Whitehot Magazine

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 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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