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How many lives does an object have? Sam Falls’ current self-titled solo show at LAXART poses this question by exploring the ontology of a set of wind chimes. The multiple phases of their existence, from raw materials and assembly, to finished product and beyond, suggest that an object remains in a constant process of flux and formation, resonating as both material and as lived experience.
On display in the gallery hangs a series of eight wind chimes that Falls has constructed of wood, steel, and copper, and placed in various national forests and parks around California for a period of eight months. Naturally, each chime is weathered, and each chime exudes slightly different colors and qualities than the next: some are rusted, some are lustrous, and some have strange markings or tonalities. These are visual indicators of their time in distinct habitats, having each been affected by unique weather patterns and other unknown forces.
By contrast, along the walls are stark photographic images of the hanging metal bars that formed the chimes, enhanced by painted strokes that echo the material’s simple, linear forms. The purity of these two-dimensional images remind us that the material that formed these wind chimes is connected to, but of a different life. They signify the imaginative and physical processes needed to get from A to B, from material to form, from metal tube to wind chime.
To go from B to C, wind chime to weathered wind chime, however, postulates that objects have an afterlife or two, in which their prior states of being are pushed to the side by natural or social forces. Indeed, this is evident in each chime’s “battle scars” of its time in the wild. It is also evident, ironically, that the chimes have now taken on a new life as objects of public scrutiny, and potentially yet another life after that, as objects of legacy.
The chimes in the gallery are silent and still, which makes one forget that wind chimes have the potential (and purpose) to sing if the conditions are right. A billboard by Falls, located not far from the gallery at a busy intersection on La Cienega Boulevard, fills in this part of the story by depicting one of the chimes in its forest habitat. The image offers a peephole into a wildly different environment from the mundane urban traffic, challenging anyone engaging with the project to relate to the wind chimes vis-à-vis her own circumstances. It asks the viewer to imagine the object reverberating unseen in the wind, and thereby imagine a private life vis-à-vis its public one.
A final component of the LAXART show is a public sculpture in Plummer Park in West Hollywood composed of brightly colored aluminum panels. The panels have been coated with a UV powder that will have the effect of fading the colors over time spent in the sun. The piece has no apparent relation to the windchime project, but it has the same effect, demonstrating that an object will change with nature, and with that, take on a life of its own.