A bit campy, a bit elitist

Alex Rubio’s installation at Artpace — which closed January 6 — was the standout in the most recent round of Artpace residents and not just because of his powerful and signature use of color. Maybe it is the history of the building, but Rubio’s tire shop completely transformed the gallery and upon entering, I felt I had left Artpace. The installation, El Carreton, was a collaboration with several local artists, yet still looked all-Rubio, and a bit Sesame Street. A façade of a tire shop, created with set designer Rudy Galindo, was a 3D Rubio painting that fills the back half of the gallery. The large-scale grocery cart in the center of the gallery, a collaboration with Luis Chispas Guerrero, was the title work and probably the weakest link. It lacks Rubio’s immediacy, while the shape seems overdesigned and the detailing non-existent. I wish the surface had been reflective enough to catch the color and light surrounding it. The graffiti by David “Shek” Vega and accompanying neon by Cathy Cunningham covered the opposing walls and gave physicality to the audio track Rubio composed in collaboration with Phil Luna. The video footage of several Westside tire shops was a bit stale in contrast, and exaggerated the Sesame Street effect of the rest of El Carreton. The overall feel is a bit campy, but still carries an honest reflection of Rubio’s roots in this community.

Next door to Rubio was Chris Evans’ exhibition, What’s the point of revolution without copulation, copulation, copulation?, an exercise in inaccessibility. Evans’ work is aesthetically stark on the surface and emotionally austere, lost in intellectual battles important to the artist. If you take the time to read the accompanying gallery notes and then do a little additional research on both the artist and his subjects, you will discover the work to be potentially fascinating, and dare I say, funny.

I give pause at identifying the humor, only because I think the artist is giving pause or is unaware of it. Evans’ previous work reflects on social and political relationships, including artists and patrons to political and economic leaders. With this project Evans focused “on the battle between individual freedom and collective responsibility.” Are his letters to Laurent and Perrier and interactions with a local chemical company, DPS, as ridiculous as they sound or as serious as his presentation? I first read his script and film (presented here), The Fantasist, as a farce, but then it isn’t very funny. Evans’ language falls prey to his subject matter and is ultimately too self-referential and thus becomes elitist. Maybe that’s his point, but what’s the point of masturbation without revelation, revelation, revelation?

Upstairs, Matthew Buckingham, also employs an elitist language, including archival materials and institutional presentation, but balanced it with an informal edge, creating the elegant exhibition Half Remembered.

The video, Within the Sound of Your Voice, is silently projected on a board casually leaning against a column and features different people’s hands as they use a pen to write the title of the film. The viewer can see the action, but not the result. This image was perfectly reflected in the glass of the archival prints hanging on the adjacent wall.

The work appeared to meditate on the difference between having knowledge of something and having possession of it.

Across the gallery were two time capsules, sealed, dated with an “open after” instruction, and presented on pedestals under bonnets. The clean, brushed brass blocks’ surfaces are enticing as their mysterious contents. An audio loop of an orchestra warming up, but never performing, entitled Infinite Tuning, filled the gallery. Buckingham’s exhibition cleverly played memory against anticipation and desire in a room filled with carefully organized facts. (On an institutional note, I do wish the window screens were less clumsy and the pedestals and bonnets cleaner.)

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