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January 6 - February 17, 2007 at d.e.n. contemporary, Culver City

by John O'Brien

Heimer Björgúlfsson, "Swinger
Swinging Tale," 2005/06, inkjet print/
acrylic/paper on canvas, 60 x 40".

Timothy Hutchings, "A Lark in the
Larkin," 2004, video still (running
time 10 munites, 27 seconds).

"Range," a group exhibition curated by Kristi Lippire, includes work by Heimir Björgúlfsson, Gustavo Herrera, Timothy Hutchings, Kayo Nakamura, Ruby Neri, Ruben Ochoa, Ben Shaffer and Macha Suzuki.  In the curatorial framing of this exhibition, Lippire appears to be working from a recently evolved paradigm that uses dissonance and the apparent difference among the selected artwork to make its point.  The point is specifically to force the viewer into a more active navigation of the meaning of the work individually as well as in its collective assembly.  Heterogeneity is the key to this group as “Range” features artists, not only working in diverse mediums, but whose individual practices are varied as well.  

Consistent with this curatorial practice, much of the work in the exhibition has yet to be completed.  What is admirable about allowing the artists this leeway is the trust extended, which and allows the evolution of the various works to come to a halt just as the show itself opens.  There are plans for the creation of a "13-foot quilt" and a "14-foot outdoor, wooden, decaying figure with protruding plants", among other new works described in the gallery’s advance information.  Then there is the very diverse group of existing works which can be described in detail so as to provide insight to the exhibition's proposed bandwidth.

Heimir Björgúlfsson, for example, uses images of birds from his native country Iceland as figural stand-ins for himself.  These birds appear in drawings, paintings, collages, installations, and sculpture as they negotiate a discontinuous surreal worldscape.  Quasi comical works such as 'Swingers Swinging Tale" (2005-6, inkjet, acrylic and paper on canvas) has the birds cavorting on a field of paint and images paradoxically reminiscent of both Larry Poons' dot paintings and Joseph Cornell's “Habitat” assemblage series.

For Timothy Hutchings, the production ranges from a heavily edited, black and white and colored animation video to an extremely prosaic object consisting solely of collapsed cardboard boxes and a soda can.  This is another characteristic of the works on view: they index other works by these same artists that can be mostly found outside of the gallery on their respective websites.  Behind the strange fields of synchronized dancing businessmen that are in "A Lark in the Lark" (2004, DVD, 10min, 27sec) one can almost hear the steps of the German choreographer Pina Bausch, who draws on the everyday movements of people to structure her dance epics.  In any case, it is only after visiting Hutchings’ site that the core role of games and game playing emerges as the hub of much of what he produces as art.

Ruby Neri's practice, in another separate vein, consists in mixing figurative sculptural elements and abstract painting motifs.  Her work strives to confuse the certitude of modernist 'pattern' painting with the tenuousness of today's unsettled visual schemes.  Her "Untitled - Two Horse" (undated, plaster and paint), two roughly modeled horses painted with colored swatches, is both homely and odd.  As with much of the other work in the exhibition, the awkwardness of its' finish is exalted as a quasi-moral value.  The messiness or unevenness or even ugliness of the work appears to be an index of how the research underway will not brook too much polish and closure, lest it lose its exploratory skepticism.

Macha Suzuki, "Untitled (Squirrel
Drawing)," 2006, colored
pencil on paper, 12 x 9".

Kayo Nakamura, "Burning
Sensation," 2004, fabric/thread/
yarn/pompoms, 131 x 36".

Making all these individual tendencies coalesce in the imagination takes some work and even acts of faith on the part of the viewer.  It is plausible that you will sense how these artists express their ideas through the utilization of more than a singular art practice or genre.  Indeed, the final word will rest with viewers’ completion of the dialogue we call perception of art in objects, as that is the “Range” of this exhibit.