Los Angeles


Gallery 669

The opening exhibition at Gallery 669—operated by a former manager of the Minami Gallery in Tokyo—is an environment of rainbow-striped objects and perforated boxes by Japanese artist Ay-O. It is called Tactile Rainbow #6. The “Rainbow” refers to a selection of ready-made items like plates, cups, spoons, matches, ashtrays, etc., painted with colored stripes, a series of “paintings” (these are striated all over, including the frames), and three Life Magazine covers with arbitrary sections of the photographic design painted in the same bright spectral patterns. Two of the covers represent American soldiers in Vietnam and one a uniformed football player. Overarcing the entire display is a rainbow-striped band which runs from the bottom of one wall across the ceiling to the floor on the opposite side of the room.

Part Il (Tactile) begins with a series of small boxes mounted on a wall with holes into which one is invited to put his finger. On doing this he is met with various haptic or audial surprises; the finger encounters foam rubber, a ball of yarn, powder, stone, emptiness or buttons which, when pushed, activate a loud buzzing noise or a recording of mumbling electronic sounds. Whatever is in the last finger box has been observed to draw blood. There are besides four boxes with hand-size openings sitting on the floor: these contain, respectively, sand, fur, water and a rubber snake.

One is irresistibly reminded of a child’s Halloween party or a circus fun house, and perhaps it is only this personal association which made it difficult to enter properly into the spirit of the tactile experience. It is impossible not to defer to the theoretical virtue of a “total” or extra-visual esthetic. But it will require more exposure than has been available to most of us thus far before our sensibilities are sufficiently inured to haptic art so that valid, discriminating judgments can be made about the relative or generic merits of such enterprises. The present instance gives occasion for tentative speculation that, by themselves, elements of curiosity and surprise in tactile art are not enough to qualify the experience as more than entertainment.

Jane Livingston