Artist-run gallery space and labor of love Visitor Welcome Center produced some memorable exhibitions and collaborative situations in their warm and eccentric post-domestic location in Koreatown. They opened in March of 2016, but in March of this year, a decision was made to transition away from producing those physical installations, and a scaled-down temporary “host space” was identified — the left forearm of the artist John Burtle.
Welcome to Arm Gallery, an approximately 2.5 x 5.5 inch black rectangle in and upon which single works of art are installed. The inaugural group exhibition No More Land West has been underway since the announcement, and is currently about a quarter of the way through the 40 artists participating in the show. Once physically installed on the arm, the works are photographed and posted to Instagram, where the cumulative group show is gradually taking shape.
They began with work by Pamela Jorden, who had been part of the Visitor Welcome Center’s first exhibition in 2016. Her “Small Planets” are two canvas discs set in the inked-skin frame. Abstract and celestial even at such diminutive scale, there’s an organic resolution and they rest lightly on the skin with a quality of floating and a sense of their own physicality and texture. Every few days, new work is added.
Mixed media paintings by Xinyue Yan and Justin Olerud, and environmentalist embroidery by Carol Anne Bell all fit exactly in the box. If the work is executed for the “space” does that count as site-specific? Zoe Marden’s “Mermania: tales of tantacularity” is a textile and photo collage work and an IGTV performance; it is installed on the bent arm between crook and wrist, draped like a garment, suggesting functionality and directly referencing the “architecture” of the location.
Michael Zahn’s “Souvenir From Pioneer Village” is a tiny plywood ironing board, a striped table-runner, and a dollhouse-size iron. The assemblage is tied onto the arm like a corsage; it’s sculptural and its base fits in the “room,” turning the arm from a wall into a floor. There are also works of literature, video, and micro-theater, recasting the arm as a screen and a portal.
The “installation shots” on Instagram are technically selfies, but the self in this case is backgrounded, much like the rooms of a traditional gallery are typically obscured. And that is the cognitive operational dynamic of the Arm Gallery, aside from its inventive wit. That is, the fluid morphing between one, two, three, and even four dimensionality on a digital platform, whose origin was precipitated by the loss of a physical space — and yet, there’s nothing more physical than an actual body.
Follow along at instagram.com/visitorwelcomecenter.