Tom Dunn’s Lunula at Gallery Also

Tom Dunn, Lanula, Gallery Also, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Lunula – Immersion in Another Dimension

Gallery Also, Lincoln Heights
Through September 18, 2022

Written by Genie Davis
The site-specific solo installation from artist Tom Dunn, Lunula, is mysterious and compelling. It fills the walls, floors, and a series of video screens, completely transforming Gallery Also in Lincoln Heights. Almost entirely created in black and white, the images range from an extensive series of small installation paintings covering the walls to a painted floor that swirls like something from a galaxy far, far, away.

Mounted screens play looped videos that animate many of the wall images, making them dance as if viewed from windows or portals, revealing views seen from space.

“Lunula Rorschach” is an inky black sculptural piece that resembles an interplanetary lifeform hatching from a meteor. It is also shown in a rotating, comes-alive stop-action animation on one of the video screens.  

The one colored piece, an oil on canvas painting titled “Floating Downstream: Periphery” brings the viewer temporarily back to earth. Like all of Dunn’s works here, it is a heavily patterned abstract, but in it we can make out shapes that appear to be bugs, birds, and a kneeling human figure. Perhaps this portal looks back to a scrambled earth.

While of course the videos are each in constant motion, it is not just those images that seem to swirl and dance. The ringed pattern on the gallery floor and each of the beautifully, intricately painted Lunula Series installation paintings papering the walls are strangely alive, illuminated, white waves and celestial storms and strange rivers appearing to pulsate against, or swirled through, with black.

The exhibition appropriately reminds the viewer of several different spiritual and physical landscapes.

On first look, the black and white, the craters, swirls, and rivulets dancing everywhere remind you of a lunar landscape, or a view taken from the moon’s surface. After all, the exhibition’s title refers to the lunula, which as it originated in Latin meant “little moon.” In English, the lunula refers specifically to the crescent-shaped area at the base of a human nail. That meaning brings up another aspect of the exhibition. If you spend enough time in the gallery, you feel as if the planet you’ve entered is entirely personal. Perhaps it is something inside of you, barely visible (but possibly peeking through the surface of the body concealing it in that crescent of nail).

In short, the exhibition is both as big as the view from another planet, and as compact as the mysterious substances that make up a human being.

But there are other meanings. A lunula was a crescent-moon-shaped pendant that was worn by young women in ancient Rome as an apotropaic amulet, a protective item of jewelry that was attributed to have the ability to prevent evil influences or bad luck. Personally speaking, Dunn’s work here could represent all three meanings.

Representationally, from meteoric sculptural piece to the swirling circles on the floor and motion-filled small paintings that cover the walls, the exhibition looks as if the viewer has entered the sphere of a different planet and a dark sky. But, watching each of the video screens and viewing the art caught “in action,” these images pulsate with a kind of internal life that seems to speak to something embodied within the viewer.

And, finally emerging blinking into the “real” world of Los Angeles, the busy taco shop across the street, the asphalt parking lot, still carrying the sensations of the imagery, the viewer may very well see this exhibition as embodying a kind of protective shield from the day-to-day tumult of existence. In other words, no matter how you interpret the art or its title, it is resonant.  

This is a special, immersive exhibition that deserves both viewing and considering, and each element, the small perfect black and white paintings, the sculptural piece, the video art – each comprise a mosaic of meaning and mystery that aches to be explained yet remains wonderfully inchoate.

Gallery Also is located at 3754 N. Mission Road; Lunula runs through September 18th.

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