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Santa Monica

Barbara Bloom won the 1988 artists-under-40 Aperto award at the Venice Biennale with the installation re-created here. It begins with offset printed halftone photos of psychics bending or teletransporting objects. Tiny and faded, these have the irrefutable authority of secret FBI files. Mounted below each are eye-strain size plaques bearing minuscule arcane texts. Below a robust medium levitating a ball, we read something like: “Nothing and no one exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator.”

Alone the texts are nonsensical, alongside photos they reverberate with meaning adding impact to image and word. Over photos Bloom superimposes raised dottings that give her texts in Braille. From here we go to a neat table set with gorgeous gilt and china dinner dishes. Imbedded in their glazes are antique photos of Victorian seances where prim William James types better suited to library or lab connect hands to summon the dead. Then there are light boxes illuminating ghostly, blanched photo impressions--a bit like the Turin shroud--of hovering UFOs. Finally in a small room painted a dreamy blue, Bloom uses invisible twine to suspend starched white hats in a circle as if dancers round the May pole dematerialized but forgot their bonnets.

There’s a poetic indictment of the seeing-is-believing prejudice of Western positivism here: If we can see it and describe it, it exists. Bloom uses a touch of social advocacy to drive her point: Since the blind don’t “observe,” is their reality any less real? A final sculpture of complex mirrors projects a holographic three-dimensional pearl onto a pedestal (you reach for it and it vanishes), summarizing Bloom’s idea that reality--the scientist’s, the spiritualist’s, yours and mine--is no more than a system of culture-mediated beliefs. (Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery, recently relocated at 2257 21st St., to March 18.)--M.D.


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