What's on Los Angeles | Index

Pick of the Week

by Jody Zellen

Every Saturday I chart a path from the West to the East side of Los Angeles to look at art. I see anywhere between 5 and 30 exhibitions, posting an image from each show on Instagram (jzother). These journeys are research for future reviews that I often pitch to different publications. Though I pitch numerous shows to write about, some of my suggestions are a go while others I'd like to review remain uncovered.

Starting in July, 2018, I will post my pick of the week, based on what was memorable from my recent outings. Of course you can also find my reviews in
Artillery, Art Now Los Angeles and Art and Cake.

Click on the dates below to read my weekly picks.

October 17, 2019

Nathaniel Mary Quinn
Hollow and Cut
Gagosian Gallery
September 11 - October 19, 2019

Nathaniel Mary Quinn

At first glance and from afar, Nathaniel Mary Quinn's imagery appears to be photo-collage, but upon close viewing the works are actually painted. What immediately comes to mind is the work of Francis Bacon, Romaire Bearden, Deborah Roberts and the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse. Quinn divides many of his images into sections and juxtaposes elements from multiple sources to create composite faces comprised of contorted and uncanny features. The works are unsettling and seductive simultaneously. Quinn uses magazine clippings he has collected as well as pictures of friends and easily combines them at different scales in the final compositions. In addition to juxtaposing different types of imagery, he also combines materials including oil paint, oil stick, gouache, charcoal and pastel.

In his first exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, Quinn presents works on paper, as well as canvases ranging in scale from the intimate to the monumental. Among the largest is Vaseline, (all works 2019) a vertical diptych 96 inches tall that divides the canvas into uneven thirds. In the bottom portion of the composition, non-human feet emerge from the bottom of dark colored wide-leg pants. The middle third is the smallest section and spans the diptychs divide. Here, Quinn depicts the next body part — the upper-thighs— one leg in red pants, the other purple. At the very top of this section are what appear to be grotesque hands that hang down from a jacketed upper body in the top third of the image. Against a maudlin, tan colored background sits a head whose neck and shoulders are covered by an oversized black dressy collar. The figure's face is an amalgamation of lips, ears and nose that resemble the discolored and distorted face of 'Howdy Doody.' In addition to Vaseline, Farewell, C'mo' And Walk With Me and Above and Below are also comprised of collaged body parts, while the many other works are more traditional three-quarter portraits.

Hiding in Plain Discomfort is hard to look at. The male figure is a melange of textures and colors that cohere as a distorted face. A single dark piercing eye stares out at the viewer. Next to the eye is an oversized nose rendered in charcoal surrounded by skin-toned fragments that appear to have been cut and collaged from myriad sources. A halo of short black-brown hair surrounds the fractured forehead. Fragmented swirls of color combine in a Francis Bacon-esque application of paint to suggest the rest of the facial features. It is as hard to look away as it is to make out what or who is being depicted.

While the depiction of ethnicity and/or race are present in this work, they are not foregrounded. Quinn has remarked that he puts his images together intuitively, creating compositions based on balance, form and color. He creates psychological portraits that put forth the inner personality of his subjects as a combination of perception and memory. Quinn's difficult early life echoes through his work as he skillfully combines a patchwork of body parts— often violently cut and combined in an aggressive manner, evoking an emotional response from his viewers. There is a powerful resolve to the work. It is confident, not hesitant in any way and celebrates Quinn's command of his chosen mediums. Yet, it is also schizophrenic: each portrait displays multiple personalities, as in Jekyll and Hyde. Here, Quinn divides the composition in two, emphasizing the dual nature of the character. The schisms within the work are evocative, inviting the viewer to imagine the motivations behind the manipulations. While the who might only be known to Quinn, he has created a body of work that speaks directly to these troubled times and the internal and external uncertainties facing all of us.

Note: This review was first published in Arillery Gallery Rounds, October 9, 2019.

Click here for Nathaniel Mary Quinn review on its own page.

October 10, 2019

Moffat Takadiwa
Son of the Soil
Nicodim Gallery
September 7 - October 19, 2019

Moffat Takadiwa

Moffat Takadiwa mines Zimbabwe’s landfills for materials. These landfills contain boundless amounts of plastic trash which Takadiwa collects, cleans, sorts and then uses in the creation of his magnificent assemblages. Prominent in his woven wall-based works are bottle tops, toothbrush bristles and keyboard keys in a wide assortment of shapes and colors. The works engage with issues of cultural identity and the environment while calling attention to the proliferation of plastic waste from America and other countries that ends up in landfills worldwide. Although Takadiwa’s works appear as expansive abstractions, they take their point of departure from traditional Zimbabwean textiles and he acknowledges this rich history and legacy as inspiration in the creation of his works.

The titles of Takadiwa’s works reference the African landscape as well as the source of the detritus. For example, The Space Bar, (all works 2019) alludes to the key on the computer that is larger than the others and is not identified with a letter. When pressed, it enters a blank space. Within the 118 x 106 inch work, Takadiwa strings together different length pieces of space bars to create columns while also composing circles of nonsense language using the disparate letters pried from a range of types and colors of computer keyboards. The massive plastic tapestry is bordered by strips of blue-toned bristles from the tops of used toothbrushes. The finished works are never contained as their ragged edges dangle to the floor. It is surprising how intricate and beautiful this entanglement of forms becomes. The relationship between the circles and the rows is a metaphor for order and disorder.

The works are like quasi-landscapes that map unidentified territories. Green bottle nozzles intertwine with black keys in The Occupation of Land, suggesting pathways through the environment. In Land of Coca-Cola and Colgate, Takadiwa is more direct. Rolled Colgate toothpaste tubes suggesting the shape of a white robe are centered in the composition. It is flanked by red and green bottle-tops, many of which are labeled Coca-Cola. The varying thicknesses and textures of strung together objects creates an uneven surface from which a human shape appears to emerge and hover.

Without a doubt, Takadiwa’s process is time-consuming as each finished piece contains thousands of plastic parts. He obsessively trolls through landfills collecting these discarded elements, then sorts through and organizes them by type and color for future use. Takadiwa rarely anthropomorphizes his clusters of shapes, rather the human presence is evoked through the materials and the volume of waste generated, as if to say, I am making a collective portrait without defining an individual. The impact of Takadiwa’s forms is undeniable. The pieces resonate visually as well as conceptually as they are rooted in Zimbabwean history and hardship, but they also celebrate the possibilities of making something lasting and positive out of the ever-growing mass of global waste.

Note: This review was first published in Arillery Gallery Rounds, October 2, 2019.

Click here for Moffat Takadiwa review on its own page.

October 3, 2019

Charles Gaines
Palm Trees and Other Works
Hauser & Wirth
September 14, 2019 - January 5, 2020

Charles Gaines

Since the early 1970s, Charles Gaines has been making serial artworks in which he carefully maps aspects of nature, transforming living forms like trees into a succession of marks or numbers, that occupy a specific place and/or color within a grid. Known as Gridworks, these pieces are often presented in sequences that track changes, like growth patterns or fallen leaves. Gaines' entry into the use of systems was a way for him to understand the world around him and interrogate the relationship between the object and our subjective understanding of it. He states, "I wish to use art as a tool for investigation… I am able to apply a logical sequence (system) to a single thing and thus dismantle it." Integral to his process is both the dismantling —reducing "things" to their essential elements— and their reassembling. Gaines uses rigorous algorithms to create simultaneously aesthetic and computational objects.

In Palm Trees and Other Works, his first exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, he has created a new series of Gridworks. The ten pieces that comprise Numbers and Trees: Palm Canyon, Palm Trees Series 2, (2019) begin with black and white photographs. Each work has a background layer: a photograph of palm trees shot on location in Palm Canyon (an Indian Reservation and park near Palm Springs, CA). Gaines assembles the photographs into large clear acrylic boxes that are approximately 109 x 57 x 5 inches. The face of the boxes are inscribed with a grid and each square is assigned a number and a letter. The shape of the tree in the background is carefully copied, one square at a time, using a brush full of acrylic paint. The application of paint is instantaneous and this causes variations in tonalities across the composition, something Gaines accepts and does not try to control. As the series progresses, he adds another and then another tree to the system, each one painted in a different color, eventually arriving at a complexly layered composition of colored trees, superimposed over the final tree. Within Gaines' system, the trees become elements within a grid, a set of plotted points, the photographic referent loosing all of its resonance and specificity despite the fact that the works are titled after Native American tribes or places in the Mojave Desert. (Cahuilla, Cupeno, Lusieno, Kumeyaay, Quechan, Chemehuevi, Mission, Fort Mojave, Kawaiisu,Tubatulabal)

While on some levels Gaines is a die-hard conceptualist whose objective works are derived from algorithms, he is also a theorist with social, environmental and historical concerns who makes pieces about the structure of language. Often, the Gridworks are shown in conjunction with works using language. Manifestos 3, (2018), consists of two large-scale graphite drawings and a single channel video with sound. For Manifestos 3, Gaines selected two essays, one by James Baldwin, the other by Martin Luther King to translate into musical notes, mapping the letters of the alphabet used in musical notation (A-G). Each time the letters A-G appear in the text, they are marked by their accompanying musical note as seen in the graphite drawings. The other letters become silent beats in the score. The written score is recorded and the music produced is played while the monitor scrolls through the text.

As in all of Gaines' pieces, there is a rigor and specificity to his investigations. The works use displacement to see one "thing" through another. Trees become numbered squares. Political texts (manifestos) become musical scores. Gaines steps back. He allows objective processes to evoke subjective responses that resonate beyond the formal building blocks of their making.

Click here for Charles Gaines review on its own page.

September 26, 2019

Tammi Campbell
Boring Art
Anat Ebgi
September 7 - October 26, 2019

Tammi Campbell

I have always been drawn to art about art. I am continually intrigued by the question, "Why do artists remake works by other artists?" I have contemplated appropriationist strategies and the motivations of artists like Sherrie Levine, Richard Pettibon, Sturtevant, Deborah Kass and Yasumasu Morimura, as well as Rachel Lachowicz. Levine re-photographed iconic black and white photographs by Walker Evans, Rodchenko, Van Gogh, Man Ray and others. These works became her own through the act of re-photographing and re-presentation. Pettibon created small-scale reproductions of works by his contemporaries like Frank Stella, Roy Lichenstein and Andy Warhol. Kass’ paintings use the form and format of iconic male artists, replacing the subject with women. Lachowicz has remade minimalist sculptures in materials such as eye shadow and red lipstick.

To my mind, an artist who remakes the work of another is at first paying homage, while simultaneously engaging in an act of transformation and reinterpretation. In her first Los Angeles exhibition, Canadian artist Tammi Campbell uses works by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Josef Albers, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari as a point of departure. Entitled Boring Art, in reference to Baldessari’s seminal conceptual 1971 artwork, I Will Not Make Boring Art, Campbell painstakingly recreates iconic pieces by these artists. While the paintings are faithful reproductions, she alters how they are presented and viewed, as many are surrounded in plastic or bubble wrap.

Rather than celebrate the work of these male artists, she presents them as relics, ready for, or recently removed from storage. The exhibition at first seems like a one-liner about appropriation, yet there is more going on than re-creation. The bubble wrap, plastic, cardboard and tape have been carefully crafted from acrylic paint in the trompe l'oil style and are not "the real thing." Upon this realization, the works become as much about Campbell’s process and technique as they are about the simulacra.

As objects, Campbell’s paintings are to-scale replicas of works that have specific references to colorfield painting/theory and conceptual/text-based art. She has chosen to remake a red and blue example from Ellsworth Kelly’s curved monochrome series, three of Josef Alber’s works entitled Homage to the Square and a large work from Frank Stella’s protractor series: paintings derived from the semi-circular shapes of protractors, where each band is painted a bright color. Damascus Gate, masked, at first glance appears to be a faithful reproduction of Frank Stella’s painting Damascus Gate (1969-1970). Rather than simply recreate the Stella painting, Campbell imagines it in process. Sections of the work are presented with pieces of masking tape still adhered to the raw canvas. Campbell, however, is not using actual tape but has painted a trompe l'oeil simulation.

In the 1960s, John Baldessari was interested in removing the artist’s hand from his work. In his 1966-68 painting, Quality Material, he appropriated text from instructional guides and art history books and hired sign painters to do the lettering on his canvases. Campbell reverses Baldessari’s process by recreating the work by hand. Her work would be seen as a painting rather than a conceptual artwork, except for the fact that she depicts the work with cardboard corners and plastic wrap, alluding to the idea that this work has been removed from display. Another work on view, a pastel on paper from 1976 by Ed Rusha reads, Another Hollywood Dream Bubble Popped. Perhaps it is Campbell’s intention to create illusions and literally pop bubbles. Rather than celebrate the work of these male artists, she presents them as relics –  in faux bubble wrap – ready for or recently removed from storage as if to say, "I can do what you do, but in my own unique way."

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, September 25, 2019.

Click here for Tammi Campbell review on its own page.

September 19, 2019

Francisco Rodríguez
Midday Demon
Steve Turner
September 7 - October 12, 2019

Francisco Rodríguez

Francisco Rodríguez is a Chilean born, now London based painter whose large and small scale figurative works create an unsettling narrative. Rodríguez employs a limited palette, soft hues of green, orange, black and white, to depict ambiguous landscapes and fragmented figures who inhabit this space alongside isolated animals and suggestions of nature. In a painting entitled Aridity (all works 2019), Rodríguez depicts two partial figures against a sand-colored ground filled with a smattering of orange and white plants. The figure at the top of the painting is fully rendered though cropped at the waist leaving just his legs. He wears brown boots and blue jeans and holds a flowering branch in his hand. The second figure lies on his back, his body bisected by the bottom of the canvas. He is outlined in rough gray brush stokes. Barely visible are traces of his upraised arms— as if disappearing into the background. This subtle painting suggests a cycle of death and rebirth amidst an arid landscape.

The other large paintings in Rodríguez's exhibition, entitled Midday Demon, also depict enigmatic scenarios where either something just occurred or is about to happen. A black crow and the splayed legs of a horizontal figure share the space in In the Garden. The ominous light in the painting glows a fiery orange as if the match in the crow's beak had ignited the apocalypse. A band of black trees with gray shadows divides the composition separating ground from sky. In the distance, a circular sun/moon rises above a tall chain-link fence. Nine smaller paintings share the back wall. In each of these small works, Rodríguez explores the theme of a midday demon — a real or imagined presence caused by the oppressive heat of the midday sun that was prevalent growing up in Santiago. Corner is a haunting work in which a silhouette with a growling demon's face glares at the viewer. The demon's back is against a tall white fence behind which towers three tall trees in an orange sky. Corner is also the title of a painting of a fallen figure, whose upper body angles off the bottom edge of canvas leaving only a headless torso and legs (in the same field of flowers as Aridity) below the orange sky.

Dog at Night captures the animal unaware, its eyes glow red as it looks up from its night prowl. A red crescent moon floats above a fence in the grayish blue-green sky. A companion to Dog at Night is the larger work, The Beast. Here, a dog-shaped silhouette is centered in the same desaturated landscape that pervades many of the other works. In its mouth is what appears to be a cigarette. Its crudely defined form is more a phantom than a realistic representation. Rodríguez's figures and animals have the aura of helplessness, though not desperation as if they were caught in a dream world where they have no control but are not really in danger. The narrative that can be spun from these elements pictures a lonely world on the brink of disaster where isolated figures hope for better days.

Painted in a pared down, illustrative style, Rodríguez's works reinforce the fragmentary nature of stories waiting to be woven together across numerous canvases. His works are thought provoking enigmas about the fate of the world.

Click here for Francisco Rodríguez review on its own page.

September 12, 2019

Christian Marclay
Sound Stories
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
August 25 – October 14, 2019

Christian Marclay

Some might ask "What is Snapchat?" Snapchat would answer: "Snapchat is a camera—no, not the kind with a flashbulb and a lens cap. It’s a new kind of camera that’s connected to your friends and the world. Over 180 million people use it every day to talk, play, learn — and take some pictures, too." Those who grew up in the age of social media are accustomed to using Snapchat, FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram to share nearly everything about their lives. What differentiates Snapchat from these other platforms is that the content disappears. It is not stored in the cloud or on a device to be scrutinized or shared at a later time. Basically— it’s there and then it’s gone. Christian Marclay likened a “Snap” to a conversation — something that cannot be returned to. It becomes discarded information. 

Although Marclay gained world-wide recognition with his 24-hour film The Clock, (2010) where he composited short clips from thousands of films, splicing together fragments that showed the actual time of day, he was originally known for his work with sound. In a recent piece, 48 War Movies (2019), that debuted at the 2019 Venice Biennial, 48 war films are layered on top of each other with their soundtracks playing simultaneously. The visible image is thin concentric rectangles that never reveal enough information to distinguish which exact films Marclay selected. The result is an ever-changing image surrounded by a cacophony of overlapping war movie soundtracks.

Clips from Snapchat are the source material (though not the content) for Marclay’s new and evocative installation, Sound Stories, on view at LACMA through October 14. Marclay first displayed Sound Stories in June 2018 as part of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where it was on view for just five days. At LACMA, viewers will have more time (August 25 – October 14, 2019) to absorb and interact with Marclay’s inventive use of Snapchat clips. Marclay was invited to mine this collection of “public content” and worked with Snapchat’s engineers to create new algorithms based on specific searches — categorized by sounds rather than by subject matter.

At LACMA, Marclay invites viewers to slowly travel through the exhibition while taking in the subtle qualities of each work. The large gallery space has been divided into five smaller dark rooms, each with an audiovisual installation. All Together, (all works 2018) serves as an introduction to Marclay’s process. Across ten smartphones embedded into a curved wall, Marclay has sequenced a musical composition based on similar sounds culled from over 400 clips. These sounds include the pitter-patter of rain, the sizzle of a fried egg, the noise made when shoes hit pavement and actual musical instruments being played, as well as the ring of a text or an incoming phone call. In the display, each clip only lasts a few seconds and while the image initially draws us in and is what we see, the choreography is based on how the sounds work together collectively.  

In Talk to Me/Sing to Me, what seems like hundreds of smartphones are suspended from the ceiling at varying heights. Each phone displays a blinking text that invites the viewer to sing or talk to it. The microphone on the phones picks up the viewer’s voice and links it to a database of thousands of clips that have been stored within each device. After a phrase or word has been sung or spoken by someone in the room, there is a pause and then the phones broadcast clips that mimic the utterance. To create this work, Snapchat’s engineers devised an algorithm based on speech-detection and signal processing technology. When activated, the room comes alive. The space is suddenly filled with a collage of short cellphone videos clips that simultaneously echo the viewers’ words. While adult audiences might be hesitant to participate, the work will certainly appeal to teens and children who have no issues yelling into the darkness. 

In contrast to Talk to Me/Sing to Me, only one or two people can interact with The Organ at a time. A functional keyboard connected to custom software and a projector is placed in the center of the space in front of a large screen. When the keys on the organ are pressed, long vertical strips containing four separate Snapchat clips appear on the screen. As the viewer plays a song or hits different keys, the clips move along the wall broadcasting sounds that correspond to the musical notes. The who, what or where of the video images are a secondary concern. Marclay is interested in mapping the notes on the keyboard to sounds within Snapchat clips. While The Organ and Talk to Me/Sing to Me, invite viewer participation, the other works are not interactive. Instead, they explore different manifestations of sound mapping. Viewers must look up to experience Sound Tracks, as this piece uses tablets embedded into wide tubes of varying lengths in the ceiling. Using Snapchat’s "turtle mode," Marclay has slowed down clips full of sounds of play and happiness, transforming them into something eerie and disconcerting. 

It is delightful to wander back and forth within the installation, listening as well as watching what appears on the different screens. While Marclay has conceived Sound Stories as a work about found sounds, the piece also has a certain visual cache. By appropriating the wealth of imagery contained within Snapchap, Marclay has created an immersive experience using clips of and about mundane and sensational activities that take place every day. Though based on the combined efforts of Snapchat’s engineers and his own sophisticated and idiosyncratic methods of collage, the experience of Marclay’s work exceeds expectations and motivates thinking about the multi-sensory possibilities of social media.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, September 7, 2019.

Click here for Christian Marclay review on its own page.

September 5, 2019

Terry Allen
The Exact Moment It Happens in the West
L.A. Louver
June 26 – September 28, 2019

Terry Allen

Terry Allen is first and foremost a story teller. He is a gifted musician and artist who also makes amazing paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations that confront head-on on a wide array of subjects ranging from the personal to the political. His works are sometimes collaborations (with his wife, actor Jo Harvey Allen, as well as others), and during a recent talk at the Hammer Museum, he elucidated his process and the relationship between his music and his visual art. What makes his exhibition The Exact Moment It Happens in the West so extraordinary is that both his music and visual art are on view and integrated so gallery goers can begin to understand the overlap of both mediums and how they resonate within Allen’s greater practice. In conjunction with the exhibition, Allen and his Panhandle Mystery Band also performed two sold out concerts at Zebulon in Los Angeles‘ Frogtown neighborhood, making the exhibit a mutli-media event. 

At L.A. Louver, the exhibition The Exact Moment It Happens in the West is installed chronologically filling both floors of the gallery. It is a visual trajectory through Allen’s life and work from 1960 to the present. Divided into sixteen sections, many of which are accompanied by a musical complement that can be heard via provided headphones, the show leads viewers on an intimate journey that reveals Allen’s interests and particular way of looking at the world. Each series is well-represented with numerous pieces, as well as music and/or explanatory text.

Section one showcases a selection of Allen’s early drawings from the mid 1960s. These works are mixed media, cartoon-like abstractions that reveal his keen wit and facile hand. They are accompanied by the song Red Bird (1968), with the juxtaposition of drawings and song serving as an introduction to this artist’s multi-faceted practice. Juarez (1969-75) is an album and visual art project in which Allen explored a range of media including performance, writing, drawing and collage. His work on Juarez confirmed the power of narrative and the different ways one could convey a narrative. Allen’s earlier pieces are quirky assemblages that often combine illustration, texts, diagrams and drawing.

Allen was also never abashed at confronting politics straight on. In Sneaker, 1991, for example, from Allen’s Youth in Asia series, he uses a news story that describes a man’s hatred of the sound of sneakers on the floor because it reminds him of the sound of the guards’ shoes when he was a POW during the war in Viet Nam, as a point of departure. In this assemblage, the text is yellow and stamped into lead. It is presented alongside collaged elements, a framed drawing of an airplane and two actual dress shoes. Allen explains that Youth in Asia is about the "consequences of betrayal — about a culture that betrays its children." 

Sonny Boy Chronicles (1998), on view for the first time, is a fourteen-panel work-on-paper, based on one of Allen’s cousins, who was a war veteran and merchant marine. Each piece combines Allen’s loosely drawn and evocative mixed-media illustrations with typed text that expounds on the nuances of Sonny Boy‘s life story.

Within the exhibition are songs, remembrances, fragments of dialogue, sculptures and documentation of public art projects, in addition to a fascinating three-channel video installation, MemWars (2016) and related recent drawings (2018-2019) in which Allen and his wife discuss the origins and meaning of many of his songs. Within the darkened room are three projections. In one, Allen’s face and shoulders fill the frame, in the other viewers see those of his wife, Jo Harvey. The third depicts Allen playing the keyboard, his back to the audience while fragments from movies and other source material populate the background illustrating aspects of the song he is playing. MemWars is a straightforward presentation that revolves around a conversation about the meaning and inspiration for much of the work.

Allen’s exhibition continues up and on the stairs and into L.A. Louver’s Skyroom. The phrase, "Do They Dream Of Hell in Heaven" leads viewers to the second floor where they are introduced to many of Allen’s public art projects and later works, including a series of large-scale drawings (40 x 32 inches) entitled Homer’s Notebook 2, (2019) where Allen uses the character Homer Simpson as a point of departure to explore themes from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Centered in the Skyroom is National Pastime I (91.8.S) – face looks inward with bat, a 1991 bronze bust depicting a businessman whose head has been bashed open with a baseball bat. This work, like many of Allen’s projects, mixes popular culture and news items giving viewers myriad ways to think about and interpret the content Allen presents.

Throughout his career, Allen has drawn from popular culture and the news media, as well as his own experiences, to create thoughtful and complex works that touch on the aftermath of war, personal struggles and demons, and the changes to urban and natural landscapes. Through the presentation of more than 100 works, viewers are taken on a conceptual as well as visual journey through his cutting, engaging and inventive imagination.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, August 31, 2019.

Click here for Terry Allen review on its own page.

August 29, 2019

Leo Mock
… And Still Somehow
June 21 - August 30, 2019

Leo Mock

The paintings in Leo Mock's exhibition, ... And Still Somehow are a curious blend of landscape and figuration. Within each beautifully painted image is a jarring interruption that sends what appears at first glance to be traditional landscapes, into the realm of the absurd. In Try to pretend it's true, (all works 2019) two gangly, bright blue appendages bisect the painted environs. These disembodied legs are neither human nor animal, yet sign for the presence of someone or something traipsing through the darkly textured and striated landscape, below a cloud-filled sky. Like alien forms descended from a foreign planet, each of Mock's paintings hosts quasi-personified forms that inhabit these natural scenes. The landscapes depict receding plains filled with different bands of color, abstracted mountains and clouds that are more surreal than real.

On the surface of Your mad parade, Mock has drawn ten sets of long pink-toned oil-stick lines that descend from the top of the painting and then angle to the right becoming legs and feet that inhabit the ground of the composition. These appendages are surprisingly static, as if stopped mid-flow to take in the landscape before continuing on an unknown journey. As Mock indicates, they are part of a "mad parade," yet the who, what and why remain a mystery.

