Our lives, like our dreams, have holes. Gaps of perception, gaps of memory and understanding. Everything we see, we see only in part. The act of living in a city—any city—involves our willingness to fill in these gaps: the construction of a narrative that places us at the center, or along the periphery, of something we nevertheless imagine as fundamentally complete. “Los Angeles” is different things to different people, but I am asked all the time what it is like to live here, as if my perception could be any more accurate than anyone else’s. All I can ever say is that I’m confounded by its distances. Places I imagine are twenty minutes away turn out to be twice that. I’ve lived here much of my life, but... my mind has a tendency to knit things far tighter than they are.
Lev Rukhin’s Dreamscapes does this kind of knitting too, only Rukhin works not just with space, but with time. The rusted-out sign of a gas station; the sleek suit of a dandy in patent leather shoes; the red blur of a double-decker bus: these images are at once dislocated and ideally contiguous.
We accept them as belonging to a single, delicious, pageant. If the matter of this show is only Angeleno in part—if Dreamscapes
is largely composed of rougher urban junk and desert foliage, and of the racing, primary colors of London—the mood is unmistakably so. In their playfulness, in their strangeness, in their mix of ludicrousness, lushness and languor, and in their rustling and relentless motion—Rukhin’s images are never still—Rukhin’s panels speak of Los Angeles as it is, which is not precisely how we see it.
I’ve lived here a long time. I see, in Dreamscapes, a debt—explicit in one of the panels’ titles—to David Hockney, but if Hockney saw the city in its 20th Century radiance, Rukhin sees it in its contemporary chaos, its startling, juxtapositive richness. I can stare at these pieces for hours and never cease to be startled by them. What they show feels brand new, but also, somehow, like it’s been here all along.