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A. Moret - Writer and Art Critic

"If These Walls Could Talk, A Conversation" at Marine Contemporary and Charlie James Gallery - Whitehot Magazine (April 2011)

If These Walls Could Talk- A Conversation a collaboration between Charlie James Gallery and Marine makes evident that an artist’s dialogue transcends time and space and manifests in an manner as unexpected as playing a game of “telephone.” Works from artists Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet, Jow, Steve Lambert, Nery Gabriel Lemus, Littlewhitehead, Christopher Michlig, Raymond Pettibon, William Powhida, Eduardo Sarabia, and Debra Scacco assume a playful disposition as they riff off each other’s whimsical nature and reveal themselves entirely only after the viewer has visited both spaces. The art works are activated by the request to travel to either end of the city to see a complete show and the “call and response” they generate like a jazz solo impregnates the viewer with wonder.

If These Walls Could Talk seems an apt title for the exhibition as it suggests that secrets about the show are embedded within the memory of the art works and it speaks to an invisible umbilical cord that connects the artists to each location. Thus the “walls” know no barriers and the works are constantly activated by the stories communicated among surrounding works and the narratives drawn by the viewer. The exhibition also examines the effect of the environment and how it changes the manner in which artwork is perceived. Located in Venice Marine doubles as a Salon and domestic space where works are displayed in a stainless steel kitchen, along crisp white hallways, and in bathrooms. One is more inclined to get closer to the artwork, and spend longer periods of time in front of one piece without the sense of feeling watched. Because an appointment is required to enter Marine, it is likely that you will be the only person wandering the house. Upon entering Marine a portion of a clothesline appears through the second story window. The installation from Christopher Michlig titled All my Clothes is a constructed of polystyrene, clothes pines and strings revealing the undergarments of a nuclear family, socks in varying sizes, child’s clothing, and unmentionables. All My Clothes is an appropriate choice for Marine as it reinforces the influence of the domestic sphere. Running along a two-story wall is a series of 36 hand painted ceramic plates by Eduardo Sarabia called History of World. While they are constructed of delicate materials the objects painted on the plates are far from delicate or suited for a home- lustrous female forms, weapons, and marijuana leaves. These works seem a natural part of the environment as if they belong in the immaculate home decorated in contemporary furnishings. Pieces such as Debra Scacco’s Because I’m Worth it is composed of 61503 ink dots on pink tracing paper. Sacco’s design is a modern spin on tapestry and the references “I’m worth it” refers to the artist’s decision to assign $.5 per dot. Marine’s thoughtful consideration of which, works best suited the domestic space help to create a richer conversation with Charlie James Gallery.

It is only when entering Charlie James Gallery that the “conversation” begins to fully present itself. Dead Wood a sculpture constructed of resin and ashes of artist monographs from Littlewhitehead appears like a heavy branch that has fallen from a great tree. The artist’s installation Odd Lament made of ashes of dead wood and resin rests in a pyramid formation on a white pedestal in Marine. The first “conversation” has arisen- the creation and dissemination of an object bearing the monographs of influential artists. Next, we are greeted by Debra Scacco’s familiar and meticulous dot pattern, but the title of the work has changed to Because you’re Worth it. The artist engages in a dialogue about the value assigned to an art object and thus the value a collector assumes once they have acquired that object. William Powhida follows in a similar path as Scacco as he contemplates the discrepancies between fine art and commercial art. In A Provisional Graph of the Art World Successes Relative to Ed Ruscha, the artist draws four pillars on which we blame money, blame selectivity, blame everyone, and blame yourself. This witty and cynical perspective is also reflected in Marine where his diptych Optimism and Cynicism declares “most people can’t afford contemporary “art” either because it’s a luxury commodity for the aristocracy. Whatever, buying art is a fool’s errand anyway, eventually you’ll die and this drawing “representation of my genius” will end up in a museum where no individual owns it.” This notion of ownership is a theme, which echoes in the exhibition as the work of ten artists has been bifurcated between two spaces where it is either a part of a private collection or on loan from the artist. Ultimately the conversation about art its ability to continue to tell a story no matter who owns it or where it is presented.