The Laguna Art Museum is stepping into the summer season with two drastically different shows: “Faux Real” is an array of wel- executed works of art playing with concepts of reality versus perception. Ex-pose, on the other hand, is a poignant tribute to artist Beatriz da Costa, who documents her inner and physical struggles after being diagnosed with cancer. Both open to the public on Sunday, June 2.
They are being taken for granted by now, those pesky surveillance cameras perched on traffic lights, in stores, city streets and art museums. But, there’s also a different set gracing the Laguna Art Museum that’s a bit odd. Created by multi-media artist Sandow Birk and his partner Elyse Pignolet, they may be chic in their Delft porcelain-like housings but record absolutely nothing.
Then again, what to make of a pair of worn boots, joined by disembodied hands in posture of prayer and a jaunty red hat floating in the air? To some Gifford Meyer’s “Hat for Two Men,” “Poof (Hanky),” and “Ballerina,” might evoke the spirit of Mr. Bojangles, the irrepressible dancing vagrant made famous by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, while others may just see shoes, hands and a hat.
These works and an intriguing and amusing array of other works by altogether 14 artists comprise “Faux Real,” a show driven primarily by visual variety, humor and sense for the mildly absurd.
A result of LAM’s curator of contemporary art, Grace Kook-Anderson, brainstorming with museum staff for catchy summer fare, it blurs perceptions of reality and imagination, with reality seemingly keeping the upper hand until one looks closely. Viewers will be taken in by the craftsmanship and sly humor in David Gilhooly’s “Gilhooly Sampler,” modeled on the Whitman sampler, except that one of the confections is a frog made of dark chocolate. In a similar spirit, Julie Bozzi has framed Mexican sweet breads into hammered tin frames and presents donuts labeled like scientific specimens (“American Donuts”). “It’s all meant to present a fun visual experience,” said Kook-Anderson.
Throughout, it’s art that defies “serious,” building instead on trompe l’oeil, a genre created to deliberately deceive the eye, and offering humorist twists and some tongue-in-cheek social commentary. For instance, Walter Robinson’s “Forest,” comprised of those tacky little tree-shaped car air fresheners, come with the label “Napalm.”
Ala Ebtekar makes light of cultural globalization, affixing Arabic script and imagery onto a Levy jacket and noting the popularity of hookah smoking, at odds with tobacco as worldwide health hazard.
Kook-Anderson, has divided the show into segments such as domestic comfort, food, cultural cross-currents, consumer goods, still lifes, urban landscapes and survival.
Amy Caterina’s “Doomsday Bunker,” a giant cupcake outfitted as a survival room is deliberately cute but also invites serious contemplation of the capriciousness of catastrophes and our real ability to withstand them.
Kook-Anderson chose a geographically wide array of artists with Cheryl Ekstrom being the only local. Ekstrom presents four iconic pieces such as a Charles & Ray Eames chair and ottoman, a George Nelson “Marshmallow Sofa” and a generic beanbag chair recreated in stainless steel. “I love tweaking materials and also de-emphasizing functionality, making art and poetry instead,” she said.
The latest exhibition in Kook-Anderson’s ongoing series, Ex-pose is centered on the late Beatriz da Costa’s battle with cancer.
Before dying last Dec. 27 at age 38, da Costa delved into the fraught theme of animal research used to save people’s lives. She produced “Dying for the Other,” a video presentation of mice used in breast cancer research combined with vignettes from her own life.
She also put together what she named an “Anti-Cancer Survival Kit,” consisting of art, scientific findings and survival tips for cancer victims. “The exhibit stems from a body of work that took Beatriz six months to complete,” said Crystal Moore, her assistant who had worked with her on projects like “Delicious Apothecary,” a medicine cabinet filled with herbs and spices used in preparation of meals said to help prevent cancer. “Beatriz wanted to demonstrate how cancer susceptibility can be influenced by lifestyle,” she said.
Components of the Survival Kit include data bases of research, a coffee table book and and games designed for touch screen devices. Da Costa described it as the kind of kit that she wished that someone had given her when she was first diagnosed with cancer. Moore, currently working in New York City, will conduct a walk-through tour of the exhibition on June 16.
Ex-pose is a program designed to feature one emerging or mid-career artist per exhibition.
Faux Real and Ex-Pose through Sept. 29 at Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Dr.