Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Swanning Around Ahead of the Oscars: Three Shows in LA

Report From… Los Angeles

Installation view, Clare Rojas: Inside Bleak, at Prism, Los Angeles, February 26 to April 2, 2011
Installation view, Clare Rojas: Inside Bleak, at Prism, Los Angeles, February 26 to April 2, 2011

For the New York-based art critic, the galleries of Los Angles seem exotic, grandiose spaces spread throughout that expansive city. If your cicerone is knowledgeable about local history, as mine was (thank you Paul Foss!) you drive past some important film industry sites.  Prism is on a posh section of Sunset Boulevard. A movie star who wandered in would feel right at home. Clare Rojas  a much in demand mid-career artist based in San Francisco very effectively uses two stories of the large, oddly unwieldy gallery spaces.  The main floor has immovable pillars, which she incorporates into her installation by setting images on those structural elements so that they visually mate with pictures on the distant walls, creating a dazzling perspectival effect. Up the stairs in the back room are a number of smaller paintings. And when you exit a towering commercial billboard on the high wall to the left of the gallery nicely complements her art.  If Alex Katz collaborated with Edward Gorey, in consultation with Jacob Lawrence doing domestic scenes intermingled with decorative patterns, they might produce this display.  Like Katz, Rojas sets figures against flat monochromatic color fields; like Gorey she has a sly sense of humor, though hers involves showing woman in enigmatic poses isolated in upscale up to date fashionably empty houses; and like Lawrence, she creates visually compelling assemblages of small, intensely colored paintings. [Clare Rojas: Inside Bleak, at Prism, February 26 to April 2, 2011, 8746 W. Sunset Boulevard. West Hollywood, CA 90069, 310.289.1301.]

Sam Durant’s title, “let do and let pass, the world goes on by itself,” which comes from Vincent de Gourney, a mid-eighteenth century French commerce secretary, alludes to free market ideologies. The show is in three gigantic galleries. The first contains six large globes, five new and one a handsome antique suspended from the ceiling or floor, which are marked to allude to such economic issues as money laundering, gold mining and pork producing. The second, moving clockwise, displays on the wall altered and collaged maps, which are covered with political texts. Then, finally, you get to a twenty-four foot long sheet map, using a Goode homolosine projection that allows you to imagine standing outside the world and looking down on its surface. Like Carl Andre’s sculptures, this is sculpture that you can walk on. Durant’s general concern, showing that geography is politically important is, of course very familiar both within the art world and from the leftist literature. To map is to control: he dramatically shows the power of that idea. Mapping has its own history, parallel to but normally distinct from the history of representation. This critical presentation of mapped information creates a visually impressive installation with great aesthetic power.  [Sam Durant:?”Laissez faire et laissez passer, le monde va de lui meme,” at Blum & Poe, February 19 to April 2, 2011, 2727 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, Ca 90034. 310 836 2062.]

That “Black Swan,” curator Dominic Sidhu’s exhibition inspired by the film of that title,  included works by Matthew Barney, Walead Beshty, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Katharina Fritsch, Douglas Gordon, Dan Graham, Wade Guyton, Pierre Huyghe, Sergej Jensen, Anish Kapoor, Karen Kilimnik, Rachel Kneebone, Glenn Ligon, Nick Mauss, Richard Phillips, Richard Prince, Ugo Rondinone, Wolfgang Tillmans, Banks Violette, and Christopher Wool merely identifies it as an upscale exhibition of the visual art seen in the movie. But what transformed it into a dazzling gesamtkustwerk, far more interesting than the sum of its fascinating parts was the installation. When you enter, the room looks like a standard white cube. But actually the room has a mirrored floor, cunningly designed so that as it is stepped on, cracks appear. Women’s stiletto heels are especially effective in causing this web of lines in the mirror to spread. April 9 was the date for the Academy Awards—this  is LA, after all. ‘Step on a crack, break your mother’s back’: am I the only visitor who remembered that saying? I have never seen a more subtle commentary on the ‘mirror stage’ of human development without which the narcissism, which propels our film industry and thereby inspires our shared fantasy life would not be. [Black Swan: The Exhibition, at Regen Projects, February 25 to April 16, 2011.]

Installation view, Sam Durant, Laissez faire et laissez passer, le monde va de lui même, 2011. Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Sam Durant
Installation view: BLACK SWAN Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 25th – April 16, 2011
Black Swan