Photo by Jack Gould The hair-band anthem "Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" is skipping around my tête like a rollicking case of crabs these days. It's such Sisyphean pain, and all on behalf of the cooler-than-you RAID Projects, which moves from Santa Ana's Artists Village to LA's Brewery on Aug. 1. RAID, its continual snottiness notwithstanding, is managing to live fast, die young and leave a pretty corpse: it's flaming out with the best show it's done in its five years (in varying incarnations).
First, there's the humility of the exhibit, an unprecedented event at the testosterrific gallery. Titled "Just Short," it asks artists to identify how one of their works failed to meet their expectations. They were then asked to re-create the works in a smaller format, the better to fit them all into the cozy space. Considering the absolute vomit I've seen blithely spewed onto gallery walls, I'm shocked—shocked!—that there are artists who don't automatically think every noodle that flows from their pampered little hands is unadulterated genius. And I am heartened. Failure as a medium? It's the best thing I've heard all month.
I have so many interesting and profound thoughts on failures of every kind, from moral failures to failures in love to failure as a human being, period. (One of my favorite thoughts on the subject is not mine at all but LA portrait painter Don Bachardy's. I had asked him why gay men were so much better at remaining friends after a breakup than were straight people. "It seems such a terrible admission of failure not to be friends afterward," he said. "Wasn't there something you liked about each other in the first place?") But although I would love to sit here and talk about losers and losing some more (I know lots of losers, don't you?), I have no time. The work in "Just Short" deserves all the words I have to give.
Jennifer Burkley's Pure: Bacon is a very sheer strip of glaze running down one white wall, approximately the viscosity of a Fruit Roll-up. The glaze is sleek and touchable, with tiny little cracks. It looks earthy, like menstrual blood, without overtly trying to shock. It takes to heart Clem Greenberg's advocations for the surface (rent Pollock if you want the shorthand of his dreary philosophy: paint is paint. Or it's a box of chocolates. Or something) without being didactic or dull or petty or limited. The work is so good it turned me for a moment into a ridiculously earnest critic type who attributes to art some high-flown motive. In my notes, I wrote, "little tiny crackles adding truth." And that's about a strip of red. Just red.
Meanwhile, the requisite death and destruction come from Virgil Polit's crowd pleaser—you too can kill a duck with a gun, its blood spraying onto the wall behind it in the form of weak red Kool-Aid—and Carlee Fernandez offering one of her very popular taxidermied receptacles, this time a goat or llama fashioned into a laundry basket. Death and destruction are cool.
Yoshimi Hayashi and Mariah Robertson offer bizarre and funny video works that aren't at all about how very avant-garde the artist is. In general, video art reminds me of super-boho pre-yuppies in 1982. Hell, they might as well be wearing pink wraparound sunglasses and parachute pants. (For an excellent laceration of video works, read last week's LA Weekly interview with critic Dave Hickey.) But here, in both cases, the artist is jovially self-deprecating. He is willing to be laughed at. In Hayashi's I Am a Little Teapot, one peers into the top of an ugly sepia teapot that has two spouts. At the bottom is a monitor showing a completely dorky guy singing "I'm a little teapot" over and over, as badly as possible. The tunelessness mixes with the ambient drum and bass surging quietly throughout the gallery. It's a one-off, yes, but there's something refreshing about the fact that it's not violent. His self-immolation is just to his ego—unlike Tom Green, he's not embarrassing anybody else: he's the only victim of his foolery. And he doesn't mind at all. It's gently, cheerfully obnoxious.
When I saw Robertson's Video Surveillance of Hiphop Dance Class and Other Personal Situations, meanwhile, technical difficulties cut out the sound—the artist singing along with Dr. Dre. The video itself is unarresting, just a woman's head bopping teenily back and forth. But her statement, with its geekily ambitious schoolgirl's seriousness of purpose, is delightful. "What is the distance between me and Dr. Dre?" she asks soulfully, mirroring so many of our embarrassingly weighty diary entries. "Are we not both people?" Indeed. Are we not all brothers and sisters?
"JUST SHORT," RAID PROJECTS, 206 N. BROADWAY, SANTA ANA. OPEN SAT., NOON-4 P.M. THROUGH JULY 28.