Board­ing a sink­ing ship

Los Angeles Times - - Arts & Architecture -

To step into Josh Beck­man’s in­stal­la­tion at Ma­chine Project is to en­ter a world in which any­thing is pos­si­ble.

Made of wood, cloth and rope, “The Sea Nymph” is an ap­prox­i­mately life-size model of a sail­ing ship. Its stern tips steeply sky­ward. This sug­gests that the rest of the hull has dis­ap­peared through the floor and that the boat is about to sink.

Sev­eral masts, yards and spars pro­trude from the floor at odd an­gles, along with lots of elab­o­rately knot­ted rig­ging. A makeshift jun­gle gym, this part of Beck­man’s in­stal­la­tion in­vites kids to climb on it. The ship’s stern func­tions like a fancy tree­house.

Beck­man is also acutely aware of the pic­to­rial is­sues that tra­di­tion­ally oc­cupy painters, in­clud­ing per­spec­tive, com­po­si­tion and il­lu­sion­ism. The masts, spars and rig­ging of his ship are not the same scale as its hull and cabin. This warps space and messes with one’s sense of equi­lib­rium. And a hatch in the cabin’s floor does dou­ble-duty as a pic­ture frame that opens onto a crys­tal cave jam-packed with fake amethyst.

Beck­man’s topsy-turvy in­stal­la­tion dis­ori­ents to en­hance per­cep­tual acu­ity, to ac­ti­vate a vis­i­tor’s eyes, body and imag­i­na­tion.

Ma­chine Project, 1200-D N. Al­varado St., (213) 483-8761, through Oct. 8. Open Fri­days through Sun­days and usu­ally through­out the week, call first. www.ma­chine­pro­ject.com

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