Review

Michael Decker's 'New Car Smell' at Ambach & Rice

Michael Decker's solo show at Ambach & Rice pushes branding to an extreme that matches today's commercial glut

Commercial branding has been a feature of many artists’ work, from Andy Warhol and his ‘60s soup cans and Brillo boxes to Larry Mantello’s souvenir-shop assemblages and the Art Guys’ logo-covered performance gear since the ‘90s. “New Car Smell,” Michael Decker’s solo at Ambach & Rice, pushes branding to an extreme that matches today’s commercial glut.

Nine big collages, as much as 8 feet tall, are made from flattened cardboard packing boxes that have been layered, cut and trimmed into giant rectangles. At once enticing and repulsive, the work’s flashy, shouting emblems of commercial desire are infused with the odor of excess.

Decker builds on Robert Rauschenberg’s Minimalist cardboard collages of the early 1970s. In each, the product array is loosely thematic. The products ruminate on art conventions.

“Hoard and Board” features storage units (for tools, floppy diskettes, clothing, etc.) implying useful content hidden within. “Floater” is all floral prints, a crazy-quilt homage to Warhol’s “Flower” silkscreens, themselves a send-up of Color Field paintings. With its mash-up of power tools and small appliances, “Black and Decker” gets cold-sober and wryly autobiographical.

Decker also includes carousel sales-racks for “curated” knickknacks, narrative assemblages of wooden letters (chattier, homemade versions of found commercial-signage works by Jack Pierson) and logo-emblazoned T-shirts stitched together to make word-paintings in sizes small, medium and large. But it’s the cardboards that resonate – in ways both engaging and decidedly not.

Ambach & Rice, 6148 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 965-5500, through May 31. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.ambachandrice.com

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