A Near-Iconoclastic Group Show Obscures Famous Faces and Human Figures

Artsy Editorial
Jan 12, 2015 8:23PM

“When It Is Dark Enough,” the title of CES Gallery’s latest group show, borrows from a famous quote usually attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” The show’s works explore this notion of discovery as experienced through altered visibility.

In each of them, there is a sense of suppressed identity. At times, the suppression is playful and feels more like the work of a trickster than an expurgator. Facial distortion is used in order to escape easy classification and visual digestion. Sometimes the act of suppression is more complex; the visual loss of identity comes to represent the role material things play in our existence. 

Jordan Clark’s hand-cut collage work appropriates found images from popular culture, ’80s-style advertisements, family portraits, and photos of ’60s pin-up girls. Each is manually altered, with pieces cut out of the subjects faces and rearranged as kaleidoscopic abstractions. In Pointless (2014), a Marilyn Monroe type (Monroe herself?) strikes a classic, vivacious pose in a pink gown; the entirety of her face has been turned into a large diamond shape covering her head and torso area; traces of lips, eyes, and nose are scattered throughout.

Lola Dupré’s collages also play with images of iconic figures. Exploding Marilyn Monroe #6 (2013) shows a black-and-white Monroe exploded into a starburst pattern; her figure remains recognizable, but it’s as if she’d been obliterated, reduced to shards, and then meticulously put together again. McHale’s Navy Scramble (2010), by Eric Yahnker, uses charcoal and graphite to render the TV character’s face into a fractal. The effect is like an Escher drawing, a boggling swirl of facial fragments. Yahnker’s portrait of Raquel Welch is subtler but no less disorienting— a classic charcoal portrait, except the actress is depicted without eyes. Instead, long, billowy bangs hang over darkened spots where her eyes should be. There’s humor to these works, and surprise, and while they upend the fundamental representation of each person, the images retain their pop familiarity. 

Amir H. Fallah’s paintings obscure the human form, showcasing the interrelation between objects and cultural identity. Reflecting On The Past To Write The News Of The Future (2014) shows a reclining figure looking into a hand mirror, swathed in camel-patterned fabric, and surrounded by various objects, including an hourglass, Arabic notecards and lettering, and a faceless photo. Here, the symbols predominate, providing clues and influencing viewers’ perception of the veiled figure, though we ultimately remain in the dark. 

—M.A. Wholey

When It Is Dark Enough” is on view at CES Gallery, Los Angeles, Dec. 20, 2014–Jan. 24, 2015.

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Artsy Editorial