Made in L.A. 2020: a version
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
The 2020 installment of Made in L.A. features 30 Los Angeles-based artists and includes three new works by Aria Dean.
Lining the walls of the Hammer's lobby and staircase are Dean's Les Simulachres, large-scale images of skeletal forms derived from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century woodcuts of the danse macabre, digitally manipulated to appear in various stages of abstraction. The character of Death also figures in the narrative of Dean's 2020 production King of the Loop, a simulation staged inside a partially reflective mirrored box, which features a single actor outfitted with a bodycam who is captured by a network of cameras stationed throughout the architecture of the set. Though originally conceived as a live, four-person theatrical experience and broadcast, due to COVID-19, King of the Loop was prerecorded in the galleries and is shown on four mounted televisions. In the performance, a man finds himself on an abandoned plantation, in a metaphysical knot. King of the Loop ricochets between a variety of genres and literary forms—including epic poetry, epistle, soliloquy, social realist theater, absurdism, and stand-up comedy—and draws on southern and European gothic storytelling traditions as well as science fiction.
Finally, the installation at the Huntington includes Dean's Ironic Ionic Replica (2020), a to-scale reproduction of Robert Venturi’s Ironic Column (1977). Venturi’s original, installed on the campus of Oberlin College (Dean’s alma mater), references and abstracts the neoclassical architecture of Oberlin’s Allen Memorial Art Museum. Thus Dean’s column is a replica of a simulacrum, a reproduction of an imitation. The column—or its “image,” rendered in space by Dean—finds itself no longer tied to its original context. Dean’s gesture of reproduction interrogates the ontology of an object, versioning a thing that is purely referential itself to produce an uncanny instantiation.
Above: Aria Dean, Installation view, Made in L.A. 2020: a version, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, 2020. Photo: Joshua White