There’s a persistent push-and-pull present throughout Most Loathed, between feeling severely out of place –being that it is in a 1910 Bungalow located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles –and one of being right at home. It’s the inaugural exhibition in the house-turned-art-space that is 3401 Lee St, and it’s at once a show about ambiguity and exclusivity, all the while perpetuating a concept-driven approach.
Most Loathed is formally minimal, making use of the white-washed walls and open floor plan of the renovated space, and is curated in a sparse, spread-out way. The three artists involved, Sam Davis, Joseph Buckley, and Daniel Klaas Beckwith –including one candidate and two graduates of the Yale Sculpture MFA program –find commonality in an unseen ‘mood’ present in the show. This mood oscillates between the lighthearted nearly readymade ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’ (2015) by Beckwith–a vinyl Jack-o’-lantern face affixed to a gasoline powered leaf blower–and the bleak negatives present in Davis’ fictional correspondences between songwriters Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. His pieces titled ‘Peter’ (2015) and ‘Paul’ (2015) feature two oversized black and white laserjet printed digital collages held to the wall by huge colored push pins in a hanging gesture which give the prints more agency as sculptural objects. Rather than using the ubiquitous small white pin or even a frame, ways of mounting that we know to ignore, Davis reintroduces himself as a sculptor.
‘Cabinet of Victory’ (2015) by Buckley serves as a middle-ground between the works of Beckwith and Davis. It consists of the severed heads of 10 curators, cut from clear digitally printed vinyl, and mounted onto the upper portions of the walls in a trophy-like way. Spaced-out through the entirety of the show, the heads are unavoidable and intentionally crude. The gallery lights reflect themselves on the vinyl and air bubbles can easily be seen. Buckley is not attempting to create a resemblance of decapitated heads, instead, similar to the pins in Davis’ works, they are giving the heads an enhanced materiality. The pieces are operating within the realm of a “fuck it” sentiment, and are responding to this feeling in fresh and intelligent ways.
The role this show plays in the current climate of sculpture as a medium is a significant one. It depicts a trend towards a querulous reimagining of the readymade, and seeks out a dialogue surrounding what is sculptural. Beckwith’s ‘Water Bottles In Bucket With Ice’ (2015) is a piece that is not only a readymade, but it directly comments on the abstract and ambiguous power dynamic in the display of contemporary art. A bucket full of water bottles isn’t necessarily ‘out of place’ at an artist-run space (as opposed to an established gallery or museum). Such refreshments are often offered freely but it is the work’s ‘art-ness’ that immediately disallows and complicates the relationship between audience and artwork: visitors must not touch the art.
The readymade is also reimagined in the form of two commissioned written pieces ‘Dear Westminster Kennel Club’ and ‘Beyond the Forest of Disinclination’ (by Becket Flannery and David Steans respectively) which are stapled to the screen door at the entrance of 3401 Lee St. Text typically serves as an entry point into art, a preface which we believe will give us answers and insights before looking at the work. Like the other pieces in Most Loathed these texts (which present themselves as angry ‘letters to the editors’ written by animals and a bizarre fantasy style narrative) once again leave us in the conceptual dark. Davis’ pins, Buckley’s heads, and Beckwith’s Jack-o’-lantern exemplify the fantastic and absurd trends throughout the show that don’t allow us to view the work within a traditional sculptural lens. The presence of these unavoidable details acts as the pat on the back that lets us know it’s ok to stop at the obvious, that sometimes the very point is ‘not getting it’. **
Exhibition photos, top right.