Theo Michael, Sofia Borges strip art back to pre-linguistic

Sofia Borges restores mystery to documentary photos, which are routinely assumed to be transparent

A two-person show at Steve Turner Contemporary of nine imaginative graphite drawings by Mexico City-based artist Theo Michael and five documentary photographs by São Paulo, Brazil-based artist Sofia Borges conspires to strip art back to something pre-linguistic. Take one juxtaposition of a drawing and a photograph.

In black and white, Borges records what appears to be another photograph of an ancient petroglyph. Dotted lines from cryptic pictograms scratched in rock lead out of the frame, promising but denying data to clarify the scene.

Look again, though, and everything shifts.

Is this actually something else entirely -- say, a medical image of internal bodily organs? In this and other works, Borges restores mystery to documentary photographs, which are routinely assumed to be transparent.

Hanging next to it, Michael’s “Too Figurative to Be True” piles up impossible information. A Dimetrodon-like dinosaur balances atop the sculptural head of an ancient Mediterranean soldier -- a head bobbing in a moonlit sea next to a rubber sandal emblazoned with a Nike logo.

In ancient myth, Nike symbolized victory. The stone antiquity is a ruin, but it’s still afloat. Michael bears down hard on his pencil -- so hard that the paper appears to have torn at the top, as surely as the ruined sculpture below is riven with cracks.

And that dinosaur? It looks rather like one of those iguanas tricked out to look prehistoric in a ‘50s monster movie.

Michael doesn’t conjoin images to make Surrealist narratives but to disrupt seamless fictions. Like Borges, he restricts the imagery to black and white, in the standard tradition of Conceptual art. It would be interesting to see what these two provocative artists might do with the irrational seductions of color.

Steve Turner Contemporary, 6026 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 931-3721, through July 3. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Twitter: @KnightLAT

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