Critics’ Picks

Lucas Murgida, (w)hole, 2009. Performance view.

Los Angeles

Lucas Murgida

Charlie James Gallery
969 Chung King Road
July 25–August 22

Experiential and performance art tend to make comebacks in lean economic times, as seen in a recent evening of performances hosted by Los Angeles’s Chinatown gallery district. Among the events, ranging from serious to entertaining to histrionic, Lucas Murgida’s four-hour performance (w)hole, 2009, and a related exhibition emerged as a highlight. In a dexterous feat, the Bay Area artist fused the caring honesty of direct interaction with the intellectual vagaries of relational aesthetics, while improbably balancing material, object-based concerns with the raw nerve of performance art.

On the evening of the event, Murgida stood behind a long wooden table, a metal loop protruding from his mouth, around his jaw, and onto a rope strung through pulleys across the ceiling and attached, at the other end, to two wooden boxes (designed to look like refrigerators) filled with snacks and drinks. When viewers/participants opened the doors to the boxes to retrieve a treat, the rope tugged at the device, twisting Murgida’s mouth into a painful and unnatural smile. Through his eerie expression, the artist calmly explained the roots of the word herd and its relationship to consumption, the psyche, and predicting the future—a seemingly unrelated train of thought that unfolded sensibly in clear elocution—to gallery guests.

Also in the gallery, Murgida has installed an exhibition of large-scale digital images derived from his past works. In contrast to the artists’ refreshingly candid performance, the pictures offer neither explanation nor record but proffer another form of experience, a poetic reflection on the myriad and surreal possibilities of human behavior.