Entertainment & Arts

Review: Ry Rocklen’s sly sculptures: There’s more than what you might see at first

Detail of Ry Rocklen’s “School of Hard Knocks.”
Detail of Ry Rocklen’s “School of Hard Knocks.”
(Brian Forrest / Honor Fraser )

There is a seemingly alchemical magic to Ry Rocklen’s sculptures at Honor Fraser. The process by which one thing becomes or reveals another is a central theme of the L.A. artist’s recent work.

Ry Rocklen's “Bottled Up,” 2016.
Ry Rocklen's “Bottled Up,” 2016. (Brian Forrest / Honor Fraser)

This is particularly evident in four wall-mounted sculptures in the first room. They are ceramic objects, each cut into horizontal slices. Each slice is displayed on a glass shelf with a mirrored backing, the slices aligned to reconstitute the whole. On their front sides, they are flat and bear a photographic image; on their backs they are three-dimensional, but this surface is really visible only as reflected in the mirrors.

This optical confusion is increased by incongruity between front and back. “Bottled Up” depicts a smashed plastic water bottle on its flat side and a sculpture of a man on its back. Perhaps most affecting is an image of a battered chest of drawers that reveals a beautiful, ornate doll’s house behind. It’s like a glimpse into the secret lives of discarded objects — magic hidden in the trash.

In a more traditional sculptural vein, Rocklen has inserted dollar bills stiffened with sand into the metal mesh surface of a public trash can. The bills form a protective shell, like dragon scales, as their faces are reflected in the can’s mirrored bottom. Living one dollar at a time, building up armor, gazing into the bottom of a trash can — these are ideas that become a surreal metaphor for life on the streets.


Ry Rocklen

Where: Honor Fraser, 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Through Oct. 29; closed Sundays and Mondays

Information: (310) 837-0191,

Ry Rocklen's “These Brilliant Ideas are Property of,” 2016.
Ry Rocklen's “These Brilliant Ideas are Property of,” 2016. (Brian Forrest / Honor Fraser)
Ry Rocklen's “School of Hard Knocks,” 2016.
Ry Rocklen's “School of Hard Knocks,” 2016. (Brian Forrest / Honor Fraser)

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.


Pure color: John Elderfeld looks at the legacy of Helen Frankenthaler

Photographer Dan Winters searches for New York City's soul in 'The Grey Ghost'

D.C.'s new African American museum is a bold challenge to traditional Washington architecture

Get our daily Entertainment newsletter

Get the day's top stories on Hollywood, film, television, music, arts, culture and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.