Douglas HueblerMay 2006
~Domestic, Los Angeles~
Douglas Huebler is best known for his pioneering photo/text contributions to Conceptual art, but this rewarding exhibition features underappreciated works from the artist’s later “Crocodile Tears” series, which began as a feature screenplay about an up-market art forgery ring before shape-shifting into a serial comic strip. Here, isolated pages of the screenplay and wry comic episodes (as original paste-ups or recurring Xeroxes) are juxtaposed with skillful oil-on-canvas knockoffs of Gauguin, Seurat, and de Chirico (painted by Huebler), as well as street photography extending from the artist’s infamous Variable Piece #70 project, 1971–, in which he attempted to “photographically document the existence of everyone alive.” Convoluted? Absolutely. Still, these pieces (dated from 1981 to 1996—a year before the artist’s death) are oddly compelling, darkly humorous, and pointedly critical of the art world in which Huebler operated. Crocodile Tears: The Great Corrector (Picasso I), 1996, centers on Little Eric Lord—“miles ahead of where Picasso was when he was twelve”—who establishes an academic career predicated on identifying and correcting the “mistakes” of the Masters; Crocodile Tears: The Signature Artist (Napoleon), 1990, features a suggestive dialogue bubble that reads, “I’m the one friend willing to tell the truth—like, you’ve become just one more art production line cranking out one ‘Richard Decker’ after another.” In a practice persistently obsessed with look-alikes and other equivalents, the fictitious Lord and Decker are clearly stand-ins for Huebler who, in these works, complicated the value of the artistic signature even as he extended his own trademark motifs in weird, unexpected directions.