Farrah Karapetian’s latest installation at Von Lintel Gallery is a commemoration of Club Shine, a night for trans women at the Oxwood Inn, a Van Nuys lesbian bar that closed in 2017.
Inspired by the remembrances of gallerist Tarrah von Lintel and her friends, Karapetian deploys her signature photographic negatives and photograms to create a ghostly replica of the space. The results are alternately cacophonous and moving.
Visitors are greeted by a wall transformed into a blackboard, inscribed all over with the trans-positive hashtag, “#WeWillNotBeErased.” You are encouraged to add your own inscriptions, and the entire installation is interactive, designed both as a club and a darkroom.
Throughout the run of the exhibition, Karapetian will hold photogram sessions. (A photogram is a photograph made without a camera. Negatives, objects or people are placed against photo paper and exposed to light.) Visitors can dance, put on makeup or otherwise remember Club Shine.
The first room contains a glass pool table, a small replica of a bar and barstools and life-size photographic images of the Oxwood bathroom, tagged with all manner of graffiti. New messages have been added to these photomurals, re-creating the restroom’s function as communication center and venue for self-expression.
To this environment, Karapetian has added text-based images, depicting poems in which all but key words have been redacted. In two works titled “We,” she edits the 1959 Gwendolyn Brooks poem “The Pool Players” so that the only visible words are instances of the word “we.” The works are moving affirmations of community in which erasure serves only to strengthen a message of solidarity.
The second room, framed behind red curtains, contains a stripper pole, another image of the bathroom and a photogram of seated legs, as if seen from under a table. Titled “Chasers,” it represents the audience. The performer, a photogram of a nude woman, hangs on the other side of the pole.
The exhibition feels loose and freewheeling. Karapetian’s photograms and negatives are unframed, dangling and curling off the walls. The images themselves are somewhat eerie, black and white like X-rays, and lighted at strange angles by red “safe” lights that turn the space into a darkroom. It’s by no means a faithful replica but rather an evocation, hazy and incomplete, like memory itself. It’s a fitting commemoration of what was once a haven for becoming oneself.
Von Lintel Gallery, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., Tuesday-Saturday; ends Saturday. Call the gallery for photogram session dates. (310) 559-5700, www.vonlintel.com
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