Saturday, September 29, 2007

Light Night (The Priss-tine Collection)

28 September 2007

Before I track back to the 21st (and the 8th and 15th before that), a note about last night. Kim Light hosted a reception for the curator and artists of the group show up at her gallery – styled, I would say, as much as curated (a good thing) – a Janus-look, as much forward as backward, at her own legacy, that is to say the legacy of the Kim Light Gallery which staked out a trend-setting spot on La Brea Avenue in the early 1990s, much as Blum & Poe, in many ways its godchild gallery, staked out its place at the Culver City end of La Cienega, setting the pace for the gallery development both at Washington and La Cienega Boulevards and throughout Culver City – a trend which, some might say inevitably, included Kim Light herself. They are neighbors within half a block of each other.

Everyone was there: artists, including the somewhat reclusive (in recent years) – or maybe just busy with her day job, Fatty’s & Co. – Kim Dingle. I had no idea she was still deeply involved in the enterprise, but is she EVER. No silent partner – but up to her elbows – maybe her eyeballs – in icing and pastry dough. The pastry motifs and preoccupations of recent work (Sperone Westwater – and presumably to be seen next month here at Kim Light/Lightbox) are NO COINCIDENCE. It was funny, having arrived at the Gallery completely frazzled and fit to be pissed after an encounter with opera buddy in the parking lot. [“How do you think [I am]? I’m exhausted and a little aggravated. But you know where I just came from.” OB (laughing): “NO – where are you coming from?”] I just walked away rolling my eyes – to a welcome glass of champagne in the back room, where Gary Garrels was holding forth on the very handsome Sol LeWitt – one of his monochromatic wavy line paintings, prominently featured in the retrospective Garrels organized for S.F. MOMA way back when the world was young – or 2000. (Am I the only one who sometimes thinks 2001 is the new 1963?) I’d never noticed the handsome George Rickey before. Wow, Kim. Then to the office – to borrow a digital camera (I’d left mine – barely out of its packaging – at home) – thanks Kim. And seated right before me – Kim Dingle. I was thrilled to meet her – especially after that amazing triptych Lightbox was showing only a couple of months ago – the ultimate angst-envoi to a pretty terrific group show. We related perfectly in our shared EXHAUSTION. (But I can’t imagine anything that powerful coming out of MY exhaustion. It made me wonder: what’s the legal/financial/forensic equivalent to that bit of Priss-pastry-Lord-of-the-Flies rage?). Curators, collectors, other dealers (e.g., Natalia Tkachev of Balmoral) (was that all just one run-on sentence above?), L.A. Weekly people – it felt like high school homecoming week. (I left my pom-poms at home, too.)

Jeff Poe was conspicuous by his absence. The show was really a tribute to the two of them, Kim Light and Jeff Poe, beautifully, meticulously curated by that über-curator, Carole Ann Klonarides (who put together the brilliant Without Sun show this past spring at Christopher Grimes and Chung King Project. But as if to exemplify the spirit of that pivotal moment, Skip Arnold was there, the contrails of chaos streaming behind him like smoke from the cigarette he held clenched in his cigarette holder. The video (and other) documentation of his performances (e.g., “Hood Ornament,”the “Axis Powers Tour” – a kind of existential picaresque) retain a good deal of their tense, anarchic power. So were Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Monica Majoli, and Gregory Green. The main gallery was book-ended by Chris Wilder’s “painting” of white (synthetic) fur on canvas.(executed this year) and the Yonemotos’ “Achrome III” matrix of squares wrapped in silver projection screen material (for sale!), the Anya Gallaccio “Red on White” seemed to both sink and levitate between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Boadwee’s – but his work circa 1993 – those targets and enemas – becomes more interesting in retrospect in terms of its foreshadowing (though not necessarily directly influencing) work that has only seen light in the last few years. (e.g.., Gallaccio’s more recent work). In that light, I would take issue with the notion of “Red on White” as being either exceptionally a ‘vanitas’ – a great deal of Gallaccio’s work plays on this notion (cf., “Red on Green,” “Intensities and Surfaces” – which shares a certain affinity with Karen Finley, of course); still less as something that “def[ies] stereotypes of femininity” (though Gallaccio’s feminist ‘cred’ hardly needs amplification). “Red on White” certainly alludes to decay with some finality (though not necessarily through appearance), but also to the indelible human stain (although technically, uh, cow’s blood – as Klonarides pointed out in her amusing intro Thursday night); also, dematerialization as a function of performance (cf., Skip Arnold).

The more explicitly feminist strain here was evoked by Dingle’s “Priss Room Installation” (1995) reconstructed here in all its scatological shrieking rage. (From controlled anarchy to controlled chaos.) Green’s mock explosive devices (1992, 1997) seem neither ‘pruriently thrilling’ nor particularly threatening – though they indicate another tendency, again foreshadowed by Boadwee (and possibly Dani Tull, too): towards a clinical deconstruction of the obscene or, more simply, the prurience of kitsch (cf., Tull). Monica Majoli alone has gone on to really plumb these motives to their depths – though it’s interesting to see again where she started with them.

None of this is to diminish what I think is a pretty fabulous show and a wonderful recapitulation of a certain moment. It breathes fresh here and the resonance with what is happening now in 2007 is all the more remarkable considering that watershed date I just alluded to.

As great as the show is, though, it was hard not to be distracted a little by the people, the great food and the dirty martinis. Though, as readers of this blog will already know, politics is never too far away from the scope of my concerns near or far, and something I hardly shy away from, I would have thought they might have been set aside to some extent for an evening like this. Especially this early in the season (I sigh). Alas art world politics never sleep. I would have liked not having to think about fairs this particular evening – though it was good to hear promising things about an upcoming fair. But here were two dealers strutting and fretting (respectively) dealer selection (and the all-important selection committees) and their booth/space placement in the fairs. Basel-Miami Beach and its many satellites may represent an inescapable force in this respect. But – and here the spirit of Jeff Poe was very much present – ‘if you build it,’ so to speak, ‘they will come.’ Presumably, these dealers advertise in the right publications (artillery, hopefully, among them). If you have what collectors are looking for, and you’re within a reasonable distance from an international airport, surely those collectors will make their way to your door. Alas, this very convenient end of La Cienega is rapidly filling up. Lucky, I think, to be Jeff Poe or Kim Light.

More later – though hopefully not about fairs (for a while).

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