Martin Kersels, "Wishing Well," Jan. 10-Feb. 7, 2004, at Acme, 6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca. 90048
Objects have an emotional life, undoubtedly a life we impose on them, but a life nonetheless, and juxtaposed, objects begin to interrelate, to speak to each other, to implicate, to deceive, but above all to stand in for our own human failings. Martin Kersels knows this better than most, and his new sculptures at Acme are testament not only to a living and ever-expanding imagination, but to irreverence itself.
The show's centerpiece, after which it is titled, is a work named Wishing Well -- a large barrel (for apple bobbing perhaps?) and a pulley, which oddly resembles the ropes used for lynching. The piece possesses a wonderful tension between the threatening armature and the discreet little mirror we come to, like a small after dinner mint, at the bottom of the barrel, or "wishing well." Looking down into the barrel, we become part of the piece, and are strangely implicated in our looking. What gets thrown into the well, and what are we hoping to find there? Loose change? A bucket? Let's face it, wells are after all dark holes, a veritable breeding ground for the imagination. Kersels gives us back to ourselves, reflecting our faces back at us, subverting our expectations.
Another work in the show is Jerry. Kersels has taken a stepladder, weakened and splitting at each joint, and epoxied the joints together and then pulled them apart, so the effect is like skin tearing, oddly violent, yet sad and even endearing. The ladder sits surrounded by a series of square mirrors. Stand on this ladder, and watch yourself fall?
A large man -- 6 ft. 7 in. and over 300 pounds -- Kersels takes his slapstick seriously -- and in his new work, he's suggesting that perhaps we should, too. His investigations of vertigo and disorientation [see "Weekend Update," Mar. 14, 2001] have an expressionism that makes anxiety palpable. With Kersels' work, humor and pathos are inextricably bound.