I wasn’t planning to write about Greater LA, a show that presents work by over 50 current Los Angeles-based artists at a pop-up gallery on Broadway in SoHo. I think I was swayed by the eye-catching portrait of Brian Wilson by Johanna Goodman on the cover of this week’s Village Voice, which pushed some buttons on my internal jukebox and got me thinking about California. So with “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” playing in my head, I ventured out to see if the LA-NY art antipodes could share some happy times together.
That fantasy was all but dashed as I stepped inside and was plagued by the sour-voiced Anthony Kiedis bleating about his City of Angels in the ballad “Under the Bridge.” Unfortunately, the linking of an overplayed, 20-year-old Red Hot Chili Peppers song to this awkwardly self-described “first ever survey to take place in New York of art being made in Los Angeles right now” was not the only curatorial misjudgment I encountered.
Greater LA is billed as a survey show, with disparate artists grouped solely on the basis of their shared geography and right-now-ness. This proved to be a limitation, as the curators missed a golden opportunity to highlight and discuss other unifying elements such as the irony, humor and distinctively Californian “joie de vivre” that pervaded the show.
Such shortcomings aside, Greater LA still didn’t amount to more than the sum of its parts. Which was a shame, since some of those parts were fantastic and funny and deserved better conveyance in New York than to be hitched to an ungainly body.
Olga Koumoundouros’ sculpture “Trickle Down” (2009) – a cast of an antique gutter covered with toilet paper and starch and feeding into a perforated Big Gulp cup as it descended from the ceiling at a steep angle – provided an arresting start to the show, being the first object encountered as one entered the space from the elevator.
Matt Johnson’s “The Shape of Time” – a bronze trompe l’oeil of a super-sized, topological twist done up to resemble an automobile’s tire – wowed the wow-able. Of course, a sculpture such as that begs the question, “Why a tire?” But the piece was silly enough to earn a pass.
Jonas Wood’s paintings of Greek vases stole the show for me. Spare and spartan in presentation, the vases were set against white backgrounds and on the suggestions of tables. Crude yet convincing figures on the vases themselves evoked thoughts of Matisse while their forms and depicted actions tickled with an ironic wink.
And it’s with such a wink that the show should’ve blinked into and out of New York’s consciousness. If NY’s lucky, Greater LA will spend the closed-eye time tightening up and stripping down before returning to the meaner coast.