Los Angeles

Sharon Lockhart

In her inaugural exhibition at this thoroughly expanded gallery, Sharon Lockhart presented a group of distinct yet interrelated works: two sets of large-scale color photographs involving the hyperrealist sculpture of Duane Hanson, a body of smaller images involving brussels sprouts, and a 16 mm film, the latter two inspired by the Japanese art/philosophy of flower arranging.

The film, NO, 2003, records from a fixed vantage point the gracefully orchestrated activities of husband and wife farmers at the close of the harvest season in Japan. Tidy piles of mulch, arranged one next to the other with minimalist precision, are dispersed by the pair with large, broomlike implements, turning the land from a brownish hue at the beginning of the film to near black. As the last artwork encountered on the journey through the gallery, the film succinctly suggests the end of one cycle of production and the start of another.

In the previous room, proud (and vaguely phallic) arrangements of brussels sprouts on their stalks are shown in the process of wilting and decay in four suites of photos that together make up nineteen works, individually framed. The tight arrangement of these moments in a line that wound right around the room suggested cinema, as does their existential content, which segues neatly from the still to the moving image.

Lockhart has always delighted in tweaking audience expectations; here, these are dictated by genre. A nature morte that actually dies can no longer be considered “still.” Similarly, the 16 mm film assumes the static perspective of landscape painting, but this is then reworked before our eyes, taking on qualities of process and performance art, even sculpture.

Conversely, in the front room, Hanson’s lifelike sculptures are transformed via photography into a hybrid form of group portraiture, photo-documentary, and (again) film still. As Lockhart’s camera circles to give us an “in the round” view of Hanson’s famous Lunch Break, 1989—which depicts a small group of construction workers relaxing against a section of scaffolding—we gradually become aware of two other figures that have been added to the mix. Although they are also dressed for manual labor, their age, “look,” and general bearing suggest a whole new proletariat: the gallery preparator, overeducated and underpaid. Moreover, while the sculptural figures portray men at rest, these younger people are caught midmovement. Actually, the photos elaborate their installation of Lunch Break in a space very much like the one we are at present standing in.

The second Hanson-inspired project, a diptych, suggestively installed in the brick-walled hallway that runs around the gallery’s Open Office–designed exhibition areas, features a young girl and an older woman leaning over a jigsaw puzzle. Here again the tableau comprises both living and sculptural figures, but the difference between them is nearly imperceptible. The two images themselves are almost identical, inviting closer scrutiny, and this in turn yields a whole other class of revelations. The girl’s arm sports a bite-like bruise, whereas the woman (her mother?) has sustained a smaller wound on her wrist. The puzzle that here holds them apart becomes, accordingly, freighted with irony as a too-placid metaphor for the actual violence of their attachment. These figures “fit together.” The one springs from the other: daughter from mother, art from nature, and so on. But in Sharon Lockhart’s work this is never a unilateral process. Prey to periodic reversal and regression, her promise of a pretty picture is consistently thwarted by a simmering undercurrent of pain.

Jan Tumlir