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.

NOTE From May 14 - June 11, 2020, when most art venues were closed due to Covid-19, I presented a series of studio visits rather than exhibition reviews. As of June 18, I am back to my weekly reviews.

November 25, 2021

Rob Thom
Fumbly Punts
M+B Gallery
October 23 - December 4, 2021

Rob Thom

Football is considered the greatest American pastime by many of its fans. It is played in intense heat, rain or snow, with diehard followers who prioritize the game above many aspects of normal life. In his exhibition Fumbly Punts, Rob Thom humorously critiques American football by creating highly saturated paintings filled with contorted images of fans and players, fields and stadiums. These satirical works continue Thom's investigations of crowds and athletes. Where in the past he depicted scenes of excess that included parties, pastimes and sporting events, he now focuses exclusively on the game of football. Though perhaps a fan, Thom uses found imagery, transforming photographs sourced from the internet into detailed yet distorted representations of these chaotic spectacles.

In the evocative painting Hail Mary (all works 2021), the mostly orange-shirted crowd in the stands occupies the top half of the image. They are depicted gazing upon a carefully composed array of six players in orange and yellow football pants that contrast with the bright green field. The uplifted hands of player number five, who wears a white jersey with an orange number, futilely extend high into the air reaching for an unseen ball while the players from the other team surround him, their bodies forming an upward diagonal. A "Hail Mary" pass has little chance of being caught and in the painting, Thom captures the feelings of expectation and let down seen in the facial expressions of both the players and the crowd.

In addition to painting exteriors--players on the field and crowds in the stands or in adjacent parking lots, Thom also includes paintings of interiors--large sports bars and betting sites--filled with huge grids of TV screens. In these settings, fans can watch many different games simultaneously. Sunday Sportsbet and World Champions Bar and Grill illustrate this multi-screen phenomenon. In these works, it is easy to imagine the cacophony of grunts and cheers emanating from multiple players, announcers and spectators within the paintings. Thom's densely packed compositions present different moments all happening simultaneously and causing a dizzying effect.

While football is often considered a violent sport, there can be moments of compassion and even humor. Thom calls attention to these in his portrayals of the game. In Endzone Dance for example, he lyrically illustrates two players in the end zone extended off the ground as if performing a jig. Here, the players' skinny legs and cleated shoes hover above the ground in synchrony. In the background, a line of players from the other team looks on from the sideline, their red helmets shimmering in contrast to a deep green wall that extends across the middle of the composition adjacent to the light green field.

In these stylized representations, Thom reduces bulky male bodies to elongated forms with gangly thin limbs. These unrealistic depictions are the antithesis of macho football players. Although they gesticulate, hug, dance and pile up on the canvases, their actions and interactions are more comical than aggressive. Though the paintings are for the most part representational, Thom intensifies the colors and hones in on specific facial expressions and hand signals to create images that playfully poke fun at the traditions and absurdities of American football. After all, what is a fumbly punt?

Click here for Rob Thom on its own page.

November 18, 2021

Joe Rudko
Untitled Colors
Von Lintel Gallery
October 30 - December 18, 2021

Joe Rudko

Joe Rudko is a Seattle, WA based artist who cuts apart and recombines family snapshots taken by non-professionals he finds in flea markets and antique shops to create dense, visually complex collages. These works at first resemble digital collages based on algorithms that result in specific patterns, yet it is more likely that his pieces are composed spontaneously and intuitively. In previous series, Rudko often used color as an organizing principal to create gradients or images that morphed from light to dark. He also composed cut or ripped photographic fragments into large-scale installations that filled walls or created individual images that coalesced into something recognizable like a silhouette or face. In his current exhibition, Untitled Colors, Rudko cuts the photographs culled from different authors and sources into precise rectangles and organizes them by color to create nine monochrome collages, as well as additional collages comprising geometric patterns that oscillate like Op Art.

More formal than conceptually based, Rudko's photographic composites are intricate puzzles that bring together image fragments from different eras and places to transcend the boundaries of time and call attention to the way photography depicts the world. These pieces removed from their original context become building blocks used to create something new. In these works, Rudko also explores the relationship between past and present, analogue and digital and what is evoked by the layering of multiple photographs.

