Critics’ Picks

Justin Lowe, untitled, 2011, collage, 10 x 6”.

Justin Lowe, untitled, 2011, collage, 10 x 6”.

Los Angeles

Justin Lowe

Pepin Moore
5849 ½ W Sunset Boulevard
March 19–April 23, 2011

Given that Justin Lowe is well known for the grand-scale installations he’s made with Jonah Freeman, Lowe’s latest solo exhibition, “Hair of the Dog,” might be read as a microscopic glimpse into the duo’s source material; one leaves the show feeling a different but equally satisfying type of disorientation. Ten collages culled primarily from pulpy sci-fi, horror, and occult paperbacks serve unintentionally as a master key to Freeman and Lowe’s prior madcap dioramic landscapes, in which fictionalized narratives are constructed to serve as historical context and navigational maps for druggy, residual sets. Here, dainty but thematically expansive works on paper literally display the type of fiction that might have inspired such past collaborative projects as 2009’s Black Acid Co-op and 2010’s Bright White Underground. Dracula mired in a purple, otherworldly mountain range; an arm reaching out of Jaws’s mouth to rescue a buxom blonde woman; volcanoes abutting pyramids; sword and sandal imagery spliced with skyscrapers—additively, the collages offer possibilities for FUTURES UNLIMITED, the only text edited into the bunch. Because the collages exude 3-D essence, cut from thick cardboard cover stock and layered to expose blocky edges, they feel like the mutant children of Lowe’s larger, sculptural enterprises. Each piece has a wonky, pop-up glamour that also recalls his contemporary, sexy-psychedelic, counterculture, printed-matter appropriation experts, including Bjorn Copeland of the band Black Dice, or even Richard Hawkins, whose dollhouse miniatures currently on display at the Hammer Museum also enact a Shrinky Dink aesthetic.

Elsewhere on the ground floor are two Lichtensteinian printed and collaged canvases covered in dots and slashed signage, and a laser-cut image of Che Guevara plastered onto Plexiglas and fractured into shards sharp enough to stab the werewolf should he spring forth from the basement video, Werewolf Karaoke, 2010. Upstairs, are two slide projectors cross-fading collage elements from the large paintings, titled L.A. Slideshow, 2011, pulled from a paperback called City of Angels. Mirroring the werewolf’s video transformation below, these slides reveal the paintings’ process in transformation with a handmade morphing style. All works, whether moving or still, are piled with imagery connoting radical politics, maniacal religious iconography, and speculation about the unknown universe, wielded deftly by an obvious cult film aficionado. If Lowe means to cast his vote for wacky underdog subcultures, here he also shows the viewer how a few poignant images can be as insidious and infective as an immersive installation.