It's timely that, four days shy of national Geek Pride day and two short of the finale of one of the most anticipated genre TV series of the decade, Gallery 1988 would dedicate its latest art-as-pop-homage exhibition to The Twilight Zone. Over fifty years since its first (and unquestionably best) incarnation went off the air, Rod Serling's incalculably influential anthology series continues to inform the landscape of science fiction in profound ways, particularly for a series like Lost whose success has been as couched in the mysteries of the human condition as any random, strange or spooky event. Could we imagine a Lost, or an X-Files today without The Twilight Zone? A Spielberg, or a JJ Abrams, or whomever the next geek-in-the-exec-chair will be? (That is under assumption that further generations will be as influenced by Zone itself and not just its myriad progeny of series and films; don't let us down, Syfy, keep airing that bi-annual marathon until TV, like Burgess Meredith, is obsolete.)
Zone was, at its best, such a powerful reflection of our basest fears and emotions under the most whimsical, odd, sometimes horrifying circumstances, and as such it's no surprise Gallery 1988's "Another Dimension" is one of the most affecting shows the space has put on in some time; some of the pieces are disturbing, some hilarious, others incredibly poignant particularly if you're a fan of the series.
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Thursday's opening, marked by a rapidly-forming line which queued along Melrose waiting to get in, kicked off a flurry of excited responses to the work and reminiscences about favorite episodes depicted: The mute, abject terror of Agnes Moorhead's hermit woman fighting off little assailants in Andrew DeGraff's "Suffering the Invaders"; Billy Mumy's tiny, wild-eyed vengeance and creepy jack-in-the-boxes in Carl Lozada's "It's A Good Life"; Veronica Hebard's evocative, spectral-neon tribute to the shape-shifting con man of "The Four Of Us Are Dying."
A lot of keen humor, including Johnny Sampson's "To Serve Jaws," featuring Richard Kiel's bloat-headed alien in "To Serve Man" (one of the most popular episodes with the artists, judging from the number of pieces it yielded) depicted with the metallic choppers he wore in the Bond films; a canny commentary on the current darlings of teenage pinups, Casey Weldon's "Twilight Zone Vs. Twilight" triptych in which Jacob, Bella and Edward are re-faced with the porcine features of legendary Zone installment "Eye of the Beholder"; and "The Scary Door," Glen Brogan's animated Serling emerging from the ominous entryway depicted in the show's title sequence to find a flaming bag of crap on his doorstep, left by a lurking William Shatner and that damn gremlin from "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
But perhaps the best piece in the show isn't mounted on the walls but perched on the edge of the curator's desk, a mixed media piece by Mylan Nguyen entitled "I Zone mainstay Meredith's most famous role as the squirrely bookworm who delights in a nuclear holocaust allowing him all the time in the world to read undisturbed... until he breaks his glasses. The line doodle of "Time Enough At Last"'s tragic hero on the cover of Nguyen's vintage volume canvas is nifty enough, but you have to open the book to get the full effect of the artist's intent -- inside, the pages are carved out to accommodate a duct-taped pair of glasses (using actual Coke bottle lenses), and across from it a hand-scrawled bit of heartwarming fan fiction describing how after the downer of an ending in the episode, the crafty Bemis fumbled his way to a burned out hardware store and managed to fix his specs. Atop the glasses, the final verdict: "It was ghetto, but it worked."
One of the lasting legacies of The Twilight Zone may have been its ability to sucker punch us with bleakness, shocking us into acceptance of the world's harsher truths, but it's hard to deny the appeal of a little sweetly cock-eyed catharsis.
"Another Dimension" runs at Gallery 1988, 7020 Melrose Ave., through June 4. To view or purchase any of the art, visit http://nineteeneightyeight.com/la/tzanotherdimensiontz.html.