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People tend to use the term poetic to describe things they can’t find a more precise adjective for: aesthetics that are a bit dreamy. To me, it seems like an insult to the transfixing capability of poetry.
Jibade-Khalil Huffman is a very good poet, but he has not yet worked out how to consistently make the same sparks fly from combinations of visual material. His exhibition, The Discrepancies, which is chiefly structured around encounters between various forms of found imagery, suffers from a laissez-faire poeticism. The four wan video installations and eight inkjet prints coalesce neither into a particular atmosphere, nor into a graspable message. There are hints of something substantial—allusions to urban politics and race relations—but they are diluted with filler.
The central video installation, Untitled (Citizen) (2015), comes closest to articulateness thanks to the spoken words of poet Claudia Rankine, who is cited as a collaborator. But, aside from a jarring reference to Trayvon Martin, the four-projection piece seems listless and inconclusive. Shots of young people (actors?) hanging out in a studio are made to seem even more casual when juxtaposed with images of the shadow of a tree, or firemen tending a gushing water main.
The inkjet prints—most of which are photographs wrung through Photoshop—deliver little beyond rhythms of color and texture. The press release claims that the prints physicalize “insidious forms of racism.” The reference seems like a dubious attempt to project significance where there is none. At this early stage in his career, Huffman perhaps should be applauded for treading delicately through territory in which many have stomped. I look forward, however, to the time when he knows just where he wants to go and he is able to take us along with him.
The Discrepancies runs from May 2–30, 2015 at Museum as Retail Space (649 S. Anderson St., Los Angeles, CA 90023).