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Damien Hirst
at Ikon Ltd., Santa Monica, California
Recommendation by Marlena Donohue


Continuing through July 28, 2012


Those huge, hyped canvases in a recent series of Damien Hirst transglobal shows, chocked with created value and an even greater degree of predictability, tended to give us the Hirst we love to hate and maybe that we deserve. When we see only massive, single-themed works that insist on unquestioned appreciation lest we be termed art philistines, the baggage of it all has a way of draining our energy and compassion for work that can actually be quite funny and smart. This smaller show of  more varied, less pretentious works on paper is somehow also more interesting, in that it lets the scope, wit and humor of Hirst come out. Yes, there is a selection of dots on view, but there are other works in dialogue with them that render what this fellow is up to a bit more transparent, enjoyable, believable. Here we also see these juicy, weird color explosions that remind one of the splashes made by Gutai painting machines. These effectively tell one that however many trips to the bank Hirst and Gagosian make, however many underpaid assistants execute work bearing his signature, this is an artist who remains seriously vested in grappling with culture, in understanding color, edge, space, process.


Prints of precious butterflies are witty and multi-tiered. Other favorites are those that reference the latest, unbelievably elitist flap broiling between the foodies and tree huggers regarding a looming ban (oh dear, the pressing gravity of it all) on foie gras for its cruelty to animals. That we can engage in this as an issue, when in fact there are people dying of malnutrition, is as ironic as Hirst's pricey prints. As usual and quite cleverly, Hirst takes no discernable social position, but smartly uses the silly flap as fodder for invention that is part wry, part Warhol rehash. One of the works conflates a foie gras product label with the printed name of a drug used to fight hypertension, typically caused by fatty foods. The drug's side effects happen to include penile dysfunction. Hirst's no dummy as we see in this well executed and convoluted tracking of the trickle down impacts of privilege and excess: stuff ducks 'til they die so you can eat their livers, organs so rich they make you ill, then take a drug for that illness that cramps your sexual groove. Then, I guess, one goes out and buys an expensive Hirst to feel virile again? Ah, Damien, such a mind, such a wealthy brat.


Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2012

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