June 30 2010 11:18 AM

From two-sided drawings and an installation where man-and-nature become one to performance art by locals, our take on three current exhibitions

Ingram Ober
photo by Kinsee Morlan

Here Not There: Performance Evening @ Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Performance art doesn't often get reviewed. At its core, it's an act or an interjection that's fleeting. You can try to document it or view the artifacts left behind, but to best consume performance art, you simply have to show up.

It's fair to say that if you missed Here Not There: Performance Evening, the June 19 performance-art element of the big Here Not There: San Diego Art Now show at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location through Sept. 19, you most certainly missed out.

You missed Tristan Shone's musical performance, which was impressive and intense, even before you realized the beautiful, sculptural instruments he was playing were designed and fabricated by the young artist himself.

And you missed the artists who go simply by Brian & Ryan. The pair put on a show by playing an intense game of ping-pong while encased in a plastic bubble pumped full with a constant stream of air. It was difficult to decipher their intentions, but with World Cup fever in the air, it was hard not to think about how pervasive competition and sport have become almost everywhere in the world.

David White, aka Agitprop, was there, conducting interviews about art and garnering plenty of attention as he did.

How refreshing it was to see art loudly discussed rather than silently revered.

Outside, Ingram Ober rode around and around on white paper, streaking red paint from an altered tricycle while singing John Lennon's “Working Class Hero” over and over again. His goal of examining the mindless consumption of energy and natural resources was clear.

Happily, all is not lost for those who stayed home. You can still experience artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter's playful commentary and critique on consumerism. Goeltzenleuchter shows up almost every day from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and wholeheartedly treats his installation—a replica of an upscale boutique complete with everything from for-sale soaps and candles shaped like priceless works of art to “Institutional Wellbeing” spray—as though it's real, inviting those who enter to experience performance art the way it was meant: in person.

—Kinsee Morlan

Brutal Beauty @ San Diego Museum of Art

Hugo Crosthwaite's Brutal Beauty is a lesson in duality. From his two-toned graphite and charcoal drawings to his balance of pop art versus fine, his work is all about twos. There are even references to his bicoastal lifestyle. Now a New Yorker, Crosthwaite grew up in Baja California and is an alumnus of San Diego State University.

Take Crosthwaite's “The Tail for Two Cities,” which was created specifically for the exhibition during a two-week span earlier this year. It's a caricature of the relationship between lucha libre-loving and gun-toting Tijuana and the comic-book-appreciating, palm tree-laden San Diego. With the backdrops of both cities prominent, Crosthwaite's wall-spanning work shows the contrast in the region's people and cultures and connects the two with a literal tail. With white space sprinkled throughout, deconstructing the piece, it seemingly speaks to the future yet to be told.

Throughout the exhibition, Crosthwaite's work proves haunting or political, cartoonish or literal, showing the depth of his ability and classical training. At times, it feels as if these are bad dreams made real, with surreal moments interspersed amongst more realistic ones. In “Twins,” Crosthwaite explores the inherent censorship and loss of freedom following 9/11 by depicting a man's fist in the mouth of another in the foreground of the New York skyline.

In another piece, “Bartholomew,” he shows the skin-flaying martyrdom of St. Bartholomew and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In comparing the two, he creates a macabre vision of a human slaughterhouse in Tijuana. This isn't the only religious reference, either, as the exhibition includes “St. Sebastian,” a small, simple depiction of a suffering saint.

All told, Brutal Beauty is an arresting, larger-than-life expression of how Crosthwaite sits within two worlds. It is on display at the San Diego Museum of Art through July 16.

—Lorena Nava Ruggero

Michele Guieu @ San Diego Art Institute

Darkness paints the canvases of local artist Michele Guieu. In her installation “Correspondences and Elevations,” on view at San Diego Art Institute through July 18, man and nature seem to be the primary subjects. Against an empty backdrop smeared with the colors of sunset, oozing shadows suggest the silhouettes of plants, barren landscapes and a few venturesome day-trippers. All detail save for the shapes' most basic elements are swallowed, a technique Guieu achieved by editing photographs on her computer before painting them.

Like the ephemeral designs of sea foam, these shapes seem to have been born from an incomprehensible arrangement of order and chance, captured just before sliding back into the void. Guieu follows a similar style in the placement of the canvases that make up this 40-foot-long, floor-to-ceiling installation in which each canvas is the same height but a different width. No single painting dominates the show; rather, it's the installation's overall impression on the viewer that matters more than any individual work.

Guieu's title for her installation comes from two poems of Baudelaire; both paintings and poems express an adoration toward nature that is simultaneously grief in light of the barriers that keep man and nature forever at odds. As the artist notes in a press statement, one might recall the estimated 80 million gallons of oil that have leaked so far into the Gulf of Mexico.

But themes are leaky containers, and like the oil spill, the emptiness that fills these forms refuses to be confined, threatening to dissolve the distinction between plant, landscape and man.

Seen this way, the subject matter is no longer man and nature, for these apparent opposites, along with oil spills, corporate greed, the internet and the Grand Canyon are all made out of the same nothingness that cuts forms into the colorful chaos.

—Erin Glass


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