The splintered self of Christian Herman Cummings

Christian Herman Cummings' dual personality out in force at Michael Benevento Gallery

Miriam Hanks-Todd has written that artist Christian Herman Cummings “is an ironist who uses topsy-turvy logics, nontraditional authorship and day-dreamy psychical introspection as primary modes of expression." She’s correct – in a topsy-turvy, nontraditional sort of way.

That’s because Hanks-Todd is Cummings, or at least his day-dreamy alter-ego, summoned to help make scores of scratchy, diaristic, often doodle-like drawings and prints, many in ballpoint pen. At Michael Benevento Gallery, they record in words and pictures an array of insistent, almost random thoughts on sex, money, survival and daily life.

The drawings are pinned to the wall or set in frames made from prophylactic rubber. Some of those frames are casts of window blinds, meant to obscure the view. Together with the artist’s dual personality and use of prophylactic material, the window blinds suggest scant confidence in familiar notions of a whole, integrated, expressive self.

That’s not uncommon for art. (The window blinds recall the work of Jasper Johns, who was instrumental in unplugging the idea 50 years ago.) But in Cummings’ work the vanished self finds its most provocative manifestation in a second room, where two spare but elegant installations insert plaster casts of gashes into the walls.

One is a large diagonal slash, like the residue of a violent attack. The other is a pair of mirror images on opposite walls, which show the patched nail hole where a picture once hung.

As sculptural casts, which can be reproduced, the two installations skillfully defy what they picture – a direct emotional assault or the utterance of a singular point of view. Hanks-Todd/Cummings’ art cannily describes a structure in which ghosts of an expressive self have unstoppable lives.

Michael Benevento Gallery, 7578 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 874-6400, through Dec. 20. Closed Sun. and Mon.

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