Los Angeles

Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Ledge, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Ledge, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin

Regen Projects

Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Ledge, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

As if in perverse celebration of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin’s near decade and a half of collaboration, three monstrously contorted epicene odalisque sculptures, painted in opalescent jewel tones, occupied the reception area of their first solo exhibition at Regen Projects. These sculptures, Animation Abuse #1–3 (all works 2014), were a telling preamble. Before entering any of the show’s three video installations, or “sculptural theaters,” as the artists call them, one had to confront the two terms of their invented medium separately. First, sculpture: the three ambiguously sexed figures, almost decorative in their horrific distortions, and equally incomprehensible from every possible view. Second, theater: the reception area made over into a playhouse lobby with burgundy high-pile carpeting, dark-turquoise walls, and an atmospheric soundscape redolent of New Age spas, planetariums, and theme-park queuing areas. These components immediately and clearly established the model of viewing appropriate to Fitch and Trecartin’s sculptural theater—deep immersion lacking a privileged point of view. When you are a millennial, or “digital native,” postmodernism is a given and the society of the spectacle your native environment.

By now, Fitch and Trecartin have perfected in their videos a pop-culture mannerism in which characters isolate and exaggerate the language, gestures, and fashion of juvenile mass culture and transform their appearances and demeanors at will. The duo’s latest body of work here explicitly drew upon prior thematics of surveillance and post-apocalyptic survival. The largest sculptural theater, Ledge, occupied a gallery whose walls were curtained in light-blue athletic mesh, and whose floors were furbished with antislip rubber tiles. An immense, camping-tent-like canopy dome sheltered a metal platform furnished with contoured loungers and rotating ottomans, ripstop-nylon pillows, and fabricated mats that looked eerily like body bags. Viewers were surrounded by a six-channel video in which groups of androgynes costumed in Jurassic Park T-shirts, Day-Glo sportswear, and various forms of female drag wander a “disaster center” worrying about where to shit, where to get drugs, and who pissed in the liquor bottle. Although they are surrounded by all sorts of gear—camping tents, binoculars, hatchets, guns, flashlights, gas cans, traffic cones, yoga mats—they seem incapable of satisfying their needs. In Finders Night, an adjacent gallery turned–chill-out room outfitted with theater seats and sleeping bags, ambient footage from Ledge’s video component was projected onto the ceiling. In the third sculptural theater, Range Week, the 2013 videos CENTER JENNY (imagine a cross between Mike Kelley’s Day Is Done and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers) and the crucially formative Junior War (edited from Trecartin’s circa 2000 video footage of the artist’s high-school friends wreaking havoc on the Ohio town he grew up in) looped in the company of a set of bleachers surrounded by coolers, balled-up tube socks, and monster-truck tires.

Fitch and Trecartin’s collaborations have been characterized as offering a cunning, late-postmodern take on “post-Internet” subjectivity and aesthetics. At one time, in what now seems like the very distant past, postmodern art’s polyvocal authorship and multifocal viewership could be read as an implicit critique of modern art’s imperiousness. But what Fitch and Trecartin offer is a promiscuity of position-taking that, while typically read as generous and open-minded, is also frustrating in its elusiveness, an embrace of multipositionality that avoids committing to any position at all. Digital natives ought to recognize as 1990s nostalgia the fantasy that digital communications allow for a post-identity society, especially at a time when identity categories—their rights, visibility, protection, and security—are in many ways becoming more entrenched. This art is toothless and anxious to impress, and thus characteristic of the artists’ (and, to be fair, my) generation at large. It is only the intoxicating/repellent excessiveness of the artists’ aesthetic that propels the viewer, finally, to take a position in relation to the cultural energies amped up in their multimedia environments. Fitch and Trecartin give us neither redemption nor critique but a purgatory more torturous in its infinity and ambiguity than hell, and they invite us all to enjoy it.

Natilee Harren