One of the best things about exhibitions at the Center for Land Use Interpretation is that they present visitors with loads of information without telling them what to think. "Post Consumed: The Landscape of Waste in Los Angeles" is vintage C.L.U.I.
The multimedia display in the idiosyncratic institution's Culver City office begins with simple things familiar to just about everyone -- say, a newspaper -- and goes on to link everyday activities to their consequences for the planet and subsequent generations of life on it. The nonjudgmental tone is both refreshing and respectful -- an inspiring antidote to the hyperventilating theatrics of so much public discourse today.
The only bit of overblown poetry in the show resides in the introductory wall label. It states: "Garbage is the effluent of our consumption and it flows backwards through the landscape of Los Angeles. Unlike liquid wastes, which drain downslope to the sea, the tiny tributaries of trash, from millions of homesteads, collected by a fleet of thousands of trucks circulating in constant motion, hauling to nodes of sorting, distribution, reuse, and, finally disposal, flow up the canyons and crevices to the edge of the basin."
The rest of the exhibition avoids flowery language and sticks to the basics: com- mon objects, straightforward photographs, explanatory captions, informative diagrams and unadorned videos.
In the middle of the room, eight pedestals display ordinary items -- plastic bags, glass bottles, cardboard boxes, Styrofoam and a banana peel. Printed labels outline each object's place in the chain that links consumerism to its aftermath.
On one wall, two monitors show computer-generated images of futuristic landfills, where trash trains deliver compacted cubes of garbage to an abandoned gold mine in the desert.
The bulk of the exhibition's information is delivered by four monitors on the opposite wall. Three of them, "Collecting and Sorting the Trash of Los Angeles County," "Diversions in the Waste Stream" and "Landfills," follow the format of old-fashioned slide shows: Still images alternate with printed captions to tell the story efficiently and objectively. The fourth, "Inside a MRF" (Material Recovery Facility) includes a video tour of a county center where trash is unloaded from semis, pushed around by bulldozers and then picked off speeding conveyor belts and sorted by workers wearing masks, goggles and gloves.
The scale of all of the operations is magnificent. And it would be sublime and mind-blowing if not for the level-headed, flat-footed display tactics, honed to perfection by the center, whose staff has managed to transform the language of image-and-text Conceptualism into a vernacular that's a lot more engaging than high-brow art-speak.
Also, none of the displays has an audio component. The silence is nice. It recalls well-managed libraries and contrasts dramatically with the bells and whistles of so much contemporary art. Best of all, it leaves you with some room to think for yourself. This is no mean feat for any exhibition -- of art or just carefully collected information.
The Center for Land Use Interpretation, 9331 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 839-5722, no closing date; open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., www.clui.org
Taking viewers on a dark trip
Lately, a lot of painters have been looking to the 1960s for inspiration. Their works have drawn, almost entirely, on the youthful optimism and sense of stylish possibility that defined that heady decade.
At the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Gegam Kacherian delves into the dark side of the '60s, dredging up hallucinations that are not terrifying, like bad trips, but filled with so many whiplash reversals, unexpectedly twisted turns and long moments of vertiginous free-fall that you never know when the giddy thrills they deliver so furiously will flip into their opposite: apocalyptic shock and sense-defying randomness. It's an anxiety-laced place chockablock with the complexity and confusion of modern life, as well as many of its trippy pleasures.
All of Kacherian's acrylics on canvas begin with supersaturated expanses of high-keyed colors that recall smog-induced, neon-enhanced sunsets. In these floating fields, he paints convincingly realistic figures, buildings and beasts. They are accompanied by smears, puddles and dollops of paint, some splashed swiftly and mixed vigorously and others applied delicately, with the fussiness of a perfectionist. Many resemble imaginary insects and make you blink to be sure you're not seeing things.
Kacherian's best paintings cohere not by creating a convincing illusion or even making a type of sense that can be articulated, but by drawing viewers into a sensual world that is sufficiently familiar to get you to suspend disbelief and go with the outlandishly physical fantasy.