Critics’ Picks

View of “Marnie Weber: Sing Me a Western Song.” Foreground left: The Raccoon and the Beaver, 2007. Foreground right: Ghost Clown, 2007.

Los Angeles

Marnie Weber

Patrick Painter, Inc
2525 Michigan Avenue Unit B2
April 21 - June 2

Los Angeles–based artist Marnie Weber’s distinctly vaudevillian practice comprises performances, videos, collages, and sculptures that are as enchanting as they are intelligent. The collages and sculptures that accompany her new film, A Western Song, 2007, are very cute. But they are also creepy, like macabre fairy-tale props. The imagery—on film and on paper—is marked by Weber’s now-iconic sprites in country dresses, neutral white masks, and long wigs. The collages collapse scale as the Spirit Girls, as they are called, and multiple images of Weber herself populate constructed dioramas that look like rural princesses’ dollhouses. Weber’s strategic desexualization of the Spirit Girls presents a complex commentary on expectations of femininity, identity, and fantasy.

In A Western Song, Weber and her Spirit Girl cohorts leave their trailer home and embark on a meandering adventure to an Old West town. There they encounter a few rambunctious, banjo-playing clowns and some defunct circus animals. A hootenanny ensues in the spiderweb-strewn lobby of an abandoned saloon. The exhibition also features pristine mixed-media sculptures of the circus animals—but none have ears, an unsettling rejoinder to the cacophony that accompanies the film. (The noisy score was performed live recently, at the Hammer Museum.) The animals’ deafness reads as an ominous message that perhaps we’re not listening as much as we should (to the Spirit Girls? to other prophecies?). Weber has been showing and performing in this city for twenty years and is at the top of her game with this multimedia endeavor.