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September 9 - November 16, 2003 at Barnsdall Park, Municipal Art Gallery, Hollywood

by Ray Zone and Bill Lasarow

George Stone’s midcareer survey titled Probabilities is an ambitious collection of nine large-scale installations by this important Los Angeles artist. A new piece, Paparazzi Garden (hybrid), greets you as you enter. Three paper parasols are attached to long mechanical arms that extend from the high ceiling of the gallery. Tree branches wrap around each arm, lending them formal warmth as well as setting off mental collisions. They are like kitschy robot flowers that slowly scan the environment with an apparent life of their own, the parasols gradually opening and closing. The work’s scale and suggestive power strike a humorous chord with an ominous undercurrent, a combination that Stone consistently exploits.

An extended version of Fault Line is a masterful evocation of Southern California’s tenuous geology, its constantly shifting tectonic plates, as large glass panels marked with text along a 90-foot wall continually move in relation to one another. Even modestly scaled works such as Circle of Deceit (The Last Game), with steel marbles over a targeted circle on the floor and two mechanical hands, or The Medium, with a small TV facing upward on a table, are powerfully evocative.

“Paparazzi Garden (hybrid),” 2003,
mixed media, dimensions vary.

“Fault Line," mixed
media, dimensions vary.

Stone’s technological artworks are poetic applications of industrial materials that serve as pointers to social and cultural issues. When he allows these pointers to become explicit, as in In the Line of Fire the shamanistic aesthetic balancing can collapse. In this work a video monitor and speakers, and a fabric panel full of holes frame a room. The indistinct, cloudy image on the screen yields after a few minutes to a man (the artist) poised with a gun. The tension builds for a short while until the gun is fired. Look back at the stretched fabric, and consider where you choose to stand in the room. References to the viewer’s choice to participate in acts of aesthetic risk (or not) abound. Stylistic references to Lucio Fontana and Chris Burden are clear, but bent in a fresh direction. Unfortunately the clip ends with explicit advocacy that (whether you agree with Stone or not) brings the heightened experience back down to earth with a thud.

The dark, cool space of the galleries provide a dramatic setting for the whirring, clicking sounds produced by several works. Curated to emphasize a small number of mainly room-sized works that are unfettered by smaller pieces and studies, each projects an aura of constituting a moment of aesthetic culmination.