Walkthrough of “Nine Lives” at the Hammer

28Apr09

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By Emily Waldorf

On Wednesday, March 18th, curator Ali Subotnick led a walkthrough of the Hammer’s must-see biennial, Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A., for the Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA).  The exhibit is the latest in the “Hammer Invitational” series that has highlighted artists working in Los Angeles since 2001.  Nine Lives features the diverse work of nine local artists from four different generations including Lisa Anne Auerbach, Julie Becker, Llyn Foulkes, Charles Irvin, Hirsch Perlman, Victoria Reynolds, Kaari Upson, Jeffrey Vallance, and Charlie White.  Each artist weaves together fantasy and reality in their own distinct style.    

The works range from paintings, video, photography, drawings, textiles, and sculptural installations, highlighting the inherent inconsistencies, absurdities, and possibility of reinvention in Los Angeles, blending self-identities with not only popular culture, but alternative lifestyles, and subcultures, creating a hybrid identity that threatens to be transformed at any moment.  Each gallery is devoted to the work of an individual artist and walking through the exhibition is a transformative experience, since there is simply so much to absorb.

According to Subotnick, “There are many threads that tie the artists in the show together. Some are subtle, like for instance several of them deal with transformation (of the self or others) like Charlie White, Kaari Upson, Julie Becker and Victoria Reynolds. Others are engaged in a lot of self-reflection like Charles Irvin, Kaari Upson, Llyn Foulkes, Julie Becker, Jeffrey Vallance and Lisa Anne Auerbach…all are so idiosyncratic and difficult to categorize and that’s one of the things that attracts me to their work—they don’t fit into any molds and don’t compromise their visions. I gave them each a mini-solo show, but there is a loose story told from room-to-room and different moods set up and commonalities are meant to stand out, but those are also really dependent on the viewer and what he or she brings with them.”

All of the work in the show is uniquely compelling, but I was particularly fascinated by Kaari Upson’s Playboy mansion grotto.  I wondered if she was influenced by E!’s reality show The Girls Next Door, but apparently Upson has never actually been to the grotto at the Playboy mansion, and the project stems from the latest chapter in her ongoing Larry Project.

Subotnick explained, “(Kaari Upson’s) intention with this piece was to perform a sort of exorcism. She wanted to rid herself of (Larry’s) possession over her and now the project has come almost full circle: when it began she was merging her self with his and sort of lost her identity or gave it over to him (she’s role-playing throughout the project so when I say she and her I’m referring to the character(s) she is playing). Now with the grotto, Larry has been transformed into her double so in a sense she’s got her self back.”

FOCA (http://www.focala.org/) is a nonprofit corporation that formed in 1975.  It is a vibrant group of arts-minded individuals with the common goal of supporting and fostering interest in contemporary art.  FOCA membership is by invitation  

Nine Lives:  Visionary Artists From L.A. runs through May 31, 2009 at the Hammer.



One Response to “Walkthrough of “Nine Lives” at the Hammer”

  1. Her own wiesbte? Wow. She looks so peaceful and quiet.


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