Asked if his work was “preaching to the choir,” Robert Longo responded, “It is not preaching to the choir – it is screaming at the choir.” The American artist, who opened a show of new works this winter at Jeffrey Deitch LA, has long been invested in navigating the world we live in and how we see it, creating a sense of opposition to the flurry of images we are presented with each day, which surround us and define our experience of the globe. Presenting these same images in a re-created state, his large-scale drawings function as monuments, securing a sense of permanence that transcends the flood of transitory imagery.
This same sense of the world and its presentation as a disparate sense of images, disjointed but powerful, continues in his most recent show, fusing together pop and conceptual concepts to create an expanded sense of the image as both context and artifact.
One of the central presentations in the exhibition is Longo’s epic three-part work showing the three pillars of the US government: the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the White House. His image of the Capitol creates the illusion of the building moving toward the viewer. The Supreme Court is rendered in front of a stormy sky. The White House is pictured from a sinkhole in the front lawn, an ominous gnarly forest growing around it. These embellishments and inflections in the surface of the work, rendered in a hyperreal depiction often mistaken for photographs, underscores Longo’s use of the image as a vector for the understanding of speed and tension, power and its relation to the image, or the scene the image derives from.
The exhibition also features one of Longo’s best known and most notorious works: Death Star, made from 40,000 30 caliber bullets, the type used in AR-10 assault rifles. The number of bullets corresponds to the number of gun deaths in the United States in 2017, the year Longo began fabricating the work. He used an algorithm to place the bullets in a random arrangement, representing chaos in its avoidance of a set pattern.
Marking his first show in LA since 2008, Storm of Hope marks the latest in Longo’s expression and exploration of modernity. It closes February 21st.
– D. Creahan
Robert Longo: Storm of Hope [Exhibition Site]