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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

October 09, 1987|MARLENA DONOHUE

A dubious collaboration brings together photos of the Huntington Library botanical gardens by Christopher Williams and Stephen Prina, geometric inlaid wood and resin wall works by Tim Ebner and one cibachrome photo of a Huntington garden cacti collection by John Grahm. A rambling manifesto about the show hints at everything from Jean-Luc Godard's reflections on communication to geopolitical colonialism, but the conceptual connective tissue is weak.

Williams and Prina's single object photos of roses, cacti and exotic plants echo Edward Weston's modernist arrangements. These are pleasing, competent photos that aunt Martha--who thinks drip painting refers to messy home improvements--could enjoy. Ditto the clean craftsmanship of Ebner's designs and the travel magazine desert scene by Grahm.

On another level, as we view the flora, fauna and their titles (taken directly from the museum's identifying plaques, including scientific names, the plant's country of origin and the particular kind of environment the museum is recreating, such as "Jungle Garden" or "Desert Garden") we get the complex conceptual drift.

This is a world where the generalization, the concept, the act of ordering replaces the real thing. According to Williams and Prina, we are content to experience the reality of Laos--land and people--via a quick, predigested trip to the local museum. Ebner apparently manifests the positive side of this "will to order" and Grahm's Star Treky scene of bright-blue and neon-orange cacti completes the tension as the paradigm of crowd-pleasing artifice. This is a self-consciously cerebral endeavor that wants to challenge the coffee table banality of much art today.

Such a noble intent almost makes up for the fact that the show is much more interesting to contemplate than to view. (Kuhlenschmidt-Simon, 9000 Melrose Ave., to Oct. 24.)

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