Man Meets Nature Once More / Hyperallergic

Kevin Cooley and Philip Andrew Lewis, “We Can Break Through” (2013) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Kevin Cooley and Philip Andrew Lewis, “We Can Break Through” (2013) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — Kevin Cooley and Philip Andrew Lewis’s exhibition Unexplored Territoryat Kopeikin Gallery made me wish the artists had taken a hint from Joseph Kosuth and the spirit of 1960s Conceptual art rather than just creating photographs and videos of the age-old man vs. nature battle. This territory has already been explored, and though that doesn’t mean there’s no room to retrace and ponder the paths paved by Ansel Adams’s breathtaking photography or Jeff Koons’s curious use of consumer objects, Cooley and Lewis’s show is more like a ubiquitous Los Angeles palm tree sunset. It’s hard to go more than a block in this city at dusk without spotting a picturesque palm-tree-and-sky photo opp, but it’s never revelatory. That same blandness is embodied in Unexplored Territory, in which the artists circle around timeless themes such as man’s relationship to natural processes and manmade consumer objects, but do little to break new ground.

In the video “We Can Break Through” (2013), viewers experience a battle between two household fans that share a power strip. They fly at each other like a bull and matador until they collapse, one remaining plugged in, the other departing from the strip. The collision of consumer items calls to mind a sporting event’s win/lose battle. But if the title includes “we,” where is the viewer in all this? Who is breaking through, and why? It doesn’t matter, really, because the fans will eventually just break down, and the fourth wall is never broken; instead, the viewer watches a match between two equally built teams. We know that one will lose and one will win, yet no one breaks through.

read the full story on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/108037/man-meets-nature-once-more/