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Review: Anthony Burdin at Michael Benevento Gallery

April 16, 2009 |  6:30 pm

BURDIN3 Photo©Joshua#4BC43B Incorporating painting, sculpture, drawing, printing and video, the installation by Anthony Burdin at Michael Benevento Gallery is a Goth mis en scène that invokes surprising sources as credibly diverse as Bruce Nauman and “The Blair Witch Project.” Burdin, an artist who has cultivated a mythic persona as an enigmatic rock ’n’ roll misfit, keeps a viewer on his toes by creating experiential moments that leave one wondering: Is he serious?

That an answer is not readily available is a sign of the work’s success.

The gallery’s front window is hung with a light-killing, tie-dyed tarp in dark and gloomy purples, reds and black. A bulky storage container built from plywood virtually fills the main room, leaving just enough wiggle space to get by on one side. The other side is a beckoning trap, which will surely leave even the skinniest immovably wedged between the container and the wall.

Halfway around the container, a pair of padlocked doors is marked with stenciled Roman numerals in dagger-like Gothic typeface, while all the way around a large, ragged mono-print hangs on the wall. Made from pressing a big paper sheet onto the tie-dyed tarp now obscuring the front window like a funeral shroud, it’s covered with slash marks that yield the look of bloody crime-scene evidence.

A small rear gallery is reached by walking over scrape marks on the floor, suggesting something heavy has been dragged across it. A coil of razor wire, plated in 24-karat gold and dangling an empty key chain, adds stylish bling. Projected on an adjacent wall, a relatively brief, hand-held video reminiscent of something left on the cutting-room floor by Paul McCarthy brings us down into a dingy cellar, where a couple of scraggly mannequins are pornographically entwined.

Burdin’s carefully calibrated installation is creepy and claustrophobic, less because of the individual parts than the general mind-set of unknowable confinement it embodies. Titled “Forever Haunt You,” it’s in two parts, with the second half concurrently on view at the gallery’s New York branch. The artist thus ensures that virtually no one will see the entire thing. Burdin’s art is like a lost twin or a severed limb, and as such it feels just right for this dislocated time.

-- Christopher Knight

Michael Benevento Gallery, 7578 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 874-6400, through May 1. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: "Authentic Gold Stash Protection Policy No. 1" (2006/2009), 24-karat gold-plated razor wire, hand-etched signed and numbered 24-karat gold-plated tag. Credit: Joshua White