Las Cienegas Projects is pleased to present POE, Simon Leung’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles since 2002. Thinking of and with Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, life, and influence in relationship to a wide range of issues around political/aesthetic life, Leung essays a palimpsestic video and spatial response to Robert Smithson’s 1968 provocation that “Poe’s Narrative of A. Gordon Pym seems to (him) excellent art criticism and prototype for rigorous ‘non-site’ investigations.”
POE is Leung’s investigation of this legacy of the “site/non-site dialectic,” one of Smithson’s primary concepts that proposed a methodological realignment for artists from the 1960s onward. For Leung, who first encountered Smithson’s quotation in the ‘80s from Craig Owen’s theorization of the allegorical impulse in postmodernism, a re/turn to Poe was also prompted by the central position Poe holds in psychoanalysis and literary theory. Filmed in New York City, Poland (Poe Land), and Southern California, and addressing topics such as the 21st century American presence in Iraq; the congruence between historical, architectural, and psychic repression; and instability between “primary” and “secondary” orders of information, POE features performances by Yvonne Rainer, Warren Niesłuchowski, Hong-an Truong, Michael Ano, Marcus Civin, Sandy de Lissovoy, Kristine Thompson, Lara Odell, Grant Komjakraphan, and the late Gregory Poe.
This presentation of POE is the first time the work has been shown in its three-part form, with each channel containing a looped video segment that addresses a multivalent picturing of the non-site from within, not as irreducible entities that exist only in relationship to an originary “site,” but as transitions between registers. Each transitional passage, consisting of text (a quotation), image (a static scene), or story (a “secondary” narrative) is then repeated in the two segments that they border, acting both as anchors and exposed seams for the “primary” stories. This filmic distanciation, achieved through editing, is then repeated in visual terms in one of the segments when Leung uses the video green screen as a drawing machine, highlighting ways in which “picturing” is itself a site of struggle; and in spatial terms through the design of the viewing apparatus. Central to Leung’s thinking is how the video “green screen” and figures such as the “green zone” in Baghdad can be analyzed as parallel structures in which incommensurate realities are pushed up against each other to create the illusion of a seamless whole.
For the design of the installation, Leung returns to Poe’s description of the chasms in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym that so intrigued Robert Smithson. Toward the end of the novel, Poe resorts to using drawings, rather than language, to describe the gigantic chasms that the narrator cannot decide definitively as either geological formations or human compositions. In constructing the architectural viewing apparatus, Leung bases the design of the structure, conceived to flip between inside/outside/darkness/light, on one of these illustrations. After the design for the apparatus was determined, Leung commissioned artist Dewey Ambrosino to make the seating for POE. Working in collaboration with artist/designer Brendan Sowersby, Ambrosino and Sowersby designed the viewing lounges based on an interpretation of motifs described in Poe’s essay The Philosophy of Furniture and “the macabre and neurotic nature” of his other writings. The music accompanying the first of Yvonne Rainer’s dance sequences is by composer Mark Behm; the choreography is Rainer’s own.
Simon Leung was born in Hong Kong and studied at UCLA, Columbia University, and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has presented solo exhibitions at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Pat Hearn Gallery, and the Huntington Beach Art Center, and has also exhibited at NGBK (Berlin), Generali Foundation (Vienna), Sala Mendoza (Caracas), 1a Space (Hong Kong), the Munich Kunstverein, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles). He participated in the Guangzhou Triennial (2008), the Luleå Summer Biennial (2005), the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Whitney Biennial (1993). In 2008, he received a Guggenheim fellowship as an artist, and the Art Journal Award from the College Art Association as the author of his essay “The Look of Law.” He has taught in the Studio Art Department at UC Irvine since 2001.
The presentation of Simon Leung’s project POE was supported by a Durfee Foundation Artists’ Resource for Completion Grant.
(installation photos by Nicolas Marques)
Las Cienegas Projects is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Nils Schirrmacher. Underlying Schirrmacher’s work is an interest in the attempts of cultures and individuals to place consciousness within the contexts of meaning and purpose, and the factors that can undermine such endeavors. Comprised of 4 photomontages, the work involves the artist’s comparative study of two extreme ideologies: the utopianism that flourished in Californian colonies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany. The structures depicted here are conflations of buildings that pertain to this history.
The artist uses a multi-step process to construct his images: reconstructing the subject matter in miniature, documenting the model with photographs, dissecting the photos, and then reassembling the image using collage and retouching. Architectural sources include a portable chicken coop designed by Charles Weeks, founder of two utopian colonies, and the sole architectural remnant of German Town, a group of structures replicating German housing that were built to test incendiary bombs during World War Two. While investigating the drives that are common to both utopian and totalitarian impulses, Schirrmacher uses architecture to mark the intersection of landscape and the perceived cultural destinies of groups engaged in utopian and fascist regimes.
Nils Schirrmacher is a Los Angeles artist who uses scale models, photography, and collage to explore historical responses to the dilemma of consciousness. He received a BFA in Sculpture from California College of the Arts, and an MFA from UC Irvine. Recent exhibitions include “Glue, Paper, Scissors” at Cal State LA’s Luckman Gallery.
Back Room Yvonne Rainer Not Much To Look At
Yvonne Rainer’s “Not Much To Look At” is a 25-minute sound installation consisting of a comfortable couch, two headphones, and a CD player. A collaboration between Rainer and electronic composer Quentin Chiappetta, it comprises the soundtrack of her latest dance for six people, “Assisted Living: Good Sports 2”, which will have its world premiere at the Pompidou Museum in January 2011.