“Dollhouses in the Age of Social Networks”
By Lorraine Heitzman, June 10, 2019
If you tremble at the thought of traipsing all over Los Angeles to attend gallery openings, there is one show worth the commute with enough art to satisfy the most avid art enthusiast. Dreamhouse Vs. Punk House (plus Cat house), the brainchild of Kristin Calabrese, Joshua Aster, and Torie Zalben, is a massively inclusive show that incorporates the Lilliputian work of almost two hundred artists arranged in three separately themed dollhouses. The conceit places the work in a whimsical context that is part funhouse and part conceptual art installation. More than anything else it is a reflection of an art community, and like all mirrors it shows us who we are, at least on the surface.
Dollhouses, like other forms of miniaturization, are usually reserved for child’s play or fetishizing an idealized domestic life, but these dollhouses defy categorization. Instead they are a partial accounting of Los Angeles’ exhibiting artists, framed in a way to remind us this is all tongue in cheek. Any meaning gleaned from the show is from the installation as a whole, a folly of great proportions, rather than from any individual artwork. If it feels a little daunting with so many artists of different sensibilities, perhaps that is because it is an accurate representation of the current status of the art world. Despite the diminutive size of the art, the exhibit as a whole reflects the contemporary culture of galleries, art fairs and MFA programs. In both the real world and this show the sheer amount of art threatens to overwhelm the viewer. It is somewhat dizzying, yet the small scale allows us to benefit from our perspective and to observe it in its entirety for what it represents before we scrutinize the details.
Much of the enjoyment of the installation is in searching for work by familiar artists, a Where’s Waldo? endeavor, if ever there was one. The curators invited many friends, colleagues and new acquaintances to participate, mostly from Los Angeles, but also some from Chicago and elsewhere. With so many artworks divided up between three separate dollhouses, it is a bit of a puzzle, but there are diagrams available to assist in identification. A few artists were tasked with creating a gallery/room, though the organizers themselves made the majority of spaces and predetermined the themes of the individual dollhouses.
It seems silly and besides the point to critique the art but there are many that are worth mentioning, even if you have to crouch to see them. Some art looks very strong, in part due to their fortunate placement, and also because of their ability to hold their own amid more subtle work. Forrest Kirk’s Kiki, Darius Airo’s Bask Country, and Kelly McLane and Jared Pankin’s Room, Paradise Lost Again stand out unusually well in the crowded field. Others are successful as miniature artworks in their own right, such as Keith Walsh’s Some Los Angeles Socialists Scenes, 1960’s-Now, Phyllis Green’s Phyllis as Shiva, Camilla Taylor’s Seated Figure, Richard Hull’s P-House, and Joshua Miller’s Escher’s Soap Dish. There are so many more, but part of the fun is picking favorites.
Whose dollhouses are these, you might ask? They belong to the encyclopedic social network of artists, dealers and collectors who drive culture in Los Angeles, from the famous to the lesser known. Go and enjoy, but keep in mind that Dreamhouse Vs. Punk House (plus Cat house) is a time capsule of a small fraction of the Los Angeles scene.
10 L.A. Artists Whose Work You Probably Don’t Know—But Should
By Doug Harvey, Oct 31, 2017
These days, Walsh is known in the L.A. art community for his regular performances as The Keith Walsh Experience, an entirely unironic one-man-band with hundreds of original compositions (and a dozen self-released albums) rooted in rockabilly, glam, Krautrock, and jazz. But through the early 2000s, Walsh was also producing some of the most interesting sculptures in town—strange high-tech, furniture-like constructions that melded sci-fi futurism with cargo-cult classicism, augmented by masterfully designed collages and paintings. His most recent works, like Black Liberation and Socialism in America (2017), apply these high-modernist design instincts to the history of radical political movements in 20th-century America. He produces faux-ephemera, including flow-charts and diagrams, but mostly posters and magazine pages that look as if Francis Picabia had lived long enough to donate his services to the Black Panthers.