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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roland Reiss-Personal Politics: Sculpture from l970's and l980's

Pasadena Museum of Contemporary Art
Sept 18, 2011-January 8, 2012


The Castle of Perseverance (1978), Roland Reiss' historically captivating installation of a l970's American living room begins to emanate an alluring incense of sawdust, sandalwood, intention, and ingenuity before it appears behind the museum wall.  The life size installation made from particle board contains furniture and household objects that trigger a spark of time travel for the museum participants.  The living room and miniature environments contain objects that began as clues, cues, and later as Reiss stated:"...became signifiers."  Carpentry tools like hammers and saws combined with TV dinners, beer cans, a litter box and artist's slides.  Tools strewn in the living room insinuate Americans' entrepeneurial efforts beginning in the home.  For artists their studio may spill over into other rooms.  Was this living room a replica of Reiss' home?  During our interview Reiss said that his work was about healing.  Ecclesiastically, the living room opens to a museum filled with satellites of lessons learned.  During the creation of these works Reiss was a middle-aged man who had served in the Korean War and had survived the turbulence of the l960's and l970's.  As a survivor of these eras he expressed his grief over the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy.  These deaths are symbolically overflowing with mystery and multiple intrepretations.  Reiss' tableaux endeavor to explain the human psychology of co-existing with the mysteries of daily life and mankind's need to assign value to objects and subject matter.

The over forty tableaux are encased in clear plexi-glass which gives them a "TV-like" resemblance and familiarity.  Within the common language that the objects project in the tableaux, participants can relax and enjoy the mysteries from all sides.  Also because Reiss lives and works in Los Angeles, there could be touches of Hollywood in the miniature sculptures.  In many of the tableaux there will replicas of lighting equipment and cameras which could indicate the scene to be a movie set or a dose of reality being filmed.  Adventures in the Painted Desert-A Murder Mystery...might have been a Western movie or TV scene in Old Tucson.  There is a tableau dedicated to weightlifting equipment reminiscent of when Reiss lived near Muscle Beach in Venice, California.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda would have been in the mainstream at that time.  On display is a series dedicated to the office politics of the business world.  Adult Fairy Tales I: The Migration of Thought (1983) introduces  women as authority figures.  However the CEO of this company appears solemn and unengaged with her staff.  Adult Fairy Tales II: Rates of Exchange (1984), is pre-Anita Hill. There is a woman running away red with emotion.  The saws and logs in the office are equal to "the elephant in the living room", these people are trying to ignore the obvious issues of their environment.  With Reiss' experience as a sculptor, he is responsible for making every item in each of the tableaux.  He mentioned that his figures had an Edward Hopper-like style that emerged unintentionally.

Reiss' tableaux cover a myriad of emotions.  There is romance interpreted in the dance tableaux and the living rooms with suitcases by the door.  Additionally, there are Godzilla creatures in movie tableaux appropriate for the theme of miniatures used in Japanese movies.  The final tableaux enhance the irony of miniatures serving for life situations.