Jonathan Monk's mildly amusing show at the gallery Cherry and Martin is a peek behind the curtain, a scattering of clues. It is an act of self-revelation in the guise of deflection — or maybe vice versa.
Two large walls in the gallery are papered with photo murals of the artist's studio in Berlin. Installed atop and around them are framed and sculptural works by about 20 other artists, whose work has in some way fed into Monk's own. Monk curated the show, and at the same time he is its ostensible subject.
The loose collection of favorites includes a tabletop Sol LeWitt sculpture, a set of “Inflammatory Essay” posters by Jenny Holzer, a suite of John Baldessari screenprints, a painting on paper by Ed Ruscha, a few pieces by Robert Heinecken and several by Bas Jan Ader. Some have an identifying connection with L.A., where the England-born Monk lived briefly in the late ’90s, but not all. The assortment is personal, but obliquely so, a diaristic collage of external rather than internal sources.
The show tightens up when at its most self-conscious, when the exercise of creating this “Perfectly Concocted Context” turns to clever navel-gazing. An Allen Ruppersberg poster reading, “Honey, I Rearranged the Collection,” hangs in Monk’s studio and can be seen here on one of the photo murals, among document storage boxes labeled “Group Exhibitions” — a straightforward term which suddenly reads as a double-entendre.
Some works add their own wry touches by hinging on the friction between real and represented, or by playing on likeness, replication, mediation and originality. On the floor, for instance, are two bottles, one holding liquor and the other cologne, paired in a coy conceptual gesture by Nina Beier for the similar blue color of their contents. An elegantly crafted stone and glass mosaic by Isabell Heimerdinger depicts a hand beside an image of a hand on a cellphone screen, a doubling made more piquant by the old-fashioned technique of its rendering. In case the show's spirit of inversion hasn't fully sunk in, exit is by way of Ceal Floyer’s doormat, faced to welcome you as you leave.
Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A. Ends Saturday. (310) 559-0100, www.cherryandmartin.com
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