Mock's philosophical titles direct the interpretation of the work. In A thought that never changes, small billowing and majestic clouds appear to glide across the top portion of the composition in front of a long spindly leg and foot that belongs to an invisible body (picture a bird with long, long legs) that parallels the side and bottom of the canvas, intersecting with another leg facing the opposite direction. This second "leg" is connected to a circular form that floats toward the top of the image. There is an implied relationship between the two forms, as one appears to lean against the other, yet their place and raison d'etre in the landscape are never articulated.

Mock's surfaces are seductive. His colors subdued. The works emanate a sense of calm as well as foreboding. Are the landscapes apocalyptic or just fantastical? The seven paintings that make up the exhibition, ... And Still Somehow, seem to work in concert with each other to present a sense of place drawn from the worlds of science fiction and classical painted landscapes.

Click here for Leo Mock review on its own page.

August 22, 2019

Steve Roden
Vielmetter Los Angeles
July 13–August 24, 2019

Steve Roden

Steve Roden is a versatile artist who easily flows between different media. His current exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles includes both large and small paintings on canvas, projected videos as well as a sound piece.

Often Roden begins with an algorithm or a system he creates and employs to determine a sequence for ‘building’ his paintings. This algorithm can involve translating sound into patterns and colors as an exploration of the language of mark making. Three acrylic on canvas works, each entitled, in and in and up and down below (above), 2019, are indicative of the push/pull energy that drives Roden’s compositions.

These works have a cadence and rhythm as long lines cross the diagonal juxtaposed with shorter strokes of muted colors (pink, purple, deep blue and green) that fill the spaces in between. While the works appear as geometrical abstractions they are rooted in the observable world. Two large paintings, bandwidth #1 and bandwidth #2 (2019), are more kaleidoscopic and architectural, as here Roden has added triangular shapes and brighter colors into the mix.

Titles as well as process are important to Roden, so words like bandwidth, cloud and orrery (titles of works in the current exhibition) suggest digital and scientific technologies and direct the interpretation of the work.

In the exhibition, twenty-nine small paintings are hung salon style on a single wall. They could be thought of as fragments— isolated gestures or musical movements extracted from a larger whole— that resonate on their own while simultaneously referencing something beyond. For example, in andy’s eyes, 2019, a deep green background is bisected by lighter green lines that zig and zag across the composition separated by orange blobs with purple centers that allude to eyes. Other paintings become abstractions that reference generic cities, buildings, passageways or maps as in the enigmatic camouflage or logan’s run (both 2019).

Central to Roden’s practice are sound (implied rhythms), the built environment and collage. His works also take advantage of play and the random juxtaposition of disparate elements. In this exhibition, Roden presents two video works from 2017, detritus and orrery as a large scale looping projection, whose combined duration is more than 77 minutes. detritus is a captivating double screen work, shot from above, where Roden collages fragments culled from vintage copies of the architectural and design periodical, Domus. Each collage coalesces on screen for an instant before viewers see Roden’s hand enter the frame adding or removing pieces of the torn or cut pages to create an ever-changing composition. Shapes and colors cohere, then dissipate in Roden’s exploration of architectural representations as a metaphor for building and the creative process.

Watching Roden construct these collages on the fly is fascinating and offers insight into his process and multi-faceted practice. Numerous times, I wanted to stop the projection to sit longer with his compelling combinations. What is magical about Roden’s exhibitions is not only the power of his painted compositions, but how the myriad elements fit together creating a unified whole.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, August 8, 2019.

Click here for Steve Roden review on its own page.

August 15, 2019

Jose Alvarez
The Promised Land
Gavlak Los Angeles
May 31 – August 17, 2019

Jose Alvarez

Detention, deportation, refugee, criminal, other: these are terms that have blanketed the news in the last few years. Not a day goes by without a story about an incident at the border or of children being separated from their parents or of someone being detained or sent away because of their nationality or sexual orientation.

Jose Alvarez (born Deyvi Orangel Peña Artega (D.O.P.A.)) is an artist living in South Florida. He came to the United Sates from Venezuela in the 1980s to escape persecution as a gay man and when his visa expired he acquired false papers and took on the name of Jose Alvarez. With this name, he began his art career. In 2012, he was charged with identity theft and spent two months at Krome Detention Center in Miami, FL., a place now known for its abuse of the undocumented foreign nationals there to await asylum hearings or deportation.

During his incarceration, and at first in an effort to ward off depression, Alvarez drew his cellmate and later began to make portraits of the other detainees. As he drew, the men started to open up to him, telling their individual stories. In the exhibition the works are presented with this biographical information. Alvarez created each of the 28 drawings using the inner core of a blue or black ballpoint pen. The core was removed from its clear plastic casing (as the hard substance was considered a potential weapon) and is also on view in a vitrine. The bendy thin device is not an easy tool to draw with and Alvarez's depictions display his skill and dexterity with this absurd a pen. As fine drawing paper was not available, Alvarez drew on whatever type of plain or lined notebook paper he could obtain.

What is remarkable about this project is the determination and integrity of the sitters despite their desperate situations. The pen on paper works capture their intensity, resolve and disappointment. In the exhibition, the framed drawings are presented with a printed text that states the sitter's name, country, Krome ID number, age as well as a short description about how they came to the U.S. and how they happened to end up at Krome. Alvarez was an empathetic listener who drew and recorded those who posed for him without passing judgement. He juxtaposes factual information— the injustices and prejudices toward immigrants— with compassionate drawings that illustrate their inner strength and beauty as human beings.

Hamsa, Morocco, Krome #309, Blue, 25 years old (all works 2012) for example, shows a bearded man with large ears and dark eyes staring straight ahead. The accompanying text states: "Hamsa made his way to the US with a promise that he would be given a job. That was a lie. He spoke no English but stayed at an Orlando motel for some seven months until he found he could make a living selling cars. He is awaiting deportation." Many of the descriptions reveal the subject's hopes, dreams and hardships, as in Stumpar, Jamaica, Krome #342, Blue, 32 years old. "Stumpar was born in Jamaica and received a green card seven years ago. Then he had some trouble with the law. He sings at music festivals and dreams of becoming a reggae star. Stumpar’s ambition is to have a better life in America and to build a sports and entertainment complex."

The 28 drawings and stories of capture and incarceration read like a tragedy as Alvarez depicts these men's vulnerabilities and defenselessness against the ruling authority. While not everyone at Krome was innocent, many were not given a chance to prove their innocence or explain their circumstances, and Alvarez's poignant project speaks to these discrepancies and injustices.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Gallery Rounds, August 7, 2019.

Click here for Jose Alvarez review on its own page.

August 8, 2019

Lorna Simpson
The Underground Museum, Los Angeles, California
July 13 - September 8, 2019

Lorna Simpson: Easy to Remember and Corridor

The Underground Museum, a space for exhibitions and events, is housed in a small inviting and unimposing space on Washington Boulevard. The museum has a bookstore in front and a huge garden space in the back, and was conceived of as a place for culture and conversation for all. It was founded by the late painter Noah Davis and now operates in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some of the exhibitions have borrowed from MOCA's collections and were organized before Noah's passing. The Underground Museum aims to promote cutting-edge African-American art, but inclusiveness is also part of its mission. Recent exhibitions have featured the photography of Deana Lawson (October 13, 2018 - February 17, 2019) and Roy DeCarava (March 30 - June 30, 2019).

The current exhibition, Summertime is comprised of two seminal video works by the photographer / painter / filmmaker Lorna Simpson. Simpson is best known for her inspiring work from the 1980s that juxtaposed images and text to explore issues of race and identity and culture. As a point of departure, she is currently exhibiting a new series of paintings, entitled Darkening at Hauser & Wirth in New York City (April 25 - July 26, 2019).

In Summertime, Simpson presents two early video works, Easy to Remember (2:56, 2001) and Corridor (13:15, 2003). For those expecting a curated selection of photographic works, the exhibition may be a disappointment, especially because it comes on the heals of two more comprehensive presentations of photographs. That aside, it is a welcome relief from the summer heat to sit within the darkened space and immerse oneself in these films. What links these two pieces is that there are no speaking parts, but rather each contains a soulful jazz soundtrack.

Easy to Remember is a short looping projection (a 16 mm black and white film transferred to DVD) comprised of a three by five grid of mouths, each humming in unison a John Coltrane version of a Rodgers and Hart song. The disembodied figures, both men and women, are shot in close up, their mouths filling the rectangular frames. The rectangles have beveled edges so each mouth appears to be in a separate box. These boxes are composited together to create the final grid. As the individuals hum, their faces move, swaying to the rhythm of the music despite confining of frames. The composited work explores ideas related to difference— specifically the way individuals interpret and represent identical source material.

Corridor is a longer and in many ways more complex work. It is a double channel projection depicting the lives of two women. Set in different timeframes— the Civil War and the Civil Rights eras— Simpson imagines them going about their daily routines, silent and lost in thought. Though each screen is meant to represent a different time period, they are connected by the jazz soundtrack and by the fact that the same person, the artist Wangechi Mutu plays both women. The women dress, wash, eat, and reflect in isolation, and in vastly different settings. As they move through the corridors of these homes, Simpson's camera follows them up stairs, and into the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. The modern woman enjoys her leisure time, sitting on a couch or speaking on the phone, whereas the woman from the 1800s carries a lantern as night falls and uses it as illumination while she writes a letter. Simpson shoots the exteriors of the houses as well, allowing viewers to imagine the landscape and climate of these different time periods. As the classical and jazz soundtrack composed by John Davis ebbs and flows, the trappings of each woman's space becomes more evident. While the images do not connect, the action in one seems to direct what happens in the other as each woman traverses the corridors of the life she was born into.

A visit to the garden is a welcome reprieve after the viewing of these works. It serves as a peaceful place to contemplate Simpson's videos and think about issues of race and class in contemporary times. How much has changed?

Click here for Lorna Simpson review on its own page.

August 1, 2019

Anthony Hernandez
Screened Pictures
Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, California
July 13 - August 31, 2019

Anthony Hernandez Images

Since the late 1960's, Anthony Hernandez has documented different aspects of the climate and culture of Los Angeles. Working in black and white as well as color, his subjects have been the full range of the city’s multifaceted sub-cultures, ranging from homeless encampments to Rodeo Drive. It is worth comparing the current series, “Screened Pictures,” to “Public Transit Areas,” Hernandez's series of black and white photographs from 1980. In “Screened Pictures,” Hernandez captures individuals who are unaware that they are being recorded. They appear in the distance, or as soft silhouettes, the mesh acting as a barrier between photographer and subject. Shot in broad daylight, the individuals seen in “Public Transit Areas” wait for buses in wide open spaces that call attention to the surrounding architecture and signage, as well as the streets receding into the distance. The earlier series is more about location and the passage of time than the individuals depicted.

When I think about bus shelters, I imagine a roof, a few seats and places for advertisements. I do not recall their color or materiality. After viewing “Screened Pictures,” I tried to re-visualize these banal structures. Many, like those that appear in Hernandez's photographs, have walls of black metal mesh that serve as a visual and physical barrier between those waiting inside and what lies beyond. In these evocative works, Hernandez focuses his camera on the mesh, which becomes an opaque grid with circular perforated holes. Up close, the images are abstractions, but when seen from across the room, they coalesce into identifiable locations, discernible from these blurred fragments.

To create his images, Hernandez plays with depth of field, that is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that are in acceptably sharp focus. Usually, the more light in a photograph, the greater the depth of field. The eye, like the camera lens, vacillates between these two zones of the image, trying to make sense of the abstraction and what caught Hernandez's eye in the distance. The “Screened Pictures” also reference Pointillism, given that these photographs require the mind's eye to complete the picture. If the perforated black foreground were removed, what would remain would be a perfect Pointillist image. Hernandez is interested in the interplay and tension between these two elements and the specifics of what is going on in the fuzzy background.

Most of the “Screened Pictures” are shot straight on, though a few display a skewed orientation where the perforated holes become slightly elongated due to the viewing angle. In “Screened Pictures #8” the pink awning and a trace of blue lettering cohere into an image of a "99 Cents Only" store. The exact location is unimportant; these stores are fixtures in the contemporary Los Angeles landscape and often, as in this image, there are people loitering in front of them.

A pitched tent by the roadside hovers into view in “Screened Pictures #43,” referencing rampant homelessness. A Mondrian-esque array of colored rectangles become Korean characters on a facade in “Screened Pictures #32,” illustrating the diverse cultures and communities of Los Angeles. When the enigmatic “Screened Pictures #19” coheres, it reveals a human silhouette passing by advertisements.

“Screened Pictures” depicts light and the vernacular architecture of Los Angeles. The inhabitants — people who wander the streets, take buses and are out in public — are present but more incidental. This is street life seen from street level. Though his subjects are veiled, they pointedly allude to issues of class and race that are endemic in Los Angeles. Hernandez reveals it by keeping his distance.

Note: This review was first published in Visual Arts Source, July 26, 2019.

Click here for Anthony Hernandez review on its own page.

July 25, 2019

Richard Ehrlich
27 Miles: Abstract Truth
Rose Gallery (at Bergamot Station’s B7 Space)
June 8 – July 31, 2019

Richard Ehrlich Images

Richard Ehrlich is a photographer and a long time Malibu resident whose exhibition “27 Miles: Abstract Truth” is presented, in part, as a way to raise awareness and support for the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund. Included in the sprawling exhibition of more that 80 images are pictures of the fire’s aftermath as well as photographs from Ehrlich’s series, “Las Flores Canyon” and “Homage to Rothko” (both 2016) and selected images from previous related bodies of work.

Ehrlich’s documentation of the November 2018 Woolsey fire alludes to the scope of the destruction. His images range from objective pictures of the scarred earth, burnt-out cars and demolished homes to the marvel of nature’s rebirth. What also caught Ehrlich’s eye were the abstract patterns and textures of melted metal and dilapidated paint. In these images Ehrlich focuses on the glitter and shimmering surfaces scarred by the fire’s intense heat. As abstractions, they appear to be otherworldly—celestial or cell-like wonders—many with an ambiguous scale and overlapping metal shards. The images are both confounding and spectacular as Ehrlich can’t help but aestheticize the destruction.

The black and white photographs of “Las Flores Canyon” are long exposures (ranging from a few days to many months) taken with a stationary pinhole camera that tracked the arc of the sun across the sky. These evocative images look like solar flares against a darkened hillside. While the photographs from “Las Flores Canyon” are layered images created in the camera, “Homage to Rothko” are composited from multiple photographs of Malibu skies becoming striations of soft colors—shapes that echo the paintings of Mark Rothko. Homage to Rothko 13 is a composition of deep grays that reference a stormy night sky whereas Homage to Rothko 22 evokes the colors of a sea at dusk. Ehrlich’s homages to Rothko are representational and abstract simultaneously and, like the paintings, are atmospheric works that reflect a range of moods and emotions.

Together, Ehrlich’s images of the fires destruction, the movement of the sun and his abstract skies reflect the many ways of picturing the landscape and are intimate as well as impactful representations of the changing environment. While works like Malibu Fires #23 and Malibu Fires #12 are formal pictures that indulge in the beauty of found colors and textures that mute the impact of the devastation in favor of kaleidoscopic patterns, Ehrlich’s project is not about favoring beauty over objective documentation, but rather functions as a reminder that beauty can arise from destruction and detritus.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery, July 16, 2019.

Click here for Richard Ehrlich review on its own page.

July 18, 2019

Orkideh Torabi
Give Them All They Want
Richard Heller Gallery
June 22 - August 3, 2019

Orkideh Torabi at Richard Heller Gallery

Give them all they want refers to men: the subject and objects of Orkideh Torabi‘s gaze. Her colorful paintings, created by screening fabric dye onto cotton, explore issues of patriarchy, infusing this loaded topic with a wry sense of humor. Torabi is now Chicago-based, but was born in Iran during the revolution (1979). Her paintings depict Iranian men in domestic and nature settings where their portrayals are surprisingly intimate and vulnerable. Acutely aware of the limitations imposed on Iranian women, Torabi invents situations where she can position men in traditionally female roles. For example, in He needs a change (all works 2019), two men are seated on a patterned cushion against an abstracted blue swirling sea and cloud-filled sky. They are engaged in conversation as if they do not have a care in the world. One man has his arm draped over another man’s shoulder. The second man is holding what appears to be a small child, but upon closer examination, the child is revealed to be a small man with a mustache, hairy legs and chest. In A ball of fire, a bearded man with an open blue robe and red and white striped pants holds a bouquet of red-toned flowers. He also has a yellow bird perched upon his shoulder. His exaggerated features— large nose and ears as well as buck teeth— make him more of a caricature than a believable subject.

Torabi states, “I depict male figures as funny cartoonish figures in decorative colors. This representation aims to mock the complex and fragile masculinity of patriarchal societies in which men control every element of life.” Her understanding of the limitations placed on women in a male dominated society and the contrasting freedoms the men enjoy allow her to make paintings from a particular perspective— the informed observer who can look from the outside in. She even includes a painting of the “Garden of Eden,” where Eve has been replaced by a man. Entitled, You are always hungry, this work features two naked men covered in hair (Torabi uses pencil lines on top of her dyed surface) passing by a pear tree (rather than apple). A leaf covers one figure’s genitals and a partially eaten pear obscures the other’s. A snake peers down from the tree as the two figures hurry across the landscape.

Torabi’s portrayals of Iranian men are neither flattering nor realistic: They are critical and cutting depictions. Although her paintings exclude women, they are about the repression of women in patriarchal societies. She uses representations of male figures, beautifully rendered in watercolor-like tonalities, going about activities that women are constrained from participating in public— enjoying leisure time, fraternizing with friends, walking, swimming, resting —  as a way to claim that space for women. The works proclaim these men as fat and funny looking, with their oversized features, hairy bodies and insincere smiles. And although Iranian culture deems them dominant and powerful, they are really insecure, vulnerable, and pathetic beings.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, July 14, 2019.

Click here for Orkideh Torabi review on its own page.

July 11, 2019

Stephen Neidich
Making the rounds (a place to wait)
Wilding Cran Gallery
June 2 - July 27, 2019

Stephen Neidich at Wilding Cran Gallery

The grinding and clanging coming from the center of the gallery are familiar yet not quite identifiable. As one enters the space and is drawn toward the commotion, it almost feels as if the outside has been transported within. Downtown Los Angeles, like many other cities, is undergoing a building surge and many areas are being demolished to make way for new construction. It is commonplace to see cranes, piles of rubble and walled-off areas, while simultaneously hearing jack-hammers, drilling and the whirl of generators amidst the flow of traffic and honking horns.

That said, Stephen Neidich's installation, Making the rounds (a place to wait), 2019, is a strangely contemplative work. It is the only piece on view and as the spot-lit centerpiece, it takes over the gallery with its riveting presence. It consists of more than two dozen floor-to-ceiling-length metal chains of different thicknesses attached to a home-made camshaft nested within the ceiling rafters. This rig is in constant motion, causing the chains to undulate, each with a different tone. As the chains move up and down, they continuously brush against a large pile of concrete fragments placed in the center of the gallery's floor. (This haphazard arrangement would make Richard Long cringe.) The sound of the chains striking the concrete is at once dispiriting and jarring, as a reminder of the city's transformation outside. Yet the movement and sound of the chains has a delicate tinkle that is calming and beautiful.

As the chains bang against the detritus, the rocks begin to disintegrate, creating a layer of fine dust that suggest their eventual erosion and the fact that everything, rocks and chains, and even art, has a finite lifespan. There is a surprisingly light, animated quality to the chains and their accompanying shadows, beautifully projected on the gallery's back wall. As they click and clang against the rubble, it feels as if they are dancing.

To patient viewers, Neidich's mesmerizing installation transforms discordant sounds into a subtle symphony. Like the Swiss sculptor, Jean Tinguely whose kinetic works celebrate the movements and noises of machines, Neidich sees beauty in the mechanical.

Click here for Stephen Neidich review on its own page.

July 4, 2019

Lynn Aldrich
O' Magnify
Denk Gallery
May 25 - July 13, 2019

Lynn Aldrich at Denk Gallery

Lynn Aldrich has an incredible knack for transforming everyday building and household materials into something unexpected. Throughout her long career, she has continued to delve into the depths of her imagination to create floor sculptures and wall works that are both fascinating and enchanting. What is most surprising about her current exhibition, O' Magnify, is the inclusion of works from the mid 1980's when Aldrich was combining painting and sculpted elements that referenced specific artists and the history of art. Pathways (Fragments After Smithson and Van Gogh), 1988 is a shaped canvas with a painted spiral that follows the shape of Smithson's Spiral Jetty imposed atop an ambiguous void. To the right of these painted elements is a sculpted form that resembles a scorpion's tail. Similarly, in Visitation (Fragment After Van Gogh), 1988, Aldrich paints a fragment from Van Gogh's Starry Night on an oblong shaped canvas with a blue upholstered vinyl half circle endpoint. While these early works clearly articulate Aldrich's appreciation of art history, they are playful modifications of the past that are useful in understanding Aldrich's trajectory from representation to abstraction.

Included in O' Magnify is one of Aldrich's largest works to date. Entitled Hermitage (2019), this work is comprised painted plastic disks as well as a fourteen foot Sonotube which can be entered through a small doorway. Once inside the enclosure, viewers can look up and down. It is a marvel that through the use of these simple materials, Aldrich has created a unique light and space sculptural akin to the works of James Turell.

Aldrich's pieces also have an aspect of play. This comes in part from her materials, but also from her sensibilities and the way she combines and repurposes found elements. Pet Rescue for the Anthropocene, (2017) is a round silver ring with an array of fake fur swatches in multiple colors and patterns attached to a steel chain leash. On the wall, the artwork alludes to the movement of some absent cartoony animal reminiscent of Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash. Also presented are examples of Aldrich's vinyl hose and galvanized steel constructions combined to resemble trees and plant-forms made from house-hold and construction materials. In Water Tangle (2018), Aldrich has assembled sections of galvanized steel gutters, creating graceful curves that flow up and down, back and forth like a memory of the movement of dancers on a stage. The gutters in Reverse the Rain (2019), also fashioned from galvanized steel, extend up from the floor as a series of vertical columns, each with a unique twist at the top. These works negate the original functionality of the materials, turning them into something more organic and fanciful.

Crack! and Porthole (both 2019) are made from hand-cut plastic roofing panels. It is easy to imagine Aldrich in Home Depot looking at the different colors and textures of such substances while pondering the ways she might cut and combine them into sculptures that transform and expand upon their base properties — like making a porthole that references the undulations of the sea from textured plastic.

For more than thirty years, Aldrich has reassigned function to create beautiful works that have both a formal elegance but also speak to the relationship between the natural and man-made worlds. In each successive exhibition, Aldrich has continued to invent new ways of transforming the ordinary into something transcendent.

Click here for Lynn Aldrich review on its own page.

June 27, 2019

Alexandra Grant
Born to Love
Lowell Ryan Projects
June 1 - July 6, 2019

Alexandra Grant at Lowell Ryan Projects

Born to Love is an exhibition of eight large-scale mixed media works by Alexandra Grant that take their point of departure from Sophocles' play Antigone. Most likely, Grant's careful reading of the play informs the works, but ultimately it is the phrase, "I was born to love not to hate," that finds its way into Grant's artworks. While the works are infused with content — the relationship between love and hate and how that extends throughout history — they display Grant's formal sensibilities and her acute skill in combining shapes and colors.

The works are large and breathtaking. Each has its own color palette and compositional specificities, yet they are all created from the same elements. The understructure of each work includes a textual graphic in the form of a back to front and front to back rubbing that is repeated throughout. Sometimes readable, other times obscured by layers of paint or collage, the thematic schema of the privileging of love over hate is meant to resonate and direct the reading of the works, however it is muted by the aggressive workings of the surrounding patterns and abstract elements.

Each work is titled She said to Creon, (all 2018) and is a combination of collage, wax rubbing, acrylic paint, ink and colored pencil on paper mounted to fabric. These densely layered works juxtapose painted stripes in myriad colors that have been cut and reassembled in multiple directions, sometimes forming herringbone patterns. These are overlaid with what appears to be ink splatters that undulate above and below the other textures. The works simulate spontaneity, yet are too well assembled for that to be a modus operandi: the compositions feel extremely organized despite the allusion to chaos.

It is easy to get lost in the works. She said to Creon (5) is dominated by purple and gray hues intersected by bursts of yellow and red. The yellow even spills over into the text-rubbing, giving this particular instance of the phrase a colored background which pops within the composition. The eye wanders from cut out triangles to blue and purple stripes collaged onto the paintings top layer. A tension rises between the geometric and the organic shapes as they compete for dominance within the space. This perhaps is a metaphor for the relationship between love and hate and the ongoing conflicts and struggles world wide.

Grant's thesis speaks beyond the formal nature of her works and while she infuses the pieces with historical content that resonates to this day, the works are first and foremost studies in abstraction.

Click here for Alexandra Grant review on its own page.

June 20, 2019

Eva and Franco Mattes
Data Doubles
Team (Bungalow)
May 12 - June 23, 2019

Installation view Team (Bungalow)

Eva and Franco Mattes are net art pioneers who have been collaborating since 1994. Best known as 0100101110101101.org, their online projects were among the first to share the contents of their home computers, making the private public over vast networks. At Team (Bungalow) they have created a physical installation that calls attention to the presence of invisible data and the networks it travels. This rambling sculptural work weaves through interior and exterior spaces and is presented alongside Riccardo Uncut, 2017, a work originally commissioned by the Whitney Museum for which the Mattes purchased an archive of smart phone photos and videos for $1000 from someone who responded to an open call. The Mattes present over 3000 personal images taken between 2004 and 2017 as a looping projection that showcases Riccardo's life in chronological order. The voyeuristic nature of this work cannot be denied. It is an unedited glimpse into someone's life — how he documents himself, presents himself to others, who his friends are, where he has been, and what he happens to record with his phone. The video overlaid with a snippet of Jeanne Moreau singing Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves becomes a strange and melancholic trip down someone else's memory lane.

