If you've never been to the Pacific Design Center, it might be a challenge to find the satellite galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art there. The small separate building stands near the busy intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevard, but driving by you wouldn't see the large banner advertising the current exhibition. Only by approaching this building on foot via the PDC plaza will you see the banner announcing the new exhibition by video artist Ryan Trecartin titled Any Ever.
The LA Times referred to him some time ago "as possibly the most riotously talented artist of the YouTube generation." I wondered if it qualified as full-blown compliment, but it definitely pricked up my ears. And in addition to that, someone in the know sent me an intriguing email describing his encounter with this exhibition: "I felt I had been whisked back in time to a moment where people first saw Rauschenberg's Combines challenge what painting and sculpture could look like."
That was it. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to West Hollywood. Lucky for me, I found on this sweltering Saturday afternoon a parking spot close to MOCA's Pacific Design Center Gallery. It was cool and dark inside, very dark indeed... The first impression was of a not very well kept locker room in the basement of a semi-abandoned building. A frenetic video was being projected on one of the walls.
Climbing to the second floor, I discovered several more dark rooms cluttered with battered chairs and sofas and yet more lockers. The ambient soundtrack added to the decidedly moody atmosphere of the whole space. Upon reaching the room with the old iron beds with their bare mattresses strewn with headphones, I plopped my Old Self down on a mattress and spent a few minutes watching a video full of agitated characters smeared with flour and splattered in blood - or was it just a makeup job gone wild?
Who knows, if there had been some other people around, I might not have been so affected, intrigued, and ultimately, alienated by the whole experience. But as it was, the damage was done, and I felt kind of spooked, sort of drunk and lightheaded, and started to wonder if the notorious back rooms of Studio 54 of the Andy Warhol era looked anything like this impressively imaginative video installation.
It's too late to ask Dennis Hopper what he thinks about this work, but somehow I'm pretty sure that he and his buddies Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson would feel right at home here. Their faces grace the cover of the new book by Robert Sellers titled Hollywood Hellraisers. I found it at MOCA's bookstore, and so far the first few pages delivered exactly what the subtitle promises: the wild lives and fast times of these Magnificent Four - all of them devilishly handsome and talented but also tormented and troubled. The book is reassuringly gossipy and trashy, exactly what one needs to survive being squeezed into a small seat on a long flight to Europe. I'm taking off for a couple of weeks to stay with a friend in the middle of nowhere in the south of France. The first few days I plan to gorge myself on plenty of wine, cheese and freshly baked bread. That done, I will embark on a search for good art. Stay tuned.
Banner image: Ryan Trecartin, Sibling Topics (section a), 2009; HD video, duration 51 min., 26 sec.; Courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York