Charles Gaines Skybox

Note that this film divides itself nicely into two parts: an initial three minutes of relative silence followed by seven minutes of quiet monologue, or rather dialogue with the piece. My hand is shaky throughout, as may be fitting when a person stands before the universe. Think of the boring bits as like those in Moby Dick – they are meant for contemplation and self reflection and for the consideration of silent details. I think you’ll enjoy the film when you relax into it. Cheers and thanks, Geoff Tuck

The center of gravity in the Los Angeles art world is currently making its transitory presence felt in the second room of Susanne Vielmetter LA Projects. Charles Gaines’s Skybox is a tour de force of open-ended intellectual persuasion as well as technical perfection and these two disparate impulses work together in relation almost as though NASA had successfully made something on the spiritual order of Picasso’s Guernica.

Let me rush to explain my possibly bizarre comparison: for much of the last century Picasso’s masterwork was THE protest work of art. While it was anything but subtle, still much of the painting’s strength derived from its restrained palette of muted, harsh blacks and greys. Picasso presented his painting to the world soon after and he named it for an horrific act of war.

Similarly, Gaines’s light box installation has few ‘moving parts.’ The room goes from light to darkness and back again, and the twelve foot wide light box exhibits four texts, each of which is considered monumental in the study of human rights and each of which, in its own time, argued in favor of revolutionary actions – or at the least persuaded in favor of radical changes to society. Somewhere behind these textual selections Gaines has installed the universe, in the form of three selected quadrants of our night sky.

Charles Gaines offers us his thoughts on human rights at a moment when we are considering the last century of human history, one in which more blood was shed, rights became arguably more equally distributed, the growth of populations guaranteed that more individuals would be living in meaner conditions and the texts that Gaines quotes were showed to be inspirational, unworkable, prophetic and false – in other words, the texts reflect the humans who pen them.

As to the technical perfection of Gaines’s accomplishment, there are probably 10,000 holes of varying sizes in the three panels of his wall piece and each is backed with a single LED of one of several colors. Some shine with clarity and some are fuzzy – each must have been separately installed and considered by the makers. As you will see in the film, these lights are on view long before my human eye could discern them. This is unsettling and also nicely reflects the nature of the rights that Charles Gaines concerns himself with: The right of each person to exist and to flourish is a fact even when the truth of that matter is not evident in our behavior.

There are images and a documentary film at the gallery website:

A transcription of my spoken words:

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