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January 31, 2008|PAUL YOUNG

There's nothing like some good old-fashioned, let's-stick-it-to-the-man Marxist rebellion to make art exciting again. In recent years we've seen a number of artists return to what's called "institutional critique," questioning museums, galleries and art with conceptually based works. But few, if any, have been quite as good as L.A.'s Michael Asher.

Asher was part of a generation in the '60s who chose not to make precious objects. In- stead, he focused on how institutions influence artworks via display, interpretation and commodification. He's perhaps best known for his 1974 intervention at Claire Copley, where he shifted the focus to the gallery's office by removing a wall. Since then, he's intervened at spaces worldwide.

Asher doesn't show often in L.A., and when he does the work is so subtle, people often miss it. So I was delighted to see his latest project at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Here, he re-created every temporary wall that's ever been erected inside the exhibition space for the last 10 years. That means dozens of walls overlapping each other in what many people might think is a confusing mess. But it falls squarely within Asher's practice of transforming the very material of the museum into his art. "If you look at the museum," says Asher, "you'll see that it's made of the same industrial materials I'm using."

-- theguide@latimes.com

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