The premise of British artist Michael Wilkinson’s exhibition at Blum & Poe is immensely appealing: The social and political tumult of May 1968 as seen through the lens of punk, anarchism and art history? Sign me up.
It’s a shame the resulting works are so bloodless — austere to a fault, controlled to the point of preciousness — although the exhibition does have some lovely moments. In the center of the gallery sits “Black Citadel,” a cube over 6 feet high made of 52,250 black Lego bricks. An impassive Donald Judd knockoff leavened by Lego, it paradoxically combines staunch solemnity and the vulnerable innocence of youth. Perhaps that’s how the May ’68 protesters saw authority — menacing, but ultimately collapsible.
The rest of the show is largely divided between two sets of paintings: a frieze-like series of canvases that interrupts flayed-looking red fields with photos of May ’68 violence, and a group of window-like mirrors that sport grainy images of a bombed out city. The punk impulse to strip things down is clear, as well as the distancing effects of nostalgia, but Wilkinson’s work takes negation perhaps one step too far, not just charting a history of refusal, but sanitizing it.
Blum & Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 836-2062, through July 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.blumandpoe.com