Cars without bodies. Spaces without places. It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s LA. But let’s get in that metal, taking on gallery drift and melt to compose a somewhat arbitrary but distinctive psycho-geographical slice that is also a virtual meta group show, a bigger Body without Organs ? Deleuze and Guattari instruct us to deterritorialize, find lines of flight, produce flow conjunctions, try out intensites for a BwO. Their romance of the productive schizophrenic as “capitalism’s exterminating angel” beckons. Can we escape the coding and be orphans, atheists and nomads? Sure, at least for a day! Doesn’t art ask us to perform our own reconfiguration, to bow down, disregarding concern with “quality,” to experience qualities instead?
In these days of flickering fakery, Carl Andre is a bedrock, our classical foundation. At Moca Geffen he shows us what’s what. In some ways it really is the ancient world, in which materials have integrity and natural forces like gravity have visible effects. Balance! Limits! One of the One Hundred Sonnets text pieces, repeats the word “sea” creating a dense island block of typographical matter in the middle of white paper, thus confounding binaries like idea and material, soul and body, compressing and pulverizing them. Sense turns into nonsense. Language becomes mysterious again, like waves on the sea. Aphrodite also appears to Andre, though she is never obvious, preferring to remain in the crevices between bricks or subtle lustre of copper plates.
Angel Chen, in a group show called Summer of Love curated by Justin Cavin at Wilding Cran, has the audacity and facility to attempt what surely seems like the most sisyphean task of representing individual ocean waves. Her ceramic, pocket-sized sculptures are full of hand-felt-formed texture and softly glazed. Despite their diminutive size and delicacy they are not caricatures. They render a complementary aspect to the power, repetition and vast scale of the ocean. Every particle is also a wave. We are but waves. What kind of knowledge accounts for the loving specificity of these objects, so remote from symbol or code? Imagine the kinds of decisions a CEO might not make with one of these on her desk.
Takesada Matsutani’s Object-Lamp (1964) at Hauser & Wirth, a soupy amalgamation of painting language, manufactured object and artificial flesh, relates to the belly region. The prosthesis of bloated sagging peach-beige colored vinyl in which two lightbulbs drift adheres to the painted canvas and is integrated with white drippy paint onto the ground around. Loosely applied thick egg yolk yellow paint highlights the bulbs. One of them also has a little red daub, as you might find ritually applied on the third eye. Welts, swells, blisters, fissures, oozes, result from the heterogeneous materials and locate this experiment in the complex real. As with Yves Klein, the canvas is the place of contact between metaphysics and the body. Matsutani suggests a hatching of illuminative possibility in the belly-brain/dantien but also maps to textural challenges around the integration of the post-industrial world and the body.
Also at Hauser & Wirth, Paul McCarthy’s WS, White Snow-Flower Girl #2 also has uncanny vertiginous power, calling on baroque seduction techniques of dramatic scale and finely worked deluxe materials, wedded to digital technology. The ten foot tall cartoon princess girl, engineered to appeal to our undying love of cute, is frozen in a doubling moment of either bifurcating or melding. The power and ease of digital image manipulation here mock cellular division, creating life out of the fold. Bulges and voids appear along the kaleidoscopic seam of symmetry, creating ogival architectures that invite us to slip in. Christ’s body as church floor plan and the virgin’s skirt as chapel are precursors. In other words, we are still seeking to enter deeply into the mysterious body. Here, in an ecstasy of ones and zeros, information rejoins black walnut matter and is sanctified.
At Commonwealth and Council, Jeanine Oleson’s hyperrealistic plaster cast of a slightly pudgy midriff holding itself is painted glowing turquoise-scarlet with an interference effect that induces vertigo and tips it into science fiction, as is suggested by the title, Xallarap, (parallax backwards, an effect of light curves rarely observed in astronomy). Paradoxical specificity and un-reality place it in a queasy virtual zone. The concentrated power of the fragment, further focused by gesture of fingers framing and indenting the belly button induces us to enter the portal, the axis mundi, as if it were the altarpiece for a brand new digital era religion, not without terror.