Appropriation is pivotal in the Mattes practice.They have appropriated Riccardo's life by turning his image archive into an artwork. By doing so, they explore and expose the compulsion to document, to share on social media and the ever mutating perception of the blurring line between private and public in the digital era. The Mattes have also created Ceiling Cat, 2016, a sculpture based on an appropriated "LOLCat meme." Nested in the ceiling, this simultaneously cute and scary taxidermied cat peeks through a hole. It appears to be always watching. The "laughing out loud cat meme" is a popular internet phenomenon where images of a cat with the text, "ceiling cat is watching you," passing judgement on, or witnessing your activities. In making ceiling cat into a sculpture, the Mattes have made the ephemeral, physical.

Looping through the galleries interior and exterior spaces is a long metal tray, a support system for micro computers, cables and wires. This cable tray forges a path through the exhibition like rogue train tracks carrying invisible data. The micro-computers send a signal back and forth that transmits all the photographs the Mattes shot in September 2009. (142 files). These photographs are in constant movement traveling back and forth along the cables, yet unseen by human eyes.

Though in some ways there is little to see in Data Doubles, there is plenty to think about. In an era of fake news, endless image bombardment and myriad discussions about how the private is made public, the Mattes' installation resonates. Here, the works are "centered around the creation and transmission of images, and the interconnectedness of those two processes." Creating to share versus creating for one's self, and who is watching who are integral questions in these burgeoning digital times.

Click here for Eva and Franco Mattes review on its own page.

June 13, 2019

Eleanor Antin
Time's Arrow
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
May 12 - July 7, 2019

Eleanor Antin at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In Time's Arrow, Eleanor Antin, the celebrated feminist-conceptual artist, revisits CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture, a work first created in 1972, juxtaposing it with CARVING: 45 Years Later (2017).

Within the intimate space, two grids of small black and white photographs face each other on long opposing walls. One grid is comprised of 148 prints hung in four rows and was created in 1972 as an exploration of the female body by physically 'sculpting' it through diet. The accompanying statement describes how the work was done in the traditional Greek mode: "The Greek sculptor worked at his block from all four sides and carved away one thin layer after another; and with every layer removed from the block, new forms appeared." This passage from Carl Bluemel's "Greek Sculptors at Work," 1969 goes on to say, "Thus the same figure which started as a block was worked over in its entirety by the sculptor at least a hundred times, beginning with only a few forms and becoming increasingly richer, more rounded and lifelike until it reached completion." What Antin and the Greek sculptors had in mind, was to reach an ideal image, yet they both had to work with the limitations of the material— be it marble or the living female body. Through this succession of photographs, Antin documented her body, posing nude from the front, back and sides against the same neutral background. Shot over 37 days, the work records the subtle changes in the artist's body as she lost 10 pounds.

45 years later and with a very different body, Antin restaged CARVING, making daily photographs of herself and recording the loss of 9 pounds. The wall text that accompanies the 2017 work is not rooted in art history, but written in a more personal and diaristic tone. Antin describes her need to reduce her weight from before beginning the project and that after loosing 11 pounds easily and finally being comfortable enough with her body to begin the photography, how hard it was to lose the 10 more pounds that coincided with the first iteration of the artwork. CARVING: 45 Years Later consists of 500 images as it took Antin 100 days before she accepted her body's refusal to reach the desired weight. While in 1972 she photographed herself in four poses, in the 2017 piece she includes a fifth image. "The only change would be a daily fifth photograph, in which I wore a bra, since my breasts had grown larger, preventing a clear view of my torso, especially from the front position."

Antin sees these works as sculptural and uses photography to document the changes in her body through diet. The earlier work was created at a time when artists were beginning to explore and expose their bodies in performance artworks. 45 years later, this methodology is less revolutionary. However, Antin's restaging of the project calls attention to her 82 years in this body and everything it (and she) has endured. As she states, the work is "even more political than the earlier one. … [it] depicts my belief that the older body is to be respected and admired. After all, it made it!" Does anyone really want to stare at Antin's aged figure? The photographs are raw and exposed and she is unabashed at presenting herself this way. While the impulse is to look away, there is something empowering about the presentation.

Perhaps that is why at the far end of the space, in a large color photograph, she depicts herself as a super-hero. Posing heroically in black underwear, her hands on her hips holding open a bright red cape, this self-portrait titled "!!!" (2017), is a celebration of the artist and her long career, as well as decades of influence. To many, Antin is beyond a super-hero.

Click here for Eleanor Antin review on its own page.

June 6, 2019

Holly Coulis
Philip Martin Gallery
May 4 - July 6, 2019

Holly Coulis at Philip Martin Gallery

Holly Coulis paints shapes in soft muted colors. These shapes represent organic and inorganic things, often what might be found in a domestic space like a kitchen. Within her abstract compositions, it is possible to discern a table and various types of fruit: cherries, lemons, oranges, grapes. Each work is titled after what is depicted. Lemonade and Smoke, (all works 2019), for example, is a painting of a table seen from above and the side simultaneously. The table's surface is light blue in tone. On the table sits a lit cigarette whose smoke billows to the top of the composition. Next to the cigarette are a pitcher and a glass. The pitcher is in the process pouring a yellow shape that has yet to fill the glass. A few yellow lemons are on the right side of the composition. Five circles— oranges— form an arc in the center of the painting. Though based on the representational, Coulis' works are abstract.

Coulis' style has been to create a colored shape, then outline it in another color and then outline it again and again in different tones. Her outlines eventually link multiple shapes and dictate the flow of the composition. Pineapple and Coffees pictures two cups of steaming hot coffee on a light pink table. In the center of the table and the composition is a pineapple with lemons and oranges at the edges. Two green avocado halves also sit on the table. These items are painted as flat colorful shapes, arranged to become a beautiful still life.

While Coulis' paintings play with perspective and simultaneity they are less Cubist than Pop, sharing affinities with still lifes by Stuart Davis and Roy Lichtenstein. In her compelling works, each table becomes a stage upon which quasi-narratives in the form of interactions between geometric shapes are played out. In Larger and Hotdogs, orange-red rectangles with rounded edges become bun-less hot dogs. They are joined by two overlapping beer glasses filled with yellow, except for where they intersect. Here, Coulis painted a blue rectangle — the color of the table below. Apple wedges and a lemon also sit on the table. The table fills most of the composition, leaving a small red border that represents the ground or floor below. One Eggplant, Two Turnips depicts a corner where two light green tables intersect. On one table is an eggplant, on the other, the two turnips. Intersecting rectangles create interlocking geometric shapes that Coulis paints and outlines in different shades of green and orange.

Coulis' paintings hedge more toward the realm of geometric abstraction than traditional still life while evoking an aspect of play. They are imagined set ups of utilitarian objects and food, seen from various angles and points of view to maximize formal relationships. These works, though seemingly simple, are complex and well choreographed arrangements that use color, line and form.

Click here for Holly Coulis review on its own page.

May 30, 2019

York Chang
The Signal and the Noise
Vincent Price Art Museum
April 13 - July 20, 2019

York Chang at Vincent Price Art Museum

Littered with newsprint—though not from an actual newspaper, but instead, oversized diptychs (34 x 21 inches) printed with news photographs and headlines drawn from The New York Times-—the gallery floor in York Chang’s installation The Signal and the Noise (all works 2019) is a confounding flood of information. In mirroring the title Nate Silver’s 2012 book, Chang’s installation echoes the defining problem of the information age: In a world drowning in data, how does one distinguish a coherent—and accurate—narrative?

Each diptych juxtaposes two images taken from the print edition of The New York Times and a single phrase also culled from the paper, that directs the interpretation of both images. For example, in one piece, the word "Blur" is centered between a color photograph of a boy surrounded by fiery objects and a sepia toned black and white image of a Yankees pitcher in mid delivery.

The caption "Make them Pay" interpolates two images of seated crowds: One, an exterior, depicts a group of men huddled on the ground, waiting. The other shows men and women at what could be construed as cultural gathering. In another work the word "Spectator" separates color photographs, one of a celebrating crowd, the other of refugees climbing into a boat. In each, Chang's ambiguous but poignant text influences the reading of both images.

Set within this organized clutter, pathways lead through the gallery to different works. Freefall, a collapsed balcony, cascades from the wall onto the floor. As this architectural element cannot be stood on or entered, it becomes a symbol of uselessness and precarity. On the back wall, three prints entitled Future Perfect False Prophet display simple charts that graph generic and incongruous notions like "How often a certain thing happens" vs "How often some other thing happens." These phrases create a dialectic that permeates the installation as Chang asks viewers to think about the relationship between everything. This is most obvious in the sound work, Shortwave where two opposing radio transmissions are broadcast on the same channel, becoming a collage of alternating voices and opinions.

Chang's constructs dualities. He carefully curates pairings that challenge and question how information is received and consumed. Missing, however, is any reference to digital communication, fake news and social media. The installation harkens back to analogue times—when shortwave radio and printed news were the primary sources of information. With this work, Chang is suggesting we step back, look and listen to that which physically surrounds us and see it in a new way.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Gallery Rounds, May 20, 2019.

Click here for York Chang review on its own page.

May 23, 2019

Robert Russell
Book Paintings
Anat Ebgi
April 27 – June 1, 2019

Robert Russell at Anat Ebgi

Each of Robert Russell‘s large-scale oil paintings depict the cover of an art catalogue. As painted objects, these books lay flat, but are also awkwardly positioned at a diagonal (not perpendicular to the sides of the canvas) on a nondescript white ground. The paintings follow a formula— Russell chooses an artist and searches the internet for an image, as well as a copy of the artist’s signature. The chosen painting is not necessarily the artist’s best or most well-known work, yet it does sign for the artist’s ouevre. Russell transforms these digital reproductions back into paintings, placing them in the center of the book’s cover and above the signature, which also appears on the spine. Russell carefully delineates, when applicable, the paper dust jacket wrapped around a cloth cover and suggests the volume of the book’s interior pages. Through these paintings he has created a fictitious series of monographs that include a surprising mixture of contemporary and historical artists: Josef Albers, John Currin, Philip Guston, Carmen Herrera, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Bridget Riley, Gerhard Richter, Rembrandt and Andy Warhol.

Russell’s paintings do not attempt to replicate the depicted artist’s style or technique, but rather are flatly painted representations. They are more about the perspectival depiction of a book than they are about the artist’s art. It is a given that much art is experienced through reproduction and Russell calls attention to this fact by making paintings of books based on found copies of the original paintings. He questions the relationship between an original (his paintings) and the copy (the image on the books cover). The image in Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun Catalogue, (all works 2019) does not appear in an initial Google search so it is curious why Russell selected this specific image: a close up of a woman with cascading blond hair and a blue bow. The Le Brun painting relates to the image for John Currin as both depict seductive women. Here, Russell chose a work of Currin’s entitled Heartless, that is an easily found reproduction. In Currin’s original work, a smiling young woman with flowing curls wearing a gold-toned dress with a large heart cut out of it, stares at the viewer. In Russell’s representation, the painting is muted and foreshortened, losing some of its allure.

These representations are somehow both works by the selected artists, and paintings by Robert Russell. Russell’s choices in this iteration of Book Paintings are curious. In a previous exhibition (2011), he also painted book covers with images by Warhol, Rembrandt and Leonardo, etc. However, each of those books had different designs rather than being a part of an invented series of monographs. This leads to a question about artists’ monographs— who is chosen and why? What is the story being told by this collection of sanctioned painters. Russell’s decisions are clearly specific. He includes men and women from the past as well as the present who paint either portraits or abstractions. What is the relationship between the portraits Russell has reproduced by Currin, Warhol, Le Brun or Rembrandt? Similarly, why these abstractions by these artists: Albers, Riley and Herrera? What cannon of art history does his series of catalogues represent? Or, is it just a subjective view of artists who have inspired or influenced Russell?

Russell’s undertaking is a conceptual project that examines how works of art, specifically paintings are viewed, especially in the digital age. That more art is seen via reproduction, at a small scale and on the internet, rather than on the walls of a museum or gallery is a given. Russell takes these reproductions and infuses them with new life. While they still function as reproductions (book covers) they now also exist as beautifully painted large-scale oils.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, May 17, 2019.

Click here for Robert Russell review on its own page.

May 16, 2019

Vanessa German
$lang: Short Language in Soul
Gavlak Los Angeles
March 22 – May 25, 2019

Vanessa German at Gavlak Los Angeles

Vanessa German is a Los Angeles-raised, now Pittsburgh-based artist, poet and community activist. Though self-taught, her work is extremely savvy with just the right blend of artistic and political considerations. Her visually engaging and thought provoking installation $lang: Short Language in Soul consists of five large-scale figurative assemblages that German refers to as “Power Figures” or “Tar Babies” and fifteen mixed media portraits made from vintage tennis rackets. They are presented on walls decorated with pink, black and white geometric graphics. Although German’s works share affinities with Alison and Betye Saar, as well as with Nick Cave as all of these artists create elaborate sculptures with found materials that examine the African diaspora, black identity, race and power, German also examines folk arts’ relationship to spirituality in addition to drawing from personal experiences and observations.

A wide band painted a deep pink encircles the gallery walls like a frieze. Between this stripe and the floor is a symmetrical pattern made of black and white triangles. Above the pink band in capital letters reads the following: BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME. I. WASN’T WAITING FOR YOU TO______ ME BEFORE I COULD _________ MYSELF; I HAVE BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME. YES MY MOTHER TOLD ME NOT TO “PLAY-FIGHT” SHE SAID “YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU’LL NEED TO KILL SOMEONE. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.” Though not a caption, per se, this text, written by German, does function as a rubric that directs the interpretation of the work.

Evenly spaced below the words and within the painted pink band is a series of altered tennis rackets. With their long shafts and rounded frames, these rackets serve as stand-ins for the human body. German has covered the strings, using this space for the heads. Each portrait is titled after the model of the racket (now rendered useless by German’s additions). Valient (all works 2019), for example, is an old wooden Wilson racket with white paint and minimal decoration. It becomes the support for a portrait of a young black woman who stares out intently from the center. Braided black hair surrounds her face and also hangs from the grip down toward the gallery floor. Covering part of her forehead is a large red heart. Blood drips alongside her nose from this incongruously placed body part. Special depicts a woman with dangling hoop earrings and large folds of golden hair that cascade from the top of her head in a long braid down the side of her face. A golden bird nests in her hair, sitting calmly atop her curls. Stylist is more elaborate. Here, German covers the racket head with glitter and beads that partially obscure the woman’s facial features. Her thick black hair is entangled with a tree branch that crowns her head, extending in various directions. German’s tennis racket portraits are a curious array of women, displaying a range of imagined personalities. It is difficult not to reference German’s use of tennis rackets in relation to the success of African American athletes like Venus and Serena Williams, seeing them as symbols of hope and possibility.

German’s figurative assemblages are sculptures modeled on traditional Congolese Nkisi Power Figures— protectors that fend off evil spirits and punish wrongdoers. These “Tar Babies,” as she refers to them, stand on skateboards mounted on top of concrete blocks. The figures, no more than four feet tall, are created from found materials including bound fabric, thread and shells. Electric and Verbose, rises from a blue base that also extends up the wall like an archway. The head has a mask-like face with one missing eye. The other eye and mouth are made from large cowry shells. The body is a melange of beaded knick-knacks, colored top-like ornaments, and wrapped fabric with floral patterns that becomes the figure’s dress. A hand with glittered as well as blue fingernails extends from the top of her head. The figure in A Physical History of Grace holds a small ‘white’ infant doll in one arm and a stick with a pig’s head in the other. A white painted mask serves as her head, which is surrounded by tufts of dark hair. Two ceramic breasts extend from the center of her body which is otherwise clothed in striped and patterned fabrics all bound with white string. A large red light hangs between her legs and a wooden armadillo rests on a skateboard to her left. On her back she wears a sign that reads “no admittance.” Together the figures become a tribe of women. Although made from discarded material, they are colorful and assertive, standing strong to ward off the evils of contemporary society. German’s powerful works are modern day deities created from the refuse of everyday life.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, May 8, 2019.

Click here for Vanessa German review on its own page.

May 9, 2019

Mel Bochner
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
March 30 - May 18, 2019

Mel Bochner at Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Blah, according to the dictionary, is defined as dull or unexciting, something without meaningful content. Used in a sentence, it might read "this game has been very blah." Blah can also be used to substitute for actual works, that are otherwise unimportant, appearing as blah, blah, blah, in text or conversation. For Mel Bochner, the repetition of these words is "an expulsion of breath which can mean anything, everything or nothing."

In the main gallery space Bochner presents six versions of Blah Blah Blah, (all 2018). These 88 1/2 x 89 1/2 inch oil on velvet paintings each contain the word Blah stenciled three times, in multiple colors filling most of the surface of the work. The application of paint is messy, drippy and uneven. The use of velvet is ironic, as velvet paintings usually connote a kind of kitsch. The words could be seen as an emblem of the ongoing malaise that has swept over the country. A state of ennui within the political climate where some form of "blah blah blah" is disseminated daily.

Yet, in the back room, there is laughter. Here, Bochner presents three screen prints entitled HA, HA, HA, (all 2017). In varying consistencies, the word "HA" is screened in white numerous times atop a deep blue/black ground. The phrase "language is not transparent" is stenciled in black, becoming a hard to read layer between the dark background and the white lettering.

Bochner creates conceptual paintings based on systems. These works exist within a continuum that began in the 1960s when his work was more reductive and minimal. They have followed a rigorous trajectory from then to now. Early works from the 1960s and 1970s explored information, language and measurement, as well as the complex geometry of simple shapes. Over time, his works morphed from strictly analytical to an exploration of painted surfaces, although his fundamental concerns remained the same. His inquiries into language and language as a system led to his bright colored Thesaurus paintings where he'd fill the space across the canvases with synonyms for carefully chosen words. A work such as Contempt, (2004) reads in part: contempt, spite, malice, loathing .... hate your guts, on your shit-list, go fuck yourself.

The Thesaurus and Blah paintings are related as one expands upon language, while the other reduces it to a single phrase that signs for both nothing and everything. On an aesthetic level, Bochner's works are both controlled and spontaneous. While the six Blah Blah Blah paintings all follow the same process of creation, they are also significantly different, just as each utterance of language that purports to communicate the same thing is discretely nuanced. In one, a pink B is followed by a blue L, a green A and a red H. These letters float over a textured application of orange, green and red. In the next row, the B is a darker pink, the L is a plumb color, the A is an orange yellow and the H is close to white. The third row of letters sits atop a brownish background and consists of a deep green B, a yellow L, a red A and a blue-purple H.

Though known as a conceptual artist, Bochner is a skilled and seasoned painter and is hyper-conscious of the relationship between colors, textures and varying applications of paint. Although the letters are stenciled onto the surfaces, no two appear the same. How they interact with the ground and each other gives these paintings their luscious individuality. Though at first glance, Blah and HA might seem pat and obvious, Bochner continues to surprise as he delves deeper and deeper into what is possible within finite parameters.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, May 8, 2019.

Click here for Mel Bochner review on its own page.

May 2, 2019

Christina Quarles
But I Woke Jus' Tha Same
Regen Projects
April 6 - May 9, 2019

Christina Quarles at Regen Projects

In her first solo exhibition at Regen Projects, Christina Quarles creates a melange of paintings and drawings in which figures and styles meld. The works are purposely ambiguous. In her paintings, contour lines and shaded areas of color define light and dark-skinned figures that intermingle with each other as well as with various architectural elements. In But I Woke Jus’ Tha Same, she engages with the architecture of the gallery — specifically by painting selected walls a light pinkish-purple tone, and by cutting one of them with a large rectangular window that bisects the center of the space. Directly below this opening hangs the 86-inch long painting Peer Amid (Peered Amidst) (all works 2019), a triangular configuration of multiple interlocking nude bodies atop a black silhouette. The figures are positioned in front of a horizontal wall— a light purple-pink toned woven pattern akin to rectangular chain caning. Their hands, heads and buttocks are painted with black outlines, colored contours and gestures, as well as rendered in more exacting detail. The entanglement of drippy, transparent body parts is charged with erotic confusion.

In the similarly sized painting Laid Down Beside Yew, three incomplete figures— whose bodies combine realistically painted faces with abstracted shapes, gestural brush-strokes and line drawing— stretch-out across and through a plaid blanket that overlays a horizontal patch of green. The scene could be interpreted as a tryst on the grass. Quarles’ contorted bodies and body parts undulate above and below the realistically painted red, blue, green, and yellow plaid blanket that is centered across the composition. Each figure is comprised of a collage of styles moving from the representational to the gestural. Quarles is adept at seamlessly mixing painting styles and techniques to give her figures amorphous and surreal auras. The eye easily moves between the different areas and surfaces of the paintings trying to connect the disparate fragments. The works are sensual, suggestive and evocative, while simultaneously mysterious and inconclusive.

In addition to her large-scale paintings, also on view are a series of quirky black-and-white ink drawings, many incorporating song lyrics. Yew Will Come Around includes a “slangified” version of the chorus from Neil Young‘s 1970 song Don’t Let it Bring You Down. In Quarles’ drawing, a female figure and an anthropomorphized plant stand in a body of water, her long hair flowing down her back and her geometrically-shaped torso becoming the box containing the lyrics. Like in Quarles’ paintings, the rendering is both abstract and representational. Each drawing contains an elongated or contorted figure, couple or group, juxtaposed with a snippet of text that is often interwoven into the composition. These works on paper feel like simplified versions of the paintings where the viewer is given more access to the scenario or action. Though still obtuse, they offer insight into how Quarles constructs and layers interactions between bodies, shapes and space.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, April 27, 2019.

Click here for Christina Quarles review on its own page.

April 25, 2019

Alexandra Bell
Charlie James Gallery
April 6 - May 4, 2019

Alexandra Bell at Charlie James Gallery

In 2017, large-scale printouts of articles from the New York Times focusing on issues of race started appearing on walls around New York City. This public intervention was created by artist/journalist Alexandra Bell, who conceived these pieces to point out and challenge the way race was portrayed in the paper of record. By anonymously (at first they were uncredited) placing these powerful rewrites at mural-scale in public spaces, Bell presented a counter interpretation of how news stories could have been told, boldly calling attention to journalism’s biases. In these pieces, she marked-up original articles, changing and redacting words and image-text relationships. Called Counternarratives, these works included the triptych, A Teenager with Promise ( 2017-2018), a redesigned front page of the New York Times from Monday, August 25, 2014, in which side-by-side articles under the heading “Two Lives at Crossroads in Ferguson” were printed. In the original newspaper edition, these articles fall below the fold and contain stamp-size photographs of Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, Jr. In Bell’s triptych she includes an enlargement of the original articles, now positioned directly below the masthead and marked-up with red pen, along with a heavily redacted version, as well as a new configuration that leaves out Darren Wilson’s image and replaces Brown’s photograph with a double column width graduation portrait below the headline, “A Teenager With Promise.”

For those who did not encounter Bell’s work in situ, smaller versions cam be seen at Charlie James Gallery. On view are six impactful works (A Teenager with Promise, Olympic Threat, Charlottesville, Tulsa Hate Crime, Venus Williams, Gang Leader). When not redacting the text with a black marker, Bell copyedits the article using a red pen and yellow highlighter, annotating and commenting on the journalist’s choice of words, suggesting ways to change what was written to better communicate “the truth.” For example, in Olympic Threat (2019), the original article, that appeared on August 19, 2016, the bottom half of the front page now occupies the full space below the masthead. In the original, the headline: “Accused of Fabricating Robbery, Swimmers Fuel Tension in Brazil” is paired with a photograph of Usain Bolt, who won the 100- and 200-meter race for three consecutive years.

Bell points out that this photograph of the Jamaican athlete has nothing to do with the robbery story. In her revision most of the original text has been obliterated by a black line, except for one paragraph that states: “… privilege… in a society where many Brazilians themselves often lament their exposure to alarming levels of violent crime and police corruption.” She changes the photograph to an image of the American swimmer Ryan Lochte underneath the text: “Rio Gas Station Footage Reveals White-American Swimmers Were Offenders.” The caption now reads: “Olympic Threat: CCT footage taken from a Shell Station outside Olympic Park proves Ryan Lochte’s (above) robbery claim to be false.” In this 2016 scandal known as Lochtegate, members of the American swim team fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint.

Bell’s choice of newspaper and articles is not arbitrary. Her work suggests that these pieces of writing and their accompanying images are misleading, racially biased and not necessarily ‘objective.’ She states, “I’m creating a narrative that goes against the dominant narrative put forth by the news.” The work investigates the “complexities of narrative, information, consumption and perception.” While fake news has proliferated in the age of social media, Bell’s project is not to question truth, rather she is interested in pointing out what is missing, what a journalist might leave out and how that might be interpreted, specifically with respect to race. In Tulsa Hate Crime, for example, she changes the headline from “Tulsa Man, Accused of Harassing Lebanese Family, Is Charged With Murder” to “After Years of Racism Toward Neighbors, White-American Man Charged With Murder.” This poignant change redirects the issue. Rather than focus on the fact that the family was Lebanese, Bell articulates the white man’s history of racism.

Bell’s Counternarratives exposes the New York Times‘ editorial bias by pointing out issues of racism, and offers suggestions and alternatives to direct viewers to a different narrative. She wants her audiences to question how a news story is framed and for them to begin to see other less racially imbalanced truths.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, April 21, 2019.

Click here for Alexandra Bell review on its own page.

April 17, 2019

Lia Halloran
Double Horizon
Luis de Jesus
March 30 - May 4, 2019

Lia Halloran at Luis de Jesus

How far will an artist go to create their work? ORLAN altered her physical appearance, transforming herself using elements from famous paintings and sculptures via plastic surgery. Marina Abramovic invited Museum of Modern Art visitors to sit still and silently across from her for unspecified durations of time over 10 weeks in 2010. Lia Halloran, an artist who grew up surfing and skateboarding in the San Francisco Bay Area, learned to fly airplanes in order to film the landscape of Los Angeles from the sky.

