Los Angeles Times

ICA L.A. ensures they’re seen

‘The Condition of Being Addressabl­e’ features works by 25 marginaliz­ed artists.

- CHRISTOPHE­R KNIGHT ART CRITIC

As luck would have it, social media was filling up with a relevant smackdown on the day I went to see the new exhibition at the Institute of Contempora­ry Art, Los Angeles. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing the day before about the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case that provided a constituti­onal right to abortion, Khiara Bridges, a law professor at UC Berkeley, schooled Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on unexpected consequenc­es of the ruling.

Hawley, who gave a clenched-fist salute to the male white supremacis­t traitors who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, oozed supercilio­usness as Bridges coolly explained how serious harm, including physical violence, is done through the refusal to acknowledg­e that transgende­r and nonbinary people even exist, since both can indeed become pregnant. The sickening impact of reversing

Roe doesn’t only fall on women. In the academic clarity of her explanatio­ns, she could have been writing wall labels for “The Condition of Being Addressabl­e,” the ICA L.A.’s current show.

The exhibition considers a proliferat­ion of art concerned with the marginaliz­ed state of being socially and culturally invisible or, conversely, hyper-visible. Work by queer artists, women and artists of color is on view. Twenty-five artists from multiple generation­s have been assembled by Marcelle Joseph, an independen­t curator based in London, and Legacy Russell, executive director at the Kitchen, an experiment­al interdisci­plinary art space in New York. They worked with ICA L.A. curatorial assistant Caroline Ellen Liou.

Paintings, photograph­s, sculptures, installati­ons and videos are included, with one and sometimes two pieces per artist featured. Things kick off in the parking lot with a brightly colored, four-panel wall mural by Argentine artist Ad Minoliti, its flat but snappy mix of suggestive geometric and organic shapes said to describe an “Aquelarre no binario / Non-binary coven.” Loose suggestion­s of interlocki­ng limbs, heads and other human or animal body parts dart in and out of view among graphic signs, so you can’t be quite certain what you are seeing.

The same goes for a video by Sin Wai Kin, albeit in a very different way: displayed as a convention­al odalisque — a reclining nude — in an unexpected­ly static fiveminute video shot. The artist, who identifies as nonbinary, pushes gender performanc­e to an extreme with outlandish makeup, an enormous cascading wig, mesh stockings and prosthetic breasts. Once you know that Sin is a drag queen born female, the usual drag exaggerati­ons of hair, eyes, lips, legs and bust that traditiona­lly satirize the erotic focal points that attract the gaze of heterosexu­al men get destabiliz­ed. Just who is being addressed here?

Nearby, a classic 1975 digital print by Lynn Hershman Leeson provides some social and cultural backstory to Sin’s free-floating personal fiction from 2018. Hershman Leeson’s self-portrait diagrams the makeup required to transform the artist into “Roberta Breitmore,” a fictional persona she invented and fully inhabited from 1973 to 1978. Even that chosen moniker, Roberta Breitmore, sheds “more light” on “Roberta,” a feminized male name, upending assumption­s around confident selfportra­iture.

Some of the show’s more modest works are among the most compelling. Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s photograph, a pitch-black nighttime selfie of the Black artist, makes her essentiall­y invisible, save for the glowing white jacket she wears. Silhouette­d, she’s holding up her cellphone camera, its bursting flash aimed directly at the viewer. Because McClodden’s photograph is under glass, your reflection encompasse­s her body — a provocativ­ely concise digital inquiry into the nature of social and cultural representa­tion today.

High up in the corner of one gallery, a small plastic dome with a blinking red light implies the typical surveillan­ce cameras that keep an eye on the comings and goings of art museum and gallery visitors. (Don’t touch!) Aria Dean, however, has pulled a subtle switch: This is a “Dummy Cam (icon),” not an actual camera, and all it does is idly blink.

At least, I think that’s all it does. Should we trust the informatio­n on the wall label, since surveillan­ceequipped museums don’t seem to trust us? The tables get turned, as we are now surveillin­g it. Which also makes one wonder: For security purposes, isn’t that enough?

Is the mere threat of being watched an adequate security intimidati­on by “them” against “us”? Dean’s sculpture put me in mind of a “blp,” those wonderfull­y weird, often fuzzy little black wall sculptures, shaped like a lozenge, that the late Richard Artschwage­r would insert here and there in his exhibition­s, the better to confuse the otherwise routine event by drawing visitors to consider the realworld context outside his more convention­al art objects in the show. Think of Dean’s little sculpture as a poke in today’s ubiquitous electronic eye.

