Los Angeles

Carlos Mollura


These meticulous inflatable pillows, organized in variously sized groupings, could be mistaken for kiddie flotation devices were it not that Carlos Mollura so obviously wants to make Art. Fabricated in heavy-duty polyvinyl-chloride film, these humorless pieces look, at best, like what Donald Judd might have hit on had he set up his studio poolside instead of in the desert.

Mollura’s work is not without promise, it’s just that lately it ignores the possibilities with which it began. A 1996 piece, Two 12 Foot Spheres, a shimmering mix of clear and shiny vinyl installed in the same gallery last year, successfully played with light and opacity. The enormous size of the globes almost blocked any movement around them; there was something giddy, even ballsy about such goings-on. A new piece, Untitled, 1997, rehashed this strategy but to lesser effect: a single opaque black ball, twelve feet in diameter, resembled nothing if not a dreary patchwork beach ball on steroids. In contrast to the tight-assed “seriousness” of this and other pieces, the delightful, fluted seams of Mollura’s pillows alone achieved a lighthearted, goofy beauty.

Much has been made of the play of “air” and “space” in Mollura’s work, yet he never fully toys with these concepts. I kept thinking of all that could be done with these materials: filled with the right gases they might levitate or shine like neon; they could test a much larger psychedelic palette, one suggested by their mass-manufactured cousins, seaside toys sprouting animal heads or decorated with outrageous tableaux. What if they explored sound—a mechanized thump resonating through the big black ball? By not pushing the limits of his own enterprise, by failing to acknowledge the ridiculous potential of his polyvinyl-chloride film, Mollura’s work too often stalls out, pristine, safe, and sterile.

When Andy Warhol made his stunning silver clouds, it was to celebrate the possibility of signing off on art: “I thought I was really really finished, so to mark the end of my art career I made silver pillows that you could just fill up with balloons and let fly away . . . And then it turned out they didn’t float away and we were stuck with them, so I guessed I wasn’t really finished with art, since there I was, back again, putting anchors on the pillows.” Mollura doesn’t want to face the zero degree of any endeavor: the possibility that whatever you’re doing is already over before you’ve even begun. Not wanting to chance his career or his art floating away, he didn’t just anchor it, he nailed it down.

Bruce Hainley