Los Angeles

Chris Lipomi

Daniel Hug Gallery

In his recent head-spinning exhibition at Daniel Hug Gallery, Chris Lipomi blanketed the walls, floor, and ceiling with work to create a fusion of floral shop, tribal arts museum, flea market, and “tropical” prop room—all stand-ins for the contemporary art gallery. Even the show’s nonsensical, Jabberwocky-like title, “Makawana Omawaki,” seemed to connote plenitude and exoticism. Incorporating a diverse array of sculptures, assemblages, and readymades, as well as paintings on canvas, walls, and mirrors, the show was the result of exactly one year’s worth of work, a period that concluded with a casual performance in which a final work—a ziggurat-like stack of modular PVC table legs titled Skulptur 4, 2006—was completed and installed with the help of the audience at the show’s opening reception. Lipomi claims that the entire show was performance-based, and while this is hardly a new approach—one could look to, among others, Joseph Beuys and Yves Klein or, more recently, John Bock and Thomas Hirschhorn—his embrace of multiple if not competing artistic models resulted, paradoxically, in a cohesive display of proliferation.

In a series of mostly black-and-white canvases, Lipomi used a Warholian combination of silk screen and synthetic polymer paint to reproduce a pyramidal diagram sourced from a Thomas Kinkade gallery. It had apparently been designed to help Kinkade’s sales force distinguish between the various levels of authenticity—from original paintings to prints anointed with precious daubs of the master’s brush to entirely mechanical reproductions—in the Painter of Light’s sappy, populist canvases. By conflating the cool detachment of Warhol’s production line with Kinkade’s corporate schema, Lipomi’s deliberately repetitive canvases highlighted the mythical reach of the proverbial “artist’s hand,” and revealed his interest in adopting various artistic scales of production. By implicating himself in the pyramidal scheme, Lipomi, tautologically, adopted the persona of the artist and positioned artmaking as self-aware performance.

Lipomi enters into a different economy with his frequent use of found objects. Here, one wall of the gallery was covered with seventeen masks incorporating a range of readymade, subtly altered, and combined materials. In the strongest of these, Tek-ic, 2005, an enormous conch shell given two eyeholes is mounted on a hickory placemat atop an Yves Saint Laurent scarf with a decidedly modern pattern reminiscent of tribal motifs. Thus his relationship to a genealogy of artist recyclers—from Picasso to local legends George Herms and Ed Kienholz and, more recently, Mike Kelley—is evidenced through witty, disarming shorthand. Without either cynicism or naïveté, Lipomi employed the modernist strategy of appropriating from “primitive” sources while subtly shifting attention to the concept of invention as a performative act.

From the ceiling Lipomi hung a thicket of over one hundred sculptures that incorporate found and altered objects, including wooden and ceramic dinnerware; rattan and metal furniture parts; an easel adorned with a beret; a rolled up issue of Artforum from Summer 1975 (the issue on newsstands when the artist was born); several varieties of wine racks; an orange and brown pillowcase stuffed with leftovers from the installation; a wrought iron, fabric, and chrome moderne desk lamp; rusty shackles; a tiny Christmas tree; a birdcage; a container of Ricola cough drops; and innumerable seashells, woven baskets, beads, and real and artificial plants. Lipomi thus left himself wide open to accusations of overreaching or overinclusiveness, and his emphasis on production as a performance would have failed were it not for the sheer energy and inventiveness of his combinations. In lesser hands, flotsam would remain flotsam; here, trash frequently became treasure.

Michael Ned Holte