Gallery Shows on La Cienega and Koreatown

Monday, January 27, 2014

Linda and I noticed that the Vision Gallery was holding an opening late Saturday afternoon, and since we hadn’t been back to the gallery since she had had a solo show there in the Fall, 2012, we decided to make an art loop trip that would include some stops in Culver City. The first place on our list was the Honor Fraser Gallery, which has shows up by Anna Lapin and William Lamson. Both Linda and I gave both their shows a “revisit before it closes” mark. We especially savored the quiet mobility inhabiting Lapin’s meditations on her post-pastoral vision. In her paintings, the imagination is able to retain more than memory can recall of its sense-based extractions, and the simultaneity of being in several discrete layers of consciousness proves to be a way to embrace our internal diversity in the midst of the constant temptation to be reductive. In several of her pieces, the slowly tumbling colors of gardens beckon through an aperture that appears to be embedded in a comforting, but solid enclosure of daily space. In other work, the transparency of layers of color pull one into their ongoing oscillations. This was the first time that we’ve seen her work and we gather that it reflects a transition in her poetics. She seems to be at work on a renovation of her comprehension of color’s ability to ground itself in the shared intimacy of a local habitation to which we must give a name. The only peculiar note I made about Lapin’s show was the title: “Various Peep Shows,” which doesn’t seem to mesh at all with the work, except perhaps as a way to re-appropriate the word “peep” from the overtones of the scopic patriarchy.

William Lamson’s video, Action for the Delaware, seemed to be an inversion of the maniacal character in Werner Herzog’s film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God. If Herzog’s film depicted the futility of human domination of others as acted out on a panoramic scale, then Lamson records the possibility of attaining the still point of the flowing world in a “voyage” meant to be a sober boat (as opposed to Rimbaud’s drunken boat). When we first walked into the dim room of Lamson’s section of the Honor Fraser Gallery, the image of a young man standing in the middle of a river seemed oddly believable. The action of suspending oneself in the middle of a river without any visible vehicle of support was surprisingly normal, as if the subjunctive force field of the imagination in and of itself could provide sufficient buoyancy. Slowly, the figure turned counter-clockwise and eventually the placid stoicism of the protagonist circled back on the video to his entry in the river. The struggle to mount the tiny platform, for those who arrive at mid-point, becomes a flashback in which discipline and rehearsal must meet the contingency of an actual flow.

Across the street from Lapin and Lamson, at the Sam Freeman Gallery, we visited David Schafer’s show of four letters by Schoenberg to Mahler. The texts were reproduced in the photographic manner in which a printer takes camera-ready copy and begins to make the plate. I suppose it’s not my place to tell a gallery how to mount a show, but I would have liked a chair to sit in and listen to it closely and at length, and while we’re at it, why not make an easy hard copy to read while I’m sitting? On the other hand, I would not have wanted to read the hard copy of the letters before first reading them as Schafer exhibited them. That method somehow reminded me of the process of translation, which is not noted anywhere in the exhibit. The letters are in English, but how certain can we be about Schoenberg’s sarcastic remarks about Vienna and its “rabble.” Perhaps it would have been interesting to project the original German on the wall, or even better, have a recording of it being read in German (available on headphones, as a secondary repository of text) that would replicate the linked displacements generated by the grid of speakers in the exhibit. The other pieces exhibited with Schafer were as complementary to his work as Lamson’s was to Lapin.

Down the street at Blum Poe was a museum-scale exhibit of work by Nobuo Sekine of over two dozen pieces from 1977-1978 entitled “Phases of Nothingness.” It was at this point that I had a sense of our afternoon being a pre-Socratic tour of the elements: the earth upholding the walls and blossoms of Lapin’s gauzy prosceniums; the river gush of calm wonder in Lamson; the breath of voice in the epistolary chambers of Schafer; and now the implicit ignition of turbulent vapor that had preceded Sekine’s sculptures. The title is plural: “phases,” not “phase,” and the evolution of these images seemed to evoke a caldera of some unnamed abyss, which only these shapes could begin to allude to. A sense of necessity imbued Sekine’s cones and spikes. The former seemed made of lacquered stone, though my first guess was plastic that had been worked with in hundreds of iterations in order to reach this level of mediated intonation. It would be useful to those who care about maximizing the attention to art if a sign were posted near James Turrell’s exhibit at LACMA. “Go see see Sekine,” it should read, “and continue what you began to think about here.”

We arrived at the Vision Gallery with an hour to go for the opening of their show. The printed card of Chong Rye Cha’s  “Lover,” did not at all catch the subtle shadings of color in his painting, in which he had sliced little dykes of paint at various spot. He is a short, slight man and seems to have worked almost entirely on his own, without any institutional affiliation. The number of shows he’s been to in the past thirty or so years, though, showed an intense reading of reclusive abstract work. Perhaps as an homage to his chosen favorites, Cha had placed his best piece in the back of the gallery; it was almost lost amidst the stacked paintings of the rear storage. What seemed to be a column of bamboo straddled the center of the painting, one tall side very delicately shifting from vegetable matter to mist to the nothingness of emptied space. He priced it so that no one would buy it, which tells me that in his heart he knows what he accomplished on the canvas and is unwilling to part with it, as of yet.