|curators' statement||june 2006 selection|
m a g i c k e y e s
c u r a t o r s : m a l i k g a i n e s a n d a l e x s e g a d e
This little gallery of magic eyes and magic for the eyes is made of seven masks, two vessels, and a variety of sigils. The men and women whose hands created these fetishes may have been ill, even visually impaired, but their works delight in the restorative power of imagination: that is, the sights they perceive through magic eyes.
Stephen Varble's performance still (Untitled, 1972) shows a bearded man peering behind three-eyed spectacles with peacock feathers for lenses. Derek Jackson sees an Afro-headed sprite in a redwood tree stump (From The Faeries, 2002). These images depict the process of imagination, of seeing everything.
Eyes consist of liquid and the most delicate tissue, yet they seem made of gems or flames. Gods and monsters of all kinds are known to have glowing eyes. Some of them have eyes that shoot lasers. Tim Jocelyn's Fish w/ Beaming Eyes is a cut paper totem. Mark Carter's painting of the priestess Marie Laveau and Michael P. Moore's computer-manipulated image Absolute Voodoo attest to the peering power of the shamanic healer.
Charms and curses alike invoke ever-watching eyes: Karl Michalak's Mask 3 is a Nazar Bonjuk (a Turkish bead of blue and white glass to ward off the evil eye). Clifford Smith's Insight is a mandala made of colored eggshells. Perhaps it should be hung in a doorway, an unblinking talisman keeping vigil against the intruding voyeur of bad luck. Amos Beaida's self-portrait places the subject at the center of an eye-shaped amulet. Fran Lewis' Isis Rising seems a personal hieroglyph, a protective power sign flying through the astral plane.
Can you count all the eyes in the dream seascapes by Joe Monroe (Grand Ceremony, 1991), Jolanta Rakowska (The Place to Be, 2002), and Jorge Luis Moncayo (Mermaid, Under the Sea #2, 2003). Whether one-eyed Cyclops or Argus, the 100-eyed giant, any more or less than a pair of eyes is spectacular, as, lest we forget, these crystal ball twins are windows to the soul and the eye in the sky looks down upon mere mortals, just as the third eye, or Ajna, is found in the seventh chakra, floating in a white-indigo space above our heads. The subject of Bern Boyle's photo (Portrait of Michael Wilson, 1988) glowers beneath a tattoo eye on his forehead. Roy Secord's SoulCatcher and Hal Scheppner's lamé and fake jewel All That Glitters transfix the gaze, bringing the mind closer to a meditative state of transcendence, tricking the eye into fascination.
While gay culture is a niche market for late-capitalism's compulsive consumer gluttony, and while the art world trades on the commodity of over-valued objects, some fringe-dwelling artists are actually motivated by the magic of creation. We don't actually know who in this gallery is gay or who, other than Keith Haring, made money as an artist, but we do know that their delicate works have magic in them, because we can feel that. We can feel that there are spiritual forces at work in the work. A pantheon of personal gods glancing in every direction, these magic eyes beam light back at anyone who sees them.
b i o g r a p h y
Malik Gaines and Alex Segade have collaborated on performance projects since they were teenage lovers. In recent years, they have worked with a collective of performers and musicians in the group My Barbarian, creating projects including "Gods of Canada," a super-heroic paean to Canadian liberalism commissioned in 2005 by the Power Plant in Toronto, Ontario; "Pagan Rights," a quirky California dreamscape celebrating opposition to the Christian Right performed in 2005 at the Evidence Room Theater and UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Participant, Inc., in New York, and the Drake Hotel in Toronto; "Squirrel Radio Action," a public radio send-up commissioned in 2005 by Pacific Drift on NPR-affiliate KPCC; "Medieval Morality," a site-specific play at Los Angeles' MAK Center Schindler House in 2004. My Barbarian participated in the PERFORMA 05 Biennial in New York and will be included in the California Biennial 2006 at the Orange County Museum of Art and the 2007 Montréal Biennale. Summer 2006 projects include participation in a group show curated by Jack Pierson at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, a screening curated by José Muñoz for Outfest LA, and a performance at Peres Projects Gallery in Berlin. My Barbarian's first album, "Cloven Soft-Shoe," was released in 2005 on Dirty Talk Records and the group is currently working on its second album, "Pagan Rights." Individually, Gaines has worked as an independent critic and curator and written for the theater, while Segade has directed projects on film and video that have been included in numerous galleries and festivals. Gaines and Segade are based in Los Angeles, Calif., where they live with their cats Joaquin and Lorna.