Sly mes­sages in ‘Walk­ing the Walk’

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER - By Leah Oll­man cal­en­dar@la­

Sin­cer­ity and lev­ity col­lide, el­e­gantly, in “Walk­ing the Walk,” Phyl­lis Green’s ap­peal­ing LAM Gallery show.

The ti­tle refers to an ac­tual jour­ney — that of the dis­ci­ple ap­proach­ing a guru, as per a par­tic­u­lar sec­tion of the Upan­ishad — and also mak­ing good on its pre­scribed rit­ual de­mand, the car­ry­ing of fuel as an of­fer­ing.

The sym­bolic ges­ture en­tails ac­tual phys­i­cal hard­ship, and Green’s body of work ad­dresses that ef­fort with a wink.

Re­spond­ing to a spe­cific ver­sion of the dic­tate call­ing for “fire­wood on the head” in­stead of the gen­eral “fuel in hand,” the L.A. sculp­tor has de­signed a clever group of de­vices to ease the trans­port.

One is a stylish hat, the “Coco Car­rier,” from which a minia­ture for­est of branches rises. On the road to en­light­en­ment, why not look your best, af­ter all? A lovely hooded cape in camel-colored wool sim­i­larly does the trick. Tall twigs tucked into its seg­mented pock­ets en­cir­cling the neck leave the hands free for, well, what­ever. Cell­phone and take­out cup?

Sev­eral other works re­sem­ble high-de­sign, full- body walk­ers, wood or metal scaf­folds with pouches hang­ing off the sides and plat­forms atop to hold stacks of wood or their white porce­lain sur­ro­gates. Each per­for­ma­tive sculp­ture is ac­com­pa­nied by a photo of Green mod­el­ing it — a tongue-incheek spot­light on the su­per­fi­cial as­pects of the spir­i­tual deed, its ap­pear­ance rather than its deeper mean­ing.

The ironies mount: Green’s im­ple­ments are la­bor sav­ing, but isn’t the quest to com­pre­hend the eter­nal sup­posed to be hard? For three decades, Green has made sculp­tures of dis­tinct and com­plex odd­ity, en­gag­ing bod­ily, or­ganic and me­chan­i­cal forms. Th­ese pieces might slyly jab at our cul­ture of con­ve­nience and ex­pe­di­ency, but l they don’t take short­cuts to sig­nif­i­cance.

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