Critics’ Picks

View of “Bell, Book, and Candle,” 2010.

View of “Bell, Book, and Candle,” 2010.

Los Angeles

Michael Guidetti

Jancar Jones
1031 N. Broadway
September 10–October 9, 2010

“Bell, Book, and Candle,” Michael Guidetti’s second solo exhibition at Jancar Jones, transforms the gallery’s compact space into an elaborate though decidedly lo-fi special effects lab. The walls are covered in chroma-key green and punctuated with height markers and motion tracking balls. Gathered at the center of the room are several gadgets that monitor environmental shifts, including temperature, magnetic fields, light levels, and audio and video signals. On a small laptop, various digital renderings, virtual mappings, and animations of the space rotate continuously: Some feature floating particles that could be either atoms or wayward sprites. But despite this overabundance of data, the overall effect is one of suspension and loaded anticipation.

It is never entirely clear what we’re waiting for, nor whether it will ever materialize—but that might be the kicker. As with previous efforts, Guidetti is interested in simply mapping the parameters of the exhibition space as a formal exercise. A few decades earlier, this would have been called “institutional critique,” but that doesn’t quite capture the mood of his current endeavor, which is much more concrete. Rather than enact semantic games, Guidetti plays with experiential objectivity, which is ultimately much more indebted to the history of monochrome painting. As a type of encompassing color field, the green screen set up cleverly approaches the visual intensities of Ryman or Rothko, but filtered through a technocratic context. The elegant turn of the exhibition lies in its ability to move through the nuts and bolts into a state of pure, nearly transcendent potential that has more to do with Ghost Hunters than Avatar. For as the show’s title suggests, Guidetti playfully engages the idea of artmaking as a form of divination or conjuring. Indeed, his work finds more allegiances with Bruce Nauman and his alchemies of process, documented in videos like Bouncing in the Corner, 1968, or Mapping the Studio, 2001 (the latter, incidentally, is also rendered a uniform green by its night vision camera). Guidetti’s faux high-tech gadgetry ultimately attests to the inexhaustible richness of mundane gestures—which, come to think of it, is more a type of magic than a special effect.