There was some real Cher peripheral news buried in last week’s paparazzi blitz and blurbs about Chaz and Cher attending the Melrose art opening at Kantor Gallery, that being that it was Elijah Blue’s inaugural show “Step-and-Repeat” they were there to see.
Slideshow the exhibit (seems to work on and off): http://www.kantorgallery.com/exhibitions/elijah-blue/
Full Press release by Kantor: http://www.hustlerofculture.com/me_we/2010/02/la-elijah-blues-stepandrepeat-022410-042410.html Excerpts:
”Step-and-Repeat” reflects on the amalgamation of the corporatocracy and celebrity cultures through use of the step-and-repeat wall, a staple at red-carpet events. Manufactured quickly and brandished with corporate logos, these backdrops are signage for the biggest sponsor, lacking any aesthetic substance; Blue has shifted the paradigm and forged carefully hand-painted panels. Using a photorealistic approach, he suggests that celebrity personalities have merged with these backdrops, becoming a single entity of commerce. “The celebrity and the backdrop are the same thing, they are both billboards, they have fused,” says Blue. The wordage of Blue’s logos, such as ‘Ivory Tower’, are the punch line and heart of his reflections, underlining his conclusions on the condition of celebrity, aiming fame back at itself. The installations themselves are so meticulously crafted that it is hard to differentiate between these process heavy painted panels and the “one-night-stand” of traditional, cheaply made step and repeat panels.
I love this idea, I really do. I guess it could have been more sassy and less realistic, or more claustrophobic to show the proliferation of these events/brand-attacks. But as they were hand-painted, okay it may have taken some time to do. Which is all just to say I crave more of what is a good thing.
In addition to the three large installations based on the traditional step and repeat wall, the exhibit will feature five smaller works that have the essence of the larger pieces as they reflect through Blue’s carefully chosen logos the relationship between celebrity and the corporatocracy.
The Artinfo.com review: http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/34030/elijah-blues-step-and-repeat-at-kantor-gallery/
For his first fine art exhibit, Elijah Blue chose the ubiquitous "step and repeat" wall as his medium — the bland, heavily-branded backdrops that lurk behind celebrities at red-carpet events. Impersonal yet intimate, familiar yet sinister, "Step and Repeat's" underlying irony was so pointed it may have traveled directly over the heads of the dozens of celebrities who attended the opening Wednesday at Los Angeles' Kantor Gallery. "A lot of people in the room were looking at art that they may or may not have realized was commenting on their very existence," said Blue via phone the next day. "And that was, in retrospect, crucial to driving the point home."
Hand-painted with precisely chosen faux-corporate logos, Blue's seemingly innocuous walls are a scathing commentary on "the contemporary celebrity condition, it's arc over the last 50 years, and the cheapening of fame," as the 33-year-old puts it. It's a wry, post-Jersey Shore commentary that Blue, whose mother happens to be Cher and whose father happens to be Gregg Allman, is eminently qualified to make.
I hate it when anyone says “scathing commentary”…it’s so overused that it has become very un-scathing sounding and cartoonish.
Blue, primarily known as a musician before now, has been working on the pieces for a year, but has been transitioning from music to art for nearly a decade. "Even with music, I had always come from a place of art theory and philosophy — I just wanted to have a rock and roll band be the medium."
For some reason I feel art theory works better with a fine art. Music is so tied to our emotions and precognitive emotions (early childhood and even prenatal experiences), theory is hard to define within our highly subjective and irrational response to it.
He may reside at the epicenter of his own subject matter, but Blue says he tried to take a detached approach to the work. "Here's the thing: I look at myself and everything about myself in a real sterile, anthropologically removed way," he said. "That I am from this world is of course a factor in the work, but I am able to really disassociate." (The goal being, we assume, some kind of well-informed impartiality.)
This is a gift to be able to detach from such an intense child-of-celebrity experience; but I would argue…also a safe-zone area from which to pontificate. What do we feel as artists being attached to our individual world? Before he committed suicide, I heard David Foster Wallace stand at a podium at the Hammer Museum, read a heart-wrenching short story and then declare, this master of the ironic movement, that irony is dead. He said we have run it out and we now yearn for sincerity and to feel. I think about this a lot. What do we have to say when we move back in from being removed. Maybe even a mash-up of distance and something revealing, I don't know...but it is essentially personal experience translated and communicated combined with theory that really gets the spot.
The show was dominated by three pieces: Ivory Tower, Lucky Jean Club, and Johnnie Kum L8 Lee. Ivory Tower, based on the Ivory Soap and Tower Records logos, is perhaps the most powerful, and personal, of the pieces. "Ivory Tower is a term I have paid close attention to my whole life, because it's about people who are isolated, breathing their rarefied air, people who don't have time to deal with the realities of the world — this is obviously a very common outcome of celebrity."
Critique of celebrity culture. You know I love this stuff.
Lucky Jean Club examines the "dynastic nature" of contemporary celebrity, lambasting the stars whose inherited fame is "undeserved and unqualified," while Johnnie Kum L8 Lee — featuring the Johnnie Walker and Lee jeans logos—is about the new generation of Insta-Stars, faces from the realm of reality TV perhaps, who rocket to fame despite having very little actual "art" to offer the world, "people who blow in from the hinterlands and overnight are made into these demigods — and it's like, 'What the hell is going on?'"
And it stands to be called out, two of these three aspects of celebrity criticism have been aimed at Cher. In the 1960s, she was accused of rocketing to fame without substance and has consistently been accused of having undeserved tabloidesque fame. And as an elder statesman of that fame, she has lived a somewhat secluded life. She has stood in front of an infinite amount of red-carpet sponsorship walls, unassumingly shilling for corporate brands from here back to surely Ivory Soap itself. Chaz and Elijah themselves could be accused of a dynastic celebrity.
Which brings up the point of using celebrities to make his art come alive on premier night. It simultaneously questions his very existence. Without his uber-celebrity mother there to be part of the exhibit, it may not have been seen, talked-about, produced or literally conceived (as she would never have met Elijah’s father to conceive of him outside of her life as a famous person meeting Gregg Allman at a Hollywood "event").
So he is a part of the wall. A thought I’m sure does not escape him.
That said, he is not in any way immune to the virus he is criticizing. "I watch Jersey Shore," he admits. "I love it. I watch it and I am corrupted, and I am the symptom. I am not above any of this — there is no escaping what we have become. I am just commenting on it."
It is good to hear him say that he is not above it. Which is an important quagmire facet of the whole entertainment industrial complex (hearing Maureen Orth talk about this subject is truly fascinating). I can relate to this…because it combines the emotional and intellectual response as one.
I myself do not watch Jersey Shore. I buy Cher records.
Non-Cher-child celebrities who were there: http://www.patrickmcmullan.com/site/event_detail.aspx?eid=32338&home=1
Elijah's show in the context of other LA art openings last week:
The "art" celebrity event of it all (coupled with the "real" celebrity event it turned out to be) kind of makes the paparazzi outside seem a bit staged. This isn't reality, after all. It's art.