At Luis de Jesus, Halloran presents two bodies of work. In the front gallery, large color photographic images from the series Passage are on view. Created while skateboarding with lights attached to her body along the Los Angeles river, these evocative photographs reveal the passage of time as lines of light undulating through the urban landscape at night. Bike Path, (2018/2019) depicts the vanishing point of the receding Los Angeles river under a bridge and the adjoining concrete bike path. Halloran's illuminated trajectory follows the bike path under the bridge into the distance. Similarly in Bronson Canyon (2014/2019) stripes of light dance in the space between the natural and manmade environments.

The highlight of the exhibition, however is the short film Double Horizon (2019), presented as a three channel installation. During training flights and on subsequent solo journeys, Halloran mounted cameras to the plane and documented the vast expanse of Los Angeles from above—from city to sea to mountain to desert. The resulting film turns this multifarious landscape into a geometric abstraction through the simple device of mirroring. Across three screens, sometimes in triplicate, other times as three different and contrasting landscapes, Halloran choreographed a compelling and utterly unique view of the environs that surround Los Angeles (along with an evocatively haunting score by Allyson Newman). The poetic nature of the journey is captivating as one gets lost in the mirrored space between land and sky which suddenly transforms into a dense grid of buildings, only to open up again as the plane approaches the runway. In each segment, Halloran focuses on the dramatic details of a landscape collapsing in on itself only to blossom into dynamic kaleidoscopic reflections and Rorschach patterns of highways, ocean and expansive desert sands.

Halloran's photographs imply the trace of a body. One can imagine her skating through the darkened city leaving a trail of light as she weaves through space and across time. Double Horizon on the other hand, presents a distanced view of the landscape that is unexpected and jarring. Essentially a formal exploration, it nonetheless offers a unique perspective and Halloran should be celebrated for capturing such disparate routes through these ever changing urban and natural spaces.

Click here for Lia Halloran review on its own page.

April 11, 2019

Fred Wilson
Afro Kismet
March 16 – April 27, 2019

Installation views

Fred Wilson, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant recipient in 1999, is well known for his installations that reframe and recontextualize art historical objects and cultural symbols relating to blackness. Mining the Museum, an exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society in 1992 was the first major presentation of Wilson’s methods of turning historical research into evocative exhibitions that examine representations of blackness through the juxtaposition of found objects and didactic panels that redirected how the objects were interpreted. Since then, Wilson has shown nationally and internationally: He even represented the U.S. at the 2003 Venice Biennale. His extensive exhibition, Afro Kismet was originally created for the 15th Istanbul Biennial in the fall of 2017 and was subsequently exhibited at Pace Gallery, London in the spring of 2018, and in their New York City space that summer.

At Maccarone in East Los Angeles, works from the installation Afro Kismet are on view, as well as from Fred Wilson: Black to the Powers of Ten (Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, 2016) and the retrospective Fred Wilson: Sculptures, Paintings and Installations: 2004-2014 (Pace Gallery, NY, 2014). To those not familiar with Wilson’s work and process, at first glance the exhibition has the formality of a museum display. On view are historical prints, paintings and sculptures arranged by Wilson in clusters to illustrate a particular trajectory or narrative thread. These objects are presented in conjunction with two freestanding wall-sized murals made of Iznik tiles created in collaboration with master Turkish artisans, paintings of flags from Africa and the African Diaspora drained of their colors, and Wilson’s haunting Murano glass chandeliers and black mirrors.

Over seven trips to Istanbul, Wilson researched the presence of Africans in early Europe, questioning their erasure in institutional narratives. Afro Kismet is in many ways the result of this research. The first works viewers confront are two freestanding tile walls measuring approximately 9 x 19 feet. These walls are filled with square Iznik tiles covered with intricate patterns. In the center of each are the phrases Black is Beautiful and Mother Africa written in Arabic using traditional Islamic bright blue calligraphy. Filling out the front gallery space are myriad African sculptures on pedestals presented in conjunction with paintings from the 1800s alongside Wilson’s commentary, often in the form of appropriated texts. For example in ...kept you here (2018), a stone Sherbo spirit head is placed on a pedestal that is printed on all four sides with a line from James Baldwin’s Another Country􏰀.

Other works include found figurines fused with black globes (some loosely painted over with black brushstrokes), and framed engravings placed on the wall in groups above vitrines containing cowry shells. Many of the engravings are overlaid with cut translucent paper to isolate lone black figures within the images. The highlight of the exhibition is Wilson’s glass chandeliers and mirrors. Made from Murano glass, these somber works are infused with historic, cultural and literary references. Both the chandeliers and mirrors are modeled on historical objects, with the blackness of the mirrors rendering them devoid of their original functionality.

These disparate objects are thoughtfully arranged within the large gallery spaces, inviting viewers to wander back and forth to contemplate the complex and beautiful works in vitrines, on walls and pedestals, as well as suspended from the ceiling. An exhibition guide is available for those who seek to learn about Wilson’s references and the origin of many of the artworks and cultural symbols he has appropriated. In Wilson’s installations, there is often a moment of uncertainty: Can one visit the show and just look at the objects on view, or is it necessary to read and understand the back story in order to appreciate the thesis that Wilson puts forth? In any case, the exhibition is rich as it poses questions, offers juxtapositions and suggests new narratives about what has been missing and misrepresented with respect to the notion of blackness across cultures and throughout history. This is Wilson’s mission — not to point fingers— but to point out inaccuracies in these representations. To glean the full magnitude of Wilson’s exhibition requires time and subsequent viewings. That said, it is not difficult to understand his intentions, the poignant juxtapositions he creates and his unique and thoughtful approach to art making.

Note: This review was first published in ART NOW LA, April 6, 2019.

Click here for Fred Wilson review on its own page.

April 4, 2019

David Korty
Night Gallery
March 16 – April 20, 2019

Installation views

David Korty’s early works called to mind the paintings of Alex Katz and Luc Tuymans as they flattened space, often depicting people in urban settings to imply narratives. More illustrative and interpretative than didactic or realistic, these works were an immediate draw. In exhibitions at Night Gallery in 2013 and 2016, Korty segued from representation to large-scale abstractions, incorporating drawing, painting and collage. While some figurative elements remained, the paintings were constructed from geometric shapes that referenced but did not define the body.

In Howl, Korty has moved further into abstraction. Bright color backgrounds—violet, lavender, blue, green and yellow—are filled with painted as well as collaged elements: black and white rubbings, monoprints and gestural brushstrokes suggesting hands. In each work, these solid backgrounds are framed by or contain a vivid outline that overlaps or intersects with color circles positioned within the composition to suggest cartoony mouse ears (a reference to Mickey or Mini) and rounded noses.

In Figure on violet with quadruple eyes and two black ears (all works 2019), two large black painted circles positioned toward the top of the painting are juxtaposed with a collaged rectangle signing for a head, comprised of printed newsprint fragments over which Korty has painted an orange nose and a red oval mouth. Below the quasi-head are black lines that suggest shoulders and smaller dots that sign for shirt buttons. The four eyes are a succession of ovals that infuse the portrait with a sense of movement.

Figure on lavender with orange ears similarly combines geometric shapes and collaged brush stokes that delineate painted word fragments and hands. Two orange circles (the figure’s ears) at the top are balanced by two at the bottom of the painting. The lavender background is framed by an edge of bright green at the top and sides. The black circular eyes, orange nose and black rectangular mouth recede to the back as the figure’s hand comes forward gesturing “stop.”

Korty’s canvases are a combination of collaged patterns, ribbon-like squiggles, textual fragments and pointing fingers, juxtaposed with colored circles, to become abstracted figures floating in pure color spaces. The works are variations on a theme and formal experiments, yet resonate as expressionistic personifications of these basic structures. In addition to the paintings, Korty also exhibits a suite of untitled gouache and ink on paper works that more casually yet suggestively combine his palette of cartoony hands, faces and ears.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Magazine's Gallery Rounds, April 3, 2019.

Click here for David Korth review on its own page.

March 28, 2019

Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
January 20 – April 7, 2019

Installation views

Flora, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler’s enticing and enigmatic, double-sided film installation premiered at the 2017 Venice Biennale (in the Swiss Pavilion) and is currently on view at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (through April 7). In this presentation, a single large-scale screen is suspended in the center of the darkened gallery. First viewers encounter documentary footage of an elderly man, David Mayo (81 at the time of the filming), reminiscing about his mother. On the other side of the screen, a narrative filmed in black and white recreates aspects of a 1933 relationship between Alberto Giacometti and the young Flora Mayo, David’s mother.

The impetus for Flora came from the artists’ research on Giacometti. In James Lord’s biography they happened upon a photograph of Giacometti and Mayo sitting with a bust—the only surviving documentation of her art. Curious about Mayo, they followed numerous trails that ended with the discovery that she had a son living in California. The meeting between the artists and Flora’s son led to a sharing of not only his memories of his mother’s life, but letters, photographs and notes which became the basis of the film—and a glimpse into Flora’s life while she was involved with Giacometti.

By watching both sides of the screen, we learn that Flora Mayo went to Paris in 1925 leaving behind a husband and child to become an artist. She studied to be a sculptor and there met Giacometti and they later became lovers. During the depression, her stipend was rescinded and she was forced to return to the United States after destroying all the art she created. Through voice over, her son David relates his mothers struggles as a single woman (his father is never revealed), holding menial jobs to support her family. David was not aware of his mother’s affair with Giacometti, nor did he know much about the artist’s work until his wife Googled “Flora Mayo.” Toward the end of the film, audiences watch the unpacking of Giacometti ‘s 1926 sculpture Flora and David’s first encounter with this work, as he emotionally declares: “This is my mother.”

The two films share a single soundtrack that weaves between Hubbard and Birchler’s interview with David, and Flora’s voice-over, compiled by the artists to accompany the acted recreation. Flora poses many questions about art and the desire to be an artist, and themes of discovery, love and unfulfilled dreams. The parameters of the times—and Flora’s dependence on her family’s money for survival—kept her from staying in Paris and becoming an artist. Destroying her work effectively silenced that aspect of her life. That David never knew this side of his mother’s history is tragic. In Flora, Hubbard and Birchler present a fragment of these two artists’ lives, one renowned, the other anonymous, juxtaposing the subtle black and white footage with the harsher reality of David trying to piece together what might have been.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Magazine's Gallery Rounds, March 27, 2019.

Click here for Flora review on its own page.

March 21, 2019

Rona Pondick
Zevitas Marcus
February 9 - March 30, 2019

Installation views

Rona Pondick's latest works are brightly colored resin and acrylic sculptures featuring bald heads (cast self portraits) often floating in, or situated above, translucent cubes or boxes. Throughout her long career, Pondick has investigated the human body to create hybrid plant/animal forms in a wide range of materials including stainless steel or bronze. Her new works are a shift in both materiality and chroma.

The floor-based Yellow Blue Black White, 2013-2018, is unsettling. Here, an opaque yellow head is awkwardly attached to a blue and black blob-shaped body— a textured agglomeration of epoxy modeling compound. Tiny misshapen yellow hands extend from arm-like appendages on either side of the genderless form. Is this a new species? Human? Animal? Alien?

Magenta Swimming in Yellow, 2015-17, presents an uncanny juxtaposition of human and creature. A semi transparent magenta head is attached to a much smaller, not quite human body swimming in resin. The head emerges from the resin just above the lips. The rectangular base is divided into two zones, the top one is semi transparent, the bottom a deep opaque yellow. Because Pondick's sculptures demand to be viewed from all sides, the works are installed within the gallery at different heights and are easy to circle around. The works are titled after the colors used in their making, as well as the orientation of the heads within the resin casing. Encased Yellow Green, 2017-2018, features a disembodied head trapped in semi transparent resin. There is a yellow glow from within the head which is curiously positioned adjacent to a lime green rectangle suggesting an external battery pack. When viewed from one side, this shape obscures the head, whereas when viewed from above or behind, both the head and the accompanying green object are visible.

Pondick's creations feel like specimens, many enclosed in protective casings, each with a different orientation and color palette. The heads and their weird bodies have abject qualities. Are these alien beings preserved for future study? Though sturdy (as each sculpture is placed atop a pedestal), the sculptures also feel quite delicate, alluding to a fragile existence. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact emotions these purposely strange creations elicit as they are beautiful, fascinating and disturbing simultaneously. Pondick speaks about the psychology of color and these very personal works (many imagined while recovering from a serious illness) resonate on a physical and emotional level, suggesting a time when science fiction meets reality.

Click here for Rona Pondick review on its own page.

March 14, 2019

Chris Engman
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
February 16 - March 23, 2019

Chris Engman

A photographic image represents the transformation of the three-dimensional world onto a flattened picture plane. In our mind’s eye, we recreate the scene to understand the image. Many photographers are interested in the relationship between illusion and reality and the camera’s ability to collapse or expand space. In the 1970s and 1980s, photographers like Zeke Berman and John Pfahl fabricated interventions in the natural and man-made landscape that only cohered when seen from a specific vantage point— the exact spot where they placed their cameras. In Containment, (2018), Chris Engman‘s site specific work (initially made for FotoFocus in Cincinnati) and reconfigured for the space at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, he reveals his process by creating a room-sized photographic illusion.

Viewed from the stoop just outside the gallery, Engman’s Containment perfectly lines up, becoming an image of a cascading stream surrounded by trees that recedes into the distance. To create Containment, Engman shot the landscape, enlarged it so it was approximately life-size, then mapped that image, breaking it into numerous fragments and aligning it according to a fixed perspective onto the walls of a faux room constructed within the gallery for that exact purpose. The image coheres from a single vantage point, but is otherwise disjointed, depending upon where the viewer is positioned. Engman follows this elaborate process to create many of his photographic works, yet usually only exhibits a photograph of the constructed elements rather than allow viewers to experience the illusion.

Seeing how Engman puts his works together is fascinating and while Containment elucidates how his other photographs are fabricated, it in no way belittles the work. It is a treat to see the shape and form of the architectural support with photographic fragments adhered to its front and sides and to then reverse engineer its construction. After passing through Containment, understanding how photographs like Landscape for Quentin or Equivalence, (both 2017) are created becomes easier and deeper imaginatively. Equivalence is an image of a cloud filled sky. Engman broke apart and enlarged the original photograph adhering it section by section to the walls, floor and ceiling of a small room with numerous windows, a desk and chair in the far corner and framed pictures on the wall. The place where the image coheres from the camera’s vantage point is from just outside the space, looking toward the far corner. A similar illusion occurs in Landscape for Quentin, an image of textured desert sand dunes that has been mapped onto a receding hallway.

Bookshelves, (2019) is a less complicated construction, yet just as enigmatic. Here, actual shelves with books and objects extend from a photograph of that same shelf installed on a white wall. Looking at the piece forces one to do a double take, comparing and contrasting the real objects and their photographic doppelgangers.

Engman acknowledges that his photographs are often sculptural interventions and allows the taping and tacking of the fragments onto the existing architecture to show. In many ways, he follows in the footsteps of conceptual artists who created their work without an audience and presented it as photographic documentation. While Engman reveals his process in Containment, he also creates an immersive environment for the viewer to experience. Seen together, the works in Refraction, present tromp l’oeil and perspectival illusions that speak to the complexities of photographic representation.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, March 10, 2019.

Click here for Chris Engman review on its own page.

March 7, 2019

Lisa Anne Auerbach
Gavlak Los Angeles
February 7 - March 16, 2019

Installation view

When looking at books on a shelf, it is difficult not to see the titles in relation to each other and to think about the ways they connect and how they might relate to the person who collected them. Lisa Anne Auerbach's installation Libraries is comprised of images of bookshelves compiled by visiting or researching books in public archives, as well as documenting those from select personal collections. In libraries, one finds books of all shapes, colors and sizes with titles presented in myriad styles. Auerbach equalizes these books by stripping of them not only of their authors, but also of their original color and fonts, transforming them into black and white knitted tapestries of titles, rearranged to maximize poetic and aesthetic resonance.

To fully engage with these pieces, it is necessary to both look and read. In Fear (2018), a work based on an imagined Donald Trump bookshelf, the titles include Mein Kampf, The Way to Success, The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, Crippled America and Think Like a Billionaire. These titles share the shelves with images of guns and spiderwebs. In Water and the California Dream, (2019), interspersed between plants are titles such as: Food Wars, Big Chicken, Utopianism, Fast Food Nation and Radical Agriculture. Radical Awakening, (2018), places books like Grist for the Mill, On God, Walden, Yoga Body, etc. between floral patterns and statues of prancing beasts.

Auerbach's works, fabricated on knitting machines with the aid of a computer, call attention to the tensions, contradictions and similarities between analog and digital forms of communication and creation. In an age when more and more books are being digitized or even Tweeted in short bursts, the printed book and it's presence on a shelf has an archaic resonance that harkens back to ancient libraries as the source of knowledge and information rather than Wikipedia and Google.

These knitted libraries illustrate not only diverse tastes in reading, but when seen en masse they have the feel of concrete poetry. The relationship of the titles within each red, green, blue or black outlined panel become a quasi-portrait especially when augmented by the other items Auerbach includes on the shelves. Yet portraits of whom, is never revealed. Together, these large-scale knitted paintings present just a fraction of the books in print and speak to the wealth of subjects available to explore. That aside, the fun in these works is reading the tiles across and down as fragmented narratives and found poetry.

Click here for Lisa Anne Auerbach review on its own page.

February 28, 2019

David Hockney
Something New in Painting (and Photography) [and even Printing]... Continued
LA Louver
February 7 - March 23, 2019

David Hockney

One of the most compelling and fascinating things about David Hockney's career, is his embrace of technology and his desire to make new works outside of a traditional frame of reference. He was one of the first to break apart space to create collages with Polaroids, draw with an iPad and to build a rig so as to be able to film multiple perspectives in the landscape simultaneously. While he continues to both draw and paint landscapes and portraits, he also utilizes digital technologies to explore the passage of time. In Something New in Painting (and Photography) [and even Printing]... Continued, Hockney has produced mural scale images (over 24 feet long), that are composited from his sessions photographing people who visit his studio. The photographs, sometimes taken on multiple days depict the sitters from many different vantage points. Hockney refers to them as "photographic drawings."

Pictured Gathering with Mirror and Pictures at an Exhibition, (2018), are installed on opposite walls. Both look into an imagined studio space from above. In Pictures at an Exhibition, three rows of folding wooden chairs, occupy the foreground, facing a wall of Hockney's recent paintings. Numerous figures are seated in these chairs gazing at four nine-part works. Some are engaged in conversation, a few are casually standing, either against the walls at either end or amongst the seated. In Pictured Gathering with Mirror, while the position of the chairs and figures remains the same, the wall with the paintings now contains a large mirror reflecting the seated and standing viewers. Because these works face each other, gallery viewers become analogous to the audience in the images. To further complicate the illusion, the actual paintings are also dispersed through the space so visitors can bounce back and forth between looking at the paintings and their photographic reproductions. To create these images, Hockney photographed people from multiple perspectives— shooting them from the front, back and sides. He then digitally composited the various elements to create the final compositions. The result is works with disorienting perspectives that depict imagined spaces that cannot really exist.

Viewers Looking at a Ready-made with Skull and Mirrors, 2018 is another illusionistic work in a smaller room. A tall rectangular room with a tiled-floor is constructed from the same elements. The three visible walls are almost entirely covered by framed mirrors over twenty feet tall. Six seated and one standing figure encircle a 'ready made' sculpture— a stack of metal carts with three shelves that are painted either red, blue, or yellow. In actuality, Hockney photographed a single cart from varying perspectives and digitally created the sculpture by changing its size, angle and orientation. The figures, many who appear in the other photographic murals, look at the sculpture. The mirrors reflect their varying orientations. Again, we as audience join the figures as we regard the work.

The mixed media portraits on view in the upper gallery and the four acrylic paintings made of nine canvases each, read as familiar. Hockey has a deft hand and can capture the essence of his subjects with ease. Most of the portraits are made with charcoal and crayon on canvas, and have a light, sketch-like quality. Each portrait depicts a seated figure in a nondescript space. The pieces display a familiarity and comfort that pervades many of Hockney's portraits. While the people depicted in the portraits do not appear in the larger photographic drawings, the paintings presented on the fabricated wall are included in the exhibition. These four acrylic paintings are brightly colored presentations of real and imagined interior and exterior spaces. Hockney creates abstracted landscapes and still lives, fragmenting the compositions across nine canvases. The segments cohere in the mind's eye although they are framed individually and spaced a few inches apart. Grids are a constant in Hockney's work and he has mastered dividing a composition across multiple panels. This fragmentation allows for individual narratives that connect to create a whole. For example in The Walk to the Studio, 2018, it is possible to imagine Hockney walking up the blue stairs with yellow railing across the sloped landscape filled with grass and trees toward his studio, a skylit building surrounded by potted plants and cacti.

Hockey is a rare artist who moves seamlessly between abstraction and representation. He chooses to paint people as a way to study and observe the diversity of mankind. That he can faithfully render anything is a given. Yet many of his landscapes reduce the world to a gesture and graphic colors. Rather than continually reproduce what he sees, Hockney explores film and photography to take advantage of what new technologies can offer. He looks for expansive ways to picture the world and continually surprises with these creations.

Click here for David Hockney review on its own page.

February 21, 2019

Jeffrey Deitch
February 9 - April 6, 2019

People installation view

No two people are exactly the same. We are all shapes, sizes and colors. So, it comes as no surprise that an exhibition entitled People would be a smorgasbord of styles, attitudes and materials created by artists young and old, famous and not. More than fifty sculptures, mostly freestanding and facing forward like soldiers in a line, confront viewers upon entry. The works range from the abstract to the representational. Some are assemblage, created from found objects; others are cast or created from bronze; and one even contains a performative element with living figures.

Moving through the exhibit, it is impossible not to think about the trajectory of art history, the different disciplines artists use and their perspectives on creating. The inclusion of Duane Hanson comes as no surprise. Cheerleader, 1988 is a realistic rendition of a cheerleader rooted in a specific time period— as her hair and uniform attest. Luis Flores' figure, Guns, 2018 is a self-portrait dressed in jeans and a t-shirt whose bearded head and gesticulating arms are knit from yarn. Rachel Feinstein's colorful Feathers, 2018 is a dark haired woman in neon green pumps and a day-glow pink bikini. Her seductive posturing can been seen in contrast to Karon Davis' Nobody, 2019, an unpainted white cast paster sculpture of two men positioned back to back; one in a shriner cap the other in a top hat. Nick Cave's Sound Suit, 2015, is a mixed media sculpture in which vintage toys and globes surround the lavishly dressed mannequin. Austin Lee's Walk, 2019 is a red, blue and yellow smiley face cartoon figure greeting viewers upon entry. It is flanked by more sombre works such as John Ahearn's Noel and Blondie at East 100th Street, (1996-1998), a representational sculpture of a mother holding onto her child as he tries to run away.

Even Holloway is represented by 13 Vertical, 2018 a stack of heads with light bulb noses. Liz Craft delights with Spider Woman (Maggie with Plaid Pants), 2019, a sculpture of a female figure whose arm extends into a spider web across the wall. Barry McGee's, Untitled (5 tagger Installation), 2005 is a mixed media work depicting a human tower of five taggers on each other's shoulder so as to be able to spray their graffiti toward the gallery ceiling.

The list of included artist reads like a recap of who has been shown in galleries and museums of contemporary art over the last 30 years: Jeff Koons, Paul McCarthy, Kiki Smith, Urs Fischer, Rubi Neri, Fred Wilson, Isa Genzken, Alex Israel, Thomas Houseago, and Ashley Bickerton, for example. The lesser knowns pack as much of a punch and one of the pleasures of the exhibition is happening upon a work and not necessarily knowing who made but, but appreciating it for what it communicates in the context of the group. People celebrates others, the weird, the unconventional and the confrontational. It suggests all human beings with their varied identities cannot be thought of as any one thing.

Click here for People review on its own page.

February 14, 2019

In the Sunshine of Neglect
Defining Photographs and Radical Experiments in Inland Southern California, 1950 to the Present
California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA
January 19 - April 28, 2019

installation view / Christina Fernandez / Ken Marchionno

In the Sunshine of Neglect: Defining Photographs and Radical Experiments in Inland Southern California, 1950 to the Present is an expansive group exhibition located at both the California Museum of Photography and the Riverside Art Museum. First, it is necessary to understand what constitutes Inland Southern California, in other words the Inland Empire — an area outside metropolitan Los Angeles that includes: western Riverside County and southwestern San Bernardino County. Sometimes the desert communities of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are also included in the rubric. The is no hard line or boundary to the Inland Empire and the exhibition traces the work of photographers who are both from the area as well as those who have photographed there. One of the most prevalent themes is the impact of urban development on the natural landscape. Yet this is not a didactic exhibition. The works are poetic and abstract as well as documentary. Surprisingly, some of the artists have works in more than one section, which allows for the idea of cross pollination, as what is intriguing about the exhibition is its expansive look at contemporary photography.

Thoughtfully conceived of and organized by Douglas McCulloh, the exhibition is divided into seven sections. These include: New Topographics and Downstream Explorations, Social Landscapes, Interventions: Photography is Performance, Fires Flood Faultlines, Speculative Terrain, Peripheral Visions and Contested Landscapes. With the participation of more than 50 artists, there are works by those often associated with the California landscape like Ansel Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Julias Shulman and Joel Sternfeld as well as images by educators and recent graduates from area schools like UC Riverside and CSU San Bernardino.

