Critics’ Picks

Podium: Gentle Fist (detail), 2008, wood, steel, and Hydrocal, 24 x 18 x 60".

Los Angeles

Rachel Mason

Circus Gallery
7065 Lexington Avenue
January 12–February 16

About a year ago, Rachel Mason began following presidential hopeful John Edwards on the campaign trail, studying and sketching him mid–stump speech in order to illustrate a piece of political reportage by Will Blythe. Her itinerary brought her into contact with all of the presidential candidates, and the assignment developed into an extensive catalogue of drawings investigating the gestural tropes and recurring postures of contemporary campaigning. For this exhibition, titled “The Candidate,” Mason overfills the gallery walls with approximately 250 of these quick sketches, arranged thematically into candidate types such as Ghosts, Monsters, Hopefuls, Also-Rans, and Never-Rans. Mason’s long-standing commitment, as an artist and performer, to representing and rethinking significant political figures of the past, and now the present, places her among the most thoughtful and savvy young artists dealing with the aesthetics of political power today. Making this clear are the seven new sculptures on view: standard wooden podiums above which hover pairs of disembodied hands (cast from her own) modeling distinctive gestures commonly employed by politicians in order to alternately convey authority, compassion, confidence, hope, and leadership. Podium: Gentle Fist, 2008, stages, and gestures nostalgically to, the pose so associated with Bill Clinton. Fundamentally, Mason’s “Candidate” is about the power of gestures (both hand gestures and gesture drawing), the rhetoric and manipulation of body language, and the politics of public performance (both as candidate and as artist). All of the 2008 presidential candidates were invited to campaign at the gallery; Mike Gravel will appear February 2. Mason is performing her repertoire of political songs throughout the city during the exhibition’s term.