[July 5 2016]
The post-WWII era saw seen the eruption of the ‘Red Scare’, with the persecution of many of cinema’s most talented writers, actors and artists for their supposed communist sympathies. Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s H.U.A.C, and the the institution of an industry-wide Blacklist, effectively ended both promising and established careers from the late 1940s through the 1950s, forcing many to work under pseudonyms or in exile, if at all. The Hollywood Walk Of Fame (which lies literally outside the gallery) was trialled in 1958 and officially inaugurated in 1960, with an initial 1500 names inserted inside brass-and-stone stars into Hollywood Boulevard as both Pantheon and tourist attraction. Those to be given stars were decided by the conservative Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (when they omitted Charlie Chaplin, and his son sued.) Thus from the beginning, the award of a Hollywood Star was both a mark of outstanding, iconic success in the industry – and also of cooperation with the politics of the System.
‘Palinopsic’ is the scientific term to describe the after-effect of a bright light stimuli on the brain. In an act of clever subversion, Neidich virtually rights the heinous wrongs of the past with his ‘Afterimage Paintings’. Written out in glowing red neon, the names of infamously defiant ‘Hollywood Ten’ figures Dalton Trumbo, Alvah Bessie and Ring Lardner Jr temporarily sear themselves into the retina of the viewer. A glance to the side then superimposes these names in the position of honour on painted reproductions of classic Hollywood Stars, creating a glowing virtual sculpture in the viewer’s own minds’ eye of something that was denied to these men in their lifetimes due to fear and paranoia.
Neidich has also created a set of vitrines – lined with neon violet light – that display press from the era’s simultaneous ‘Lavender Scare’, entitled ‘The Archive of False Accusations.’ Specially selected from extensive research into LGBT archives in and around Los Angeles, the articles and clippings show in stark black-and-white how homosexuals in entertainment, government and education were targeted for harassment and subject to exclusionary policies. The defamatory headlines which scream for the arrest of ‘perverts’ are a shock to the modern eye, and a lesson that fascism in all its forms must be fought, scaremongering tactics must continually be conquered, as freedom of expression in any society is never guaranteed.
As an ongoing part of this body of work, Neidich plans a more permanent intervention into the city of Los Angeles. ‘Reimagining the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2016,’ aspires to install a black star engraved with the words ‘Hollywood Ten,’ into the most famous boulevard in the world. Says Neidich: “These individuals, except for one, do not have Hollywood Stars and are not included there. As a way to rewrite the wrongs of history, this work attempts to expand the idea of celebrity to include those who stood up for what they believed in, in spite of the consequences.”
On view until August 14th, 2016 at LACE, 6522 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles.
Photo Hannah Bhuiya