Doug Aitken is a quintessential Los Angeles artist. Working across multiple platforms—“photography, sculpture, publications, sound, and single- and multi-channel video installations”—he employs the high production values and superficial slickness of Hollywood. His art is all about spectacle, whether it’s Electric Earth (1997), his multi-screen video in which a solitary protagonist dances his way through a pulsing, nocturnal urban landscape, or his recent endeavor Station to Station, an art and music event that barreled its way across the country via rail, bringing multimedia enticements to nine cities along the route like an old-time traveling picture show. Still Life, his fourth and latest exhibition at Regen Projects, is no less dazzling, but as the title of the show implies, it slows down his usually frenetic pace to something more meditative. As he remarked to the L.A. Times, “I felt that our society is moving so fast with information that one of the more radical things I could do is actually to preserve it all, crystallize it all.”
Aitken has created a fantasy landscape in the gallery, punching holes in some of the walls, artfully building out others so they appear to have been partially knocked down. It is visibly artificial, but impressively so, and paired with the absence of light, goes a long way toward erasing or at least diminishing the impression of a white cube. It also serves to slow down movement through the space—viewers are not as likely to rush through an exhibit if they’re wandering in an unfamiliar setting in the dark.
The works in the show take familiar objects, images, or words and present them in a way that is foreign or unsettling—making spectacular the mundane. A series of mirrored pieces depict single words—“END,” “NOW,” “EXIT”—that are about a moment in time, rather than duration. They are impeccably made, each gem-like (crystalline) letter crafted out of multiple planes of colored glass. They encourage gallerygoers to spend time moving around them to see how the other works are reflected in their facets. It is not difficult to get lost, but the construction is so compelling that the words can seem like little more than a linguistic substrate for infinite visual permutations.