To create his yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, green, white, gray and black collages, Rudko amassed hundreds of image fragments to fashion compositions based on specific colors: green landscapes, yellow flowers, blue skies, etc. He cuts the original images into square and rectangular pieces that are then methodically organized to become the finished work. Abstract as well as representational snippets featuring people of all ages, building facades, road signs and streets are combined. Any attempt to construct something other than a visual narrative is futile as Rudko includes hundreds of disparate pieces in each large assemblage.

While White (all works 2021) appears to be a gridded collage of rectangles and squares akin to an abstract Mondrian painting, upon close viewing the imagery is revealed to be hazy skies, clouds and light colored facades. Black, on the other hand is comprised of fragments of photographs taken at night— star filled skies, head and tail lights, shadows and sidewalks as well as rectangular bits of black and gray tones. Yellow features drapes, sunflowers, lemons, a VW bug: any and everything with a degree of yellow.

In addition to the monochromes, Rudko also exhibits smaller collages (some hanging in a separate room) that are more elaborately patterned. B/W is comprised of small black and white fragments devoid of imagery that are combined to create a composition of interlocking concentric rectangles of all shapes and sizes. Blue Scrap juxtaposes small photographs of water cut into horizontal strips that are interspersed with blank or white photographs. Similarly, in Flower Scrap, Rudko combines the blank white edges of the photographs with snippets from gardens and flowers.The title of the exhibition, Untitled Colors could be a play on the United Colors of Benetton (1984) advertising campaign that dealt with issues ranging from race, culture and HIV to hunger. While Rudko's collages have no central subject, they are fascinating composites that are open to numerous interpretations. He states, "By combining all of these single perspectives together, you get a collective viewpoint or an averaging of a particular subject. It's about recognizing how the camera can lie, and trying to bring it closer to the experience of really looking." Rudko's collages beg for close scrutiny and reward those who chose to spend time studying with aesthetic satisfaction and an inkling of something more.

Click here for Joe Rudko  on its own page.

November 11, 2021

Lorna Simpson
Hauser & Wirth
September 14, 2021 - January 9, 2022

Lorna Simpson

In Lorna Simpson's compelling multi-media exhibition Everrrything at Hauser & Wirth, the works fill both the courtyard and interior gallery spaces. Outside are Stacked Stones/Vibrating Cycles (2021), an array of fifteen sculptures consisting of stacked slabs of bluestone intermingled with pieces of blue-painted wood used as shims and topped with obsidian singing bowls (a type of inverted bell associated with Buddhism) that can be played by visitors with provided mallets. These pieces evoke a sense of calm: they are meditative constructions.

Upon entering the interior galleries, one is drawn to a small enclosed space where the 14 second video Walk with me (2020) is projected. Here, Simpson brings to life a photographic image depicting three Black women whose necks are draped with pearls. As their eyes blink and their expressions change, it becomes evident that they are composites that bring together fragmented faces culled from vintage issues of Jet and Ebony Magazines. Simpson presents an uncanny Cubist inspired portrait of 1950s Black domesticity.

Historically, photography and collage have been at the root of Simpson's practice. While she moves away from traditional photography, in Everrrything, many of the works still draw from photographic or media sources. Across the walls of the entry room are numerous modest sized collages from four different series (including The meaning of power and physical worlds, Stars from Dusk to Dawn, Observing the Universe and Everrrything, all 2021). These pieces combine images of women from Jet and Ebony with fragments from celestial charts where faces and body parts have been replaced by maps of the night sky. In one image from Observing the Universe, Simpson layers a sheet of blue handmade paper with a stylized photograph of a woman on the ground sitting beside her record player, much of her body now filled with the black and white imagery from a star map which is visible between the magazine page and the handmade paper. These small collages serve in part as an introduction to works in the rest of the show where Simpson enlarges similar appropriated fragments, as well as snippets of text. She screen prints these elements to gessoed fiberglass and colorizes them with blue and gray ink creating large scale commanding works.

In these monumental 'paintings,' Simpson combines the body and the landscape. The predominant gray and blue tonalities infuse them with a sense of dread and doom. They speak to the environment, to climate change and to the vulnerability of the earth. Reoccurring (2021) is an arresting work picturing a shoreline with imposing, rocky cliffs seen from a choppy sea. A disembodied face seen in silhouette is collaged onto the end of the cliffs gazing out toward an empty sky. An unpainted grayish brown square of fabric and three thin vertical light-blue colored fragments of text bisect the composition and causes a disruption in the depiction of the landscape.

