Critics’ Picks

View of “Farrah Karapetian: Collective Memory,” 2019.

View of “Farrah Karapetian: Collective Memory,” 2019.

Los Angeles

Farrah Karapetian

Von Lintel Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave A-7
January 5–February 24, 2019

An unearthly red glow permeates the dim rooms of Farrah Karapetian’s haunting exhibition “Collective Memory.” Arranged with the impromptu panache of a dive bar, the installation seems as if it were part of a bizarre dream. On a chalkboard wall in the entryway, #WEWONTBEERASED is frenetically scrawled over and over in wobbly parallel lines. Here, the urgency of the hashtag for transgender solidarity is rendered materially.

Karapetian based this show on her friend and gallerist Tarrah von Lintel’s fond personal anecdotes about Club Shine, a transgender nightclub at LA’s last lesbian bar, the Oxwood Inn, which closed in 2017. The artist also envisaged salient elements recalled by Club Shine’s frequent patrons. Memories of a dancing pole, a pool table, a cramped bathroom, and pictures on walls take on intriguing new lives within the installation. Painterly photograms, such as Oxwood Inn, 2018, which portrays spilled drinks and bar ephemera, complete the mysterious ambience, evoking specters of nightlife past.

Former Club Shine regulars have been invited to relive previous experiences at the Inn throughout the show’s duration. On select evenings, the gallery operates as gathering place and a darkroom, where Karapetian captures the energy of attendees as they socialize, apply makeup, and dance. Customary rules of gallery visitation don’t apply: Everyone may graffiti several large pieces of clear film printed with images, which have served as negatives for photograms. Refracted under the lens of Karapetian’s reinterpretation of the club, the “reopening” of the shuttered nightspot highlights for a wider audience its former role in asserting the presence of the transgender community and, importantly, emphasizes the need for a less temporary venue.