At the Museum of Modern Art in New York hangs an early work by Donald Judd — a black-painted panel with a rectilinear metallic void in the center. Unexpected to those anticipating the fabricated-to-spec geometric form for which Judd became known, that void in the center of the panel is in fact a tin-plated steel baking dish. A quiet work, it is one of the most significant of its epoch, representing a fusion of two of the primary discourses of 20th-century sculpture — that of the found object injected into early Modernism by Dadaists, Cubists and Surrealists, and that of the reductive, nonreferential geometric form, or what Judd called the “specific object” and others called “minimalism.” In his humble yet theatrical first solo show in Los Angeles, Camilo Ontiveros offers a similar mash of discourses, including that of the found object and the minimalist object, as well as finish fetish, conceptual art, performance art and an assortment of aesthetic discourses tied to situation and community. Ontiveros began by posting advertisements soliciting used washing machines, working or not, in exchange for $15. A poster in the gallery window becomes exhibition announcement, tool of the artist’s trade and performance document. Inside is the bounty of his quest, a collection of white, putty, mustard and brown washers, all dating from roughly the era of Judd (except for one old-school tub-style machine), all from American brand names, and all, as one-time technological staples of the middle-class home now willfully traded for $15, representing a kind of currency among scavengers and scrappers at the low end of the economy, and at the center of U.S.-Mexico trade and undocumented-immigrant business. Clustered in groups as if in a showroom, the herd is punctuated by four machines that have been refurbished and taken to an auto-body shop for makeovers in pink (for the Lady Kenmore), purple, green and gold. In the back of the gallery, one finds a collection of booklets made by Ontiveros, reminiscent of early projects by Ed Rusch and John Baldessari. Such artists, who have over their careers managed to blend levity and pleasure with critical thinking and understated relevance and even poignancy, represent a kind of tradition continued by the likes of Ontiveros, whose show resonates with more points than one can catalog, from an exhibition of John McCracken plank sculptures and a parade of kustomized cars in Elysian Park to a truckload of junkers on the freeway on its way to the border.
6026 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., through Aug. 15. (323) 931-3721 or steveturnercontemporary.com.