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June 2010, Tim Sullivan @ Steve Turner Contemporary


Tim Sullivan's studio


Tim Sullivan: His Master’s Voice
Steve Turner Contemporary
6026 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
6 February through 13 March 2010  

 

Tim Sullivan’s alarming, charming photographic, video-based, installation, and mixed media works run the gamut of formal experimentation and DIY technologies; from home-editing kitschy films in a deliberately naïve hand, to representing himself blending seamlessly into absurd environments. But even when, as in his most recent exhibition at Steve Turner Contemporary, he chooses to engineer enormous phonographic discs that juxtapose California anthems with unlikely pop culture icons, it all has one thing in common—an abidingly morbid fascination with all things Cali, and a slightly twisted sense of humor. OK that’s two things, but they go well together, especially in Sullivan’s work, which has more to do with a natural-born Surrealist’s interest in the mash-up of Hollywood, surf culture, fanatical cults, and rock n’ roll that is sunny southern California.

Incorporating vinyl records and/or their sleeves, especially those representing one’s own misspent and/or idyllic youth, is not altogether new in visual art or even interior design. Sullivan himself has used it before in hybrid video pieces and installations that celebrate the clownish innocence of the Kool-Aid drinking west-coaster; the never-grow-old, sun and games, rock n’ roll bizarro mythology that runs through all his work. He’s also got a stylish, snarky, cheeky wit when it comes to self-portraiture, and he’s not averse to playing the fool in the name of art. All of those threads come together in perfect harmony (no pun intended) in His Master’s Voice, a series of 4-foot “records” that play songs like “Hotel California” and “California Man” (at least in theory). However since in this show all but one were installed on the walls, their visual rather than functional properties were privileged. That was a good decision in the end, because a preoccupation with their resemblance to LPs might well have distracted from their iconography—for example, Sullivan on Charles Manson’s forehead where his Third Eye would be; and one of his trademark port-wine sunsets, complete with tall, silhouetted palms.

No matter what form Sullivan’s work takes, one always experiences the same layered parfait of elements—comedy, irony, tragedy, nostalgia, Schadenfreude, awe, and an intimate appreciation.

 

Shana Nys Dambrot

Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for Whitehot Magazine, Contributing Editor to Art Ltd., and a contributor to KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Huffington Post, The Creators Project, Vs. Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Montage, Desert Magazine, LA Review of Books, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes loads of essays for art books and exhibition catalogs, curates and/or juries a few exhibitions each year, sometimes exhibits her photography and publishes short fiction, and speaks in public at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. An account of her activities is sometimes updated at sndx.net.

 

Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff

 

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