The Dissemblists

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The Dissemblists
Curated by: Andrew Berardini

3412 22nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
November 15th, 2008 - December 20th, 2008
Opening: November 15th, 2008 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Wed-Sat 12-6, by appointment


dis·sem·ble /d__s_mb_l/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled
Pronunciation[di-sem-buhl] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
verb, -bled, -bling.
–verb (used with object)
1. to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real
nature of: to dissemble one's incompetence in business.
2. to put on the appearance of; feign: to dissemble innocence.
3. Obsolete. to let pass unnoticed; ignore.
–verb (used without object)
4. to conceal one's true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or
act hypocritically.
To be a dissembler or worse a dissemblist, seems to have the same
connotations as being a con-artist, a fraud, a liar. It has the same root as
dissimulate, which can be easily interpreted to fake the symptoms of a real
disease. But if we dig back to the theoretical bugbear and trickster
(perhaps even a dissemblist himself), Jean Baudrillard, it’s impossible to
simulate the symptoms of a disease, the simulation if done well, becomes the
disease. Or if we talk about another trickster, this one in American letters,
Kurt Vonnegut, the moral of his WWII novel Mother Night, is the only moral
he could spell out for his readers: “We are what we pretend to be.”
To title a show, “The Dissemblists” may be read as a kind of an insult, a
backhanded compliment to invite artists into an exhibition and call them
not artists, but con-artists. Though an artist is always a dissemblist of a
kind, casting glamours over paint and canvas, bronze and stone, space and
time, urinals and bicycle wheels, and calling it art, this particular casts of
artists assembled here are not just dissemblers but Dissemblists, a
movement that only recently came into existence and which I’ve made up. I
group these artists together not just cause the share some sense of space
in Southern California (all of them at one point or another in the near or
distant past and future have called Los Angeles and its environs home), but
because through their work they create and pull stories out of things, rife
with inexplicable drama, hiding the nature of the things themselves
through the essence of the assembled elements. I came across the word in
relation to assembly, as all of them put things, disparate parts and
motions, together, but went beyond the once radical word now standard
jargon of assemblage. They were all doing something much more perilous.
They pull together the handmade, the broken, and the found to create
narratives, sometimes obfuscated and personal, other times absurd and
farflung. A radical sensibility and a political gesture whose only dogma is
Callyann Casteel’s costumes and installations create monumental
characters whose visual language can be superficially read as darling or
twee, but when peeled back reveals strange, dark stories of alienation,
bondage, destitution, and horror. Maeghan Reid’s expanded field wall works,
assemble and dissemble stories and landscapes, pulled mysteriously from
midstream, from the structure of an imaginary we’ve only to guess at, each
piece a chapter from an encyclopedia of her practice. Lyla Rose’s collages
and assemblages bring together the found and the abandoned, using an
imagery like a wunderkammerer fistfighting a revolutionary image archive,
the resulting aftermath are visual stories, like a Robbe-Grillet book, ripe
with narrative possibilities but never explicated to give us the false
satisfaction of knowing, anything, for sure.
Here are a few Dissemblists concealing their true motives with objects and
gestures under the malleable and protean disguise of “art.”