Aili Schmeltz & Jason Manley: Fixed/Flux
Through July 29th
By Lawrence Gipe
The well-proportioned Jaus Gallery is an apt chamber for the works of Aili Schmeltz & Jason Manley. The room has an urban, well-lit character, with an ambiance suitable for two artists that constructively obsess on spatiality. Engaging here with “architectural forms as mutable subjects”, they instigate a dialogue about space and spaces, both formal and textual.
Schmeltz and Manley utilize casting in their 3D practice, although Schmeltz’s take is more non-narrative. Her concrete “Cast Print” series travels in the trajectory started by Bruce Nauman’s 1965 castings of the “air” beneath a chair, through Rachel Whiteread’s interior “ghosts” and Trafalgar Square plinths of the early-2000’s (one critic refers to latter “as a sculpture that both wants to both declare itself, and to disappear,” which feels right in the case of Schmeltz as well.) While Whiteread managed to politicize her use of negative space, as in her library-in-reverse Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, Schmeltz stays well within the canonical lines of modernist formalism, teasing out the liminal voids between forms.
In the largest of her “Cast Print” sculptures, she fabricates a cage of empty steel cubes, a skeletal block that could imply construction, or ruins. Five concrete castings, that reference building details, rest on, or are enmeshed, in this matrix. The result brings to mind Michael Fried’s notion of “literalist art” (his name for conceptual art –which didn’t stick) as a form that “defines or locates the position it aspires to occupy”. This ambiguity is reinforced by her works on paper, a series called “Object/Window/Both/Neither”; these delicate, but quite large graphite renderings of shallow perspectival space communicate Schmeltz’s interest in the folding and unfolding of objecthood in and out of space, as well as a reminder of her Joshua Tree-adjacent home and project room (Outpost Projects). As she writes in her statement, the drawings generate multiple readings “recalling minimalist systems and recording subtle transitions of light to dark, as with the dramatic twilights of the desert sky.” (Viewers interested in seeing examples of this series in a vastly different context should visit “Vernacular Environments Pt. 2”, concurrently at Edward Cella Gallery closing July 14.)
Jason Manley uses text as a literal constructer and de-constructer: text creates, self-describes and gnaws into the (often) commonplace object it inhabits. The role of words in his sculptures serves political, poetic, and even autobiographic, aims. The most political manifestation is concurrently down at the Torrance Art Museum, a monumental sculpture outdoors on the patio called “Shrinking Room”. Shaped like a huge pie slice, the shape refers to fact that “80% of Americans share only 7% of the total financial wealth in the U.S.” Manley translated the 7% slice into large physical form, one that can be experienced from the interior and exterior. The worn, wooden palettes that make up the piece’s converging walls are inscribed with 25 quotes by activists and philosophers asserting “opposition to greed, class inequality and oligarchical societies.” The work at Jaus is more introspective; the two central pieces, “Snowman, Letter to Robert” (2106) and “Bedroom” (2018), explore an interesting triad of memory, poetics and raw materials. “Bedroom” is a full-sized door carved out of alder with CNC technology (Computer Numerical Control, a technology often used to laser cut mouldings). It appears to be disintegrating, riddled with phrases of remembrances of riding out a tornedo as a child. The idea of door as barrier for privacy and protection is mined effectively, and it’s rich metaphoric power makes it Manley’s most successful work.
11851 La Grange Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90025
Open Saturdays, noon to 4pm and by appointment.