‘Bad News from the Colonies’
Sean Townley’s show at Kristina Kite in Los Angeles presents a mystery for the viewer. Whether this mystery is solved, however, seems beside the point. In today’s media environment where immediate legibility (and insta-gratification) is taken for granted, the power of this work instead resides with the clues, details, and the overall picture the viewer receives and then deciphers. Two wooden wings, for example, flank an arrangement of sculptures that includes a small, ornate antique-looking table with what could be a small ostrich skeleton placed on top, as well as what appears to be a celebrant’s chair (used by the priest or bishop in a church) encased in a plastic bubble pumped with gas. In another room, similar objects are placed on antique-looking plinths: a black staff mounted by a small globe and eagle wings, as well as the form of a black frock that could be worn by a judge or bishop.
On the walls are an ornately-carved wooden double-headed eagle (the heads are missing ) and a capsule-shaped object that looks like a “cryptex” from The Davinci Code. The “cryptex” offers the viewer a direction to settle in, as does an image from the J. Paul Getty Trust picturing an antique chair encased like the object in the main room. The show suggests a meditation on antique forms, classical zoology, objects of faith, and their preservation. It’s a cryptic message that acts as an invitation for the viewer to enter and explore.
October 27 – December 19, 2020