Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Group Dynamic (Part II)

I have been thinking a great deal about including more of my interest in writing about art in these pages, and had thought to do so today after seeing Eden's Edge, the current exhibition at the Hammer Museum. It's a lively gathering of fifteen artists currently working in Los Angeles, and a fine tribute to the creative verve of city at the present time. Other than recommending it, though, I decided not to attempt to write about the various contributors here for the simple reason that a group show of this size sprawls over too much territory to cover in a manageable "review." To focus on a handful of the included artists while ignoring others seems like something of a slight, as would the strategy of giving short shrift to each of the fifteen. I decided instead to include a few images, below.

Sharon Ellis, New Moon and Palm Trees, 2004

Matt Greene, We Beheld the Holograph of Our Second Selves (Why Did You Eat Us), 2004

Liz Craft, Death Rider (Virgo), 2002

Monica Majoli, Hanging Rubberman #4, 2002

Lari Pittman, Untitled, 2000

Ken Price, Zigzag, 1999

Thanks to the Hammer Museum for the above images.

It's interesting, though--particularly in light of yesterday's entry--to think about the nature of a "group show." What was clear from "Eden's Edge" is that there's an undeniable dynamic in such a gathering, whereby each of the participants is enriched and clarified by the proximity of the others. Not that any one of these artists needs it: each one is fully capable to standing on his or her own. But for the visitor to the exhibit, all kinds of fascinating synapses get snapped in an exhibition of this quality as you move from room to room. There's a rich and infinitely complex conversation to be engaged at various levels of perception and understanding--visual, intellectual, emotional--that makes the experience a deeply rewarding one.

I imagine that it would be entirely possible for a show such as this to end up as a noisy and unpleasant argument: that doesn't happen here. For sure, there is a contrasting mix of voices and energies, but they have enough in common to allow for mutual communication. Do we end up with the sense of an "LA aesthetic"? If we do, it has more to do with diversity than with any identifiable trope or trend. But that, for me, is the fun of it--not to define, but to explore; not to come up with answers, but more questions.

So the group is turning out to be something of a theme for the current week in The Buddha Diaries. Last night, after the group show at the Hammer, I drove down south for a gathering of men I have worked with, mostly, for a number of years, in group work, and spent a rewarding evening exploring with great intensity and in great depth some common issues about individual responsibility and freedom, love and the loss of love, and the power of old memories and patterns of behavior. I consider myself more than fortunate to have access, in my life, to the collective power that such a group of extraordinary and committed men represents. Each one of us singly, I think, is vulnerable to all the fears and pain and grief we experience in alone-ness. Together, we have a resource of enormous strength.

I'd be interested to hear from readers their experience with community of this kind. I was delighted to read a related Buddha story in yesterday's comment from themindtaker. It bears repeating. "One day Ananda, who had been thinking deeply about things for a while, turned to the Buddha and exclaimed: 'Lord, I've been thinking--spiritual friendship is at least half of the spiritual life!' The Buddha replied: 'Say not so, Ananda, say not so. Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life!'"--Verse 2 of the Samyutta Nikaya. Thanks for that!

No comments: