OCMA Celebrates Biennial

The Orange County Museum of Art scoured California and found more than 30 young artists whose work is currently on display until Dec. 31. In closet, on video, with fabric, with chlorophyll, with action figures and more, these artists have helped put together the 2006 California Biennial, an exhibition with art as diverse as California’s cultural breakdown.
‘Garden State’ fans might especially enjoy ‘Tim Sullivan,’ a self-photograph of the artist from 2003. Standing against a wall in a suit that blends into the wallpaper behind him, Sullivan looks terrified. Astute viewers will notice he has backed himself into a corner and is in fact attached by the shoulders of the paper suit to the wall.
More mysterious and infinitely intriguing is Walead Beshty’s ‘Still Life in the Observatory (Perspective/Composition Study After Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye at Poissy, Toit-Jardin Looking Southwest, Grey Hat, Sunglasses, and Two Indeterminate Objects, 1931)’ (2005).
The descriptively titled photograph features Le Corbusier-era items including a hat, sunglasses and an indeterminate brown package tied up with string. Behind the items are three photographs with notes scribbled on them. The use of shadows, black and white photography and ambiguous objects strewn across the foreground create a sense of mystery that captures the viewer’s imagination.
Joel Morrison’s ‘Dirty’ (2006) also uses ambiguity to his advantage. Several images are imposed atop one another so as to expose large dots of color. As the viewer’s eyes search for a reference point, they might find the image of the woman most prevalent, whereas a second look might highlight the teddy bear. The pixilated superimposed images play tricks on the eyes, leading one to create a different narrative at each glance, depending on which image or images appear most prominent.
Seemingly conflicting textures work together in Christopher Ballantyne’s ‘The Inescapable Gravity’ (2006), an acrylic and latex work on a wall with wood grain patterns. A calm ocean is pulled from all sides toward the center, creating a gaping hole of air.
Stand too close and the wood grain dominates the work, making the fantastical scene appear artificial. When one stands at a farther distance, the combination of wood grain and ellipsoidal shapes yields a refreshingly different take on the textures of a rolling sea.
A colorful and polar opposite of the cool blues and greens of ‘The Inescapable Gravity,’ Jane Callister’s ‘Wasabi Sunset’ (2006) and ‘Wasabi (Sky) Spikes’ (2006) demand attention with their distinctive explosions of reds, pinks and yellows. The juxtaposition of deliberate strokes with seemingly random splashes of paint form images that are just as easily construed to be abstract as they are representative of a concrete reality.
‘Wasabi (Sky) Spikes’ might appear completely abstract to some viewers yet represent an acidic display of a mountain and its reflection in a lake to others.
Not open to as much interpretation was Shana Lutker’s ‘Selected Full-page Advertisements, NY Times, 2004.’ (2006) The fascinating advertisements, which were presented in a magazine-like compilation on huge 32-by-40-inch pieces of paper, ranged from Democratic action groups’ pleas for Donald Rumsfeld to resign after the Abu Ghraib scandal to Jewish groups rhetorically asking how any progress can be made in the Middle East if many countries don’t even acknowledge Israel’s existence on a map.
Artistically puzzling was Lutker’s choice of showing an advertisement postcard called ‘Fly to Europe and See Double’ and another advertisement, which appeared to have been composed by placing a magazine in a frame with its back cover displayed.
While I enjoyed Lutker’s comprehensive book detailing her dreams during the year of 2003, I am at a loss to explain the framed advertisements, which don’t seem to have been altered in any way.
‘Sing with your genitals’ was my first impression of My Barbarian, a group of performers including Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alex Segade, who presented a video with music. Unfortunately, without subtitles or better enunciation from the musicians, one of the only phrases I could understand was ‘testicles turn into flowers.’ The psychedelic video ‘Pagan Rights’ and the accompanying 1960s-style guitar music was surprisingly gripping and I wasn’t even on any drugs.
But it is likely that Simon and Garfunkel were on drugs during some portion of the production of their 1966 release ‘Sounds of Silence.’ Goody-B. Wiseman’s short films explained the cover art of ‘Sounds of Silence’ as well as the covers of Yoko Ono and Carole King albums. The resulting videos are very amusing and make the viewer wonder what short films Wiseman might create for more recent, outlandish musical cover art.
Truly, there’s not enough room here to preview all of the more notable works on display at OCMA in the 2006 California Biennial. I can’t explain in detail Binh Danh’s unique chlorophyll prints of soldiers and civilians from the Vietnam War, nor can I explain Ala Ebtekar’s closet work.
You’ll just have to go and see for yourself.