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Art review: Troy Morgan at Blythe Projects

August 12, 2011 |  5:30 am

The centerpiece of Troy Morgan's "Beneath the Sea" show at Blythe Projects is a three-minute video about a man obsessed with collecting underwater life forms. A Tim Burton-style blend of live action and incredibly skillful puppet and digital animation, its 19th century aesthetic seems to suggest the pitfalls of the Victorian cabinet-of-curiosities mind-set. But Morgan’s meticulous approach to creating this world — revealed in a display of the handcrafted objects used in the work — contradicts this message.

In the video, the collector keeps his treasures — seahorses, jellyfish and eventually a mermaid — in tanks inside a lighthouse on a craggy, windswept cliff. The sets and puppets are marvelously detailed, down to the moss on the rocks and the creases on the mermaid's face. It's fun to look at these things and to marvel at how tiny they are and how seamlessly they blend with the live action. But ultimately one wonders if this fascination with miniatures and detail doesn't represent the same desire to understand and contain the world that drives the collector in the video.

To Morgan's credit, the man is faced with an imminent comeuppance at the end, suggesting there is a price to be paid for obsession. However, the piece abruptly turns away from depicting these consequences, as if it cannot bear to watch. In combination with the detailed models in the other room, it leaves us with a romance of supreme craftsmanship but little else.

-- Sharon Mizota

Blythe Projects, 5797 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 272-3642, through Sept. 2. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: A scene from Troy Morgan's "Beneath the Sea." Credit: From the artist and Blythe Projects.