Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Second Nature: The Valentine-Adelson Collection

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Hammer Museum

Second Nature is a display of a selection of a large gift of contemporary sculpture.  The works were produced from 1995 to the present.  The opening wall text uses several catch-all phrases (my favorite) to describe the collection and the exhibition: “three-dimensional objects” (duh) in a “variety of media.”  So the only think linking these works together is they are all sculpture made in Los Angeles from 1995 onwards. The wall text also explains the importance of the show is being “two fold.”  First is a personal collection vision (important?), and second is a cultural legacy of contemporary Los Angeles sculpture (which is important).

I would like to give credit for the educators of this exhibition for doing the best job they could with the artworks they were working with.  Not every work had an explanative text, but every third work probably did.  Some of the works spoke for themselves, and for the works which did not, the writers did the best they could to make me believe these works were actually interesting.

Pedestal Inquisition: Greely’s “Weaver,” Benson’s “Figure 8” & Ruby Neri’s “Untitled (Lioness)”

Pedestal Inquisition: Greely’s “Weaver,” Benson’s “Figure 8” & Ruby Neri’s “Untitled (Lioness)”

The first room features works of various sizes and mediums, as promised.  What struck me immediately was the various ways of displaying art.  Hannah Greely’s Weaver, was displayed on a very low white pedestal. Next to it was displayed Jonathan Pylypchuk’s Guy Peeing in Heart Plant was displayed hung from the wall, resting on a simple, rough wooden pedestal, which was part of the work.  To add to this assemblage of pedestals were the polished wood of Frank Benson’s Figure 8, and the garish, neon green pedestal on which sat Ruby Neri’s Untitled (Lioness). Both Benson and Neri’s pedestals were part of the artworks. The collection of pedestals was almost distracting, and I focused more on them than I did on the art in the room.

Sculpture not-in-the round: Curry’s “Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing)”

Sculpture not-in-the round: Curry’s “Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing)”

Aaron Curry’s Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing) is also displayed in this first room.  The work is made up of two parts: a tall wooden abstract sculpture and a movie poster set upside-down against a wall.  I have to say I was disappointed with the way the piece was installed; the wooden piece was set too close to the wall so a viewer could not walk around it or appreciate from all angles.

Concert Hall: Johnson, “The Pianist”

Concert Hall: Johnson, “The Pianist”

A nicely displayed work is Matt Johnson’s The Pianist (Designed by Robert J. Lang, and Folded by Matt Johnson). The large work needs a lot of space, as it is impressively large, and the space was given.  It was set alone in an appropriately-sized room allowing a viewer to completely ambulate around the artwork and appreciate all of its blue folded angles, at all angles.

Color-coded room

Color-coded room

A large room features several works by various artists.  All of the works are unified in color scheme: blacks, beige, and some silver.  The works include Evan Holloway’s Dichotic Sculpture, Sterling Ruby’s 2 Stacks of Husbands, Patrick Jackson’s Black and Midnight Blue, Evan Holloway’s Black to Purple, and Nathan Mabry’s A Touching Moment.  The works are nice together because they invite formal comparisons.  This can be done in peaceful, silent contemplation.  At least until Dichotic Sculpture turns on.  When it started making a horrible, vibrating, electric sound I understood what the ugly black cord connecting the artwork to the wall was for.

Plug it in: Holloway, “Dichotic Sculpture”

Plug it in: Holloway, “Dichotic Sculpture”

The normally pleasing sounds of Pachbell’s Canon started ringing off the metal cans and pots inside the speakers of the work.  This elicited the following reaction from my friend: “We learned how to make speakers out of household items in my physics class too” (said with feigned enthusiasm).  The sound was so assaulting on my ears that it made me forget my formal comparisons and I quickly left the room.