In Observer (2021), Simpson supports the large vertical work on two piles of bluestone rock that elevate the 'painting' off the floor referencing the pieces in the courtyard, as well as Chris Ofili's use of elephant dung. In this ambiguous portrait, a female figure emerges from a background filled with celestial imagery, as well as translucent, maroon-toned patches of drippy wash. Simpson contrasts these grand depictions of stately women with wistfulness and vulnerability. They seem simultaneously present and disappearing. She matter of factly transforms her found imagery into regal portraits that are as much about process and form as they are about visibility.

The exhibition concludes and in many ways comes full circle with Above Head (2021), an installation of 218 small framed photographs, clippings of vintage wood block prints, pastel and hand made paper. Many are photo-booth images, some are fragments from star maps, while others are a dark monochrome. Collectively, these tiny pictures of men, women and children become a close-knit family and as such, they assert a resonant presence that evokes both the isolation of the pandemic and what we have missed. Looking both inward and outward, Simpson has created a sensational body of work that moves her practice into new territories: painting, symbolism and metaphor.

Click here for Lorna Simpson  on its own page.

November 4, 2021

Alison Saar
of Aether and Earthe
Armory Center for the Arts
July 16 - December 12, 2021
Benton Museum of Art
September 1 - December 19, 2021

Alison Saar

The figures in Alison Saar's two-venue exhibition, of Aether and Earthe are stoic and empowered. Throughout her long career, Saar has focused on the representation of Black women while exploring issues of identity, gender and race. She often incorporates found objects into her sculptures which connects them to specific times and places. On view at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and the Benton Museum of Art in Claremont are a carefully curated selection of works created between 1985 and 2020. While the distance between the two cities might be daunting, it is worth it to make the trek to both spaces and experience the show in full.

At the Armory, the earliest work is Sapphire (1985) an illuminated mixed media sculpture of a woman from the waist up. Glowing light fills the cavity of her chest behind her breasts which are hinged so they may open and close like a pair of doors. With elbows raised and hands behind her head, this brown skinned, blue-eyed woman carved from wood stares forward as if unwilling to succumb to any external forces. Sapphire being the oldest, it is bookended by Hygiea (2020), a mixed media installation installed in a small narrow room. Centered within the space is a woman who holds a double-headed broom in one hand and clutches a snake against her stomach that inches up her body. She is surrounded by empty bottles and jars that hang from ropes tied to the ceiling. On the floor are an array of buckets and bowls ready to collect water which can be heard dripping. While most definitely a goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation, Saar's Hygiea is simultaneously that iconic image of a Black servant who must attend to her chores no matter the circumstances. 

While some sculptures are placed in front of bright yellow walls, others are set within deep gray spaces creating visual as well as metaphoric relationships between dark and light and object and space. In Brood (2008), positioned in front of a bright yellow wall, a woman is seated at the top of a tall and rickety stack of found children's chairs looking down through her hands toward the floor where a bunch of pomegranates has fallen.  The provocative sculpture, Rouse (2012) is surrounded by dark gray walls. Here, the dark skinned nude woman stands on a bed of cropped antlers. A smaller shimmering yellow/gold figure tied with rope rests, in the fetal position nested in a crown of longer antlers that emerge from the standing figures head. While each sculpture celebrates the integrity of its subject, Saar also acknowledges pain and suffering. Her works draw from myth and history while also being very much rooted in the present. Sparsely installed to give each piece ample breathing space, the exhibit serves as a worthwhile introduction to Saar's work.

Although only sculptures are on view at the Armory, viewers can see some of Saar's works on paper at the Benton. Equinox (2012) is a hand sewn lithograph depicting a standing nude Black woman who is connected by long red and white veins emanating from her breasts to a mirror image of herself below. High Cotton (2017) is a mixed media wall work picturing a group of female cotton pickers holding tools and posed to defend or attack like warriors. While many smaller intimate works are installed throughout the exhibition, it is hard to take one's eyes off of Breach (2016). This gigantic work pays homage to the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, yet also references hurricane Katrina and other recent storms that have made clear some of this country's racial inequities. In this powerful work, Saar piles found trunks, wash tubs and cookware on the head of a blue-lipped, tin covered statue of a nude woman. She stands on a wooden pallet that could be a fragment of a raft while holding a long pole as if navigating through water. Her possessions are the weight of the world on her head. Sea of Nectar (2008) and Bitter Crop (2018) are bronze sculptures in which Saar explores ideas relating to nurture and nature. The sea of nectar that spurts from the breasts of a life-size standing nude become a tree of life, whereas the reclining woman in Bitter Crop seems indifferent to the white cotton puffs that sprout from her braided hair.

