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By Jeff Davis
Michael Sistig’s first solo painting and sculpture exhibition in the US, “MATTER,” is on exhibit at the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMOA) and runs through Sept. 25. For more information, visit: http://esmoa.org/experience/experience-23-matter or call (424) 277-1020.
The exhibit raises basic questions about life, science, evolution, time/space, mythology, and their intersection. Instead of enlightening visitors using complex mathematical equations and experiments to illustrate various hypotheses, Michael uses vivid, intricately-detailed landscapes to suggest possible theories. There are no obvious or “correct” answers given as to the meaning of life, why we exist, or even how basic scientific principals work – that’s up to you to interpret.
The most transfixing of the paintings are the large Dali-esque style landscapes such as “M-Theory” that incorporate a number of common figurative elements, including: humans evolving/transforming in odd Cirque du Soleil-like ballets, scary little monsters attacking and/or playing with human technology, remnants of architecture and scientific experiments, and a number references to the environment.
Sistig leaves no blueprint or artist statement behind to explain the various paintings and sculptures. Like a radio program from the 1950s it is up to your imagination to create the storyline. For some of the paintings it seems to be a simple narrative of humans trying to find their place in the cosmos, for others it would take an Arthur C. Clark worthy science-fiction horror picture to come up with a plot to do the them justice. We’re talking multiple dimensions, aliens, space travel, and evolution; perhaps much more that I’m missing.
There is so much action going on in the more sizeable works that it takes some effort to capture all the nuances. At first glance you see the sprawling land or seascape and then, upon closer inspection, one notices all the tiny metaphoric details described above. The process must be iterated several times to capture all the possibilities and pathways.
In the middle of the ESMOA space the artist gives us “St. Sebastian,” a life-size, all-white painted aluminum sculpture. In Sistig’s update version, the Saint’s body is assaulted by long “selfie” extensions attached to iPhones, in place of the typical historical references that have him pierced by arrows and tied to a tree. Since the saint is taking a “selfie” himself, it is not clear how he got in this predicament (perhaps he’s trying to save our culture from self-obsession, instead of the plague this time). Like the paintings surrounding the figure, it incorporates a number of surreal elements: the torso and appendages are composed of additional human figurines. Another unique twist is that the sculpture looks like it is made from featherweight Styrofoam; however, it is actually a solid block of cast aluminum.
The museum is a real treasure – located right on Main Street in the heart of El Segundo. There are tons of restaurants within walking distance and a world class surf beach is about a mile away. Ample parking is available downtown and on the beach.
– Hammer Museum – the biennial exhibition series “Made in LA” focuses exclusively on artists from the LA region, with an emphasis on emerging and under-recognized artists. The exhibit debuts new installations, videos, films, sculptures, performances, and paintings commissioned specifically for the exhibition and offers insight into the current trends and practices coming out of Los Angeles. Free admission! Museum is located at 10899 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 443-7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Exhibit will run through Aug. 28.
– The Broad Museum – “Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life” runs through Oct. 2. For more information, visit: www.thebroad.org/art/exhibitions/cindy-sherman-imitation-of-life. The exhibit features more than 120 works from the photographer, primarily drawn from the Broad’s own collection. Unlike the rest of the free museum, the exhibition requires a $12 timed ticket (reservations are highly recommended). Sherman acts as the photographer, director, makeup artist, and model in her highly conceptual, fabricated self-portraits. Her work has tackled everything from beauty and gender norms, to her own art’s world fame. From screen siren and pin-up to socialite and businesswoman, the roles the artist depicts through her work engage with contemporary life’s mediated personas and stereotypes, drawing not only from art history, but also from the histories of advertising, cinema, and media.