Skylar Haskard, Jan. 29-Feb. 26, 2005, at Anna Helwing Gallery, 2766 La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca. 90034
Titled simply Octagonal Erection, the contraption that the young L.A. artist Skylar Haskard (b. 1977) has installed in the main space of Los Angeles' new Anna Helwing Gallery is a veritable fortress of imagination. Extending the length of the gallery and nearly reaching the ceiling is a plywood sculpture that resembles a giant magic lantern, cut with eight-sided holes and containing a wealth of eight-sided tubes and rings, some painted lime green, and all suspended in space by elastic guy-lines as if it were some kind of homemade astronomical mode.
A series of four videos of Haskard are simultaneously projected through the work, documenting the making of the installation as well as testifying to the specificity of labor -- efforts of alignment, organization, building, upturning, overturning and more. In his performance, Haskard plays a kind of other-worldly scientist, developing the parameters of a new, octagonal universe.
The enterprise has sexual overtones, as the title of the piece might suggest. Harskard appears inside this phallic structure like some kind of sexual astronaut, wearing weird space suit, injecting his body into the interior space. He seems to float inside the craft, picking things apart and putting them together. As he forages, the camera, stationed above his head, records his movements as he looks up from time to time like an astronaut scanning the heavens for some sign of life. The entirety of this work is very suggestive, and revolves around ideas of regeneration and compulsion.
Other works in the show include a series of sculptures from an earlier work, titled Legacy Forest, executed in Maine in 2004. Influenced by Thoreau's great novel Walden, Haskard constructed a 40-foot-long greenhouse in the middle of the forest, complete with a "mulching room" designed to process not natural detritus but colored sticks, xeroxed words and other cultural and artistic props. Haskard's continuing investigation seeks the anatomy of autonomy, beleaguered though it might be by unrealized hopes that haunted Thoreau's masterpiece.
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Sally Elesby, Jan. 8-Feb. 5, 2005, at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 5795 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, Ca. 90232
Sally Elsby is one of those rare artists who continually reinvents herself, and her recent exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects gave further testament of a keen and ever probing imagination. Elsby's new series of sculptures accompanied by small, elegant paintings comprise a complicated esthetic, and one the artist has spent many years perfecting.
Elsby's small wire sculptures, covered with many layers of oil paint, are deceptively simple. These works, some quiet, others roaring with intensity, are flat wire configurations -- fences, perhaps -- that are charged with metaphor, each one possessed of its own emotional resonance. Installed above each of the sculptures is a painting that duplicates the sculpture's design, though upon further inspection, the paintings seem to exist as one voice in a dialogue between linear and three-dimensional space.
In Red Surface, the sculpture appears nearly bloodthirsty, jagged and claustrophobic, and the painting behind it echoes this same tension. Other works are more serene. The lines in Mauve Surface are fluid and vaguely feminine, as there is more space between the wires, and the paint not nearly as articulated as in some of the other works. Blue-Green Surface is exquisite, and the rich olive background in the painting nearly draws you in behind this intrepid little fence.
These works might be likened to characters in a theatrical production at the Old Vic, say of King Lear, Othello or that doomed Dane Hamlet. They have a distinct corporeality, an undeniable presence, and the question then becomes how to cast them. Who would be the villain, or who among them the hero?
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Richard Meier, "Collages," Jan. 15-Feb. 12, 2005, at Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, Los Angeles, Ca. 90210
The celebrated architect Richard Meier has a fascinating if all too clandestine art practice, and if nothing else, his recent exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, is as much a coming out party as it is an extensive overview of 120 collages he has produced between 1987 and 2003. One cannot ignore the fact that Meier, whose visionary architectural works -- the Getty Center, the High Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona -- have afforded him the opportunity to travel extensively around this great globe of ours, and these experiences or, rather, the residue of these experiences, comprise the foundation for Meier's collage works.
Works like Republica De Cuba derive their emotional resonance from the associative relationships created between a variety of seemingly disparate elements: a ticket to a Cub's game at Wrigley Field placed alongside a boarding pass for US Airways and a highly ornate fragment of paper money bearing the Republica insignia. The literal relationship between these items is not readily apparent, though Meier's sensitivity to detail is able to fill the works with an emotional content and imply a compelling narrative. Meier's own memory of these places, and what happened there, is oddly transgressed by the fact that he has orchestrated, with each subsequent work, his own version of these memories wherein the literal images are no longer as important as the desire to construct them anew.
It's as though Meier has architected a series of small paper structures happened upon at various stages of construction or deconstruction, as the case may be. As with any building that exists in literal time and space, the impulse toward creating it is still very fresh -- beams stand exposed, the sky, a temporary stand-in for a roof, and these two dimensional structures drawn from a mlange of private memorabilia, reflect an architect's obsession with process, even when addressing more personal concerns.
As Meier himself states, "A single collage is not begun and finished by itself. On the contrary, works in various stages of evolution are left in notebooks, and on the shelves of my studio, left sometimes for months or even years to await their own period of development."
EVE WOOD's new book of poetry, Love's Funeral, is published by Cherry Grove Collections at the University of Cincinnati.