Conduction at Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA)

Alise Spinella. Conduction. Photo Courtesy of FOCA.



By Lorraine Heitzman

Through October 27th


The Fellows of Contemporary Art (widely known as FOCA) operates out of an unassuming office space in Chinatown, accessed through a quiet courtyard and tucked into a second floor storefront. Like the spy headquarters concealed behind a tailor shop in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the pedestrian location belies the organization’s true function and ambitious programming. FOCA, a non-profit, independent organization has been supporting California artists and nurturing curators through fellowships, exhibitions, grants and publications since 1975.

Lynne Berman, an artist as well as a curator, is a recent recipient of the FOCA Curator Lab award and has organized the current exhibit, Conduction. The show features eight artists for whom performance is an integral part of their art practice. Berman has showcased both their two and three-dimensional art as well as their performances, and although the series of performances has already concluded the tangible counterparts (sculptures, photographs, installations, drawings, paintings and video) remain on view through October 27th.

The material components of Conduction are really self-sufficient works, effective on their own merits, and none more so than Liz Young’s compelling installation, Freed Of The Tie Between Root And Soil.  Young, a 2016 Guggenheim fellow, has long been making work exploring the cycles of life through taxidermy, handicrafts, drawings and other media.  She is fascinated, and indeed identifies, with the fragility of life and expresses the complexities and pathos of human experience through plants and animals. Her work is imbued with mystery and her passion for the American West.  Born in North Dakota, Young grew up in Colorado and spent time in Wyoming, solidifying her connection, not only to the western landscape, but also to the ideals and harsh realities of the West as a concept depicted in art and literature.

In Freed Of The Tie Between Root and Soil, Young has created an environment that evokes the best and worst of her beloved landscape. A large photo of clouds suggests the big skies seen from the western plains and a cutout silhouette of a dead or dormant tree on the adjacent wall references the land. The exterior window is effectively blocked by the tree but allows the outdoors to come and go according to the time of day and alternates between a positive and negative image.  From the base of the tree trunk, felted roots emanate outward on the floor, like blood stained capillaries leading the eye to a life-sized fallen, sculptural, stag.  In this installation, Young has brought together two and three dimensional, positive and negative images to evoke an interior landscape. With the performance of readings from the canon of literature that address the same concerns, (Walt Whitman, Annie Proulx, Sam Shepard and others) she has carefully created a tableau that is specific to a place but resides within each of us.

Julie Shafer has also devoted work to ideas of place, in this instance the bayous in Louisiana.  Shafer traveled to Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States and observed the degraded ecosystems in the Atchafalaya Oil Channel. In her series of photos entitled Wait ‘til You See the Devil’s Punchbowl, Shafer examined and transformed the flotsam and jetsam from the oil industry into beautiful abstractions distinct from the havoc they created. Using light sensitive paper placed onto the surfaces of the contaminated waters, Shafer subtly records the trespasses. It is the combination of these images with readings of her experiences in the bayous that expose the ugliness behind the cryptic, ethereal photographs for a more complete truth.

In the center of the gallery, Phyllis Green’s Veil, stands like an exotic sentinel. In fact it is a costume draped over an armature on wheels, allowing a participant to don the elaborate veil while remaining mobile.  A Sanskrit Vedic text used in teaching Hindu spiritual knowledge inspired Veil.  Specifically it refers to the advice to approach one’s guru with wood on your head.  Green’s sculpture aids the individual who is seeking detachment and her performance, Detachment, demonstrates its use in a series of actions within the gallery.

Several artists in Conduction rely on interaction and drawing for their performances and art objects. Alise Spinella’s mixed media drawing on canvas, Mediation Drawing Day Two Nine Two (Shark Horse Rider) was made in a meditative response to sound.  Her performance Sonic Drawing: A Duet, in collaboration with sound artist Geneva Skeen illustrated her process on paper.  Deborah Aschheim’s Remembering buildings is a sampler of drawings made from her interviews with people when asked to recall memories of significant places.  Lynne Berman and poet Eve Luckring have performed Delta Lamenta, in which they collaborate with the public in an exchange of complaints for written and drawn responses within a stage set piece.  In addition, Berman has solicited complaints in public spaces internationally and her work, International Complaint Center, fuses these responses into a single composition displayed beside the collection boxes.

Lastly, Rachelle Rojany’s peri-, is a wall installation of multiple plaster panels, with faint indications of footprints.  Peri, from Persian mythology are sprites and perhaps it is the mystical presence of unseen forces that intrigues the artist. They are mounted in a grid on the wall but Rojany’s performance places two panels on the gallery floor and advances them each time someone visits the space.

Lynne Berman has brought together a varied group of artists under an intriguing premise. And although that premise is built around the theme of performance, if you only see the works in the gallery, you will not be disappointed. The works may be inextricably linked to the performance, either as inspiration or as the result, but the artworks for the most part succeed alone and have plenty to offer.

Rachelle Rojany. Conduction. FOCA. Photo Credit Lorraine Heitzman.
Conduction, Lynne Berman, curator
Artists: Deborah Aschheim, Lynne Berman, Delta Lamenta, Phyllis Green, Rachelle Rojany, Julie Shafer, Alise Spinella, Liz Young


FOCA 970 North Broadway, Suite 208, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Conduction remains open through October 27, 2017


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