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EUAN MACDONALD

January 19 - March 15, 2008 at Cal State Los Angeles, East Los Angeles

by Jody Zellen




"Selected Standards" (detail), 2007,
graphite on paper, black & white
photographs and found sheet music
188 parts: 12 x 9" and 9 x 12" each.





"Where Flamingos Fly," 2006,
production still from single-channel
video projection, 10 minutes.





"GAD," 2004, production still from
single-channel video projection, 1 minute.





"
Mosquito Under a Paper Cup"
[detail], 2007, painted bronze,
gold, wood, 33 x 64 x 32 inches.



All images courtesy Luckman Fine
Arts Complex, Cal State L.A.

Scotland born, Canada educated and Los Angeles based Euan Macdonald makes work as diverse as the places he's lived and traveled. He has shown all over the world since the late 1990s, creating artists' books and installations that include drawings, photographs, sculptures, and projections.

Best known for his single channel video works, Macdonald's interests are in the everyday and how that can be seen anew. He works in a variety of media, using whatever form gets the message across. Among the most recent works that will be on view here, "Selected Standards" (2007) is a uniquely monumental work comprised of at least 188 pieces. Finding a stack of sheet music in an L.A. thrift store that contained songbook classics from the 1940's and 1950's, Macdonald saw a perfect readymade. He presents them in the order they were found in the 10 minute video "Where Flamingos Fly" (2006). Flipping through the succession of pages reveals a narrative that relates the story of an ill fated love affair. In the video Macdonald's torso fills the frame, the sheets against his chest. We see him present page after page, flipping through the large stack with an accompanying soundtrack--a few seconds of each song played on the piano. This video recalls the scene in Bob Dylan's film "Don't Look Back" where he flips through cards containing the lyrics to "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

"Selected Standards" is a large wall work comprised of diptychs that pair each sheet of music with an aerial photograph of Los Angeles or a drawing. The philosophical undertones of the song titles are explored through these juxtapositions. The coupling of a found object with a handmade image brings something personal to the universal--which is what the original songs were meant to allude to. Presented salon style, each framed image has a certain integrity on its own; however, its meaning is enhanced through the groupings. For example "I Know That You Know" by Vincent Youmans is paired with a drawing of an owl's face. "Land of Dreams" is placed next to a cartoon-like drawing of an explosion. MacDonald's drawings--charcoal on paper--feature isolated objects while his photographs (also back and white) are fragments of the bustling city shot from the air. The three elements work together to comment on lost innocence. Los Angeles becomes the location where the narrative unfolds: My Silent Love. . .Soft as Spring. . .L'Affaire. . .I Know That You Know. . .I Understand. . .You Are My Sunshine. . .Coconut Sweet. . .Summer in Your Eyes. . .Everything I have Is Yours. . .

In a video entitled "Two Planes," filmed in 1999, Macdonald digitally superimposed a duplicate image of a flying plane that shadows the original, which lends the work a haunting significance. This video elucidates his knack for finding evocative content in ordinary subject matter. In some works the image is foregrounded, in other works it is the sound. "Three Trucks" (2000) presents a battle of the “bands,” as the music of three ice cream trucks seems to compete with one another. "Eclipse," also from 2000, records the reflection of the sun in a large puddle of water. A soccer ball moves around it until the two are joined to create the title’s eclipse. "GAD" (2004) is a one minute video in which the sounds of three guitars sliding one by one from the wall to the ground is recorded.

Macdonald's works are often humorous, but not cutting or sarcastic. Because most of his videos are short they are inviting and easy to take in. Turns out that they are also memorable. That they are sharp and clear gives them a concentrated feel. Whether a drawing or a photograph, a sculpture or an installation, each work is purposeful and precise, but often gains from the associations with other pieces. It is no wonder that Macdonald found meaning in the random order of a pile of sheet music happened upon in a thrift store. Macdonald sees things for more than what they are.