Impressions: Anthony Discenza: Trouble Sleeping @ Et Al Projects  

Conceptual horror. 

Text-based works and a sculpture are selectively lit by un-diffused LED arrays. The lights are staged, but rather than theatrical, they feel forensic.

A light box displays a long textual description of a super-sensing machine. The gist of it—I found it a little too bright in the darkened space, with afterimages hindering reading—could be science fiction. Or like Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, it seems like a description of the very near future or a depressing parable for the life of a current screen-addict.

Nearby, a panel of black and white encoding is mounted and displayed like a photograph. The dense, random pattern recalls a Magic Eye picture (no 3-D illusions appear). By withholding signification, it seems anomalous in the oeuvre of this literary artist.*

Standing on end in the far corner, a large red LED sign scrolls text about an exorcism.

A smaller LED bank illuminates a hyperrealist sculpture of detached fingers. It seems like a continuation of a fascination with horror as explored in HalfLifers, Discenza’s performance/video project in collaboration with Torsten Z. Burns, here manifesting as a phobic vision.

There’s practically no ambient light in Et Al’s long, narrow basement space in this show. Thankfully the architecture is well renovated—while it is entombed without natural light or airflow, it doesn’t feel as creepy or claustrophobic as say, the subterranean levels of Sculpture Center or the now-defunct Triple Base. The lack of human hand in the work and clean, white box display mostly refrain from theatricality, in contrast horror’s tendency to be cliché, campy, or funny. The bloody, detached fingers are revolting—the realism is accomplished—yet there’s something absurd in knowing that they are representations… fakes. Discenza’s work can have misanthropic and despondent notes. Considering the works in Trouble Sleeping again makes me think about how adolescent interests in horror and existentialism give way to mid-life mindsets informed by real encounters with aging and mortality.

*Examples of Discenza’s work—including projects that are like one-page books—can be seen in a group show at Catherine Clark Gallery through February 14.

Through February 27
Anthony Discenza: Trouble Sleeping
Et Al Projects, San Francisco   

[I visited on Friday, January 30; the exhibition will change week-to-week.]


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