Los Angeles

Clarissa Tossin, Future Geography: Jezero Crater, Mars, 2021, ink-jet print on Amazon boxes, 60 × 84".

Clarissa Tossin, Future Geography: Jezero Crater, Mars, 2021, ink-jet print on Amazon boxes, 60 × 84".

Clarissa Tossin

Clarissa Tossin’s exhibition here, “Disorientation Towards Collapse,” translated the story of our catastrophic environmental moment into an eccentric and contemplative language. The Brazilian-born, Los Angeles–based artist’s labors for this show included a ghostly grove crafted from silicone and wood, and weavings made of trashed cardboard boxes. Meditating on these works, one could feel the shrieky, fast-burning wreckage of the planet slow down until it transforms into a space of dark interior revelation. Research-rich projects by social-practice artists—such as Eve S. Mosher (who provides communities with devastating data about our ruined world and gives them prompts to imagine radical new futures) and radical vocalist Carmina Escobar (who last year staged Bajo la Sombra del Sol (Under the Shadow of the Sun), a massive happening at the rapidly disappearing Mono Lake in Mono County, California)—seem, at first glance, more fitting actions for this time of panic: Fire season on the West Coast is now two and a half months longer than it was in the 1970s, rising seas will produce more tsunamis that will swallow up entire communities, and chronic droughts will lead to land subsidence and toxic groundwater. But Tossin’s haunted, more intimate take on red skies and withering woods gives us an opportunity to take stock of the changes that are occurring within. With her view on the biosphere’s demise, she shows us that we can react to the current crisis not merely with despair, but with a clear-eyed perception and an explosion of fertile creativity.

Entering Commonwealth and Council’s generous space, the viewer was first confronted with Death by Heat Wave (Acer pseudoplatanus, Mulhouse Forest), 2021, a lank, gallery-long silicone interpretation of a dead tree, which was inspired by sycamore maples that have been killed by drought in Mulhouse, France. This specter has a shriveled trunk and branches that creep over the exhibition space’s floors. It is like a figure from a recurring nightmare, the one where Earth turns to cinders and silence, an event we make strange sketches of in our journals but don’t tell anyone about. Rising Temperature Casualty (Persea americana, home garden, Los Angeles), 2021, is another botanical wraith. This silicon-and-bark sculpture mimics a corpse or a relic of the Persea americana, otherwise known as the avocado tree. Native to Mexico, South America, and North America, the avocado has long been part of California’s art history, as we see in the maps created by SoCal’s Fallen Fruit Collective or in Ken Price’s messy and exuberant ceramic work Avocado Mountain, 1959. In Tossin’s hands, however, we find a more funereal version of this wonder: It hung limply from the ceiling like a strappado victim, its gooey roots dangling abjectly onto the floor. Tossin here offers back to us a common sight in LA—dead or dying trees, which curve strangely at the side of the region’s houses and apartments, spilling their leathery leaves and shedding diseased limbs while prompting a brief yet discomfiting repulsion that we might assuage with extended viewings of @EarthPix on Instagram.

A pendant piece, Rising Temperature Casualty (Prunus persica var. nucipersica, home garden, Los Angeles), 2021, is a silicone-and-bark simulacrum of a deadwood scrap dropped from a nectarine tree. Hung on the gallery’s back wall, it evoked the branches that scatter across the city after a hard wind. These twigs can be arranged in Fiestaware vases, adding a bit of Joshua Tree chic to the LA home, but Tossin’s insistent use of silicone renders her bough simultaneously fleshy and skeletal when viewed up close—an object both synthetic and natural that vaguely calls to mind an embalmed body. Tossin continues to accentuate our anxieties with her weavings made out of discarded Amazon boxes. Disorientation Towards Collapse, 2020, the show’s namesake, is made from strands of the corporate behemoth’s shredded delivery cartons entwined to comprise—what? A painting? A blanket? A memento mori? Whatever it is, we could still make out the company’s curving-arrow logo, which points aimlessly, echoing the way our thinking has fragmented over the past few years, when the California skies were orange from burning forests and Covid filled the air, taking our breath away. Tossin’s show did not scold us for our lethal consumerism. Nor was it a requiem for vanishing nature. But what it did was bring to life, harrowingly and ingeniously, everything that had been going on inside us during this tumultuous period in time.