Jeffrey Vallance: The Art of Self-Worship

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks

JEFFREY VALLANCE: Relics and Reliquaries, Cal State Fullerton Grand Central Art Center, Project Room Gallery, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 567-7233 or www.grandcentralartcenter.com, Through July 22

Review by Doug Harvey for the L.A. Times, June 27, 2007:

Relics of the Passion (2006), Photo by Mark ChamberlainJeffrey Vallance: The Art of Self-Worship
Hey, somebody's gotta do it

Vallance's work has always been about ignoring, blurring or erasing boundaries - political, social, philosophical, aesthetic, whatever. In devoting so much time, attention and work to the threshold between the quotidian and the sacred - and how the bits and pieces of everyday life can suddenly cross over to become precious works of art - Vallance has compiled a comprehensive object lesson on the forgotten transformational power of the creative act - for which the art world (and our entire culture) is so plaintively jonesing. It's something worth remembering - maybe even worshipping a bit.

32art4425.jpg

In a hushed, darkened side gallery in a university exhibition space in Orange County, a series of simple glass display cases hold an array of intricately fashioned reliquaries - ornate housings for sacred objects such as slivers off the Bodhi Tree or a bone from the big toe of Mary Magdalene. The more than four dozen works on view display the gilded ornamental woodwork and oddly architectural forms that are the hallmarks of this rarely considered art-historical side stream, and they have a glow of musty intimacy and antiquarian mystery about them.

Until you look a bit closer. Then you start to see what exactly it is that's been enshrined here: the broken neck and cap from a bottle of Orange Crush, a Jà¤germeister shot glass, a Morticia Addams bubblegum card, a red carpenter's pencil, a pair of well-used black boxer shorts, a depleted can of Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Sculpting Mousse, various bits of dry wall and stucco, and a wide assortment of mass-produced touristy knickknacks and commercial premiums. What kind of religion is this, anyway?

Welcome to the Church of Saint Jeffrey Vallance, patron of overlooked minutiae and improbable synchronicities, housed - for the next few weeks, anyway - in Santa Ana's equally idiosyncratic Grand Central Art Center. (It was in this space that Vallance previously curated landscape-franchise king Thomas Kinkade's first-ever museum survey, and a Bible blessed by Kinkade is included here.) Vallance, probably the most underrated figure in contemporary L.A. art, is both the subject and the purveyor of these quirky autobiographical shrines, which he's been diligently assembling over the last several years since returning to the San Fernando Valley after a decade of peripatetic global wanderings.

Vallance is probably still most famous for "Blinky the Friendly Hen," a 1978 conceptual art-school prank in which the artist purchased a Foster Farms fryer from Ralphs and gave it a proper funeral and burial at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas. This elegant recontextualization spawned a torrent of work - a highly sought-after artists' book, innumerable drawings, appearances on David Letterman, further performances (the exhumation and autopsy of Blinky's remains), a video collaboration with the Yonemoto brothers, etc. - that remains unabated to this day. Several of the reliquaries house bone fragments and other artifacts from the Blinky saga, and one of the seminal precursors of this work was the "Shroud of Blinky" - the bloodstained absorbent paper toweling from the original supermarket packaging that sold to a collector for $1,000. Such is the power of relics! Read the whole article here.