Neon. Trilobites. Climate change. The Grateful Dead. Body Armors. Body parts. Lord of the Flies. Gun control. David and Goliath. The Abyss. Alien. Re-animator. Eco-horror. Guy Fawkes’ mask. The “Unabomber Manifesto.” Chucky. Derrida…

Enter ANXIETY SOCIAL CLUB: a sea embedded with encryption, reproduction, the mythological, the unknown… a show born within the in-between, teetering the virtual and the corporeal. Marking NYC based Bradford Kessler‘s Los Angeles solo debut, ASHES/ASHES is the stage bringing Kessler’s visually loaded, humorously entrancing, nostalgically encroached, and at times psychologically haunting manifesto to life. Upon ascending into this world, a neon sign frames a wineglass spliced by a trolling hand… an augmented arm bleeds into the spray-painted trolling faces lurking on one of the main gallery walls behind— a drawing hybridized into the works making-up Night Spares None.

Mutation and premonition are central to the Kessler experience, where works by other artists are carefully engulfed within a “catastrophic symphony of shifting childhood imagination and political ideology.” Entrenched in this web are personal traces from Kessler’s hometown in High Plains, Kansas. Figurines shipped direct to the gallery when home for the holidays, a mold of his mother’s face he carries with him, a cast of his grandmother’s nose, are all carefully woven within the layers of Kessler’s pieces. The recurring motif of Trilobites carries into this series, invoking hints of palaeontology among gloomy hues of ecology. “Eco-horror” is a frequent guest here— Michael Assiff’s Vent (Santa Barbara Spill, #ShellNo), takes form through an image of the Santa Barbara oil spill on a simulated, synthetic vent.

A skepticism for the future, a reveling in the pharmaceutical packaging of diluted fears and anxieties puddles into the gradients of profiles on a platform. The pristine elevated matte of May we live in interesting times is interrupted by shattered glasses and bloodied handprints. Perched above stands David (Trust Fiend Baby), entranced in a David and Goliath moment staring at the trolling face behind a trio of headless concealable bullet and stab proof body armors in Soft-Bodied Story. Below, an eery repulsion for technology and fascination with death is echoed in the fleshy sculptural mound of Ivana Basic, In my scarred fevered skin you see the end. In your healthy flesh I see the same. Unlike Kessler, Basic’s bruises are internalized and represented through an invested process-based practice where death exists within an uncanny evocation of a violent reality rather than animated in a virtual experience.

This virtuality is traversed in the enormity of the vinyl Maybe it’s only us. Like a good painting, distance uncovers cacophonous storytelling. A child with a gun… the creature from The Fog… Googling babies… an over-the-hill couple in a bed of red rose petals (a perfect ad for the white man’s guide to the last honeymoon)… all surface existences punctured by a pair of exhaustive faces in Dylan Abel’s 4 Hour Commute and Ajay Kurian‘s duo of mirroring Modernist House aquariums occupied by single Betas. Step-back as the serpent strewn in the corner seeps into an enormous transparency of a dragon… a fictional champagne cheers bloodily crumbles over a barren landscape. An image Kessler sourced from the Wikipedia page “Dirt Road,” a signifier he sees as a “return to nature… the last path to the wild from society.”

 ANXIETY SOCIAL CLUB excavates this “zone of becoming,” somewhere between the human and animal state. Here Kessler is the director and curator of a Žižekian experience: rendering a technological society incompatible with individual freedom; an entertainment industry encumbered with sex and violence to be destroyed… or perhaps fetishized, reworked and remapped in the continuum of his ongoing investigations.

Bradford Kessler’s ANXIETY SOCIAL CLUB features works by Dylan Abel, Michael Assiff, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Jeff Baij, Ivana Basic, Tony Hope, Ajay Kurian, Maggie Lee, Kristin Smallwood and Yasmeen Sudairy. Closes Friday, Oct 30th. Open 12-5pm Tuesday—Saturday.

All photos © ASHES/ASHES

continued from CURATE LA: Oct 29-Nov 1