Although there is some experimental work, this is an exhibition that focuses on straight photography. One could ask, and the exhibition does attempt to answer: what is straight photography in the digital age? Ken Marchionno's, Crestline Panorama 05 (Home), 2016 is a long horizontal image that spans a freestanding wall and is comprised of numerous digital exposures seamlessly stitched together. The same section, Peripheral Visions, includes Sant Khalsa's Trees and Seedlings, black and white transparencies of burnt trees sandwiched between glass and slotted into tall wooden planks of varying sizes that lean against the wall to reference the way lumber is sold. Also in this section (on view at the Riverside Art Museum) are Robbert Flick's composite images of a willow tree exposed over time. Located at Frank Bonelli Regional Park, Flick documented the same site over and over to create works he terms 'extended views.'

The exhibition begins at the California Museum of Photography (CMP) with section one: New Topographics and Downstream Explorations. Here black and white and color images from the 1970s to the present (2017) trace the changes in both the natural and built environment. The works collected under the heading Social Landscapes also span past to present and range from Mark McKnight's close up images of walls and gutters to Thomas McGovern's photographs of swap meets and people in cars, as well as Nadia Osline's surreal photograph Sacred Datura, 2010 depicting a poisonous flower floating over the lights of a city. Interventions includes John Divola's spray painted additions to abandoned desert shacks, Bystedt & Egan's contemporary recreations of faded color snapshots and Kim Abeles' The Map Is the Legend (Equidistant Inland Empire), 2018, an evocative and expansive photo-sculpture that includes the participation of myriad artists and scholars.

As expected, the California landscape is home to numerous fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes and other natural disasters. In this section Joe Deal, Noah Berger, Joel Sternfeld, Sant Khalsa among others record the effects of these occurrences. Speculative Terrain features Ellen Jantzen's hybrid color photographic constructions picturing fields of wind turbines and Leopoldo Peña's black and white photographs from the Desert Errant series of incongruous objects that populate the landscape. The concluding section, Contested Landscapes also spans from past to present and includes works that exhibit man's mark on the environment over time, like Ron Jude's, Target Practice #2 (Box), 2014 or Citrus # 1 (w/ tire), 2013, J. Bennett Fitts' images from No Lifeguard on Duty, 2005, as well as Kim Stringfellow's Mojave Series.

As in any large group exhibition, there are many themes and ideas that weave through the works and numerous connections that can be drawn between images and artists. In the Sunshine of Neglect: Defining Photographs and Radical Experiments in Inland Southern California, 1950 to the Present, is an intelligent and thoughtful exhibition that looks at a particular area of California through the eyes of a wide range of artists who use photography as a tool to document, comment upon and celebrate the landscape the surrounds them.

Click here for In the Sunshine of Neglect review on its own page.

February 7, 2019

Alejandro Cartagena
Kopeikin Gallery
January 12 - March 9, 2019

installation view and images

When regarding Presence, Alejandro Cartagena‘s compelling exhibition at Kopeikin Gallery, it is difficult not to be reminded of works by John Baldessari. A fixture in Los Angeles, Baldessari is well known for removing silhouettes from found photographs and movie stills, or replacing heads with opaque colored circles. Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Cartagena uses photography to explore social, urban and environmental issues. Previous bodies of work included "Carpoolers" that focus images of riders in the back of pickup trucks captured from above as they zip along the road, as well as "Suburbia Mexicana," photographs documenting the landscape and inhabitants of Mexican suburbs.

Presence, (all works 2018) seems to be a bit of a departure, as Cartagena begins with vintage black and white, sepia toned vernacular photographs he collected during the past few years. These matted, framed works are installed in large grids, spanning the walls of the gallery. Represented are selections from different aspects of the project, including images entitled "Groups," "Faceless," "Street People" and "Dismembered." In each image, Cartagena carefully cuts around the human the figures, stripping away their identities, while leaving the background intact. In one photograph from the "Groups" set, he cuts away the six diners seated at a table in a restaurant creating a void in the image. In another, an entire crowd that congregated to have their photograph taken on the stairs of a civic building has disappeared from the image. Cartagena’s removals include business men, soldiers, school groups and families, as well as those attending social gatherings.

For the sub-set "Faceless" Cartagena creates circular voids obliterating each face in the photographs. While many of these images are posed photographs documenting large groups, without facial features, they become collections of differing poses, outfits and hairstyles. This series calls to mind a film and a book of photographs entitled Killed by artist/filmmaker, William E. Jones. Jones re-presents photographs FSA director Roy Stryker rejected by punching a hole in the negatives. In Jones’ project, the holes become deep black circles appearing in the center of each image.

Cartagena’s "Dismembered" images began as studio portraits akin to modern day cartes de visites. Here, he separates the figure from the background, cuts the head from the clothing at the neck and punches a hole in the face. He then collages these pieces back together, offsetting them from their original positions. In Dismembered #8, he includes the woman’s face, a circular fragment peeking out from the empty backdrop. The three "Dismembered" collages stylistically recall the political photomontages of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch who used collage to undermine Nazi propaganda.

What is striking about Cartagena’s images is the personality and vitality the shapes of these missing silhouettes evoke. Though the images are devoid of the human body, its presence still resonates. Nino Haciendo Cosas #16 is a picture of a man sitting in a chair in a park or a garden, centered in the composition. Despite his absence, there is a calm and warmth to the image suggested by his body position. Similarly, Nino Haciendo Cosas #8, presents the shape of a figure leaning against an architectural column, one foot on the ground, the other resting against the support. Though the body has been removed, his shadow is present and helps to define the form of the missing figure.

While what remains provides some context, Cartagena’s voids are loaded. They sign for those who have vanished. He states, "These representations also connote larger issues in my Latin America, where we have become ‘no one’ in the midst of our social and political crisis. In the end, it seems anyone can disappear, and no one will ever give us answers." Presence, is a body of work about absence. A single image would be a curiosity, but Cartagena has amassed a huge archive of source material that represents a cross section of people and places. His anonymous figures resonate because they are voids with distinctive shapes. They cry out, They cry out, 'though my body may be erased, I am still here.'

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, February 4, 2019.

Click here for Alejandro Cartagena review on its own page.

January 31, 2019

Meg Cranston
Hue Saturation Value: The Archer Paintings
Meliksetian Briggs
January 12 - March 2, 2019

installation view

Meg Cranston's The Archer Paintings are a suite of works originally made for an exhibition at the Archer School for Girls, developed in collaboration with the students who suggested names for the color swatches Cranston created and also chose their favorite colors. Cranston has an interest in color theory in addition to a curiosity about color forecasting and the Pantone Corporation‘s role in creating a market (and a value) for specific colors each year.

In Hue Saturation Value there are five paintings on view: one in tones of blue, one red and one yellow. A fourth painting represents the full spectrum of colors and the fifth entitled, Mr Moseby’s Salmon Not Pink Shirt, 2019, depicts a sketchy rendition of the front and back sides of a man’s dress shirt. Its color — a reddish orange— was voted one of the top colors by the Archer students and coincidently is close in tone to Pantone’s 2019 color of the year—living coral.

Cranston’s project pays homage to Josef Alber‘s Interaction of Colors as well as to the myriad artists who have painted grids. Yet, while she draws from historical precedents, Cranston’s projects are always uniquely her own and have a thought-out conceptual framework. At Archer, she engaged with students aged 10-18, discussing the “value” of color, the idea of “saturating” a market as well as instructing them in the mechanics of painting— how to vary colors through the adding of black and white to the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue).

Cranston also introduced the students to the Pantone Matching System and the company’s color naming conventions while simultaneously asking them to think of their own names for the different colors, acknowledging that both the right tonalities and the right name are the necessary ingredients for a winner.

While there are infinite colors and color combinations, Cranston’s paintings feature an unnamed, seemingly random, selection. Her works are hand-painted grids, seven rows and six columns of round-edged rectangles against a white ground. Hue Saturation Value (Yellow), 2018, is a 60 x 45 inch oil painting on canvas. The range of color transitions from a mustardy yellow to an overcooked pea green, and includes deep oranges as well as light grays.

To achieve these variations, Cranston adjusted the hue, saturation and value of the color following principals taught in color theory. She created a blue as well as a red painting, in addition to one where she drew from the full spectrum. The resulting pieces call to mind conceptual and minimalist variations as well as the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly. While Cranston’s paintings are formally composed and satisfying to view, they resonate on a deeper level when seen in the context of the project and as an exploration of the concept and appeal of color.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, January 23, 2019.

Click here for Meg Cranston review on its own page.

January 24, 2019

Jessica Eaton
Iterations (II)
January 12 - February 9, 2019

installation view

Jessica Eaton is a Canadian artist living in Montreal who carefully constructs complex analogue photographs. At first viewing, it is hard to imagine they are not digitally manipulated. In Interations (II), she presents variations of two set-ups; cfaal (Cubes for Albers and LeWitt) and IOC (Interactions of Color). The easiest way to understand her process is to imagine a set of open-backed cubes painted different tones of gray. In her studio she positions her 4 x 5 camera in front of a backdrop and table, and exposes a single sheet of film multiple times, placing colored gels in front of the lens for each exposure. She moves the cubes in and out of the frame to build a succession of interconnected squares. The result is a magical photograph of concentric, multi-colored squares that appear to recede into a finite space.

What is fascinating about Eaton’s work is her straightforward use of photography to illustrate the complex properties of light and color. She photographs gray objects infusing them with tonalities and relationships that can only be recorded by a camera. She relies on precise masking and mathematical formulas based on additive color theory to determine the sequence of gels and times of exposure. It is a bit like calculated alchemy.

Eaton’s work is process-based as well as algorithmic. It is also generative as each iteration determines the next step, however the final image is static and analog as opposed to dynamic and digital. Nothing is arbitrary or left to chance. The printed photographs call to mind the paintings of Josef Albers in which he layered squares of varying colors and sizes to explore complex color relationships, as well as the early paintings of Frank Stella. They have the dizzying effect of Op Art. Eaton’s photographs are also informed by minimalism, specifically the systemic works of Sol LeWitt that investigated the myriad permutations of the cube.

Each iteration of cfaal has a unique color sequence. Upon careful examination, it becomes evident that the center square matches the background and the in-between colors are tonal variations creating an intriguing gradient. In cfaal 2213, (all works 2018) for example, the hues transition from deep blues to muted rusts and golds. The edges of the cubes are lighter than their insides, creating lines that recede in perspective. The works oscillate, collapsing and expanding depth. Commanding attention, the works ask to be deconstructed, but it is impossible to track the numerous exposures that comprised their making. Where in the cfaal series Eaton pictures receding squares; in her IOC prints there appear to be fewer exposures as the center of the cube is a large solid color. However, that is not the case. It is possible to see the edges and the vanishing point of the concentric squares despite the final exposure which encompasses a larger surface area. These images are quite disorienting, yet also gracefully present.

An iteration is defined as “repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.” In Iterations (II), Eaton has created and solved a complex problem, one with infinite possibilities that continues to surprise with each successive click of the shutter.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, January 23, 2019.

Click here for Jessica Eaton review on its own page.

January 17, 2019

Hannah Epstein
Do You Want A Free Trip To Outer Space?
Steve Turner Gallery
January 5 - February 16, 2019

installation view

For her second solo exhibition at Steve Turner, Halifax born, Los Angeles and Toronto based, Hannah Epstein has transformed the darkened gallery into outer space. She fills this fantasy world with spot-lit, hooked rugs of varying sizes, depicting an invented comic book superhero called Superchill.

In her work, Epstein blends the tactile and the digital. She has a long history of creating animations, videos and online games, in addition to creating a cast of hooked rug characters. In her previous exhibition, Monster World (2018) her funky colorful creatures inhabited the walls eliciting awe and smiles. While her work has an outsider art appeal, it is created by a savvy insider. The term "post internet" is a catch-all phrase that refers to artists who do not necessarily make art on or about the internet, but create objects that are informed by internet culture. In many ways, Epstein is a quintessential "post internet" artist.

Upon the walls in the gallery are more than twenty-five tactile objects, hooked-wool rugs with varying lengths of dangling yarn in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Each artwork is lit by a carefully constructed video projection that illuminates the silhouette of the shape, while simultaneously projecting twinkling yellow stars and other animated fragments that interact with specific aspects of the rugs. For example, when looking at Cruhnch, (all works 2018), a pink-toned monster filled with a pattern of different colored eyeballs and mouths with exaggerated teeth, pixelated orange and yellow flames surround the figure suddenly erupt to surround the figure. A similar animation appears above the piece, Alien Flex.

The use of projected animation as a lighting source allows Epstein to create a dynamic rather than static environment in which the unexpected occurs. The narrative that drives the work centers on the adventures of Superchill's trip to outer space. During her trip, despite passing by a wide range of circular shaped planets (some drawn from popular culture like Planet Accidental Ninja Turtle) and interactions with alien monsters and other creatures, Superchill is undisturbed. Epstein's imagining of this trip is to present an alternative to a superhero with powers, creating instead a superhero who stays calm, or super chill.

Any trip to outer space, free or not would be anxiety producing as leaving earth and flying through the universe in a spaceship is risky. Yet, in Epstein's presentation, outer space is filled with smiling planets, friendly aliens and a star-filled sky. She even includes a free video game entitled Cloud Blaster in which viewers assume the role of a blond haired astronaut who blasts evil faced clouds with a golden genie lamp.

While Superchill could be anyone, she has an affinity with Epstein and might even be a self portrait in much the same way Trenton Doyle Hancock's "TorpedoBoy" is his alter ego. Although she is depicted as buxom and muscular in Superchill Issue No. 1 Cover Page, in the other works including Superchill Buddha she is just a regular girl. Epstein's creations have the aura and appeal of large-scale "Ugly" dolls or other stuffed toys that are popular with both children and adult audiences. In this enchanting installation, Epstein successfully combines the analog and the digital to create an evocative experience that inspires viewers to think about what exist beyond, while simultaneously being grounded in the here and now.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, January 15, 2019.

Click here for Hannah Epstein review on its own page.

January 10, 2019

Jo Ann Callis, Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, Carla Jay Harris and Brenda E. Stevenson, Lebohang Kganye, Kovi Konowiecki, B Neimeth, and Martin Parr
Rose Gallery
December 8, 2018 - January 26, 2019

Remembrance, installation view

Successful thematic group exhibitions in gallery spaces are difficult to achieve as it is often not possible to show enough works by each artist to represent their project while creating a dialogue amongst them. In Remembrance, curators Thomas Kollie and Zoe Lemelson have chosen artists and artist teams whose works address the theme of memory and notions of family in far reaching and diverse ways. Jo Ann Callis, Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, Carla Jay Harris and Brenda E. Stevenson, Lebohang Kganye, Kovi Konowiecki, B Neimeth, and Martin Parr span a range of intentions, ages and geography, yet when seen in relation to each other, their pieces engage in a compelling conversation.

While each artist engages with photography, their approaches to the medium are quite contemporary and go beyond conventional documentation. Bitter Earth, is a collaboration between artist Carla Jay Harris and historian Brenda E. Stevenson. In their installation, they create a space akin to a sitting room with a wall framed images, many selected from the Library of Congress, and another longer wall covered in green floral wallpaper. In front of these is an ornate chair and side table on which sits a formal portrait of Harris' grandmother. Inserted into ovals within the wallpaper pattern are historic photographs of African American women. Harris and Stevenson take what is usually a warm and welcoming space where families would gather and infuse it with the harsher realities of the lives of African Americans. Their installation invites viewers to contemplate the complex history of African American women by creating an installation that is both personal and political.

Lebohang Kganye begins with black and white copies of her own family photographs which she then de- and re- constructs to make both a short film and a series of prints. She cuts out silhouettes and fragments from the original pictures to create small-scale dioramas which are then carefully lit and rephotographed. Her interest in myriad histories — as a combination of truths and fictions— has led her to transform photographs and stories into evocative, open ended narratives where viewers can fill in the blanks.

Lunar Caustic is a series of color photographs by Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, whose surfaces appear to be in the process of disintegration. Sauvin, a Beijing-based collector and editor rescued a trove of negatives from a recycling area in China—the images were being destroyed for their silver. This archive consists of more than half a million negatives spanning approximately 20 years (1995-2005). In Lunar Caustic, Gibson and Sauvin use these negatives as a point of departure to experiment with the effects of different chemicals on the surface of photographic paper to distort the image, simulating what happened to the negatives. This results in abstracted, colorful, partially recognizable and mysterious images of other's memories— people, families and places— separated from their original context.

B Neimeth and Kovi Konowiecki use photography to record people and places to create narratives that connect past and present. They are interested in the ability of photographs to transcend time and define place. In Konowiecki's Delivering Flowers to Grandpa Jack, he has created a series of photographs about where he grew up— Long Beach, CA— paying tribute to that which is commonplace and often overlooked to show the significance of these elements in everyday life. Within the series, Konowiecki intersperses vintage family photographs to create links between present and past. B Neimeth examines the relationship between the personal and the ubiquitous by looking at the differences between Beverly Hills, FL where her grandmother resides and Beverly Hills, CA.

Also included are black and white images from a collaborative project by Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows entitled June Street, Salford, (1973) and selections from Decor, 2005, a series of pigment prints created by Jo Ann Callis. Both Parr/Meadows and Callis look back in time to present interior spaces that resonate both personally (Callis) and universally (Parr/Martin).

In Remembrance, the curators have carefully selected intriguing and open ended works that illustrate the possibilities within the medium. The works embrace both the analogue and the digital and ask viewers to examine their own relationships to interior and exterior spaces, vernacular and family photographs while thinking about different ways of telling stories and recording history.

Click here for Remembrance review on its own page.

January 3, 2019

Jen Stark
Wilding Cran Gallery
November 18, 2018 – January 13, 2019

Jen Stark, installation view

Jen Stark‘s frenetic installation, Multiplicity is an immersive animated projection of pulsating concentric shapes and colors coupled with sound by Jamie Vance. While Stark has created large scale public artworks —both painted murals and sculptures— this is her first projection. In her pieces, Stark layers brightly colored geometric shapes to create complex patterns and forms. Her two and three-dimensional works have the implied movement of “Op Art” as they reference undulating arrays and mandalas. Stark’s segue into animation is not a surprise as her static work implicitly generates movement in the mind’s eye.

Within the rectangles, sunbursts and stars projected on the gallery wall, subtle shifts in grayscale and color gradients ebb and flow. This motion is reflected in a large intricately shaped mirror placed on the floor at the base of the projection, creating the illusion that the work fills the room. As viewers criss-cross the gallery, their pathways are tracked by a motion sensor which triggers the shapes to spin and transition from black and white to color. While Multiplicity has an immediate appeal and is delightful to interact with, it falls into the conundrum that plagues many interactive installations. How does the interactivity enhance the experience? Is it enough that the shapes and colors change as a viewer moves through the space?

The interaction— shapes transitioning from black and white to color and following the viewer— is a short-lived thrill, though the animation is enticing on its own. The reverberating shapes are mesmerizing and hypnotic, filling the darkened space with abstract imagery, becoming a psychedelic experience. The way they move, independently and together, is spellbinding: The shapes enlarge and contract, the individual layers change color, while their geometric configuration simultaneously transitions from circles to multi-pointed stars.

Although Stark references designs from the natural and spiritual world —fractals, wormholes, topographic maps— her animated, as well as static pieces, do not transcend their formal qualities. Like many of her other projects, Multiplicity is based on a cycle of repetition— similarly shaped forms change size and color to create a dizzying effect. The result is captivating, but leaves this viewer wanting more.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, December 24, 2018.

Click here for Jen Stark review on its own page.

December 27, 2018

Robert Rauschenberg
The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
October 28, 2018 - June 9, 2019

Robert Rauschenberg, installation view, LACMA

How to picture 1/4 mile? Exactly how far is it? A 1/4 mile is one lap around a track. Imagine artworks placed side by side along that perimeter...it is quite a distance to cover. And yet Robert Rauschenberg did just that. He created an artwork comprised of 190 panels, working on it for over 17 years (1981-1998), that represents the distance between his studio and home in Captiva Island in Florida. Presented in its entirety for the first time, The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece, fills the walls and much of the floor of LACMA‘s BCAM, Level 3. In many ways, this work encapsulates Rauschenberg’s career as it illustrates the trajectory of his methods and materials, ranging from abstraction to representation, using mediums as diverse as paint, silkscreen, collage and assemblage.

While the large panels are presented chronologically, it is not necessary to view them in order, but best to wander to and fro while observing the different styles and media. The array of artworks is breathtaking and a bit overwhelming. One way to contextualize Rauschenberg’s achievement is to think of it as a parallel to what was happening personally and globally during the time of its creation. As Rauschenberg was a prolific artist and this was not the only piece he worked on over the seventeen years, it can also be seen as snapshots of the different stages of his career. Rauschenberg is well known for his experimentation with non-traditional materials and in this very personal, quasi-narrative work, some of everything is included.

Panel 1, created in 1981, is a mixed media work on plywood juxtaposing fabric, found objects and photo transfers. In many ways, it is quintessential Rauschenberg, as it typifies his process of combining objects and images that resonate together. Rauschenberg borrowed freely from the media and art history, as well as from his previous artworks. Appropriation was one of the tools of his trade. Many of the panels in The 1/4 Mile incorporate fragments from news imagery or found photographs, as well as Rauschenberg’s own pictures, often cropped and collaged together.

Traversing The 1/4 Mile is like going on a journey to visit different styles of painting and sculpture. The earliest panels are collages full of repeated photographs and snippets of text from newspaper advertisements attached to the painted plywood at all angles. The sequence suddenly transforms into larger areas of color, then gets minimal before transitioning into multiple segments of cut cardboard that segues into a flutter of patterned clothing. At times, the panels are filled with intricate fabrics that form quilt-like patterns with no imagery. In others, Rauschenberg traced the silhouettes of friends and family members onto bright orange fabric, surrounding their outlines with images of objects that were specific to that individual.

Panel 59, 1983 is a self-portrait within this sequence. Here, Rauschenberg presents a trace of his body surrounded by images that include his dog, as well as motifs that recur in many of his other artworks. In place of a painted panel, for Panel 69, Rauschenberg has created columns of hardback books that stand far from the wall. Many of the later panels are reminiscent of his two and three-dimensional collages where large blocks of color were overlaid with single toned silkscreened images. A section of panels is comprised of loose black brush strokes atop silver screened images that range from the banal to the iconic.

Among the last few panels are free standing sculptures. Panel 185 has a circular base to which are bolted large-scale metal numbers and letters. Its center is a crumpled yellow road sign with arrows leading in both directions. Panel 186 is also a found sculpture: three choreographed blinking traffic lights.

Rauschenberg did not conceive of The 1/4 Mile as a straight line with a fixed linear progression — the artwork meanders. While the majority of the panels are vertical, some are sculptural, some are shaped, others are multi-dimensional, hang horizontally or are suspended across the space. In Panel 1, there are two collaged photographs of pointing fingers going in opposite directions, perhaps suggesting viewers go both forward and back in viewing, and in time. It seems that this is Rauschenberg’s directive — look both ways, look all ways and travel the immersive installation of The 1/4 Mile at a leisurely pace.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, December 22, 2018.

Click here for Robert Rauschenberg review on its own page.

December 20, 2018

Max Hooper Schneider
Tryouts For The Human Race
November 9 - December 29, 2018

Max Hooper Schneider, installation view

In his exhibition, Tryouts For The Human Race, Max Hooper Schneider constructs four different worlds. Each sculpture is a table-top diorama filled to the brim with a wide range of objects and creatures. In talking about his practice, Hooper Schneider who studied biology and urban design and has a master’s degree in landscape architecture, states, “at the forefront of my practice is the question: ‘What is containment?'” 

The four floor-based works presented in Jenny‘s small gallery space are seen in relation to off-putting pinkish, orange toned walls. Two of the four pieces are functioning aquariums; one a live marine ecosystem, the other using freshwater. Both are filled with fish as well as mountains of “stuff.” In Genesis (all works 2018) the glass container overflows with plastic and metal detritus — colored necklaces, pendants,beads and earrings that become two heaping mounds towering above the top of the fish tank. Placed underneath a custom LED panel, this apocalyptic landscape glows in the light. It is reminiscent of a trash heap or a sci-fi landfill. Within this murky world swim iridescent fish: genetically modified Danios scurrying amongst the debris.

Across the room sits Lady Marlene, a similarly configured aquarium, though Marlene is filled with sea water rather than fresh water. In addition to fish, it also contains a weird assortment of invertebrates — colorful crabs and oddly shaped star fish. These creatures crawl across off-white toned, plastinated lingerie — weathered lace tops, bottoms and other once sexy accoutrements that have lost their seductive appeal.

Utopia is a dystopic paradise through which loops a toy train. The fabricated environment is a wasteland of protheses — disparate body parts submerged in a pink, clay-colored muck. The dilapidated house in Mommy & Me is in ruins. Its walls have eroded and its floors and surroundings are littered with miniature refuse— statues, dollhouse furnishings, representations of the natural world: trees, plants and animals in nonsensical relationships, as well as the aftermath of scenes of violence — suicide by hanging and a bloodied guillotine. Is this a place where a runaway seeks shelter? Or is it an amalgamation of the settings of numerous horror films? This house of chaos and excess is as fascinating as it is uninviting.

While each sculpture is a self-contained world, Hooper Schneider understands that there are set boundaries and parameters that need to be upheld. For example, the fish need to be fed, the water cleaned, the train powered. As dynamic cabinets of wonder, filled with life, Hooper Schneider’s containers are like stage sets where controlled as well as unexpected events transpire. The works are open to interpretation and are not prescriptive. Rather, they are fluid, unending narratives about over abundance, consumer culture, waste and excess. In his sculptures, Hooper Schneider has manifested dependent living systems to investigate the potential clash between humans and the natural environment.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, December 16, 2018.

Click here for Max Hooper Schneider review on its own page.

