BLAM Says Goodbye to its Physical Space With a Look at a Dystopian Future
By Genie Davis
BLAM gallery closed its brick and mortar doors this month in favor of future pop-ups. The doors weren’t shut quietly though, the last show closed the space with a visual bang. BLAM’s FUtopia exhibition, which itself just closed, offered viewers an unsurprisingly exciting experience. Unsurprising, because that’s what BLAM has done these many months, excite viewers with a new way of looking at the world.
Curators Alison Woods and Kio Griffith lived up their curatorial statement “How do we know when a new world paradigm is in the works. What marks the transition, and how do we know when it is time to fight or to take flight? With the recent election of Donald Trump, Brexit, mass immigration of Syrian refugees, and impending climate change the world seems to be on the brink of sudden and transformative change…What is possible within this context? We have posed this question to the artists participating in this exhibition. The offspring is FUtopia, a crude hybridization of possible futures, both utopic and dystopian.”
Artists Gul Cagin, Helen Chung, Eben Goff, Pete Hickok, Bryan Ida, Ma Li, Alanna Marcelletti, Alex Schaefer, and Lena Wolek each created sculptural works and paintings that offer a fresh look at what the future may hold.
Ma Li’s astonishing “Thousand Dreams Canopy” is a hanging fabric scrap, wood, and wire work that resembles a bridal dress for a giant, a nest of wondrous white birds about to take flight. This is a utopian vision, a section of a more extensive piece, “Thousand Dreams Pavilion,” that the Berlin-based artist created. Ethereal, gauzy, this is a centerpiece for the exhibition at BLAM.
Bryan Ida’s “Wilshire” and its companion pieces, “Victory Blvd.” and“Westwood,” all acrylic and epoxy on panel, evoke a tribal feeling in their vivid geometric patterns. These remind the viewer of shields defending and protecting against a future unknown, or perhaps claiming a particular piece of Los Angeles real estate.
Lena Wolek’s earthenware luggage, five pieces in all, represent transition. Their poignant, battered look suggests a hard-won change.
More dystopian still are Helen Chung’s “RIP Rest in Peace,” a small cardboard coffin in the shape of a gun. Equally foreboding is Alex Schaefer’s oil on canvas “Bank of America Burning,” although this work posits that the loss of this somewhat insidious institution might not be an entirely bad thing. Written within the flames are words that describe its banking practices, “crime, predatory lending, fraud, bid rigging, bribery” and more. Eben Goff’s mixed media “Flood Cube” is a sculpture composed of detritus – is this what will be afloat after a literal or figurative deluge? The rich textural quality of the work lends itself to contemplation of the trash strewn upon it – is this what our existence offers? Is this what will survive? Alanna Marcelletti’s “Jacob’s Ladder” is a mixed media piece whose wood and cardboard indicate a battered climb. Again, the tilt of the utopian wheel seems to be spinning toward chaos. If this is the connection between earth and Heaven, as its title implies, then it is a tenuous one.
Gul Cagen’s beautiful “Metallic Dunes” is an installation work that is packed with visual punch. Silver and shimmering, we are looking at the contents of a homeless Tin Man’s abode perhaps, the headless tin man himself slumped on a stool, a hub cap, a branch, a computer screen and keyboard, dinnerware, a small table, shoes, and a vase of flowers – all silvered. The beautifully fragile scene is as if Midas had changed his oeuvre from gold to silver. Smack in the middle of the installation is Pete Hickok’s “Untitled (Fog Collection),” an aquarium equipped with fog machine, refrigerator, and ice, whose contents are just that, fog. Taken together, Cagen’s work and Hickock’s portend an unclear future – one that might just be as frozen in time as a silver-coated vase of flowers or as transient as fog itself.
BLAM and FUtopia – this is a fitting elegy.