Torrance Art Museum Offers an Ultra Sparkling Reopening
Torrance Art Museum, Torrance
Through August 28th
Written by Genie Davis
The Torrance Art Museum, far too long shuttered to the public due to the pandemic, reopened with joyous, jubilant, and truly terrific exhibitions: Ultra!, Even Sparkles Have Shadows, and Cynthia Minet’s sculptural work, Seconds to Last. And, scattered throughout Torrance for several weeks were a variety of stand-alone art installations sponsored by the museum. On opening day, July 17th, the museum’s exhibitions were also joined by several live performances and a parking-lot installation of High Beams #4: SPF 405, a one-day multi-course feast of art from various Los Angeles-based art collectives.
In the museum’s main gallery presented an exciting show with a strong sculptural presence. Ultra! was curated by TAM staff: Max Presneill, Sue-Na Gay, Hope Ezcurra, and Jason Jenn, with participating artists exhibiting both throughout the city and in the gallery space. They include Luciana Abait, Richard Ankrom, Badly Licked Bear, Joshua Beliso, Reed van Brunschot, Juan Capistran, Ana Carolina Estarita-Guerrero, Fallen Fruit, Finishing School, Jeff Frost, Narsiso Martinez, Julie Orser, Matthew Pagoaga, Esther Ruiz, Abram Santa Cruz, Sonja Schenk, Allison Stewart, Jan van der Ploeg, Dan S Wang, Glen Wilson, and Yarn Bombing LA.
Entering the main gallery, Yarn Bombing’s quilt and yarn “house” is one of the first things the viewer sees, a bright and blossoming link to a site-specific installation transforming the outdoor area at Torrance High School. Both at TAM and on display at Torrance’s large indoor mall, the Del Amo Fashion Center, neon sculptures by Esther Ruiz are cool and otherworldly, minimalist in approach but dreamy in realization. Her “Wall XVI” is a lavender and green hued eye or portal that’s unblinking in its pale neon circumference.
Equally dreamy and surreal is Reed van Brunschot’s “The Birthday Table” an inflatable sculptural artwork depicting a familiar party scene in sheer, inflated plastic. At Del Amo Fashion Center, his surreal giant paper bag sculptures are the perfect antidote to anyone’s shopping nightmare.
Moving more toward the earthly but still with dream-like image, Abram Santa Cruz’s resin and mixed media “Dead Desert Night #5” gives the viewer ghostly pink orbs above cacti and Joshua trees. His “Electric Dandelions,” a sculptural trio of sparkler-like, illuminated works dance in Torrance’s El Prado Park.
Vividly hued photographic images from Luciana Abait vibrate with chroma key color. A large-scale image by the artist is also on view at Torrance City Hall.
The concept image and model for art collective Finishing School’s “Even the Trees Will Sing if We are Quiet Enough” is a miniature of an installation displayed in downtown Torrance, an outdoor doll house ready to spring to life.
Like the Yarn Bombing LA gallery installation piece, Fallen Fruit’s lustrous fruit and flowers against a surreal pink sunset sky is also rooted in both the worldly and a supernatural intensity of color and blossoming.
The opening of the exhibition and the museum itself definitely marks a victory from the vicissitudes of the pandemic, and Richard Ankrom’s shiny vinyl and enamel banner, “Victory at All Costs” spells that out.
Adding to the celebratory nature, were live performances by Yozmit, Zac Monday, Mary Anna Pomonis, Justin Stadel, Ibuki Kuramochi and Beck+Col with Tetiana Sklyarova and Kayla Aguila. Kuramochi continues to dazzle with her strange and mystical movements, defying description and creating magical moments; there was also hushed viewing of a stately gallery walk-through by the elegant Yozmit, clad in a royal robe and clear bubble helmet.
Among the participatory performance projects were live neon-colored crocheting, a blindfolded walk-through maze set in TAM’s courtyard with a yarn-monster escort, and an interactive performance piece with Justin Stadel, clad in a silver spacesuit as “the Egregore of Torrance,” joined by Mary Anna Pomonis, who served as his trusty interpreter, the Pythia.
