(1) Carl Cheng, "Friendship Acrobatic Troupe," installation
(2) Lothar Schmitz, "Earth Fever," installation view, 1996.
(3) Kim Abeles, "Equidistant", installation view, 1996 (background: "Earth Fever").
(4) Susan Brandow, "Circle of Perpetual Apparition," installation view, 1996.
All photos: Grey Grawford.
(Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and Junior
Arts Center Gallery, Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood) At first glance,
Investigations may resemble a collection of pretty science projects, but
it is much more than that. It is an exhibition of wonderful objects and
intriguing situations which invite you to enter into a process of co-creation.
The work of fourteen mid-career and emerging artists, among them Nancy Mooslin,
Michael Brewster, Kim Abeles, Russell Crotty and Carl Cheng, is skillfully
arranged by curator Noel Korten so that each work informs the next. The
curator points out that the landmark Art and Technology exhibition
(LACMA, 1971) is a historical precedent, and in particular, the work of
James Turrell and Robert Irwin, who dealt with perceptual phenomena rather
than industrial fabrication.
The show includes optical works, sound sculptures, and abstractions and concretions presented as the imaginative products of various scientific systems. Many of the works are interactive and playful, for example, Gary Quinonez' and Michael Brewster's sound works. Susan Brandow's large columnar sculpture entices your gaze upward to a series of mirrors which are tilted to show a little cart thumping along the interior, leading viewers around the base as they follow the sound. Roger Feldman's fun-house construction leads one into a private space where ambient sound reverberates like a performance by John Cage. The re-focusing of sensation and attention becomes an important factor in the work.
Robert Wedemeyer's Fresnel Ring and Habib Kheradyar' s huge wall display of nylon screen moiré patterns play irrestible optical tricks. Kheradyar' s work seems to be moving in undulating waves, an illusion that points to the gap between knowledge and seeing, between what is "in here" and what is "out there." The glowing color of davidkremers' bacteria sandwiches, Nancy Mooslin's musical paintings and Paul Tzanetopoulos' typewritten plaids complement the gorgeous wall of repeated forms derived from an artificial evolutionary process by Eric Chan/Heather Schatz. It resembles a life-form parented by an orchid and a spider.
The exciting effects of color and optics are balanced by the contemplative water sculpture by Carl Cheng. Spirals and rings of bubbles are programmed to rise and break in a quiet rhythm.
Lothar Schmitz' installation Earth Fever is perhaps the one work which is directly concerned with nature' s mystery. Small black-and-white videos show streams of microscopic cellular transformations. A large vitrine of green mulch is warm to the touch as sparkling beads of moisture condense and fall back into it. Dishes of red and yellow iron oxides are metaphors for fire. As a plasma physicist and artist who is interested in the ancient art of alchemy, Schmitz gives us direct evidence of the death of one form becoming the rebirth of another.
In Equidistant, Kim Abeles uses her trademark documentary method to pair scenes of various Los
Angeles locations equidistant from the La Brea tar pits. In a certain way her work, with its mingled flavors of Fluxus recipe, systematic method and aesthetic choice, becomes a metaphorical underpinning for the entire exhibition. Where the artistic ego is masked or modulated, the phenomena of the world and nature are revealed.