Movie crazy

Los Angeles takes its toll on Joe Sola's psyche

In Joe Sola's reality-art run amok, the Los Angeles artist has made videos about riding on roller coasters with male porn stars. He has videotaped an entire Midwestern high school football team tackling him (and paid the price by gimping around with a cane for a month afterward).

In a video called "Studio Visit," Sola startles the curators who have shown up at his studio by leaping through a window all "Hawaii Five-O" and shit, leaving broken glass and gaping jaws in his wake. Sola even trained with a Hollywood stunt man and learned the technicalities of breakaway glass to get it right.

"Jumping out the window was really a way for me to bring cinema into the very real," says Sola, speaking by phone from the bosom of all things sham and spectacle, L.A.

Sola is a conceptual art "Jackass" and deliciously inspired provocateur obsessed with action films and masculinity who says of his cinematic inspirations, "I can't imagine artists making any other kind of art! Because I think cinema is so dominant."

Sola will bring his media-age fixations to the Atlanta College of Art Gallery on Jan. 26, 5-8 p.m., for a one-night only performance of "Male Fashion Models Make Conceptual Art." That performance is part of a larger exhibition featuring Sola's video pieces and watercolors in the first survey of the artist's work, Joe Sola: Taking a Bullet.

Performed for only the second time in his career, Sola's "Male Fashion Models Make Conceptual Art," features a bevy of hotties from Atlanta's Elite agency "rented" for the evening and given an array of materials — paint, wood, tinfoil, gorgeousness — and allowed to create until their muse — and materials — dry up.

Despite the sense that Sola's video work rubbernecks on worlds more conventional than his own, the artist grew up macho and "regular" enough. He was a high school jock who played football and lacrosse and wrote for a humor magazine at the University of Michigan.

But things began to change for Sola when he moved as a postgrad to Brooklyn. There he created a community access television show in which he performed mundane activities like vacuuming and doing the dishes that got him thinking more deeply about movies and what they offer viewers.

And in 1995 he caught artist Mike Kelley's Catholic Tastes exhibition at New York's Whitney Museum featuring crocheted bedspreads and "little stuffed animal robots talking back and forth to one another in little robot voices."

"I had no idea that art could be something like that," he says. That show, says Sola, "totally rocked my world."

Sola eventually migrated to California's Otis College of Art and Design. In the fine arts he found a venue where anything he wanted to could be art. He also found a place where he could work out his movie obsessions and call it art.

In a 2001 video piece called "Gogogo," Sola edited together all of the moments in '90s action films where characters shriek the word "go." In "Climaxes 1966-2001" he strung together a fireball orgasm of disaster film explosions from the past five decades.

"I'm trying to negotiate between these images that you see in the media, particularly popular cinema, and [figure out] what's my own relationship to those images."

Whether studying the clichés and conventions of the movie world, or starring in his own "action films," Sola plays out a common human urge, a desire he says "to be a part of that screen world." And as much pleasure as Sola gets mucking around in other people's reality by hanging out with porn stars and stunt men, some of his participants also learn about Sola's conceptual art world.

"That's what makes it so exciting for me in so many ways, is because it does begin to collapse those two worlds a little bit, between the popular and the high, the highly trained contemporary artists versus the untrained artists."

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