Review: Tree Service
by Sasha Lee
Tree Service at domestic setting
Co-curated by Michael Gold and Jeanne Patterson


“ Tree Service,” which opened July 12th and runs until August 9th, is a refreshing look at a motley crue of emerging contemporary artists who examine trees as ongoing aspects of their visual iconography. Turning towards the tree, an iconic popular culture symbol for nature as a whole or the environment (that oft-sited repository of hippie hugging) seems a particularly apt subject of investigation in the concrete, strip mall parking lot that is Los Angeles. Turning to this archaic, ancient symbol and the myriad ways it has been interpreted and employed within visual culture was an interesting thematic thread.

For those unfamiliar with domestic setting, the space, as the name implies, is an alternative live/work space directed by Jeanne Patterson. The more casual approach to exhibiting art work contrasts the ice blast formality of standard stiffly staffed institutional spaces. Rather than being greeted by an indifferent gallerina and made to shuffle through the space in reverent, hushed tones, the brightly lit domestic setting is as comfortable as visiting a neighbor. A neighbor who happens to have great artwork on the walls, anyway. I am instantly reminded of the Modernist’s seminal experimental museum of the Societe Anonyme, that brownstone on East 47th street that housed work from the late greats of art history, Duchamp, Man Ray, Paul Klee. Patterson is definitely on to something—being able to feel at ease while perusing works is a definite boon.

As far as the works exhibited, there was a wide net of media exhibited and breadth of expression. Standouts included Eric Beltz’s beautifully rendered “high definition” drawings that ironically recontextualize and complicate a motley crue of symbols, histories, texts, icons and ideas. His visual language spans everything from the aesthetics of graphic novels and Audobon botanical illustrations, re-appropriated historical figures such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, astral new age iconography, texts relating to visions and dreams, and a cascade of quirky and fascinating self-invented philosophies and realizations.

Also compelling was Jessica Swanson’s abstracted environments that presented micro/cosmic fantastical realms. Her fabricated realities were one part fairy tale illustration and evoked a sincere sense of play and imagination. Upon further inspection these self-contained worlds are dotted with tiny detail; miniature pine trees, howling wolves, almost indistinguishable plants.

Samantha Fields created small-scale square paintings that document natural catastrophes—storms, fires, and the like. Fields daringly seeks out these feats of nature and airbrushes her impressions of the events. Her Turner-esque interpetations appear almost as soft focus photographs and demonstrate a beautiful sense of light and color.

Drew Dominick created a hilariously performative video piece entitled “Maine.” The artist dressed in camouflage fatigues and postured in a tall tree, shooting bows and arrows at the camera. The act was sort of a balletic, ridiculous little boy fantasy turned reality.

Jared Pankin created wondrously off-kilter creations, fusing sculptural precedents with more craft-oriented fabricated skills, ranging from modeling to set decoration. Appearing as school project dioramas blown up to bizarre proportions, his creations evoke the ramshackle charm of houses built by hand.

There were a number of other outstanding works—also included in the show was Nick Agid, Joe Biel, Portia Hein, Wendy Heldmann, Laura Hull, Siobhan McClure & Greg Rose, Timothy Nolan, Stas Orlovski, Pam Posey, Bill Radawec, Lucas Reiner, Sharon Ryan, Rena Small, Joel Tauber, Daniel Wheeler, Megan Williams and Andre Yi. Be sure to check out this show before it comes down.

Domestic setting is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12 to 5pm and by appointment.

3774 Stewart Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066