Durden and Ray: Slippery Stories From Australia to Los Angeles
By Genie Davis
Closing November 19th, Slippery Stories, now at Durden and Ray is a stimulating, scary – in a good way – and mysterious exhibition, in which riveting art work is the conduit rather than the end point for stories hard to define. Like fireflies flickering in the night, it’s difficult to capture them and put them in a jar; difficult to catch a glimpse of illumination in the first place.
Curated by Michael Vale and Tom Dunn, the first aspect of this show for viewers to grasp is the idea that both Los Angeles-based and Melbourne-based artists are participants or perhaps co-conspirators, if you will.
Artists exhibiting include Vale and Dunn, Roni Feldman, Linsey Gosper, Nicolas Ives, Emily Counts, Donna Mcrae, and Esmeralda Montes.
Thematically, the show is a coupling of shared experience, language, and desire. As the exhibition description reads, “Through slippery stories and obscure ideas the dreams of the city become a mirror for the dream worlds of all, both publicly and less so. While the dream factory of Hollywood has both shaped and appropriated our fantasies, the underbelly of shadows and ghostly, drunken poetry has been no less influential.”
Illusion and recognition, the elliptical and the defined, that is the stuff of this exhibition.
According to Vale, “The basic idea is how much four artists from Melbourne and four from Los Angeles have in common. The title of the exhibition is related to the narratives that have influenced the world we’ve grown up in, those stories that feel connected to these popular narratives.” Vale, from Melbourne, is working with the idea of moments collaged and overlapping. His work has an edgy surrealism, and is infused with elements of science fiction and a little bit of Halloween thrown in.
Co-curator Dunn, based in Los Angeles, has created a performance art work that is captured in amber, at least metaphorically. His work here includes a video that was “based on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the character Lucy, who was obsessively painting Barbara Streisand.” An admirer of Hunter S. Thompson, Dunn went to Las Vegas himself, and over a period of ten days, while under the influence of a variety of drugs, he recreated the act in the book. “I painted 228 Streisand paintings over ten days, all watercolor based,” he explains. Along with the video, a sampling of these Streisand portraits – some impressionistic, some abstract, some surreal – are displayed.
Donna McRae is also working with projected images with a 16 mm film. Here, scratchy filmed images of two girls, reminiscent of the incredibly unnerving girl ghosts in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, stand side by side beneath a tree. Blonde haired and dressed identically in glittery, rosy attire as if they were ready for a child’s beauty pageant, the girls are seemingly trapped in a mysterious wood. “My grandmother used to get her two daughters to dress up like that, identically,” McRae notes. “I took that idea and I added in some Hollywood ghosts, The Shining, and a little Diane Arbus.” The feature filmmaker and documentarian has created a work here that loops through the mind of the viewer, conjuring beginnings and endings never to be seen.
Emeralda Montes’ work is equally haunting, featuring odd figures living within shadowy landscapes. Working in both oil and acrylic, she creates layered, nuanced work. An Angelino, Montes blends modernist style with the bright colors of television animation. The brightness is deceptive, the end result something that makes the viewer feel as uneasy as he or she is enthralled.
The photographic art of Melbourne’s Linsey Gosper beckons viewers into a kind of peep show, one which presents subjects who are quite aware of the camera, regardless of intimate circumstances. As if in stills taken from reality-TV, they are inviting viewers to look inside their world. All the same, the invitation remains cryptic, the meaning just out of reach.
Look carefully to view the meaning in Roni Feldman’s at-first-glance solidly black, opaque painting “Flash.” Look again, and the painting, takes on a whole different meaning. Now you see them, now you don’t: paparazzi are poised to take your picture. The painting is created of acrylic and varnish on black gesso, and one must peer carefully to see the carefully drawn images of cameras and faces, floating as if beneath a layer of inky tar. “My last show of this type of work was in 2014. I’ve always dealt with both light and iridescence in my work. I work often with black light and white on white work.” Here, the deep black invites viewers to slip into a strange and seductive night.
Melbourne-based Nicholas Ives also seduces viewers, as he toys with whimsy and psychedelia, with the ravings of a mind just slightly unhinged. If Ives presents a kind of manic and associative – or dissociative – fantasy world, Los Angeles artist Emily Counts makes logical constructs out of an unnerving past or future. She creates sculptural wall pieces as emblematic totems, objects with unknown language on them. Decipher the language, decipher the object, and decipher where you are and what the work represents. Counts time travels, but whether backwards or forwards, the viewer cannot tell.
Likewise, Slippery Stories itself takes viewers on a ride through the unknown, through space and time, through a virtual reality created in the mind of these artists, across continents and spread across the reaches of the globe, arriving at the same place: where reality and illusion meet.
Viewers can decide what is real and what is not at 1950 S. Sante Fe, unit # 207, through this weekend.