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1 April 2010, 9:46 pm 3 Comments

Los Angeles: Millie Wilson/Bari Ziperstein/Vincent Johnson at Las Cienegas Projects

This post was submitted by Calvin

Las Cienegas Projects

Although the three shows currently on view at Las Cienegas Projects are ostensibly solo exhibits for Millie Wilson, Bari Ziperstein and Vincent Johnson, they create an interestingly synergistic dialog with each other around notions of nostalgia and belabored domesticity.

Bari Ziperstein, Decorative Protection < Protecting Decoration

Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by Decorative Protection < Protecting Decoration, an installation in the Project Space by Bari Ziperstein of two windows built using a jarring forced perspective, covered by ‘metal bars’ made from hand-drawn and custom cut drapes. Referencing decorative ironwork popular in the architecture of 80′s, the barred windows look out into overgrown gardens crowded with collected debris: shoes, cars, lamps, rotting wood. These windows do not grant us a view of Eden, but rather, a photographic glimpse at the collapsed promise of a perfectly ‘beautiful’ domestic life.

Millie Wilson, I am not here anymore but I am fine

In the darkened Main Gallery, Millie Wilson’s installation I am not here anymore but I am fine features a series of light boxes displaying appropriated photographic (mostly historic black and white) images coupled with a single sculpture of a gleaming silver cage filled with various glass apothecary jars. Tapping into the tradition of the Wunderkammer (the late Renaissance ‘cabinets of wonder’), the artist presents an uncanny space occupied by the ghosts of a familial past.

The boxed transparencies work best when displaying images of light sources (a sunset distorted by clouds, a Coca-Cola factory in flame, the glowing windows of New York apartment buildings, a neon-lit carnival ride). There is a satisfyingly languid, nostalgia in the work that doesn’t veer too far in the direction of sentimentality. This is accomplished by a deft melding of the scientific display of the photographs with the starkness of the illuminated caged jars. History is essentially presented as a spirit that has been trapped against its will for us to poke and probe in an attempt to tweak out meaning.

Vincent Johnson, American Cold War Shelters, 2008.

Vincent Johnson presents five framed photographic montages (appropriately displayed in the bunker-like Back Room) created by mining the cultural history of the Cold War era. Much like Gerhard Richter’s Atlas, this suite of photographs lays bare the indexical nature of the photograph while calling it into question in our current digital age.

Gleaned from online sources, resized, and categorized, the montages speak to our fears while reaffirming the power of the vernacular image. Along with the building of the “military industrial complex” of Southern California, a simultaneous housing boom spurred the creation of suburbia. Especially in American Cold War Shelters, 2008, but in ABOMB (2nd Version), 2010 and Watching Television, 2010, the language (both linguistic and visual) of domestic anxiety is intelligently codified and presented by the artist.

These three solo shows come together to present the lingering power of the photographic image to operate on various intellectual levels.  The works are not to be read as simply nostalgic longings for an idyllic time or place; but more so, as critical engagements with history, domesticity and meaning.

Las Cienegas Projects
2045 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Continues through April 24th

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