Mark Brandvik guides viewers through a Vast new world in ‘Volume Control’

A view from the floor at a portion of Mark Brandvik’s Volume Control.
Photo: Yasmina Chavez
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Four and a half stars

Volume Control Through May 10, call for hours. Vast Space Projects, 727 Susanna Way, 323-240-2888.

Wait ... Give the eyes a sec or two to adjust. Volume Control by Mark Brandvik fills the 5,000-square-foot Vast Space Projects warehouse with an intimate, grainy darkness. A handful of softly lit sculptures nestles there—strange, enigmatic works at odds with their subject matter: hanging stars, a toy rocket launching from cotton batting, a baby Christmas tree seated in a golf cart. With their theatrical presentation and tongue-in-cheek humor, the sculptures seem at first like outtakes from a David Lynch film, or hyperrealist updates by an impish Marcel Duchamp.

‘Volume Control’ Exhibit at VAST

Consider, for example, “Bernini,” a 7.5-foot-tall plywood sculpture that functions like a lantern, its interior light projecting faux windowpanes upon the concrete floor. The work riffs on Bernini’s famous “Baldachin” inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but the structure looks more like a telephone booth than an altar. Is it a direct line to God? A 3D prop from an Edward Hopper painting? A confessional? Near “Bernini” perches a 3-foot plywood rendition of the dopey fish sign from Davy’s Locker on Desert Inn Road. The fish seems to laugh off its Christian allusion and swims its way into the dark, but not too far.

The booth and the fish are sculptural extensions of Brandvik’s painting “Davy’s Locker” (2012), hung in the warehouse office and featuring a red British telephone booth alongside the fish logos. The comic incongruity of the icons—British utility and dive-bar fish—recalls the uncanny juxtapositions deployed by the Dadaists to protest WWI. The symbols also pop up in Brandvik’s “Volume Control (after Iwo Jima)” diorama, where the telephone/confessional booth acts like a human avatar, witnessing a model car pileup of toys from Brandvik’s childhood. In imitation of the “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photograph, the Davy’s Locker fish flag claims the territory, rising on top of the wreckage of consumer culture.

The highly personal quality of Volume Control grows as sculptural objects unfold into narrative. The exhibition layout culminates in “Ferdinand,” in which a toy train speeds around a tiny track lodged in the interior of the carcass of a 1967 Porsche 912. Viewers turn into voyeurs the minute the whirring engine and interior light tempt them to lean over and look inside. That’s when the elusive, furtive quality of the exposition transforms into genius. Volume Control is a compelling glimpse into the private recesses of the artist’s mind, where enduring loops of memory blur into the marvels of dream.

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