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Tucked away amongst the lush, palatial estates of Pasadena is the historic Gamble House, a lovingly preserved arts and crafts mansion built in 1908. For the next two months the Gamble House, in conjunction with the itinerant Los Angeles Nomadic Division, plays host to an ambitious and thoughtful exhibition curated by Alika Cooper and Anna Mayer exploring the work and influence of avant-garde filmmaker Marjorie Keller.
In a too-brief career spanning roughly 1972-1991 Keller made 25 films in a lyrical, diaristic, and non-linear style that often incorporated footage from her own life, family and experiences. Keller was a committed feminist who nevertheless had concerns about the stringent requirements of feminist theory. The curators appear to have taken this to heart, assembling a diverse array of works that examine femininity and the body using an array tactics of representation—from Chantal Akerman’s interrogation of the male gaze in La Chambre (1972) to the delightfully optimistic Inquiring Nuns (1968) by Kartemquin Films. These works provide a textural contrast to the four films by Keller included in the exhibition, studded throughout the home like easter eggs. Tucked inside the linen closet is Keller’s Daughters of Chaos (1980), a meditation on female sexuality and aging that acts as the exhibition’s heart, brimming with sentimentality without crossing the line into sappiness.
Other highlights include a series of photographs by Paul Pescador 9/6 (01-12) (2016). Shot on location using objects found in the house, these works create playfully absurd visual moments, which bring a human animation to the museum-like seriousness of the space. Naomi Fisher’s sculpture, Dancarchy – Rugrosa Rose (2016), similarly incorporates some of the house’s distinct visual flourishes into cast wax panels that will weather on the veranda for the run of the show—a natural aging process that points to the constant fight against entropy of the house itself. The ease with which the works slip into their domestic environment underlies the universality of the themes that Keller and the exhibition’s curators both attempt to explore, transcending time and exposing a broader audience to the work of an under-appreciated artistic maverick.
On the Verge of an Image: Considering Marjorie Keller runs October 8-December 11, 2016 and is presented by Los Angeles Nomadic Division at The Gamble House: University of Southern California, School of Architecture: 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103.