Art thrives on controversy. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, the Surrealists, the Cubists, Abstract Expressionists, Low Brows, and Pop Surrealists all created varying amounts of furor when they were first shown. Some caused riots, others a reassessment of concepts and collections. Aside from Deitch at MoCA there hasn’t been much of stir in the Los Angeles art world lately, so thank gods for Mat Gleason at Coagula Curatorial whose latest show by Laura London, originally called “Once Upon a Time…
Axl Rose (oh shit, we can’t say his name because he threatened to sue Coagula and London) Was My Neighbor” resulted in international headlines because the shall-remain-nameless rock star had his lawyer send out a cease and desist letter. And the rock star’s ex-wife, who I’m also not gonna bother naming, also had her attorney mail the same sort of missives.
The bone of contention is one piece in the exhibit, a huge photograph of a garage door spray painted with graffiti. The garage in question was attached to the house where the rock star once lived with now ex-wife; they were in a fight at the time Laura London snapped the image. Fast forward to years later, and London used the image as the launching pad for a photographic installation that explores the concepts of celebrity, gender and re-imagination. The rock star’s attorney demanded that Gleason and London stop using his client’s name in the show, accusing them of trying to line their pockets and profit off his name. Oh and the lawyer demanded that the show come down before it opened. Or else be faced with
an action against you for defamation, seeking millions of dollars in compensatory, consequential and punitive damages, injunctive relief and recovery of future earnings.
Oh puhleeze. Considering all this rock star has done in his life (I was a reporter on the Spin Magazine cover story about him, so I went through piles articles about said rock star along with reading the abuse lawsuits filed by his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend–not pretty), spray painting his wife’s garage door (which he didn’t do according to both him and his ex-wife) would have been pretty minor. (Dear attorney for unnamed rock star, please note the conditional tense of the verb “would” used in the proceeding sentence.)
Imagine being the guy who–oh never mind, that incident is too ugly to mention here–imagine being the guy whose pathologies and bad behaviors have been very well and very publicly documented in various media, and are available to be read at Santa Monica Superior Court, and then getting all butt hurt because someone claimed you spay painted a garage door like twenty years ago–long, long after the statute of limitations is over. Holy let’s-pray-for-some-November-rain, somebody’s got way too much time on his hands and a very dainty ego! But some how that garage door thing hit a nerve. Maybe he didn’t want to be thought of as illiterate, since there’s definitely some apostrophe abuse in the graffiti.
Coagula’s Mat Gleason and artist Laura London removed the rock star’s name from materials relating to the show, posted notices, and opened as scheduled to a packed house. London’s strong photographs mirror many famous images of the rock star and the band he was in, as well as documenting the process she went through to get those shots. My favorite is the model dressed as the litigious rock star walking down the sidewalk in a heavy embroidered coat and large floppy hat in bright sunlight, cut off from the beauty of the world around him, completely wrapped up in himself, covered by his hair and cheap finery. Considering the rock star is playing twelve nights in Vegas soon, he should be happy that he inspired such a photographic introspection/exhibition.
Downstairs at Coagula, Curt Lemieux‘s mixed media portraits won’t get anyone sued. They’re all of dead presidents.“Once Upon a Time…” Laura London and “Presidential Portraits” Curt Lemieux Through October 26 Coagula Curatorial 977 Chung King Road Chinatown, Los Angeles 90012 424-2-COAGULA Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 5pm and by appointment
photos 1-8: Lisa Derrick
photos 9, 10: Cindy Schwarzstein
photo 11: Nice person at Coagula using Cindy’s camera