When I visited JB Jurve gallery, an eight-month-old space off Broadway in Chinatown, last Saturday, the door was locked. Later, I called the number listed and found they had closed early in anticipation of Father's Day, a holiday that, for most, is decidedly minor. An odd but funnily fitting scenario, seeing as JB Jurve's current exhibition, called “Flakey,” explores the often unfathomable, hit-and-miss quality of flakiness.
I saw the show the following Monday, and it's everything you'd expect. Each piece has an improvised cool that manages to feel at once ambitious and offhand. Michael Rey, who co-runs JB Jurve with fellow artist Marcus Herse, got the idea when watching the 1986 pool hustler feature, The Color of Money. “You're an incredible flake. But that's a gift,” Paul Newman's Eddie says to Tom Cruise's Vince. “You walk into a pool room with that go-go-go, the guys'll be killing each other, trying to get to you.” For the first time, Rey thought of “a flake” as something other than pejorative.
The show he organized includes work by four early-career L.A. artists. There's not much to sink your teeth into, but, for once, that's a good thing. A boxy television in the corner plays Paused Speed by Jason Hwang, an unending stream of sunset-colored static. Next to the door hangs a sleek black poster by Bobbi Woods with the word “Secrets” printed across the middle in a tousled yellow font. Wayne Atkins' painting Cave Party depicts a brownish, stalagmite-filled cavern with floating balloons, streamers and an uncut cake, suggesting a party that never actually happened.
Emily Steinfeld's installation may be the most absorbing, and flakiest, in the room. She made her own pH paper, usually used to measure acidity, substituting red cabbage as its neutral base. She wrapped the paper around a low-to-the-ground table with an awkward hole in the middle. Then she concocted “Master Cleanse Tequila,” made up of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, maple syrup and tequila.
She'd been inspired by The Conjurer, a 15th century painting by Hieronymus Bosch, in which an important-looking man falls under the spell of a conjurer's ball, leaning in over a table and drooling slightly.
Steinfeld supplied her tequila concoction to guests at the opening, encouraging them to then drool over, or at least spit on, her table. She hadn't tested it — flakes don't thrive on practice. But it worked, and the red and blue color of the now spittle-covered, acid-stained tabletop has held up nicely in the nearly two weeks since the opening.
“Flakey” is shtick that feels spot-on. The world is teeming with smart people with charm, ambition and no real plan, and a show that gets at that without a heavy hand is doing something right.
JB Jurve gallery is open every Saturday and by appointment. “Flakey” continues through July 18.
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