<I>Human Conditions</I> at the USC Fisher Gallery

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Manfred M I had a personal reason to look forward to the opening of a new exhibition at the USC Fisher Gallery. Two good friends of mine were involved in it: Selma Holo, the Gallery Director and Manfred M-ler, a German-born artist who, since the late 80s, has made Los Angeles his home. In her introduction to the exhibition catalogue, Selma talks about her admiration for Manfred's art as well as that of Laurie Litowitz and Marta Palau, the two other artists in the show. Initially she planned to present their solo installations in the three stately rooms at the Fisher. But in the process of working with the artists, it occurred to Selma "that there was an umbrella under which they all fit." Thus came the title "Human Conditions" which reflects these artists' common concerns.

Marta Palau Marta Palau, who was born in Spain, has lived in Mexico since her family escaped during the Spanish Civil War. It's no surprise that her installation is a meditation on the subject of war as inseparable from human history. A sculpture of a fallen warrior, the central element of the installation, is a powerful life-size assemblage of decaying materials evoking the image of an ancient mummy. Especially memorable is a series of silhouettes of agitated human figures either running, dancing or fighting. Assembled from twigs and placed on the gallery walls, they are reminiscent of cave wall drawings.

Laurie Litowitz Laurie Litowitz, born in the US, has spent much of her life in Europe, India, and the last 20 years in Mexico. Her dream-like installation consists of hundreds of squares of translucent silk, loosely attached to the walls, with the word "peace" stenciled in gold in hundreds of different languages. Visitors' presence in the gallery inevitably creates a movement of air through the space, which makes the silk squares flutter, so you can almost hear multiple voices whispering the word "peace".

Manfred M Manfred M-ler based his installation on an unfortunate incident: a car crash a few years ago that almost cost him his life. Luckily he survived, but his left hand had to be amputated. Strange as it may sound, instead of slowing him down, the accident seemingly accelerated his creative process. The central piece of his installation, titled "The Body Shop", is an actual car, resting on its side and completely bandaged in hundreds of yards of black elastic tape. It's clearly a direct reference to the accident, but there is another component to it. The artist's studio is adjacent to a yard full of salvaged cars and parts that he sees everyday from his kitchen window. And that's where the car in the gallery came from, connecting the painful and mundane aspects of his life.

My favorite element of the multi-part installation is a series of photographs the artist took of his own shadow, in which you can recognize the silhouette of his damaged left arm, while the right hand clicks the camera.

I'm not sure that going through the installation, a visitor will fully experience the irrepressibly positive life force which makes Manfred such a treasured friend to so many people, including myself. To get a more complete understanding of his art, one would be well advised to travel to Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. At the Rose Gallery, Manfred M-ler has a new exhibition of painted photographs, collages and paper sculptures fused with melancholy while demonstrating surprising elegance and a very disciplined mind.

Human Conditions
Manfred M-ler, Laurie Litowitz, Marta Palau
September 3-October 25, 2003
USC Fisher Gallery
823 Exposition Boulevard
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0292
Phone: (213) 740-4561

Manfred M-ler
September 6-October 25, 2003
Rose Gallery
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, G-5
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 264-8440