Art Insider Jan. 7: Psychedelic aquariums, art that examines disability, and floating books

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Emily Barker, Untitled (Rug), 2019. Plastic IV tubing, copper electrical wire, doggie bag, headphones, shoelace on steel mesh. 60 x 42 x 8 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo credit: Josh Schaedel.

This week: A room-sized aquarium made of detritus, an artist questions systems that exclude disabled bodies, and a painter exhibits a whole show of books. 

Max Hooper Schneider, Transfer Station, at The Hammer


Hammer Projects: Max Hooper Schneider, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, September 21, 2019-February 2, 2020. © Max Hooper Schneider and courtesy of High Art, Paris and Maureen Paley, 
London. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Walking into Max Hooper Schneider’s installation at The Hammer is like walking into a psychedelic aquarium — the central sculpture is a hodge podge landscape. Plastic plants and costume jewelry crawl over brick-a-brack. A dollhouse is filled with denchers. There is flooring made of bottle caps. Much of the installation has been spray painted or covered in a type of resin, so that the disparate objects meld together into unlikely tableaus. 

To further set the scene, the room’s lighting mimics the fluctuations of the sun. So at various points of the day, you may enter into bright white, muted yellow, or a moody pink glow. 

The sound piece that accompanies the work, by Jorge Elbrecht, is ethereal yet industrial, much like Schieder’s work. His amalgamation mimics the natural world, while simultaneously being made up of synthetic and man-made junk. As such, the work’s message is somewhat unclear and perhaps even nihilist, pointing out that our plastic creations might exist long after we will. 


Hammer Projects: Max Hooper Schneider, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, September 21, 2019-February 2, 2020. © Max Hooper Schneider and courtesy of High Art, Paris and Maureen Paley, 
London. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Scheider’s material comes to him from a variety of sources: a hand-me-down, a found object, metal or plastic that washes onto local beaches, or a mass-produced product like silk flowers. 

In a short documentary, Schneider says, “I’m arguing that there's no terminal state to anything.” In the video, he strolls a Malibu beach and points to a rusted sewer pipe that juts out towards the ocean. “I’m interested in when this man-made object becomes subsumed back into the environment and becomes a glyph or a fossil.” In reference to the title of his project, Transfer Station, Schneider explains that “for the rest of the world, that’s what’s known as a dump site, a landfill, or a wasteland. But for me, it’s a place of molecular flux...the simultaneity of growth and decay.”  

On view: September 21, 2019–February 2, 2020. 

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Emily Barker, Built to Scale, at Murmurs


Emily Barker,
Built to Scale (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel

Murmurs is a new gallery, cafe, and community space downtown. That’s where Emily Barker has created an installation that poetically illustrates the daily challenges that come with being disabled in an able-bodied world. On the far wall, an intentionally-blurred text piece starts with the line, “Imagine waking up and not being able to enter your home.” This sentiment permeates into the exhibition’s center piece, Untitled (Kitchen), an upscaled model of kitchen cabinets made of a transparent plastic. The countertops dwarf the viewer, again, recalling Barker’s daily experiences in a wheelchair, and highlighting issues of everyday accessibility. Yet, more than illustrating the artist’s own experiences, this exhibition is a plea to capitalist and industrial forces that perpetuate “normative” products and architectures. Here, Barker argues that the idea of normativity is a myth. 

On view: December 14, 2019–January 18, 2020

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Laura Owens, Books and Tables, at Matthew Marks


Installation view, Laura Owens, Books and Tables, Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles, October 26, 2019 – January 25, 2020. Courtesy the artist; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, Los Angeles. Photography by Annik Wetter.  

At Matthew Marks in West Hollywood, there’s no art on the walls. Instead, wooden tables throughout the gallery display artist-made books. One table mysteriously hums with electricity, and when a gallerist knocks on the surface, a set of drawers promptly pops open, each one holding a perfectly fit hand-made book. Another table is outfitted with a magnetized surface, causing several books on its surface to appear as if they are floating about. Each book, too, is an intricate delight. One opens to reveal a video of a snail, others unfold like an accordian to display one screen-printed poster. Some contain intricate drawings, while others are simple printed flip books. As a whole, the exhibition feels delightfully whimsical, yet the themes of the books — ranging from bugs, to advertising, to atmospheric optics, to depression — never quite coalesce into an overarching meaning. Still, the mystical tables and hidden surprises in each book are treats to uncover. 

On view: October 26, 2019–January 25, 2020

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