T. Kelly Mason. Nocturne (Pierce Brothers Westwood Village), 2011. 4 Duratrans films. Courtesy of the artist.
Los Angeles–based artist T. Kelly Mason’s diverse
practice includes sculpture, performance, sound, video, and works on
paper. Since 2007 he has also been working with photographic
transparencies mounted in light boxes, drawing on the medium’s elusive
material presence as a means to explore representation. For this new
work, Mason visited Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, an
intimate, carefully landscaped cemetery nestled amid several high-rise
buildings just around the corner from the Hammer Museum. Resting place
of the museum’s founder, Armand Hammer, and the film director Billy
Wilder, namesake of our theater, the cemetery is also the final home to
Hollywood luminaries such as John Cassavetes, Farrah Fawcett, Peggy Lee,
and Jack Lemmon. It is a sanctuary filled with both melancholy and
humor. A small plaque reading “Marilyn Monroe” is surrounded by lipstick
kisses left on the marble by loving fans, while across the park, Rodney
Dangerfield’s headstone reads, “There goes the neighborhood . . . ”
Mason’s work touches on the cultural and political significance of
aesthetics through a confluence of art historical references and popular
culture. After extensively photographing the cemetery, he collaged
portions of his images to create composite views in which the grave
sites are rearranged to poetic effect, activating a conversation about
memory and the meaning of existence. Aligning his interest in the
transgressive potential of an aesthetic sublime with his investigations
into rituals memorializing the dead, Mason looked to the German romantic
paintings of Caspar David Friedrich as inspiration for the composition
of his revised views of the cemetery. A master of the allegorical
landscape, Friedrich painted dramatic scenes accentuating both the
beauty and the intimidating magnitude of nature. Derived from
traditional celluloid animation, Mason’s technique of layering
theatrical lighting gels and articulating imagistic details with ink
drawing is particularly well suited to rendering deep space and intense
color in a manner that is perhaps ironically akin to Friedrich’s method.
Marrying a contemporary mode of representation typically used for
advertising and animation with the history of painting and photography,
Mason offers us a multivalent meditation on themes of celebrity, death,
and the search for meaning.
Organized by Corrina Peipon, curatorial associate.
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery is located one block east and half a block south of the Hammer Museum at 1218 Glendon Avenue.