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ART REVIEW : Marclay in Tune With His Gallery Showing

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There’s nothing wrong with being up to your old tricks if your old tricks are good ones. Christian Marclay’s--which involve album covers, records and recorded magnetic tape--are. But to keep us from getting too comfortable, he’s thrown in some new ones, as well.

It’s a strategy the music industry knows well. There are, after all, only so many tunes, only so many ways to fool your fans into thinking they’re getting something new. Marclay’s work at Margo Leavin plays into this strategy, while deconstructing it along the way. He critiques the way in which both music and art have been colonized by a behemoth called “entertainment,” yet he does so without allowing himself to be colonized by critique. It’s a neat trick--and one you’d expect from someone who loves, who lives, to perform.

Strange and funny things happen during Marclay’s performance. A stack of hundreds of records is transformed into a column as glistening and imposing as a sculpture by Brancusi. A collection of classical album covers featuring male conductors is grafted onto a group of rock ‘n’ roll album covers featuring long, sinuous female legs, and suddenly, the madly gesturing conductors become oddly sexualized creatures. Leopold Stokowski looks surprisingly fetching in pink hot pants; Herbert von Karajan wears his red boxing gloves and satin shorts well.

The standout of the show, however, is “The Road to Romance,” a group of album covers collaged into a vertical row, each featuring a female singer hanging onto, draped over, cuddling up next to, or flirting with a pole. The poles are completely unmotivated within the context of these images: Pat Benatar is doing something inexplicable with a ballet barre; Dorothy Lamour’s pole is made of bamboo, but even that’s pushing it. Marclay’s piece, however, reveals the extent to which the poles make perfect sense--as die-hard, fantasy equipment for male record company executives and presumably male audiences. Marclay’s own fantasies seem as if they involve a lot more sleight-of-hand.

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* C hristian Marclay at Margo Leavin, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., (310) 273-0603. Closed Sunday and Monday. Through April 17.

Promising: On view at Kim Light is an installation by emerging artist Trudie Reiss. Although the New York-based Reiss has shown bits and pieces of her work in various group shows here during the past year, this is her first solo effort. It shows a great deal of promise, but also offers a cautionary tale.

Reiss is good at a lot of things. And like many artists who like to work in various media and are prone to assuming various guises--Megan Williams springs to mind--Reiss seems to feel she needs to do it all at once.

And so we have a roomful of “Fur Poles” and “Les Fleurs du Mal”: thick rods extending from floor to ceiling and “flowers” with stand-up penises, all covered in the most eye-popping, Day-Glo, fake fur. And 13 of the “brown” paintings--Reiss’ trademark, chocolate-colored creatures (discs with pairs of stick legs) experiencing love and death in their New York-style apartments. And a giant, geometric, Peter Halley-esque wall painting, accompanied by a text printed upside-down and backward (small hand mirrors are provided to facilitate reading) that exhorts us to succeed, while ensuring us that all that stands in the way is lack of faith.

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There is something here--about hegemonic systems like abstraction and patriarchy; about the politics of subordination and the poetics of subversion. But there is no real focus. The installation feels crowded--physically and conceptually--and the work feels sloppy around the edges. It is, of course, risky to choose a direction: What if it’s the wrong one? Yet it seems as though concentrating her energies and distilling her ideas is something Reiss needs to do right now. It would be a shame to see this talented artist fall into the trap of too much being not enough.

* Trudie Reiss at Kim Light, 126 N. La Brea Ave., (213) 933-9816. Closed Sunday and Monday, through April 10.


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