Roland Reiss has been a large presence in the Los Angeles art world for a long time. He primarily works as a painter and is known for creating large paintings. But, in the seventies and eighties he went through an artistic phase that is unlike anything in his catalogue: he created miniature sculptures of scenes in life. The resulting pieces are currently on display at PMCA, in a show entitled Personal Politics.
The show opened in mid-September and features tons of these miniatures. You would think that, for a painter, a diversion in style and media would be tiny or just as large as other works. Not in this case: Reiss created nearly forty of these miniature life scenes, all of which are incredibly detailed and larger than one would expect. The scenes all carry a surrealist element to them, showing office spaces, homes, and landscapes draped in color and non-sensical props: they’re like small film sets he has decorated with modernist furniture and neon trees. They all have a title on them as well, like a sort of credit sequence from a television show.
This all makes perfect sense: Reiss was apparently inspired by “cinema and literature about contemporary life to turn his art from abstract paintings into figurative tableaus,” as he wanted to “avoid the visual clichés that he felt accompanied most Realist painting.” It’s fascinating to see what he has done with the little scenes, which all look as if you are peering into a scene from a play or movie, paused indefinitely for you to hypothesize about.
Similar to his small pieces and the complete opposite of his tiny tableaus, one of Reiss’ most fascinating works is also on display: The Castle of Perseverance . This piece is in no way small or dainty at all but is instead a life-sized representation of a living room. The piece is made from MDF particleboard and recreates many items unique to a living room from the seventies. As PMCA says of this, Reiss is asking the viewers to “reconsider their familiarity with these objects’ meanings, which in contrast to the tableaus, are presented at the scale of the viewer.” Castle is below–
The exhibit is curated by Kate Johnson and runs through the beginning of January. If you won’t be able to make it out to PMCA in time, they also have a book for the show as well.
Images courtesy of Don Milici©.