Critics’ Picks

View of “For the Martian Chronicles,” 2012.

Los Angeles

“For the Martian Chronicles”

L&M Arts | Los Angeles
660 Venice Boulevard
November 8 - January 5

Man will probably never colonize Mars; it’s hard enough to live in Nevada. Yet if this show is any clue, human culture already crowds an imaginary Martian landscape. L&M’s west gallery occupies an old power station adjacent to the former site of the house where Ray Bradbury wrote much of his Martian Chronicles, a short story collection published in 1950. This factoid inspired curator Yael Lipshutz to launch a tribute to the Red Planet. Nearly thirty pieces settle into thematic clumps: spare and outward-looking machined art; alien junk assemblages (notably, a kind of circuit board or landscape by Noah Purifoy made from an extruded auto radiator); and more introspective sketches. The show’s vague premise allows for unimaginative selections such as Jim Shaw’s Martian Portraits, 1978, or Vija Clemins’s Night Sky 3, 2002. Yet with sleekly spacey works like Liz Deschenes’s aggressively angled photogram Untitled (Tilt/Swing #2), 2010, as well as more traditional aerospace-inspired pieces by, for example, Michael Asher and Fred Eversley, the show stirs an extraterrestrial longing.

Like the manifest of a spaceship fleeing a scorched planet, the checklist is packed with artists near the top of their field—but it’s the offbeat and scruffy nature of their contributions that makes this a show worth seeing. The glass in Larry Bell’s first mirrored box, Untitled 1959, is cracked; the wood frame is gaudily crackled and rickety. As the viewer sees herself reflected in the grimy surfaces, Minimalism looks as gloriously worn as the four marked pages of Bradbury’s original manuscript arranged in a nearby case. More to the point is Corazon Del Sol’s neon-yellow glass cube containing a dirt-caked Canon 5D Mark II. Our most futuristic objects here are practically irradiated with nostalgia; the Martian becomes the alter-human.