Los Angeles

Glen Seator

Burnett Miller Gallery

Art dealers, are, at the very least, baby-sitters for artworks. Like any caretaker, the gallerist is entrusted with valuables too vulnerable to be left unguarded. It’s his or her job to watch over the fragile products brought in by hardworking artists, and, if necessary, to coddle these objects—to water them or dust them, plug them in or switch them off. It’s no wonder, then, that so many artists fixate on gallery and dealer, making works that incorporate the architecture of the space or bring the viewer’s attention to the guy (or gal) in the back office.

In Cabinet, 1995, Glen Seator reconstructed the gallerist’s private office and placed it at an angle inside the main gallery. This well-crafted object dominated the space, bringing to mind Dorothy’s windblown Kansas residence, as well as the natural disasters that frequently sweep Southern California. On paper, such an intervention may sound humdrum, but Cabinet’s manipulation of space was physically unsettling; when viewed from certain perspectives, it produced a decidedly nauseating effect. The outside of the sculpture was made up of the two-by-fours used to frame walls. Through the evenly spaced studs, the drywall and electrical socket boxes were visible. This entire amalgamation of building materials was upended and supported by gray welded-steel supports approximately 30 degrees off the floor. Open doors on either end of the structure allowed for an unobstructed view of the other side. Though the human brain could correct the tilt, normalizing the structure so that it seemed straight, once your friends showed up grinning and waving at the other end, vertigo and panic struck, and you found yourself reaching for the Dramamine.

This skewed cube also had a strange habit of wandering in and out of scale. Though the dimensions were the same as Mr. Burnett Miller’s quarters, the tilted space seemed smaller, perhaps because it was not functional. No one was actually allowed to wander into the sculpture, but the curious could not be stopped from trespassing into the office on which the piece was modeled. Once inside Miller’s sanctuary, it was evident that Cabinet had reproduced architectural details such as the weather stripping and built-in glass shelves, but that something was missing: the three cowhide chairs, microwave oven, bottle of Campari, and other personal effects.

A number of smaller works also dealt with the structure of the gallery. In Step One (Wallraising #9) 1990–95, Seator cut out a large piece of drywall and raised it slightly from the surface of the wall using small wooden shims. His resulting sculpture was especially subtle, because of its placement near the gallery’s electrical control box, which a gainfully employed electrician had covered with a slightly off-kilter sheet of white Masonite.

When I left, the ceiling lights in Seator’s sculpture were on. The piece was powered by an almost hidden electric cord that ran surreptitiously along the concrete floor of the gallery and into the working office, exacerbating the tension between the two spaces and underscoring the nature of their relationship: one was clearly the bastard child of the other.

Lisa Anne Auerbach