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When I lived adjacent to my university’s football stadium, an aural read of its emanating roar could be deeply confusing: celebration or war? Far from the harmonies of a choir, the sour cacophony of competing cheers sounded, I’m sure, better from within.
Josh Reames and Jose Lérma have created something of a visual equivalent at Luis de Jesus. He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas (I and II), depicting aspects of the Cayman Islands’ “Pirates Week” festival, is more fun to observe than to inhabit—an ambivalent “wish you were here.” Celebratory cannon fire causes real damage to the island gift shop, and damp clouds of smoke. The palm trees of the tropical setting nod to L.A. (the work was created on site), while a turtle perching a pineapple on its nose-beak alludes to both the welcoming of guests symbolized by the pineapple and the performative, circus-like trickery of tourism.
The Caymans have a reputation as a tax haven. Perhaps the formal and narrative excess here mirrors an associated decadence, one in which even the birds drink martinis (or maybe margaritas?). Reames and Lérma’s corroded whimsy takes a chilly turn in Monument to Wilson and Kelling, another, very different, collaboration consisting of a slowly rotating metal-frame door darkly lit in the gel-like blue glow cast from four bottles of Windex. Whatever commentary languishes in the piece (Wilson and Kelling pioneered the “Broken Windows Theory” of policing) is obscured by its hypnotic, resourceful calm; a come-down from the party in the front. Crime, whether petty as broken glass, or mythic as that of “Pirates Week”’s obnoxious ancestors, links the two collaborations, even as the overlap of the artists’ very different voices often obscures this link.
Josh Reames & Jose Lérma runs from January 30-March 6, 2016 at Luis De Jesus (2685 S La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90034)