With a title which references the infamous Black Dahlia murder in 1940s Hollywood, Last Seen Entering The Biltmore is a group exhibition which considers the idea of artifice and theatricality and particularly draws attention to the idea of the theatrical “backstage” as a threshold where transformation takes place. It also addresses the wider subject of the mediation of experience, whether by the theatre curtain or the computer screen.
Featuring both new commissions and existing works, it makes uses of a variety of media including painting, sculpture, film and installation. The exhibition could be considered a way of exploring the art of the theatre through the use of other art forms, following a distinction pointed out by the British playwright Howard Barker between “the theatre” and “the art of the theatre”.
Curated by Anna Gritz of the South London Gallery, the works brought together include American artist William Leavitt’s scenic stage architectures, which are inspired by soap operas and the plays of Alain Robbe-Grillet. Sometimes they are built for actual plays, at other times they stand alone. His works evoke the blankness of southern Californian suburbs, of patios and bungalows, paired with deadpan, absurd dialogues.
Allison Katz’s new commission combines graphic work and painting, taking the form of a poster announcing, and displayed alongside, a new large-scale painting. In Color Pieces, video artist Nan Hoover has created spatial ambiguities through a muted colour spectrum and subtle play of shadows and lights that are as much a test or rehearsal as a final piece of work. Artists whose work features in Last Seen Entering The Biltmore include Richard Artschwager, Barbara Bloom, Guy de Cointet, Richard Healy, Darius Mikšys and Ola Vasiljeva.
The title is actually taken from a collection of short stories and plays by Gary Indiana, and refers to the events surrounding the case of Elisabeth Short, who was last seen entering the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles in 1947 before she was found murdered and became known as the Black Dahlia. She was elevated to iconic status by the ensuing media frenzy in a city devoted to the production of artifice.
Last Seen Entering The Biltmore, until 14 September, South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UH. www.southlondongallery.org
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Credit: Guy De Cointet, ACRCIT, (1971) 28 pages. Edition of 700. Film Still