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THROUGH THE
LOOKING GLASS

by Kathryn Garcia
 
Delia & Gavin, "Ceremonies of Consummation," May 4-June 24, 2006, at Peres Projects, 969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, Ca. 90012

The work of Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom has long been a fusion of sculpture, music and performance, with references to the occult, Santería and contemporary ritual (their 2002 inaugural solo exhibition at Daniel Reich gallery in New York was titled "Dream Machine"). Their current suite of minimalist noise-machines at Peres Projects in L.A., titled "Ceremonies of Consummation," plays on the relationship between glamour and tragedy through the lens of Hollywood's own artist-mystic, Kenneth Anger.

In the opening scene of Anger's surreally moving 1949 short film Puce Moment, we watch the extravagantly made-up actress Yvonne Marquis. Feedback blares on the soundtrack as Marquis strikes glamorous poses in front of a mirror, and then throws herself dramatically on a puce daybed. She sighs, her eyes roll back in ecstasy, shadows turn the room light and dark as though the bed is moving through a passageway -- and then we see her lying on her porch, transported, the Hollywood Hills in the background.

Delia & Gavin's show is a monument to this moment of sublime, enigmatic transformation. Upon entering the gallery, you come face-to-face with your reflection in a theatrical gold vanity mirror, set atop a ziggurat-like pedestal of gold steps with a base of Artschwager-esque marble-patterned gray Formica, evoking Marquis' encounter with the mirror in the movie. Flanking you on either side are two sculptures of the same immaculate gold color, resembling the daybeds that function as backdrop for the actress' fainting in the film. The configuration has a riddle-like character to it.

Embedded within these objects are analog synthesizers that play pulsating, trance-like, repetitive drones, similar to the feedback on Anger's soundtrack. Music is a key aspect of Delia & Gavin's work: Their recent four-song album, The Days of Mars was released on DFA, a popular label with other indie bands like Black Dice and the Lcd Soundsystem, filled with synthesized melodic interludes redolent of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and M83 -- somewhat more emotive than the drone emanating from the sculptures at Peres Projects, but with a common interest in playing around with listeners' expectations about musical climax.

The sounds from the Sphinx-like, mirrored objects produce an eerie, tranced-out feeling. The setting comes to seem like the elements of a Dadaesque theater where some ceremony is to take place, conveying divine, magical value on these objects. The prop-like character of the duo's work stems from their respective backgrounds. Both have been involved, with Christian Holstad, with the dance/performance troupe Fancypantz, while Russom has performed magic acts under the pseudonym The Mystic Satin, with Gonzales as assistant.

In Peres’ downstairs gallery, a blue formica fountain lined in gold is centrally placed, sputtering ambient sound instead of water. Though somewhat of a departure from the glowing mirrors above and with no obvious Anger reference, the work continues the haunted, theatrical feeling of the rest of the work. (In fact, the piece was inspired by the duo's recent travels to Istanbul.)

A suite of accompanying drawings, installed upstairs from the main gallery, also relates to the idea of ecstatic states. Gonzalez has three works, each symmetrically composed and employing patterns of interlinked circles that resemble impenetrable mystical symbols. Russom's two drawings have a similar cryptic quality but use abstracted shapes that seem to be draft sketches for their Formica sculptures, emanating wavy colored lines -- a synesthetic depiction of the sound emanating from the objects?

The Russom images get at the heart of this show, depicting via color a world where sound fuses with sculpture in experience. The drawings make it clear that sound serves here as a kind of ecstatic "other space" that unfurls outward from the interior of the objects.

The fact that Delia & Gavin's minimalist objects are altars to Anger adds another layer of referentiality to their cosmic oeuvre. Anger's Puce Moment depicts an actress channeling her glamorous and tragic past, driving herself into a frenzy that transports her to another state of consciousness. Delia & Gavin's installation knowingly parallels this act, channeling the spirit of art's glamorous and tragic past -- Anger himself, with his tortured and personal modernism -- reflecting and refracting its spirit through their gold constructions.

These are the kind of ironic games with reference that artists love. What makes "Ceremonies of Consummation" special, however, is that Delia & Gavin's use their references as a jumping off point for something that feels genuinely like a gateway to an alternate reality.


KATHRYN GARCIA is an art writer in Los Angeles.