Robert Barry has words with Rudolph Schindler

Artists collaborate all the time, getting together with other artists, poets or musicians to make works that combine the best features of each participant's solo efforts.

Something like that is on display at Bethlehem Baptist Church in South Los Angeles, where Robert Barry's first solo show in Los Angeles since 1989 has been installed in Rudolph Schindler's landmark building, which was completed in 1944.


Of course, Schindler (1887-1953) had no say in what Barry (1936- ) did with the interior of the only ecclesiastical building he designed. Visitors can only imagine what the modern architect might say about the conceptual artist's installation.

My bet is that he'd like it. A lot.

On the white walls of the intimately scaled church Barry has fastened sheets of shiny white vinyl lettering that spell out 51 words. Twelve inches tall, all caps, and printed in a slender font, the words are invisible when you look right at them.

They can be seen only out of the corner of your eye, when you're looking at another feature of Schindler's masterpiece or staring off into space, daydreaming.

The words are common: "looking," "once," "mysterious," "personal" and "passion." Their context shades their meanings, which are open-ended: "search," "different," "becoming" and "purpose."

More than a few are printed upside down. "Difficult" is the only one printed in reverse, as if seen in a mirror. Almost all read at various angles. Some can be strung together, including "reveal elusive real" and "somehow inevitable wonder."

But most of Barry's words float free, drifting in a world not governed by the gravity of logic. That's where Schindler's building also takes you.

This collaboration works in mysterious ways.

Thomas Solomon Art Advisory, 4901 Compton Ave., Los Angeles 90011, through Dec. 13. Open Thursday-Sunday.