December 13, 2018

Reuven Israel
In Four Acts
Shulamit Nazarian
November 3 - December 20, 2018

Reuven Israel, installation view, Shulamit Nazarian

Reuven Israel’s compelling exhibition at Shulamit Nazarian, titled “In Four Acts,” is concerned with variation and transformation. Her beautifully crafted floor-based sculptures are amalgamations of pieces of painted oak of approximately 6 to 12 inches in length by 1 1/2 inches in height and 3/4 inches in width. A single sculpture often contains more than forty segments, hinged together with brass hardware, allowing the segments to be reconfigured. The sides and ends of each segment are unpainted, while the tops and bottoms are colored to form a gradient.

The premise is that the exhibition changes over time, as the sculptures morph from compact rectangles to open and expansive lines, occupying more and more space in the gallery. In their initial state the sculptures (all Untitled Folding Object [#], 2018) stand about an inch and a half off the floor. Like a folding ruler, the individual units can swivel up or down. Israel unfolds them in different ways—in some configurations they becoming towering lines that extend toward the ceiling. In others they resemble human forms (with the geometry of Joel Shapiro sculptures).

The artist’s intention is for viewers to notice the way the relationships between negative and positive space change and how the works create a dialogue with the gallery architecture. Though the pieces are not interactive in a way that allows viewers to witness their transformations or to directly effect changes to their configurations, the exhibition’s four distinct stages makes it easy to imagine infinite possibilities. In this regard, Israel’s installation is both minimal and maximal. It recalls works by artists such as Robert Morris or Sol LeWitt who explored different permutations within fixed parameters. The work also calls to mind Channa Horwitz, whose highly structured drawings explored linear progression and systems.

At one point, both Untitled Folding Object 55A and 36A resembled figures connected to a colorful low base. When extended, these interlocking configurations grow exponentially across the floor or up, becoming triangle shaped towers. Israel’s works derive from mathematical algorithms. As simple as they appear, their architectural structure is complex, with a segmented base that allows for myriad possibilities. In the end, the expanded pieces are like three dimensional line drawings that can become almost anything within this fixed system.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Magazine's Gallery Rounds, December 12, 2018.

Click here for Reuven Israel review on its own page.

December 6, 2018

Jennifer Bolande
The Composition of Decomposition

Pio Pico
October 27, 2018 - February 17, 2019

Jennifer Bolande, installation view

News, culture, current events, time, history, memory, truth and random juxtaposition are all 'artifacts' that can be sourced from the daily newspaper. The newspaper itself has transitioned from a printed document that appeared each morning to an ever changing online bombardment of current stories accessible in the moment. This begs the question: Is the printed version of the paper an archaic object? For many born into the digital age, the structure and form of the printed news is irrelevant.

Artists have used newspapers, specifically, The New York Times as raw material for artistic explorations. Douglas Ashford, Merwin Belin, Nancy Chunn, Elissa Levy, Adrian Piper, Fred Tomaselli and Andrew Witkin are among the many artists who have experimented with the newspaper as a point of departure. While their approaches vary, the content of 'the news' directs how they construct their work.

The impetus for Jennifer Bolande's exhibition, The Composition of Decomposition, began with an image from The New York Times depicting the corpses of 14th century plague victims whose remains had been excavated from a London cemetery. This image is the center piece of Image Tomb (with skeletons), 2014, a work of stacked newspapers whose center has been excavated about a foot down to reveal the photograph of the skeletons. Presented within a tall vitrine atop a wooden pedestal that matches its height, it is necessary to stand on tip-toes to peer down into the column of newspapers through layers of time and history that cannot be accessed. Bolande kept the section she removed intact — as a large pile and later opened the stack, as if pages in a book and began to make photographs of each spread. Some of these fragments (collected between 2013 and 2015) are exhibited as stand alone prints, as well as combined into a 48 minute film made up of approximately 400 image pairs. On screen long enough to be seen but not read, the sequence becomes a visual journey through recent history where snippets from headlines and captions are randomly juxtaposed with articles, advertisements and news imagery. Meaning is gleaned by reading between the elements. As Bolande notes, "The cut I made through the newspaper ignored the narrative and hierarchical structures that denote importance and harness attention, which put everything on equal footing. Inconsequential slivers of information are beside things of great consequence or supposed importance."

As a film, The Composition of Decomposition, is both straightforward and uncanny simultaneously. Drawing from both appropriationist strategies and Fluxus, it is a poetic meditation on the changing political and cultural landscape created by dematerializing the newspaper, ignoring its structure and presenting its printed innards as a sequence of cut out fragments. Viewers are invited to sit on benches in the darkened room and travel back in time.

To complement the film, Bolande has created prints of some of the spreads including The Composition of Decomposition (photograph no. 1), (photograph no. 27), (photograph no. 65) and (photograph no. 257), 2016-2017. In each framed pigment print, she isolates a still from the sequence and presents it as an example of how random juxtapositions can resonate beyond the ordinary. For example, in (photograph no. 257), a black and white news photograph of onlookers viewing a distant explosion is paired with a fragment of an orange and black abstraction, (perhaps an advertisement from Sotheby's), that suggests the color missing from its accompanying grayscale image. (photograph no. 1) serendipitously includes the headline for the obituary for The Times media critic David Carr in concert with a headline about racial killing and a fragmented photograph of a navy vessel and a celebratory gathering.

While the film is the focal point of the exhibition, it is presented in conjunction with printed and sculptural works. The exhibition beings with photographs of reflections on exterior bulletin boards coupled with same-sized pieces made from blue pigmented fiberboard that have been embossed with the reflections from the photographs. These subtle works are confusing at first, as it is unclear what Bolande is depicting, but the discerning eye soon understands that the images are standard university billboard boxes hanging on brick walls. The glass fronts of these boxes reflects the scene across the buildings courtyard, obscuring the messages that would be contained within. In Bulletin Board (R) at 1:45 pm, 2017 there are a few pushpins, yet nothing to pin. These pieces suggest a kind of emptiness and displacement as bulletin boards were once the primary place for announcements and information. The inclusion of this series complements The Composition of Decomposition as in both, Bolande acknowledges the analogue and what predated electronic communication.

Bolande works across many different mediums. News Column (80 inch), 2017 is a cast resin sculpture, a white column that stands 80 inches tall. It is situated in the center of the room with the billboard images, a lone tall pillar that towers above the tops of the framed images. News Column (44 inch), 2017, a shorter pile of cast newspapers, 44 inches off the ground can be found toward the back of the gallery in a room with unfinished walls. These ghost-like stacks reference architectural supports and represent the accumulation of a physical presence. Yet, Bolande's cast-white sculptures are stripped of their images and texts. They are a void that refences the printed newspapers eventual absence and obsolescence.

While Bolande acknowledges that news is now more often digitally delivered and read, her works draw from printed sources. She has amassed and archive of The New York Times giving her something physical, tangible and full of possibilities to use as the catalyst for future works.

Click here for Jennifer Bolande review on its own page.

November 29, 2018

Christopher Murphy

John Tottenham

Lora Schlesinger Gallery
October 20 - December 15, 2018

Christopher Murphy, "Wade" / John Tottenham, installation view

The pairing of John Tottenham and Christopher Murphy at Lora Schlesinger Gallery is a thoughtful juxtaposition particularly because both artists draw from historical images to create intricate black and white works on paper that have a nostalgic aura.

It is always a pleasure to see new works by Christopher Murphy who has been showing with Lora Schlesinger since 2003. Murphy is a skilled draftsman and painter and it is exciting to see his most recent work— subtle and subdued graphite drawings based on both personal and historical of black and white photographs. Although these works do not possess the colorful palette of his paintings, Murphy imbues them with the gritty aura of news imagery. Their message is powerful, as Murphy depicts impending doom and catastrophes that parallel current world events. His subjects include bombings, fires and floods as well as natural disasters.

When viewing Plume (all works 2018), it is impossible not to thing about the recent fires in Southern and Northern California. Here, Murphy depicts smoke emanating from a roped off area in the foreground of the composition. It billows toward the nearby hillside as a mother holding the hand of her daughter gazes at the phenomenon— a beautiful and chilling sight. Other drawings share this sense of surprise, mystery and other-worldliness. Chasm pictures the destruction of a large expanse of rock separating three figures who now stand on opposite sides of the split rock looking down into the water and rubble. Wade is a detailed rendering of the main street of a flooded contemporary town. A man stands knee deep in the water. In the distance, people paddle a canoe. In Lucky Strike, roof top bystanders watch flames and smoke fill the streets below, as a dark cloud of ash overtakes the streets of an urban environment.

Murphy's works have always explored some kind of duality— whether utilizing different styles of painting (abstract and representational in the same work) or the juxtaposition of past and present— and these pieces continue that investigation by presenting terror and beauty simultaneously. He finds stasis in these tragic moments. While the works are for the most part depictions of urban or natural landscapes, Murphy often includes a figure for both scale and as a representation of man's helplessness and insignificance with respect to the perils.

John Tottenham's Emptyscapes feature mostly people-less places— wide angled vistas filled with timeless small town buildings, telephone polls, electrical towers and railroad tracks that vanish into the distant horizon. The casual style of his ink on paper drawings have the appeal of sketch-book doodles. They are often hung salon style—in loose grids— extending across gallery walls. Tottenham is also a poet, and he includes hand scrawled texts and collaged snippets from a range of printed sources which give his pieces a narrative quality. Although some of the writing has a sarcastic greeting card feel: My Sadness is Deeper than Yours, With So Much Unfinished So Much Unbegun, Maybe I Can Be a Posthumous Failure Too, the accompanying illustrations have a sparseness and detached point of view that echoes old postcards and 19th century documentary photographs of the West.

Youthful Melancholy Was So Much More Pleasant is a drawing of a telephone pole lined rural road dotted with small-scale industrial buildings. Two figures, one in the foreground the other further down the road stride through the otherwise barren and banal landscape. Tottenham's title is handwritten across the top of the composition above collaged snippets of typed text about the size of fortune cookie quotes. Culled from other unattributed poets, they read: "I have never wavered in my vocation, but I have not lived up to it" ... "whole lifetimes given over to a vocation for which the world in general has so little use" ... "the system: 'I alone create a product that society does not want.'" ... "the thought that the deepest form of inauthenticity is to be a worldly success."

Although Tottenham does not credit his appropriated material, these fragments anchor the work in a meta narrative that goes beyond visual representation. Tottenham uses his understated drawings to contrast deeper sentiments about the state of the world and his relationship to it as a poet and artist.

Together Tottenham's and Murphy's artworks present a bleak outlook, yet they do not suggest hopelessness. Perhaps through the process of their creating, the positive aspects of humanity reign.

Click here for Christopher Murphy / John Tottenham review on its own page.

November 22, 2018

Zoe Leonard
Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles
October 27, 2018 - January 20, 2019

Zoe Leonard, Analogue

In 1980 Sol LeWitt published Autobiography a 126 page artist's book in which each page is a three by three grid of black and white photographs of objects and places that were meaningful to him. The gridded images offer the possibility for nuanced comparisons and the continuous squares create a welcome pattern and are one of the first printed examples to explore of seriality and repetition. Throughout art and photo history other artist have also embraced the grid. While LeWitt's images are uniformly presented, the carefully framed photographs of industrial architecture by Bernd and Hilla Becher are installed in grids of varying sizes. Because the Becher's shot their photographs from the same vantage point and in the same lighting conditions, their grids allow for a particular kind of comparison— one that focuses on the object rather than the surroundings.

To chronicle the changes in her lower east side neighborhood, Zoe Leonard began to make color photographs of the streets, storefronts and windows tracking the areas gentrification and the disappearance of all things non-technological. These casually shot black and white as well as color images are presented in twenty-five distinct grids. Leonard used a square format, vintage Rolleiflex camera shooting film that had to be processed and printed rather than a digital camera. Over time she began to include photographs shot in other locations— Cuba, Africa, Eastern Europe, Mexico and the Middle East— as part of the project. Analogue consists of 412 photographs shot between 1998 and 2009 arranged into grids with differing numbers of individual images. These images are neither titled or dated, allowing for random categorization. The photographs, for the most part are visually organized, creating a portrait of a bygone decade.

Each photograph is purposely devoid of people and shot straight on ensuring that the facade, window display, or storefront is the subject of the image. Leonard captures the anomalies and personality of urban space. Who can not be enamored with hand written signs that don't quite fit or have mis-spellings— they point to something human and not mechanically produced. Grids level hierarchies. They present a range that can be compared and contrasted across rows and columns. Among the 25 grids (Leonard refers to them as chapters) in Analogue are blocks of as little as four and as many as fifty-four photographs. In a grid, individual pictures are seen in context. For example, Chapter 13 presents four photographs of Kodak kiosks, a nod to a pre-digital age, while Chapter 22 focuses on discarded television sets left on tables as well as in a wheelbarrow. The common thread in Chapter 24 is hand-drawn/painted signs whereas Chapter 11 is about what the signs say: "Mr Shoe" in one, "The End is Near!" in another.

Leonard captures both the banal and the exotic in these photographs. Collectively they become a portrait not only of commerce but of people's worldly possessions— ranging from what is no longer needed to what might be purchased. Moving from grid to grid it is possible to isolate individual photographs but that is not the point. The purpose of Analogue is to document a kind of display, a kind of street activity that is uniquely human before it is overshadowed by a more generic quality of signage that is mass produced and digital. It is no wonder that Leonard chose to create Analogue using a film camera, bypassing the immediacy of digital technologies. To view Analogue is to walk through time, visiting a collection of meaningful images that steadfastly call attention to that which is disappearing, or is no more.

Note: On view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA Art is Zoe Leonard: Survey (November 11, 2018 - March 25, 2019).

Click here for Zoe Leonard review on its own page.

November 15, 2018

Meleko Mokgosi
Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life
Honor Fraser
October 20 - December 19, 2018

Meleko Mokgosi installation view

Meleko Mokgosi is a rare artist whose work demonstrates both classical technique and conceptual rigor. He is an exceptional painter who can easily render his subjects in exacting and realistic detail. He also has the uncanny ability to combine styles and often purposely leaves large areas of raw canvas unfinished to suggest overlapping narratives and timelines. Born in Botswana in 1981, Mokgosi attended Williams College (BA, 2007) and the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program (also in 2007). He received a MFA from UCLA (2011) and in 2012 participated in the Artist in Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Mokgosi came to prominence after receiving the inaugural Mohn Award in conjunction with his installation for Made in L.A. 2012. Since then, Mokgosi has had solo exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.

For Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life, Mokgosi has exchanged his large multi panel narratives in favor of smaller paintings depicting printed posters and advertisements, cropped scenes of interior spaces and isolated figures. While his focus is how African bodies and culture have been depicted and described over time, in this installation he investigates these subjects through the lens of still life— specifically looking at how African objects have been positioned in his own paintings. What sets Mokgosi's work apart is its intellectual intent combined with seductive imagery. For example, in Object of Desire 6 (2018) he juxtaposes a painting of closely cropped wood grain onto which he has superimposed a small light blue circular shape depicting a young white child praying with a painting of a snapshot of an African woman kneeling in the landscape, her body in a position that parallels the praying boy. Between these two canvases are four texts (paper mounted on board) covered with Mokgosi's hand written annotations over art historical texts that reference artists like Picasso, Gauguin, and Max Ernst, perporting to explain the relationship between modern and tribal art.

While at first, Mokgosi's many text panels seem overwhelming and a bit of a chore to read, it soon becomes evident that his commentary on the canon of Art History with respect to the terms primitive and tribal, and the MOMA exhibition, "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern is a combative argument about discourse, history and, context. These texts force his viewers to examine and then reexamine the placement of African objects in his painted interiors. Within his expansive project, Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life, Mokgosi includes paintings of African sculptures, cave drawings, mothers and sons, smiling brides, advertisements for Sofn'free No-Lye hair products, as well as a poster for the ANC featuring Nelson Mandela. Mokgosi has continued to mine his archives to present divergent representations that illustrate an alternate reading of African art and history.

Also on view in Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life, are Mokgosi's first sculptures. These objects are carefully constructed replicas of celebratory cakes— one for Robert Mugabe and the other for Nelson Mandela, as well as a decorative jacket and a painted suitcase. Each of these pieces is presented in a vitrine elevating them to museum treasures. Amongst this array of 'African' imagery, Mokgosi investigates issues relating to class, race, power and identity. That he intersperses his reading of art history between these painted and sculpted depictions speaks to his interests in not only an art historical discourse, but one that also encompasses popular culture.

Note: This review was first published in Visual Art Source's Weekly Newsletter on November 9, 2018.

Click here for Meleko Mokgosi review on its own page.

November 8, 2018

B. Wurtz
This Has No Name
September 30, 2018 - February 3, 2019

B. Wurtz, installation views

B. (Bill) Wurtz's sculptures and wall works are created from basic things like mesh sacks, disposable broiler pans, 35mm slides, table and chair legs, shoe laces, buttons, socks, as well as plastic bags. Made from recognizable but discarded materials, his on point artworks have a lyrical quality. While descriptive and critical terms as diverse as pedestrian, stupid, simple, fun, comical, idiosyncratic, not art, charming and poetic might be used to characterize these pieces, Wurtz has the ability to transform the banal into something transcendent. The exhibition This Has No Name is a visually rather than chronologically choreographed where over 150 works of diverse shapes and sizes, created between 1980 and 2018, are on view.

Making Strange, a concept associated with Russian Formalism, refers to the idea of seeing anew. Viktor Shklovsky (who coined the term defamiliarization) describes it as “the technique of forcing the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception.” In Wurtz's art, ordinary objects are presented in a new light: they become humorous, as well as insightful. His process and steadfast approach are all about transformation. He is a not only a collector of refuse, but a purveyor of cultural artifacts. Obsolete items (35 mm transparencies and plastic bags from stores that have closed like Michael's Art Supplies), are used to trigger memories and associations about outmoded places, customs or processes, mass production and consumerism.

Wurtz does not create readymades as he rarely presents an unadulterated found object. His genius is in both the formal and associative relationships that occur through juxtaposition and combination. The resulting artworks are sensual, architectural and playful simultaneously. Wurtz is also not afraid to reference the obvious. Untitled (Container), 1987 is a two-part work consisting of a a perforated metal container perched atop a small wooden box situated on the floor. On the wall above the container is a black and white photograph, shot from below in plein air, depicting the object against the sky. Untitled (Tie Rack and Portraits), 1987, presents a similar type of doubling. Here, Wurtz displays a plastic sunburst shaped tie rack on a wooden pedestal. On the wall is a painted diagram of the object in addition to an abstracted interpretation— in this instance, two paintings of orange suns that parallel the shape of the original tie rack. Here, (2006) is a large (96 x 75 inch) flat piece of unprimed canvas on which Wurtz has sewn post-it-note sized square fragments cut from a wide range of plastic bags to spell out the word "HERE." Seven uncut bags hang from the bottom edge — a reference point for the fragments. This is a portrait of New York City, a composite created from iconic throwaways.

While the majority of Wurtz's pieces include mass produced objects and reference consumer culture, some also allude to nature. In Bunch #2, (1995), plastic bags from myriad sources cover a metal armature suggesting the shape of a tree. Collection #5, (1999) is also a tree-like sculpture in which lines of strung together 35 mm transparencies hang off of wires that extend up from a central wooden base. This whimsical artwork presents dangling pieces of cut film— photographs of fashion models— that do not cohere into a narrative, but rather reinforce the discontinuous aspects of photographic representation.

Wurtz paints and draws in addition to making assemblages. In Untitled (Life Painting), 1990, the letters that spell out the word life are hand drawn into an oval suggesting the form of a face. Both sides of Untitled (diptych), 1982 display black and white painting of crudely drawn icons with the words 'know thyself' in the center of the composition. On the left, Wurtz includes corporate logos for Arco, Mercedes Benz, Visa, Ford, Coca-Cola, as well as male and female symbols and religious icons On the right are doodles of spirals, circles and ribbon shapes. The work offers two opposing ways of identifying— one cultural and the other more personal.

One of the highlights of the show is a grid of painted disposable aluminum broiler pans in varying shapes and sizes. These pieces (created between 1992 and 2018) have often been grouped together and presented in different configurations according to the given wall. Wurtz paints the embossed shapes on the bottom of the oval, rectangular, square and circular pans with bold primary colors. Carefully following the contours, Wurtz creates ready made abstractions.

It is a joy to wander through This Has No Name, and to contemplate the numerous ways Wurtz can delight viewers with his elegant combinations of what some might consider junk or detritus. For Wurtz, discarded objects are treasures offering unending aesthetic possibilities.

Click here for B. Wurtz review on its own page.

Novmber 1, 2018

Soo Kim
Homesick for a Better World
Denk Gallery
October 6 - November 10, 2018

Soo Kim, installation views

In the pre-digital world, a photographer often used a camera and film to frame some aspect of reality. Waiting to see the picture was not instantaneous, it was part of a process. One would look through the viewfinder and click the shutter to freeze what was in front of the lens. The film then needed to be processed and printed. For every traditional approach to photography however, there were also artists who were interested in using the photograph as raw material for explorations beyond what was framed in the original image.

While Soo Kim frames and reproduces the world in front of her (she has photographed many places including, Panama, Iceland, Dubrovnik and Korea), she also manipulates these original images by cutting away significant parts to leave a delicate structure that holds the picture together. Kim's act of cutting does not feel like an act of violence (akin to Luciano Fontana, who sliced his monochrome canvases with a knife causing large fissures in the surface) as the absence she creates pushes the viewer to imagine the greater context of the image.

In Homesick for a Better World, images from both 2014 and 2018 are on view. The two works from her Backlight series, 2014: (He has surprised himself) and (When the light comes, after a few seconds, it comes as a sunrise) are photographs of cities at night. They have been intricately cut with a sharp blade leaving a criss cross pattern of presence (black triangles, squares and pentagons) and voids (spaces where the shapes have been removed) interspersed with recognizable urban iconography like reflections in windows and fragmented signage. What is striking about these images is the color shadows on the otherwise white wall. This is caused by lacquer paint applied to the verso of the prints.

While the locations depicted in Backlight are difficult to discern, it is clear that the two large floor-based photo-sculptures were taken at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. These freestanding double sided works are presented in custom frames that function like barriers. In each, Kim has sandwiched together two photographs of Freedom House (a modern building in the Joint Security Area in the DMZ) and then removed most of the windows and walls. In The DMZ (Ballad of the drop in the ocean), tourists, maps and views of trees out the window are isolated between the buildings structure; whereas The DMZ (Ballad of the branches and the trunk) focuses on the architectural perspective. These pieces are visually compelling, as well as disorienting.

The idea of disorientation and displacement is also reflected in To those born later. Before Kim excised the barbed wire fence out of the photograph she painted the back gold, so when the cut pieces cascade in disarray at the base of the work they have a shimmering and reflective presence that feels celebratory in reaction to the destruction of an imposing barricade.

Kim's undertaking is time consuming as each single or double sided photograph is carefully hand cut while keeping the rectangle intact. While the images could allude to ruins and remains, the precision of her geometry suggests something other than destruction. Via a subtractive process, she creates a presence. By creating an absence, a cumulative void— the surroundings, be it the wall or the space of the gallery -- fill in the gaps and satisfy the natural tendency to want to reconstruct that which is missing or displaced.

The doubling depicted in Kim's images functions like a collage between then and now. That she is Homesick for a Better World refers to a yearning for that which no longer exists. No matter how much you slice away in an attempt to see through, you can never fully escape the past. Kim's photographs are abstracted representations, or perhaps representational abstractions that engage with both truth, and photographic illusion. They function as windows onto fragmented worlds.

Click here for Soo Kim review on its own page.

October 25, 2018

Karon Davis
Muddy Water
Wilding Cran Gallery
September 16 - November 4, 2018

Karon Davis, installation view

It is hard not to be swept away by Muddy Water, a new work by Karon Davis, her second breathtaking and emotionally powerful installation at Wilding Cran Gallery. Her first, Pain Management was in many ways a tribute to her late husband Noah Davis, whereas Muddy Water is an homage to the thousands of victims of natural disasters. The two-part installation is awe inspiring and relevant. It is necessary to pass through the space by the many white plaster figures with brown-eyes to reach the denouement, George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People (and Neither Does Trump), 2018, located in the smaller back gallery. Here, Davis has created a facsimile of a shingled roof angling from a dilapidated gold-patterned wallpapered wall toward the floor. Two children are on the roof, one seated the other standing, pointing toward the ground (water) where there is a fragment of a shark's tale. The scene is surreal and seemingly impossible, but Davis suggests anything can happen in an unpredictable environment.

In the main space, Davis has transformed the gallery into a disaster zone, covering the walls with a mud-colored wash that recalls a flooded river receding into a cloudy grey sky. Facing the gallery entry is a procession of life-size white plaster figures, each modeled on a newspaper image from a recent disaster-- be it fire or flood. By entitling her installation after a Bessie Smith song about the great flood of 1927, Davis references the myriad disasters caused by natural forces, suggesting the cyclical nature of these occurrences. Personally affected by the Thomas Fire in 2017, Davis understands the disruptive nature of unexpected natural disasters and the imbalance of resources available to those in need. Her work reflects both private an universal crises.

While Davis' plaster characters recall the work of George Segal they have black rather than white facial features. The figures in Muddy Water are depicted from the knees or waist up, as if emerging from a body of water. Each figure -- Davis includes, men, women and children-- has piercingly alive big brown eyes that imbue their roughly sculpted faces with longing. Among the cast of characters is the leader, a long-bearded and dread-locked figure holding a wooden staff; a young boy who rides on the back of his father above the water; a woman with a water jug balanced atop her head and a man wearing a baseball cap who tugs a small wooden boat with a woman and young girl sitting inside. Scattered within the boat are a smattering of objects including a doll and a guitar-- the minimal keepsakes they could rescue from their flooded home. One of the most dramatic scenarios portrays a young man reaching out toward a stop sign; an anchor point to keep him from being swept away by raging waters.

