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Review: Jordan Wolfson's 'Raspberry Poser' a seductive visual poem

December 14, 2012|By Christopher Knight | Los Angeles Times Art Critic
  • Jordan Wolfson, "Raspberry Poser," 2012. Installation view, REDCAT, Los Angeles.
Jordan Wolfson, "Raspberry Poser," 2012. Installation view,… (Scott Groller. )

A translucent, animated condom filled with red candy hearts is an animated protagonist in Jordan Wolfson's marvelous video installation at REDCAT, the New York-based artist's solo debut in Los Angeles. Projected onto a white screen suspended on the diagonal in a white room carpeted in wall-to-wall white rug, the non-narrative video feels unmoored and adrift in a languorous state of liquid reverie. We soon float along with it.

"Raspberry Poser" -- the title conjures Prince -- is in effect a 14 1/2-minute music video. Fragments of yearning ballads and electro-pop, including 1960s Roy Orbison and Sasha Fierce-era Beyoncé, are interspersed on the soundtrack with periods of dead silence, which suddenly seems deafening.

The imagery is a similarly sampled medley of loosely recognizable bits. Bustling Soho streets, sleek shelter magazine interiors, the tourist-laden Eiffel Tower, public parks, an empty gymnasium, a similarly empty artist's studio, Caravaggio paintings and more -- the settings are a mixture of the desirable and the mundane.

Into these environments, some of them crisply photographed and others inexplicably bleached, as if glimpsed through clouded memory, Wolfson inserts a diverse cast of characters. Most are presented in different styles of animation, including old-fashioned hand-drawn cartoons and up-to-the-minute computer-generated images.

One is the heart-filled condom. Another is a tough kid in a striped shirt. A third is a lively group of bouncing red geometric forms, studded with flailing knobs, their sci-fi shape derived from the human immunodeficiency virus. A sexually suggestive key slides into a lock and cascades of red blood cells waft across the screen, morphing into a Valentine heart.

In and out of this shifting array wanders a bald punk clad in black leather and torn jeans. A live-action character rather than an animation, he is nonetheless as much a media-derived caricature as the tough kid (who in one sequence casually draws a knife and spills his own guts). Thoroughly benign -- at one moment, the punk chats amiably on a park bench with a businessman who pays scant attention to his new acquaintance's painted face -- he is a symbol of social alienation. Less nihilistic than merely alone, the live character is of a piece with the other animated images drifting through the world.

Wolfson's sweet video installation mingles type and stereotype, the analog and the virtual, in a strange and seductive visual poem to the fundamental urge for human kinship. It's heartbreakingly lovely.

REDCAT Gallery, 631 W. 2nd St., (213) 237-2800, through Jan. 27. Closed Monday. www.redcat.org

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