Los Angeles

Jennifer Pastor

Richard Telles Fine Art

Visitors to Jennifer Pastor’s first solo show were treated to a three-dimensional, freezeframed explosion of cartoon energy. Pastor’s single, sprawling sculpture dominated the small gallery like a cuddly, restive tiger cub held captive in a shoebox. Viewers had to stoop and then flatten themselves against walls as they circumnavigated the piece to experience it in its goofy, slightly unsettling entirety.

Pastor’s sculpture presents an image of cute, loony Christmas decorations run amok that seem to both shrink and elongate while thrashing about in some kind of wild tide. Like any well-conceived cartoon image, this piece resists being pinned down by description. Maybe that’s why the artist chose not to title it. It’s impossible to know where to begin groping for names because the work unleashes a flood of associations, but the temptation to try is irresistible. Title candidates might include: “Yuletide Chaos”, “Holiday Trees Awash in a Tempestuous Globule of Spit”, “X-mas Tradition Licked at by Mysterious Wavelets”, and “Christmas Trees Drown in a Giant Child’s Choppy Tear”.

Entering the gallery, viewers confronted five pint-sized Christmas trees (about 4 feet tall) fixed at crazy angles to clear plastic bases constructed to look like churned up, splashing water. Festooned with tinsel of various kinds, and crowned by oversized ornaments, the cotton-candy-pink, white, and green trees appeared to rocket into the air or crash back into the roiled up water like porpoises. The ornaments atop each tree, which resembled nose cones, bristled with points as spiky and exaggerated as ceremonial daggers. In some areas the water was full of bubbles, while in others it looked milky, like ice floes. The viewer had to pick his or her way around the piece carefully to avoid getting snagged on one of the sharp projecting ornaments or plastic water spumes.

Pastor exploits the happy insidiousness of store-bought Christmas paraphernalia, such as fake snow. Her use of muted giftwrap colors––icy purple, metallic hot-pink, and tinkly silvers and golds––reveals that though these hues ought to convey glee and fulfillment, they actually inspire confused thirsts and out-of-kilter longings. Like the most delirious, Technicolor-fever dream of Dickens’ crippled Tiny Tim, this piece throbs with dichotomous undercurrents that seem about to devour each other with deafening good cheer: inanimate/animate, ebullient/scary, familiar/alien, movement/stillness.

Using an adorable fake icicle, Pastor’s tree performs giddy, fairy-tale psychosurgery. Her memorable, Disneyesque image made the gallery vibrate with frozen memories thawing and coming to life, as if they had just been freed from some mental glacier. Rich and complex, and with an assertive presence, Pastor’s sculpture seems, impossibly, to have been transferred directly from the mind’s eye of its maker into art, losing nothing in the translation.

Amy Gerstler