Review: Joel Kyack's sea-related works sink

Review: Joel Kyack's sea-related works sink
"Decapitated Head" by Joel Kyack at Francois Ghebaly. (Robert Wedemeyer / Francois Ghebaly)

Like many artists based in L.A. and weaned on the tropes of cinema, Joel Kyack makes work about artifice and the potential humor and poignancy of its seductions.

Like many artists engaging a meaty theme by invoking but not penetrating it, his work elicits a yawning "So what?"


"Old Sailors Never Die," Kyack's show at François Ghebaly, features a stripped-down jet ski mounted vertically on a wooden scaffold. A giant nose carved in foam protrudes from the seat cavity and a pink towel flops, tongue-like, from a storage slot below. "Decapitated Head" resembles a cartoonish Easter Island monolith, a large gesture with a small punchline.

Another installation evokes a film-set-version of a shipboard dining booth, complete with a mechanically activated painted backdrop to conjure the boat's wave-tossed sway.

Wires and pulleys are bare to see; edges of the seating area are raw. The illusion comes into focus only at its center, within the camera's presumed delimiting frame.

Yes, that is roughly how it's done. But so what? Repeating an interesting phenomenon or familiar cliche -- without any kind of transformation, interpretation or critique -- does not necessarily keep it interesting.

Kyack riffs on the stranded seafarer in the exhibition's title piece, which features a video of a desert island that never disguises itself as anything other than a sand-strewn floating barge. The video, screened in a ludicrous bunker with a portico decked out in giant denim cut-offs, feels exceedingly slight, especially within such an oversized, overwrought frame.

Kyack has exercised his finely honed wit in performative pieces in the past, but the work in this show is simply not seaworthy.

François Ghebaly Gallery, 2245 E. Washington Blvd., (323) 282-5187, through March 8. Closed Sunday and Monday.