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ART REVIEW : Eno and Martinez Works in Santa Monica

Britisher Brian Eno’s eclectic artistic persona fuels an installation of light and sound structures called “Latest Flames” at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. A painter in the ‘60s who played the rock synthesizer professionally in the ‘70s, Eno has recently composed and produced several rock albums. Gradually, his music became conceptual and experimental and he began using color video monitors as a kind of electronic palette.

In his current exhibition (through Nov. 1) at the unfinished museum he builds light boxes around concealed color monitors that gradually alter the intensity and hue of light. On the surface of the boxes are outlined abstract shapes--pyramids, hard edges, organic hills and valleys. In the pitch-black room these shapes continually ooze and move, appear and disappear, recede and jut with the shifting quality and color of the light projected through them.

The changing light on a stack of leaning cubes jostles perception, looking one moment like optical art painted on a black ground, the next like an illusionistic sci-fi cityscape aglow in extraterrestrial violet. All the while four unsynchronized cassettes play a soothing 24-track score for an effect that is somewhere between ‘60s psychedelia and ‘80s New Age spiritualism.

In another show at the museum Daniel Martinez makes a good job of keeping his message clear in a complex installation called “Big Fish Eat Little Fish.”

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The work on view through Sunday addresses the grind of social conformity, the beauty of rigorously ordered systems and their unavoidable toll on individuality. Using the rafters of the museum as compositional cues, Martinez strings taut wires in 2-foot intervals across the large space. Lengths of surveyor’s rope hang to the floor each dangling with a 5-ounce pyramidal lead weight that hovers over a swarm of identical, oddly distorted figurines neatly arranged across the gallery floor. All look at a throne surrounded by six black and white TVs transmitting a hazy continuous “news-at-9" image of a vicious guard dog. The entire piece is encircled by suspended sheets of metal mounted with the same repeating photo of an enlarged, peering eye.

Aisles created by the perfectly plumb string act like tunnels pulling viewer and ceramic drones toward the weird altar. In place of the heraldic dogs that guarded ancient civilizations, Martinez sets up a technocratic reproduction to watch over an order on the verge of breaking down. Vin Zula Kara’s grinding sounds make this one of the new museum’s most compelling installations to date.


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