While Muddy Water is about the plight of evacuees, it is not about their hopelessness. Rather, Davis is interested in the global effects of climate change on both the environment and people, and how they come together to survive. Davis' sculpted figures are drawn from images of the flooding in Montecito, Puerto Rico and Houston. It would be possible to add recent events like Florence to the array of natural disasters breaking apart communities across the globe and in many ways, that is Davis' message: That no matter when or where, catastrophes like fires and floods displace people, reek havoc and bring out the best and worst in mankind.

The plaster figures in Muddy Water are both fragile and sturdy simultaneously. Davis has built them with large voids so as to reveal their armature -- the metaphorical backbone that keeps them standing and moving forward while piecing together the cast body parts as an incomplete coat of armor. The figures' faces are their emotional core, rendered with enough detail to evoke both awe and sympathy. The ghost-like plaster casts reference real human beings, yet also sign for the endless nameless victims who vanish without a trace.

Click here for Karon Davis review on its own page.

October 18, 2018

Sol LeWitt
Page-Works 1967-2007
September 30 - October 27, 2018

Sol LeWitt, installation view, LAX Art

Last week I wrote about Channa Horwitz's exhibition Structures, and have been thinking about systems, seriality and grids in relation to conceptual and minimal art ever since. This mode of inquiry is present in the early works of Adrian Piper (on view that the Hammer Museum through January 5) and in Sol LeWitt's works for reproduction on view at LAX Art in an intriguing exhibition entitled, Interlude: Sol LeWitt, Page-Works 1967-2007.

Sol LeWitt was (and still is) a major influence in the realm of conceptual thinking. During his lifetime (1928-2007) he championed and supported many artists, and over the years his influence has become widespread. LeWitt was among the first to create not only site specific wall drawings, but he also thought of the printed page as a viable medium for artistic exploration and intervention. Interlude: Sol LeWitt, Page-Works 1967-2007 serves as an introduction to this lesser known, but vital aspect to his practice. These works are neither unique drawings nor signed and numbered editions, but are widely distributed “page art” created as flyers, inserts or made specifically for magazines and books.

At first glance, the gallery seems empty except for a long vitrine that extends diagonally across the gallery. The vitrine contains announcement cards, flyers, catalogues, magazines and books, each opened to LeWitt’s contribution. Whether a drawing, photograph or writing, LeWitt was committed to creating artworks for the printed page. He utilized offset printing and different types of mechanical reproduction in recognition that the printing process was a viable medium for the creation and distribution of artworks. On view are both commercial and artist’s publications for which he created artworks including: Artforum, Studio International, Art & Project Bulletin, Noise, Unmuzzled Ox, Extra, Vision, Avalanche, VH101, Double Page, Cahier Intempestifs and 0 to 9.

For some artists, page art is a curious concept— why create a unique original for the printed page? Why not just reproduce an existing piece? LeWitt’s attitude took into consideration context, audience and the ephemeral nature of the printed page. He considered these contributions site specific artwork—akin to his wall drawings that only existed for the duration of an exhibition. His page art often ended up in the trash. But that never mattered.

Core to LeWitt’s process was an exploration of the relationship between art and idea. His thoughtful contributions to magazines were often created specifically for the intended publication and paralleled his larger body of work. Included here are notations for three wall drawings that have been executed on the gallery walls. His wall drawings were sets of instructions that could be carried out by anyone. They were carried out by fabricators, who drew repeated shapes and lines onto the wall for the duration of an exhibition. At the exhibitions close the artwork was painted over.

Like the printed page, LeWitt saw the gallery wall as an open-ended canvas. Although this exhibition is no way all inclusive, it is an amazing opportunity to view a selection of LeWitt’s printed artworks and three wall drawings and consider scale and permanence. It is particularly interesting to do so in the digital age and to think of his work in the context of reproduction, be it mechanical, hand-made or code-based.

Click here for Sol LeWitt review on its own page.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Magazine's Gallery Rounds, October 17, 2018.

October 11, 2018

Channa Horwitz
Ghebaly Gallery
September 15 - October 20, 2018

Channa Horwitz, installation view

Why Channa Horwitz was not a name uttered in the same breath as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and other artists working within the framework of Minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s is a both a mystery and a question with a logical, albeit unsatisfactory answer. The answer could include that she was based in the Los Angeles suburbs, that she was a woman, a mother and not a cut throat careerist. It is tragic that she passed away before her long overdue recognition. In 2013, shortly before her death she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was also included in the Venice Biennale in 2013 and the Whitney Biennial in 2014. Currently, her work is being shown in solo as well as thematic exhibitions world wide.

Why now is too easy a question. Why not before is harder to ascertain. So let's look at Structures.

Most of the twenty-five plus works on view were created between 1975 and 1985. According to the gallery press release, "Horwitz famously devised a drawing system in the late 1960s called Sonakinatography in which sound, motion, and space were tracked using beats of time graphed on eight-to-the-inch square grids. In each, the numbers one through eight were represented graphically by color or symbol and plotted according to an initiating set of rules." Horwitz's algorithms had her repeating a line or an arc over and over again filling a piece of graph paper with complex patterns. What at first seems like an obvious exercise in repetition surprisingly creates overlapping and undulating forms. Horwitz drew with both black ink and in color marker and while the works in color are more nuanced, the black ink on mylar pieces have an assured presence. In the eye catching Canon Diamond - Two Halves, 1982 it is an impossible task to trace the progression of black lines emanating from the corners and sides of the diamond shape. The eye gets lost along the way as the relationship between positive and negative space gets more complicated, eventually becoming a beautiful imbroglio.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Variation and Inversion on a Rhythm IV, 1976, a work that contains 112 black ink on green graph paper pieces, each 8.5 x 10.75 inches, spanning over ten vertical feet. Within this amazing piece, Horwitz's lines dance across the paper due to subtle transformations and calculated displacements becoming and unbecoming specific formations.

Doubtless to say Horwitz was a focused artist whose geometrical abstractions were created with a mathematical rigor and a linear cadence. Each work is a variation on a theme, but that is exactly what artists involved with sequence and seriality were about. Horwitz followed a strict rule set of her own making and in doing so created works on graph paper that appear logical and complex simultaneously. Her intricate works required patience, a deft hand and precision of mind. Each work is a unique investigation into the endless possibilities of rules, sequence and structure confidently carried to precise conclusions. When nothing is left to chance, structure reigns.

As Horwiz once remarked: "I feel that through chance comes structure, or that if chance plays out long enough it will become structure. That if we cannot see the structure in chance we are too close to see it. The theory behind my work is that through structure comes an apparent chance. If structure plays out long enough it will appear to be chance... The cycle of life as I see it is circular. The beginning and ending are only one step away from each other." (Channa Horwitz, 2005,)

Click here for Channa Horwitz review on its own page.

October 4, 2018

Paco Pomet
Richard Heller Gallery
September 8 - October 20, 2018

Paco Pomet, Llagas / Dusk Attack, (2018)

What would happen if the natural landscape developed sores? Mountains and rivers would ooze red, alluding to something abject beneath the surface. The documentation of the recent volcanic eruption in Hawaii comes to mind as an example of blistering lava emanating through the landscape, cascading down hills and roads. The Spanish artist Paco Poment, whose painting are on view at Richard Heller Gallery in an exhibition entitled Melancholia imagines such environmental catastrophes and anomalies. Llagas (all works 2018) is a painting of 1960s era cars parked at the base of a mountain resort. In keeping with Poment's unique style, the realistically rendered image is a monochrome interrupted by jarring areas of color. The scene in Llagas, appears as the aftermath of an attack where a huge sickle slashed everything in sight leaving deep red crevasses. Dusk Attack, is a different kind of atmospheric aberration. Here, the sky has been painted the color of dusk and presented as a thick orange substance that flows over giant rock formations, cascading down from these peaks to the road below. This glowing orange atmosphere, whose sudden presence comes as a surprise to the exasperated cars speeding away, has a science fiction, other-worldly aura. Levante - Poniente depicts a mountain like the Matterhorn being pulled in opposing directions by pink and orange strings. The grayish blue rendering of the mountain landscape against a cloudless sky is picture perfect, except for the fact that the mountain is in the process of being dislodged and decapitated. It is difficult not to view Pomet's paintings under the guise climate change. The works present imagined scenarios with humor and dismay. While the works have a Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits sensibility, they also illustrate the potential for the demise of the planet in unexpected ways, and in doing so trigger emotional responses filled with, "what if..."

While many of Pomet's paintings focus on the natural landscape, people also appear. Pomet often works from found or family photographs and expands upon the oddities of the relationships depicted within these images. He transforms the ordinary into something surreal. Infinite Sadness is a portrait (probably taken in the 1950s) of six formally dressed men and one woman seated or standing behind a table. Between the figures and the table, which is painted to represent the ocean reflecting the setting sun, is a glowing circle. This yellow/orange sun illuminates the edges of the smiling monochrome figures, who are oblivious to the phenomenon of capturing or containing the sphere.

The sun (as a yellow ball) and the earth (as a blue one) appear in different ways in Pomet's imagery. The earth is personified — has hands and feet— or is grounded in paintings such as Eclipse, or Insomnia, a painting most likely based on a tintype image of a standing soldier and a seated woman. Rather than a traditional weapon, the soldier clutches a glowing globe. In Mrs. Sunset, Pomet begins with a Victorian era photograph of a seated woman, replacing her head and hands with wide beams of bright yellow: an uncanny depiction of a woman. Pomet's paintings challenge established power dynamics between men and woman, as well as between humans and nature. The works displace expectations as to who or what is in control.

In his current paintings, Pomet includes cartoon elements and computer icons— those ubiquitous graphics that locate imagery within the digital realm. Choosing Hell [after Thomas Cole] is a realistic painting modeled on works by Thomas Cole. At the bottom of the picture on each side, Pomet presents an icon of a snowflake and one of a flame. An arrow shaped cursor touches the flame— choosing hell. The inclusion of computer iconography is a curious move and while it adds another layer of appropriation, and stylistic diversity, it directs the pieces toward cartoons and mutes the power of Pomet's message. As he states, "A slight misanthropic drift has imbued many of my themes lately, however, a bright and clean humorous streak can appear dressed up in oil paint at any moment!"

Click here for Paco Pomet review on its own page.

September 27, 2018

Rory Devine
Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes
September 16 - October 7, 2018

Rory Devine, Installation view, Untitled (Fever), Untitled (More Problems Than Originally Thought), (2018)

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes is the chorus from a David Bowie song. In Changes, Bowie advocates turning to face the strange… and that ... "Time may change me, But I can't trace time."

In his life and through his art, Rory Devine has experienced and reflected upon change. The paintings in his 2015 exhibition, Iconoclastic Works of the Early 21st Century were ironic narratives that critiqued media culture and explored the absurdities of human existence. They were made in response to to appropriated images drawn from the media and communicated a sense of fluidity as well as the transitory qualities of existence. His message: life is precious, precarious and fleeting.

In his current exhibition, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes, he has stripped the work of representation in favor of abstraction, presenting geometric and colorful patterns (that call to mind wall paper or wrapping paper). The modest sized paintings (24 x 36 inches) do not overwhelm, but rather invite the viewer to contemplate balance and disruption, as well as the difference between things made by hand rather than mass produced. The hand is not exact and these hand painted patterns are full of subtle variations — this is what makes them interesting and memorable.

Devine is a deft painter who at times in the past has masked his skills. These works cry out, "I love to paint." "I paint well" and "I am going to indulge in that which is pleasurable, while thinking about the formal issues of painting." As bright and happy as the works seem to be on the surface, there is an underlying threat or fear that can be gleaned from paintings of chains and other such barriers that Devine conjures with aplomb.

Much can be inferred from Devine's titles which also direct the paintings toward emotional uncertainty. Untitled (More Problems Than Originally Thought), (all works 2018) is one of the darker paintings on view. Atop a semitransparent black and sepia toned background featuring groups of cells is an array of lighter white toned circular forms suggesting atoms. Within this mixture are a few anomalies. The image could be interpreted as a self portrait and a diagram illustrating that on a molecular level, things are not as they should be. In Untitled (The E in Everything), a similar depiction of white toned cells form the shape of the letter E. The negative spaces in the letterform are represented by black circles. The 'everything' that Devine references is purposely open ended and ambiguous. Untitled (Come As You Are) and Untitled (Fever) are examples of Devine's brighter patterns. Here red/white or red/yellow and blue striped ovoids, akin to a chain of teardrop shaped Christmas ornaments decorate the canvas. Each 'chain' is surrounded by columns of squiggling lines.

The overall feeling of Devine's exhibition is one of melancholy. The works radiate hope and despair simultaneously. That Devine can still paint in the face of life's challenges (he had an unexpected stroke a few months ago) attests to his drive, commitment and desire to communicate. Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes is an exhibition that uses the lens of abstraction to look both forward and back.

September 20, 2018

Jerry McMillan
Photographic Works
Craig Krull Gallery
September 8 - October 13, 2018

Jerry McMillan, Untitled #1, (2016) and Untiled #9, (2014)

Jerry McMillan has had a long, diverse career as an artist: melding photography and sculpture as well as making documentary style photographs. His childhood friends, Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode, with whom he traveled from Oklahoma to California in the late 1950s to attend Chouinard Institute, appear in many of his black and white photographs that document the Los Angeles art scene in the 60s and 70s. In addition to insightful candid images of his artist friends, McMillan was also an avid experimenter— integrating photographs into sculptures, as well as creating non objective abstractions.

McMillan's recent photographic explorations — large-scale archival pigment prints created between 2011 and 2016 — are untitled abstract color images of paper that has been painted or drawn on and then torn. Each image not only plays with photographic illusion and tromp l'oeil, but also is an investigation of color relationships, akin to the color studies created by Josef Albers. Surprisingly, as McMillan's process is revealed, the pictures become more intriguing as if this just the beginning of a deeper conversation about relationships between light/shadow and figure/ground. These simple, yet structurally complex studies are most satisfying to regard. What at first glance seems like an easy formal exercise, is in fact a playful and thoughtful exploration of expectation and surprise, taking advantage of the cameras unique way of flattening space.

It is possible to imagine McMillan beginning with a thick piece of blank paper smaller than the size of the final photographs but not tiny. The paper is carefully painted or covered with line on both sides because McMillan knowingly will reveal fragments of the verso as cut and torn shapes excised to reveal a black space beyond the picture plane. In Untitled #1, (2016) the surface of the paper has been painted a deep rusty orange. McMillan leaves small traces of paint scattered across the page and allows his brush strokes to show in order to disrupt the evenness of the surface and give the painted field depth. In contrast to the orange frontside, McMillan paints the back as a melange of primary colors. Two holes, one large toward the bottom, the other small near the top, have been punched through the paper from the back. McMillan carefully peels forward the paper around these holes, like the edges of a bullet hole or wound, which reveals the more colorful backside. The paper object is photographed against a black ground so that the torn hole becomes something unexpected —a void or a deep abyss.

In Untitled #9, (2014), the composition is divided along the diagonal into light and dark blue triangular sections. Beginning at the top edge, McMillan has scored and then torn a narrow strip of the paper along the diagonal, which dangles down near the center of the composition. Surprisingly, the paper has a blue backside and light edges (the actual unpainted paper). The torn strip casts a dark (yet another deeper tone of blue), rough-edged shadow from a deliberately placed light source. A similar relationship is created in Untitled #6, (2014), where a black hole is centered in a grass green ground. Here McMillan folds forward an oblong shape so it hinges at the bottom of the hole. This green flap, like the hole, is surrounded by light torn edges. A shadow about the size of the hole is cast on the green surface below the flap of torn paper. This hole becomes a deep impenetrable black void, which draws the eye. Both Untitled # 2, (2016) and Untiled #11, (2015) are photographs of grey-toned paper that has been partially covered with scribbled pencil lines. A shape has been cut or torn from the paper and rolled or folded forward providing access to a black emptiness.

No matter what the shape or color of the painted ground, in each of these works, McMillan is playing with perceived and fabricated depth. The pieces while flat, also have illusionistic depth. What is intriguing about McMillan's abstractions is that they are simultaneously simple and complex. They illustrate a basic property of photography— how constructed (and actual three dimensional) space becomes flat when presented on the two-dimensional picture plane.

September 13, 2018

Alex "Defer" Kizu
A site specific mural in L.A. Louver's open-air Skyroom
September 6 - October 20, 2018

© Alex “Defer” Kizu. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Alex "Defer" Kizu is a well known graffiti artist who has created "sanctioned" works for exterior facades as well as interior gallery walls. Defer has been a part of the the Los Angeles street art scene since the mid 1980s and is one of a handful of artists who has also embraced a gallery career. Defer moves easily between the worlds of street art and contemporary art, painting with a fluid style that juxtaposes colorful abstract gestures with his personal typography— visually akin to gangster Cholo writing. At L.A. Louver he brings the outside in, or perhaps it could be said, the inside out. His installation in L.A. Louver's Skyroom, “Immersive,” fills the walls and floor of the with an all over pattern in predominantly blue and white tones, augmented by bits or green and ochre.

I recommend visiting the work at different times of day with varying cloud cover in order to fully appreciate Defer's understanding and treatment of the space. In harsh light, the white brush strokes reflect the sun which cascades across half the floor. Along the edges where the wall meets the floor, there is a swash of darker blue that functions as an outline. In the center of the south wall pink paint enters into the composition, contrasting the cadence of the gyrating and undulating white and blue curves. The gallery website posts an enticing video of the artist at work; dipping his brush into white paint, methodically filling in the blue wall with assured gestural lines.

What is most striking about this installation is not only how it melds with the actual sky, which happened to be a cloudless blue when I visited, but how Defer painted the walls to capture the gradation of the space in both sun and shade. The Skyroom is a modest-sized enclosed balcony on the gallery's second floor with high walls that cast dramatic and ever changing shadows as the sun moves from east to west. Taking advantage of the shadows tonal variations, Defer created a complex work that balances the relationships between light and dark. It is remarkable that in just three days, he filled the space with undulating and intricate lines, creating a sensational work that, while rooted in abstraction, simultaneously alludes to language. While the criss-crossing curvilinear strokes suggest letter forms and words, there is no definitive message other than the power of art to evoke a wide range of emotions in both the creator and the viewer.

September 6, 2018

Artists and their Books / Books and their Artists
The Getty Research Institute
June 26 - October 28, 2018

Andrea Bowers, Tauba Auerbach, Johanna Drucker

Artists and their Books / Books and their Artists is a compelling exhibition that presents selections from the Getty Research Institute's vast collection of books made by artists. Organized by curators Glenn Phillips and Marcia Reed, the exhibition features work by more than 40 international contemporary artists. Distinct from books that reproduce an artist's work, artist's books are designed to be experienced as "art objects," whether they are unique or created as multiples. For those new to the discipline, the exhibition is eye-opening as the curators have carefully chosen surprising and unexpected works that are both sculptural and experimental. For example the pages in Lisa Anne Auerbach's American Megazine #2: The Age of Aquarius (2014) are 60 inches tall and 38 inches wide. Johanna Drucker's Bookscape (1986-1988), is a cityscape of hand crafted objects and their accompanying boxes that are presented in vitrines. Andrea Bowers' Labor is Entitled to All it Creates (2012) is a bound collection of flyers from Labor organizations in Los Angeles that becomes a colorful array of various sized pages when open.

An ongoing and difficult question is: How to present objects in a museum setting that have pages that are meant to be touched and turned? Viewing an artist's book is often an interactive experience, one that involves active participation and what is missing from most exhibitions of artist's book is the ability to hold the objects and page through them, going forward as well as back, at will. Sometimes, as in Artists and their Books / Books and their Artists, short videos accompany the display of a page or spread, that showcase the remaining pages of the book but seeing a video of a book is never a satisfying experience. Neither is seeing books displayed on shelves and behind glass as precious objects. A book often offers a surprise between its covers and when only a few pages are visible, it is impossible to know what is in between.

Tauba Auerbach's Stab/Ghost (2013) is a thick wad of clear Lexan that has been silkscreened with yellow, green, blue and black geometric shapes. When viewed a page at a time, they become the pieces of a complex interlocking puzzle. Similarly, Olafur Eliasson's Your House (2006) depicts the interior of his home laser cut within the pages of a thick book.

The take away from the exhibition is that there are no definitive boundaries to what constitutes an artist's book. On view are books of many shapes and sizes, with varying numbers of pages, made from a wide range of materials and filled with shapes, images and or words.

There are:

books as collections of ideas
books that are enterable
books that are architectural
books that are sculptural
books that are transparent
books that document an idea
books that are the idea
books that are serial
books that are sequential
books from unconventional materials
books with holes
books that tell a story
books that layer
books that fold and unfold
books that spread across walls
books that excite, inspire, frustrate and surprise.

Artists throughout history have engaged with the book form and while Artists and their Books / Books and their Artists presents a wide range of approaches, it is in no way an inclusive overview. While the exhibition is hands off, it also serves as an invitation to visit the GRI's Special Collections where visitors (who make an appointment) can interact with these books and others, and spend time experiencing them as they were designed to be experienced.

August 30, 2018

Vincent Fecteau
Matthew Marks Gallery
July 14 - September 29, 2018

Vincent Fecteau installation view

It is hard to know what to make of Vincent Fecteau's current exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery. In the installation there are five papier-mâché sculptures that sit atop pedestals and five small collages that hang on the walls in a very large room. The sculptures and collages are in dialogue with each other but exactly what they are saying remains a mystery. Fecteau's sculptures feel to me like almost-recognizable objects, somewhat architectural in form, but more like models for fantasy buildings rather than actual ones. The shapes share a kinship with discarded foam packing materials whose irregular forms are a combination of holes and protrusions.

To fully experience each papier-mâché sculpture it is necessary to view it from all sides. Each contains a collection of creases and crevasses, presences and absences, curves and caves, as well as portals and frames assembled together in uncanny harmony and painted in modulated and muted tones. The untitled works (created between 2014 and 2016) while referential, are rooted in the language of abstraction. A 2016 MacArthur prize recipient, Fecteau is something of an anomaly. His artworks defy definition or category and are purposely obtuse. They are things meant to be looked at, considered and contemplated, but Fecteau offers little explanation, stating, "I long for the form that exists free of so called understanding and that operates in a purely abstract, maybe unconscious way."

Untitled (2016) is crafted from papier-mâché, acrylic paint and cardboard tubes. It is painted the color of cream infused coffee and augmented in sections with blue and black. The sculpture is more horizontal than vertical and to me, has the shape and aura of a fantastic parking structure from which there is no entry or exit. As the intricate shapes contained within the whole of the coffee colored form extend from left to right, they are framed and contained within a frame-like enclosure. One end is painted black and is abutted by a delicate calligraphic shape painted a deep gray blue. The almost body sized work is both flat and three dimensional simultaneously and is unique in its relation to the space it occupies. Fecteau instinctually combines the biomorphic and the architectural into complex forms that feel both constructed and organically developed.

To complement his sculptures, Fecteau also presents five much smaller collages. These are curious works that appear to ground the sculptures in some ways by offering possible reference points, as in Untitled (2014), a cracked marble wall draped with dilapidated striped fabric is juxtaposed with a snapshot containing a curvilinear architectural detail. Clearly, Fecteau delights in the relationship between decorative embellishments and functional support. In another untitled collage from 2014, he assembles snapshots of trapezoidal forms on gray carpet with a sideways photograph of an interior space (perhaps a hotel room) with lamp shade and pillow. A piece of white rope with frayed edges encases the top, bottom and one side of the collage, though it does not cover the entire assemblage. Rope, this time painted gray with a splattering of pink, also frames the edges of an untitled sculpture nearby from 2016.

It would be convenient to think there are specific and reciprocal relationships between the five collages and sculptures but Fecteau is not about the obvious. His installations are experiential: it requires moving around the gallery, taking in the sculptures from the front, back, and sides, wondering about architectural and domestic spaces, two and three dimensions, real and imagined forms and how they all relate to one another. Fecteau has remarked, "I've often fantasized about making a form that would be so incomprehensible that it couldn't be seen." While his works engage with that which is incomprehensible, it is fortunate for us that they still can be seen.

August 23, 2018

Danica Phelps
Many Drops Fill a Bucket
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
August 4 - September 1, 2018

Danica Phelps installation views

Since 1996, Danica Phelps has been keeping track of her income and expenses, integrating details of her financial life into her artworks. Often placed below simple, yet elegant and descriptive pencil drawings, Phelps creates long strips of short vertical lines— red for expenses and green for income— where each painted mark on the page represents a dollar. Using her finances as a point of departure, her layered and multi-dimensional artworks investigate the relationship between labor and value, both within and outside the art marketplace. Cleverly titled Many Drops Fill a Bucket, this exhibition not only presents her iconic drawings, but also includes an installation of small sculptures made from detritus she and her son collected on recent visits to beaches in California, as well as the drawings they inspired.

During these trips, Phelps and her son would comb beaches to remove shards of trash and later assemble what they collected into small (Richard Tuttle-esque) sculptures. In downtime when not cleaning up the beaches, Phelps would draw. She documented the sculptures she and her son created as well as moments from their daily activities—relaxing, eating, making the sculptures, etc. Once finished, Phelps auctioned the sculptures on Facebook to raise money for non-profits and charities like the Ocean Conservancy, Pro Activa Open Arms, World Animal Protection, Refugees International, Climate Central, Oceana, Smile Foundation India and Resilient Power Puerto Rico.

