Critics’ Picks

View of “Deficiency Depletion,” 2014.

View of “Deficiency Depletion,” 2014.

Los Angeles

Tobias Madison

Freedman Fitzpatrick
Gower Plaza, 6051 Hollywood Blvd #107
September 7–November 1, 2014

When the dealer’s away, the art will play. Freedman and Fitzpatrick are out of town for Tobias Madison’s latest exhibition, but “the keys to the gallery can be picked up at Hollywood Smokes” next door. Meanwhile this artist’s crew of mummified rod-and-gauze figures, produced for the show, has replaced human art workers—shuffling, stacking, and checking in their overlords’ absence. The gallery storage, crated art, and other gear have been scooted to the back of the space and sealed behind Plexiglas. Sheet plastic smeared with dried iodine hangs from the rafters like some shredded surgical tent. The gangly, skeletal sculptures seem to tend other, less anthropomorphic works: a big wad of gauze blackened with iodine; a “tide pool” of shredded cables and steel sheathing, gurgling in a chemical puddle. Like zombies in a zoo, Madison’s undead creations go about their motionless business of “being seen.” Two mummies start up a metal staircase to nowhere. One raises a pair of pipe “binoculars,” as if seeing back.

Most of the gallery, though, has been pinched into unusable spaces by a giant angular build-out (three white walls that seem by all appearances natural parts of the building), which is fine, because except for the back enclosure, the gallery is bare. The dry, “intervening” conceptual wedge on the one hand, the messy tableau on the other, skew the gallery’s usual “operative” back- and front-room balance. The hospital-smelling mummies are a transparent parody of the labor behind the gallery’s operations—for example, the periodic reshuffling of the walls—but also the main event: art and handlers in one. It’s a testament to a kind of cultivated opacity that, even depopulated, still seems to maintain function: the impression that something is happening even when nothing is.