Critics’ Picks

Birgit Megerle, Allure, 2014, oil on linen, 29 1/2 x 25 1/2".

Birgit Megerle, Allure, 2014, oil on linen, 29 1/2 x 25 1/2".

Los Angeles

“Blue Danube”

Overduin & Co.
6693 Sunset Boulevard
June 11–July 22, 2017

Vulgarian is an insult you don’t hear often anymore (Graydon Carter’s description of the “short-fingered vulgarian” who now occupies the White House notwithstanding). Emily Post famously defined the term in her 1922 guide Etiquette, as those who “never had an opportunity to acquire cultivation.” Stemming from the Latin word vulgaris, meaning common or ordinary, the vulgarian was a bogeyman of twentieth-century American class relations—bringing together poor taste in consumption and crude behavior to form a type. But this figuration of the commoner also has the potential to be recuperated in the twenty-first century as someone who refuses the economic and cultural capital engendered by the, always illusory, good life. Or at least that’s the sentiment that pervades this group exhibition.

The oldest work here is Kenneth Anger’s six-minute film fragment Puce Moment, 1949. It begins with a rack of flamboyant flapper gowns—spangled, beaded—each one shaking and moving toward the camera lens in a Busby Berkeley mime, and ends with the film’s actress, Yvonne Marquis, taking a quartet of borzois out for a walk. It is remarkable to see in its lush 16-mm format. A certain basic quality is also present in Annabeth Marks’s Digestion IV and V, both 2017, wall sculptures of deconstructed and painted leather jackets, and in Birgit Megerle’s representational paintings of cocktails accompanied by plants placed on mirrored surfaces (Allure and Atomic Juice, both 2014). Spritz, anyone? Rosalind Nashashibi’s relief prints of jeans and boxers, among them a single skirt, index the thickness of the garments by running each as an inked matrix through a printing press, embossing the paper. Taken together, the pieces in this show move away from Post’s defamation of the philistine, and toward Diana Vreeland’s more receptive sentiment: “I’m a great believer in vulgarity—if it’s got vitality.”