Los Angeles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am

What's going on around the globe

The Getty Centre in Los Angeles is experiencing a bout of jungle fever. Animals seem to be all the rage there and are the focus of two current exhibitions.

Although most of the crowd is making its way towards Oudry's Painted Menagerie, a lavish presentation of the works of French painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry, who died in 1755, I head in the opposite direction towards Zoopsia, a comparatively small exhibition by Los Angeles artist Tim Hawkinson.

Zoopsia, which runs until September 9, features all new works by Hawkinson, a 46-year- old native of San Francisco who has shown at the Venice Biennale, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and New York's Whitney Biennial.

He's known for using common household or even industrial materials in his works, often incorporating images of himself. Although that may sound like a challenging task when creating animal-related artworks, Hawkinson succeeds in this small but riveting show.

On entering the room where the five-piece exhibition is held, the eye is drawn to Octopus (above), a sprawling pink-and-black collage. Look closely and you'll see that the arms are made up of images of Hawkinson's mouth: in some, his lips are sealed; in others, pursed; in a few, he appears to be whistling. Against the sprawling baby-pink body of the creature, which is laid on a black backdrop, the effect is captivating.

In Bat, Hawkinson uses bits of plastic bags and twist ties to create an eerie creature suspended from the ceiling on invisible wires. The bags are from Radio Shack, a US electronics retailer. According to the exhibition notes, Hawkinson chose them because 'the sound waves that fuel Radio Shack revenues are vehicles of self-perception, the sonar with which a bat locates itself in relation to the world'.

Whatever that means, the creature is so lifelike it's creepy.

Ink and paper were used for Dragon, which has an elegant Asian vibe, with its swirling strokes and ornate detail on a papery backdrop attached to a pole. Although the work is rich, there's something rustic and ordinary in its presentation - a dichotomy with which Hawkinson is comfortable.

He returns to the bizarre with Leviathon, perhaps his most compelling work in the series. He uses Crayola Model Magic, steel and modelling clay to create what looks like a dinosaur's vertebrae from a distance - up close, it's a series of men working oars. Rendered in alabaster white, the sculpture is three metres long and is a marvel of dexterity and manual manipulation - those tiny Playdoh-like bodies, grasping oars that could be dinosaur bones, arranged in a perfect curve as if forming a spine.

Zoopsia doesn't end there: on entering and leaving the main Museum Hall, visitors are treated to Uberorgan, a vast construction of balloons and horns the size of trucks that are suspended from the ceiling and plays music every hour. The way the construction works, like a perfectly sculpted digestive tract, is a visual and auditory surprise.