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Bloodlines: Roberts & Tilton Gallery • Los Angeles, California

by Charong Chow


Long lazy days, sweltering heat, and the group show are all undeniable signs that summer is upon us. One thing keeping us cool in the hot Los Angeles sun is “Bloodlines,” at Roberts & Tilton Gallery, featuring 15 young emerging artists from around the country exploring a wide spectrum of materials. The title suggests that the connection artists are bound to in the world of Contemporary Art is like one big happy family. In this something-for-everyone exhibition, there is painting, sculpture, an extremely large art piece, a very small art piece, oils, inks, photographs, and more. As a whole, “Bloodlines” is a well-chosen and curated group exhibition. There is a quirkiness and ironic sense of self in each of the pieces. Most artists see the fun of art making rather than taking themselves too seriously. 


With the rise of very fashionable abstract painting now, it is refreshing to see Dana Schutz’s small scale oil portraits. Schutz asked her friends to think of their ideal mates for three portraits in oil on canvas. Each person described in full detail what this dream date would be like, and the artist then measured her friend to create the canvas size. The final products are dreamy funny paintings with extraordinary details. The thick brush strokes and painterly style makes the work comical without losing its wit and charm. becky (blind date for isami), features a pouty girl with Piketon-like barrettes and luscious lips that pop out of the canvas, and rob (blind date for elvis), has a stubbly beard that is ready to scratch when you kiss him. What seems like contrived techniques becomes a feeling of teenage dreaming and longing for that soul mate that never dies.


One of the first sculptures in front of the main gallery is Paul Cherwick’s, powderhound, which is a small painted basswood and fiberboard piece of a brown bear-like animal riding up a snowy hill on a snowmobile. The great flowing action lifts the sculpture from the pedestal giving it a wild and climactic feel to the fantastic juxtaposition in the sculpture. Cherwick deals with issues of these noisy and highly polluting vehicles in pristine natural settings, yet reveling in the fun of extreme sports.


An eerie, repetitive percussion soundtrack that emanates throughout the gallery is a video loop titled, Break Off, by Michael Dee. A small monitor depicts a pair of beige-sleeved arms and hand picking away a never-ending block of ice. A fearful tension occurs watching the unknown right hand picking just inches away from the left hand holding the ice down. No accidents occur but every time it starts, the left hand is in trouble again.


In the hallway entrance into the gallery, Charles LaBelle’s group of five C-prints titled the man who fell to earth, depict an awkward older man stumbling through each photograph with a gray mask over his eyes. The film of the same title starred David Bowie as an alien from another planet. Resembling this film in tone, the man in the photographs wears ragged clothes with messy hair and an unshaven face, and is desperately trying to find his direction in a lush green outdoor scenery. The narrative conclusion is unknown, but Bowie, forever young, never finds his way back to his home, hopeful for his return.


Another photography project is four digitally manipulated C-prints on Sintra by Dori La Vella, which conjures feelings of nostalgia of place and youth. Each small piece, about letter-size with wide white borders, features soft-focus poetic images with appropriately matching titles. backyard symphony, depicts a blonde haired girl on a swing in her backyard with thick ropes hanging around her. There is a strange mix of childhood innocence with very destructive and harmful images. While the pieces do not all work, the ambiguous imagery is worth noting.


Dwayne Moser’s project of photographing celebrity mailboxes is part of his strange fascination with those we see in television and film. We triumph when they star in a great hit, and we are saddened or exalted when they are found high wandering in a neighbor’s bedroom. Proof of this vicarious living can be seen at many street corners in Hollywood with young kids selling maps to the stars’ homes.  Moser’s photographs of stars’ mailboxes all look startlingly similar in their manicured front landscapes. From eddie murphy, to olivia newton john, they all have the traditional aluminum mailbox in the elongated half cylinder shape, except for rob lowe, with an unusually long horizontal rectangular model mounted on two stuccoed columns. The ordinary and commonplace quality of the mailboxes contrast nicely with the celebrity of their owners.

Like a large beanstalk in the far corner of the gallery is Joel Morrison’s untitled, ceiling stretching sculpture. Using Styrofoam, caulking, and screws, the brightly colored and geometric-shaped, column-shaped piece is a giant in this exhibition of such small pieces. This contrast works to uproot any particularities you may have about this group show. It gives a shape to the popular use of Color Field painting that is in all the galleries currently. This sculpture pokes fun at a season that helps younger artists find their place within the very small and incestuous art world. 


Roberts and Tilton claim that this is a show about links of artists by professors, art schools, friends, practices, or Conceptual agreements. “Bloodlines” expresses that artists cannot escape each other, nor can they escape the Art World in this age of Global awareness and new technology.  So perhaps the only escape left to artists is through humor.


Charong Chow

Los Angeles, California




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