Metro Pictures presents “Noa Noa,” an exhibition presenting eight American and European artists whose work incorporates the aesthetics of the exotic. The problematic history of cultural exoticism, as manifested in art, reflected Western imperialist and patriarchal attitudes toward Eastern or so-called primitive cultures. The works in “Noa Noa” represent a paradigmatic shift; unlike Primitivism and Orientalism, these works make no attempt to be ethnographic or convey a supposed authentic representation of a strange culture. Instead, they address current global conditions from a self-reflective Western position, implicitly acknowledging historical attitudes and the art that unwittingly documented them.
Willem de Rooij’s wax print on cotton, Blue to Black, recalls colonial trade routes and the migration of patterns between Asia, Africa and Europe. In the 19th century Dutch trading companies industrialized the traditional Indonesian Batik printing process and imported it to West Africa. Produced by a Dutch-owned company, Blue to Black was made in Ghana where Batik remains popular. Similarly addressing exchange and trade are the works of Nina Beier and Tobias Madison & Emanuel Rossetti. Beier exhibits two new Portrait Mode works that use secondhand clothing with animal-skin patterns pressed behind glass. In Demonstrator, she has adhered a poster of a stock photograph of a telephone receiver to a lounge chair. Found in various locations such as New York’s Chinatown, Tobias Madison’s and Emanuel Rossetti’s ginger and produce boxes are scattered throughout the exhibition. By placing lights inside of them, Madison and Rossetti have transformed these typically disposable shipping boxes into almost ethereal versions of themselves. Verena Dengler’s works incorporate found materials and textiles that quote a range of art historical and pop culture references. Humanic and Art Deco – Wiener Festwochen – 20er Haus – Arena Wien are embroideries made from how-to kits that Dengler then placed stickers onto. Adrien Missika exhibits two planter-towers titled Jardin d’Hiver. The simple bamboo and twine constructions that hold Missika’s vibrantly colored resin planters are based on the designs of modernist Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
The works of Los Angeles-based artists Sam Falls and Alex Israel consider the patently fictive but persistent mythology of Southern California. Falls presents two “tire paintings” that he made by placing abandoned car tires found at the side of LA streets and freeways on top of unrolled canvases he dyed and left outside for several months. Alex Israel, whose work is an open dialogue with the art and culture of LA, presents an oversized sunglass lens that represents both the lure of sunny Southern California and the romance of Hollywood.