Art review: Kirsten Stoltmann at Emma Gray

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Kirsten Stoltmann’s painfully hilarious, super-short video at Emma Gray reads as an allegory of the artist’s fall from social grace. Or a spoof on suburbanites’ self-satisfaction and obliviousness. Or a satire of contemporary art’s deadly insularity. Possibly all three, and likely more. “Post-Nothing” resonates beyond its cleverness to challenge — if only briefly and lightly — art’s status and the artist’s role in the wider world.

Stoltmann starts out earnest, Rocky-like, donning headphones for a morning jog. She ends up, only a minute later, embarassed, self-conscious, almost apologizing for her ambition. To tell the details of the tale would be to spoil its deftly produced surprise. Suffice it to say that Stoltmann’s micro-parable touches on artifice, as it applies to both art and life; pretense (ditto); and the suspension of disbelief necessary to appreciate certain art-like gestures.

Humor and audacity are regular tools for the L.A.-based Stoltmann, but they aren’t wielded as effectively in the rest of the show. A giant collage of sparkling colored artificial gems spells out I AM SO HAPPY, as if saying it’s so will make it so, especially if the declaration entails loads of effort and glitz. The piece reeks of irony but no real wit or insight. The same goes for a series of glossy magazine ads that Stoltmann has painted across with slogans, questions and implicit captions. Defacing typically sexist marketing campaigns might be empowering, but pitting their smooth insinuations against puerile rants (“I mean life is hard,” “To fart or not to fart”) is a losing — and silly — proposition.

-- Leah Ollman

Emma Gray HQ, 2600 La Cienega Blvd., (310) 497-6895, through March 16. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.