Los Angeles artist Matt Sheridan Smith’s exhibition at Hannah Hoffman gallery is a rather diffuse portrait of Madame Clicquot of Veuve Clicquot, who in 1816 invented a process to remove the lees from bottles of champagne. Apparently before that, the bubbly was a rather more cloudy beverage.
It’s too bad she isn’t here to remove the lees from this exhibition. The dark brownish liquid appears in two fly-infested glasses, perched atop a pedestal partially covered in gold Formica.
Nearby is another pedestal bearing two glasses of champagne (also fly-ridden). The pedestals rise from a pile of dirt and a flotilla of potted plants, which it turns out are the poisonous atropa belladonna. The surrounding walls are lined with paintings that look like wallpaper in which the repeated motif is a clutch of champagne bubbles.
There are some interesting things going on here. The plants, which the gallery assistant assured me could make me sick if I touched them, put some muscle behind the admonition “do not touch.”
And Smith makes use of something called scratch-off paint to create some interesting effects, as if the skin were being variously torn or scraped off his paintings. But even an atmosphere rife with allusions can’t make this vintage come out clear.
Hannah Hoffman Gallery, 1010 N. Highland Ave., (323) 450-9106, through Aug. 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.hannahhoffmangallery.com