Presented on and dangling from simple wooden shelves encircling the back gallery, these small assemblages made from collected trash are like ad hoc, three-dimensional doodles. They are small inexpensive mementos created for charitable barter. Each sculpture has a hand-written tag with its title, materials and price. Interested purchasers can send a donation to one of the suggested organizations and receive the artwork at the close of the exhibition. Phelps is also posting one of the exhibited sculptures per day on her Facebook page. Interspersed with these pieces are drawings depicting assemblages that have already been "sold" and the exchange process that occurred. The difference between Phelps' drawings and sculptures is significant. The sculptures have an immediacy and spontaneity — as in Sculpture #56 where cut strips of pink and clear plastic fill the center of a clear plastic drink lid or Sculpture #76b in which a green plastic numeral five is attached to a stack of red and orange bottle caps or Sculpture #47 where the handle of a pink toy shovel hangs below the shelf from a push-pin. Suspended from the handle by a thin red thread are more caps— one red, one white and one pink. One can imagine picking through the collection of discarded and broken objects, then putting them together to make quick and quirky arrangements that charm and formally cohere. However, the drawings illustrate Phelps' ability to render with exactitude and care. Though they appear to be simple line drawings, Phelps' imbues these funky three-dimensional objects with grace and purpose.

Phelps photographs the sculptures and later draws them, adding factual information about the initial sale and donation. These new artworks are her bread and butter. They are what the gallery sells and how she earns her living. While completely open and transparent about these exchanges and the costs for her travels, supplies and existence, this documentation does not transcend the fact that it is personal information made public. Sculpture 7: Beach Cleaning Trips, 2018 is a sketch in which a hand supports a dangling string of bottle caps. Below the pencil drawing, Phelps has collaged two horizontal strips of paper (recycled US currency), one for expenses, the other for income. In shades of green (income), she tallies 25 lines to represent the amount the buyer paid to purchase the sculpture ($25), as well as who bought it and when and where the objects were collected. A second strip contains 25 lines (in shades of red) for the $25 donation to Pro Activa Open Arms. The price to purchase the drawing ($1200) is hand-written and circled next to the red stripes. The work presents the fact that the original sculpture sold for $25, but the money did not go to Phelps, it went to Pro Activa Open Arms. Should the drawing of the absent sculpture sell, the $1200 would be income. Yet only half of that would actually be paid to Phelps, as 50% remains with the gallery.

Exchange value aside, the installation of wooden shelves covered with small, colorful, inexpensive sculptures made from refuse is both exhilarating and inspiring. It is hard not to want to immediately pick one (or more) and think about the ways that the money will support a cause. But how to decide? And to make things more complicated, should one support the artist as well (by buying a drawing), or make a token donation to a cause. Phelps should be applauded for cleaning the beaches and offering her artworks in exchange for donations to organizations that help people and the planet. So much of her practice is honorably good intentioned — one drawing was a fund-raiser for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria— yet the work is also very personal. It touches on the difficulties of being an artist and a mother in today's political and economic climate while simultaneously charting her complicity in the art market. Phelps has found ways to integrate art and life by making work that is both personal and political. It is not easy to do what one loves to do and survive on that labor.

August 16, 2018

Alison O’Daniel
Say the word "NOWHERE." Say "HEADPHONES." Say "NOTHING."
Shulamit Nazarian
July 21 - August 25, 2018

Alison O'Daneil installation view

At first glance it is hard to make sense of the disparate objects that comprise Alison O’Daniel's installation, Say the word "NOWHERE." Say "HEADPHONES." Say "NOTHING." These include: polyurethane columns that hang from the ceiling, hand-made cloth banners with colored ropes that extend down the wall and across the floor, and diagrams crafted from acoustic rubber detailing the paths Zamboni machines follow to resurface skating rinks. Important facts that contribute to understanding the installation are: O’Daniel is hard of hearing. O’Daniel used to be a figure skater. O’Daniel often borrows from and reinterprets works of other artists such as Louise Nevelson and Sophie Tauber Arp. In some inexplicable way, these seemingly unrelated elements feed off each other to create a semi-coherent yet intriguing whole. O'Daniel draws from her own experiences and those from hard of hearing communities to engage with ideas surrounding the comic effects of mis-hearing. In many ways, her process is a kind of ongoing chain reaction or game of telephone where one thing leads to another along an imagined trajectory of assumed and allowable mis-communication that transform and translate a wide range of source materials into unique works of art.

Upon entry, one's eyes immediately gravitate to a flat welded steel wire sculpture suspended from the ceiling between the lobby and main space of the gallery. This three-dimensional line drawing entitled Arp Screen (all works 2018) is an ingenious configuration of interlocking shapes including asterisks, circles, arrows and what could be interpreted as feet and legs. The piece loosely references the abstract compositions of Swiss artist Sophie Tauber Arp (1889-1943), known as one of the foremost women working in geometric abstraction. While O’Daniel sites Arp as a referent, there is not an obvious one to one correspondence between the referent and O'Daniel's representation. Her interest is not in remaking other's work but would seem to be in the associations that can be drawn from its style and place in art history. Hanging toward the front of the lobby gallery are two intriguing works— Her Eyelashes and Optical Track— ambiguous black catenaries that drape from the ceiling almost reaching the ground. These curious sculptures are made from painted black steel and covered with false eyelashes. O'Daniel sites a photograph of the artist Louise Nevelson smoking a cigar as one of her sources of inspiration. Nevelson was fond of over the top jewelry, headscarves and multiple pairs of false eyelashes. In O'Daniel's game of telephone, one can imagine the trajectory from this photograph of Nevelson, to O'Daniel's Surreal interpretations. Nevelson is also the inspiration for Louise I, Louise 2 and Her Shadow 1, column-like works that are both suspended from the ceiling and attached to the wall. O'Daniel has remade Nevelson inspired table-leg sculptures from foam and other acoustic material so as to shape the way sounds move through the gallery space.

The idea of shaping space to follow specific patterns is also evident in O'Daniel's "Zamboni Path" works. Here, she uses acoustic rubber cut in the pattern of Zamboni diagrams— the optimal paths these machines follow to clean ice. Materials that dampen sound also comprise O'Daniel's "Sound Proofers," large-scale cotton banners with curved edges that hang from the ceiling. Each double sided flag-like panel is a montage of colored shapes that harken back to Arp's abstractions. Long cords flow from the sides of the banners to the floor spreading out as a tangle of criss-crossing fabric lines.

It is possible to see these lines as the physical link between the works, or metaphorically as the 'telephone wire' that allows one idea to transform into another along an imagined trajectory. Whatever the connections or pathways, O'Daniel's process begins with the fact that she is hard of hearing which she uses as a point of departure for explorations into the unexpected surprises that come from mis-communications and mis-hearings. Through a series of associations between music, self-image, female icons in art history, hearing and communication, O'Daniel asserts her agency by creating a fascinating and challenging body of work that poetically transforms what some might consider a 'dis'-ability into a gift.

August 9, 2018

Robert Levine
Deep End
C. Nichols Project
July 14 - August 30, 2018

Robert Levine installation view and XXV, 2018

When it comes to depicting the Los Angeles landscape, over the years the iconic swimming pool has become a subject loaded with myriad associations. Pools have appeared in paintings by Eric Fischl and David Hockney. Ed Ruscha's photographic project, Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968) also comes to mind, as does its recent reinterpretation by Amy Park. It is hard not to think of skateboarders whose first ramps were dilapidated pools near Santa Monica and Venice, CA.

Robert Levine's exhibition, entitled "Deep End," consist of sixteen oil paintings of peopleless swimming pools. These (same-sized, 9 x 12 inch) works depict differently shaped blue-water pools and the tiled area that surrounds them, isolated from their environs which have been replaced by thick black paint. The paintings are purposely minimal and stripped of any identifying location or landscaping. Levine's focus is the reflective qualities of the sun on the water creating different shades of blue and the contours of the pool in relation to the void of the missing landscape.

Levine's project is both a conceptual and creative endeavor. Compositionally, he emulates the close cropped documentary/deadpan style of Ruscha's photography, yet he chooses to create his paintings in oil. This gives them a uniqueness as well as a glowing aura that relates to painting in the plein-air tradition. However, it is clear that Levine works from photographs and not onsite. The sixteen paintings are installed in a horizontal line, evenly spaced along the gallery walls which have been painted concrete gray to match the edges of the pools. This linear presentation emphasizes their seriality and allows for interesting comparisons.

XXV (all works 2018) is the most ornate pool in the series. Here, Levine depicts a kidney-shaped pool surrounded by irregular gray and tan tiles. A small white rectangle (a low diving board) protrudes into the mottled blue water. Levine articulates the steps from the tiles edge into the pool as well as a small inlet. One could imagine a bright green lawn or garden encircling the tiles yet in Levine's depiction the background has been painted a deep black. This void is perplexing as well as humorous as it alludes to the absurd possibility that the entire pool area has been plucked from its landscape and is floating in an indefinable and infinite space.

XII is the most spare. This pool has no ladders or accoutrements and is simply a receding kidney shape filled with shades of blue, surrounded by a grayish border which meets a jet black rectangle toward the horizon. XII hovers between abstraction and representation. In other paintings, Levine carefully delineates the stairs leading into the water, various pool rails or slides as well as the different depths of the water. While it is possible to imagine the pools as "real," it is hard to contemplate "taking a dip" into such an unknown space. While deep end alludes to the the deep end of a swimming pool, it also suggests risk and the notion of being irrationally carried away. In presenting this traditional Los Angeles motif as generic, devoid of context and surrounded by darkness, Levine associates the deep end with science fiction and transformation. Going off the deep end leads to a transcendent body of work.

August 2, 2018

Stephen Berens
From There to Here
Edward Cella Art & Architecture
July 21 - August 25, 2018

Stephen Berens installation view

In his installation, From There to Here, Stephen Berens draws viewers to the center of the gallery. In the middle of the space, on a large two-foot high white rectangular plinth sit four round cast bronze cannonballs and three cast bronze frisbees. Entitled Projectiles (2018) they reference relics from the 1860s and 1960s. To think of frisbees as projectiles is a bit unusual, yet when viewed in the context of Stephen Berens' exhibition, it makes perfect sense. A frisbee is a flying disk that became an iconic symbol of fun and freedom for the American Counter Culture movement of the late 1960s. When the frisbees are juxtaposed with Civil War era cannon balls, they become the yin and yang of relics. One is a symbol of peace and frivolity, the other a symbol of the fight for civil rights and fraternal war.

Using the cannonball and frisbee as triggers (or points of departure) when viewing the photographs that line the walls, it is evident that two similar, yet divergent landscape images are placed in a dialectical relationship. Berens is an artist known for his historical projects and conceptual attitude towards photography and in this body of work, he investigates the dichotomies between places representing war / death and the joys of life. His images couple photographs of Civil War battlegrounds with sites where the Counter Culture gathered. Berens traveled throughout the United States to document places of historical significance where today no physical trace of what happened remains. The images depict expansive grassy fields or tree lined vistas in differing seasons and are titled after contemporaneous weather conditions culled from first hand accounts of the events. Even while looking at the landscapes with the cannonballs and frisbees in mind it is difficult to be transported back in time and to see the locations as battlegrounds and gathering spots.

Berens' works brings to mind two other different "re-photography" projects, On this Site by Joel Sternfeld who visited 50 infamous crime scenes making color photographs of these disconcerting everyday locations where tragedies occurred and Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project in which photographers including Mark Klett re-visited sites of the government surveys of the late 19th century to make new photographs that replicated the vantage points and time of day of the earlier images. These images were presented side by side inviting comparison. Like these other projects, in Berens' work the viewer is asked to imagine a before and compare it to the now. What is visible and invisible, remembered and erased from history are central to all these endeavors.

It's now 5:45 am and the sky in the east is just sneaking up orange & the weather is variable-clear, cloudy and rainy, (2016) is a 62 inch wide x 23.5 inch high diptych in which a photograph from the Wadena Rock Festival, July 31-August 2, 1970, in Fayette County, Iowa intersects with a photograph from the Battle of Chancellorsville, April 30-May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Most of the photographs are similarly described diptychs where a photograph of a civil war battle is juxtaposed with an image of a concert, festival, or farm. Without consulting the checklist is it impossible to know which image is from what event, but perhaps that is Berens' point. In the mind's eye, the two disparate places merge in a seamless yet uneasy continuum. In Trudged through a rainy Middle Tennessee & When winter came it was barely noticeable to us, (2018) a lush grove joins a photograph with two trees in the foreground surrounded by snow.

Berens' landscapes are beautifully shot scenes, usually devoid of human presence. Where the two photographs overlap on the paper is what gives these images their uniqueness. Berens runs the photographic paper through the printer twice never quite sure where the overlap will occur— suggesting that with careful observation, there are such overlaps in the depicted moments in U.S. history. On a purely visual level, the landscapes are evocative. However, it is the titles and descriptions that give the images resonance. In From There to Here Berens asks viewers to delve into history and to think about the parallels between the 1860s and 1960s— the struggles for civil rights, for example, as well as the political and social concerns of the times. It is impossible not to leap forward to the here and now and the current political climate. While Here is depicted as pastoral, the natural landscape is also vulnerable in these transitional times.

July 26, 2018

3D: Double Vision
July 15, 2018 - March 31, 2019

Left: Trisha Baga, Right: Peggy Weil

Human beings see the world in 3D. We understand physical space, illusionistic space and depth perception. With the invention of photography, the actual world could suddenly be presented as flat. The first photographs were black and white and sometimes blurred due to long exposure times. To some, this flattened representation was incomprehensible, but over time we have become accustomed to viewing myriad types of representations of our physical world.

3D: Double Vision is a fascinating historic journey through both scientific and artistic quests to illusionistically re-present the physical world in three dimensional form. In many ways, this is an oxymoron. Why don claustrophobic headsets to simulate walking through an imagined and fabricated world when the real thing is right in front of you?

For me, the answer is clear— as artists, inventors and scientists are always interested in finding new ways to transform and reproduce what we see into something more, pushing the boundaries of what is known into something new, beyond the imaginable.

3D: Double Vision seeks to pose and answer some of these questions. It is a trajectory through many inventions and artist's works. The exhibition explores issues surrounding perception and illusion and how the brain processes information received from the eyes. While not overly didactic, the exhibition instructs as well as challenges expectations. Curator Britt Salvesen was inspired by LACMA's history and commitment to exhibitions that melded art with technology and used her own previous research (she wrote her doctoral dissertation on Victorian stereoscopy) as a point of departure. The exhibition illustrates the history of 3D from the invention of the stereoscope in the 1800s to consumer products like the View-Master and includes examples of early lenticular printing, holography as well as clips from many 3D films.

Viewers are given traditional red/blue glasses upon entry and can also pick up a pair of polarized glasses at different points within the exhibit. The interactive aspects of the exhibition and the treasure hunt quality of looking for those works that come alive when viewed through these disparate devices are part of the appeal of the show. To say viewing the exhibition is "fun" is a bit of an understatement and a surprise, as "fun" is not always associated with the viewing of art in museum contexts.

Salvesen succeeds in integrating interesting examples of 3D art and photography ranging from classic stereo photographs that can be viewed through a wide range of seeing machines to site specific installations created by contemporary artists. How these artists approach 3D is particularly fascinating and the exhibition keeps its distance from immersive VR. Instead, viewers can watch William Kentridge's engaging (1999) video Stereoscope, listen to Sister Wendy in The Story of Painting, (2012) Trisha Baga's extraordinary 3D video, and delight in Peggy Weil's 3D wallpaper of oscillating diamond shapes (1976/2017) that play with depth perception.

3D: Double Vision is a stimulating and thoughtful exhibition that cannot be visited quickly. To fully experience the works, it is best to wander from piece to piece, to look through the viewing devices, to wear the different types of 3D glasses provided and to think about the ways artists, inventors and filmmakers have chosen to represent their ideas in three dimensions. As human beings, we cannot help but delight in this game of illusion.

July 17, 2018

Greg Mocilniker
Short Stories
Walter Maciel Gallery
July 7 - August 17, 2018

When I enter a gallery and see work painted directly on the wall, I get excited. I have always been intrigued by the idea of site specificity and gravitate to artworks that purposely take advantage of a given space. While there are numerous examples of painted walls in the urban landscape, I always have to ask myself why would an artist paint on a gallery wall knowing that at the end of the show, it will be painted over as if it never existed. Is the artwork a multiple, created by following directions like the work of Sol LeWitt? Or, an excuse to go larger than any available pieces of paper? How does the painted wall relate to the other works on display? What is the conversation? Does the painting function as a background or wall paper or is it a discrete work?

Installation view, Walter Maciel Gallery

In his exhibition, Short Stories, Greg Mocilniker invites a conversation about the relationships between large and small, expansive and intimate, paint and collage, temporary and permanent. Thirty-one framed collages ranging in size from 14 x 9 inches to 5 x 4 inches hang along a horizontal line on two long opposing walls. Organized into clusters, the collages play off one another to create a dialogue about the nature of abstraction. These works on paper are bookended by two floor to ceiling wall paintings that parallel the look and feel of the collages, yet are created in a completely different medium. I immediately gravitated to these site-specific paintings, delighted to have my entire field of vision filled with line and color. I imagined myself floating within and in between the two works. Not sure exactly how to read them, I perused the smaller collages to begin to comprehend Mocilniker's objectives.

The key, at least in my understanding, was found in the final works I encountered, all entitled The surfer (all works 2018). These collages are predominately filled with texts that read like thoughtful poetic koans: Before I've even seen you and said good morning / I've checked the wind in the trees a dozen times / I've taken into consideration the moons effect on you. The carefully excised letters in each collage reveal a watercolored surface below and are juxtaposed with colorful vertical lines and amorphous shapes centered around an irregular void. Sea Calm, a related but more complicated collage of cut and painted elements proclaims: It is not good for water to be so still.

While Mocilniker's collages are most definitely abstractions, it is also possible to think of them as quasi-representational. The texts, at least to me, relate to the ocean, the morning sky and the condition of the water for surfing. This reading directs the work toward the vastness of the sea and the colors of sunrise. Collages like Morning reflections and Into my arms depict two colorful rectangles leaning against each other floating in a blank ovoid space surrounded by delicately painted watercolor. Axis and Iteration are pen and ink drawings where cross-hatched and undulating lines begin at the corners of the page and overlap each other like sheets, filling the edges yet leaving a large blank center that includes two small darker rectangles. Could these dark shapes be surfers?

Mocilniker has an intuitive sense of composition and is interested in both the relationships between shapes in each collage and the ways they inform each other. For example in Palpable and redemptive, a black abstraction akin to a Franz Kline painting sits on a pink ground that expands toward the edges of the paper. Resting along the black curvilinear form are two small bright orange rectangles. A larger rectangle in yellow and two rectangles painted slightly different shades of blue are montaged atop the background shapes to create a push-pull, in-out relationship. Next to this collage is No One Knows, a similar yet more colorful and complex composition that seems to declare —look at the different ways similar elements can be combined.

Moving around the installation is most satisfying as each piece resonates in its own humble, but complex way. The collages, though small, are impactful. It is not possible to view the collages without comparing them to the much larger untitled wall paintings at either end of the space. In one of the wall paintings, I see the black cross-hatched lines as waves, the void becomes a calm ocean and the rectangles morph into surfers. In the other, sky blue words — Amid a tutted and vast expanse the space we create — float in a lighter blue ovoid shape that is surrounded by bright colored lines painted over a background of pink, yellow, orange and green geometric shapes. It is a rewarding experience to look from the collages to the wall paintings and back, contemplating the references Mocilniker has created through the juxtaposition of empty spaces, geometric abstractions and poetic fragments.

July 12, 2018

Young Joo Lee
Ochi Projects
June 23 - July 21, 2018

One of my thoughts when deciding to write a weekly art "pick" was to think about what shows stay in my mind from week to week. I see many exhibitions and often wander through the galleries snapping quick photographs so I can remember what I saw. Later, I revisit my Instagram feeds for reference and to retrace my route. Some shows I visit multiple times before I (metaphorically) put pen to paper. However, there are others that remain memorable and resonate on just one viewing.

Young Joo Lee, Paradise Limited, 2017, Three-channel projection

Young Joo Lee's installation, Mine at Ochi projects remains vivid in my mind's eye after experiencing the exhibition. Lee is not an artist I am familiar with and upon entering the darkened space of the gallery, I was immediately struck by the projected imagery. I am particularly interested in video works that use animated drawings and Lee's three channel, 17 minute Paradise Limited (2017), struck me as intoxicating, delicate and politically relevant. Also on display is a related 82 foot ink drawing, In Search of Lost Tiger (Paradise Limited) (2016) that complements the animated projection. This interactive work is presented in a custom box that allows viewers to scroll back and forth through Lee's beautifully drawn narrative representation.

Both pieces were inspired by Lee's 160 mile journey along the South Korean side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North and South. Since its establishment in the 1950s, it has paradoxically become a sanctuary for plants and animals. A keen observer and critical thinker, Lee has recorded her impressions and rendered this intersection of the built and natural environments, capturing both flora and fauna that co-exist amongst the barbed wire and guard towers. While her scroll is devoid of people, it serves as the catalyst and background imagery for Paradise Limited, her projected animation which imagines the DMZ as a mysterious in between space— an unknown with its own raison d'etre.

Exploring the rhythm of the projected triptych, Lee presents two scenarios that are purposely created as opposites or inverses of each other, (black vs white faces and uniforms, for example) on either side of a central third screen, that begins with an atmospheric swirl of drawn textures. Militaristic depictions soon give way to a surreal fantasy about the coupling of these opposing forces as a melding of female forms. The pencil textured surface of the stop-motion animation is transformed into a digitally rendered world where androgynous soldiers pass through headless tree-like bodies and eventually shed their uniforms and weapons to become a single entity, only to be consumed by the atmosphere as the triptych loops.

Lee crafts some of the female/tree hybrids depicted in the animation into evocative clay sculptures that are exhibited as discreet objects poised on pedestals. Entitled Trees in Paradise (2017) these sculpted forms give a physical presence to the images in the video. Lee's watercolors and charcoal sketches also relate to scenarios referenced in the animation.

In addition to her thoughtful and compelling work about the DMZ, Lee also includes an earlier tongue and cheek animation, Song From Sushi (2016). This critique in the format of a music video begins with female bodies dancing as items on a rotating sushi bar in sync with pop vocals. It eventually turns more sombre in tone and gives way to an undersea world. Here the narration equates these Asian women with exotic fish in the sea. It becomes clear that not only does Lee have a feminist agenda, but she is able to couple political history with personal explorations and parlays them into resonate artworks that are simultaneously informative, inventive and humorous.

July 5, 2018

Wendell Dayton
Blum and Poe
June 30 - August 18, 2018

Wendall Dayton, Turnstile, 2011, Stainless steel, terra cotta, 69 1/2 x 96 x 96 inches

Before his exhibition at Blum and Poe, I was not aware of the work of Wendell Dayton. Born in Spokane, WA in 1938, Dayton now resides on an expansive two-acre plot in the San Fernando Valley where he makes and displays his sculptures. He studied at Indiana University (BA, 1960), then moved to New York City. He worked as a guard at the Whitney Museum and lived in downtown lofts, befriending artists such as James Rosenquist, Robert Grosvenor, Claes Oldenburg, and Mark di Suvero. Although Dayton returned to Los Angeles in 1972, this exhibition at Blum and Poe is the first comprehensive display of his work.

Despite the quantity of sculptures on view, it is hard not to be smitten by their presence and elegance. I instantly found parallels and connections to sculptures by both David Smith (materials) and Mark di Suvero (graceful balance).

While the exhibition spans both floors, it is the large stainless steel sculptures on the ground level that made me wonder why I had not encountered them before. Upon entering the space and having the opportunity to view the works from all vantage points, I was enchanted and entranced by both their formal and technical prowess. It is easy to imagine the works situated in the landscape were many of them resided before the exhibition. In the San Fernando Valley, Dayton has created his own sculpture park in essence. Removed from this context and relocated to the gallery, the works are now infused with a pristine - do not touch - aura. That being said, the urge to touch them is hard to resist. These human scaled stainless steel sculptures are just as comfortable inhabiting the white cube and take command of this new environment. While the sculptures converse with each other en masse, each has its own raison d'etre.

Turnstile, 2011 sits on the floor atop four square concrete slabs separated by red bricks. Perched above these seemingly ordinary building materials is an array of criss-crossing welded stainless steel circular forms and horizontal bars that radiate from a central axis. This quirky sculpture is elegantly poised. Like a turnstile, its irregularly shaped bars extend along the perpendicular, both inviting and threatening simultaneously. Beauty (2004) is a graceful arc that rises from the floor, extending more than twelve feet high above it before descending. It is complemented by another bar that rises vertically and bends slightly at the top. When seen from the side, the work becomes a simple line drawing that abstractly references the body and tail of a giant fish. Some of Dayton's sculptures are non objective while others reference human beings (Rachel, 2016) or natural phenomena, (Meteor, 1974 or the Rising Moon, 1979).

Dayton has a knack for combining found and haphazardly cut fragments of stainless steel. His welded or bolted joints are often obvious, which gives the work a home-made presence. As I wandered through the downstairs room I circled back and forth, delighting in the interrelationships between the pieces and the ways they occupied space.

Upstairs, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the great quantity of smaller works placed alone or in clusters on top of white pedestals. Here Dayton's wit thrives as does his creative command of these materials. I was awed by the simplicity of Circle (1979) fashioned from a rusted wire coat hanger. Here the cut and twisted wire becomes a perfect circle with a tail, standing just a few inches high off the table. Similarly, Wheel #2 (2016) appears to be just that, a rusting 10 inch steel wheel that has been cut in half, twisted 90 degrees and recombined to create the illusion of two, rather than one connected circle. The small stainless steel Flight (c. 1975) suggests the wingspan of a flying bird whereas Ballet Dancer #2 (c.1975) alludes to the outstretched limbs of a sprawling performer.

When viewing this six decade survey, it comes as quite a surprise that Dayton has not received more prior recognition. But once the floodgates have been opened there is no turning back and it seems evident that now into his eighth decade, he will get his well deserved due.