While there are a lot of pieces to contemplate in of Aether and Earthe, it is not an overwhelming experience. The dual shows trace a clear trajectory through many of the themes in Saar's work. One comes away with an understanding and appreciation of her commitment to challenging negative and stereotypical representations of Black women. She presents these female figures with dignity and humanity while celebrating and empowering women.

Click here for Alison Saar  on its own page.

October 28, 2021

Diana Thater
The Conversation
September 25 - November 13, 2021
1301 PE

Diana Thater

Animals have been the subject of Diana Thater's works for a number of years. From gorillas to monkeys, elephants to zebras she has filmed animals to explore human animal interactions, animal subjectivity and threats to natural habitats. Throughout her long career, Thater has created multi-projector and multi-monitor that engage viewers with both formal and conceptual themes along these lines.

For The Conversation, Thater has documented a parrot and a macaw, framing them against black backgrounds. In the gallery, these birds are presented on two wall mounted monitors at larger than life scale. Covering the windows, to help darken the space are Thater's signature gels consisting of photographic blow-ups of the birds' colorful feathers. On the floor are sets of speakers, as well as cords and cables that become black lines connecting the various different machines. Rather than conceal this apparatus, she integrates it into the work, becoming sculptural shapes and lines that criss-cross the space.

While watching oversized birds bob up and down and move their heads from side to side can be fascinating, The Conversation, is more intriguing as a sound work. Manipulated voices adjusted to high frequencies speak simple phrases matter of factly, becoming a call and response. Overlaid onto this dialogue are disparate squeaks and noises that come from the birds. The Conversation is presented as two diptychs: Talk to Us in the downstairs space and Listen to Us upstairs. In Talk to Us, the monitors are adjacent to each other on one wall, whereas in Listen to Us, they are installed on opposite walls.

While Thater's practice is not rooted in appropriation, she does occasionally work with art historical and cultural references. It is impossible not to think of the 1974 film The Conversation when regarding this piece, as the film centered on the misinterpretation of language through audio surveillance. Early works by Bruce Nauman also come to mind, specifically Good Boy Bad Boy (1985) in which commands and declarations were repeated over and over by two talking heads on separate monitors to explore confrontation and the emotional intensity of language. Thater's work is more playful than confrontational. The soundtrack includes simple phrases that are actions that appear to bounce from bounce from one bird to the other, often interrupted by squawking bird sounds. Verbs like: to stand, to sit, to lay, to fall, to break, to come, to go, to crash, to run, to walk, to hide, to kill are juxtaposed with works that relate to Thater's process: space, time, image, color, sound, light.

At times, the words express more philosophical relationships: up and down, text and poetry, in and out, remove and replace, hidden and revealed; and commands: pay attention, get out of this room, get out of my mind; as well as self referential: the story, the tail, the wings, the feathers.

There is much to look at and listen to as Thater creates a fragmented conversation with ambiguous meaning. While she has an interest in how birds process language, the work is a layered simulation poetically using words and phrases narrated by humans juxtaposed with actual bird noises. The effect is dramatic and unsettling, as much of human animal relations can be.

Click here for Diana Thater on its own page.

October 21, 2021

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Los Angeles
Amoeba Music Building
July 26, 2021 - January 2, 2022

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Los Angeles

The technology has greatly improved since Nam June Paik created his 1993 installation Sistine Chapel, filling a darkened room with more than forty overlapping slide projections. Currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through October 3, 2021, Paik's Sistine Chapel could be seen as a precursor and the inspiration for room-sized, immersive artworks.

