LACE presented Das Spyder-Mån, a group exhibition that ran through 24 August 2002. Inspired by the ubiquitous “summer blockbuster” – a phenomenon shared, promoted, and coveted by the entertainment industry as well as the contemporary art world – the title of this show conflated a current Hollywood offering with one in Kassel, Germany. Das Spyder-Mån was the fulcrum between two summer sensations – Spider-Man, the movie, and Documenta, the international art fair.
Organized by Irene Tsatsos, Director / Curator of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Das Spyder-Mån was a show that considered the fantasies and alternate realities we dream up in order to exist within and make sense of the environments around us, in a context that loosely riffed on the narrative conventions and tropes of the action film. The exhibition included work in various media by Andy Alexander, Susan Choi, Christie Frields, Violet Hopkins, Greg Kucera, Patrick Lakey, David Miller, Alexander Morrison, Brian O’Dell, Dane Picard, and Kim Schoenstadt.
The natural world inspires the fantasy-filled work of both Violet Hopkins and Brian O’Dell. Responding to examples of human intervention and mediation of nature, Violet Hopkins, in a series of color pencil drawings called Glow, derives her images from tourist-attraction caves as depicted on postcards. Tamed by paving, handrails, and theatrical lighting, the dark mysteries and hidden enclosures of caves, as tourist sites, become less intimidating as well as less mysterious. Hopkins’s drawings help restore the deeply imaginative experience and the wonder of the primordial architecture of caves. Believing that “we are all active participants in the creation of our world,” Brian O’Dell has created video animations that are, among other things, a metaphors for an origin myth. O’Dell’s videos begin with still images of natural elements such as plant stems and peapods, which are then scanned and spliced together into hybrids. The result is a fantasy world that is both natural and synthetic.
Christie Frields and Andy Alexander are each represented by works that are grounded in current social/political/cultural realities but articulate a unique sense of the future. The title of Christie Frields sculpture, “Some days I speculate, Other days I just accumulate,” offers a set of dichotomous inferences – natural phenomenon vs. synthetic enhancement, consumerism vs. freedom, power vs. impotence – all composed into a complex work that yields to an uncertain optimism. Andy Alexander’s fantastical works on paper are colorful renderings of rollercoasters reconfigured into elaborate machines or utopian systems that are as likely to hearken from the past as to spring from the imaginative future. A kind of mapping of the artist’s psychological terrain, this work – psychedelic, hand drawn and almost doodle-like – looks like a technological hybrid borne of the fantasy-fulfilling landscape of technology. An autobiographical streak ran through this exhibition.
Alexander Morrison’s series of 33 line drawings, for example, is descriptively entitled Every house I have ever lived in drawn from memory. Falling somewhere between fact and fiction, the drawings are as much renderings of domestic space as ambiguous markers of time and place. Like Morrison, David Miller turns to autobiography to give his photographs a universal draw that radiates from a personal center. Here, the artist’s photograms appear to be visually compelling images of night skies bursting with constellations of star clusters, but each is in fact a photographic portrait, rendered with the wrenching material of cremated ash of a deceased acquaintance. These images, then, combine a person’s being with ethereal notions of the universe, resulting in a gestural and lyrical form of portraiture. In one of his two animated motion picture contributions to this exhibition, Dane Picard has morphed a series of photographs of himself from childhood to the present into an eerie, mutable self-portrait. Susan Choi uses her body as an agency for fantasies of desires and self-transformation. Choi’s photographs offer stereotypically soft-porn representations of the female Asian body as a construction for sexual consumption. The tension in her work exists in her awareness that what she is representing – images of herself as the personification of this construction – is not who she actually but who, despite herself, she wants to become.
The narrative event was represented in work by Greg Kucera, Patrick Lakey, and Kim Schoenstadt. Greg Kucera’s three-channel video opened with a quiet observation of an urban street scene that is suddenly swept into an unlikely event facilitated by a superhero, of sorts, who turns everything, literally, upside down. A series of quiet, moments are found in each of Patrick Lakey’s photographs that are presented together in the series Fragments from an unlikely narrative. Through association, an event is suggested by using familiar elements to portray excerpts of an unfolding story that resists completion. Kim Schoenstadt’s Car Crash drawings are executed with fine linear forms that complete the figurative “event” – story of the car crash – but often transform or allude to other imagery at the same time. A duality somewhere between the real and the fantastic is created; the hard reality of what is depicted is teased into comedic or cartoon-like representation.
Special thanks to Cindy Bernard, Jessica Bronson, Connie Butler, Sebastian Clough, Ann Faison, Mary Goldman, Jane Hart, Mitchell Kane, Daniel Marlos, Diana Murphy, Kim Schoenstadt, David Shafer, Mindy Shapero, Lynn Sharpless, Mungo Thompson, SarahWatson, and Jonathan White.