Santa Monica Museum of Art: Through a Gallery, Darkly

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With promises of Italian food, wine and new works by everyone from Wim Wenders to Matthew Barney, we went to the opening of Dark Places at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on Friday. Open from now until April 22, the exhibit, curated by New York-based critic (and video art fan) Joshua Decter explores "the subtle interconnectedness between memory and social space - and the possibility that traces of events are scripted into the fabric of our physical and psycholgical environment." Whatever that means.

In practice, Dark Places owes more to Minority Report than it does to Koolhaasian archispeak. Viewers enter into a dark gallery filled with eight interconnected plastic and fiberglass "neurons"; each neuron ending in a video projector which randomly displays the video art that makes up the bulk of the show. Designed by the architecture firm servo, the installation ties together all the works in a "hallucination of a futuristic noir scenario inside the frame of the museum." So, here's your chance to feel like Tom Cruise without having to clear all your Thetans in the process.

We liked it and apparantley so did a good chunk of the city; Bergamot Station was mobbed. Even though the gallery was packed with LA's artsiest hipsters and Beverly Hills gallery Moms, the brooding sci-fi exhibit made us feel like we were experiencing the haunted house equivelent of an EPCOT exhibit. Japanese kids played on touch screens while most of us watched video pour out of the "neurons". The selections ranged from Latinos talking about how they are perceived to a quasi-insurance ad featuring Scrooge McDuck. Having the works visually tied to each other, despite its obvious pretensions, actually works.

The fact that the name largest on the exhibit information board is Decter and not an artist, represents a New York trend for the "curator-as-artist" that's just now making inroads into LA. As much as we love 19th Century notions of the artist's primacy over art, we can't help but applaud Decter for finding a novel subject and for finding a way that's both thematic and literal to tie the exibits works together. That and the whole thing looks really, really cool.

Exibit details after the jump.

Santa Monica Museum of Art
Bergamot Station, Building G1, Michigan Avenue - Santa Monica, California
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Public Programs at the Santa Monica Museum of Art:

Illuminating Dark Places: participating artists discuss a new model for a group exhibition
Tuesday, January 24, 2006, 7 p.m.
Participants: Mark Bradford, Jordan Crandall, Julia Scher, James Welling, Mans Wrange, and David Erdman
Moderator: Joshua Decter
Free admission

The Architecture of Display: new approaches to exhibition design
Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 7 p.m.
Participants: Greg Lynn, Greg Lynn FORM, Angewandte Wien and UCLA, Joseph Rosa, John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago, and David Erdman
Moderator: Joshua Decter
Free admission

The Real Los Angeles Noir
Tuesday, April 4, 2006, 7 p.m.
Jim Heimann, historian and Executive Editor of Taschen America, will tour the dark side of L.A.'s past
Free admission

Participants:
Acconci Studio
Franz Ackermann
Francis Alÿs
Michael Ashkin
Jaime Ávila Ferrer
Dennis Balk
Matthew Barney
Judith Barry
Thomas Bayrle
Julie Becker
Douglas Blau
Monica Bonvicini
Daniel Bozhkov
Mark Bradford
Miguel Rio Branco
Troy Brauntuch
Candice Breitz
François Bucher
Sophie Calle
Eduardo Consuegra
Jordan Crandall
Teddy Cruz
Jonas Dahlberg
Stephen Dean
Anne Deleporte
Diller + Scofidio
Sam Durant
Anna Gaskell
Douglas Gordon
gruppo A12
Fariba Hajamadi
Pablo Helguera
Noritoshi Hirakawa
Julian Hoeber
Emily Jacir
Christian Jankowski
Vincent Johnson
Mitchell Kane
Joachim Koester
Glenn Ligon
Dorit Margreiter
Fiorenza Menini
John Miller
Muntadas
Paul Myoda
Yoshua Okon
Catherine Opie
Lucy Orta
Hirsch Perlman
Raymond Pettibon
Richard Phillips
Richard Prince
Raqs Media Collective
Alexis Rockman
Julian Rosefeldt
Aura Rosenberg
Peter Rostovsky
Sam Samore
Paige Sarlin
Julia Scher
Gregor Schneider
Allan Sekula
Andres Serrano
Nedko Solakov
Doron Solomons
Wolfgang Staehle
Javier Téllez
Anton Vidokle
Eyal Weizman/Nadav Harel
James Welling
Wim Wenders
Judi Werthein
Charlie White
Måns Wrange
Jody Zellen
Heimo Zobernig