Finding Escapism and Inspiration in Immersive Art Exhibitions

Doug Aitken: Electric Earth Installation View. Through January 15, 2017 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Joshua White

Doug Aitken: Electric Earth Installation View. Through January 15, 2017 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Joshua White

Finding Escapism and Inspiration in Immersive Art Exhibitions

By Christine Rasmussen

 

I go to the movies.

So says Tom Wingfield, one of the characters in Tennessee Williams’ 1944 play The Glass Menagerie. Set in the Great Depression, each of Williams’ characters tries to escape his/her destitute life through living in the past, retreating to childlike fantasies, or, in Tom’s case, spending every night in the darkness of the theater because “People go to the movies instead of moving!”

Fast forward to post-election 2016: while some people talk about moving to Canada and others take to the streets and social media channels, many with post-election blues flock to the movies for the promised escape (despite the fact that movies no longer cost a nickel). What if you could gain both a respite from the turmoil and show solidarity for the rights that many Angelenos fear losing over the next four years? The following immersive art exhibits provide both escapism and inspiration.

 

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: AT HOME WITH MONSTERS
At LACMA through November 27, 2016

“To me, art and storytelling serve primal, spiritual functions in my daily life,” director Guillermo Del Toro said in a 2011 interview with Time magazine. A master of fable, fantasy and horror, Del Toro sometimes uses these genres to address politics indirectly. While in self-imposed exile from his native Mexico (due to the kidnapping, and later release, of his father in 1998), he is an example of that increasingly elusive American Dream and freedoms that many fear losing under the next administration. The show displays Del Toro’s private collection of inspirations, from paintings to artifacts to short films, plus costumes and props from his movies, in a recreation of his “man cave” – actually a whole house dedicated to his things – rain room, red walls and spooky sound effects included.

Guillermo del Toro's Bleak House. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo © Josh White/ JWPictures.com

Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo © Josh White/ JWPictures.com

SANER: “IN A DREAM (EN UN SUEÑO)” + NEXUS GROUP SHOW
At The Brand Library and Art Center through January 7, 2017 (closed November 24-27) | Free Admission

These two shows, curated by Thinkspace Gallery in conjunction with the Brand Art Center, turn the white-walled gallery into a socially-conscious, and sometimes dark, play space with connecting rooms, large-scale murals and even a playhouse in the courtyard. Edgar Flores, a.k.a. SANER, makes work to “reinterpret and navigate the conflicts and politics of the modern world” through human figures dressed in animal masks, while the group show Nexus features work by the New Contemporary Art Movement, described as being “grounded by social rather than academic interests” in the gallery write-up.

DOUG AITKEN: ELECTRIC EARTH
At The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through January 15, 2017

One could spend hours in the microcosm Doug Aitken has created, which MOCA describes as addressing the “cool but relentless human, industrial, urban, and environmental entropy that defines 21st-century existence.” The cyclical nature of the show, from looping videos and sound reels to the circular installation in the main gallery space forces one to wrestle with the idea of “What goes around comes around” – is this encouraging or depressing given recent events? The video of wild animals trapped in a motel room, projected simultaneously on three screens, is a commentary on man’s interference with nature and takes on even greater environmental significance given the uncertain future of the EPA.

It will be fascinating to see what artists do in the coming months and years, in reaction to the happenings across the country.

Installation view of Doug Aitken: Electric Earth, September 10, 2016–January 15, 2017 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Joshua White

Installation view of Doug Aitken: Electric Earth, September 10, 2016–January 15, 2017 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Joshua White

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