It is the beginning of the year. A time to reassess and reconsider, to attempt to redirect the ways in which we live our daily lives. Which makes it a good time to check out the latest show at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), "The Heart Is the Frame," which gathers works that insert art into the everyday — or use the everyday to make art.
Artist Sharon Lockhart collaborated with workers at a historic shipyard on a series of photographs about simple acts like lunch. A row of crude paintings by Leidy Churchman titled "Flotsam Jetsam" chronicles the things the artist saw on a daily basis during a stint in Joshua Tree, such as his bedroom and a magazine advertising the auction of seized assets.
A bench constructed by sculptor Anna Sew Hoy serves the humdrum everyday role of functioning as a place to sit, but it also plays with ideas of labor: it is wallpapered with images of keyboards. (Like she's channeling my waking dreams.)
"It questions notions of routine and repetition," curator Shoghig Halajian says of the show. "It's about how artists contend with the everyday."
An installation by Emily Roysdon, for example, features individuals engaged in various activities around New York City, wearing a crude paper mask that bears the likeness of '80s artist David Wojnarowicz -- the artist whose film, "A Fire in My Belly," was the source of anti-gay controversy at the Smithsonian Institution back in 2010. Roysdon's piece is a shout-out to a series Wojnarowicz did in the late 1970s, in which he photographed himself and his friends around New York while wearing a paper mask that depicted French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
"It's this performance of the mundane," explains Halajian. "It's the making strange of the familiar."
Some of the most intriguing pieces in the show (which I saw before it was fully installed) are by L.A. artist Harry Dodge. More than 10 years ago, the artist began making a series of sculptures inspired by the feelings of political insecurity in the U.S. at the time. (This was in the wake of legislation such as the Patriot Act, which broadened the government's investigatory and surveillance powers.)
"He set up these parameters to make a weapon only with things that were on hand," explains Halajian. "These were pieces inspired by that panicked feeling of, 'I have to protect myself.'"
The results are as ingenious as they are terrifying: a sock studded with nails, assorted tool handles topped with resin and embedded with screws of frightening proportions, and an ax handle ameliorated with a ranch dressing bottle and what appears to be a paring knife. Dodge's use of materials is astute (I never realised how sinister a foundation bolt could be) and hilarious (Ranch dressing, weaponized!). And there's the general functionality of these sculptures as objects. If the zombie apocalypse were to happen tomorrow, I'd want a stash of these around.
In short, it's a show that makes us look at the objects around us anew. In the everyday, there is always a bit of wonder — and even horror — to be found.
"The Heart Is the Frame" runs through Feb. 14 at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 957-1777. Gallery open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. More info: welcometolace.org
Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.