Josh Lilley Gallery: Alex Da Corte 'Bad Land' (until 3rd February 2018)
Alex Da Corte, Bad Lands, 2017. Video installation in three parts displayed on 29 inch Hantarex monitors, custom hardware, custom housings. Josh Lilley Gallery, London.
My first encounter with Venezuelan-American artist Alex Da Corte's work was last year at the incredible group exhibition 'For Pete's Sake' at Stockholm's Carl Kostyál Gallery. The one-roomed installation saw the artist pose as Eminem eating cereal; this, I now know, is a motif in Da Corte's work, and one which is both amusing and bizarrely dark, which is incidentally a passable introduction to this highly stimulating show at Josh Lilley Gallery, W1W.
In what the gallery describes as an "architectural refit", there is the sensation that the artist is truly dominating the space; I have seen work at Josh Lilley before but never has the space felt so transformed, so much like a microcosm of an artist's mind: Da Corte certainly does achieve this seamlessly. His work touches various themes but the most striking, especially on the gallery's first floor, is crippling consumerism. 'Bad Sign', a double-sided perspex lightbox with neon limbs, greets viewers and will definitely entice more inside as its cheery disposition becomes sinister.
Installation view of the exhibition. Image courtesy of Josh Lilley Gallery
The symbolism of neon's recurring presence provided me with much food for thought; why are we ("the general public") so attracted to it? I am certain that people who may not know of the gallery will see the neon from the street and come in for a closer look; its intrinsic links with consumerism and entertainment will be familiar to everyone, and if it makes contemporary art more accessible then it has potential to be a great tool. In addition to flashing lights, Da Corte has formulated an almost addictive, hypnotic soundtrack; downstairs where the space is divided into three, each with one video, it becomes difficult to decipher whether the sound is coming from the respective films or not. Much like a retail unit or nightclub, the lighting makes a significant contribution to the viewer's experience.
A slow aural effect is very much in keeping with the content of Da Corte's three-part video series, each one documenting the artist himself as Eminem, completing some mundane tasks. The promotional material for the show mostly comes from stills of the second film, in which the protagonist smokes from the makeshift bongs which are also present in the gallery in sculptural forms. These small works displayed together are the best summary of the show and Da Corte's work: a fun and, at face value, novel look at the relationship between popular culture and consumerism via an analysis of material culture in our society. 'Bad Land' is a show I recommend to all, including those who aren't necessarily interested in contemporary art; incorporating music, neon and popular culture, it is easy to see the artist has the ability to communicate with a diverse range of audiences. Now that his work has been formally introduced to London's art scene, I'm sure there will be much more to see of Da Corte (or Eminem) in the near future.