Karaoke Machine: Kersels, “MacArthur Park”

Karaoke Machine: Kersels, “MacArthur Park”

I turned my attention to find the source of more noise: the disco music which had been bouncing off the gallery walls since I entered the exhibition.  (This reminded me of my previous visit to MOCA’s galleries were the sound from an artwork permeated through an entire exhibition.)  I found the source of the disco and was disappointed to see it coming out of Martin Kersels’s MacArthur Park.  Regardless of my disappointment, the sound permeating out of its ugly exposed stereo did draw me to it. I was glad to see that this piece was one of the lucky ones; it had an informative wall label.  From the label I learned the piece mixed low and high forms of art (where the high art aspect was I couldn’t identify) and the piece was also a self portrait…

Literacy Test: Craft, “Untitled (Lazy Daze)”

Literacy Test: Craft, “Untitled (Lazy Daze)”

Another work which I felt rightfully deserved space to circumvent it was Liz Craft’s Untitled (Lazy Daze).  Viewers can walk around the piece and see all of the letters in L-A-Z-Y D-A-Z, with the E being chased off by a little creature.  The effort in viewing the work made it briefly amusing, until I was distracted away by the less-then-amazing works displayed elsewhere in the room.

Swept into a corner & Up in a corner: Lapinski, “Nothings of Such and Such a Sort” & Rocklen

Swept into a corner & Up in a corner: Lapinski, “Nothings of Such and Such a Sort” & Rocklen

Lisa Lapinski’s Nothings of Such and Such a Sort was pushed up into a corner like a heap of trash swept up into a pile waiting to be brushed into the dustpan. While at the same time a work by Ry Rocklen was elevated up on high by a video projector aimed at a corner of the ceiling, placed like a forgotten spider web.

Small-Large-XXL: Greely, “Molly and Johnny,” Ruby “Monumental Stalagmite” and Meadows, “Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive)”

Small-Large-XXL: Greely, “Molly and Johnny,” Ruby “Monumental Stalagmite” and Meadows, “Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive)”

In the following room was the best installation of work.  It combined small approachable works like Hannah Greely’s Molly and Johnny and Paul Seitsema’s sneakers, with large-scale works like Sterling Ruby’s Monumental Stalagmite and Jason Meadows’ Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive), and then also combined artworks that invited the viewer to interact such as Mateo Tannatt’s Turkish Kitchen (where the viewer was invited to don headphones) and Chris Finley’s Damn Mosquitos (which kindly requested in the wall text a viewer to use a flashlight illuminate the painting on the interior of a wooden box).  The combination of small intimate objects, with overwhelming large objects, and also with interactive art objects made for an actively installed room.

Touch Me: Finley, “Damn Mosquitos” and Tannatt, “Turkish Kitchen”

Touch Me: Finley, “Damn Mosquitos” and Tannatt, “Turkish Kitchen”

The final artwork that caught my attention was in the last room of the exhibition, it was Paul Sietsema’s Rococo Room.  When you approach the work you don’t know what to expect as all you see is a large black box.  Only after circling around the object (thank you to the curators for allowing this space) do you come to a window in the structure to look through. Inside the unrecognizable structure is a luscious miniature Rococo interior.

All the remodel budget went into the interior: Sietsema, “Rococo Room”

All the remodel budget went into the interior: Sietsema, “Rococo Room”

This work was sticking to me because of its extreme attention to detail: from the tiny gilded stucco work to and the crystal chandelier.  The work reminded me of another work I saw recently at LACMA.  In the recent exhibition Your Bright Future, there is a work called Fallen Star by Do Ho Suh.  These works both have a maniacal attention to detail and it was interesting to me to see that sculpture perhaps concerned with similar ideas was being produced by both Los Angeles artists, and Korean artists.

Echoes across LA: Do Ho Sun, “Fallen Star”

Echoes across LA: Do Ho Suh, “Fallen Star”

Leaving the exhibition I felt I did not have a greater understanding about what contemporary Los Angeles sculpture is all about.  If there was a message, theme or statement about sculpture, I’m not sure it was communicated well.  There is not really a curator’s statement since what is on display was not really of a curators choosing.  Instead the statement made is the collector’s statement.  As acknowledged in the opening wall text the vision is all the about the collector’s taste rather then an informed curator’s vision.

– H.I.

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One Response

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  1. oh hey. amazing.

    benjamin

    September 29, 2009 at 7:07 PM


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