Critics’ Picks

Aidan Koch, Perch, 2017, wood, leather, string, hardware, 6 x 18 x 41".

Los Angeles

Aidan Koch

Park View/Paul Soto
2271 W. Washington Boulevard
March 11–April 22

In Helen Macdonald’s 2014 memoir H Is for Hawk, the author recounts a period of mourning punctuated by her training of a predatory bird, describing how their new bond tempers her grief. The relationship with this hawk, though, is underpinned by violence as much as affection, and frustration more than familiarity. Such an unsentimental attitude toward animal-human interactions characterizes the drawings and objects by Aidan Koch gathered here, which range from small ceramic sculptures of cats and monkeys to drawings of women arranging their bodies into the shapes of letters. An installation neatly fitted into a closet, Perch (all works 2017) consists of a wood and leather perch fit for a falcon and centrally placed, like a Minimalist totem, in the diminutive space, surrounded on the floor by feathers that, en masse, read as pattern.

Other pieces lampoon orientalism as it intersects with the representation of animals in pop culture. A Very Dangerous Child depicts a leopard carrying a small baby in its maw, evoking, perhaps, The Jungle Book. But this newborn is no Mowgli: If any relations are established between the preverbal human and the slinky beast in Koch’s piece, they are vexed at best. Similarly, the containers made of reeds that comprise Viper’s basket and Cobra’s basket appear straight out of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s oeuvre, except that one is adorned with silk bearing more of Koch’s beguiling imagery. The gallery’s spare architecture provides further occasion for indeterminacy: Stumbling upon a tiny sculpture of a monkey in the bathroom where a soap dish might normally be found is an interesting violation of intimacy, like coming across a family photo in the house of someone you barely know—a sensation typical of the curious zone between the mawkish and the alien that this artist asks us to inhabit.