Untidy: The Worlds of Doug Harvey
Los Angeles Valley College Art Gallery
5800 Fulton Avenue, Valley Glen
(818) 778-5536

Untidy: The Worlds of Doug Harvey

by Carol Cheh

Doug Harvey, Out/In, 2000, Styrofoam. Collection of the artist. Photo by Paula Grigoryan.

Knowing him only as a writer and curator, Untidy: The Worlds of Doug Harvey was this reviewer's first exposure to the man's own artwork, visual and otherwise. Entering this exhibition was like diving into the primordial swamp of Harvey's inspiration; when all that raw goo isn't getting hammered, polished, and strained into the more presentation-oriented domains of criticism and exhibition organization, it apparently churns and festers in his studio in more unruly forms.

One could easily get lost for hours in this pointed overload of pop culture influence and output. In two particularly engrossing corners of the exhibition, small ghetto blasters were playing sounds composed by Mannlicher Carcano, an improvisational audio collage group of which Harvey is a member. Each machine emitted magical blends of noise, chimes, and what sounded like unholy vocal fragments from outer space -- perfect accompaniments to the surrounding visual feasts. Hanging by one of the machines was Landscape Portrait of Kato Kaelin, a spectacular orange canvas made out of Fun Fur yarn and pom-pom balls, topped off by a craggy, Anselm Kiefer-esque papier-m�ch� "landscape" fragment. Over the ghetto blaster in the other corner hung two white Styrofoam blobs representing the body outlines of slain Manson Family victims, suspended like candy clouds. On the wall next to it was a painting/drawing called In Heavy Rotation, a twisted-agitprop conjuring of the whirlpool forces of daily life -- sexual intercourse, industry, consumption.

The latter piece seemed particularly emblematic of Harvey's work. At once funny, compulsive, goofy, and sinister, Harvey takes numerous elements of art history, crafts, graphic design, popular culture, and everyday life, and places them all in constant heavy rotation. It is something to behold -- a site of spiraling creativity where you don't know what you're going to get next.