Los Angeles

John Souza

Sue Spaid Fine Art

John Souza’s “Rememberentering” consisted of seven large wall pieces and one that was petite—like Snow White and her dwarfs in reverse. Issues of architecture, death, memory, and narrative were all addressed in this show, but it was the tiny elements that made the work compelling. The quizzical decisions, non sequiturs, and deliberate craftsmanship roped the viewer into these frisky and deadly serious sculptural constructions.

Long titles suggested their own narratives. The title of one work, Past the Moat, the Drop Gate and Iron Doors, the Intruder Advanced Toward the Castle’s Murder Hole and Ultimate Terror, read like an intricate computer-game plot. The unbearable suspense and frenetic action implied by the title was reflected in the fact that several elements of the work were either out of place or seemed to be missing. Like many of the other pieces in this show, Past the Moat, 1994, was almost symmetrical, but not quite, creating a tension between the viewer and the object that animated the work. Black and silver, with a faux S&M/D&D/head-banger esthetic, a section of the large piece had three welded-steel rings with two matching black rubber bungee cords hanging from S-hooks. The middle ring was empty and a third rubber cord hung from a metal rail somewhat behind and to the left of it. So close to being completely symmetrical, the work seemed to invite the viewer to “fix” the asymmetry, but to do so, would be to destroy its delicacy.

Souza’s wall pieces mixed “found” objects, hardware store staples, cabinetmaker’s supplies and electrical goods with skill and restraint. Though specialty hardware was abundant in Souza’s work, some elements were simply jury-rigged. Past the Moat had five lamps made from flickering candle-shaped lightbulbs, two of which were spring-clipped to decorative wrought-iron tubes. Mutually dependent, it was no surprise that the dark-orange glow from these chandelier-style sconces perfectly matched the “on” light of the surge protector into which they were plugged.

The doorlike structures of We Provisioned Our King for His Journey Into the Next World and Slowly Sealed the Tomb for all Centuries, 1994, suggested not only throughways, but also repositories. Their side handles could be seen both as a nod to the preparator (whose job it is to hoist and hang these artworks) and as an allusion to the handles on the sides of coffins. Modeled in the Greco-Romanesque style of Caesar’s Palace, We Provisioned featured three centrally placed, decorative metal flowers that were starting to rust. Their original metallic paint was mimicked in the color of the other goldish-bronze, spray-painted surfaces. The rust had not been removed or painted over—there was no attempt to halt the process of oxidation. This slow and steady corrosion contrasted with the work’s fastidiousness.

With finely honed technique, Souza leads the viewer to concentrate on the minute details of “Rememberentering.” His fussy execution and fetching ambiguities provide a pleasant point of entry to the abyss of universal mysteries and truths.

Lisa Anne Auerbach