Curated by artist and photographer Arden Surdam, “Belt Friction,” the current group exhibition at Kopeikin Gallery, explores themes about the complexities of touch and categorizations of human contact. Belying the precision and stakes of the obscure engineering principle for which it is titled, the artists’ open-ended approaches and the loose associations in their works engage the viewers’ individual experience of touch, making it a very personal—and subjective—exhibition.
Malcolm Oliver Perkins’ “Individual” series reinforces the viewers’ subjectivity; the shiny surfaces directly reflect the viewer inside the small 8×10 inch frames, melding their image with brightly colored and relaxed compositions of discontinuous facial features. Jordie Oetken’s Untitled (Teeth), 2017, a black and white photograph of a hand holding back a dog’s upper lip to bare the teeth, similarly fosters contemplative sentiments through dominant black space and the felt tension between aggression and submission. Bridget Mullen’s painting, The New Romantic (2016), extends the reflection on human to canine relationships, blending their forms into a composite being with four legs and two breasts.
Another fundamental component of touch is material and texture, and Ellen Schafer’s sculptures seductively disorient these elements. In Intimacy Feels (2017), aluminum bars appear bent and kneaded like play-doh, and in Double Chop (2017) the monochromatic white finish flattens the materials, causing milk poured into a white silicone sneaker to visually disappear. Schafer’s elusive objects provoke the physical desire to reach out and touch, stimulating curiosity that allows the viewer to continue placing themselves within the exhibition. Bjarne Bare’s Outboard Swaddle #7 (2014) also alludes to material sensation; the photograph of an anonymous form sheathed by tarp and rope arouses the feeling of constriction and rough fabric on skin.
The amorphousness of “Belt Friction,” though effectively imitating the blurry lines of touch, at times becomes too indistinct. The open-endedness is potentially a liability; yet it could simultaneously be the exhibition’s greatest strength, providing aloof catalysts for contemplation and introspection on touch, contact, and surface.
Belt Friction, January 13 – February 17, 2018, at Kopeikin Gallery, 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90034. kopeikingallery.com