A View of LA From Holla
Hello, I Love You is an exhibition of the gathered impressions of Alexandra Burner and Christoph Beyer’s first year in Los Angeles. Chakras, palm trees, fantasy, health, space, style, sun, beaches, magic – all the ridiculous and lovable of Los Angeles come together and inspire Hello, I Love You.
Alex and Christoph are originally from Holla, Germany. In certain circles it is said, Holla is where the world’s heart chakra is located. Alex told me, “This fact is better known to the people in LA than those of Holla.”
Alex was the first to come Los Angeles in 2015 to work with designer Sara Sachs. Christoph was set to join Alex, but got stuck in the morass of a customs nightmare and had to wait out a whole year to make the journey again.
Christoph came to LA in 2016 on a grant.
Hello, I Love You’s name is a playful wink to how often ‘I love you’ is said in LA. These three words are so overused, they could even be interchanged with, ‘Hello.’ Alex said, ‘“People rarely say ‘I love you’ in Germany,” and it is these sorts of differences that shape Hello, I Love You’s pieces.
Hello, I Love You opened October 5th at Cathy Coopers gallery in East LA. Upon entering the gallery what immediately demands your attention, is Alex’s massive sculpture Super Health.
Super Health is a double-feature monster size fantasy of what we should all punish ourselves to be. The piece is constructed of 13-foot metal clothing racks sculpted into, what looks like, the gymnastic uneven bars. Giant sweatshirts and pants with the Super Health logo-brand hang from the bars. Alex’s garments are made from black and white paper, chosen for its cheapness, abundance and use in advertisements. Alex coated each piece with a toxic polyurethane that makes the clothing appear shiny-nice-expensive. Outrageously muscular legs and chests are printed in a way that makes one feel they have x-ray vision. These body parts are not only graphic, but tell a person how they would need to look to fit into Super Health. Super Health suggests, if you can’t fit into it, then you are less than Super Health. The reality is, Super Health would smother a normal body – but, the reward you get in exchange for this oppression is a goal – a quixotic dream.
Super Health’s severe dark humor is a nihilistic view of how dreams and goals can get twisted into monsters that make us ill. In the dystopia of Super Health, contentment exists in a world just beyond the next vitamin, workout, Ayahuasca trip in Joshua Tree or any LA cliché.
Super Health is a doomed existence. It is a place always just beyond yourself. The pursuit of Super Health leads to a perpetual exile from a life lived.
Alex studied Conceptual Fashion Design at the Academy of Art in Holla and has a relationship with fashion that swings wildly from an earnest passion to a desire to burn it all down to the ground. In her piece, So Many Clothes, Nothing to Wear, it shows.
So Many Clothes, Nothing to Wear is a teepee made of dressed up wooden sticks. Each stick wears its own personal tailored style of an experience or person Alex has encountered in LA. There’s: The starlet, Hollywood, The words ‘I Love You,’ the party called Mustache Monday, the cardiganed hipster, the sunset strip, gold, riches and leather bars. If you know LA, you understand how to read each stick immediately.
The use of sticks, instead of people, to represent these worlds shows how the language of fashion can be interpreted on any form.
So Many Clothes, Nothing to Wear is meant to be an ephemeral piece. The fashionable tinder alludes to the ritual of fire-destruction and the transient seasons of fashion.
In Hello, I Love You, Christoph works with canvas and paint for the first time. Christoph previously studied at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf under Peter Doig where he worked predominately with pen and paper. Christoph works with paint in a way that embraces this new beginning and his naiveté. He allows his process to be seen within the finished work. Christoph said, he began by approaching the canvas first as a surface, not to be dominated by gesso, but as a textile element that is as important as the paint.
Christoph’s first painting’s name, The Masterless Samurai, is a metaphor for his experience with this new medium. The Masterless Samurai’s layers of experimentation and perceivable process give the painting a structural quality that animates it. The Masterless Samurai is full of pastels, light and a figurative charcoal shape that dominates the center. Christoph said, “There’s so much more light in LA than Germany” and it seeped into and brightened his work.
In contrast to the soft, faded pastels and greys of The Masterless Samurai – Freddy’s Place has a strong graphic nature. Freddy’s Place’s palette is black, white and red. This is Christoph’s second painting and he said it was not as free and easy as his first. Freddy’s Place has dominant swaths of white that build up and add texture and lightly mask Christoph’s introductory layers.
Christoph described the process he developed this way, “Each painting starts with an intention, and there’s about 10 layers that make up a painting. About 7 of the layers are experimentation. The last few layers are where I focus the painting back to the intention and decide what experiments to keep.”
The intention behind Freddy’s Place was inspired by the views through the palm trees that break up and frame all of LA. The composition’s graphic shapes are evocative of textile patterns. A giant kingkong-like arm descends through the middle of the canvas. This arm is a nod to the surreal fantasies the views in LA can conjure.
Christoph’s third painting, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, is inspired by Christoph’s experience of standing outside the museum’s door in Culver City. The Museum of Graphic Technology is a place so chalk full of fantasy, wonder and curiosity, it feels as if it could burst the building’s seams and spill into the street. The Museum of Jurassic Technology’s palette is a softer red, black and white. At its center is a leg which anchors a fantastic swirly world of clouds, cat’s cradles, and debris.
The fourth piece of Christoph’s is not a painting, but an enormous black dreamcatcher called Venice Beach. Within its web many sunglasses dangle. Venice Beach is a fishing net set to catch a dream. The sunglasses help to see in all the bright light of LA but also keep the Angelinos masked and occulted.
Hello, I Love You’s, analysis of LA is akin to a long – affectionate side eye. Alex and Christoph’s fresh eye’s and interpretation of the city through their works give LA the kind of look it forever needs. The truth is from what I observed, as absurd as LA may be to the outsider; it seems to have wooed the couple. In all honesty, how could anyone resist LA’s charms when it’s the land where everyone says, “Hello, I love you.”