145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103
Raymond Pettibon and Yoshua Okon work together seamlessly. Hipnostasis, their collaborative installation at the Armory, is a one-minded project. Yet it’s more opaque than work I’ve seen either artist do on his own. Pettibon’s raw scrawl is there without its pop-infused narrative and Okon’s unpretentious social commentary has become mythological.
I first saw Hipnostasis through a chain-link gate. I had to ask to be let in, and while I know the gate exists to secure the video monitors, I still think about what it means to have this thin strip of a gallery with industrial carpeting, occupied by filmed beach bums, a towering vessel, and sheets torn from literary classics, under lock and key. The restriction of the space drives home the point that Hipnostasis is about marginalia.
The six channel video hanging on the main wall makes noise, both auditory and visual. Aging shirtless men with craggy beards sit on rocks, presumably near the ocean, and the waves, wind, and feedback coming from the monitors fill the gallery with an anxious undercurrent. The blue sky in the background and the exaggerated reds in the men’s weathered skin are as blatant as mug shots. But, while there’s no softness to the videos, there is rhythm.
Far from a perfect diagonal, the monitors descend left to right. The men keep rubbing their skin awkwardly and eating something unidentifiable. At one point, the faces on all six screens harmoniously turn right, looking toward the wall on which book pages have been fugitively pinned.
The pages come from Kipling, Kerouac and others, and Pettibon and Okon have written messages of their own, some of which challenge literary devices because the preordained structures of stories often don’t tell enough. Reads one paper, in all caps, “I’D HAVE TO ADD A SUBPLOT.” Contextually, this assertion makes sense: The weathered men on the six monitors seem deviant because they fit no culturally embraced plot.
On the other end of the room, a human-sized vessel—it looks like an oversized ceramic vase—projects onto the ceiling the word “Dead.” At first the font is big; as it gets smaller, “Dead” turns into “End.” Yet taking a Dead End seriously is hard to do when it’s being predicted by an oversized phallic symbol. It seems instead that Hipnostasis fishes around for new beginnings and new legitimacy. The Dead End stigma of stasis (embodied here by the aging beach bums) could perhaps be turned on its head and made into a rich sub-plot that values inaction as much as mobility.