WALLS: The Quest for Immersive Space at Produce Haus
Written by Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Arriving at 5:00pm on the night of the opening at Produce Haus, one could see the sun just starting to stretch westward. The unassuming property includes a parking lot strewn with newspaper and leftovers from an hours earlier produce market. A contrast to the expectation that anyone attending the opening would have: GOLD. There was quite a bit of promotion in anticipation of the exhibition- which also acts as the grand opening for this collaborative studio space by Zadik Zadikian. Seeing those teaser articles and the richly colored photos was all it took to get people in the door.
What is it about gold that holds such attraction? Gold currently holds some contentious references: flashy decadence and tacky displays of wealth, the current palette of the oval office, an investment to maintain a diverse portfolio, an antiquated currency, and of course the biblical golden calf. Historically however, gold was sacred and celebratory. A manifestation of the sun on earth, or rather a manifestation of the sun-as-god here on earth. It represented the warmth, the life, and the day. Copper led humans to working with metal, but gold inspired the innovation and technological development. Its malleability, perfected alloys, superb electrical conduction properties all denote its value to humanity.
The exhibition is entitled WALLS: The Quest For Immersive Space. In this quest Zadikian found a few partners, addressing the entire space, starting with the entrance and stairwell and continued through the “gallery.” A trail of the fragile gold leaf even carried into the bathroom.
On the climb up the stairs there are too many things to look at, making for a hazardous and slow ascension. The gold staircase is coated in resin, so slick and glossy it looks just poured. That late afternoon sun plays its part casting lovely highlight on Yvette Gellis’ paintings, adding yet another layer to her architectural collage on canvas.
The windows are open and a breeze pushes you up the stairs further and catches the loose gold leaf edges that are sticking out from the wall. The sound is lovely, a soft metallic din, like the leaves of crisp autumn trees. As the leaf moves it also catches the light: a kinetic texture that serves as a background for Gary Brewers two deep blue canvases. The gold brings about the lushness of those eternal blue depths: velvety and complex.
A wooden platform houses a series of sculptures acting almost as creatures, conversing with each other. They are all rounded and made of rounded building blocks, compiled in different combinations and scales to create the figure. Gold leafed and shiny, looking up close the view will begin to notice the arrangements of these forms resemble genitalia, the curves become arched spines. The fluidity these sculptures present create their interactions, all the while the viewer, now voyeur, can be seen reflecting in their surfaces. Pairs of cotton gloves are offered to examine further.
A crowd favorite is a black wall covered with golden objects. The reference is celestial, with a lovely blue reflected into the sheen of the black paint. These floating gold stars transition into faces as you digest the forms. Behind this wall is a mound of drippy oozing gold. The texture pours out onto the floor, the paint splashes onto the surrounding surfaces and swallows the viewer hole in the tight space. Opposite this mound are too geologic paintings nestled in between installations of glittery embroidered fabric, metallic objects, paint, and flowers.
Shine and flash are everywhere, not just in gold but in mirrors, plastic, and glossy paint. Yes, reflecting artwork, but also reflecting the viewer. It becomes a stage to see and be seen, as viewers are confronted with their participation in the event. Seeing themselves in the artwork and with the artwork makes for a truly immersive experience.
One of the most successful things about this show is the exquisite presentation, very subtle in its execution to maximize the play between all the artworks housed in this exhibition. Canvases hung next to a mural are transitioned to seamlessly by the brush strokes of the canvas continuing onto the white wall behind it. The repetition of blue and gold either through reflection or palette is everywhere. The warm wooden rafters continue the visual effect of the floor and walls, matching the metal’s yellow. The spacious layout of the two rooms allows one to digest the metallic intensity (and the details of the artwork), revel in the warmth, without feeling like they are walking through a gimmick.
WALLS: A Quest for Immersive Space
Rouzanna Berberian, Clayton Campbell, Corey Burns, Gary Brewer, Yvette Gellis, Kaloust Guedel, KuBO, Andy Moses, Gary Paller, Marjan Vayghan, and Zadik Zadikian