Like a shiny extra-terrestrial bobble tucked into the foothills above Palm Springs, “Mirage” by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken is among the most striking contemporary-art experiences of 2017. It’s probably the unofficial rockstar of Desert X, an inaugural exhibition of site-specific artworks mostly in the form of installations and sculptural objects spread across the desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.
“Mirage” is a literal house of mirrors. Its loose architectural form is a single-story ranch house in a nod to the region’s traditional housing style. But it’s a ranch house with a shape augmented by contemporary touches – a skylight, a balcony, a window-less chamber.
All that architecture is just a platform for Aitken’s bold visual statement and its main feature: The mirrored surfaces of the house inside and out. The exterior walls, and interior walls and ceilings, are mirrors reflecting the desert landscape outside and multiplying the reflections inside like a silverlight echo chamber. It is not enough to look at it.
Walking through “Mirage” is to be entranced by the unceasing play of light from every angle and reflective pane and by the all the possibilities in reframing your view of the bright desert outside through the house’s many windows
In her body of work, Los Angeles artist Liz Craft has created some fascinating and evocative sculptural objects that have death and the human form at the thematic center. In fact, a couple of notable works from her that have been shown in Los Angeles museums the past year have “death” in the title. One is the powerful and darkly comic “Death Rider,” recently on view at the Hammer Museum and pictured in this post. The other exhibitied last year at LACMA is “Death of a Clown,” which you can see here.
The first time you see “Death of a Clown” by artist Liz Craft, you can’t help but want to get up close to and examine it, to bear witness to its texture in detail, as if to confirm that the woman lying on the sofa is not real. You know its not a real person, you assume she’s not real, but a part of you thinks she could be, like those street performers who pretend to be statues. It could be a real person, lying deathly still, forezen underneath a thick coat of ghostly-pale make-up and improbable orange hair. And you can’t help but think of Sleeping Beauty. And of a character in a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. Unreal, yet rendered in three dimenions, life-sized, in the actual physical space of a gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
But this is a sculpture, an object. There is no performer.
Craft is a Los Angeles-based artist who runs the Paradise Garage art space and collective in Venice Beach. Her faux-naive sculptural objects and installations have a whimsical, fantasy quality, though, as in the case of “Clown,” there’s a sense of realism baked into the layer of dreamy, fantastical imagery. The colors beguile, at once bright and muted, at once like saturated and then over-exposed like some old polaroids discovered in a shoebox at a flea market.
The work of Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh explores many themes. Among these are the African diaspora and identity. A small exhibition of this work is currently on view at the exceptionally well-curated Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles. The show includes sculpture and an installation of an African-modeled thatched hut that houses a monitor displaying a video of a choreographed dance.
This glowing, LED-illuminated sculpture of an old-school pay phone is by artist Doug Aitken. It’s titled “Twilight,” and it’s absolutely sublime. The artwork is one of dozens upon dozens of works by Aitken currently on view as part of his “Electric Earth” retrospective at MOCA Los Angeles. The exhibition is a must see. “Twilight” itself is an evocative object. The resin-cast sculpture generates a soft, cool light that beckons like a visual siren from the far end of a cavernous side gallery within MOCA’s gargantuan architectural footprint. It stands mysterious and totemic like a forgotten relic from the time before cellphones were ubiquitous, infused with a strange loneliness.