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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

October 24, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Mitchell Syrop exploits the language and marketing techniques of Madison Avenue advertising campaigns to create works that appear comfortably familiar, yet over a period of time subtly undermine the ideological "truths" of received information.

In the past, Syrop's strategy has been to juxtapose commercial photographic imagery with cliched slogans and clever puns, so that the shrill, imperative voice of official language dictates how the image should (and must) be read.

In his latest installation, Syrop has set up a modular network of signs that appear to evolve towards pure idea, as if first image, then text, having fulfilled their duties as ideological ploys, can retire gracefully as an ingrained mind-set takes over. Image and slogan, while crystallized to the point of seeming self-reliance and inevitability, also suddenly appear to be interchangeable and arbitrary, equal significations in a wider semantic schema that includes the aesthetic economy as a whole.

Syrop reinforces this perspective by setting up the gallery as a sort of museum shop, selling slogans, imprinted soap, sponges, and decals as part of a broad linguistic sales pitch. The text is no longer simply a source of pleasure through interpretation, it's now supposed to make money also. This subtle blurring of the distinction between the merchandizing of art and the art of merchandizing conjures up visions of economic totalitarianism, where artist, gallery and audience become both pawns and willing participants in an invidious corporate conspiracy.

It is not an inevitably closed network of exploitation however. Language, being an ambiguous labyrinth of slippery signs and shifting metaphors, can be undermined by the very state of mind that makes its worst abuses so dangerous. As art/commerce becomes less defined by its status as object and more by the vagueries of sheer concept, so it sows the seeds of its own inevitable decay. For Syrop, received information is always a two-way door. (Kuhlenschmidt/Simon, 9000 Melrose Ave., to Nov. 15.)

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