Anyone remember the late Gallery C? What really stays with you about that gallery was its behemothic space. And now in Inglewood a humongous space for art again comes to our neighborhood. How big? Thirty-two thousand four hundred square feet, and you can rent a 6,500 square foot studio somewhere in one of its four stories.
Directed by Renee Fox, this exhibit place provides an opportunity for critics and curators to put up shows only dreamed of before. Already, under the umbrella title of “Critics as Curators,” Doug Harvey, David Pagel, Peter Frank, and Shana Nys Dambrot have each previously set up exhibits there.
Now, it’s Mat Gleason, critic and editor of the Coagula Art Journal, who is taking advantage of this amazing space. Gleason came across as a straight-shooting, iconoclast possessing keen artistic insight coupled with a marvelous sense of humor for extra seasoning.
Here’s what he did. Taking nine personally owned (well, he owned most of them) art works, he established nine separate “chains” of artists, a dozen or so artists in each chain, who received the work of a previous artist in their chain. They had ten days to create and complete their take on it and pass it down the line to the next artist in their chain. Are you still with me? Gleason solved this monumental organizational headache by enlisting a cadre of co-curators to deliver paintings back and forth within LA’s logistically unfriendly geography.
So there I was, listening to the echo of Gleason’s voice as he explained each work in succession that hung on parking lot concrete walls. With such a large number of artists’ works, this day covered only a third of the participants.
The first chain started with a photo of a modest nude female that morphed into a Botticelli-like “Birth of Venus” in the hands of the next artist. Somehow, the following participant saw Venus as a vertical surfboard. The next artist added a lifeguard hut and placed the surfboard on a billboard. The artist after that turned the hut into an iconic British red phone booth along with the billboard. But then the surfboard on the billboard turned into a fish, which was stenciled over by the next artist. The whole chain ends with a beautifully composed painting continuing the stencil motif but turning it into a passage from a Henry Miller novel with two light switches embedded. Turn one on and multiple lights above the painting flash on and off; turn on the other switch and the whole painting pulsates. What did the artist entitle this? “Vibrating Super Cunt with Flashing Lights”– makes sense.
Another chain began with a pixel scan of an artist’s abstract painting. The second artist hung this work on her wall and photographed a model sitting under it as her contribution. Several succeeding artists went back to making computer-manipulated works until someone turned their piece into a jewelry case with an eyeball necklace. Several other boxes emphasizing texture and stylized vegetation followed until the next artist made it into a photograph of drawers. This launched several abstracted interpretations of the drawers, one by artist Gina Stepaniuk, who saw jazz music in her abstracted deconstruction painting, followed in turn by another artist, Ilana Bloch, who saw in Stepaniuk’s work landmasses and clouds which she coalesced into a bird’s eye view of a cityscape.
But the chain that tickled me most began with a work from the artist Gronk, nee Glugio Nicandro, entitled “Cocktails.” Lavialle Campbell, who saw something of a fish tail in Gronk’s piece, produced a beautiful small quilt.
The fish tail was picked up and elaborated on by Adam Teraoka, who also changed Ms. Campbell’s predominantly red work into an overall blue one, and then split the painting into a diptych.
The conceptual artist Claudia Parducci saw the fish tail as that of a whale and what better whale than Moby Dick? She maintains the diptych and vertically spells out in large red Morse code the name M-O-B-Y on the left panel and D-I-C-K on the right panel.
When Lava Thomas saw Parducci’s work, she picked up on the “DICK” and drew a technically sophisticated drawing on paper of nothing more than a man’s face atop a penis.
Kara Maria, not to be outdone, does a portrait with a penis for a nose so long that the penis head resembles a man with a long chin. Joan Sebastian and Iva Hladis both painted a full-body, standing male figure posed as if in front of a urinal, both hands holding onto his, well, Moby Dick.
So in one chain we see a fish turning into a female sex organ and in another group the fish turns into a male organ.You wonder why today’s art world is flying in multiple directions simultaneously? Wonder no more; Mat Gleason’s brilliant exhibit shows you why.