What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

March 19, 2020

Hannah Epstein
Making Bets In A Burning House
Steve Turner Los Angeles
February 15 - March 28, 2020

Hannah Epstein

Hannah Epstein has a knack for transforming spaces. In her 2019 exhibition at Steve Turner, Do You Want A Free Trip To Outer Space? she filled the darkened gallery with animations and spot-lit hooked rugs depicting the adventures of her comic book hero Superchill. For this installation she also combines the tactile and the digital. Making Bets In A Burning House, occupies two of the gallery's smaller back rooms.

In one, she wallpapers an image of white bricks onto the wall and carpets floor with a fiery pattern of bubbling lava. Large and small-scale hooked rugs cover these faux-brick-walls, creating a melange of animal and human forms. The works are humorous and slightly crude. In Like a dragon unfurled its wings, (2019), a suggestive green dragon with breasts and high heels, spews red and orange flames. Hot Girl Summer, (2019) is a scantily clad woman with bright red lips and and long blond hair— a sly twist on the imagery that might appeal to those who frequent video game dungeons. More that fifteen works adorn the walls and floor of this small space presenting the viewer a curious cast of characters.

In the second room, Epstein projects digitized versions of her characters and presents them as polyfilled objects. In the center of the room is a circular green rug on which sits a single cell phone, three red cushions, a mangled black legless chair, as well as the floppy sculpture Soft Worm, (2019). Although Epstein creates an environment for the viewer to sit and relax, it is not that inviting. This digital fun house is ambiguous, slightly menacing and seems worlds apart from the implied innocence of the hand-made works in the other room. The viewer is at first captivated by the flickering animations, then drawn to a large flatscreen monitor that depicts the goings on in the first room from a hidden camera. The ah-ha moment… the work is about surveillance. While the relationship between the two rooms is ambiguous, the installation illustrates the scope of Epstein's interests. She is an artist who clearly is able to create compelling works that are simultaneously highly technical as well as folksy and hand-crafted.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in VAS on March 6, 2020