Critics’ Picks

  • Nicole Miller, Michael in Black, 2018, bronze, 42 x 15 1/2 x 22".

    Nicole Miller

    Kristina Kite Gallery
    3400 W Washington Blvd
    December 1–January 26

    In Nicole Miller’s exhibition “For Now,” three works form a meditation on race and identity that subtly prods the notion of a fixed or true self.

    In the video Pino (all works 2018), voice actor Pino Insegno, who is white, considers his frequent casting to voice black actors when American movies are dubbed in Italian. Between his musings on-screen, he performs dialogue from roles he’s voiced, including those for Jamie Foxx in Ray (2004) and Will Smith in Ali (2001). The video alternates with For Now, a laser projection of the titular phrase that undergoes shifts in shape, color, and legibility for forty-four minutes.

    The video and laser works are accompanied by Michael in Black, a black patinated bronze sculpture of Michael Jackson kneeling in a pose of devotion or contrition, made from plaster casts of his body from the late 1980s. This is a memorial to a performer whose identity seemed to be in constant flux, most famously due to his ever-lightening skin color. Yet the figure’s missing hands remind us that Jackson had a tenuous hold on his public image. As a counterpoint to Pino, which divulges Insegno's assumption of black bodies, and in the context of an exhibition about temporality and change, the work reminds us of the crucial factor of control. Miller’s immersive storytelling and hypnotic visuals deftly handle weighty sociopolitical and metaphysical themes. Her registers of engagement suggest the artist is aiming to connect with viewers, not only to speak herself but to start a conversation.

     

  • Christine Sun Kim, The Sound of Anticipation, 2016, charcoal on paper, 19 1/2 x 25 1/2".

    Christine Sun Kim

    Ghebaly Gallery
    2245 E Washington Blvd.
    December 15–January 19

    A thirty-six-foot-long mural greets the viewer at the entrance to Christine Sun Kim’s exhibition. Finish Forever, 2018, depicts five stacked symmetrical shapes, each resembling a double-sided ladle, face down. These forms are part of the notations that Kim, who is Deaf, has invented for the sweeping arm gestures used in American Sign Language (ASL). The ladle shape signifies the word finish. Its repetition here could mean, “It was finished a long time ago,” or “Please stop already!” or the titular neologism, “Finish forever.”

    In the eighteen drawings on view, Kim expands on her visualizations of words and sounds, incorporating quantitative symbols and musical shorthand (such as “p” for piano [soft] and “f” for forte [loud]) to translate various experiences—for example, movie scores. The works’ titles are often associated with particular emotions, as in The Sound of Anticipation, 2016, and Suspenseful Background Music, 2016. This may be because ASL relies on facial expressions in a way that spoken English does not. The spacing of Kim’s mark-making evokes measurements from a seismograph, where lines that abruptly turn upward connote urgency while elongated lines connote grace. Viewed cumulatively, Kim’s notations gesture toward the gulfs of alienation and consent that can be sensed between languages. Yet that gesture is at once challenging, playful, and accessible—this alphabet is best understood by feeling your way around it, seeking embodiment.

  • Genevieve Belleveau, Pressed, 2018, video, color, silent, 3 minutes 38 seconds.

    Genevieve Belleveau

    Garden
    1345 Kellam Avenue
    October 27–February 3

    Genevieve Belleveau’s solo exhibition “Circlusion” centers on a performance in which the artist vacuum-seals a participant adorned with fresh flowers inside a latex covering. At the opening, Belleveau herself was sheathed in the BDSM habit of a latex bodysuit and boots to facilitate the process, titled Vac-Bed Pressed Floral Arrangement Demo (all works, 2018). But the tone of the demo, completed with performers Iggy Soliven and Themba Alleyne, was more mutualistic than hierarchical: The seams of the bed were checked and rechecked, the air flow was tested, and decisions about the placement of angiosperms were unhurried.

    To be sealed is to be fixed in place, with both the pleasure of certainty—here I am—and the fear of death (has the device been set up properly?). The video Pressed elaborates on this spectrum of experience. From an aerial perspective, the camera repeatedly moves away from a series of human Ikebana in widening circles, expanding into a topographic view of an LA neighborhood, a man-made geography with a network of houses, freeways, and choking smog. This gyre animates the exhibition with a sense of dislocation and heightened sensuality as the freedoms and unfreedoms of aesthetic, ritual submission give way to the freedoms and unfreedoms of the city grid. As the titular term circlusion (defined on the press release as “a proposed antonym of the term penetration”) reminds us, active and passive roles are interconnected and necessarily relative, which suggests that that the reciprocity animating Belleveau’s intimate, physical performance might also liven the superorganism that is the social body.