"Visions of Transcendence" in Culver City

Léonid Nedov, ITK-2, Tiraspol, 1961. Archive of Modern Conflict

The Wende Museum's "Visions of Transcendence: Creating Space in East and West" juxtaposes the visual art of Cold War political prisoners with that of the incarcerated and unhoused of contemporary California. It's a fascinatingly heterogenous group. Near the entrance is an extraordinary set of works by sculptor Léonid Nedov. Imprisoned by the Soviet Union from 1957 to 1964, Nedov produced a series of grisaille pictures of gulag life, both caricatural and terrifying, on repurposed enamel dishware. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (represented in an enamel portrait) championed Nedov's cause, leading to his 1964 release.

Léonid Nedov, ITK-2, Tiraspol, 1961. Archive of Modern Conflict
Installation view, "Visions of Transcendence: Creating Space in East and West"
Sandow Birk, Pelican Bay State Prison—Crescent City, CA, 2001. Courtesy of the artist and Bill Nichols
A painting from Sandow Birk's series on California prisons sets off the West Coast part of the show. Chilly shadows fall over Hockneyesque sprinklers and obelisk-towers.
Christian Branscombe, Count Time, 2016. Courtesy of Prison Arts Collective
Birk adopts a romantic mode, while Christian Branscombe offers a Precisionist view of the California State Prison at Lancaster. Says the artist, prison life "slowly dismantles one's reality."
Omid Mokri, Come Fill the Cup (Omar Khayyam), 2005. Courtesy of the artist and Huma House
Omid Mokri's curriculum vitae includes art school and the California prison system. He sketched fellow prisoners on envelopes until San Quentin's COVID outbreak became his get-out-of-jail card. Mokri's Come Fill the Cup (Omar Khayyam) is an outsized homage to Persian miniatures and the poet of the Rubiayat

After finding a discarded mirror, Bumdog Torres began taking selfies in found mirrors and posting them online for a growing following. Creating memes rather than objects, he bypassed gallery representation and a fixed place of residence. Said Torres: "Most of the mirrors I found in the alleys and streets were broken and consequently put into the trash. The symbolism of my reflection in these broken, useless, discarded mirrors didn't escape me."

"Visions of Transcendence: Creating Space in East and West" continues through Apr. 7, 2024.
Bumdog Torres, Self-Portrait in Mini Cooper, #findthebumdog, no date. Courtesy of the artist