When Terence Koh announced his sudden return from Upstate New York for a show in Manhattan last year, few could anticipate the artist’s intricate clusters of collaged material, soundscapes, and of course, his Bee Chapel, an immense hive installed inside a wax structure viewers could sit inside and listen to the insects buzzing drones. So when the artist announced a second show in Los Angeles, and took up residency inside the rooms of Moran Bondaroff, one expected something of a second shock inside the sun-filled gallery space.
Yet Koh’s installation in L.A. is a decidedly more relaxed affair, a series of calming, meditative spaces, including a rooftop garden (where the Bee Chapel sits overlooking West Hollywood), all presided over by the artist’s calm, attentive presence. Books and records are spread around the main room, joined by overlaid projections and wall-texts with Koh snaking in and out of the room, tweaking small elements and attending to various parts of the space. A cat passes from one cluster of material to the next, while in the next space, the viewer is invited to sit inside a lone boat hull, filled with salt, viewing the prismatic light reflections filtered through a lone hole in the ceiling.
These relationships and movements from interior to exterior draw much from the California sky, its desert sun casting a gleam through any opening in the gallery, and serving as something of a counterpoint to Koh’s self-contained universes of material. Emphasizing the ruptures in the dim confines of the space, Koh’s attentive manipulations of the gallery seem to constantly stand as an emphatic reminder of the temporary, ephemeral nature of its physical structure. Even when sheltered inside the gallery, away from the sun’s rays, one cannot avoid a sense that these four walls are something of a surreal abstraction on the natural world Koh seems to welcome in. While sitting at the piano, laying on the beds laid out in the space, or just wandering from site to site, the rustic ease of Koh’s new home seems to break down the rigid codes of the gallery , rather than comment or confine its functions to operating within them.
This sense is amplified by the gallery’s rooftop garden, where one can pause and view rows of plants (Koh has only been eating what he grows, is brought by visitors, or, as his letters in the gallery note, pages of Ayn Rand’s Anthem dipped in honey), staring out at the traffic snaking down La Cienega Boulevard and ruminating on the paradox of such a calm idyll built just over a bustling, crowded metropolis. Considering Koh’s viscerally physical, confrontational performances in the past, it’s an intriguing exchange, one ultimately mediated by the artist himself. Using his presence as a primer of sorts, Koh’s own rugged life within the city sprawl traces an alternative vision of engaging with the world for those passing through his temporary home, one that will endure long after the artist has left the space.
sleeping in a beam of sunlight closes March 11th.
— D. Creahan
Terence Koh: sleeping in a beam of sunlight [Exhibition Page]