HILDE L.A., Mid-City
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Through July 15th
The centerpiece of the eerie, witty, sculptural installation HYDROGENESIS is a large mixed media situation of the same name, a pagan-industrial confection made from a 1970 El Camino, sand, a cresting bronze heron, palm fronds, seaweed, cement, wood, wax candle, sea urchin, and salt. Its rusted, truncated, marine-marinated body is draped like a Greek goddess, an undertow Ophelia, in a mane of dried kelps. The majestic bird rises up from the car’s slanted roof as if in the moment before taking flight, an undead Brancusi. The doors and windows gone, the frame’s interior is revealed, a trough of atrophied upholstery covered in a sandy altar that is intimate, almost romantic. It smells a little.
Hydrogenesis sets the surreal tone of future archeology for the procession of about a dozen smaller-scale but similarly wrought objects discreetly arrayed throughout the space’s two floors. Each is made with exceptionally fine, detailed, utterly convincing craftsmanship, from a base of extreme upcycling — which to say dredged, salvaged, reclaimed primary materials — along with certain elements of industry, culture, and technology. Ohlsson/Dit-Cilinn consists of Swedish duo David Ohlsson (b.1985) and Dit-Cilinn (b.1983). They’ve been working collaboratively since 2007. Their unique treatments elevate the found objects to the status almost of the holy relic, while at crucial points acknowledging the entire gesture as a kind of mythological absurdity.
“The exhibition tells the story of oceanic heavy metal as spiritual practice,” reads the press release. And so it does. Another large work, displayed in congress with the car, is Tritonus. It looks exactly like a mirrored dressing room screen, pointed and hinged; from the back it’s crusted with nasty sand. In fact it’s made of high-polished stainless steel not of glass. It’s got a bunch of seaweed tossed on it like a robe, but behind the screen one finds only this: a cement cast of the three-headed sea anemone whose tendrils are dildos. It’s private and sweet and a little too big, and it gives the viewer permission to laugh, to take some of the pressure off being reverential. It has a friend upstairs in the exquisitely labial composition of Embalmer, a leathery marquetry of cinnamon, clay, wood, and dried cantaloupe peels.
C K. is a petite but incredibly intricate and evocative, emotionally poignant assemblage that is also one of the funniest. A skeletal, fuzzy crab perches with top-model poise atop a lumpy stone, displayed like a priceless antiquity or an expensive piece of modern jewelry. It’s adorable but also claps back at the fetishization of the natural environment by the very people whose luxury lifestyles are most contributory to its demise. Nearby is Tank, a rusted gas cannister, with a refined shabby chic panache and a flourish of shiny aluminum beads rising like air bubbles. One of the most old-timey and sophisticated works in the show, it is also the most straightforward in its narration.
A small tableaux like something out of Norse set dressing, Summoning of the Muse includes a marble slab, a metallic botanical, and a wearable hash pipe ring. Speaking of which, the entire gallery will be transformed into a candle-lit incense-infused altered-states contemplation environment on the evening of Friday, July 14. HYDROGENESIS: Submersion will feature a soundscape specifically produced by Ohlsson/Dit-Cilinn for this occasion, and the gallery is hoping for a conceptual mind-trip alone-in-a-crowd sort of experience. The truth is the show is already most of the way there, under the spell of these exotic avatars of old and recent ruin.