M+B Soft Target Install VI
M+B Soft Target Install VIII
M+B Soft Target Install VII
Asha Schechter, Picture 116(Finley Film, Jigsaw Puzzle, (1 Piece), Ping Pong Paddle), 2014
M+B Soft Target Install I
Andrea Galvani, A Few Invisible Sculptures#1, 2012
M+B Soft Target Install II
M+B Soft Target Install III
Justine Kurland, Nova SS, 2011
M+B Soft Target Install IV
Michael Queenland, Rebuilt Engine, 2003
Peter Holzhauer, Truck, 2013
M+B Soft Target Install V
Julie Cockburn, The Black Widow, 2013
Hannah Whitaker, Portrait with Sweater (Albers), 2014.jpg

Soft Target

Soft Target is a large summer group show at M+B gallery {612 N. Almont Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90069} that runs from runs from June 26th to August 30. Organized by Phil Chang and Matthew Porter, the show includes works by Richard Caldicott, Julie Cockburn, Sara Cwynar, Shannon Ebner, Andrea Galvani, David Goldes, Peter Holzhauer, Whitney Hubbs, Tim Hyde, Ron Jude, Soo Kim, Anna Kleberg, Barney Kulok, Justine Kurland, Luisa Lambri, Miranda Lichtenstein, Matt Lipps, Sharon Lockhart, Jason Bailer Losh, Marlo Pascual, A. Pilgrim Peterman, Adam Putnam, Michael Queenland, Amanda Ross-Ho, Asha Schechter, Collier Schorr, Dan Torop, Michael Vahrenwald, Sara VanDerBeek and Hannah Whitaker.

This show is good. It is a very enjoyable selection of artworks installed in a tasteful and contemporary fashion. The show feels very good, as the viewer enters one is immediately confronted with a show that is meticulously configured, with a definite eye for detail, but lacking overbearing leading hand, making for a more challenging, but overall more enjoyable read.

Titled “Soft Target,” the illustration that accompanies the press release, a very enjoyable illustration in its own right, seems to act as a cipher for just how to understand the idea of “Soft Target.” The illustration depicts a broken target. A target as we know it, with a bullseye and a series of growing circles, broken and shifted, so that we no longer have a center or any layers of accuracy. The target has gone soft, it has gone out of focus. This title is paired with a quote presented on the press release and then responded to by Phil and Matthew in two respective columns of writings.

“Words do not look like the things they designate.” – Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Immediately asking the viewer to unfocus their reading and to take into their mind the above quote, Phil Chang writes “…the art object can exist simultaneously as a fraught and productive meeting point. Precisely because art can function as multiple things at once – as an object for discourse, an artifact, and a commodity – it is both simultaneously elusive and specific…” Phil takes this argument – the fluidity of an artworks’ function – to be the anti-thesis to the above-mentioned quote. He states that it is in the “ inherently fraught nature of an artwork… that an artwork can in fact resemble the thing it refers to, that the artwork may in fact be the very thing it refers to.”

It is in noticing the slippage
of these seemingly one-dimensional photographs
that the show started to breathe.

I am immediately confronted with a large, 50”x70” photograph of a motocross rider covered in mud; an Andrea Galvani. Upon first encountering this work, it reads as a traditional documentary style photograph of a person on a motocross bike. There is a bizarre triangular form on the motorcycle. I do not know much about motocross, but I do not expect this photograph to be interested in the sport of motocross and this triangle is suspect. This photograph is titled “ A Few Invisible Sculptures #1.”

This show is mostly photography, but sculpture is in the air, also in the gallery, but is it sculpture that I am feeling? Or is it photographs that are only depicting a construction, sculpture or a performance of actions, for a photograph? It is in this softness that we return to Phil’s anti-thesis to Maurice, are these photographs crops of the world or are they a new world designed for a photograph?

The lines are really being blurred here, there are a number of pieces that really transform and challenge the viewer’s initial reading of the works. Specifically three photographs of cars: two of a different car engines, Michael Queenland’s “Rebuilt Engine” and Justine Kurland’s “Nova SS” and one of the aftermath of a car accident; Peter Holhauer’s “Truck.” This repetition of subject immediately draws attention. The car as a subject feels very aligned to an established photographic history, but in this show the cars photographs become confusing. The engines start to act as collages and the car crash is a pictured sculpture. They become easier to read as akin to Julie Cockburn’s “The Black Widow” or Sarah Cwynar’s “Cut (from Picturing the Times of your Life)”. It is in noticing the slippage of these seemingly one-dimensional photographs that the show started to breath.

Soft Target does not ask us to think about an artwork as being married to its original context for reference, but argues that it is in the blurry that an artwork is able to resemble the thing it refers to, to become it. A funny thing started to happen, in the same way the artworks slipped from my understanding, the subjects they pictured started to as well.

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