If one, even keel word could possibly describe the brilliant, curatorial feat of a group show at Margo Leavin Gallery titled Arctic Summer, it would be “clever.” The pictures, sounds, sculptures and radio waves within the three intimate yet expansive galleries pack such solid evocations and visceral, physiological phenomenon’s of coolness on this viewer’s body that I doubt air conditioning is necessary while this show is up.
Every group or solo show I have experienced at Margo Leavin during the short time I have lived in LA has caused me to shake my head and smile in profound glee. Unfortunately, the gallery will close its doors after this exhibition. What a perfect show to end such an historic run!
If I were to pick a favorite discrete object in the current exhibition, it would be Roy Dowell’s just right Untitled (#916) from 2005. Since I make collaged works as well, I appreciate Dowell’s applications of miniscule and broad applied marks that appear timeless—at least in the last 100 years timeless. You could call Dowell an artist’s artist because only an artist and intensely aware viewers employ the looking process of stepping up close and back peddling away from the surface plane in an attempt to fully absorb an art work.
Sharing the space in the main gallery are two sculptural works–sculptural in that they occupy space in three dimensions and are not particularly “framed.” Kosuth’s C.S. (Neon) #6 from 1989 is a white neon text piece that cryptically reads, “The letter was posted in fact just as it was.” Today, the word “posted” could nostalgically mean posted in mail box or contemporaneously mean posted on the internet. Fantasy creeps in as I wonder what the letter could possibly say “in fact.” It is debated whether or not art can mean anything. I believe if the viewer possesses enough intellect, the literal message in a text art piece can be read and elicit an understanding of the words but not mean anything. “In fact” Kosuth’s message emblazoning from the humming glass tubes does not mean anything either. The piece is just as trapped in aesthetic interpretation as any other work in Arctic Summer.
To my dismay, Levine’s handsome, bronze Coat from 2006 is pushed close to the wall, standing resolutely on its pedestal. I wish the free standing, miniature representation would have been installed in the middle of the gallery so I could walk around it. Seeing Coat in the balmy summer of Los Angeles reminds me of Levine’s New York wintry environment—-a place where she likely wears such a coat either in protective comfort or layered annoyance. Its simple outline reminds me of ancient, headless Kouros sculptures with their hacked or broken off hands.
The gallery to the right of the entrance holds the most visually jarring arrangement in the show; Sol LeWitt’s disarmingly minimal Serial Project #1 (D 3 5 7) from 1966-1985 and Larry Johnson’s Untitled (ABC) from 1990. Conceptually, however, the two works are the most coherent and tight. What could be more Serial than the alphabet illustrated in Johnson’s photograph?! From what I understand, in Johnson’s process he creates an original using a variety of materials like gels and paint. The graphic composition is then shot to make the actual work/photograph. Brilliant.
In the left gallery, William Leavitt’s Wind Sound from 1970 and Gary Simmons’ oil on slate work Now, Voyager from 2003 is the most powerful installation I have experienced this year. Walking through the invisible, sonic field of the wall based components felt like I was being transported on the barely audible “wind” and placed in front of the massive, white and grey oracle of a painting for a visitation of transcendence. I felt incredibly safe but extremely solitary with the painted, white swirls sucking my consciousness out of my body onto the active 3-D surface. I thought, ‘If I look too long, the surface will start melting and an unknown force will grab me and pull me into another reality.”
As a whole Arctic Summer embodies the unique art experiences of escape, pure longing, fantasy, projection, contemplative stillness and rushes of adrenaline. If I were a curator at Margo Leavin, I would be extremely sad to have to leave such a masterful trove of a collection, a real diamond mine that truly outshines anything (real or fake) in West Hollywood.
Arctic Summer closes September 1. Margo Leavin is located at 812 N. Robertson Blvd.
Photos, from top: Kosuth’s C.S. #6 via Margo Leavin, Roy Dowell’s Untitled (#916), Sol Lewitt Serial Project #1 (D 3 5 7), and William Leavitt Wind Sound.