Critic's Choice

Jennifer Moon's mesmerizing show turns the art world into a punchline

Jennifer Moon’s loopy exhibition at Commonwealth & Council is a brilliant sendup of 40 years of Conceptual art.

“Phoenix Rising: Part 3: laub, me and the Revolution (The Theory of Everything)” takes visitors back to first-gen Conceptualism, when SoCal artists such as John Baldessari, William Wegman, Scott Grieger, Alexis Smith and Allen Ruppersberg were just getting started. Conceptual art had not yet become the behemoth it is today: a humorless exercise favored by people who believe that feelings have no place in art, which is really meant to be criticism.

Feelings take center stage in Moon’s loony show. The L.A. artist leaves plenty of room for goofiness.

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Modeled on grade-school science fair projects, Moon’s installation packs loads of information into a readily accessible format.

Tri-fold posters spell out her quasi-scientific exploration of love. From agape to eros, Moon takes a swift trip through history, drawing on ancient Greek philosophy and modern neuro-economics. Gleaning insights from bacteriology, she makes a case for microscopic fairies that live in our bowels and shape our rational minds — even before our lizard brains lurch into action.

The show’s centerpiece is a room-size model of the Large Hadron Collider. Moon’s version of the world’s largest particle accelerator is assembled from Popsicle sticks, dental floss, electrical wire, duct tape, Habitrail tubes and K’NEX toys. Dolls -- representing Moon and her collaborator, the artist laub -- show the duo waiting to have their selves mingled like never before.

An 11-minute video plays in an adjoining gallery. “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey” is a TED talk gone nutty. It marries the language of self-help charlatanry to the style of popular cosmology and the no-nonsense authenticity of backyard tinkering.

The mix is mesmerizing. You don’t believe that Moon and laub believe what they are saying, but you can’t help but wonder if they're on to something. That worm of doubt is the fulcrum on which the show pivots, generating sufficient momentum to make just about anything seem possible.

Conceptual art, at its best, is all about the improbable. So is love.

Commonwealth & Council, 3006 W. 7th St., Suite 220, (213) 703-9077, through Dec. 19. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.commonwealthandcouncil.com

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