Kim Gordon & Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles

2014·04·18

James Franco, Shia LeBeouf, Jay-Z — who else, there’s so many today — Gaga and Kanye, and now Kim Gordon. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the University of Hollywood MFA Class of 2014 — America’s newest fine artists-in-residence. On view now inside iconic Los Angeles architecture, the Fitzpatrick-Leland House, and presented by the capitally iconic Gagosian Gallery, the iconic musician Kim Gordon presents another moment in her Design Office series of art, originally practiced, since the 80s, “outside the gallery system.” (Congratulations to Kim & Larry for escaping that awful capitalist dredge bogging down so many artists and gallerists.) Let’s get straight to the work, now, and discover this show as one does walking into this hilltop house, discovered as someone who owns no Sonic Youth albums and approaches the installation as legitimate art. Here, this you will see:

Installation View of Basement Studio, Kim Gordon, Gagosian Gallery, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, Los Angeles

Wreath Paintings, 2014
Kim Gordon
Fitzpatrick-Leland House
Installation view of basement studio
Photo image by the author

The Wreath Paintings are simplistic and repetitive. Monochrome monotones. Gordon apparently lays a sheet of plastic on which to work, evidenced by the heap of translucent, paint-stained detritus remaining in the lower room that acted as her studio, though the polished concrete floor has also received nicely organized paint splats and a golden, inverse Design Office logo. She arbitrarily lays a wreath on top of a canvas and then, with one color of sprayed acrylic paint, stencils a negative image onto her thinly gessoed linen ground. This action occurs only once in each work. Smearing, whisping, and drips are sometimes added, and the result is a textureless anti-shadow of a banal door wreath. The work is deafeningly repetitive. The same wreath — often at the same radial angle, as indicated by the blatantly identifiable folded notecard attached to one inner branch — harks back to a tedious family holiday spent staring through one’s eggnog, vacantly, into that hollyed wreath hanging across the room on the door you desperately hope to soon escape through. After the eighth or ninth painting, one begins to ask several questions: why are these paintings hanging in this empty house, atop the flush Los Angeles hills? what is the significance of mounting the show in this house? why did I drive to the top of Laurel Canyon to see these paintings? And these questions, the longer you stay and try to unpack the experience, too, only become repetitive.

Installation View of Upper Office, Kim Gordon, Gagosian Gallery, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, Los Angeles

Wreath Paintings, 2014
Kim Gordon
Fitzpatrick-Leland House
Installation view of upper office
Photo image by the author

The accompanying press release for the exhibition states an intention to present “vertiginous color abstractions,” [saving you a trip to dictionary.com, vertiginous is artspeak for dizzy] but unless I didn’t look close enough — not that there is any detail to see — or sufficiently afar, the only dizzying element to this project is that ripe, lingering aroma of emptied Krylon cans, vaguely reminiscent of a heavily tagged urban alleyway. Fabricating the totality of this work probably happened in a similar amount of time as the quick hand of a tagger coating a parked box truck under moonlight cover. The paintings respond not to the space, nor to the surrounding architecture, but to an object that was presumably once there, hanging somewhere on those walls where instead canvases now somewhat dangle. There are many paintings strewn about, filling walls to their edge, leaning, over a bed, in a bathroom, decorating the space — like wreaths. In total they are assembled in a rudimentary fashion: a metallic triptych here, complementing the bathroom tiles there, one on this window for no sober reason.

Giving up faithful interaction by the third circuit of the house, the questions of why remain. The draw to this exhibit is obviously its celebrity attaché under the Gagosian arm. Mega Dealer, Mega Artiste. Speaking about her work on the Gagosian website, Gordon states, “[t]he design activity was not meant to be well executed or look a certain way, have a certain look or style. If anything it was a lo-fi aesthetic using or recycling other aesthetics.” Well, that’s obviously easy to do, and 95% of America does it everyday after a trip to Target or Hobby Lobby, and that is called decorating. How is this instead supposedly art? Is this the concept of decorating?

It’s not art, rather celebranded decoration. In fact, the only thing missing from these paintings besides interesting content is the artist’s signature. The simplicity of claiming simplicity as your lo-fi-aesthetic aesthetic is the calling-card cheap trick of art students and hobbyist artists. If this work were made in exactly the same fashion by Johnny Noname or any unknown art student who just received her BFA from some BFE academy, it would later be in a dumpster of memories redacted from one’s oeuvre’s earliest days.

Mulholland Series (Dark Indigo Wreath), 2014, Installation View of Bedroom, Kim Gordon, Gagosian Gallery, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, Los Angeles

Mulholland Series (Dark Indigo Wreath), 2014
Kim Gordon
Fitzpatrick-Leland House
Installation view of bedroom
Photo image by the author

So what’s good about this work? It sits in a historical house in a flush neighborhood. It photographs perfectly and looks fabulously engrossing on the internet. The distance between lens and canvas does open up a vertiginous swirly world that fools you into believing this work sends you to some high. Maybe if you’ve smoked. Yet it’s a trap, into which you realize you’ve fallen once your eyes are soberly naked and in the canvases’ presence. Is that the conceptual talent here, this jest of high-def celebrity art stunning through JPG but anti-art in situ, this that’s-what-it’s-supposed-to-be, against the academic/gallery system!? Nope, not at all. This work is just more trendy celebutante artistic charlatanism repped by a powerful agent.

My regret is not instead buying my first Sonic Youth album, bought with the money from saved gas. That venerable din surely would have left a better vibration than this ringing that remains after that foul no-fi concert of painting.