Herakut‘s recent solo installation at LeBasse Projects attracted quite a crowd to their Chinatown location. The exterior featured a carnival atmosphere–one with popcorn and cotton candy machines whirring and popping–but those belied the darker works on view inside.
It’s difficult not to compare Herakut and Os Gemeos after they had dueling openings on February 25th, but it’s worth noting that each was successful for different reasons, and in different ways. Although both featured triumphs of scale, and moved the bar up on what street artists can (and perhaps should) pull off in gallery spaces, Os Gemeos relied on playful lighting, bold color choices, and some instances of technological cleverness while Herakut combined their dark fairy-tale images with a flair for the dramatic.
The largest pieces in the show came straight from the stage of Downtown L.A.’s Palace Theatre, where Herakut collaborated with Lucent Dossier on “When Lucent Found Herakut” earlier last month. In fact, members of the troupe worked the crowd over the course of the evening, dressed in masks designed by the German duo. A unicorn was present, a monkey too. I was put off by this at first; I felt it distracted from the art on the walls. It took me time to see that the artistry involved in the mask-making is a large part of what Herakut do, and these simply delivered life-sized recreations of their trademark women and children wearing animal head hats.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the show were the statues (also adorned with hats) that were done either completely in casting stone, or with papier-mâché and tape, as was the case with two different deer pieces. However, the standout work was a canvas: a portrait of a child wearing a monkey’s head atop its own. The point where both merge is taped over–as is the chin–and it’s left to our imaginations how this fusion came about, or perhaps even how violent it was. The text reminds viewers that we “seem to be forgetting that there is a monkey” in us, as well.
It is this awareness of nature–not simply of the natural world, but also of our own human natures–that suffuses this show. It’s in everything from the small prints to the larger pieces. As with some Herakut, the work is not always the most comfortable viewing, but it is clear-eyed: a persistent reminder that part of what makes us human is the presence of the animal within.
“After the Laughter” runs through March 17 at LeBasse Projects Chinatown: 923 Chung King Rd. Los Angeles, CA 90012.
More images after the jump…