“SELF RELIANCE 2017” at NowSpace

Install shot, SELF RELIANCE 2017, curated by Don Edler. Photo credit to Joshua Schaedel.

“SELF RELIANCE 2017” at NowSpace

By Sydney Walters

Through October 1st


While pondering what to create, many artists consider not only what he or she wants to create, but what they know will sell. After all, artists need to make a living somehow. It is this tension between desire, practicality, value and waste that inspired curator Don Edler to showcase eight multimedia artists at NowSpace.

“There’s a trend I noticed of artists taking it upon themselves to make sure that they can make art,” says Edler. “Until, and if you make it to the point where you are selling art for a livable income, most people are working some sort of day job. But a lot of these artists have found a way to supplement their income with these artist made objects. Because of scale or context or presentation, this artist made object sells for fifty to one hundred dollars and another is considered a different sort of art object that sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Loop,” the first piece encountered in SELF RELIANCE 2017, illustrates an example of artist dictated value in their work. For Matt Siegle, “Loop” began as a 2011 project to transform thrift store t-shirts into free give-aways at a concert. However, after no one took a t-shirt, Siegle decided to keep these shirts as a collection. What was once a free gesture is now unavailable to purchase. This is the only thing in the entire show that is not for sale.

On the wall, Nick McPhail’s deconstructionist paintings strip the sleekness of modernity to expose the bare bones of the Los Angeles modern obsession. The dream of owning a modern home dissipates into a series of pastel shapes, thus stripping this dream of its shiny façade.

Sculptor John Zane Zappas creates extremely abstracted yet functional pieces. A chunky, twisted chair with primitive carvings accompanies his “John Pots,” thickset vessels for homegrown cactuses and succulents.

On the floor are the remnants from Daniel T. Gaitor Lomak’s hour-long performance during the show’s opening. A white tank top, black du rag, jump rope, twenty pound dumbbells, dice and dollar bills were tools he used as he bet against himself in a dice game while subsequently destroying one of his sculptures. After every loss, he commenced in self-flagellation methods of choking himself and vigorously working out between bets before starting again.

Having grown up in Siberia, Lena Wolek’s work takes what Angelinos consider run-of-the-mill and inverts them into the bizarre. Her depiction of a Los Angeles woman for example is sculpted in the shape of a matryoshka doll shape, or Russian nesting doll. The curvy contours flatten a woman’s hands to her chest as she clutches her tiny Chihuahua while wearing oversized sunglasses. Alice Lang, another sculptor in the show who makes sculptures of naked male and female bodies, presents her pieces in a tone akin to Wolek. Absencent of self-consciousness, the sculptures read as purposeful gestures toward humor and embracing the uncouth.

The second room of the gallery is a bombardment of innovative new media. Lomak has two more sculptures he calls “guardians.” These iconic sculptures blend unique found objects, such as an “I love Jesus” silk banner, with household items, such as a mop thereby encroaching the sacred with the irreverent. On the opposite wall, performance artist Molly Jo Shea creates several porcelain Shewees (female urination devices) and has an accompanying video performance of her urinating into a tower of champagne glasses. Near the middle of the room, three of Lindsay Preston Zappas’ fabric wall pieces were removed by performers during the opening and worn as costumes.

In coordinating his show about consumerism, Don Edler addresses it on two critical fronts. One is an analysis of the nonsensical methods of price points in the art world  versus art objects. The other is a broader question into the futility of the nature of consumerism. Edler writes a supplementary essay for the show that glimpses into the darker matter that pushes SELF RELIANCE 2017. He alludes to a Bug-out bag, or BOB, that is both a psychological and material compilation of what it means to seek security. The BOB can therefore be analyzed as a psychological revelation of projected fear and anxiety. In other words, whatever one packs in his or her BOB, they are preparing for an individualized fear. He writes, “born from a culture increasingly defined by Hollywood’s dystopian futures…the BOB proposes a kind of 21st century self-reliance in which the consumer buys their way through the coming apocalypse. A customized self-portrait made of stuff we bought online and meant to enable us to survive in a the world after capitalism, it is a contemporary paradox.”

What role does art play in the BOB? In an apocalyptic situation a painting will not save your life. While Edler does not try to answer these questions, he thoughtfully poses them as a means to enter conversations of not only capitalism but also promoting hopeful sustainability.

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