Critics’ Picks

The GALA Committee, Target Audience, 1995–97, paper, steel, plastic, pigment, 18'' diameter.

New York

“Total Proof: The GALA Committee 1995–1997”

Red Bull Arts New York
220 West 18th Street Street level
September 30–November 27

If primetime is the ultimate venue for product placement, then shouldn’t it also work for plugging art? So wondered Mel Chin, who in 1995 contacted the set decorator of the sexy Los Angeles soap Melrose Place with an offer to make props for the show. She agreed, and Chin, with a network of artists collaborating under the moniker “The GALA Committee,” began a two-year project of churning out artworks for the series. In return for their unpaid labor, they demanded just one thing: the license to respond, subtly, to social issues.

In “Total Proof,” more than ninety-four of the group’s pieces are on view for the first time in New York, staged in rooms built to resemble the original sets. TV monitors scattered throughout the galleries add to the Universal Studios effect and screen clips of Committee items in their natural habitat––peeking out from behind Heather Locklear’s blond mane, or clasped in the well-manicured hands of her costars.

Like the show’s different plotlines, the works range in drama and intent. RU 486 Quilt, 1995–97, a blanket embroidered with the abortion pill––made for a character grappling with an unplanned pregnancy––issues a bold political statement. Other objects are far more tongue-in-cheek: When the show’s creators requested “optimistic, California-lite” paintings for a budding artist introduced during the fourth season, the Committee delivered Hockney-style canvases based on archival police photographs of famous Angeleno crime scenes. Some of the cleverest props took aim not at current events but at TV itself. A dartboard titled Target Audience, 1995–97, features only numbers between eighteen and forty-nine, in reference to the program’s target age demographic––it’s the same group that, for a time, became unwitting consumers of Conceptual art.