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Art review: John Jurayj at Walter Maciel Gallery

April 26, 2010 |  8:00 pm
300.Image 2 Girl with Shorts In his latest show at Walter Maciel Gallery, John Jurayj enacts a resurrection of sorts. His larger-than-life silkscreens of dead bodies from the Lebanese civil war are at once undeniably weighty and ineffably haunting. Executed in gunpowder-tinted ink on slabs of stainless steel, the works lean against the walls like tombstones that have yet to find their graves.

Taken from newspapers and other archival sources, the images depict isolated men, women and children — all civilians — photographed where they fell. Jurayj has turned the bodies upright as if willing them back to life, but they resist, appearing to float inertly in midair. He has also printed them in negative, which gives them an otherworldly glow.

The works are further activated by the viewer’s presence — the steel is polished to a mirror finish so you can see your distorted reflection alongside each victim. It’s a discomfiting experience to see yourself so sheepishly alive among ghosts.

300.Image 3 Walter Maciel Gallery Install 1 The silkscreens are accompanied by a few small sculptures of luggage and a digital video. Cast in a mix of gunpowder and plaster, the luggage provides a mute physicality that the evanescent images cannot. In comparison, the video — images of war “heroes” that slowly dissolve in rays of harsh light — is more expected. It’s the only animated thing in the room but somehow feels less vital.

– Sharon Mizota

Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 839-1840, through May 15. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.waltermacielgallery.com

Images: Untitled (Girl With Shorts), top, and installation view of John Jurayj's "Untitled (Undead)," 2010. Photos: Courtesy of Walter Maciel Gallery.

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