Art critic Harold Rosenberg once described the 20th Century as "an epoch of false appearances and aimless adventures" and this ambitious exercise in curating, titled "Post Pop Art," is an apt illustration of his point. Attempting to refurbish the familiar and reinvest it with meaning, the show leaves you feeling as though you've been held captive in an after-hours club for weeks on end. There's something necrophilic about this chilly, enervated art and you come away from it spiritually exhausted.
Curated by gallery director Michael Kohn, the show takes its central cue from the Post-Modernists; more specifically, one of that genre's major subcults, the Appropriationists. (The Appropriationist Creed: We're already glutted with more images than we need so there's no need to invent new ones. Simply select the ones you like and re-present them.)
Naturally, Andy Warhol is featured in the show, as is the mock Op-Art of Peter Halley, Jon Kessler's mock Kinetic art (his piece is basically a Lava Lamp with delusions of grandeur) and the mock Minimalist paintings of Kevin Larmon. Each of these artists speaks his chosen language/style in a flat voice poisoned with irony--needless to say, the artists are all from New York. We also see a shelf of bongs (just like the ones available at your local head shop) by Hiam Steinback, and three sculptures by Todt resembling torture devices that might've been featured in the film "Brazil." Stridently colored and flashy though it be, the work is so ultra-blase you want to check it for a pulse. The only thing this show can bother itself to express is that originality, heroism and passion are for squares.
On view in an adjoining gallery are landscapes by Joan Nelson that have the crusty, golden surface of baked custard. Muted, atmospheric vistas evocative of Turner, her small paintings are built around a palette of shimmering golds and browns, and surfaces so richly developed they almost read as enamel. These gentle, lyrical pictures are a good antidote to the nasty business next door. (Michael Kohn Gallery, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., to July 12.)