Los Angeles is one big pop-up. There’s Kim K. West’s beauty shop at Westfield Century City, Dean Baldwin’s restaurant One Top, and even a gallery or two—one of which, Gas, is housed in a truck. The space’s current exhibition examines another Angeleno preoccupation, self-care, by calling on nine artists to reassess a claim once made by Audre Lorde. Is self-care a radical, political act?
Not quite, says Amanda Vincelli, whose REGIMEN, 2015–17, documents the drug routines of adult women chained to big pharma for their medical needs. Nor for Darya Diamond, whose emergency call buttons challenge the distinction between the luxury and the urgency of wellness. Jules Gimbrone's and Young Joon Kwak’s sculptures surveil bodies through cosmetic residues, while Ian James’s image of a woman wearing a gold face mask attests to the blind faith put into beauty rituals. Is this a response to national anxiety? Post-election news headlines suggest yes: An article in the Washington Post offered “Self-care tips for those who are terrified of Trump’s presidency.”
Though it may provide short-term relief, self-care is not a catch-all solution. Maybe we need non-quantifiable alternatives to the data-driven Fitbits and health apps that appear to offer immediate improvements; perhaps healing soundscapes like C. Lavender’s Sagittal Plane Interference, 2018, afford greater solace. Take a deep breath and— Oh heal me pls! cries Hayley Barker’s drawing, in a spectrum of pinks and yellows. It’s a hypochondriac’s plea to which the disparate works respond with an equally untenable suggestion: Better to log off, lie low, and steer clear of public panic. The collective ailment, so it seems, is the relentless allure of short-lived trends.