Critics’ Picks

Hemmed in Two, 2000. Installation view.

Hemmed in Two, 2000. Installation view.

Los Angeles

Hew Locke

The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State L.A.
5151 State University Drive California State University
May 29–July 31, 2004

It's hard to believe this is the first US show for Scottish-born, Guyana-raised, and London-based Locke, who's been garnering international attention over the last couple of years. But it's no surprise that this debut comes at the Luckman, which has proved itself ahead of the curve in showing important emerging and unduly overlooked artists. The show’s centerpiece, Hemmed in Two, 2000, is a monumental yet fragile construction originally exhibited at the Victoria and Albert. Fashioned from ordinary corrugated cardboard cut into a variety of shapes and then riddled with additional cutout tracery, embellished with white paint and black marker, and assembled over a wooden frame, the piece is a trashy, postcolonial baroque monster. It looks like the hybrid of a royal yacht and a refuse barge that has grown decrepit in its voyage, struggled to keep up with the times, become confused about its function and identity, and picked up far too much baggage along the way. Pleasing, fascinating, and troubling on multiple levels, the work squeezes elegance and decadence out of modest materials, fascinates with its enigmatic details, and dominates the space with its imposing form. Its undulating surfaces and frilly patterns are dizzying, and its overall shape, which seems to be collapsing in on itself, leaves one feeling that one might be sucked in by its inevitable implosion. This grand display is nicely accessorized by large portraits of contemporary British royals, similarly crafted from cardboard and adding to the lovely/horrific sense of cultural confusion.