Novelist Don DeLillo once quipped, “California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.” This concept is the curatorial mission behind HA HA! BUSINESS!, currently on view at Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles. HA HA! BUSINESS! reprimands what it sees as a jingoistic and self-centered lifestyle—a world filled with social-media fiends who are willing to cut down the next person, or the world around them, for their own gain.
Valerie Blass’ sculpture La Méprise (2015) consists of a black porcelain figurine of a cat, positioned atop a bust on a marble shelf in front of a large concave mirror. Blass turns the cat, of thrift-store schlock, onto its back with its face turned up toward the ceiling and legs pointing directly into the gallery. The cat’s tail is distorted through the mirror and appears to be thrusting out toward the viewer, engorged and erect. By tipping the cat onto its back, Blass reveals the gender identity of bland consumerism: a kind of cultural imperialism that paves the way for banal and hollow objects to take over the visual environment. Within this generic cat figurine—one of seemingly millions manufactured and sold in home décor sections of Home Depots all over the world—Blass finds the obscene and sinister neuroticism that undergirds the common object. La Méprise, roughly translated, means “the misconception.”