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A plainclothes angel stands above the parishioners of St. John’s Cathedral (c. 1220–1340) in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. Enraptured by private drama, she folds one arm across her chest while using the other to hold a working cell phone up to her closed-eyed, placid face. Ton Mooy, the Dutch artist who sculpted the angel, unveiled in 2011, describes the phone as providing her with a “direct line to heaven” unique among her Romanesque compatriots.1 With such coveted access to divinity, it is no wonder her body language reads as uniquely self-contained, neither extending downward in pity of visitors’ afflictions, nor upward in contemplation of Christ. The bizarre insularity of Mooy’s angel recalls Canadian artist Rochelle Goldberg’s figure of the intralocutor, a neologism that directs the term “interlocutor”—a conversational partner—inward. Goldberg’s exhibition Aluminum Casts, currently on view at Commercial Street, develops this aesthetic of self-enclosure. Across the show, Goldberg transforms objects that typically serve as conduits for information or meaning, such as cell phones and icons of the Madonna, instead presenting viewers with sites of disrupted communication.
The exhibition encompasses both aluminum casts and original objects painted with aluminum dispersion paint, though it is difficult to distinguish the actual from the ersatz. Viewers first encounter Aluminum Apotheosis (all works 2023), a multifarious floor-to-ceiling installation joined by a byzantine network of aluminum wire. The wire resembles a tangled web, a physical manifestation of the intertwined significance of the ensnared objects. Casts of bread loaves and dated cell phones cascade downward, affixed to the ceiling on one end, and to cans strewn across the floor on the other. Like the food that might be preserved in the cans, the bread loaves are both food and not food. They are created with metal, so they are not edible, but they can signify “food” far longer than actual bread, vegetables, or fish—all subject to rot—would. Rather than engaging in a process of potential consumption, the installation operates as a closed system of indeterminate materials.
Through its connective wiring and phones, Aluminum Apotheosis suggests the potential of communication but ultimately blocks transmission. Protruding fragments of excess wire underscore the unruliness of the material linking the objects. Further, the installation conjures tin can telephones, which, in proper form, would transmit speech acoustically. Similarly, Aluminum dreams: leaves are falling presents an ossified scheme of potential connectivity. Twelve cell phones connected by wires hang in a horizontal line across the gallery’s left wall. The phones are no longer able to make calls, as they have been doused in paint so thick that their buttons and screens are barely discernible. Rather, their connection is produced through the wires and homogenizing paint that defies their conventional purpose. Like Mooy’s angel’s direct line to heaven, these cell phones have a direct line to each other that rebuffs the viewer at every angle.
On the gallery’s back wall, a circular relief titled Aluminum Dreams: how can I move contains two busts positioned at a downward angle as if evading the viewer. The busts are modeled after 1950s pinup dolls, though they also recall the pop star Madonna and resemble the Madonna and Child, especially given the work’s installation next to Aluminum dreams: a mushroom finds itself, an aluminum and paper mold of a doll’s face with the cherubic quality of baby Jesus. By coalescing the world of divinity and the world of materialism—the Virgin Mary and the “material girl”; baby Jesus and a common doll’s face—Goldberg complicates these icons’ centuries-old roles as conduits to the divine. They are no longer stable signs that point viewers to larger narratives of significance; rather, they look inward in unyielding intralocution.
Rochelle Goldberg: Aluminum Casts runs from March 26–April 29, 2023 at Commercial Street (5152 La Vista Ct., Los Angeles, CA 90004).