Leaving Eden at Keystone Art Space – Art and Cake

Leaving Eden, Keystone Art Space, Photo Credit Betty Ann Brown

Leaving Eden

Keystone Art Space, Los Angeles
Through February 26, 2023

Paradise is a state of mind, where Mother Nature nurtures and man is kind.

The Beach Boys, Summer in Paradise

Written by Betty Ann Brown
“Leaving Eden” was longtime writer Genie Davis’s first foray into curating. The exhibition, at Keystone Art Space from February 11 to February 26, featured the work of two remarkable Los Angeles-based artists: Samuelle Richardson and Snezana Saraswati Petrovic. The Keystone Gallery is comprised of two parallel rooms and the artists took great advantage of the architectural bifurcation, configuring one space as lush and verdant, then contrasting that to an austere, blindingly white desert. The two rooms can be read as distinct eco-zones, the green density of a rain forest vs. the barren territory of desolate aridity.

The two aesthetic regions can also be read mythically, drawing on biblical references (the Garden of Eden) or other ancient Middle Eastern sources (the Sumerian Garden of the Gods). Such legendary accounts present fertile paradises as welcoming oases surrounded by threatening deserts. Both of these ancient gardens with ponds were enclosed and both contained Trees of Life.

For contemporary viewers, the fertile vs. barren artworks in the contrasting rooms of the exhibition resonate with concerns over climate change. Davis reminds us that today’s “environmental apocalypse” will make the entire planet as dry and lifeless as the deserts that surrounded Eden, and she has assembled artworks that embody such concerns. Petrovic’s skeletal remains in the “Desert Room” are composed of bioplastic, dried moss, white zip ties, and found objects. Such ghostly figures stand in potent opposition to the abundant exuberance of the plants in the “Rain Forest Room,” where florescent orange fish hover over a mirrored “pond.”

Samuelle Richardson’s unique interpretations of birds, lions, dogs, and humans populate Petrovic’s imagined landscapes. Two of Richardson’s lion heads (originally inspired by Etruscan sculptures seen while on an artist’s retreat in Rome) growl atop a whitewashed table. One is earthy, like a slab of clay. The other is composed of dotted fabric that is shredded around the jaw and ears to give the impression of a black mane. Richardson’s animals have a heavy physical presence, almost childlike in their gestures, and technical directness underscored by the visible stitches, rips, and roughened edges.

As a long-time curator, this writer applauds Davis’s selections. I would never have “seen” Richardson and Petrovic together. Yet the juxtaposition of their work creates remarkable contrasts, reminding viewers that all of us–all of the myriad species flourishing on this planet–are at risk by climate change. Let us heal Eden rather than leave her!