Sanctuary of the Aftermath
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring
Sky and Earth guard us from the monstrous abyss.The Rig Veda
Written by Nancy Kay Turner
Mankind has a tenuous relationship with the natural world but never has it seemed more precarious then in our current time. Exacerbated by human induced climate change, we are subjected to catastrophic wildfires, annual hundred year floods, vicious hurricanes and all matter of weather-induced calamities with increasing frequency. And then along came the global pandemic, which only increased our pain, sorrow and societal disjunction. With Sanctuary of the Aftermath, the hauntingly beautiful exhibition at Angel’s Gate, artist/curators Jason Jenn and Vojislav Radovanović seek to demonstrate the healing power of art.
By orchestrating light, shadow and sound in surprising and theatrical ways in the overall exhibition design, the curators heighten the viewer’s perception of the gallery as a sacred place of contemplation and peace, a real spiritual refuge rom the hellish year of the plague. The ten visual artists David Hollen, Ibuki Kuramochi, Jason Jenn, Rosalyn Myles, Vojislav Radovanović, Alison Ragguette, Kayla Tange, Nica Aquino, Jeff Frost and Anita Getzler share a high degree of synchronicity with their muted color palettes, their use of natural materials (among them reeds, beans, leaves, rose petals, earth, feathers, sand) and processes (woven, crocheted, knitted, knotted, beaded, intertwined), and their embrace of the ephemeral. Joseph Carrillo, a composer wrote the score for the award- winning movie Minari, creates the evocative and essential soundscape.
Carrillo, whose father passed away in October, has divided this poignant dirge into five parts: Song for the Lost, for the Missing, for the Wandering, for the Forgotten and for the Found. His soulful composition (a cello, English horn and an Indian Flute) is about an hour long and emanates from a black box covered with charred branches retrieved from recent wildfires. Sitting on a white plinth, it is cleverly disguised as a sculpture.
Upon entering the gallery, one sees Alison Ragguette’s monumental piece entitled “Cross Section Ellipse,” silicone, rubber, porcelain, silk, 26’x 5’ x 4”, 2021. This sprawling horizontal piece resembles a magical underwater reef, with unglazed, hand-thrown porcelain pots caught in its folds like a fish in a net. Epic in scale and intricate in design, this work suggests the mysteries of the underworld, where the River Styx separates the world of the living from the world of the dead – thereby setting the tone for the exhibition.
Nearby, tucked into a corner is Kayla Tange’s earthy woven hanging “The Rise and Fall of Decadence” (we both enjoy the same fruit series) sculpture installation, 2021, variable, 12’-36” – along with her “Adapted Intentions,“ (an interactive installation with light box updated in 2021, 72” x 37.5” x 5.5”.) The shadowy sand-covered light box evokes a meditative Japanese Zen garden by encouraging visitors to create a drawing with a nearby stick and rake. This simple but evocative piece reminds me of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias – as the shifting sands of time devour and bury civilizations, so too each drawing is raked over and only exists for a short time – a beautiful and timely metaphor for Man’s fragile existence.
Nica Aquino’s “A 2020 Reflection,” Altar installation, 2 single channel videos, audio, LED candles, digital self portrait on printer paper, beaded curtain on bamboo, real and fake flowers, plants, personal items, is a dimly-lit somber altar installation with traditional ritualistic materials plus a place to sit and pray. It has the three tiers that family altars have, representing the division between heaven, earth and purgatory. This personal altar was meant for the artist herself to heal from multiple surgeries and central to the installation are the two bright videos of the natural world, as if seeing the world through a hospital window. The viewer’s attention is focused on the bright video screens, which provide a glimpse of nature, but like a clone it is sadly not the real thing.
David Hollen’s “Indra’s Net,” (wood, glass, epoxy, copper, 2015, 52”x 44”x24”) is an intriguing piece, mysteriously floating on a glass surface like a hologram. Hollen refers to it as a psychological self-portrait (perhaps the inner workings of an overactive mind). The only “in-the–round” sculpture here, this intense work is paradoxically dense and airy, a marvelous tangle of organic, twig-like structures woven together like hallucinogenic schoolyard monkey bars. The many glass balls reflect behind the viewer and the interstices allow the viewer to see through the piece providing tantalizing glimpses of the other installations, especially Jeff Frost’s mesmerizing large screen video piece “Circle of Abstract Ritual” 300,000 still photos, 2013, 12:32 minutes, which is in the next room.
