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Appropriation in art has been commonplace since the dawn of mass media. Artists reuse as a tool, swiping images—ephemeral, iconic or otherwise—as a means to explore identity, the substance of representation, and the cyclings and discontinuities of common narratives.
In this vein, Philipp Timischl has transformed Martos Gallery into a living room, minus the furniture: wall-to-wall carpeting knits together images sourced from recent entertainment and a raucous video diptych (Good From Afar and Far From Good) at the gallery entrance, above which images of the artist in drag tower. Three foot tall prints along two walls mirror the low perch of the flat-screens in the entrance diptych. The soft floor both beckons and repels.
Carpet, as a banal suburban signifier, most usefully evokes Timischl’s central concern with heteronormativity permeating an increasingly less transgressive gay and drag culture. Gay Divorce and Just do it normal. (masc) likewise subtly underscore the problems of a barely transformed language, and the diminished cultural identity regularly greeting mainstream acceptance/ assimilation.
But beyond this, Good From Afar / Far From Good falters in exactly the same way: by barely transforming its source material. Pieces like Jack looking up seem signifiers without significance. Is Jack, protagonist of LOST and (former) media heartthrob, wet with a sexualized spum of resin? Unless an update of The Celluloid Closet is in order, Jack’s hetero identity seems outside the point.
Timischl’s work is not unique in teetering along the edge of the very vacuity it ostensibly probes. While the titular entrance diptych reiterates drag culture’s ongoing transgressive potential (responding to a Scotland Pride parade at which drag queens had not been invited to perform), Timischl throughout leans too heavily on thinned-down ‘Pictures’ ideology, siphoning little meaning from his appropriated media.
Philipp Timischl: Good From Afar / Far From Good runs September 11–October 17, 2015 at Martos Gallery (3315 W Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90018)