"What Would Jesus Do?" June 15-July 21, 2002, at Cherrydelosreyes, 12611 Venice Blvd., Venice, Ca. 90066
The question "What Would Jesus Do?" is somewhat rhetorical since Jesus, being who He was (and is still apparently) could "do" anything, from parting the seas to reciting the alphabet backwards in his sleep. Seven L.A. artists were asked to play Jesus, and the stunning results of this exploration, on view at Cherrydelosreyes, the Venice gallery created nine months ago when Mary Leigh Cherry and Tony de Los Reyes joined forces, could just about bring Him back.
Kim Abeles has created her own poeticized "crown of thorns," made from a variety of old tools belonging to her grandfather, many of them are rusted and discolored with the trace of memory. The piece is both forceful and tender.
Steve Irvin's 30-second video shows a man wearing a patriotic top hat, only to be smacked hard across the head by the "hand of God." It's strangely eerie, yet whimsical, and caricatures the notion of moral guidance that is implicit in the show's title.
Daniel J. Martinez gives us An Event For Deception and Hysteria, Posing As Andy Warhol Looking For Jesus Christ, a large-scale photograph of himself with George Domantay in the 99 Cent Store. They wear rubber noses and stand gazing up in stupefied, modern-day prayer (that seems more questioning than soulful) at effigies of Jesus and Mary. Incisive and funny.
Michael McMillen has created a bizarre contraption with multiple levers and string pulleys attached to a small glass encasement which contains an atrophied rat whose paper cardinal's hat has "fallen." The piece is the obsessive brainchild of an invented character named Ennis Beans, who is Faulknerian in his southern decadence. The piece can be viewed from the street through a peephole.
Liz Young's sculpted dress form appears frighteningly bare, and begs the question: where is Eve in all these doings? Is this the new-fangled Jesus of the modern era, feminized and barren?
Jennifer Nelson's piece involves site-specific photos of a spiritual performance. Four opera singers were asked probing questions about life, hope and spirituality. Their responses were then taped. They also performed in front of various Los Angeles landmarks including the courthouse downtown.
The most provocative work in the show belongs to Tyler Stallings, whose enigmatic, gestural paintings seem to mark off odd vacancies and strange oneiric voids where trees spring up and portals of color open, then close simultaneously. One painting of a hummingbird embodies both chaos and perfect balance, and brings to mind the quiet tyranny of Francis Bacon's work. Around this small bird, the world falls away.