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Art review: Tris Vonna-Michell at Overduin and Kite

April 16, 2010 |  6:30 pm
400.Vonna-Michell 01 For his Los Angeles debut, young British artist Tris Vonna-Michell, who is not yet 30, has assembled an installation of materials and images that generally predate his own life. The two rooms at Overduin and Kite are as technologically up-to-date as an eight-track tape cartridge, which slid into obsolescence just around the time Vonna-Michell was born. (Retail stores phased out eight-track tapes in 1982, the year of the artist's birth.)

A couple of boxy, dinged-`up Singer Caramate 3300 automatic slide-players clatter away, as do two carousel slide-projectors set on top of Plexiglas cubes stuffed with trash. While bits of printed text meditate on the fraught condition of Berlin and Detroit — one an Old World symbol of outdated Cold War tension, the other of faded New World industrial might — projected slides, most of them black and white, show empty office buildings, steam rising from sewers beneath streets, footprints in the snow and other images of chilly passage.

A pictured pair of feet is dressed in mismatched socks, the right foot labeled “L” and the left foot labeled “R.” An incongruous color picture shows a bright orange squash rotting in an old wooden box. A typewritten sheet of torn onion-skin paper looks as ancient as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

400.Vonna-Michell 17 Nearby, snapshots are pinned like anthropological specimens to three bulletin boards. An architecturally “modernistic” church seems anachronistic, a bombed-out building serves as an incongruous parking lot and a close-up of a storm drain is juxtaposed to one of an institutional visitor's pass. A toy double-decker bus is plastered with an advertisement for TDK, “the great name in tape cassettes.”

What makes Vonna-Michell's installation arresting (he gave a performance on opening day, which I did not see) is its forthright incorporation of tired, passé, one might even say archaic conventions of Conceptual art into his meditation on a passing era. How many slide-tape installations filled painting-and-sculpture-resistant art galleries in the 1970s? The result is a strange sense of suspended animation, a feeling of time standing still that runs counter to the torrential technological rush of our digital present.

– Christopher Knight

Overduin and Kite, 6693 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 464-3600, through May 8. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.overduinandkite.com

Images: “Not a Solitary Sign or Inscription to Even Suggest an Ending,” 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Overduin and Kite. Photo credit: Brian Forrest.