Plastic Religion at La Luz De Jesus
By Sara Fortson
La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Feliz has brought the Los Angeles some of the best pop surrealist exhibitions. In December, “Plastic Religion” by Argentine artists Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini opened and did not disappoint those who are familiar with the lowbrow art style that La Luz de Jesus typically showcases. Joining Barbie and religion, which are quite possibly the best representations of “pop” and “surrealism,” Pool and Marianela have captured two things that have been equally commoditized and exploited. The exhibition features numerous sculptures of Barbie and her beau Ken as religious deities, which include Barbie as Baphomet, Santa Veronica, and La Virgen de Guadelupe and Ken as Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus. The exhibition also features new works including thirteen gold leaf paintings, twelve altarpieces, and a nativity scene.
Any woman who grew up in America since Barbie’s release in 1959 has probably purchased or been given a Barbie at some point. The ubiquitous plastic sexpot for children has been part of American lives for decades. Little girls (and boys) from every demographic looked up to her as a role model, and despite her many career choices (she’s been an astronaut, President, and several doctors) has been a rather one-dimensional example for young girls. Regardless, children for over half a century have worshiped at the altar of Barbie, which makes “Plastic Religion” perfect in its depiction of Barbie and her on again, off again significant other, Ken, (the couple “broke up” in 2004 and “got back together” in 2011) as deities.
Controversial and poignant, “Plastic Religion” is as much a social and political commentary as it is an installation. The sculptures are sold individually (and sometimes as a set) but seen together, they make their full impact. Barbie as Madonna maintains her wide, toothy smile and seeing that many portrayals of the Virgin grinning in a white room is eerie and titillating all at once. It is both delighting and unnerving.
Aside from the rapture that the 33 figures of Barbie and Ken provide, the space itself can be a bit distracting. La Luz De Jesus is widely known to be quirky and unique, and is connected to the Wacko Soap Plant, which sells pop culture ephemera and odd gifts. The space, which houses the exhibition, is set up like any other gallery, with white walls and pedestals, but the shop inventory seems to spill into the space taking up the center. While “Plastic Religion” steals attention, it can be tough to take it all in with the center path blocked.
“Plastic Religion” is a perfect commentary on the commodification of religion and the holy aura of Mattel’s Barbie.
La Luz de Jesus will display “Plastic Religion” until Dec. 31st.
La Luz de Jesus is located at 4633 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027.
Inquiries can be sent to Matt Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.