a not entirely disagreeable claustrophobia and a few flashes of light


So there are three more-or-less mutually exclusive spheres of influence at play in “Magritte and Contemporary Art”: those displaying formal visual correspondences with the Belgian’s paintings (Charles Ray, Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins), those exploring strictly language-based paradoxes in their art (Mel Bochner, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth), and those dealing with Magritte’s legacy of pop-culture market saturation (Douglas Huebler, Jim Shaw, Sherrie Levine). In terms of the works assembled for the exhibition, the last category predictably gets the short shrift, although Pierce Brosnan gives plenty of audio-tour airtime to Shaw’s deliciously prole reading of Magritte’s significance.

But overwhelming that token populist concession, overwhelming the gift shop with its bowler hats and “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” ashtrays —overwhelming everything else when it comes right down to it — is the dazzling, absurd installation designed by John Baldessari. Alongside subtler homages (the security guards wearing bowler hats), Baldessari has carpeted the entire first floor of the Ahmanson with cloud-patterned wall-to-wall and paneled the ceiling with aerial photos of an L.A. freeway interchange, creating a sandwich of disorientation from which Magritte’s cheese emerges triumphant. It’s a courageous and unexpected elevation of Magritte’s stigmatic kitsch-cred to a transcendent and domineering immersiveness. The ridiculous has seldom looked so sublime.

more from the LA Weekly here.