When entering Danish artist, Rasmus Røhling’s solo exhibition, “Rage and Patience”, at the covert Human Resources building in LA’s Chinatown, one is in fact painfully blinded by a bright white light coming directly from the gallery’s center. Venturing toward it, hand covering squinting eyes, the expected projection on the other side of the wall facing the light ceases to exist. Instead, upon further inspection, one can finally detect that the projection has shot itself all the way through the gallery’s open front doors and outside where an unidentifiable video plays on a fence and unused sign of some sort. The video, one may or may not later discover, is Andy Warhol’s infamous “Sleep” (1963).
At first it certainly seems curious that such an iconic film should be literally linked to this exhibition, hovering as it were just outside the bounds of the gallery’s walls. Yet as a heavy voice over coming from above, (one of two resonating throughout the gallery simultaneously), becomes clearer, the realization is made that a story about the star of “Sleep”, John Giorno, is being told as viewers wander the startlingly bright and almost entirely empty space. From the same window projecting the voice over high above, a very wide and seemingly endless piece of paper falls, twisting and turning as it hits the gallery floor and snakes its way back up an adjacent wall, only to fall again and end in a folded pile. On the paper, a story that begins to illuminate the connection between “Rage and Patience” and the incorporation of Sleep is typed out. It is an article from a 1960s issue of the New York Times that discusses the first ticker tape parade in which, “office boys” or stockbrokers became so excited by a passing parade that they begin to throw paper out the windows of their offices.” This, though few may realize, relates directly to Warhol’s seedy, first meeting with Giorno, in which Warhol submissively licked Giorno’s shoes in a fetishistic act. It is also central to note that Giorno was at the time was still working as a stockbroker, and only later became an artist himself.
It is this tension, both sexual and socially hierarchical, that brews from such an encounter between a notorious and yet sexually ambiguous celebrity such as Warhol and a stereotypical New York businessman like Giorno, that Røhling’s exhibition attempts to parse. Røhling’s work often takes up issues surrounding the fundamental dichotomies of labor and leisure and sophistication and casual-ness, that have forever both plagued and defined Capitalism. With the image of the closeted, awkward and wildly successful Warhol kneeling in what one can only imagine was some dark, under the radar gay bar, to lick the most likely Armani or some such snazzy loafers of a young, good looking Giorno, the notion of “the rich eating the rich” becomes all too vivid.
Perhaps the stripped down atmosphere Røhling has created, in which one feels somewhat uncomfortable meandering around an almost fluorescently lit, concrete room, is yet another reference laying under the exhibition’s empty surface. One cannot help but think of the similar obtuseness of Minimalism, and if we take a moment to remember our art history, it was the same kinds of divides between industrial, mechanic labor and the brazen architectural feats they were often employed to create that spawned the often misunderstood movement. Though it is undeniable that these connections to Warhol, gay sex and minimalism feel a bit disparate and out of left field, once one is able to connect the dots, it seems that Røhling has something both historical and yet still relevant to say about art’s role in today’s commerce and culture.
Rasmus Røhling’s solo exhibition was on view November 14th through December 7th, 2013.
For more information visit Human Resources, Los Angeles.
-Contributed by Courtney Malick
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