When was the last time you grooved on the work of a Croatian artist? If your answer, like mine, is "Never, that I can recall," you can remedy the situation by visiting the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. That's where "Sinisa Kukec: And Yet Another Wayward Landscape" is now on display. It's accompanied by "En Masse," a small show by Turkish-American artist Stephan Tugrul, and "Quand le Soleil Brille," a Project Room installation by Haitian artist Patrick DeCastro. Together they make up a hearty international stew to usher in the fall season.
The Kukec show, in the main gallery, is easily the center's most enigmatic exhibition in years. These are excerpts from the notes I took when cataloging the curious works on display:
• a small, wooden set of drawers, modified to include triangular blocks of wood on the side, a white fluorescent tube on top with a rotating CD, atop which is a blob of something encrusted with a fake jewel.
• a large, lumpen, multicolored form on an office chair on a short pedestal, all of which appears to be coated in some shiny substance.
• an ornately framed mirror etched with lines, through which shines a bright-green light.
• a large metal ball with a partially blocked hole running through it, its shiny surface looking as if an eraser has been raked across it repeatedly.
• a trio of ornate frames with color photographs of a donkey in some sort of deep, round enclosure; a man's bare feet and legs; and a white fence with a red fox either climbing over it or impaled on it.
• a dresser with a mirrored top with a pulsating fountain in the center. Also a pair of work gloves and a booklet, a razor blade, some rocks — atop the dresser, two pale-yellow panels with pink, sexually suggestive drawings.
The artist's statement does little to clarify his intentions: "My artwork creates and inhabits a sad and beautiful space of interpretation that at one moment encourages conscious critical dialogue and at another draws on its own subconscious, intuitive logic." The show may be strange and baffling, but it's also somehow magical.
You have to shift gears mentally for the more whimsical "Stephan Tugrul: En Masse," which occupies the center's middle gallery. The North Miami-based Tugrul works in collage, drawing on pop culture for his densely packed imagery. Here he's represented by eight large-scale works.
A typical Tugrul collage accrues dozens and dozens of little comic-book figures snaking through a space that may be a natural landscape or just an expanse of empty panel. It's as if Marvel, DC Comics, et al. threw a huge party and invited everyone who's ever appeared in their titles, and it's heady stuff.
The exhibition is so small that it's over before you know it, however, leaving you to explore the center's final offering, the Project Room's "Patrick DeCastro: Quand le Soleil Brille." DeCastro's work is at the opposite end of one possible spectrum from Kukec's — it's more compact and lower-tech.
But the two shows still share an affinity, as evidenced by the elaborate installation that dominates the space. It forms an altar of sorts that incorporates disparate components: tiny artificial roses, a strip of Astroturf, a battered old desk, a statue of the Virgin Mary, a couple of Ken dolls, a stuffed chicken, a bottle of rum, a bowl of fake tropical fruit, and a jewelry box spilling its contents.
Another thing that unites these three quirky-to-the-extreme exhibitions is a relatively new Art and Culture Center practice I can describe only as maddening: doing away with the customary individual labels for works within an exhibition and replacing them with one or two labels that identify multiple works at once. (In the case of the DeCastro, there's one label for the entire show.)
Is this such a big deal? I think it is. Consider the ramifications of this highly annoying, user-unfriendly tactic. You might find yourself at one end of a gallery, curious to know the basics of the piece in front of you — title, medium, date, dimensions, etc. Instead of being able to glance at a label posted conveniently alongside the work, you have to go to the other end of the gallery to find out any pertinent information the curator has seen fit to provide.
Imagine, for a moment, a concert hall that, instead of giving you your own copy of the program, posts a program outside each entry, so that you have to exit the theater every time you want to find out the next selection. That, in effect, is what the Art and Culture Center has accomplished here.
It's all the more unfortunate when the art in question is as demanding as the work in these shows, particularly the Kukec. It might be especially helpful to have some simple information close at hand, but no, we're set adrift in a topsy-turvy world without tools for navigation. The center may be presenting some of the most adventurous art around, but it's also doing it a great disservice.