“Significant Ordinaries” at the University Art Museum, CSULB


Cutaway View
William Leavitt
Mixed Media Installation Dimensions Variable
Photo: Brian Forrest, copyright William Leavitt
Installation View at MOCA, Los Angeles
Courtesy Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles

“Significant Ordinaries” appears at first like a work in progress rather than a fully developed show. Curator David De Boer would disagree, however, as the exhibition involves works encompassing a non-traditional alliance between the artist, curators (De Boer, Eamonn Fox and Mary Grace Sanchez) and viewer. In particular, he invites the viewer to impart to each piece her/his personal methodology and life experiences, and he regards this personal touch as essential to completion of the works. De Boer reverently states, “Duchamp questioned the nature of art making by shifting from a material aesthetic experience, as described by the individual artistic practice of making objects, to a practice rooted in language and premised on context.”

William Leavitt’s Cutaway View (2008), a small suburban home section, features a potted plant, a framed painting of a horse and lighting. Yet, this banal slice of life is incomplete until the viewer imbues it with personal feelings and interpretations; this ordinary scene then is created jointly by the artist, the curators and by all who view it. David Horvitz’s Drugstore Beetle (2010) goes further, consisting of 30 editions of folders; each containing 27 different commissioned artworks. The curatorial team obtained one edition from the USC library–that had been re-arranged/re-curated by previous library patrons. Then they disassembled the folder, hanging some parts on the wall, placing others under glass. Conversely, Mark Wyse’s Seizure (2009) is composed of appropriated reproductions and illustrations, including a Duchamp self-portrait, along with his own photographs, resulting in a disorienting effect, then acceptance or rejection by the viewer. Juliet’s Balcony, Verona (2006) by Jeffrey Vallance includes common objects framed like a religious icon: among them, a 1936 edition of Romeo and Juliet and a Dead Kennedys stylized button. Encased together in a container, they resemble a Christian reliquary. This noble-looking artwork, a remnant of the artist’s personal experience (explained on a wall panel), relegates the ordinary to the seemingly sublime. But is it? The most postmodern piece here is Louise Lawler’s Freud’s Shirt (2001-03), a photograph of a Frank Stella painting in a domestic setting with chairs and a table distorting the image. Issues of authorship, appropriation and distortion of an original work invite us to question and reinterpret this photo.

Regarding this exhibition as one complete artwork, the curators address how we view and interpret art, whatever the medium, while the barriers between artist, curator and viewer are dissolved. It is an egalitarian, non-traditional approach to art making, and one that looks back at primitive cultures in which ownership of artworks does not exist.