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William Leavitt, Spectral Analysis, 1977/2010, sofa, starburst light fixture, end table, television with DVD of rotating prism, wooden wall, curtain panel, six ceiling-mounted theatrical lights with gels, recorded highway-traffic sounds, dimensions variable.

William Leavitt

William Leavitt, Spectral Analysis, 1977/2010, sofa, starburst light fixture, end table, television with DVD of rotating prism, wooden wall, curtain panel, six ceiling-mounted theatrical lights with gels, recorded highway-traffic sounds, dimensions variable.

IT MUST HAVE BEEN A THRILL when poststructuralism hit the scene in Los Angeles in the early 1970s: Hardly a picture, it seems, could pass through an artist’s studio without a new kind of caption being affixed, totally altering that image’s sense. For In Search of the Miraculous (One Night in Los Angeles), 1973, Bas Jan Ader endowed dim snapshots with romantic grace, scribbling snatches of song lyrics at their bases. Five years later, in his series “Blasted Allegories,” John Baldessari paired snapshots of televised imagery with single words, prompting (by making, for example, angst seem like enthusiasm and vice versa) viewers to take actors’ expressions at more than face value. Sure, for some artists out East, linguistics laid the groundwork for institutional critique. But for those seduced by the ways in which the connotations of an image, object, or gesture are shaped by

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