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Elliott Hundley at Regen Projects II 

Wednesday, Mar 18 2009

As much a master of assemblage as of theatrical showmanship, Elliott Hundley flexes his chops in his first solo show with Regen Projects by dipping into the bloody tragedy of Euripides’ Hekabe. Hundley re-imagines the tale of grief, retribution, and comeuppance in epic fullness with photo transparencies, paintings, and both sculptures and wall works barnacled together out of — among far too many elements to fully note — architectural fragments, antlers, beads, sequins, textiles, faux flowers, letters cut one-by-one from printed texts, and thousands of tiny figures and other bits carefully clipped from photographs and all affixed with pins as an entomologist would preserve insect specimens.

Hundley’s work most obviously descends from miners of urban detritus and pop-cultural loot like Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Cornell, but he makes more sense counted among West Coast funksters and oddballs like Bruce Conner, William Wiley, and Jess, as well as British “Independent Group” artists like Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake, who with Jann Haworth famously created the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. And it’s equally hard to look at Hundley’s work and not think of Jamie Reid, artist and graphic designer behind the ransom-note aesthetic of Sex Pistols graphics, and Asger Jorn, whose “detourned” paintings — found paintings reworked by the artist — prefigure Hundley’s handling of assorted found paintings and objets d’art.

Hundley has structured the exhibition like a theater experience. In the gallery’s entryway, one encounters lightboxes, hung in a cluster and functioning like headshots or lobby cards, introducing the players, who turn up in Lilliputian scale in scenes throughout the rest of the show. Here they are big and bold, shot in the artist’s cramped studio among the tangles of fodder he uses in his assemblages, and emblazoned in a DIY version of Caravaggio-style lighting. In the main gallery, two massive squishy/splashy gestural paintings, which would hold their own in a different context, here function unmistakably as backdrops of land, sea, air and architecture. On other walls, panels covered in photo fragments and pieced together texts become plot summary, and the collaged equivalent of the Greek chorus. In the middle are assembled sculptures, both freestanding and dangling from cables, serving as both sets and players. These have about them the simultaneous blunt presence of a mastodon in a china shop, the delicacy of box kites, and loft and lilt of clouds.

click to enlarge Elliott Hundley, Terror On Terror, Disaster I Dreamed (2009)
  • Elliott Hundley, Terror On Terror, Disaster I Dreamed (2009)

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And good theater it is — distracting, immersive— so much so that it demands repeat visits — and relevant in that way the ancients have of reminding us they still are. Hundley’s achievement is on the scale of a grand revival and a brilliant contemporary adaptation—lovely, clever, poignant, staggering.

Regen Projects II, 9016 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through April 4. (310) 276-5424 or www.regenprojects.com.

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