Target NO.46 (Jean)
In a month with some serious talent on display, Eva Lake's Targets show at Augen Gallery
easily speaks the strongest. It possesses a clear, personal voice that can only come from hard won experience and self-knowledge, melding Robert Indiana style Pop constructions and Richard Hamilton collage with the power/fragility of Hollywood's glamour factory. Rather than mere pop-mongering or simple Hollywood fetishism, Targets feels like the product of a long relationship between fashion, art, glamour and the perils and use of power of being in the public eye... not unlike Lake herself who has been a longtime stalwart of the 80's East Village scene and Portland's Renaissance in the past decade or so. This is a woman whom most people in the scene have a strong opinion about and they should... because she's good.
With its visceral collage materials viewing Targets is almost like paging through a bunch of old an new fashion magazines at a vintage clothing store and it's mobius strip like quality feels like Fritz Lang meets Man Ray (classic Hollywood was built upon the langugages of surrealism and the mid-century German film making with the added allure of American-style glamour).
What's more it manages to make the sociological discussions around famous women more than some statistical chart or TMZ style exploitation (art is good at unpacking Hollywood without rendering it dull). Instead, Targets is a study in an industry of visual power, its price and a kind of unabashed appreciation for drop dead beauty... the kind that endures no matter what. Fact is, this show reminds me what I love about strong women... the kind that seem to pull everything and everyone into their orbit. It goes beyond sex object... becoming an organizing force for civilization, which parallels fashion and design etc.
Target NO.42 (Lana)
My favorite piece in the show is Target NO.42 (Lana). It isn't just that Lana Turner
is the pivotal actress between color and black and white films (referenced by oscillating stripes of both approaches in her image here) it's the way her disembodied peroxide blond head looms over LA tract housing like a UFO or the sun. Turner wasn't some dumb blond but rather she is a harbinger of the mid-century American ideal... a dream of home ownership as a projection of empire. Instead of some sex symbol, I simply see my own Mom here (she is/was a true platinum blond) and her ideals as a home economist, become real-estate broker/developer, something Lana Turner was also known for. It is also an innocent or naive world that no longer exists. We simply can't continue to build sprawling low density housing and this piece firmly places that old worldview in the past... compelling though it was it's a world long gone. It also reminds me of Man Ray's photography though it's almost an inversion of his object on object layering. Instead this is more like culture jamming of Man Ray by more overtly evoking the hypnotic effects of beauty with the target forms.
Man Ray, Noire et Blanche, 1926
Instead of Man Ray's purposeful objectification, Lake is someone who looks back at the visual repertoire of women and pop culture through the ages and is restaging them in restless push pull compositions. It's more akin to Kubrick's hypnotic structures and Jasper Johns' Targets than the photographic sources she's literally drawing from. For collage it's a difficult feat to get beyond and transfigure your source material but this is Lake's achievement here. I also like how each piece is titled Target NO.# ... like Chanel NO.5, she seems to be trying to capture the essence of many ephemeral things here.
Target NO.49 (Natalie)
No place is the anti object clearer than her Target NO. 49 (Natalie). Here Lake has amusingly combined a Greek frieze with Natalie Wood
just as she is crossing the threshold into young womanhood after being a child star. She's no bombshell, she's the girl next door... pleasant, non-threatening and given immense gravitas via the great antiquity of her stone carved torso. Rather than some Venus of Wellendorf though this piece calls transitions into play (rather than roles)... something another artist in the show Lindsay Lohan has had trouble navigating. The point is, young women need not always be the prey of "enquiring minds" ...it's actually an exciting time and though I don't have a daughter I sense the intensity of this moment from every father who has a daughter at this tender age. Lake has done a remarkable job of presenting the fresh faced moment here and her lucky number 7's portray Wood in a positive light. It's safe top say, no man could have made this and it takes a pretty secure woman to make these deft choices as well. If you wallow in bitterness you simply can't celebrate Natalie Wood or any young woman at this age and it's been a great shift in nuance for women's studies as of late, which allows for less didactic more transitional discussions about this crucial age.
Target NO.25 (Tina)
Lake's Target NO. 25 (Tina) has the most active presence in the show. Here Tina Turner's lips, caught in song, exist outside the center of the target and a growling riot dog in the back of her head. In the "back of her mind" the dog is certainly an allusion to the civil rights movement that paralleled the rise of her early career and the her voice existed outside of barriers that were never left behind, all the while transcending them. This piece is the one most reminiscent of Warhol in the show and even then it is way more like Hamilton or Rosenquist.
Target NO.1 (Liza)
The show is consistently good, with art hiostorical images of Ann Margaret and a John Chamberlain car crush sculpture and Marylin Monroe + Vishnu. Maybe the "crush" is appropriate if not too cheeky a pun. There are also the predictable multiple Liz Taylors and Marylyn Monroes, Lindsay Lohan is presented as a bottle that looks out at us meeting our gaze and a rocking Liza Minnelli festooned with party pills... she's presented as somewhat of a victim of her own devices but Lake celebrates her strength as a performer equally as much. This show has teeth and Target NO. 46 (Jean) succeeds in being both a crisp fashion forward statement as well as a wry structural critique. Liza Minnelli in Target NO. 4 is a simple double entendre evoking intercourse and the way an LP are put into and taken out of a sleeve... ok ok I get it but it probably needed to be in the show, Broadway demands it?
Target NO.12 (Natalie)
Still, the most chilling work in the show is Target NO.12 (Natalie). Natalie is shown in the landscape (as through a scope) with a drawn revolver. Yes there is always a fetish for images of women and phallic guns but there is something about the portentous mystery here... is it alluding to her untimely death and somewhat mysterious drowning, or is it simply the study in her mystique? Probably both. The most important thing here is she shows how Wood grows in depth and mystery... she isn't some static icon.
Overall, it's the sheer scope and sustained tension in even the most light hearted pieces that makes Targets so particularly engaging. What I sense is a real love for these women, both flawed and perfection at the same time which mimics the mass media and iconography their chosen role's present. It's ok to love women for what they are, which is very difficult to generalize... so Lake's show is very specific and on target here.
Targets is a show about the power of appeal, the very grease that keeps Hollywood going and Lake's approach is historical, personal and iconographic. What makes it exceptional it the way it portrays the glamour and the problems without apology. None of these women are presented as saints, goddesses or sinners, merely a reflection of Lake's laser sharp interest in their power without denying its source... the fact that all of these women have survived more or less under the spotlight for an extended duration when others haven't. Lake isn’t simply a fan, she's curated their enduring paradoxes and presented them as think pieces that happen to be easy on the eyes. This is an essay in the power of women that is both visual and intellectual in its nostalgia and presentness. Beauty is a form of power and Lake does more than pay attention to it, she studies and appreciates it without being simply a fan. All of these women, Lake included, have made a contribution as artists... there is an awareness here and this show is a bullseye.