By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Other variations on the concept of functionality include several examples of cargo-cult technology — pieced-together microscopes and film projectors that resemble their models, even mimic some of their actions, but don’t finally serve their ostensible purpose. Conversely, one actually functioning cassette-deck sculpture plays a looped recording of one of Tull’s grandmother’s raucous proto-Happening creativity seminars. There are other sculptures, too — a whole nautical sequence including a collection of pathetically rendered Old Spice bottles; a cluster of blobby Latin-themed . . . er . . . entities, one of which plays a soundtrack of Tull’s grandfather singing “Mexicali Rose”; an electronic circuit-bent megaphone box, a voluptuously proportioned Elegy for Marlon Brando, and on and on.
“I wouldn’t call it autobiographical,” insists Tull; yet, in spite of this reluctance, much of the art derives from his position on the shoulders of a long line of California bohemians. The title of his show (and a large part of his thrift-store aesthetic) derives from Aardvark’s Odd Ark, the still-thriving vintage-clothes store his painter-parents co-founded in the ’70s. His studio is crammed with ephemera from his grandmother’s research, his grandfather Sam’s photography, his great-uncle Herman Cherry’s painting, and scads of Beat Generation detritus, including a box of drunken living-room rants by one of Tull’s formative childhood influences, Charles Bukowski. “One of the things that’s happened,” says Tull, “is that a lot of these boxes of stuff ended up being stored in my studio for a number of years and it just somehow mingled with my art-making practice. I don’t consider them to be that personal. The source material and the physical material both come from there, but I think of them as being more about other issues — creating a narrative that’s my own.”
It may seem that simple from inside this maelstrom of personal and pop-cultural reference, but to an outside viewer, Tull’s lost decade seems to constitute nothing less than the missing link between Mike Kelley’s and Jim Shaw’s curdled Pop and that of the emerging Los Angeles neo-psychedelic school. Combining a lifetime’s accumulation of formal chops and unquenchable creativity with an unholy hybrid of introspective archival obsessiveness and smart-ass pop-cultural glossolalia, Tull has produced an orgy of interpenetrating bodies of work that are as superficially entertaining as they are emotionally and structurally challenging. Let’s hope it won’t be another 10 years until his next show, but you should check out “Odd Ark” just in case — if there’s one thing Tull hasn’t learned in his wanderings in the cultural desert, it’s how to dumb it down and repeat himself for the marketplace. Dude must be thick or something.?
DANI TULL: ODD ARK | 4-F Gallery, 977 Chung King Road, Chinatown, (213) 617-4948 | Through May 20