Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles
through August 31
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
Shulamit Nazarian’s summer show, Roommates is concerned with the many meanings of home, both the physical spaces we occupy and the emotional states housed within us. Chris Bogia, Woody De Othello, Rachel Granofsky and Michael Stamm explore these alternately humorous and dark aspects by re-creating utilitarian and idealized domestic objects and interiors. Though the theme of the show may not be immediately apparent, it reveals itself slowly and that makes getting acquainted with the imaginative Roommates rewarding and appealing.
Michael Stamm has four paintings on view, two knockout works made this year, and two paintings from a few years earlier that laid the foundation for his current preoccupations. Two paintings from 2015-2016 are relatively simple and offer disorienting views of his subjects. In Combing’s symmetrical composition, he uses a muted palette and gradated shading to convey an atmospheric mood reminiscent of Cassandre’s airbrushed posters from the nineteen thirties. It is primarily a tactile experience, while I Know Exactly…. is more cerebral, using words and a dissembled figure to highlight physical and mental disassociation. His newer works, Tincture # 14 (Gifts For My Elusive Host) and Tincture #16 (Ambivert) are more subtle, refined, surreal and ultimately more captivating. Stamm’s most successful work, #14, is a wonderfully mysterious painting that uses a terrazzo-like texture and depicts natural forms that stand in for human anatomy. It is a dark, stylized portrait of a figure communing with the universe, illuminated by the streetlight (or the moon) that frames his head and suggests a halo. A Monstera leaf doubles as lungs and a Calla Lilly becomes the circulatory system so that the figure and nature are well integrated. Stamm’s colors and subtle textures also contribute to their expressive qualities, but they need to be seen up close to be appreciated and to fully experience the paintings’ poetic impact.
Chris Bogia’s paintings, assemblages and sculptures are 360 degrees apart from the meditative mood in Stamm’s paintings. In contrast, Bogia is buoyant and lighthearted though both artists share a penchant for exacting execution and curiosities. Archway IV is a large assemblage of yarn on wood, meticulously depicting a pristine interior still life. Two arrangements of potted plants intermingle with candlesticks and rest upon a disembodied arm with outstretched fingers. All is in balance but we are thrown off kilter. Our expectations and understanding are in conflict because everything appears normal, but there is an absurd quality to this super stylized scene. Bogia’s use of materials is contradictory too. The yarn tweaks our perception of this moderne interior, recalling nostalgic period crafts and décor from vintage Sunset Magazines but without the earthiness that one usually associates with the material. The Canyon Fantasy is a freestanding sculpture that brings his small drawings to life. Looking very much inspired by Memphis, the eighties design movement, it reads like an oversized toy, the pastel colors and simple shapes emphasizing childlike wonder. Here again, the materials belong to an interior designer, but this time the mood is Playskool on steroids.
Rachel Granofsky approaches the subject of interiors by making puzzles. Not jigsaw puzzles or word puzzles, but odd tableaux created from household objects and then further manipulated and printed with superimposed images or text to confound and illuminate. They are, in a sense, trompe l’oeil art as they are not what they appear to be but are convincing facsimiles of real spaces, people, and events. How she makes her work is not as interesting, though, as why. What seems to be the attraction for Granofsky is the line between real and imaginary, and fabricated realities. Her method of working allows her to create (or recreate) a scenario or memory to emphasize her sense of the truth. It also questions our perceptions and faith in photography. Ghost Sex, is one such puzzle. What seems to be a woman with a mop for her head and hair reveals itself to be a sculpture of a woman. The phantom lover behind her is represented as the ghost he will become and the woman’s position on all fours and her anonymous mop head suggest her humiliation and degradation. Similarly, Beans, Bed & The Body shows a partially unmade bed with the imprint of a man’s torso on the sheet. Like The Shroud of Turin, all that remains is this intimate imprint of a man. Is it a lover who has left or is departed? Wistful and a little shabby, Granofsky imparts the image with pathos and gets our attention, too.
Woody De Othello displays ceramic sculptures that upon first glance seem to mimic common domestic objects such as lamps, furniture and indoor plants but are anything but common. All three sculptures are somewhat clumsy and awkward, suggesting that they don’t take themselves too seriously and are not to be confused with the real thing. Each is comprised of vessels or lamps placed upon low stools. The stools function as pedestals but are more identified as furniture, meaning they are not secondary to what is resting on them but are an integral part of the sculpture and subject. Shirt Shade Grey is a functioning lamp with a ceramic base and textile lampshade. Hands wrap themselves around the base in relief, well integrated, but the high gloss sheen of the glaze tends to obfuscate the hands, which denies the sculpture a lot of its potential interest. The same could be said of Sun Don’t Shine Here; the glaze makes it difficult to see the beauty of Othello’s imagery, in which the maker’s hands are part of what they make.
In Roommates, we are encouraged to consider our personal environments from the perspectives of four artists who re-imagine their home spaces. Whether or not these are interior or adamantly physical, Bogia, Othello, Granosfsky and Stamm each turn the traditional idea of domestic spaces around and the result is a fresh and thought provoking show. Roommates is on view through the end of August.