What's Happening: Play It As It Lays
Gallery Space presents
Play It As It Lays
A Tribute to Joan Didion
November 19 – December 12, 2010
The novel’s primary setting is Los Angeles, a city where the landscape is saturated with symbolic meaning. Through the lens of the motion picture industry and its attendant lifestyle, the world begins to look like an inextricable tangle of reality and surface. In fact, Didion’s portrayal of Hollywood and its minions — “the women with the silk Pucci shirts and the periodically tightened eye lines and the husbands on perpetual location,” as she describes them at one point — is so iconic and bone-close that, reading Play It As It Lays decades later, it seems more than a snapshot of California in the midst of cultural upheaval. It sketches out a mythic version for the city to live down, depicting a place where artifice is everywhere and empty pleasure abounds. For the paranoid — Maria is nothing if not paranoid — fear springs from the slippery, inestimable distance between the real and the terrifyingly plausible, the hard-headed fact of a rock and the apparition of a coiled serpent lying beneath it. But as she reminds us time and again, keeping her mind on what little she can be sure of, “there are only certain facts.”
This way of looking at the city of Los Angeles — surveying the facts, while keeping in mind that some greater, more unsettling truth may lurk beneath — is not particular to Maria or Didion. Since the 1960s, a tradition of Los Angeles-based artists has focused on the city, presenting “certain facts” of its landscape. Though these artists seem to assess the city like Maria — that is, with a passive and unquestioning gaze — the work itself operates like the rock in the second lesson: It insists on the irrefutable evidence of the visible, while deriving its affect from a sinister unseen which may or may not — but most likely does — exist just beneath the surface.
- Excerpt from essay for Play It As It Lays exhibition written by John Motley
Play It As It Lays is an exhibition in tribute to the eponymous novel and its author, Joan Didion. The following artists were invited to contribute work inspired by or in reaction to the book (and/or its 1972 filmic incarnation): Noah Davis, Kim Fisher, Malisa Humphrey, Richard Lidinsky, Nora Jean Petersen, PJ Risse, John Sisley, Natascha Snellman, Ann Trondson & Amy Yao.
Please join us Friday, November 19th from 7-9pm for the opening reception.