In Gallery Two, Jason Jenn curated the delightful Even Sparkles Have Shadows. A completely captivating and immersive exhibition, it radiated color, light, and bling – while also touching on the darker stories behind the shiny ones, something well known and even intrinsic to our cultural reliance on social media. From the lush painted tapestries of Zära Monet Feeney to Haleh Mashian’s subtly glowing, elegiac “Jeweled Backlit Tears,” Michael Craig Carrier’s series of rattlesnake skin and neon wall sculptures, and Stevie Love’s collection of jeweled fur portals, this is a dazzling room, which along with Carrier, Feeney, Mashian, and Love also features work by Alison Ragguette, Ken Gun Min, David Hollen, and Chuck Hohng.
Min’s large-scale beautiful paintings contrast well with Hohng’s charming teddy bears; and one of the most literally dazzling works is Hollen’s glowing bubbly, floral-like chandeliers, which hover from a celestial art space above Feeney’s trailing ceiling to floor tapestries.
Raguette’s playful mixed media skates in pink goo is both fun and somewhat emblematic – our roller skating, beach-going Southern California life has been stuck in place and missing some of its sparkles in the pandemic. This exhibition does much to restore them.
And finally, there is the environmental gut-punch of Cynthia Minet’s Seconds to Last, curated by Sue-Na Gay in the museum’s smallest space, often reserved for film screenings and projected work. Appearing unfathomably fragile the inflated sculpture of an endangered Northern White Rhinoceros facing extinction is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Here colored LED’s, representing the seven chakras, shift and change over the artist’s work, which highlights the eco-tragedy humans have wrought.
Outdoors, in the largest of the museum complex’s parking lot, High Beams #4: SPF 405 marked the first daytime collection of collective-based installations put together by High Beams Art. Event organizers this time around – High Beams’ 4th impressive outing – were Sean Noyce, Carl Baratta, Katya Usvitsky, Dani Dodge and Alanna Marcelletti.
Shoebox Arts held forth with an extensive display of sculptural works including lenticulars by Heather Lowe, kinetic intelligence from Debby and Larry Kline, impressive large-scale sculptures from Shelley Heffler, and Susan Amorde. The extensive sculptural garden also included work by Raphaele Cohen-Bacry, Ricard Cisneros, S.P. Harper, Stacey Wexler, Galia Linn, Dellis Frank, Lina Kogan, Monica Marks, Michael Chomick, Gina Herrera, Holly Boruck, Jeff Iorillo, Jorge Mujica, Pam Douglas, Alison Woods, and Karen Massengill, as well as by space- curator Kristine Schomaker herself, among others.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, SoLA Contemporary’s Ben Zask presented an impressive cauldron of found-object sculpture. A jubilant inflatable ball tribute to “The Long Lost Summer” of 2020 filled three decorated kiddie pools in an installation created by Marcelletti and Dodge for Durden & Ray.
Other exhibiting collectives included Level Ground, San Francisco Artists Alumni, Last Projects, O Project Space, MOTOR, Manual History Machines, ARLA, Hyperlink, Last Ditch, Technicolor Skies, TSA, LA Backyard, and 515. At 515 Alice Marie Perreault held forth with “Accessible Depths,” dedicated to the awareness of the physically disabled. The laser-cut sculptural exhibit was curated by Chelsea Boxwell and set up in an ADA parking space.
MOTOR’s enclosed truck bed installation featured sculptural works as did TSA’s puzzle piece installation and suspended “Transitional Object for a Transitional Moment” ladder. Hyperlink’s scathingly amusing accident scene, and San Francisco Artists Alumni’s hilarious spaceman and fortune telling booth – with one of the best fortune cards I’ve ever received – brought stylish wit to the event, while Technicolor Skies’ “Postliminialthreshold,” a declaration of pandemic “victory,” were also standouts.
While High Beams #4: SPF 405 was a single day pop-up, TAM’s gallery space and many of the associated artworks located at varied Torrance locations can be seen through August 28th.