After driving across town into the depths of Hollywood, and paying alms to the meter, walking into Math’s solo exhibition “Lies Inside” was a reprieve. Overduin and Co. Gallery is sanctuary-esque in its interior; diffused light creeps in through the frosted glass windows creating a quiet enclave protected from the bustling Sunset Boulevard. Math’s rolled steel sculptures and heavily designed paintings flank the room. On first glance, Math’s work is an extension of the sanctuary–perhaps the stained glass, the pews, the alter–yet as I slowly marched through the two room exhibition, the space began to feel more like an exercise in visual merchandising than in sacrament. Math’s thin paintings employ an eye for composition, and a flair for color with a neo-art-deco stylization. The finely tuned constructions appropriate imagery of tunnels, cigarettes, alligators, cubes, arches, circles, flowers, stairs, and the letter Z, all interacting and swirling into each other with controlled movements. An alligator becomes a stair step becomes a tunnel entrance; all while maintaining a neat arrangement. Exquisite corpse meets bauhaus design. In certain paintings, the elements are composed to create cartoony faces–cigarette noses and alligator mouths. The works have a surreal charm, yet when paired with the rolled steel sculptures in the room, they begin to lose their momentum.
The sculptures overly simplified forms vaguely reference the imagery in the paintings: stair steps, arches, sign boards. They all sit in the gallery space with the same scale and muted sentiment–their placement a transparent attempt to create an installation out of serialized works. The lack of hierarchy and intention in the horde of repeated forms becomes a dull hum that continually hits the same note. No crescendo is offered.
Surely these structures will be utilized in the performative aspect of the exhibition, which will take place on the closing day of the exhibition, April 19th. If one is to add a performance on top of an otherwise static installation, the work should be able to stand alone to viewers while the performance is not in session (else one is at risk of recreating the fourth floor of the Whitney Bi circa 2012–empty stages awaiting the scheduled performance times). While these pieces are able to exist pre-performance, they are more like shadowy figures waiting to catch a bus than unique static objects. Their existence is reliant on the impending theatrics which will take place on and around them–that will most likely overtly call out the not-so-subtle connections to body and architecture. Punctuating these lifeless steel props are yellow powder coated sculptures that the resemble the steel gates that often line businesses in the Hollywood area (upon leaving the gallery, I noticed a few similar structures within eyesight, for example). The yellow sculptures work with the paintings in a way that the rolled steel do not. They add color and designed facade to the compositions that are born in the painted works–they imply a demarcation of space. They relate, but don’t emulate. Similarly, the stylized ladders that daintily lean against the walls add an implication of movement, of climbing, of failure. Their scale and build seem too narrow to function, and too tall to hold the weight of a climber without snapping in half. Yet, their seriality in the space is questionable, and again seems like an attempt to fill wall space. My intrigue of the first ladder in the smaller of the two rooms, was lost once I rounded the corner to see three more; evenly spaced and indexical.
The most beautifully quiet aspect of the exhibit in retrospect is the arched form that Math seamlessly worked into the buildings architecture. Not screaming to be noticed with powder coated flair, rather drywalled and painted like the other gallery walls, these structures become the space, and subtly reference back to Math’s lexicon. They also provide a scale shift that the rest of the bodily sized work does not offer. With muted cleverness, the structures locate us within, rather than outside of. Ironically though, these arches are not demarcated in the show’s slidelist, and without a shout out in the press release, I’m confident that the average viewer would miss their subtle connection to the work (assuming instead that the gallery had remodeled). Call me an average viewer, for example. Other than logistics of these arches being NFS, I am unsure why they didn’t make the canon of list. Their function is wholly different than that of standard exhibition furniture–walls and pedestals. Thus, the piece (or non piece) is brought into crisis, as the conversation it alludes to slides away from an internal one (continuing in a dialogue of signs, symbols, and the body) to an external one (about contemporary gallery architecture).
What to expect on April 19th: Math’s performances typically consist of walking, chanting, singing repetitive nonsensical phrases, laying, posing, plant dropping, and ladder climbing. Sometimes smoke and dogs are involved. Sometimes Math hides under a blanket, and presses play on a nostalgic 80’s cassette player. Sometimes there are nice moments in these actions–sometimes they come off as a way to validate an otherwise uninspired series of sculptures. Granted, this review is being written post-perform, and thus I willingly open my words up for rebuke come April 20th. Who knows, maybe an addendum will be in order. But until then, Math’s show remains a valiant effort into creating a visual style and indexical language that lightly brushes on a variety of topics, though offers no concrete concept to speak of. Still, Math’s installation is thought provoking and subtle in moments; so lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Lies Inside will be on view at Overduin and Co. through April 19th. Math Bass’s performance will take place April 19th at 3 pm. For more information, check out the gallery’s site and show press release HERE