In droll collages and low-budget videos produced mostly in the 1970s and ’80s, and recently on view at Andrea Rosen, Ilene Segalove reflects on her Beverly Hills childhood. As presented here, her early years were shaped by a proximity to Hollywood and an emphasis on glamour, materialism and celebrity. This mini- retrospective mined her memories with a blend of nostalgia and irony toward the social, sexual and religious conventions of what now feels like a vanished world.
Unlike viewers who observed the fictive realm of television and movies only on screen, Segalove felt herself just on the edge of the magic kingdom. As she notes in one 7-minute video, Five True Stories (1980), the 1967 film The Graduate will always be less a movie to her than a replay of the summer she spent in her front yard as a teenager, watching the film being made across the street and flirting with Dustin Hoffman’s stand-in. Segalove intones a deadpan voiceover as the camera pans over those now empty yards. Or, to take the name of another work, IF YOU LIVE NEAR HOLLYWOOD, YOU CAN’T HELP BUT LOOK LIKE SOME 8 X 10 GLOSSY (1976). Among this group of gelatin silver prints on masonite, she includes a restaged still (included as an 8-by-10 print) from the 1957 drama The Violators, featuring Irene Blackburn pouring a coffee for Arthur O’Connell. Segalove replaces the original actors and set with her parents in their home. We shift away from the movies with the 11-minute video Why I Got Into TV and Other Stories (1983). One of these narratives focuses on a vintage television set broadcasting news of early-’60s political and social upheavals. The voiceover suggests that these penetrated her consciousness primarily as rivals for her father’s attention.
The show traces the evolution of a media-saturated sensibility. It’s a story we have heard before, in the work of Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and others. In tone and format, Segalove’s art also evokes the deadpan media-based conceptualism of John Baldessari, who taught at Cal Arts during Segalove’s time as a student there. But her less well-known work offers a personal twist, conjuring her own very specific upper-middle-class, Jewish, Southern California milieu.
In the end, there is a touch of pathos in the show’s evocation of the hermetically sealed world demarcated by a privileged adolescence. The older Segalove, reflecting on her past, seems trapped in a reality show of her own making. In the press release, Dean Valentine, the show’s curator, posits the artist as a spokesperson for the bygone TV era. In fact, the self-absorption of this work seems more akin to the solipsism of the Facebook age. In this Segalove seems surprisingly and alarmingly prescient.
Photo: Ilene Segalove: IF YOU LIVE NEAR HOLLYWOOD, YOU CAN’T HELP BUT LOOK LIKE SOME 8 X 10 GLOSSY, 1976, gelatin silver prints on masonite; at Andrea Rosen.