I had about 20 minutes to get through the entire career of Allen Ruppersberg, but that’s all I needed to fall in love. His capacity to transport you in time and space is so effortless, and his point of view so full of joy and humor, that he redeems the whole of his generation in an instant. His work, a collection of what made the 60s and 70’s, the 60s and 70s: colorful bold work, unashamed at its difference, stands in direct contrast to the clean and boundaries modernism that came before. In seeing his work at a glance, I learned something important: that the point of being anti-establishment, is to show others, who feel the same way, that to which they actually belong.
With my toddler in tow, I ran through the exhibit – passing artifacts from mock restaurants, and slideshows from quickly mounted bohemian art hotels, and pages of posters and zine pamphlets, until I stool, aghast and in full admiration of “Lectures and Film Screenings” (1994); a recreation of a school hallway, made in the hallway alongside the main gallery, such that the two blend together and the exit of one real space is the same as the exit of the imaginary space. The three doors that line the hallway, which don’t open, blast recordings of lectures that might be playing in such a room, if you were to be in a school hallway in the time that Ruppersberg was a child. The half green halls, and the red linoleum tile are broad details that quickly say 50s, along with the black tiles at the side of the each door that announce the class that would be held inside, like, “Philosophy.”
So much is funny: the booming male voice that might be lecturing something “important,” is contrasted with the fact that you can’t get inside. You are in the hallway, maybe only with your ear to the door, or more likely on an extended pee break, wandering the halls with a pass, momentarily free of the confines of adult expectations, but still somewhat too small to take full advantage of the freedom. The hall, normal size, feels high and big and you can almost hear the squeak of a sneaker that could be your own. When have I last thought about the hallways of my elementary school and the feeling of being alone through the glossy and industrial space, and felt normal for doing so? Only in dreams.
Image: Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968–2018
Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 10–May 12, 2019. Photo: Jeff McLane