Finding the Curve: Cudelice Brazelton IV at Murmurs
Mumurs, Los Angeles
Through May 1, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
A Curve of Many is a multi-media, highly experiential and experimental exhibition by Cudelice Brazelton IV at Murmurs Gallery in DTLA. The gallery describes itself as “championing experimental and emerging” art practices, and this fits that description perfectly.
Brazelton’s exhibition at first confounded me. Spare and monochrome, the mix of painting, collage, sound, and sculpture, all of it embedding itself more or less within the corners and crevices of the gallery, seemed more empty space and theory than art show. And yet, despite my initial lack of response to the Frankfurt-based artist’s work, I have found myself considering it repeatedly.
Once considered, it had the same effect as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey: initially you’re not quite sure what it is that you’re seeing, but you engage with it anyway, puzzle through it, and construct your own theories from what you see. Brazelton frequently works with evocative shapes and images from industrial materials in a site-specific environment. This work is a continuation of that process. The exhibition’s press release states that the solo exhibition is designed to “reveal a set of codes which serve as a way to achieve autonomy within systems of power.”
While this viewer did not uncover those codes, the experiential aspect of the work, and it’s delicate, mysterious, and just plain weirdness is still resonantly evocative. Brazelton makes use of the gallery space’s past use as an industrial warehouse, integrating sculptural forms that seem like factory detritus. The piece that immediately catches the eye upon entering the gallery is “Public Breakage,” threaded steel rods jutting from the ceiling, coated in graphite, like the discarded arms of a robot. Elsewhere in the gallery a ghostly print of an eye, “Out of Reach” is barely visible, masked in shadows, as if those shadows themselves had become an artwork.
Toward the rear of a gallery, what was to me the most striking work, “Ice and Soul” revealed cut out words shaped from scans of Brazelton’s skin, over enlarged and grainy. Continuing with allusions to the human body, skin-like primer becomes altered as residue forms in the evolving, “Three Quarters.” “Hood” a large-scale work in the back corner of the main gallery wall, also involves skin. The image was created with a burning technique that scraped through the wall, exposing old paint, shaping a head with a buzz-patterned hair style. That pattern resembles a map of sorts, or a dragon with multiple tails. Slightly smudged, it’s a haunting image, at first glance it appears to be purely random, or perhaps a worn geographic map. The head shape only becomes apparent with contemplation.
Once recognized, it takes on a different sort of alchemy, a look at hidden individualism, at the secrets that walls – and the human heart and body – can hold. It seems in this exhibition at least that it is the body itself that most consumes Brazelton’s interest, specifically perhaps skin. Indeed, skin is what seems to “curve” as a theme throughout the exhibition, as with the medium of ABS plastic in “Hardcover,” which serves as a kind of skin or coating over stacked plastic boxes.
In a smaller side room to the main gallery space, audio elements take hold in “Apart, Playing.” The music of Afrofuturist jazz musician Angel Bat Dawid, atonal and intense, plays in the room through a series of speakers, comprised of wire, thread, and parts of audio gear. The alarming and alarm-like nature of the music and the look of these speakers is intentional, providing an auditory and visual scream of sorts, one that emanates almost from within the building. It is a transmission that goes beyond music or word, more primal and both unpleasant and compelling at the same time.
The artist seems to be continuing an intention that throbs through the exhibition, that meaning is what we make of it, whether that meaning comes from something we hear, something we see, or something we express. Brazelton also appears to express a belief that it is who we are that haunts, affects, distorts, and ultimately rises from the wreckages of the past, of manmade divisions, destructions, and constructions. Or perhaps I’m still confounded by the exhibition.