"New Testament" is a snappy, six-artist exhibition that effortlessly registers a significant shift away from classic Conceptualism's blind faith in the Word. To the young artists whose paintings, drawings and photographs comprise this show at Marc Foxx Gallery, words provide no more direct access to the truth than pictures do.
In fact, "New Testament" implies that images are more likely to persuade you of their truthfulness. Embodying beliefs and fantasies as well as straight information, pictures implicitly acknowledge that truth isn't made up of dry facts and lifeless abstractions. Being convinced of a proposition's veracity is as much a matter of being seduced as it is of being offered a rational explanation.
Large-format photographs by Larry Johnson and Kathleen Schimert demonstrate that words have the most impact when they trigger crisp images in your mind's eye. Johnson's sumptuous Ektacolor depicts a camera shop's anthropomorphic logo happily photographing the company symbol of a lawn supply store: a friendly king engaged in manual labor. The photographer's job, Johnson's witty print contends, is to render, with the clarity of trademarks, images that actually work.
Schimert's silver prints of type-written love letters Lady Guenevere supposedly sent to Sir Lancelot and King Arthur function as springboards for the imagination, despite their factual inaccuracies. Though typewriters didn't exist when Guenevere would have sent these dreamy missives, this detail (along with the letters' references to hotels and newspapers) doesn't diminish their emotional power. Instead, these oversights free Schimert's art from historical reportage, amplifying its capacity to inspire love-struck reveries in the present.
Likewise, Udomsak Krisinamis' works on paper provide an abbreviated critique of Conceptual art's tendency to align language with knowledge. Born in Thailand, Krisinamis learned English in the United States by reading newspapers. With a thick pencil he blotted out the words he knew, leaving the unfamiliar ones to be looked up and studied.
Four drawings chart his progress, moving from a black field often interrupted by words to a nearly pure monochrome containing only one interruption: the word \o7 retention\f7 . Krisinamis' self-conscious art suggests that once something is known, it can also be forgotten.
To these artists, language is as riddled with doubt as pictures are fraught with contradictions. As "New Testament" makes evident, it's not a question of truth versus lies, but of compelling illusions versus boring ones.
* \o7 Marc Foxx Gallery, 3026 Nebraska Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 315-2841, through Aug. 26. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.\f7
Kiss and Show: Although some people say it's more fun to think about kissing than actually do it, almost no one will argue that it's more fun to think about "Kissing," a summer group show at G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, than to actually look at its nearly 200 photographs of men, women, children, animals, statues, objects and images kissing and/or being kissed.
This salon-style, 134-artist exhibition, organized by Marla Hamburg Kennedy, is a pleasant, something-for-everyone extravaganza--unless you don't like kissing. To its credit, the silly, sweet and very wholesome show doesn't pretend to be a thorough, historical survey, a sustained exploration of orally focused cultural issues or a boundary-pushing challenge to middle-American sensibility.
While it displays an impressive taxonomy of kisses, no attempt to categorize or evaluate is undertaken. Passionate smooches intermingle with nervous pecks; breathless lip-locks are interspersed with camera-conscious poses; and the undying love of sons for their mothers hangs, cheek by jowl, with vivid depictions of teen-age lust.
Celebrities pucker-up with one another, or with a fawn, snake or chimp, depending upon the nature of their fame. Dignitaries kiss cheeks, foreheads and the backs of hands, depending upon their stature. And anonymous individuals get lost in the feel and taste of their partner's mouths.
Passion, affection, exasperation, respect, uneasiness and insouciance, as well as intimacy, inaccessibility, delight, relief and shock are written in flesh on the faces of those photographed. The significance of their expressions, gestures and couplings is left to each viewer's discretion. This is appropriate, since kisses, like fingerprints, belong to unique individuals, though sometimes it's difficult to tell them apart.
* \o7 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, 908 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-5558, through Sept. 2. Closed Sundays and Mondays.\f7