Permanent Incandescence at Elephant, plus Michael Dopp in the LACE Auction

Without mentioning to me the source of the initial sentence on which he based his semi-fictional quote, Michael Dopp, early one morning after an opera the night before, told me that his intention was to allow doubt to enter the reader’s mind and therefore he italicized and put in quotes a phrase that would be enigmatic under the most footnoted of circumstances. Without attribution the quote becomes a cipher.

“They were artists in a state of permanent incandescence, but in spite of this existence they experienced their own lives in infuriatingly traditional terms, for not even they could escape culture.”

“I wondered about incandescence and what it could mean. Would it be a verb? An adjective? And with incandescent light bulbs, 90% of the energy they produce is invisible, they’re being outlawed. The word seemed a perfect metaphor for the work of an artist.” Dopp organized his exhibition thinking then about light, and its negating/complementing doppelganger, shadow, and as an installation the room questioned the presence of art. Each of the objects in the small, dim gallery space could as easily be something else as they could be a work of art. Calvin Marcus made a floor lamp for his apartment that Michael Dopp admired and asked to include as a sculpture – on a molded concrete base stood a length of black bamboo, this held up a single bulb, and around this light source was cupped wonderfully shiny silver mesh that was soft enough to move a bit with the air, and light sparked off and around Marcus’s lamp like stars or sparks.

Two photographs by Davida Nemeroff did not hang on the walls (for the walls were utterly bare), and in fact they might have been sculptures. The photograph you see above lay on the floor, curling at the edges, and on it was placed – but no, not yet, for there is more to tell of lamps. At a diagonal from Marcus’s lighted sculpture a silhouetted parrot was hanging from the ceiling. A long arm reached down gripping a piece of string, and on a circular perch sat the bird. These shapes were cut out of a photograph and then inked in black, marking out the photographic image as though it had been drawn. Like the lamp, this sculpture also moved with any breeze. Michael Dopp, the curator and my friendly guide, pointed out two toes of the bird – they looked three dimensional to me and super realistic – they had not been inked and the absence of drawing looked, to my ignorant eyes, like an act of supreme representation by the artist’s hand. The bird cast shadows and played nicely with the space, which was lit only by the two sculptural lamps.

Ah. Yes, two were the lamps, like a binary solar system, and around these poles moved sculptures and people. Mark Rodriguez’ lamp was crafted of bent copper tubing and a can, such as one might buy filled with hominy for a hundred pozole-hungry friends. The tubing angled dramatically and the can focused like a spotlight on the parrot in the corner.

Sort of between the two lamps, but nearer to Marcus’s, a black FinPly table had been placed on Davida’s curling photo, blocking out a portion of the image and casting its own shadows across the photo’s shadowed representation of a hand reaching into an airplane window. The table had a fiercely Modernist look, the two legs were solid planes of black plywood as were the two levels of surface, I understand the plywood to be appropriated from the craft of freeway construction and were designed to mold perfectly smooth surfaces. Two unglazed porcelain objects, made by David Korty, sat on the table’s surface – these might have been odd hand made table settings, they were delicate and had squared incised into them, one was curved over on itself like a quantum physics model of a multi-dimensional universe. Korty’s hand is very present in the things that he makes, I believe he is confident enough of his skill that he can allow objects to seem – well… friendly without fearing that they will lose their power as works of art. As it happens, these particular objects Korty typically will reserve as gifts to friends and this lends them a social status that, to my mind, corresponds with other artists I see working in Los Angeles who make work about and of engagement – social engagement – and whose art is a personal art.

I imagine the show came alive for and with people at the opening – there was the dramatic lighting from the sculptures, lines – as of energy – zigged and zagged across the space, Ivette Soler served Dark and Stormy infusions and on a small patio at the rear, records played music infused with reggae sunshine. The artwork on display were objects that artists made for themselves and for friends, many of whom were in the room. “There was a lot of love in the room,” is how Dopp described it to me that late night when I visited, “the collaboration goes beyond a simple working relationship. I hope the work demonstrates this.

Michael Dopp has a piece in the LACE Auction:


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