Did you know James Bond was an ornithologist? He was named after the author of “Birds of the West Indies” because writer Ian Fleming thought the name sounded “flat and colourless,” appropriate for a man who was nothing more than a government tool.
Of course Bond has become another kind of symbol (and another kind of bird-lover, in British slang). And artist Taryn Simon has applied a kind of scientific method to his fascinations. Her exhibition at Gagosian consists of two large bodies of photographic work. The first comprises 190 images of every woman, weapon and vehicle that ever appeared in a Bond film. The second is a collection of images of every bird that ever flitted across the screen. The result is a dispassionate dissection of the Bond mythology, revealing its outsized masculine fantasy as an endlessly malleable but predictable formula.
This is art in the age of big data, in which a point of view emerges from the cataloging of sheer accumulation. In one sense, every weapon, vehicle and woman is as interchangeable as the birds that inadvertently flew in behind the guns and bikinis. But this idea is belied by the images of the women. The aging process and the distance between how they were represented on film and how they present themselves now is a subtle rebuke to the formula. Bond might be just as popular as ever, but the reductive world order he represents is strictly for the birds.
Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9400, through Apr. 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.gagosian.com
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