Review: Comic sights, mysterious sounds at Martin Kersels show


Compared with his large sculptures and audaciously physical performances, Martin Kersels’ pieces at Redling Fine Art are a bit subdued, but not quiet. Three quirky wooden sculptures emit mysterious sounds to an audience of peeping-Tom portraits whose eyes gaze out meekly through holes drilled in planks of wood. The effect is riotously charming and comically odd, like a Dadaist hurdy-gurdy.

The sculptures, which are loosely based on furniture and made from found materials, each feature a crank or a lever that triggers a sound. A chair augmented with a floating box sounds like a crackling fire, a cabinet featuring a phonograph-like horn emits a snoring sound, and a chest with a large, diamond-shaped protrusion produces a throbbing drone.

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The gallerist noted that all of the sounds are produced by physical mechanisms within the sculptures and are not recordings. This is a cause for wonder: I just assumed there was an MP3 player somewhere.

The mute portraits are equally uncanny. They consist of found photographs or album covers that Kersels has layered with sheets or planks of wood, drilling holes for the subjects’ eyes. This simple gesture is oddly expressive, lending the peepers a surprised look and a frisson of the illicit. The blankness of the wood turns the subjects into something like a puppet or a doll — a thing that looks human but is not. Together with the sculptures, they are awkward stand-ins for the body, a reminder of how strange and wondrous it can be to inhabit one.

Redling Fine Art, 6757 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 378-5238, through Jan. 16. Closed Sunday and Monday.