Herakut: After the Laughter
Le Basse Projects
Chinatown, Los Angeles
February 25 –March 17, 2012
German art duo extraordinaire Herakut have outdone themselves again, driving home a fiercely provocative, sexy, and endlessly obsessive art-viewing experience at Le Basse Projects Chinatown. Encountering work in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, graffiti and assemblage, walking through this intensely realized exhibition felt a little like cleaning out grandma’s attic only to discover that sweet little granny was known to throw back a few drinks in her day and once had a fabulous career as a burlesque dancer and “lady of the night.”You come away with a grin on your face, yet somehow feel a little uneasy.
Part of the appeal of the show is that there is no central theme or message proposed, and if meaning can be determined at all, it exists in the connections the viewer makes between objects and the sometimes saccharine texts that randomly punctuate the display -- things like “The Prize of Greatness is Responsibility,”and the singularly non-poetic “Chair For Book Signing,”with an arrow that points to a small child’s chair that appears to be covered with a shroud. Within this constructed confusion Herakut suggest the possibility of cohesion -- or at the very least an interconnectedness -- between reality and the imagination.
Paramount in this equation is the duo’s use of humor; at one point, the viewer encounters a Boston Terrier in a bumblebee suit next to a sign that reads “Bummer Bee.”Dogs figure prominently here as Herakut recognize the inherent absurdity in a Pug’s expression, further emphasizing the bizarre array of images and objects by casting the animals as stand-ins for the artists, or perhaps the dog really is nothing more than a sign-painter. Either way, the animal, through repetition, becomes a kind of mascot for the entire experience. Another image that appears again and again is that of the “doe-eyed”child, albeit wearing at various intervals, a sheep’s head, a tree trunk, and a WWII helmet. Is this naked child imploring us toward our own self-awareness, or is the figure iconic of lost innocence?
The strongest works in the show are the weird and seductive sculptures made from papier-mâché and casting stone. Strange, monstrous creatures that seem almost prehistoric attach to the stone busts like misbegotten beasts. In one, the skeletal face of a girl peers out from under the jaws of a sea serpent, the eyes barely discernible and possibly unseeing, vague and menacing like the eyes of the creature above it. These works in particular have a handmade quality to them as though they had been forged in a high school art class in the middle ages; yet it is their quaint monstrousness that gives them their appeal.
Many other works are more lyrical and less overtly disturbing, like the whimsical “Oh Deer,”a mixed media sculpture of a Bambi-like doe lifting its dainty little bum in the air and made to resemble a bronze statue. Only Herakut could make Bambi look like she needs to get laid!
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