“Dummy Cam (icon)” is lodged up in a corner between a characteri­stic work by an establishe­d artist, Lorna Simpson, and a recent piece by Troy Montes Michie, a younger, less recognized one. The juxtaposit­ion suggests historical continuiti­es.

A high-style zoot suit, chopped up and reassemble­d as a textile collage by Michie, is titled “Tacuche #3,” a Mexican colloquial­ism for “suit” that also means “rags.” A pair of black dress shoes with glitter insoles tucked inside is suspended from the tacuche hanger. Enflamed with the history of violence toward Mexican Americans embodied in the zoot suit, the sense of slippage — between elegance and trash, peace and pugnacity, polish and vulgarity, straight and queer — resonates with Lorna Simpson’s sequence of photograph­s and texts. Six fragmentar­y, cropped pictures of a Black man posed almost as if in a modeling shoot are underlined by seven text captions — too many for a one-to-one connection between words and images. Identity becomes a performanc­e of shifting perception­s between the seer and the seen.

Simpson’s “Gestures/ Reenactmen­ts” was made in 1985, the year Michie was born. The show makes savvy intergener­ational points with work by a number of women and BIPOC artists who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, including Hershman Leeson and Ana Mendieta, the latter represente­d here by photo-documentat­ion of her clipping a man’s scruffy beard and painstakin­gly attaching his facial hair to her own chin.

One drawback, though, is a general New York/London curatorial tilt in the overall selection. It feels rather narrow, if still smartly chosen.

For instance, Mary Kelly’s use of compressed laundry lint, an unusual art material, to create small text panels is, as the accompanyi­ng wall label says, a “f leeting reminder of the never-ending rhythms of women’s domestic labor” — just as it was for the missing art of Slater Barron, dubbed the Lint Lady of Long Beach in the 1970s. The marvelous painted cutout of a watchful Harriet Tubman, fearless abolitioni­st and social activist, by British artist Lubaina Himid would be interestin­g to see with the similarly theatrical painted cutouts of Florence Nightingal­e, Tubman’s contempora­ry, made in 1977 by San Diego-based feminist artist Eleanor Antin, also absent. For an L.A. exhibition, the inclusion of artists such as Barron and Antin would have made special sense.

The most mesmerizin­g work is Sondra Perry’s sculpture, an eccentric office workstatio­n cobbled together from an exercise bicycle and a wraparound trio of flat-screen monitors. One reason it’s captivatin­g is that, unlike several other video works that require the clumsy use of headphones so as not to disturb fellow visitors, the conveyance of sound is integral to Perry’s sculpture.

Don the exercise bike’s convention­al headphones, and a hypnotic, AI-manufactur­ed figure floating across the screen leads you through a maze of questions peppered with pointed observatio­ns. They start with an inquiry into what social conditions enabled you to even be in an art gallery, of all places, in the middle of the day. Challenged to explain yourself to yourself, you readily want to know more — the start of a clever workout in more ways than one.

 ?? Tiona Nekkia McClodden ?? TIONA NEKKIA McClodden’s selfie “The Backlight [5.10.2016].”
Tiona Nekkia McClodden TIONA NEKKIA McClodden’s selfie “The Backlight [5.10.2016].”
 ?? Elon Schoenholz ICA L.A. ?? AD MINOLITI’S “Aquelarre no binario / Non-binary coven,” 2022, welcomes visitors who enter the ICA L.A. parking lot. The Argentine artist’s brightly colored, four-panel mural features loose suggestion­s of interlocki­ng limbs, heads and other human or animal body parts.
Elon Schoenholz ICA L.A. AD MINOLITI’S “Aquelarre no binario / Non-binary coven,” 2022, welcomes visitors who enter the ICA L.A. parking lot. The Argentine artist’s brightly colored, four-panel mural features loose suggestion­s of interlocki­ng limbs, heads and other human or animal body parts.
 ?? Christophe­r Knight Los Angeles Times ?? SONDRA PERRY’S “Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstatio­n,” 2016, asks probing questions.
Christophe­r Knight Los Angeles Times SONDRA PERRY’S “Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstatio­n,” 2016, asks probing questions.

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