A text by Julie Weitz
Elana Bowsher, Robert Gutierrez, Elizabeth Huey, Tristram Lansdowne, Kenton Parker, Brian Robertson, Lisa Sanditz, and Sarah Weber at CES Gallery
March 18 to April 16, 2017
711 Mateo Street, Los Angeles, CA
“We’re in the transportation business－we move minds,” is how Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, once described the function of the band. Transportation is contingent on one’s willingness to embark on an unknown journey void of familiar signposts where the only GPS available is the intuitive navigational system of the mind. Deadheads were a particular type of audience, especially primed for perceptual transformation.
Installation view of Psychonautics
Art enthusiasts tend to be less affable and galleries generally unsuitable for psychic travel, but walking through the exhibition Psychonautics at CES Gallery provided some tangible insights into my own psychic explorations with Ayahuasca. Imagine being inside a video game environment where every phase of the game is visualized as an elaborate rendering of a painting. You intimately traverse each artwork’s topography to reach the next level. There is a sequence in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990) in which an art student chases Vincent Van Gogh through fields that transform into Van Gogh’s actual paintings, but the sequence ends with the student admiring Wheatfield with Crows while standing in a museum. The idea is visibly clear－immersion into the landscape of the artwork via the mind’s eye.
Elana Bowsher’s twisted ceramic sculptures of cacti are a good starting point to initiate our trip. Painted black and tipped with golden spikes, the potted phallus, ubiquitous amongst hip southern California dwellings, appears tarred. Journeying through a psychedelic trip is about reading the signs and this seems like a reasonable omen: not all hallucinations triggered by the holy San Pedro are glazed with rainbow light.
In the next room, the cactus reappears as a shadow presence in a canoe. We have become the spirit of the sacred plant itself, riding undulating waves of gray under crisp moonlight in Brian Robertson’s painting The tiny teacup meets the big black mass. The cup waits patiently at the dock surrounded by rigid water and as the canoe tips, we are propelled forward, eager to expel ourselves from this extremely controlled pictorial space.
Reemerging, we are now a painterly mess of toxic dump in Lisa Sanditz’s Cleared Lot. Like a melting, oversized scoop of rocky road and bubble gum ice cream combined with chards of broken glass. If the urge to purge hits you now, it’s a sign that we’re peaking. We sprout out of the oozing mass and liberate ourselves from a deteriorating landscape.
Enter the entangled geometry of Robert Gutierrez’s History Timing. The timbre of our trip is heightened and expanded. We are floating, no longer contained by form, or the inherent trends of the painting lexicon. An ethereal presence watches us as we glide across multi-colored streams and meld into the wood surface. We are the folding lapses of the moon gently slipping out of sight…
Installation view of Psychonautics
…and into the framework of Elizabeth Huey’s Soon Means Soon (Eames), comforted by the presence of other human beings engaged in unorthodox activities. In fact, the portrait of Ray Eames appears thrice, her multiple selves as artist, designer, and scientist. We cleanse our feet in the fresh spring water, glance around the modernist glass home, and make our way to the staircase where a tiny figure veiled in yellow beckons us to come inside.
What better place to come down from a trip than within the cozy home of Tristam Lansdowne’s New Horizons I, where we admire the city from afar within the protective interior of neo-hippie modernism. Here, perhaps all that remains of our wild adventure are the ceramic vases perched on the fireplace, reminiscent of the magic cacti, now neutralized. Grab the pillows and lie down on the couch; the hyper-activity of your brain deserves a rest.
Julie Weitz is an artist based in Los Angeles. Her immersive video installation Touch Museum premiered at Young Projects last winter and received critical attention in Artforum, the LA Times, and on KCRW. Other recent solo exhibitions include Archer School in Los Angeles, CA (2016), Cunsthaus in Tampa, FL (2016), Agency in Los Angeles, CA (2014), and The Suburban in Oak Park, IL (2013). Before moving to Los Angeles in 2013, Weitz taught as Associate Professor of Art at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, Florida for eight years. She is a regular contributor to CARLA and is currently working on a new video project, photographic series, and collaborative VR project.