"The Best Art In The World"
Works 222-247, Installation view: Steve Kim, Peter Lograsso, Nick Van Woert, Sean Higgins
Courtesy of the artists and Marine
Salon No.7: Works 222-247
November 13, 2010 through January 22, 2011
The current group installation, Works 222-247, at Marine Salon is a continuation of certain themes curator Claressinka Anderson first addressed in her 2009 show at Jail Gallery, Shut Up and Keep Swimming, having to do with the variety of artistic responses available in addressing the current geopolitical jumble of interlocking crises and intractable challenges; although only a few individual artists are in both shows. In this iteration, humor and fantasy are presented as strategies for survival, even as other visions take more internalized, psychological stances; and the problems of violence, neglect, exploitation, alienation, infrastructure decay, cultural conflict, and perversions of power structures are, if anything, even worse two years on. Although Marine has not traditionally mounted thematic group shows, in this case, the niche environs of a domestic-setting gallery provide unique opportunities to forge formal and conceptual connections, as well as to explore the interactive aspects of site-specific installation, architecture, and scale; amplifying the quasi-narrative flow of the whole. It’s a story about the sublime foundations of our contemporary post-apocalypse, how futurism merges into the landscape, and the emergence of a kind of “techo-naturalism,” that comes close to containing it all in one big, expandable zeitgeist.
Painter Ricky Allman’s best work mixes extremes of monumental realism with the elaborately imagined; his paintings come alive when activated by the tension between the recognizable and the nearly abstract. With some of the newer work, Allman’s bold explorations of the fantasy realm can cause his images to slip between the viewer’s fingers. His work benefits from the tether of workable architectural space, to anchor the world when shape is formed of pure color and perspective collapses, when space flattens, and we need footholds. That said, even the most elusive of his compositions still rushes and slips like a waterfall color riot that sweeps everything along in its current. Nick Van Woert’s unlikely paint and plaster busts are like romance novels in sculpture form, with their totally different front and side characters reading like a cross-section of their own innards; the process of their building crystallized in their frozen finished plaster forms, before deliberately putting their best faces forward. His painted surfaces both exaggerate and transform, liquefy, the material’s features. Neither he nor Allman is afraid of color nor particularly scared of flirting with the abstract void, that’s for sure.
Jordan Swerdloff, If you wait long enough everything changes, 2010
Plastic wrap and PVC, 2010, 92” x 30” x 64”
Courtesy of the artist and Marine
Sean Higgins, with his penchant for glossy destruction, makes frothy work that is always charming and just hungry for projected meaning. Speaking of which, in the Bedroom (the new project room) Jordan Swerdloff: If you wait long enough everything changes. Yes, it’s literally the elephant in the room, and it was built inside the space like a ship in a bottle. The transformation of ordinary plastic tape into an object of ethereal and massive beauty also rich with hipster-kitsch humor that makes it fit right in with the rest of the group is worth experiencing in person if at all possible, tied as it is to a deliberate relationship to its location. The same is true of the large, spacey architectural abstractions by Janet Jones. Her paintings are vaguely ominous in a retro sci-fi, Palm Springs “Twilight Zone” kind of way, with nuanced surface variation, and are most effective when experienced at scale. Steve Kim’s paintings and Peter Lograsso’s photographs each play with abstraction through reduction and obfuscation, adding absence to depictions that resonate with indicated narrative, but also combine atelier ideas about abstraction with representational function, creating seductive and mysterious images. Matthew Heller also electrifies his negative spaces, but in a raw, street-physics kind of way. He’s concerned about how the empty spaces in the universe are really full of its particulate, energized fabric, and he’s looking for ways to be more aware of the contents of the in-between. His shadowy profile figures and cryptic text fragments echo romantic, even heroic genres like murals or history paintings, but their real subject is the part you can’t see with your eyes.
Equally subversive of boastful art history, but in an entirely different way, are the neon signs and sculptural interventions of Alejandro Diaz. No Shoes, No Shirt, You’re Probably Rich is just straight funny; it’s funny because it’s true. Please Do Not Touch plays with your mind, hoisting conceptual art by its own petard, and turning Beautiful Loser and Fluxus- style DIY conceptualism on its head. It’s anti-preciousness tells its own joke, and is a sweet reward for people who get it. Joseph Kohnke’s outdoor sculpture of a motion-triggered sky crane has this kinetic, cartoonish industrial optimism like Fritz Lang meeting Terry Gilliam and Rube Goldberg in shop class, and is a treat for everyone across lines of taste, education, pedigree, and age. And sometimes there’s nothing more subversive than a work of art that seeks to delight and entertain as many people as possible -- especially in the face of global meltdown.
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.
She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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