Art + Practice is an arts and education foundation in Leimert Park that was founded by artist Mark Bradford. It opened its doors for Alex Da Corte’s first solo show in Los Angeles, titled ‘A Season in He’ll’.
Da Corte (b. 1980, Camden, NJ) is an interdisciplinary artist known for his embrace of theatricality and pop-culture by creating surreal, immersive environments.
The title of the exhibition is a play on the poem ‘A Season in Hell’ (1873) by French writer Arthur Rimbaud, in which he describes his emotional and spiritual crisis after ending his affair with fellow Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. Conflicting emotion, dualities within a personality, and queer identity are the main themes in the show. Da Corte explores these themes by referencing historical and literary notions of magic, spirituality, illusion, alchemy and ritual. The artist draws interesting parallels between queerness and the historical ‘witch’ archetype, that is traditionally viewed as an alienated outcast from society. The exhibition features a three-part, site-specific installation, where a total of 4 hypnotic videos are shown in completely modified spaces. Upon entering the space, you are immediately hit by haunting sounds that turn the surreal environment tense and nightmarish, rather than dream-like. Saturated colors and neon lighting create an electric palette from floor to ceiling, and the eerie music in combination with a subtle but poignant perfume overwhelm all your senses.
Banal yet absurd objects are playfully placed throughout the spaces, from an oversized witch hat, to a syringe placed on a piece of peanutbutter toast, to hamburger-shaped bean bags placed throughout the third space.
The symbol of the rose comes back in various ways, from the glass-stained window and the bronze candleholder on the table, to the rose-infused aroma that is constantly dispersed. Da Corte’s rose is a direct reference to the well-known tale of Beauty and the Beast, where the flower embodies human duality of pure versus immoral, good versus evil.
The slow-motion videos feature an actor that strongly resembles the artist, who performs ritualistic actions in captivating, sometimes violent slow movements.
The entire show is beautifully put together, and it feels as though the viewer walked into Da Corte’s grotesque fantasy, a dark comedy that explores a more sinister side of human nature, romance, sexuality, as well as high and low culture. The show is on view through September 17th, 2016.
By Constance van Berckel