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Bastards of Modernity

zingmagazine | issue #4 | reviews | bastards of modernity

Bastards of Modernity: Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, California
by Jay Gould Stuckey



I struggled with this show a little bit, because I kept referring back to the title "Bastards of Modernity" when I viewed the exhibit. It was difficult to take each piece at face value, and instead I examined how the work related to or perhaps parodied Modernism. While most of the work did directly reference Modernist artists (predominantly Mondrian and Duchamp), I found myself questioning the "Bastards" part. How was the work presented either snubbing its nose at Modernism, or making reference to Modernist art while adding something to it? Some work fell a little short, while others were more successful and interesting.

Dani Tull's sculpture hi fi/romantic standards was interesting because of the artist's thoroughness. What the viewer encounters is a knee high shelf made entirely of soft Styrofoam supporting stereo equipment, and two Styrofoam speaker cabinets with blinking lights where the speakers would be. The fact that Styrofoam is too weak of a material to bear the weight of stereo equipment made me examine the piece further. I noticed that the stereo components were not real, but instead practically weightless props. Even closer study reveals that the fake stereo components used in the piece were a CD player, an equalizer, a tape player, but not an amplifier. Without the amplifier the stereo is functionless, even if the components were real. Jasper Johns' practice of taking an object, doing something to it, then doing something else to it, seemed appropriate to consider in relation to Tull's piece and the rest of the show. Tull's attention to detail in negating the function of a stereo, down to the components represented, conceptually provided the third step of doing something else to an object.

Chris Wilder's the concept mummy culled influences from Mondrian's colored tape paintings and Barnett Newman's zip paintings. Wilder's work consisted of red, yellow, black, and white gaffer's tape arranged in vertical stripes on canvas. Although the function of the gaffer's tape was recontextualized when put in a gallery setting, the end result or reason for this recontextualization was not readily apparent.

The reflections off the glossy 70 mm film strips in Carter Potter's two works were very seductive. The film was arranged in vertical stripes attached to bare stretcher bars and mimicked Modernist stripe paintings, made with cancelled film stock instead of paint. As with Wilder's work, I felt that Potter had successfully taken an object (a Modernist stripe painting), done something to it (made a painting without using paint), but didn't do something else to it.

Perhaps I'm missing the point of some of the work in the show, but given the context created by the title, I felt certain pieces were too simple. The idea of presenting a show that examines Modernist thought, and how artists today are re-interpreting it, or using it as a starting point from which to play off of is interesting. There was some eye catching work, but I felt that a number of the pieces in "Bastards of Modernity" lacked the complexity the title implied.

Jay Gould Stuckey Los Angeles, California 1997