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Art review: ‘Portrait’ at Thomas Solomon Gallery

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Thomas Solomon Gallery jumps on the John Baldessari bandwagon with a smart, themed group show of Conceptual art from (mostly) the ‘60s and ‘70s. The exhibition is titled simply “Portrait,” but in tune with the questioning, contrary tone of the era, there is nary a face to be seen — in fact, there is hardly anything to see but text. Still, it’s text that conjures marvelous pictures.

Lawrence Weiner’s wall piece reads “PLACED AT AN ANGLE THAT ALLOWS THE ASSUMPTION OF AN OBLIQUE POSITION WITHIN A HORIZONTAL CONTEXT,” which seems like a purely formal description of itself. But arrayed across a wall that slants down toward the doorway, it takes on an oddly ominous, almost funeral cast. Baldessari’s contribution makes a more literal connection between text and body, recording people’s heights on the wall and placing decorative frames around the marks. Also playing with the idea of measurement, an ink drawing by William Wegman arranges the parts of the face like a mathematical equation whose sum total is the word “face.”

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The show also includes works by Robert Barry, Joseph Kosuth and Ed Ruscha, but the standout is “Duration Piece #15” by Douglas Huebler. It pairs a wanted poster from 1968 with a typed statement in which the artist offers a monetary reward that shrinks each month the fugitive remains at large. The piece reveals the wanted poster as the ultimate state-sponsored portraiture, detailing the quantifiable criteria by which one can be identified: race, sex, hair and eye color, aliases, mug shots, fingerprints, signature, even a Social Security number. But the statement about the reward gives this snapshot a temporal dimension, serving as an analog for the ways in which the memory of a person or a deed gradually fades away.

– Sharon Mizota
Thomas Solomon Gallery, 427 Bernard St., L.A., (323) 275-1687, through Aug. 14. Closed Sundays-Tuesdays. www.thomassolomongallery.com

Images: Top, Lawrence Weiner’s wall piece and Douglas Huebler’s “Duration Piece #15.”


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