Los Angeles

George Stone

Meyers/Bloom Gallery

George Stone’s work is distinguished by a gloomy unpredictability, yet the wariness it engenders partly accounts for its originality. The four installations here struck the viewer in markedly different ways; each piece had its own provocative characteristics. Entering the gallery, one was immediately assaulted by an aggressive monster, Fault Line, 1986–88. Roughly 64 feet of glass is divided into 16 panels and bolted to the wall by creaky metal arms that move the panes in an undulating motion: this is a maniacal artwork, physically and technically overwhelming. It’s remarkable how intricate the movement of the glass is compared to the awkwardness of the apparatus as a whole. On the glass and wall behind it are handwritten notations about California: a fact-filled robotext. The piece is a response to an earthquake, the big one of 1971, which Stone experienced while sitting in a giant asphalt parking lot; the quake seemed to turn the solid earth liquid.

In the Line of Fire (Civilized, Informed, Entertained), 1988, is a video installation featuring a monitor opposite a black polyester canvas. On the monitor, a male figure, clad in overly wrinkled Levis that look like dried plaster, stands rigid, wearing mirrored sunglasses. He points a gun at the viewer, holding it steadily at eye-level. What follows is a disturbing period of waiting for the gun to go off, accurately conveying the tension and delay involved in a real-life assault. The passing time is fierce and genuinely unsettling, until finally the pistol is shot and a smoking hole rips through the back of the black canvas. The image on the screen changes to statistics on the incidence of media violence and on actual deaths caused by handguns. Both In the Line of Fire and Fault Line are precise transcendent works; only the inclusion of written facts weakens their power by making them too literal.

In Fire and Ice (Shrinking/Expanding), 1988, a mysterious white chair that appears to be made of plastic stands on a platform. It has thick round legs, a hole for a seat, and a puddle of water at its base. Look up to find no drippy air-conditioner. With trepidation and fear you discover upon touch that the chair is covered with ice (it is made of refrigerator coils). On the wall behind the chair, images from Stone’s childhood flash from an elevated slide projector; under the projector is a color photograph of an upside-down chair in flames. The chair is a cerebral prop; its cool surface is belied by the burning associations it stirs in the viewer. The piece functions as a quiet sensual trap; it leaves one feeling soothed, yet discomposed.

Spirit Finder, 1987, features a long, sleek pendulum made of black aluminum, with a microphone attached to its end. On the ground lies a pile of chalky bones. As the mike passes over the rubble, a brief disturbing sound drones out of a small black speaker on a rafter. This lurid instrument is mesmerizing and haunting; its sinister apparatus conjures up the gothic horrors of Poe, and the rotten, more amusing side of Robert Frost. The contrast of materials, white bones and black aluminum, is in itself arresting. Stone’s work leaves you disoriented, chilled, distinctly touched. There’s a cheerful spirit of meanness that’s astute and complex, one that sends viewers out the door on edge with their guard up, ready to confront the world.

Benjamin Weissman