Critics’ Picks

View of “Justin Olerud and Patricio Manuel Bernal Morales: Bangs and Boyfriend,” 2017. Center: Justin Olerud, lone star, 2017.

Los Angeles

Justin Olerud and Patricio Manuel Bernal Morales

Visitor Welcome Center
3006 W 7th Street Suite 200A
March 18–April 22, 2017

The concomitant and proliferating desires of sex are at the center of this two-person exhibition. Justin Olerud’s paintings of Western ware, such as a saddle (Dusty Saddle, all works 2017) and a longhorn skull, hang in the first room and are sporadically interrupted by paintings featuring young chiseled, mostly nude white men dressed in cowboy garb (Lone Star and lone star), closely approximating—or appropriating—Bob Mizer’s legendarily camp photo shoots for his AMG studio from the 1950s to the 1970s. Lying about on the floor are large tumbleweeds, presenting obstacles to easy movement throughout the small gallery. In Olerud’s work, sex is in the activity of looking, the careful setting of a scene, and a knowing engagement with one’s props.

In the case of Patricio Manuel Bernal Morales’s installation Powder Room, sexuality appears as “a name for what breaks down the fantasy of sovereignty” (per Lee Edelman and Lauren Berlant’s 2013 philosophical dialogue Sex, or The Unbearable), underscoring the ways that bodies are conscripted into fantasy and in which they also move beyond such calls. This labyrinthine installation of gauzy fabrics structures a viewer’s encounter with the artist’s two other works—a fabric glory hole (In Service) and a small sculptural construction of barbed wire and acrylic medium (Wildflower). On opening night, three performers were sealed up in the nearly transparent walls of Morales’s maze, their faces covered with light-yellow sequins, their bodies pressing the fabric walls out into the passageways. Touching became nearly inevitable as one worked toward the center of Powder Room. Like any good labyrinth, solving the maze is always secondary to what one finds out about oneself and others along the way.