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Review: Dan Finsel muses on art as therapy

April 04, 2013|By Sharon Mizota
  • Dan Finsel, "E-thay Inward-yay Ourney-jay," 2013, black and white photograph and oil paint, 52 by 68 inches.
Dan Finsel, "E-thay Inward-yay Ourney-jay," 2013, black and… (Fredrik Nilsen / Richard…)

Dan Finsel’s intriguing show at Richard Telles revolves around a 1974 book he found in his parents’ collection: "The Inward Journey/Art as Therapy for You." The sculptures, paintings and photographs that Finsel created in response seem to be a Freudian exploration of family dynamics, with plenty of references to the inputs and outputs of at least two important orifices. They are also send-ups of the notion of art as a direct conduit to self-discovery.

The show opens with a faux copy of the book, its title translated into pig Latin, and a portrait of Finsel sitting at a table with a variety of clay objects. This is followed by a series of photographs of a nude Finsel crouching atop the table, variously entwined with the objects. On the opposite wall are several paintings of clay tubes arranged in mandala-like formations that also resemble pretzels or fallopian tubes, or perhaps really unappetizing sausages.

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There are also three tables, the designs of which supposedly represent the stages of life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Looking at art-making through the most hackneyed, psychological lens, the installation descends into a cryptic system of symbols. Instead of self-discovery, we sink into more and more layers of bizarre, personal code.

Another room contains several (actually quite lovely) photographic portraits of Finsel, or the artist formerly known as Finsel, his face obscured by rocks. We can’t be sure that it’s even him, but the exhibition seems to suggest that it wouldn’t matter anyway.

The self is much too nuanced, too fugitive, it suggests, to ever be captured in something as reductive as art.


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Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (323) 965-5578, through April 20. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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