Artwork that is focused specifically on the body or on new environments is often times more beautiful and aesthetically compelling than its evil twin – the conceptual, heady, theory-driven art that feigns deepness just because it creates a sense of unease within the viewer. Why should these two aesthetics be mutually exclusive, however? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for frothy emotional appeal, as evidenced by an ongoing love for the Rococo period, which is full of lust, flirting, sexual innuendos, sweet kisses, the lingering scent of love, the soft and sensual. This same sensibility enters the group exhibition Spacially Speaking at Platform in Culver City.
Here, watercolors drape themselves across paper. Plants emerge from pots unearthed, made from the earth, but without that earthy “edge” associated with the “raw.” Paint is lathered across canvases in ways both controlled and unwieldly. A sheet of gold dangles from a wall. In this sensual group show by Tappan Collective members Heather Day, Cheryl Humphreys, Satsuki Shibuya, Lola Rose Thompson and Lani Trock, viewers experience a pleasurable, sensual environment where they can just relax and soak up the experience.
This would normally be a very basic, actually conservatively-arranged group show of two- and three-dimensional works in a gallery space were it not for Lani Trock’s immersive, site-specific installation “Biophilia: a Public Service Announcement,” which she created specifically for the opening of this new space. Trock uses thick, strong twisted rope to hang a swing from a beam near the gallery ceiling. White lounge cushions arranged on the floor form a circular enclosure along with hanging plants, their roots exposed, bound up into a ball of dirt and life, perfectly arranged so as to present itself as more of an offering than an earthy sacrifice.
The installation is focused on an environmental, sustainability-focused approach. There are 15 species in this show, including two edible types that Trock foraged herself. The other 13 species were generously donated by the National Park Service and are native to the Santa Monica Mountains. Trock’s installation manages to combine beautiful, plant-based aesthetics and environmental activism.
Because Trock’s installation takes up so much of the space and also enchants people into a chill zone, it’s easy to just relax there and not hit up the other artworks. But if you can move away from her beautiful zone, you can see lots more art. Lola Rose Thompson’s gentle watercolors offer a more humorous perspective, like “Self Portrait As Kylie Jenner’s Lesbian Lover,” which is a body positioned upside-down, only showing torso and legs. Another funny piece is “A Woman Being Self Sufficient”, which is a lightly shadowed watercolor of a woman sitting cross-legged, her right hand in color, reaching across her chest to hold her left breast. This could be to do some literal self-examination, self-pleasure, or nothing at all except a move toward touching oneself to know that they do indeed exist. Other sweet emo pieces like “Everyone Who Ever made You Cry And Other Vague Evils”, a great lopsided diamond of faces, is funny/sad in its implied sensitivity, and of the ability other people have to hurt us.
Located next to Thompson’s watercolors, we see the very refined, clearly executed, no-stones-unturned-tidiness of works by Cheryl Humphreys. Her piece “Untitled in Gold” is a hanging rectangle-shaped embossed paper in gold leaf; the circles layered into the gold leaf overlap in ways gentle and meditative. The tidiness of Humphreys’ work is curious in relation to Heather Day’s acrylic, soft-pastel, and graphite paintings, which are messy in their presentation. Her painting “You Were Saying #2” makes one think of a person reclining on a couch, drifting off and losing track of the space around them while a friend is trying to carry on a deep conversation, something meaningful, something they want the other person to remember.
On the other end of the gallery, directly facing Trock’s installation, Satsuki Shibuya’s even softer watercolors add a more ephemeral experience to the entire show. In her piece, “Infinite Self”, subtle smudges and beautiful dabs of variously colored paints float together, congealing but never combining. Similarly, “Culmination of Thoughts” includes dribbles and blotches, a gesture toward the constant reshuffling of one’s thoughts.
Like this group exhibition itself, each work makes up a part of the whole, coming through in the ways that they combine to form a collective consciousness all their own. Pay attention to the subtleties and feelings, look closer, and soak in the ways that these pieces gracefully settle into the subconscious.