Entering the Geffen Contemporary, the entryway lights are dimmed, eyes adjust to reveal a chandelier of white underwear, 29 Palms Chandelier (2019), flooding the room with a pink-hued light. Above the foyer to the main gallery Pipilotti Rist greets “guests” (as she refers to visitors) in the form of her infamous video Open My Glade (Flatten) (2000–17), squishing her face against a glass surface, the artist’s aim break through the video screen is forefronted as you enter into the main exhibition space. Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor is Rist’s first major survey on the West Coast, spanning works from the last 40 years. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art’s curator Anna Katz who describes Rist’s work as a “tonic” for the times. The exhibition is invigorating indeed, the entirety of the Geffen’s warehouse exhibition space is transformed into a sprawling installation that directs the viewer through decades of the artist’s work via twisting, curtained passageways and playful vinyl spots on the floor encouraging visitors to engage with the works; one reads “Please do not touch/THINK LOUDER.”
Rist’s work is always best experienced in this form: an engrossing, expansive installation that expands the architectural environment of the museum into an amorphous form lit up and bathed in sound. The survey at the Geffen features a new three-channel audio-video installation made specifically for MoCA: Neighbors Without Fences (2021), filmed in Zurich with music by Tom Huber. Through multiple projections, the new video creates a mesmerizing and enveloping environment, the walls of the museum galleries are activated with Rist’s video featuring close-ups of eyes, aged skin, and a flower field vibrating with hallucinogenic light. The artist’s signature meandering camera-work creates the sensation of the walls actually moving, as if in a warm breeze or a gentle wave. Among the exhibition entrance’s installation are picnic tables, lawn chairs, and other such lawn paraphernalia dappled with light from the video, imbuing the objects with a sense of wonder and levity.
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