Review

At Regen Projects, Rachel Harrison showcases the art of self-importance

Rachel Harrison's thoroughly dispiriting show at Regen Projects includes a series of photographs of footprints in snow and slush. The 34 images, made on an iPhone, are unremarkable. Their collective title, however, is revealing: "FOMO," an acronym for Fear of Missing Out, serves fairly well to encapsulate the noxious combination of desperation and self-importance that permeates the show.

Harrison, based in New York, has exhibited sculptures, installations, drawings and photographs in biennials and museum shows internationally. Banality is the chief ingredient in her work, and she uses it like an all-purpose seasoning that, paradoxically, subtracts flavor.

The title of the Regen show offers another indication of Harrison's stunted strategies. "Three Young Framers" gives a wink to August Sander's well-known 1914 photograph of three young farmers, dashingly but somewhat incongruously dressed in suits, walking a country road in Westerwald, Germany, on their way to a dance. Harrison alludes here to self-presentation in her sculptures incorporating selfie sticks, but her wink to Sander is little more than an easy pun, signaling false affinity.

Her show touches on two aspects of framing: the recording of one's own actions and appearance, and the presentation of artworks within the context of exhibition. She has built a labyrinth of metal-stud walls that subdivide part of the gallery into smaller rooms. Visitors are encouraged to slip through the studs and wander within, where Harrison has placed a pallet of cinderblocks and a dozen clunky, blocky little cement-slathered ziggurats, painted in brash colors.

"Exhibition Device" is another gratuitous wink, this time to Michael Asher's 2008 installation at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, a reprise, in metal studs, of every temporary exhibition wall in the venue's 10-year existence. Harrison's gesture is a hollow echo of a work with real resonance and conceptual heft.

In another piece, again so much less evocative than its referent, she calls to mind the elegant colored yarn installations of Fred Sandback. She takes advantage of a lot of "borrowed vividness," to borrow a vivid term from John McPhee, but doesn't generate much on her own.

Her selfie stick sculptures are clumsy, combinations of lumpy organic forms a la William Tucker, and upright wood planks familiar to much postwar abstraction. Their surfaces are crusty, their hues gaudy.

Harrison makes an abundance of cheap jokes and in-jokes, verbal and visual. "Magnum," for instance, with its sack of lead shot tucked into the sculpture's base, alludes to shooting with both camera and gun, but without any synergistic payoff. In mixing the found and fabricated, the high-minded and the humble, Harrison trivializes it all.

Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 276-5424, through July 18. Closed Sunday and Monday. regenprojects.com

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