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Art review: The many layers of 'Liquid Assets' by Ori Gersht at Angles Gallery

August 23, 2013|By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic
  • Ori Gersht, "Liquid Assets," 2012, film and LCD display.
Ori Gersht, "Liquid Assets," 2012, film and LCD display. (Angles Gallery )

This post has been updated.

In the short, high-definition film “Liquid Assets” by Israeli-born, London-based artist Ori Gersht, a rippling gray blob of molten metal that looks rather like mercury rolls into close-up view against a mottled gray field. Slowly it takes the loose shape of a disk. An electronic soundtrack rumbles with foreboding as the disk’s animated surface boils like a roiling, storm-tossed sea.

Amid the shifting waves, the suggestion of a face in profile looking to the right flickers in and out of view. After several minutes the head comes into sharper focus and then solidifies — a large, piercing eye; an aquiline nose; full and sensuous lips; thick curls of hair and a round chin.

The image is an ancient silver coin with the powerful head of a king adorned by a diadem. He’s positioned within a nubby arc of small dots, as if surrounded by points of light. The film is beautiful yet slightly creepy, elegant but somehow crude.

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Commissioned for a 2012 exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, it’s being shown at Angles Gallery in a framed, liquid crystal display. The liquid crystals underscore the silver currency’s status as a “liquid asset.” A suitable gloss of high-tech modernity is overlaid atop the ancient imperial coin.

The king turns out to be Euthydemos, founding warrior-ruler of an ancient Greco-Bactrian dynasty, who throughout his lengthy rule had a fondness for having his likeness manufactured on coins. (Gersht chose the coin from the Boston museum’s large collection.) That Euthydemos usually had a depiction of the heroic demigod Herakles stamped on the obverse of his drachmas tells you something about the king’s robust idea of his own omnipotence — and of official art’s propaganda role in spreading the opinion.

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“Liquid Assets” tells us something about our own situation too. Ancient Bactria was a region in what is now northern Afghanistan, where wars rage on. Gersht telescopes past and present in the nearly six-minute film, which runs on a continuous loop. History repeats itself, power clarifies and dissipates, authority is fused with currency.

The Angles show is accompanied by a selection of Gersht’s romantic landscape photographs, but it’s the exceptional film that resonates. At the very least, it might change the way you think about that Roosevelt dime and Washington quarter jingling in your pocket.

[For the Record: 8/29/13 12:35 p.m. A previous version of the headline on this review misspelled the artist's name.]

Angles Gallery, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 396-5019, through Aug. 31. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.anglesgallery.com


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