ART REVIEW : Seator's 'Cabinet' Holds a Mix of Fun, Seriousness

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Glen Seator's monumental sculpture at Burnett Miller Gallery marries fun-house amusement to art-world seriousness by tipping Minimalism on edge and folding space back on itself. A queasy, Alice in Wonderland sort of enchantment results, giving viewers a chance to play hide-and-seek with their perceptions.

Titled "Cabinet," Seator's piece consists of a full-scale duplication of the gallery's modest office, normally hidden behind a storage closet and under a stairway, but now made the center of the exhibition. Jacked up on one side by metal wedges, the nearly three-ton structure resembles a blocky little house that seems to have been stripped of its exterior siding and carefully set in the center of the cavernous gallery by a godlike giant.

Its three doors function like picture frames, allowing you to look into--and through--Seator's sculpture. After a few moments, you begin to tip your head to straighten out your view of the flawlessly finished interior, complete with carpeting, shelves, working lights, switches and sockets. Your torso soon follows direction.

Just as you begin to get your perceptual footing in Seator's tilted world, the rug is pulled out from under your feet when other viewers look into the door in the opposite wall. For a jolting moment, they seem to be walking at an impossible, gravity-defying angle.

Only then do you realize how quickly your body unconsciously adapts to its surroundings, adjusting your view of the external world so that some sense of equilibrium exists. The experience is similar to that of sitting on a train stopped at a station as the train next to you begins to pull out: It feels as if you--and not the next train--are moving. In both cases, disorientation only sets in when your perceptions realign with reality.

Seator's inside-out installation plays up this disjunction between physical sensations and the ways we make sense of them. His savvy "Cabinet" also puts a spin on the conventional relationship between artists and dealers, torquing the notion that art has little power over deal-making. In his skewed house of mirrors, neither artist nor dealer has ultimate control: The viewer's experience takes precedence over both, leaving each of us free to make our own sense of what we perceive.

* Burnett Miller Gallery, Bergamot Station B2, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 315-9961, through Jan. 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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High-Tech Abstractions: A tour de force of formlessness, Jennifer Steinkamp's mural-size projections of dancing light at ACME Gallery inhabit the fantastic territory where abstract painting meets architecture.

Looking at these pulsating, computer-generated images (accompanied by Bryan Brown's mesmerizing soundtrack) makes you feel that you're immersed in the future, where consciousness drifts in currents of visible energy or swirls in multidirectional flows of electronic impulses.

Titled "SWELL," Steinkamp's looped movie of bubbling colors recalls a prediction Jackson Pollock ventured almost 50 years ago, when he was making his legendary drip paintings. As many Modernists thought, Pollock felt his signature abstractions were the last paintings that could be made with oil and canvas. After them, he believed, painting's role would be fulfilled by architectural environments featuring mural-scaled abstractions.

If Pollock could see Steinkamp's work, he would probably be pleased, both by his foresight and her achievement. Without paint or canvas, her abstractions fulfill many of the Abstract Expressionist's intentions, simultaneously pushing painting into the fourth dimension.

Time is essential to "SWELL," as are groups of viewers. In contrast to most paintings, which are seen best on an individual basis, Steinkamp's high-tech abstractions get more interesting as the number of viewers increases.

Composed of front- and rear-projections, her work's long wall of swelling and disappearing forms is interrupted by crisp silhouettes of other viewers, when they pass between the dual projectors and the partially transparent wall. As you move around the trippy installation, you get lost in a world of thought-provoking evanescence, where distinctions between what's inside and outside dissolve in a fluid continuum of optical--and bodily--stimulation.

* ACME Gallery, 1800-B Berkeley St., Santa Monica, (310) 264-5818, closes Friday.

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