New York

Jeremy Blake

Richard L. Feigen & Co

Jeremy Blake’s first solo exhibition in New York was a meditation on modernism as both a group of formal conventions and a set of lifestyle choice configured through a phantasmagoric depiction of Los Angeles. The show was held together by a loose narrative centering around Bungalow 8 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the mythic site where high-powered deals are brokered while starlets and hunks lounge around the hot tub. But Blake’s version bears almost no morphological resemblance to the famously baroque “Pink Palace” on Sunset. In his series (which takes “Bungalow 8” as its title), the facades, interiors, and grounds are resolutely modernist. “Bungalow 8” was initiated by three works, which Blake terms painting and are more precisely large digital C-prints, created by computer-graphics software using traditional drawing techniques. These works bear an unquestionable affinity to California painter Kevin Appel’s ultramodern interiors, in which depth less planes of color reference both an architecture that promised a sanitized but utopian future and the Color Field painting that characterized that same era. Blake’s work, though, achieves a surface with even less incident, but there is something unsatisfying in its digitalized perfection, a lack of the tension modernism demands between literal and depicted flatness.

In the back room, these same images are transformed into slowly changing digital projections via computer animation software, and here they register a completely different effect. The three projections demonstrate that Blake has an insider’s understanding of the Los Angeles unconscious—along with enough distance to recognize its more disturbing repercussions. The first piece the viewer encounters on entering the slightly darkened back projection gallery is Facade, a grid that changes colors and then slowly resolves into the front of Blake’s bungalow (as designed by Gregory Ain or Richard Neutra) with the particular LA touch of tiki torches burning out front. The colors of the grid—orange, light green, a purplish blue—arc a perversion of the modernist primaries, suggesting perhaps the types of intriguing deviancies going on inside. This becomes even clearer as sound enters the work and the ubiquitous frosted glass panels begin to light up and beep.

The middle projection, Black Swan, begins with the same facade opening onto a Jetsons-like wall console containing a television screen displaying a scene from the 1965 Robert Redford vehicle Inside Daisy Clover. The film has the same futura glass environment as Blake’s fantasy bungalow, and the Redford of the era is, of course, the perfect surrogate for any retro-cool self-projections. Blake has distorted the sound from the film clip, and so we see Redford, lying debonairly on an opulent bed and then rising to confront a woman, accompanied by bits of enigmatic dialogue. As the movie image fades,another picture of glamour emerges as patio doors open onto the lights of Los Angeles, a view from above that is only attainable from one of the exclusive hillside enclaves. The lights of the city then dissolve into a figure-eight hot tub, eponymous of the bungalow, itself and of Hollywood decadence more generally. As the lit steam from the tub rises, it is suddenly transformed into search lights to the accompanying roar of a helicopter, the paranoid double that hovers above and helps maintain the land of dreams.

This noir side of Los Angeles then becomes dominant in the last of Blake’s projections, Hotel Safe, which presents another grid, this time of wall upon wall of combination safes with rotating dials, finally resolving into a plane of six octagonal safes from which the dials appear to be staring out at us like monocular eyes or the lenses of surveillance cameras. The steel doors ultimately open to reveal a curtain of bubbling liquid, which explodes to fill the screen completely with a white monochrome, a fitting end to Blake’s twin obsessions with modernism and the impenetrable, impeccable surfaces of the Hollywood imaginary.

Andrew Perchuk