Annetta Kapon: Thirty Years
Gallery Pado, Los Angeles
Through October 10, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
Gallery Pado’s recent exhibition of Annetta Kapon’s [30 Years] marked a 30-year anniversary of the artist’s Floor Scale exhibition, and one that was seminal for its time. While its historical significance is profound, discussing it as an art installation is challenging.
First exhibited in 1992 at UCLA’s Wight Gallery, it was then a principal part of the artist’s MFA show. It was a cutting-edge exhibition that created a serious stir in the art community. Using a series of analog bathroom scales as a commentary on body image, women’s rights, and human biases was extremely powerful then, and is still pertinent today.
What remains challenging about discussing this work, the main part of the Kapon exhibition mounted at Gallery Pado, is that while recognizing how meaningful its message was and is, it didn’t make an impact on me personally as art. As a feminist statement, or as a statement on the advertising-agency-induced human obsession with weight, appearance, and outward, ever-changing, body fashion, it still packs a (pun intended) hefty punch.
The gallery floor was almost completely covered by Kapon’s bathroom scales. The scales are traditional analog scales rather than digital, in colors of pink, pale blue, black, beige, and white. Their positioning in both its original installation and in this recreated exhibition, was such that they could be viewed both as sculpture and as an interactive work involving viewers in “creating” it. Viewed without stepping on them, all scales are of course set at zero. Once participants walk on them, it is interactive in that the scales register the weight of the person walking on the scale-covered floor.
The pattern they form is that of a geometric quilt or mosaic; it plays off the flattened black and silver chairs mounted as wall art, Kapon’s “Office Ours.”
The press release notes that the presentation of the scales references minimalist works, utilizing “repetitive modular units in systematic arrangements.” In short, the scales serve as the creation of a pattern, a pattern of human body mass indicators.
By allowing viewers to step on the scale and indicate weight information in public, the public interaction minimizes the emotional stress many feel from stepping on a scale in private. The exhibition postulates the theory that we cannot be shamed into hiding our weight or from our weight. There is no reason to feel our weight is a shameful thing, made such by the dictates of society.
Rather, we are encouraged to see that weight is merely a number, a pattern, one part of an exhibition of shapes. Everyone has a weight. There is no good or bad about it. It is only when we cease to exist that weight matters – because we no longer have any physical mass on this earth worth remarking on. No one will remark upon the weight of our cremated ashes or our buried bones.
We are thus forced to look at the self-identification forced on us due to our weight, and societal expectations of it, something that is most primarily but not exclusively directed at females. With the scales removed from the bathroom or bedroom and placed in a gallery, they are viewed as an instrument in an art exhibition, rather than as tools that convey an experience of personal judgement.
Floor Scale is the primary piece in the gallery. The piece had been in storage for the preceding three decades, and Gallery Prado crowd sourced to help with the cost involved in taking the scales from storage and transporting them to the gallery.
The entire exhibition is commendable, a statement from which other art projects have evolved, questioning female “worth” over time. Kapon herself, now a professor emerita at Otis College of Art and Design, has created resonating feminist artwork for many years, work shown in global exhibitions.
The exhibition has closed, but you can learn more about the history of Kapon’s work on her website.