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Begun in the 1990’s after the fall of the Soviet Union as a response to the intellectual elite’s attempt to dominate the art world of Estonia and Eastern Europe, NON GRATA’s spontaneous group of artists - constantly evolving and interchangeable in it’s national membership - landed at Jason Vass Gallery in Los Angeles last week with another crazy, undefinable, chaosdriven fun zone. 

 

For those open to it, it’s a no holds barred, costume-driven performance in the round that often involves audience participation of some sort. The performers can sometimes be partially nude, use fire, spray paint, music and voice to create happenings, as they used to be called, each performance unique unto itself.

 

Given the group’s diversity, beginning their nationwide US tour in LA is appropriate, given 140 languages are spoken here and with good reason many feel LA is now the capitol of culture – worldwide. Certainly there are more Estonians in Los Angeles than anywhere on the West Coast of the U.S., which makes it doubly important.

 

IMG 9981 158 x 105 copy

 

The large gallery downtown hosted their performances along with art on the walls. Traditional woodcuts prints feature imaginative, sometimes unsettling commentary by renowned Estonian artists Peeter Allik and Toomas Kuusing, alongside panoramic artworks by Anonymous Bot and Devil Girl. These are collaged with spray paint stenciled depictions of monsters, faces, molotov cocktail diagrams next to photographs - sometimes of moments from the performances - that illustrate or run counter to adjacent images. Nearby is a wall full of the “10 Commandments” a group of “Survival Rules” rendered on large scrawl on black and white photographs by Anonymous Bot, and similar printed color works by Wild Torus. Both these groups use phrases such as “They Give Us the Wrong Drugs”, “Do Not Expect to be Invited Back” and “Do Not Whine, Change it”. On this tour, found/wild soundscapes were created by Joey Sledge.

 

Devil Girl Non Grata

 

Have I mentioned that this is not a traditional art exhibition? During a conversation we had just today, original members, Al Poldrok (Anonymous Boh) and Taje Tross (Devil Girl), speak with an easy going approach, which at first glance runs perhaps counter to their work. As they say their work is not harmful or scary, dangerous or rude.

 

It’s perhaps not for the conservative or faint of heart. Al says, “…Non Grata was created for one purpose, [to be] a counterbalance to the bendover attitude of the art world… ”It’s simply honest, and isn’t afraid to be that way. To each his own, they seem to say, take it or leave it. To this reviewer, it’s outrageous fun.

 

The fact that they’ve been together 10 years, are known around the world for their work, and constantly creating new, thought provoking performances and exhibition tours is testament to the impact of NON GRATA. They will perform in several states on their drive across heartland U.S. to yet another Art Basel in Miami, then perform up the East Coast to finish up the tour in December in the Big Apple. 

 

Bravo, NON GRATA. You’re welcome back anytime.

 

Official website: http://www.nongrata.ee

 

Performance videos in Youtube: 

https://bit.ly/2Qwappk

https://bit.ly/2PafaQI

 

Juri Koll

Juri Koll is the Director of the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art located in Los Angeles. He is on the Board of the EANC, and serves as the Chair of the Culture & Heritage Committee

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