Upon entering Romer Young Gallery, it's quiet and cool, the way you want a gallery to be on the hottest day in San Francisco. About six minutes later, you hear baboon-like noises and jungle-nature sounds coming from the corner of the gallery and it is a relief because the absence of sound was already starting to get to the city girl inside of me.
The first tangible association I felt when glancing around Deric Carner’s exhibition, The Light that Failed, was: Hollywood. The pulp cinema kind of Hollywood, the one that feels nostalgic and the one where the soundtracks seemed cooler and the graphics were laughable but are now really making a comeback, I think you know it. For example, spend some time with his painting The Light That Failed (Dutch Hand). The way the hand is rendered on the canvas, caught in the groundless abyss of background paint, separated from its truth, a truth that likely ever existed in countless imaginations, and yet charming and sci-fi like, reminded me of Luke Butler’s work, which was not present. The title of Carner’s painting is taken from an early Rudyard Kipling novel which Carner discovered had been published with two different endings, not to mention a third ending that appeared in the 1939 movie version of the book. Endings, no less, are also a theme in Butler’s work.
Deric Carner, The Hidden Jungle, 2012, Black gesso on linen, customized easel, sound installation, 26” x 20.5” x 33.5”; Courtesy of the artist and Romer Young Gallery
Kipling’s narratives are only one anecdote of Carner’s multi-subject exhibition. It takes some time to navigate and contemplate how Ida Lupino connects to Gordon Scott, known for his role as the 11th Tarzan, and further, how Albrecht Dürer ended up in here. It helps to pick up the pamphlet Carner wrote describing his process for the show, trust me. Through each depiction of subject matter, Carner susses out thematic loopholes, establishing connections between motifs of alchemy, melancholia, bodybuilding, fame and failure. The hardest part is determining which piece is really the cornerstone holding the show together, without which we may wonder where it is. Is it the blow-up portrait of Lupino taken from a newspaper Carner found on a bookshelf in San Francisco that led to his interest in melancholia? For me, it was the jungle noises that pulled me out of my lackadaisical, sauntering gallery-going and brought me fully into Carner’s light, or lack thereof. The speakers are housed under a horizontal canvas sitting atop a small wooden tripod. The canvas is painted black. Unlike a white canvas on which the story is waiting to be written, it is a mysterious dark place where all the pieces of the story seem to secretly hide. The darkness does not seem devoid of its truth, like the hand, it helps the connections Carner is making radiate through his reminiscing.
 In 1995, Susan Sontag wrote a piece called A Century of Cinema in which she stated: “Perhaps it is not cinema that has ended but only cinephilia -- the name of the very specific kind of love that cinema inspired. Each art breeds its fanatics.” I would argue that Deric Carner and Luke Butler’s respective works enjoyably transgress her statement.
Sontag’s entire piece can be read here.
 You know the one.
(Image on top right: Deric Carner, The Light that Failed (Dutch Hand), 2012; Acrylic on panel, 20” x 20”; Courtesy of the artist and Romer Young Gallery)