New Zealand artist Boyd Webb was barely known here a year ago, but after three solo shows and various group exhibitions, he seems to have been around forever. L.A.'s latest look at Webb isn’t the same old thing, however. He’s inaugurating a brand new gallery with recent color photographs of wildly improbable subjects.
In one of his 5x6-foot cibachromes, called “Yoke,” a violin and slabs of bacon are suspended from a swag of drapery. “One for Darwin” features a nasty snake with scissors in its mouth swimming with another snake that has been cut into pieces. In “Aurora and Aspic,” a light bulb floating on “water” illuminates a submerged book containing illustrations of camels.
Webb’s studio set-ups update the Surrealist penchant for peculiar juxtapositions, but they also display a contemporary interest in signs and symbols--not to mention a sense of humor that puts a witty spin on social issues. Things simply aren’t where they ought to be in Webb’s photographs, and the displacement is both funny and disturbing. A bird cage holds rolled-up sheets of music instead of a singing bird, suggesting that a processed form of art has replaced the live animal. Underwater books seem to signify buried wisdom, while the bacon so rudely draped over a violin might be gluttony’s subjugation of music. That theme recurs in a single mixed-media sculpture that depicts two giant teeth biting down on fragile stringed instruments.
There’s a moral tone to this work, but it’s so wackily inspired that you suspect yourself of trying to turn Webb into a reluctant preacher. Fundamentally, he’s an inventive conceptualist who takes a cosmic view of banality. (Meyers/Bloom Gallery, 2112 Broadway, to May 21.)