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Art Review: Jason Kraus at Redling Fine Art

April 12, 2012 |  6:45 pm

Kraus 3

The premise of Jason Kraus’s second solo show at Redling Fine Art, appropriately titled “Dinner Repeated,” is an exercise in compulsive reiteration. On each of the first seven nights of the exhibition, the New York-based artist served a nearly identical meal: the same four-course menu to the same 12 people, on a plywood table of like design with matching dishes, glasses and flatware.

After each meal, he dismantled the table and used the wood to build a free-standing shelving unit, then cleaned all the dishes and stacked them neatly inside. At the end of the week, the installation was complete: seven apparently uniform cabinets, each stocked with 12 identical place settings, spaced around the floor of the gallery.

The concept of residue has had a lot of currency in recent years. Many a work has been generated from the marks or stains made by the unfolding of a performance or event. (Note Cai Guo-Qiang’s recent firework paintings at MOCA.) In a curious twist on this familiar trope, Kraus has done the opposite: made every attempt to erase the imprint of the events, emphasizing the generic nature of his mass-produced materials.

Look closely, however, and poignant vestiges emerge: There are wine stains visible here and there on the plywood; several of the dishes and glasses are missing, presumably broken over the course of an evening. One cabinet is missing an entire place setting. These faint traces of human activity create a kind of energetic echo, such as one feels in an imperfectly cleaned motel room or at a table in a restaurant that’s only just turned over.

The only direct documentation of the seven-day performance is contained in a box all but hidden away in the gallery’s office: handwritten notes from the unnamed dinner guests that will be released in book form at the end of the show. Sloppy, often stained, laced with evidence of intoxication (whether from alcohol or the general camaraderie of the evening), and fragmentary almost to incoherence, the notes provide little in the way of reportage but testify to the vigor of human society, its capacity to animate ritual, transform repetition into evolution and development, and personalize, at least for an evening, the blank slate of consumer culture — in this case, a plain, white, Ikea table setting.

Only its 12 participants can speak to the effect of the performance. (I was not among them.) The effect of the confidently understated exhibition, however, is to hold an intriguing number of conceptual dichotomies in balance: presence and absence, stain and erasure, ritual and spontaneity, the generic and the personal, public and private, documentation and experience. The cool, clean demeanor of the installation doesn’t cancel out the messiness of the performance so much as fix it in a faintly ironic state of contrast, illuminating the tension between life and the forms we pour it into.

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--Holly Myers

Redling Fine art, 6757 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 230-7415, through May 12. Closed Sunday and Monday. redlingfineart.com

Image: Jason Kraus, "Dinner Repeated," installation view (2012). Photo credit: Brica Wilcox.

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