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Stories of Almost Everyone is a self-reflexive exhibition of readymade totems, anthropomorphized and elevated from their original functions as suitcases, floral arrangements, or telephone poles. Curator Aram Moshayedi and curatorial assistant Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi have organized a show of artworks which conventionally demand institutional mediation to “speak,” and ask whether their meaning is generated in the artist’s studio, on the curators object label, or in the eye and mind of the viewer.
Lara Favaretto’s Lost and Found (1997), an old padlocked suitcase without a key, allegorizes the viewer’s search for arbitration within the gallery to “activate” otherwise inert art objects. This tension between systems of meaning-making vibrates through the exhibition; Darren Bader’s undated Sculpture #3 is an unapologetic copy of a John McCracken slab painting. Industrial processes remove any evidence of the artist’s hand, but divorced from the minimalist canon, the replica’s aura dissolves. These concepts crystalize within an anatomy of art historical discourse, and threaten to leave the average viewer out in the cold. However, within this qualified framework, Stories is a playful and affectionate exhibition, imbued with a curiosity to locate these objects within their respective narratives and to allow them to engage in formal and conceptual dialogue with one another.
But what about the art objects whose narratives point to politics beyond those of the museum? Christodoulos Panayiotou’s Independence Street (2012) transposes five full-scale utility poles from Limassol, Cyprus to the space of the gallery. While originally designed as a tool of the state to transmit information via electric power lines, the tacks and bits of paper pinned to the poles are a reminder that Cypriot citizens repurposed these forms as makeshift community bulletin boards. Kapwani Kiwanga’s 2014 series Flowers for Africa consists of reconstructed floral arrangements selected by the artist from grainy, archival video of postcolonial independence ceremonies across the continent. The arrangements act as stand-ins for our collective memory of the events they index, left to fade over the duration of the exhibition. Stories thus demands discerning, mindful spectatorship; the buoyant, democratic installation grants each object equal weight, and inattentive viewing risks flattening artists’ social concerns in service to the curators’ critical museology.
Stories of Almost Everyone runs from Jan 28–May 6, 2018 at The Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90024).