An installation view of Tricia Lawless Murray's installation "The… (Courtesy of the artist and…)
The line between art and pornography is as fraught, in some sense, as it ever was, though the problem has shifted from indecency to banality. Any attempt to translate between the lush, weird world of sex and the dry, largely codified world of the artwork — particularly by way of a nude, explicitly eroticized body — risks entangling itself in pornography’s vast lexicon of visual clichés and winding up feeling merely dull and unsavory.
It’s a problem that has dogged Tricia Lawless Murray’s work in the past, but she finds some intriguing solutions in her current show, "The Sea Folded Its Layers Around Her," at Jancar Gallery. Murray makes ample use of the nude, explicitly eroticized body — usually her own — in shadowy, elliptical scenarios, with a repetitive insistence that borders on narcissism and often threatens to obscure her considerable talent as a photographer.
In this show, she situates these photographic scenarios in sculptural installations that prove better equipped to carry the relative complexity of her themes — desire, memory, erotic objectification, the subjectivity of the artist — and preserve their fundamentally literary undercurrents. The most notable of these is the show’s title work, a labyrinth of walls built into the gallery’s back room, intended to mimic the walls of real motel rooms, that are woven through with peepholes and lenses of various sorts, trained on a selection of photographs and collages.
Rather than telling a story of desire to which one may or may not relate, given one’s taste, the installation establishes desire as a physical atmosphere, drawing viewers into its very motions.
Like Marcel Duchamp’s "Étant donnés," which Murray references explicitly, the work moves past the aesthetic dead end of the pornographic image into more complex psychological territory.
Jancar Gallery, 961 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, (213) 625-2522, through Nov. 17. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.jancargallery.com
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