Critics’ Picks

View of “The Basilisk,” 2017. Center: Mungo Thomson, Negative Space, 2017; Thomas Kinkade, Perseverance, 2000.

Los Angeles

“The Basilisk”

Nicodim Gallery | Los Angeles
571 S Anderson Street Suite 2
April 15–May 27, 2017

Alexander Reben’s mesmerizing five-minute film Deeply Artificial Trees, 2017, is basically Bob Ross on acid: The beloved late painter’s brushstrokes lay down rapidly morphing images of happy little pines, scorpions, puppies, and sinister birds of prey as Bob talks backward, or possibly in tongues. Using a Google visualization program designed to replicate our neural functions, a kind of ayahuasca for artificial intelligence, Reben’s piece taps into our deepest fears and warmest fuzzies simultaneously. It’s also representative of a show preoccupied with the eternal search for higher consciousness and divine light (whether that’s inward, upward, or digital).

The search is internal for Jeremy Shaw, whose video DMT, 2005, is a compilation of various pretty young people in the ecstatic throes of a psychedelic journey. Looking beyond this earthly plane are the followers of Summum, a modern religion that practices mummification, who are represented here by their proprietary sexual lubricants, mummified cats, and a velvet-lined sarcophagus. This exhibition verges on absurdity, but only according to the highly credible standards of mainstream religion and the art world. There’s a strangely existential gravitas to Perseverance, 2000, a rare, real-life work by Thomas Kinkade, “Painter of Light,” mounted alone on cosmos-patterned wallpaper (that is, Mungo Thomson’s Negative Space, 2017). And the quiet gesture that is Lazaros’s 999 Conductor, 2016, appears at first to be a monolithic sculpture but is, in fact, a gold-plated square on a pedestal reflecting a well-hidden spotlight, separated from the viewer by a sheer veil and a railing reminiscent of those found inside Mormon churches. The road toward enlightenment, after all, is paved with holy illusions.