Last-look: Celestial Railroad x Inexorable Acephalous Magnificence

Drawing on the past to picture a present, Jordan Sullivan presents two projects where fragments combine to create an open-ended whole. Celestial Railroad spans the neighboring spaces of Downtown Photoroom, offering a welcomed interval of clarity between the claustrophobic labyrinth of gaudy decor and glittery furnishing retailers stacked within the Reef complex downtown. Stepping into An Island In The Moon, quartz and decayed wood are mapped within collaged curios, works on paper, and paintings—transforming the room into a figurative constellation of floating ghosts. Though this series is expansive, Sullivan’s placement is involved and sophisticated, leaving areas for us to move and appreciate the subtleness of beauty. An apparatus of memories, a sense of abandonment, loss, broken dreams, American artifice, and trauma subtly lines Sullivan’s evocation of the subliminal. Themes more apparent next door in The Burial Cloud, an ‘ethereal installation’ that reads as a ‘conceptual letter’ to Sullivan’s mother and her experience as a teenage rape victim.

Titles like ‘The Edge of Beyond,’ ‘Tree of Promise,’ ‘The Unlived Year,’ ‘The Dark Labyrinth,’ pop-out from books nestled within the Patterns of Survival, a large three-paneled diorama-like wall work assembled out of his mother’s personal artifacts. Dualities of gender, life and death, war and violence, are best excavated when representation and abstraction merge into an interaction of form and formless— a place Sullivan frequents and a point he sees as where ‘the void exists.’ The fragility of antique floral wallpaper is annexed by the weight of overlaid tents from the Vietnam war; dirt, fabric, and house paint collide in layered veils to form new surfaces tracing recurring motifs of fire, metamorphosis, and melancholy. Each piece framed in rectangular conversation by the floor based centerpiece Two Oceans in Conversation / Bonds of Love.  Here, two intertwined conch shells are placed next to a folded tent entwined on a plank— the two shells reference Sullivan and his mother meeting at a stage of listening.

Through both projects, Sullivan builds a diaristic conversation— one deeply personal yet ambiguously indifferent in their lyrical and transgressive installation— so discovering his forte as a prolifically talented and published writer makes sense. Meticulous and methodical, intuitive and honest— he pens a cathartic stream of consciousness through image storytelling that never feels contrived or disengaged. Inviting us up-close, images of creation, decay, death, renewal, the barren landscape and the female form, reassemble impressions that intertwine to simultaneously remind us to step back and suspend a desire for fixed assertions or belief.

A similar approximation for immortalizing the tangible energy inherent to the handmade is seen in the large-scale works of Manuel Scano Larrazàbal. As the first international artist in residence at Museum as Retail Space (MaRS), Larrazàbal’s exhibition Inexorable Acephalous Magnificence or How the Shit Hits the Fan, features over fifteen massive works on paper along with a site-specific drawing machine made on-site during his residency. The ‘machine’ itself consists of numerous fans, oscillating hundred of suspended multicolored markers suspended from the ceiling. Their simultaneous movement animating a ‘marionette-like dance’ of saturated ink blots on paper sheets strewn below on the floor. Throughout the six-week show, this continuous manipulation of spatial conditions accumulates in the drawing apparatus’ continual production and eventual completion of a new large-work.

By extending the 2D into 3D, Larrazàbal engages with the terms of spatial agency— pushing the parameters of drawing into a sculptural and performative realm composed and informed by the transformative potential of spatial conditions. Like Sullivan, Larrazàbal’s hand is visible in his rendering of a constellation-like experience. Staples, punctures, drips, and tape make-up the mountainous compositions of large-format works composed of a peculiar application colored by inks, water, and dyed mashed cellulose (akin to spit-balls). Dangling freely— unframed and floating like flags throughout the gallery’s interlocking chambers— these works on paper animate with a temporal life as they catch wind from the nearby workings of the ‘drawing machine.’ In many ways Larrazàbal reminds me of LA artist April Street— invested in activating the myriad of visceral materiality which can be mapped and explored through drawing’s integration with performative acts and sculptural installation.

Both shows close Saturday, November 14th. Celestial Railroad on view at Downtown Photoroom (Downtown). Open 12-5pm Wednesday—Saturday. Inexorable Acephalous Magnificence or How the Shit Hits the Fan on view at MaRS (Arts District). Open 12-7pm Tuesday—Saturday. 

All photos © Jordan Sullivan, Downtown PhotoroomMaRS and WOAH.

CURATE LA: Nov 12-15