Art review: John Baldessari at Gemini GEL
They're funny too. Each pictures a black, stocking-clad right foot set against a flat background in one of three color combinations. A hole in the sock lets the big toe stick out. It's like a hulking portrait emerging from an inky shroud -- Manet looking at Berthe Morisot, perhaps, or Degas charting the Bellelli family.
For reasons I can't quite explain, the configuration also reminds me of Marty Feldman's role as Igor in Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," or the old joke that Richard Nixon's face looked like a foot. Maybe that's because Baldessari scrambles portraiture's ancient conventions, which are bound up in idealized aggrandizement.
Here, by contrast, the least attractive body part -- and the one physically furthest from a face -- is deployed in its most mundane and embarrassing pose. Baldessari nonetheless lavishes rigorous formal attention on each "Foot and Stocking (With Big Toe Exposed)": The sock is applied fabric, the toenail a collage element adorned with clear varnish, the colors systematically applied. The result is a loving and intimate portrait that is hard to look at, and all the better for the effort.
-- Christopher Knight
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Gemini GEL, 8365 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 651-0513, through July. Closed Sat. and Sun. www.geminigel.com
Photo: John Baldessari, "Foot and Stocking (With Big Toe Exposed)," 2010, 8 color screen-print with paper and fabric collage. Credit: Gemini GEL