The large screen radiates with an eerie blue glow reminiscent of the hypnotic light coming from the TV in the film Poltergeist or the intense light people see who recover from near death experiences. Constructed from thousands of photographs blended together, this inventive marriage of time-lapse photography and animation dazzles as well as intrigues. Images that look like disco dancing aliens or a Martian Stonehenge merge with Slab City abandoned and decaying houses. At times ethereal, otherworldly and even apocalyptic, the fast pace and flickering images never fail to fascinate while provoking multiple emotions.
The quarantine removed us from one another and Ibuki Kuramochi’s compelling idiosyncratic work entitled “The Memory of Physicality”, canvas, monitor, video, human hair, chain, acrylic, 202, wall installation: 70” x 96”, Floor installation: 92.5” x 23” directly addresses the issue of touch. It’s an out of body experience, with mysterious moving images that suggest a body melting, morphing or becoming not unlike the fluid, theatrical Japanese Butoh dance. The lumpy canvas form on the floor with skeins of human hair is paradoxically weirdly humorous and also frightening, fluctuating between the internal, external, intimate and alien.
“Descent of the Holy Spirit,” by Vojislav Radovanović, made of wood, glass, paper, acrylic, rope, 10’ x 4’ x ‘, directly references Christian imagery with its lone wooden ladder, a humble common everyday piece of equipment, not much changed from ancient times to present day. This site-specific piece, created with repurposed parts from previous installations references Jacob’s ladder. It is considered to be a conduit between Man and God (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) representing a spiritual passage and possibly re-incarnation. The ladder rests on a mound of baked earth (taken from Angel’s Gate park) upon which sits one vintage shoe last and a few feathers, perhaps suggesting man and animal coexisting (or not.) Glass jars, filled with painted fiery shards, are tied to the rungs of the ladder like souls optimistically heading heavenward. Elegant and elegiac, this is ultimately an uplifting piece, like the sparkling stars pinned to the wall.
Mandala’s (Sanskrit for circle) are used for meditation and prayer in the Buddhist tradition, and here Jason Jenn uses leaves collected from the very grounds of Angel’s Gate Park, as his source material for the eponymous “Angel’s Gate Leaf Mandala,” dried leaves, gold and copper leaf, pins, 2021, variable dimensions. Carefully pinned to the wall like butterflies on display, and beautifully lit from above this work magically turns ordinary tree detritus into a glowing, charismatic metallic–looking wall relief.
With “Pieces of Us,” her installation composed of flowers, lace, black eyed peas, a basket, 2021, variable dimensions, Rosalyn Myles
pays homage to the Black Culture of New Orleans. Here light and shadow are intertwined theatrically as the gallery wall becomes a significant backdrop. Feeling like a celebration of abundance (the black-eyed peas are piled on the floor) and a harvest (baskets filled with dried reeds) this piece reflects gratitude and hard work. But, in a twist worthy of an O’ Henry short story, one notices that the delicate shaped doilies hanging from the ceiling are actually molded from faces, suddenly becoming death masks. The struggle between life and death is once more represented with imagination and grace.
Anni Albers once said “…material is a means of communication” and nowhere is that more evident than in Anita Getzler’s poetic “Evocation I, 2, and 3 series composed of wood, rose petals, glass, cork, printers drawers, thread and brocade fabric, 2021. Getzler collected these roses from her family rose garden for seven years before assembling the “Evocation” Series as a paean to her mother who was a Holocaust Survivor. Coincidentally, in Judaism, the number seven is a magical number symbolizing Divine completion, holiness and sanctification. The thousands of multicolored dried petals Getzler used are bottled, corked and preserved like food for the soul, stored in the slots of a vintage printers drawer, where type once resided. The last component of this poetic work is a lovely video (filmed by Radovanović and Jenn) of Getzler tossing Rose petals into the sea, as Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead), is intoned by the LA Choral Lab.
The eleven diverse artists in this exceptional immersive exhibit draw upon multiple faith traditions and adapt rituals from Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam as a balm for the troubled soul, creating a requiem that demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable loss and grief.
Angels Gate Cultural Center
3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, 90731