Art review: Teresa Margolles at LAND/LACMA
Mexican sculptor Teresa Margolles studied both art and forensic medicine -- which isn't really as odd as it sounds, death being a familiar artistic subject and an especially trenchant element in Mexican art. It also explains the graveyard evoked in her current project.
Six custom-made concrete benches, commissioned by the nonprofit LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) for two grassy areas north of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's central plaza, were made by mixing cement with a liquid commonly used to clean autopsy room corpses. If the infused material doesn't really resonate, even if you know how the sculpture's polished gray surface was achieved, the form possesses an inescapably morbid edge.
Looking something like Scott Burton's carefully considered stone furniture crossed with a conventional tomb, Margolles' long, low chaises hug the ground. In each one, the three top surface planes are angled to accommodate a reclining torso, welcoming users to an approximation of the grave. Two are placed in angled opposition to each other, while nearby an additional four are arranged to form an X.
Unfortunately, these visually wan sculptures don't deliver much more in person than they do in description, perhaps because the forms feel adrift in the landscape. A sense of decorative garden placement seems arbitrary, its potential unrealized. What might be a deep bodily experience instead stays stuck in a disembodied idea.
LAND at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Resnick North Lawn, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 857-6000, through Aug. 28. Daily. www.lacma.org
-- Christopher Knight
Photo: Teresa Margolles, "Untitled (benches)," concrete, 2010. Credit: Christopher Knight/Los Angeles Times