Sincerity and levity collide, elegantly, in "Walking the Walk," Phyllis Green's appealing show at LAM.
The title refers to an actual journey--that of the disciple approaching a guru, as per a particular section of the Upanishad--and also making good on its prescribed ritual demand, the carrying of fuel as an offering.
The symbolic gesture entails actual physical hardship, and Green's body of work addresses that effort with a wink.
Responding to a specific version of the dictate calling for 'firewood on the head' instead of the more general 'fuel in hand,' the L.A.-based sculptor has designed a clever group of devices to ease the transport.
One is a stylish hat, the "Coco Carrier," from which a miniature forest of branches rises. On the road to enlightenment, why not look your best, after all? A lovely hooded cape in camel-colored wool similarly does the trick. Tall twigs tucked into its segmented pockets encircling the neck leave the hands free for--well, whatever. Cell phone and carry-out cup?
Several other works resemble high-design, full-body walkers, wood or metal scaffolds with pouches hanging off the sides and platforms atop to hold stacks of wood or their white porcelain surrogates. Each of the performative sculptures is accompanied by a photograph of Green modelling it--a tongue-in-cheek spotlight on the superficial aspects of the spiritual deed, its appearance rather than its deeper meaning.
The ironies mount: Green's implements are labor-saving, but isn't the quest to comprehend the eternal supposed to be hard? For three decades, Green has been making sculptures of distinct and complex oddity, engaging bodily, organic and mechanical forms. These new pieces might slyly jab at our culture of convenience and expediency, but like all of her work, they don't take short-cuts to significance.