Gary Lloyd: A Pre-Review

Today I yield space to my friend, the artist Gary Lloyd.  I have known Gary and followed his work for more than forty years.  It was an exhibition of his work in the early 1970s that originated my migration from poet to art writer.  His work has not been exhibited publicly for some time, and I’m happy to know that he’s re-emerging now with a major exhibit and performance at CSU Channel Islands.  You’ll find the press release below.  If you are in the area and are ready to be shocked, awed, challenged, confronted and, at times, tickled pink, put the March 13 performance in your datebook.

Gary’s work is unsparing in its steady gaze at the current situation of our species.  On the one hand he celebrates our intelligence, our ingenuity, our spectacular technological achievements; on the other, he laments the short-sightedness, greed and hunger for power that has brought us to the brink of self-extinction.  His work is complex, deploying the potential of an astonishing variety of media.  It is at times absurdist, deeply disturbing, and eventually, beyond its intentional didacticism, tragic in its vision of humanity.  It deserves–no, it demands–a far wider audience than it has to date received.  I plan to be there for the performance.  I hope you’ll join me.  If you can’t do that, at least make the effort to see this exhibition.

Here’s the press release:

Multimedia Climate Change and Surveillance Art Exhibition Visits CI

Performance art piece opens L.A. artist Gary Lloyd’s ‘They: An Answer Driving the Problem, Revisited,’ an interactive exhibition probing climate change and the impact of technology

A daring, dynamic and, at times, disturbing interactive art exhibition will visit the campus of CSU Channel Islands (CI) in March, as renowned Los Angeles multimedia artist, surveillance sculptor and scenic artist Gary Lloyd debuts They: An Answer Driving the Problem, Revisited at CI’s Napa Hall Gallery.  The free exhibition, a potent blend of paintings, props, sculptures and technology, opens to the public on Monday, March 10.

Lloyd will help launch the show on Thursday, March 13, with a one-hour performance art piece incorporating live performers riding skateboards, wearing technologically-altered “surveillance suits,” and wielding a money-laden bullwhip.  The action will play out against an orchestrated backdrop of technology, including digital projectors streaming live video from China, audio messages broadcast in three languages, touch screens, mobile devices, and FM and CB radio stations transmitting the comments of spectators, recorded surreptitiously through the artwork’s hidden microphones, cameras and transmitters.

The opening reception begins at 6 p.m., with the one-time performance starting at 7.

“Depending on what baggage viewers bring, they’ll either be shocked, engaged, off balance, tuned in, or all of the above,” the artist said.

Long recognized for his ingenuity as a pioneer in the strange medium of surveillance art and worldwide work as a film industry and commercial scenic painter, Lloyd’s newest exhibition revisits a theme he first explored in a similarly named Los Angeles show 35 years ago.  They: An Answer Driving the Problem, Revisited dissects the issues of climate change, man’s impact on the planet, and the interplay between time, technology and the transformation of the world, for better or worse.

“I wanted to utilize technology and streaming media to foster an exchange of ideas and perceptions about climate change with a live audience and the world outside the gallery,” Lloyd said. “Emerging miniaturization technology, the Internet, cell phones, social media, the 3D printer, robots and genomic discoveries will transform the world.  I hope to create continued awareness regarding climate change forces by providing elegant models of the choices humankind already has on hand.”

Upon arriving at the gallery, guests will be greeted by a large airplane wing-like structure, spinning slowly driven by a belt and pulley, solar-powered mechanical system.  The light-reflective 6×14-foot sculpture, “Alelle,” is made of plywood, plastic window screen, aluminum tubing, and silver reflective foil and refers to “the transformation of energy from the sun into electrical and mechanical energy, the building blocks of nature, and the basic elements we’re not respecting.”

Other highlights include “Micromextechdeafa sic,” a gape-mouthed golden skull covered in Mexican centavos.  Like other pieces in the exhibition, the surveillance sculpture is rigged with microphones to capture the comments of spectators and transmit them via pirate and FM radio to listeners within range.  Speakers will be set up around the gallery and throughout campus, allowing listeners to eavesdrop on the comments and conversations Lloyd’s artwork evokes.

“You have to take responsibility for what you say in front of these paintings and sculptures,” Lloyd said.  “The work becomes a vehicle, a vessel, a facilitator for some kind of social interaction.”

“Defense Spending” is a giant red, marbled slab of irradiated meat, shaped into an axe.  The sculpture is represented in a photograph on the gallery’s wall only; the actual work is stored at UCLA in a radiation storage facility because it’s too radioactive to be exhibited.

Expanding on his 1978 exhibition of the same name, Lloyd has updated his work by incorporating almost every form of modern communication technology so that people can participate in real time from all over the world.  The artwork and its observers will be broadcast to various devices in the gallery, campus, and around the world via radio, streaming video, and social media.

Lloyd’s exhibition at CI serves as a premiere of a larger installation he hopes to bring to LACMA.  He’ll find out by April if his proposal will receive grant support and exhibition space through LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab Program.

At 70 years old, Lloyd remains an energetic and productive force in the art scene.  An alumnus, former faculty member and chair of the sculpture departments at the Otis Art Institute and UCLA, Lloyd grew up in the foothills of La Crescenta, where he developed a keen appreciation for ecology.  After serving as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam, he was influenced to depict the imagery of war in flying pieces of meat and surveillance sculptures.  Over the past two decades, Lloyd has focused on work as a scenic artist and owner of Sky Drops Inc., where he provides painted sky scenes and backdrops for the film industry, casinos, hotels, convention centers and other large public and commercial spaces worldwide.  He continued to advance his personal works during that period in his vast studio.  He sees his newest exhibition as an opportunity to engage the public in the most critical discussion of our time.

“Climate change and global warming are all a byproduct of the emerging industrial world acting on the biosphere.  It affects us all,” he said.  “My work investigates ways we can use all forms of media to engage this problem that must be solved in our time.”

Lloyd’s show runs through April 1 in The Napa Hall Art Gallery, the University’s premier art exhibition venue, located on Ventura Street on the CI campus.  Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For additional information, contact the CI Art Program at 805-437-2772, email, or visit  To learn more about Gary Lloyd, visit, or contact him at or 818-633-2639.