John Bock uses movies like most directors use sets: as essential ingredients of larger undertakings. That's something we don't often see in Los Angeles, where movies rule and other art forms play second fiddle to the silver screen.
At Regen Projects, Bock's fourth solo show in Los Angeles turns that hierarchy inside out. Titled "Drei Schwestern (Three Sisters)," the German artist's four-gallery free-for-all consists of a suite of six architectural models, a series of 21 three-dimensional collages, a 40-minute movie and, in the pitch-black main gallery, a massive sculpture you can walk into.
The real drama unfolds in your head. As you move back-and-forth between Bock's fantastic sculpture and his movie, your memories of one work shape what you see — and experience — in the other.
It doesn't matter if you watch the movie or see the sculpture first — or break up your visit to one with visits to the other. What matters is the interaction between the two. That give-and-take unfolds in the mind's-eye, where fleeting perceptions and evolving recollections collide and collude.
It's not always pleasant. But it's 100% fascinating, particularly if you're interested in the emotions that burble to the surface of consciousness when we awaken from dreams and nightmares.
Bock's movie is a Greek tragedy gone wrong. Guilt, depravity and retribution form a whirlpool into which six actors are sucked. Their dialogue (in German, with English subtitles) is comically demented, its ham-fisted turns of phrase both crude and right on the money. What is often lost in translation returns with a vengeance, the blindness of anger and even darker compulsions interlocking in a story with loads of loose ends and a surplus of ambivalence.
Bock's walk-in sculpture is even better. About the size of a small house, it transforms the movie's sets into a dysfunctional labyrinth or DIY house of mirrors.
To step into it is to feel as if you have fallen through a cosmic wormhole. Space and time are both compressed and stretched. Mind-bending high jinks ensue. Knee-buckling conundrums follow hot on their heels.
With great efficiency, Bock calls Wagner to mind. Making room for operatic bombast in a world overrun with ADHD impatience, he makes you think twice about movies and sculptures and their place in life.
Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 276-5424, through Dec. 19. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.regenprojects.com