Striking Surreality in Beverly Hills: Curtis Weaver at Garboushian Gallery
By Evan Senn
Through October 13th
The feet of small creatures scamper just inside the glass walls of the all-white gallery in Beverly Hills. While surrounded by money and beauty, the windows of the Garboushian Gallery act as a visual alarm clock, awakening Beverly Hills residents and visitors to the surprising truths and hypocrisies kept inside both the culture and the art on display.
Visually drawing you in, the playful wooden carcasses in the windows at first seem like a creative department store shoe display, but upon closer examination, the shining branches in pristine shoes become more grotesque and haunting as you look on. Walking in the doors of the tomb-like white space, the sculptures first resembling branches take on a new perspective in the minds of viewers, mimicking corpses and severed body parts, shining with horror and humor like a taxidermy lab, freshly used.
Flirting with science-fiction-macabre in his work for years, L.A.-based artist Curtis Weaver’s current body of work has a thematic use of materials and is not overly produced. In his previous work, Weaver had controlled and created every aspect of his art pieces, recreating realistic objects and body parts out of fine arts materials and incorporating surreal narratives into the grotesque and fascinating sci-fi inspired works. Working as Head Preparator at The Broad museum, it is no wonder that Weaver’s work has continued to build in intensity and conceptual clarity.
Although keeping the narrative surrealism thread in his current body of work, the art on display in his third solo exhibition, “Trees in Wolves’ Clothing,” transforms found object materials into the visual likeness of flesh-like, biological body parts; he alters the color, sheen and setting to reflect an unknown and falsified storyline in the work. Using meat hooks, chains, steel tables and other materials inherent in the meat, lumber, agriculture and mortuary industries, Weaver provokes the viewers to question the role of these materials in the role of his seemingly-severed-limb-artworks. While simultaneously creating narratives in their own minds, viewers are also confronted with their own role in the stories they are creating—are they bystanders in this death and disfigurement or are they participants? Who’s or what’s death is being spectacled in this work? What are the grotesque aspects in this work, and why are they “grotesque?”
Both alluring and repulsing, Weaver’s objects play tug-o-war with our perception and expectation while forcing us to consider the role of humanity in the world, and the role of the artist and audience as well.
Obviously impacted by the inequalities in our current cultural climate and within our own species, this work also calls to mind the inequalities in how we treat animals and our natural environment, our dying world. With the tumultuous tides of our country and world fluctuating and flexing its abusive muscles, the work in this show seem more relevant than ever before. Death and defamation have become commonplace in our lives, tragedy is not surprising anymore; but, as a culture we haven’t evolved our way of handling these issues to improve our world, we have only evolved the ways in which we can look past them.
Although the pristine shoes remind us of the overly capitalistic society that surrounds us in Southern California and implore empathy as we relate to the severed beings left behind in their shoes, the deeper symbolism in each of these works speaks to major issues in our world. The many narratives that can be derived all serve a purpose in making us more aware of our flaws as a society and as a species. Conceptually jarring for some, the relatability of using human accessories to decorate the tree parts that are acting as pieces of flesh is an important and poetic detail in this show. People can empathize with another human, but need a little help empathizing with anything else.
Weaver’s created world is a complex and provocative place, filled with creatures and forms that straddle scientific plausibility with creative imagination. Interested in the difference between biological adaptation and cognitive adaptation, Weaver is able to find and express whimsy, beauty and irony as he explores the visual representations of the the decaying, degrading and deforming world around us, and the life that is left in the wake.
“Trees in Wolves’ Clothing” is on display at Garboushian Gallery until October 13, 2017. 427 North Camden Dr., Beverly Hills. http://www.garboushian.com.