Perfectly Concocted Context by Jonathan Monk at Cherry and Martin
Robert Overby’s 1973 painting of Jesus, rough around the edges but romantic, hangs at the end of the entryway to Cherry and Martin. Just around the corner is Bas Jan Ader’s differently devout photograph, The artist as consumer of extreme comfort (1968). In it, the late Ader sits in an armchair by a fireplace, chin on hand, a vision of erudite serenity. These teasers set a pseudo-reverent tone before the main gallery, which exhibits, in all its calculated, carefully layered glory, Jonathan Monk’s Perfectly Concocted Context, on view through August 19. Monk has papered the back wall and the portable wall that divides the gallery with slightly larger-than-life photographs of his own studio. Works by other artists hang on those photographs and on the surrounding walls. For instance, one of Jenny Holzer’s framed 10 Inflammatory Essays – “SCORN REPRODUCTION, SCORN VARIETY, SCORN EMBELLISHMENT,” this one says –hangs to the left of a photographed lamp from Monk’s studio.
A Berlin-based artist who briefly lived in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, Monk chose to include a disproportionate number of local L.A. artists in this show, in homage to the city’s aesthetic influence. He has done shows like this before, which feature or probe the work of others but also read as self-portraits. Monk’s studio, with its pink wall and colored cabinets, is the show’s brightest, most dominant element. The other artwork – by Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Sol Lewitt, among others – merely augments, and you can’t help but think of Monk as an artist with good taste who set a high bar for himself. But this self-referentiality becomes slightly tiresome: the struggle to understand oneself in context may be relatable, but it also limits the scope of conversation the other artworks could invite.
That said, the show’s serendipitous moments are beyond gratifying. Louise Lawler’s Big (traced), a comical line drawing of art by big shots (Maurizio Cattelan, Thomas Ruff) being installed, fills a wall below a hand-painted sign by David Shrigley. “I lost a shoe,” it says in black on yellow text. One sculpture in Lawler’s drawing has no shoes at all. Ryan Gander’s Portrait of Mark Leckey (2009) appears twice, once on a white wall, and once over an image of Monk’s bookshelf. It’s an exercise in repetition and evidence of a slightly excessive preoccupation with one’s peers, thus perfectly suited to Perfectly Concocted Context.