With a historical survey focusing on “institutional critique” up at the Hammer Museum right now, it’s only fitting some real-time critiques should happen elsewhere around town.
Like Andrea Fraser and Fred Wilson, Austrian German artist Maria Anwander trains her eye on the structures that underlie the museum system. Although her exhibition at Steve Turner Contemporary comes across as a bit bloodless, it benefits from being right across the street from her prime target: LACMA.
A banner hanging outside the gallery mimics official LACMA banners perfectly. Inside is a photograph of the torn adhesive where Anwander ripped a placard for an artwork she liked from a LACMA wall. A video in the back room records her adding her name to a large, very public list of museum donors at the entrance to the Ahmanson Building.
Were it not for the history currently on view at the Hammer, actions like these might be seen as vandalism rather than critique. But Anwander’s LACMA interventions are also given context by a series of photographs of local celebrity artists (John Baldessari, David Hockney, Catherine Opie among them) walking the “red carpet” at various museum events.
Like her “erasure” of the placard, Anwander has digitally removed their bodies, leaving only white silhouettes against backdrops covered with museum and corporate logos. The series highlights how, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, both artists and museums are reduced to name brands, just like Gucci or Chanel.