I think what I see as I look around the gallery is work by a group of artists who are thinking about desire, and about fantasy – and about both of these as commonplaces, as our daily bread.
Marcus Perez, in a small painting titled Yes, but Almost, (2011) makes spare marks with paint on linen – the colors are light blue and olive green with smudges of a neutral shade. There’s also an interesting vertical lump under the linen. The sense I receive from the painting is of quietness, and of hesitation – not however of uncertainty, because uncertainty lacks confidence and self-knowledge, and I have seen Perez’s paintings often enough to understand that he means it; also, this time and each time I see his work I want to look. I may not understand the conversation he is having but I am intrigued and my eyes take pleasure in looking.
I wonder if when Marcus Perez was a boy he loved old fashion abstractions, and if as he learned and he practiced he still desired that older language despite its ; I wonder if perhaps in his current paintings he is testing his own commitment to this moment, and I think he is exploring the space of desire that exists between oneself and an ideal. (I know that when I crawl on my knees up some mountaintop of idolatry, all I ever get is knowledge of my journey and bloody knees. Hah, I never get to the top. And I never stop.)
Her Time Between Floral Bougainvillea and a Moment of Vanilla Sky, Los Angeles (2012) Calvin Lee: There is a woman, laying on her side. Her face and left shoulder are exposed. There is a bit of text, “Her moment between Los Angeles” there are no punctuation marks. A leg and a sandaled food enters from the right and the foot rests on a ground that is dappled with shade; the leg is extended unnaturally: no one is standing here, or stepping or resting – she is posing. This posing leg is in full color while the first lady, she who is laying, is black and white – and also posing. I assume a lack of nature here.Both of these elements are collaged on top of a color photo of a flowering bougainvillea plant, of they were collaged, for the objects have disappeared into an image. The artist built his “paper moon” and then photographed it, damsel and all. The purple bougainvillea and the blue sky are beautiful. This whole is framed and covered in glass, or plexi. Below on the wall hangs a narrow horizontal pale frame that encloses a sliver of pale tan, or vanilla as indicated by the title. I will guess that each of these images are taken from advertisements, perhaps the pale beige is taken from an ad, or it is from some other commercial source. (There is a movie Vanilla Sky and I wonder… could it be from there?)
I keep thinking of movies and of Hollywood in this show, and I don’t know why. Right now Lee’s lambda print brings to mind Kenneth Anger’s Puce Moment, because the title, the color and the sense of longing that surrounds this romantic lady, these lush tones and those fab shoes.
Lesley Moon’s Balenciaga Feelings, (2010) is a slightly older piece by this artist who recently moved from Los Angeles to Berlin. Over the course of several shows in LA Moon’s work played with the world of elite retail – merchandising to the stars. She also investigated autobiography: the artist grew up in an area that is adjacent to LA’s Golden and Platinum Triangles, and she spent her time visiting – ogling, dreaming, skirting the edges and occasionally joining – the upper class villages of those west side enclaves. The artist also worked in one of those shops once, but in the manner of an actress: “I don’t work retail, but I played a shop girl once at Barney’s in Beverly Hills. Mind you, my label says ‘anthropologist of chic.'”
In Balenciaga Feelings she twists together high art and high fashion, two desires that might not be complementary but sure look alike in print. As I recall from her recent two part exhibition at See Line, Framed for Life and Framed for Life (Limerance), Moon embraces these worlds of fashion, retail and art without irony and without the standard critique of late capitalist elites; indeed she obviates such intellectual banalities and instead expresses curiosity, and admits her very human – and conflicted – desire for such aspirations.
Peter Holzhauer’s All of the Lights (2012), a photograph of city lights at night from some elevated point, is shockingly beautiful. Were it not Holzhauer’s work I would suspect some magic of Photoshop had been done on it. It shows a large and darkly purple sky (agh, I fear the crass poetics I am conjuring) this sky lures me in like a warm pool at night, the city below sparkles – I know that millions of people are living their lives, hurting, loving, eating, giving birth and so on, but I do not care as long as the lights stay on and the flickering does not stop. The photo is like a still from every movie ever made – all we really want is to stand or lay in front of such lights, from cave man days up to now – even when it’s not warm, still our hearts cleave to such fantastical sights. I might die without food simply because I forget to stop looking to eat.
Crawling my way out of that hole of prose, I want to make clear that Peter Holzhauer is not Maxfield Parrish (in my nightmares, with my text, I am) instead he is a very romantic photographer. (Here I intend “romantic” as a term of respect.) As with my presumption that Marcus Perez hearkens to a past of painting, I imagine that Peter Holzhauer greatly loves and respects the past of camera-made images. Looking at All of the Lights, I become aware of myself looking at art. Hmm. When once I saw a print of Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, my first thought was, “Good lord this is beautiful” and secondly I thought of the photograph; with Holzhauer’s work these double understandings come at the same time – I almost can’t separate them. While in historic work like Adams’ I might believe what I see, here I recognize that what I see exists only for the camera, and the camera and printing technology make it available to me. The artist and his machine translate something, and like any translation it both loses and gains things in the process. Holzhauer’s art acknowledges the benefits and losses inherent to this exchange of information, and rather than take an accounting, I trust that with the artist I am in good hands, so I look and I ask questions.
In addition to the artists and works mentioned here and in a past post about EJ Hill’s Every Artist I’ve Ever Wanted to Have Sex With, there is work by Bobbi Woods, Augusta Wood, Nick Aguayo, Ian James, Sebastien Bonin, Mark Verabioff, Lisa Ohlweiler and Eric Bollmann. I encourage you to visit Charlie James Gallery to see the show. I’ll be back later with more. By the way, congratulations are due to Calvin Lee, curator of ______ A Romantic Measure. Well done.