracing mundane magenta pigment (not on the map) through time with her right leg.  Check map again: Please do not approach the dog.  In LA?  Are we to feel sympathy for the monkey bound behind the mask of a woman, or see our own lives in the seashell simulacra of Annlee’s envy?  Like the second floor of Rem Koolhaus’ Prada Rodeo, Huyghe’s fishcube aquarium winks between transparent and opaque, gawking at us, flâneur puppetry.  In the 90’s Laurie Anderson noted that artists merely serve as “content providers” for profitable technologies—relational aesthetes are now scoring dialogic institutional soundtracks.  It’s loss prevention, like the mirrors angled 135° with video flatscreens at Burberry’s new digs.

“Go ahead and have a look around, women’s is on the second floor, and men’s on the third.”  She doesn’t mention the obvious fourth.  “We’re more of a digital store today,” which is to say, shop at home.  Burberry’s obtuse mirrors, like the web, serve as fun house hypnotics, deflecting brand mystery more than unmasking, 1:1 with intent.  But like A Journey That Wasn’t, institution still strings the silken thread symphony to island topography, and Huyghe’s retrospective is too much fun to stop and disentangle participation.  Despite LACMA’s 500 lb. back door to keep the bees out of the black Arctic ice rink, the sediment of network architecture hardly feels claustrophobic, which is the scary part.  How does one argue with Sisyphean aquatic spiders floating rocks, when the I/O Venturi effect keeps a perfectly consistent meniscus?

Light years away, Night Gallery keeps it material with a Haussmann renovation of their own; handmade fans and corrugated aluminum roofing hang alongside wide-eyed, closed door-mouthed Gaudí facades in concrete brick tromp l’oliel relief.  The interconnected group show arrondissements don’t bat an eye towards walking backwards under the step ladder monuments, but neither did Name Announcer reprimand the teenagers darting to see where they feed the spiders.

Pierre Huyghe on view at LACMA through February 22, 2015.
Paris de Noche on view at Night gallery through December 20, 2014.

Take Five

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It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot perimeter of 23 sandy islands, the exposed navel of a derelict volcano that marooned Jacques Heim’s atome swimsuit with Louis Réard’s four triangle, 30 square inch newsprint pattern design.  “It worked,” for French dancer Micheline Bernardini, the only model willing to back 1946 molecular style and set off a nuclear summer.  But with nearly half of the world’s film supply spooled around the Bikini Atoll, you’d wonder if Oppenheimer’s words weren’t clouded by a mushroom-shaped midriff, as the Manhattan Project’s postwar reruns sent Rita Hayworth’s bombshell namesake Gilda to smithereens.  Operation Crossroads’ first test Able, victim of Cain, missed wide by 2130′ as it detonated 520′ above sea level, with 700 lead lined cameras pirouetting to catch the misfire.  Take five, as if Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki didn’t provide enough statistics, then sent science into question mark cumulus.

The general half-life diplomacy of 30 years forgetfulness was not something Bruce Conner (b. 1933) was ready to let slip, digging up National Archive footage of plan B, test Baker, bomb Helen of Bikini, and framing his 1976 film Crossroads without any skimpy characters.  Tapping candlestick makers Patrick Gleeson and Terry Riley to score the 36-minute black and white slow burn, Conner’s 27 declassified blast iterations scale from the battleship congregation to scientific sublime, asking how the future can survive the butcherer?  While knaves of Pacific tub superpowers boast three of a kind visual superiority (1947’s test Charlie had no decontaminated targets left), the radioactive fallout still kills in silence.  Sound travels five miles per second, so with the closest cameras shored three miles from the blast lagoon, Gleeson calculated a 15-second delay to memorialize the moment.  Then the crushing wave of synth static drums the ears to war, as if in applause of the power already ascended skyward, before riding Riley’s abstractions in remote drone B-17’s, molecularly unveiling the cloud.  But at what resolution can a nuclear facelift erase wrinkled politics?

Thankfully, restorationist Ross Lipman’s presentation at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater screened Conner’s 35mm version without the touch-ups, but click down to Kohn Gallery to reset digital prefs.  After Conner’s birthday cake intermission, Gleeson smirked at his questionable association with the project—his soundscape over the silent footage had mistakenly taken inspiration that fellow electronic pioneer Wendy Carlos’ 1972 album Sonic Seasonings was entirely synthesized.  Only later discovering that it had been layered with field recordings, Gleeson’s one-upmanship succeeded in grounding Crossroads at the thermonuclear threshold where fission fails to derail vision.  You have to hear it to believe it.

On view at Kohn Gallery through December 20, 2014.