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Inside an all-cloth, army-green canvas box big enough for a bed, sits a teddy bear on a canvas cot. A baseball glove rests besides the bear and rose petals cover the floor. Artist Lucie Stahl also sewed onto the box’s exterior an upside down flag that says “Brown Bear,” and looks made to cheer on a university football team. Actually, “Brown Bear” is a brand of ammo, and Stahl has hung ammo boxes—altered and framed in plexi—on walls of her current Freedman Fitzpatrick show, End of Tales. But that scene inside the green canvas box pulls together an uncomfortable array of references: war, childhood, baseball, romance (with all those rose petals, it could be a scene from The Bachelorette).
An eerie, post-post-iPhone storybook feel characterizes Stahl’s exhibition, her second with the gallery. In the photograph Escape Games (2017), which resembles a melodramatic, claustrophobic video game still in its composition, the face of a fierce, concerned-looking woman is inches from an armed robot. It’s unclear whether either is the hero. The ammo boxes too are like props in a story with no clear winner: Stahl has pasted photos of theatrical soldiers dressed in leopard-print camo over Wolf Ammunition’s logo—the words “power, rifle slug” now the slightly funnier “power slug.”
This isn’t new: the tendency of artists to parody war’s absurdity via games (Charles Csuri, Peggy Ahwesh). But the way this show works on one’s nerve endings feels familiar for reasons less art historical than socio-political. The back room of End of Tales features photographs taken on a TV set in Berlin. Actors dressed as if out of 1930s Germany romanticize a moment right before things went to shit. The photos, regressive and also maybe prophetic, do what this show does well: articulates a state in which absurd, infantile things seem natural and regression and progress blur together. As for how to navigate this blurriness, there’s no road map here.
Lucie Stahl: End of Tales is on view from July 30–September 2, 2017 at Freedman Fitzpatrick (6051 Hollywood Blvd, #107, Los Angeles, CA 90028).