Critics’ Picks

View of “The Landscape of Golf,” 2015.

View of “The Landscape of Golf,” 2015.

Los Angeles

“The Landscape of Golf”

The Center for Land Use Interpretation
9331 Venice Blvd
May 22–September 21, 2015

As lawns are let to die across a drought-stricken Southland, the Center for Land Use Interpretation mounts an exhibition, curated collectively by the CLUI staff, dedicated to our love of grass. Or rather, of golf, the game that needs lots of it. We learn, in an introductory didactic, that America’s golf courses stitched together would cut a swath a mile wide from coast to coast. Green Astroturf, crunchy underfoot, swaddles the gallery floor, complete with a golf bag and putter, a hole, and a flag. Covering one wall is a photo of a pond-side green at murky sundown.

You might think you know what golf is, yet the Center’s analysis, illustrated by a dozen prosaic ground views of area courses, opens up new metaphors. For example, the idea that the game’s tripartite structure—teeing off, traversing the fairway, and putting the ball into the hole—symbolizes birth, life, and reproduction, a dramatized planting of seed.

Buy it, or don’t. But this innate knack for the ridiculousness of observed facts is the closest CLUI gets to criticism. Their bureaucratic art, however, blends curiosity and concern in a scrutiny that seldom flatters their subjects. While not roasted outright, the whole game starts to seem perverse (if also a bit charming in its folly)—a fertility dance as pathetic as plastic grass. Indeed, few games involve as much virile green. In this meeting of plant and human species, who is playing whom?