William E. Jones’ 1982 photograph of a bronze Takis sculpture, St. Sebastian (1974), was shot in the context of his project showing at David Kordansky Gallery, bracketing the heyday and ruin of Villa Iolas but the Takis work itself also speaks of the body’s ruin and regeneration. Headless, lower-legless spread apart with an impressive erection, resting on a large golden ball, the body, even in the photograph is magnetically attractive and indeed the actual work included suspended arrows magnetically attracted to the torso so this invisible force that holds our world together is a major subject for Takis underlying the art historical iconography of saint, nude, and sun-god Apollo. Why no head? A coup for gut and pelvic energy – Bataille’s vision of slaying the acephalic gods to overturn their castrating authority. The missing legs are a sort of contradiction, recalling the passivity of martyrdom or the abuse of time suffered by classical sculpture. The piece is a conundrum, radiantly active, grounded and centered but also pinned and amputated, perfect vehicle of our fantasy.
At the Getty, in one of Chris Killip’s black and white photographs of northern England from the 80’s, a girl backflips onto the couch so that her face is now upside down towards us, mouth agape, arms and legs wide. Her mother has turned in time to catch this gesture and is smiling. Even the truck door is ajar in the atmosphere of jubilant gypsyish abandon. It feels like a spontaneous yet collaborative performance between all actors including the photographer and the striped couch plunked outside precisely nowhere with the loaded caravan truck behind. The body throwing itself down and backwards, offering itself joyfully to the world in an ecstatic moment is neither a show of skill, nor pose, nor egoic seduction, but a willfull falling, a game against gravity with the body suspended in pleasure. The implication is that self-obliteration and pleasure are linked and the photograph is the pact, the contract binding through mutual desire, witness and witnessed.
Rosalind Nashashibi’s, The Joins (11), from 2013 at Overduin and Kite is a direct, deeply embossed black ink print of men’s jeans and underwear on paper. The weight and pressure of the press makes the image heavy like a body, tactile and sexy in its hi-fidelity detail of all folds, seams and grains. Yet it also has the x-ray radiance of a perverse reliquary, the material testimony of immanence, which is an inversion of flat denim ad consumer idealism.
Because the so-called negative spaces also become mutant bodies it’s difficult to count, but a mass of black and red figures jam the 1984 Keith Haring canvas at Gavlak. Their pulsing forms fit together in a hyperactive kinetic puzzle, suggesting vibrant dance floor communion in which the individual bodies and body parts are no longer relevant, becoming instead a new BwO. “And the Lord God created man […] red, black, and white; and breathed into his nostrils the inspiration of life, and there was in the body of Adam the inspiration of a speaking spirit, unto the illumination of the eyes and the hearing of the ears…”
At the UCLA Hammer Museum, Marisa Merz makes a perfect foil for Andre, her pencil line soft and searching, regarding the face again and again, registering nuance of form and emotion. Her relationship to the work feels like that of mother and child, and indeed Mary is one of her subjects. A small pencil drawing with multiple horizons and slipping registrations trace the art nouveau architecture of a living face as it is perceived by a viewer whose eyes are also in perpetual motion. Red red lips serve as the erotic punctum of artifice in this undulating landscape space, marking the surface with a sign of deep viscera, our schizo desires in endless lipstick shades.
Fallen, flung, pressed, joined, dissected, the body is still becoming, suffering or enjoying intensities, but are we undergoing existential transformation from Deleuzian schizophrenic subjects into Flusserian projects, such that we must embrace ourselves as “digital apparitions” and “beauty as the only acceptable criterion of truth”?
Walking between Gavlak and Various Small Fires I glance a man supine on cardboard in an open space between buildings masturbating vigorously toward the sun, doing his part to make the city of angels into a BwO in brazen defiance of reason/god/code or energetic sacrificial exchange.
By: Guest Contributor, Hannah Hughes
Some themes of this piece were inspired by the current show at Ochi Projects, Body Without Organs, curated by Rives Granade. Editor of ArtBlitz LA, MP Knowlton, is the assistant director of Ochi Projects and received this submission unsolicited.