Brian Goeltzenleuchter has been collecting hotel notepads since the early 1990s. It’s his version of a vacation photograph—a way to save a memory of a place and time. At one point, he lightly rubbed a pencil across the surface of one of the notepads and discovered the imprint of text scrawled by past hotel guests.
“I realized that, with some of them, you can eavesdrop on conversations,” Goeltzenleuchter says.
To find an imprint is rare. Even rarer is finding something intriguing, but after years of the practice, Goeltzenleuchter’s managed to piece together Hotel Detective, an exhibition featuring more than 30 images from his collection. The show opens at Not an Exit Gallery inside Bread and Salt (1955 Julian Ave. in Logan Heights) from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, alongside other exhibition openings throughout the warehouse.
Uncovered messages include things like song lyrics—“Love the one you’re with”—or sayings like “Basking in Reflected Glory,” which refers to the psychological phenomenon of people who associate themselves with the success of others.
The series is different from what you’d expect from Goeltzenleuchter, a conceptual artist known more for his olfactory art (deeply researched custom fragrances) and performance pieces than for the more straightforward art in this exhibition. But Goeltzenleuchter, it turns out, has just as many trashy detective novels on his bookshelves as highfalutin art and olfaction books, so Hotel Detective is a natural outgrowth of his love of a good mystery.
“You can think about the kind of person who would stay in the hotel, and then you look at things like the penmanship—was it hastily written or clearly written?— and wonder about the meaning…. How do you interpret this artifact of information?”