Few things in the L.A. art world generated interest and excitement like Os Gemeos‘ recent solo opening at Prism Gallery. I hadn’t heard or seen people this excited since MOCA’s “Art in Streets” last year, and that show undoubtedly served to bring more recognition to the Brazilian twins. It paid off on Saturday when, despite a piece of paper taped to the gallery door that the show would be starting at 7 p.m. (and not the previously advertised 6 p.m.), a line had already begun to form outside around 4. When the butcher paper came down off the glass gallery walls, a few gasps went up, and when the doors finally opened early, few could hardly wait to get in and experience it for themselves.
Now, I should say I often feel the term wonderland is overused–particularly in regard to art installations–but the remarkably immersive artworks on offer in “Miss You” makes this description nothing short of apt. In some cases, this immersiveness was literal, as viewers could enter a side room and play with a collection of touch-screens, or duck inside an enormous box painted with a face to find a blue-lit, completely mirrored space that felt acres bigger than it was. Yet, nowhere was that feeling more evident than on the faces of the visitors streaming in around me. Everywhere I looked, I saw gazes of wonder. Children squealed and wove their way through distended light bulbs anchored to the floor, which brings me to an important part on this show: it was both deeply fun, as well as family-friendly, and it showcased what truly game-changing artists (who just happen to have a significant amount of experience with scale on the street) can do when given total control in a gallery.
In the downstairs area, the walls, floor, and ceiling were painted red. Around the light-bulbs, circular gradations of orange and yellow were painted to simulate the ebb of light away from their sources–lending a strange warmth to the proceedings. The usual, thematic suspects were in evidence from Os Gemeos: musical instruments (from guitars to boom boxes), sequins for light-catching and texture, and an array of yellow and earth-toned characters with compelling faces were dressed in boldly-patterned clothing. Os Gemeos have always struck me as remarkable cultural harmonizers. I’ve always seen a bit of Groening’s “The Simpsons” in their character work, but they draw from a vast pop-cultural well and always find ways to mesh familiar elements into their own inimitable style. This particular show featured details reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Hayao Miyazaki, and even the Breaking 80s with two characters–one of whom shouldered a boom box–and what appeared to be a graffiti nod to the artist BLADE on the concrete bench behind them.
Adjacent to that piece upstairs was a striking painting of a half-clothed girl covered in triangles. What is truly noteworthy about the piece is the way Os Gemeos brought the background forward to act on the central character; in this case, it funnels down onto her head like a Sunday hat and plays masterfully with the division between subject and space. That being said, its triangles did remind me somewhat of Scott Sueme‘s abstract aerosol work. (For more on Scott Sueme, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Vandalog interviews.)
The standout piece featured a little boy lying down in what looked like a white bath of scribblings. On first viewing, it was obvious that the artists had put an enormous amount of time into detailing the drawings around the boy, and the look on the subject’s face reminded me strongly of Michael Arias’s film Tekkonkinkreet, which was based on the Black and White manga by Taiyo Matsumoto. The use of hand-drawn work as a background element made for a truly compelling image from two artists who mainly concern themselves with bold, colorful backgrounds and executing those as cleanly as possible. As a result the feeling of standing in front of this beautiful chaos has stuck with me some days after seeing it.
In all, it was an extraordinary show–one filled with so much color and whimsicality that you’d likely have to pay to get into Disneyland to find anything comparable, but certainly not as good. If you’re in the area, don’t miss out. People will be talking about this one for a long time.
“Miss You” by Os Gemeos runs through March 24 at Prism Gallery: 8746 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069.