Charles Irvin‘s paintings and videos are simultaneously disturbing and juvenile, uprooting traditional approaches to themes of abuse, hysteria, sexuality and power dynamics. Currently displaying work at the Hammer Museum as part of “Nine Lives,” an exhibit showcasing work from nine Los Angeles artists, Irvin is one of the least-known artists in the show (“He’s more of an artist’s artist,” noted a bored, Ugg-booted tour guide), but his work is certainly the most fascinating. Surrounded by awesomely grotesque paintings of lynching victims ejaculating into anthropomorphized flowers’ thirsty mouths and loving odes to E.T., the centerpiece of Irvin’s work at the Hammer is an amazing 30-minute video piece entitled Membrane Lane.
Deconstructing the sinister False Memory Syndrome Foundation– an organization devoted to discrediting the victims of child abuse– Membrane Lane shouldn’t be fun and entertaining, but it is. While he establishes thematic links from the revisionist ethos of his subject matter to larger trends in government and the media, Irvin soliloquies between a barrage of found footage, sitting by a fake campfire accompanied by a distraught kitten encapsulated in an egg. The effect is unsettling and persuasive, conjuring both the fourth-wall-breaking “edutainment” style of Bill Nye The Science Guy and the wide-eyed self-assuredness of a conspiracy theorist.
Check out Furbee Luv below, a “critique of consumer culture”-cum-furbee abuse porn from 2000, and don’t miss Irvin’s Babyscapes, a rumination on “childhood anxieties that shape adult behavior” fleshed out by evil elves and singing skeletons.