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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.

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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.