Tony Oursler: Unidentified Alien Art

Tony Oursler. Unidentified. Redling Fine Art. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker.

Tony Oursler: Unidentified Alien Art

By Genie Davis

Through April 1st


Running through April 1st at Redling Fine Art, Tony Oursler’s Unidentified is a witty and disconcerting take on American UFO culture, from it’s rather benign beginnings to its darker, abduction mythology. Whatever mysterious alien is hovering inside installation and multimedia artist Oursler’s visual skyline, his fascinating combination of still images, audio, and video create a surreal and yet immediately accessible world.

The artist has worked with painting, single-channel video, and a variety of installation techniques – here he has created a fusion of media and painting that creates a decisive psychic wallop. Is what we are seeing an illusion, an alien abductee’s memories, a two-way mirror glimpse into another planet? Oursler’s video style is assertive and revelatory in all three of his projects at Redling, “My Saturnian Lover(s),” “Subz”& “Screens.”

With “Screens,” Oursler bases his animated works on drawings made by hypnotized abductees, presenting isolated body parts in constant motion.Created of wood and resin, Oursler’s aliens turn the gallery space into a sci-fi fantasy with the assistance of video footage that creates movement in the figures. This is an exhibition that is whimsical, fun, and yet unnerving.

Take “Emerald, (Hypnotics)” a vibrantly green, lizard-like creature whose video eye, mouth and hand shift. He stares, he speaks, in this case whispering “I’m trying to go to work.” The LED flat screen video is so much a part of the brightly colored wood panels that this alien feels as if it is truly alive, it’s movement, it’s being, somehow trapped in our dimension or perhaps just temporarily visible in it.

In “Gold (Hypnotics),” we have one video infused “alive” eye in a golden, female, cat-like – especially the ears – face. There is something well-meaning yet phony about the face, as that one long-lashed eye catches the viewer in its seductive blink, those blue-circled lips move. A line that looks liquid moves from blue to green with a blood-like drop exposed within it at the base of one feline-like ear. It reminds the viewer of a pulse or a thermometer, revealing temperature or “aliveness.”

The collection uses footage from individuals who’ve said they were abducted, the recordings made while they were under hypnosis. It may be the voices, somewhat flat, quiet, eerie, that infuses the entire exhibition with a kind of shivery real life, an edgy, distantly remembered truth.

Oursler’s projection of video engages while at the same time it alienates, recreating encounters and creating beings that are beyond true understanding. At times, the overall effect is campy, like a movie about aliens invading the earth that in spite of any innate skepticism somehow makes a viewer want to close the shades and lock the door against potential marauders.

“My Saturnian Lover(s)” is a narrative video work viewed through a cut out, distancing the viewer from the footage. The installation is set in the late 1940s, and based upon real UFO enthusiasts who produced the first blurry UFO photography of glowing white discs suspended in the sky. The belief at this time was that aliens came in benevolence with superior, utopian ideals.

The alien forms in “Subz” are a-glow with projected lights and images of buildings. This installation too is based on abductee information, and features earthbound video shot in LA combined with animated images. There are four human figures here, appearing and disappearing visually. Yes, this work could be seen as riven with dark, almost apocalyptic warnings, but there is a lightness to Oursler’s style that gently, even seductively, hides these darker layers. The visual construction belies the very thing it presents: we could be threatened, but we won’t be, even if we should be, the artist seems to assert.

View Oursler’s strange and riveting space creatures at Redling Fine Art, located at 6757 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles.

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