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Looking at art listings last weekend, you might’ve assumed Commonwealth & Council were opening a group show, though one isolating each artist with the precision of a cafeteria lunch tray. Indeed, the work of Laub, Doug Ischar and Lucas Michael link in only a broadly thematic sense, each tackling different ratios of—if you’ll pardon my New Age—mind, body and soul.
First, the body: Laub’s exhibition has the and-the-kitchen-sink air of struggling to pinpoint one’s identity. The artist’s body appears and disappears amongst disparate media: blown glass, drawings, jars of kombucha. This is the Story (2014-15) subsumes the body in a whole bunch of religious and scientific metaphors (with occasional success), while the video centerpiece, Believe Me When I Say (2014-15), is a both annoyingly didactic and obscure direct address. Empty Water Bottle (2015), however, hits some kind of nail on the head. In the photograph, cut-off chinos and plastic bottles form a loose bodily sculpture, amidst which a dildo peeks out—a leavening and funny move tying together sexuality, the abstracted body, and liquid (or, rather, its absence).
Lucas Michael’s “sculptures” in the front room aspire ultimately to give physicality, or the barest sheen of it, to the flattenings of the mind—language, geometry, color. Michael chokes the air out of a goblet in one piece, and captures the shallow depth of etched text under uniform sheets of graphite in another. Redress (2015), with its lurid red neon framing, aspires to the ironic, bygone purity of a certain era of vice (see William Friedkin’s Cruising), while striking a note of mourning in its allusion to literal and figurative passage.
Which brings us to the soul. The young, blonde, curiously luxuriating bodies of Linger (1986/2013) recur throughout Doug Ischar’s exhibition, a tribute to the artist’s deceased partner Tom Daws. What ties the exhibition together, loosely, is the power of Ischar’s deficient narrative: missing pieces that are, further, impossible to replace. This works best in a series of small-scale projections, particularly Tag (1994/2015) and Someone (2013). Tag subtly transforms a Lacoste shirt; Someone, a handwritten note. Each object is imbued with both memorial (clothing and handwriting as a record of the body) and spectral (the moving image) elements. Elsewhere, Siren (1996/2013) falls flat with clumsy provocation (in this case, a young Jeffrey Dahmer), and Boy, Pig, Power (2013) ends on a curiously vague, though elegiac, note.
Doug Ischar: Boy, Pig, Power, Lucas Michael: The Chromedian and Laub: OH BE GENTLE run July 11 – August 8, 2015 at Commonwealth & Council (3006 W 7th St #220, Los Angeles CA 90005)