Lurid Stories (Luckman exhibition)

March 1, 2002





Julie Joyce
Luckman Gallery
(323) 343-6608


of Events

Lurid Stories: Charles Gaines Projects from 1995-2001

March 16 - April 27, 2002


The Luckman Gallery, located on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles, announces a solo survey exhibition of work by Los Angeles-based artist Charles Gaines entitled Lurid Stories: Charles Gaines, Projects from 1995-2001. Exhibition dates are March 16 - April 27, 2002. Admission is free of charge.

Charles Gaines is an established, Los Angeles-based conceptual artist whose works provocatively navigate the relationship between systems and nature. Also an accomplished instructor and writer, Gaines is described by Franklin Sirmans in this exhibition’s catalog as “… a part of the 1970s generation of artists for whom the crossover between studio and the seminar is a crucial facet of their work, one that can be slowly gleaned and understood through the philosophical nature of his art, which always prompts more questions than answers. Like (Robert) Smithson, Gaines is interested in a kaleidoscopic between-ness with enough room for cosmic perspectives and the sublimities of doubt delivered ironically and with uncanny clarity... However, unlike many of the solipsistic artists associated with 1970s Conceptualism, who expounded on discourse with further discourse, sans objet, Gaines’ work always evinces a penchant for visualizing ideas with actual objects. Not only does this set him apart from earlier conceptualists…but his work defies categorization by its insistent provocation of questions of beauty and universals as aesthetic ideals over an easily digestible form of political social critique.”

Lurid Stories: Charles Gaines, Projects from 1995-2001 is a survey of work made by Gaines since 1995, and includes works from his Night/Crimes, Absent Figures, and Cancelled Checks series, as well as two large-scale disaster machines, Airplanecrash Clock and Falling Rock. Based in factual evidence and real-life tragedy, the Night/Crimes series (1995) pairs images culled from the Los Angeles Police Department and The Los Angeles Times archives with photographs of particular sections of the night sky from the evening the documented incident occurred. Between the documentary photographs and those of the night sky are notations of the celestial coordinates pictured. Establishing ambiguous and poetic relationships between the particular and the general, Gaines creates an environment of anticipation, utilized in a fashion similar to mystery writing and film noir. Whereas the characters in Night/Crimes are grouped by their relationship to the astrological or astronomical names of the sky’s constellations, the people who occupy the roles of specters on the Absent Figures series are made eerily real by Gaines’ texts.

The works in the Absent Figures series (2000-2001) consider the representation of landscape in relationship to spectacle. Utilizing narrative structure and groupings of archival photographs, the artist represents the sublime landscape of Washington’s Mount Rainier in relationship to impending disaster. Placing death in the context of disasters and accidents, Gaines has found a way to overwhelm the viewer with the sublime, suggesting that there is no need for the grand tableaux of gore when we are aware of our own notions of fear and the intersection between trace, knowledge, and emotion.

Airplane Crash Clock (1997) and Falling Rock (2000) similarly invoke emotion and spectacle as a means of engaging the audience. These large three-dimensional structures enact disasters based on arbitrary time schedules: in one a toy plane crashes into an urban landscape, in another a boulder crashes through a sheet of glass. Also included in the exhibition are four works from the Cancelled Checks series (2000), which present rows and rows of Gaines' own bank checks made out to the first sentence of books selected from his personal library. Considered by the artist as "disaster narratives," they act as mementos yet also manifest the vast differences between sentiment and reality.

Charles Gaines' work has been exhibited at numerous museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Oakland Art Museum in Oakland, CA, among others. Solo exhibition venues include the Santa Monica Museum of Art (1995); John Weber Gallery (1980, 1981, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, and 2000) and Leo Castelli Gallery (1980, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1991) in New York; and Dorothy Goldeen Gallery (1989, 1991) and Richard Heller Gallery (1997, 2000) in Los Angeles. His work was featured in a two-person exhibition (with Kara Walker) at The Institute on Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean in 1999. It has also been included in group exhibitions at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut; the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California; Brigitte March Galerie in Stuttgart, Germany; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany; and the Charim Klocker Gallery in Vienna, Austria. Gaines has been on the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts since 1990; and at California State University, Fresno from 1968 to the present.

Lurid Stories: Charles Gaines, Projects from 1995-2001 was organized by the San Francisco Art Institute's Walter and McBean Galleries as the 2001 Adeline Kent Award Exhibition. Since 1959 the award has been given annually to recognize a distinguished California artist and includes an honorarium, catalog, and one-person exhibition. Lurid Stories was originally presented at the San Francisco Art Institute from June 14 - July 28, 2001.

This exhibition features a color-illustrated, 28-page catalogue featuring essays by the artist and Franklin Sirmans, a freelance writer and critic who most recently co-curated the exhibition One Planet Under a Groove: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art at The Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York.

Related Events:
The OPENING RECEPTION for Lurid Stories… is Saturday, March 16, from 6 - 8:00 p.m.

An ARTIST'S TALK featuring an exhibition walk-through with CHARLES GAINES is Thursday, April 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the Cal State L.A. University-Student Union, Los Angeles Room B (third floor).

A LECTURE featuring catalogue essayist FRANKLIN SIRMANS takes place Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cal State L.A. University-Student Union, Los Angeles Rooms A/B. Sirmans will contextualize Charles Gaines among his contemporaries and particularly with younger artists that Gaines has influenced. Reservations are recommended: (323) 343-6604.

The presentation of this exhibition has been made possible through a generous grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance.

General Information:
The Luckman Gallery is located on the campus of Cal State L.A. at the intersection of the #10 and #710 freeways. Directions may be found at the University website:

Pay parking for the Luckman Gallery is in Parking Structure II (permit dispenser - 50¢ per hour).


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