The Same ‘Ol New Frontier
September 10 to October 15, 2011
For Eric Wesley’s first solo show in Los Angeles in what seems like a decade, the artist’s choice in subject matter seems both obvious and arbitrary. “The Same ‘Ol New Frontier” presents two new works: one a real shocker, the other clear as day. With the assistance of an elaborate machine, the artist will attempt to literally “shock” the audience. However within the working title, “The improbability of intentionally creating shock,” the artist confronts issues of success and failure, and initiates a conversation about the nature of “shock” and thus language itself. What is “shock”, what is success, and what is failure; what is the value of machine, or of sculpture versus persona? The almost primal intent of this work involves the concept of one person, the artist, literally touching another, the viewer: an electric and biological exchange of energy.
The machine that Wesley deploys exists as a series of discrete and poignant sculptures. There are four elements individually presented. “Nature Energy Tensioner(Lubricated) with Oiled Connectors,” is an exaggerated rubber band which acts as the power supply and storage of energy, hand-cranked by Wesley over an extended period of time. The “Rusted Head” is the anchoring system that fixes the machine to a stable point within the space. The center piece of the apparatus, “Coated Redundant Energy Conservation Element(Sealed),” is a 200-pound solid steel chrome platted wheel, a hallmark of logic and energy conservation now made square. The final element of the machine, “Air Arc Orb” is the point at which static electricity arcs with the observer, creating a tickling mild zap, or simply anticipation. The shock is merely implied and not made explicit, derived from physical form and phenomenon, or lack thereof.
The second work in the show, consuming the entire primary gallery, presents a different paradox, one of time and space, and a shared or unshared reality on earth. A three-foot by five-foot physical representation of the continent of Europe floats before you. The likeness of the EU is rendered in great detail according to multiple sources of information; approaching the model of Europe is a direct formula. The artist trusted established topological maps, images from space (NASA, ESA), as well as instinct and memory to bring the old world to new space. A person walks into a room in Los Angeles at a time between 10 AM and 6 PM, daylight for the viewer, to find a sleeping Europe designed to accurately portray the present reality on the other side of the globe. The physics of light confront nebulous imagery, yielding a romantic visage. As a study on the physical ramifications of time and place, the Europe presented in Los Angeles is beautiful and suspicious, yet devoid of human emotion and projection. Perhaps the continent of Europe was chosen simply for geographically illustrative reasons.
Originally designed to be installed in the restroom at China Art Objects (as an element of another work called “Europeein’… I’mapeein’”), the three-dimensional tableaux becomes the centerpiece of “The Same ‘Ol New Frontier”. The work appears an oversimplified critique on Europe in general, and more specifically, a self-critique on the contemporary art world, Europe, and the city of Los Angeles’ place within this continuum. At approximately 8:30 PM (Pacific Time) or 5:30 AM (Central European Time), a spotlight begins to glow slowly revealing a sobering terrestrial landscape. It is a new day for our friends on the other side of the world and another world for us.