With today's wide-throw, high-lumen digital projectors, it has become quite common to surround and bombard the viewer with an onslaught of visual and aural content. Contemporary artists as diverse as Refik Anadol, Charles Atlas, Petra Cortright, Olafur Eliasson, Ryoji Ikeda, William Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Pipolotti Rist and Bill Viola have created installations using multiple projections (often coupled with sound) that envelope the space and the audience. Some artists surround the viewer with undulating and ever-changing shapes that are generated by code while others use multiple projections to create narratives. For example, William Kentridge's Journey to the Moon / 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès (2003) is a nine-channel work that pays homage to the early French filmmaker. Kentridge used his studio and the myriad props within his workspace to tell a story that imagined a journey to the moon. On the other hand, an artist like Ryoji Ikeda uses mathematical algorithms to create environments filled with pulsating visuals derived from digitally rendered information coupled with sparse acoustic musical compositions.

It is not surprising that museums and commercial enterprises have found ways to entice audiences with immersive, multi-projector installations that claim to be educational and visually stimulating at the same time. A search for immersive 'art experiences' reveals environments worldwide with subjects ranging from art to science. These commercial productions aim to fuse art and technology and are often created by teams of programmers, sound engineers and special effects artists. Needless to say, the budgets are often well beyond that of what an individual artist can afford.

The newly opened Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Los Angeles was produced by Lighthouse Immersive and Impact Museums (among other companies) and advertises that it brings the art of Vincent Van Gogh to life. Overlapping, wall-sized projections animating aspects of Van Gogh's best known paintings— The Potato Eaters, 1885, Starry Night, 1889, Sunflowers, 1888 and The Bedroom, 1889 are cropped and recombined to pulsate, as well as flow horizontally across the various walls. Upon entry, viewers are led down a darkened hallway passing through an archway comprised of golden frames that leads to a gift shop and cafe. Once those needs are satiated, one can enter the "gallery" and find a spot to sit or stand and take in the thirty-five minute loop that leads viewers through a selection of Van Gogh's paintings and introducing them to a small fraction of his oeuvre. This visual experience is accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Luca Longobardi that suggests the different moods and stages in Van Gogh's life, ranging from frantic to brooding to elation.In Los Angeles, the exhibition itself occupies two large spaces containing mirrored columns within the now defunct Amoeba Records building. In the smaller entry room, triangular and spiral-shaped mirrored sculptures are placed on floor in the center of the room — functioning as both a backrest for seated viewers and as surfaces that refract the projections into divergent angles and shapes. In the larger second room, one can sit on the floor or on cushions within illuminated circles or ascend to a second floor balcony in order to look down at the installation.

Although viewers can enter the exhibition at any time during the 35-minute loop, there is a beginning and end to the presentation. It starts with images of candles, then moves to a sequence of hand-drawn animals and written phrases projected against a dark background to introduce Van Gogh and suggest the inner workings of his mind. This soon gives way to more colorful floor to ceiling projections of sunflowers, wheat fields, billowing clouds and windmills, as well as interior spaces that include Van Gogh's bed room and cafes he frequented. As these painted images fill the walls and the floor, viewers are transported into Van Gogh's world. Sometimes the images become animated— the windmill blades spin or brushstrokes glide across the walls reinforcing the fact that Van Gogh was a painter and not a digital artist. Sometimes the entire wall of sunflowers or the night sky morphs and twists, or the floor fills with pixelated criss-crossing brush marks that make plain we are viewing a pixelated surface and not an oil painting. At one point, a giant sun moves horizontally across the walls and later, the room goes dark before a new fragment illuminates the walls to show viewers a different aspect of Van Gogh's work.

What viewers learn about Van Gogh is little more than this: he painted sunflowers, the day and night sky, cafes as well as self-portraits. While the didactic information at the entry of the exhibition describes the trajectory of his life and work, it does not reveal any complexities. One leaves the building stimulated by the experience, yet not informed about the art. Does turning Van Gogh's work into a spectacle do a disservice to his achievement or does this flamboyant display invite further study? Needless to say, Immersive Van Gogh is a mass-produced spectacle for the general public. While it does not claim to be a work of art, it has many of the trappings but none of the conceptual sophistication of immersive installations conceived by individual artists. Knowing that there is also an immersive Claude Monet and Gustav Klimt experience, it becomes evident that these installations are formulaic, money-making enterprises. While engaging and enticing, they do not transcend their technology. Time might be better spent visiting a museum looking at an actual painting and reveling in the artist's work as an intimate private experience, rather than as a bombastic public spectacle.

Note: A version of this review also appeared in Visual Arts Source (VAS) Weekly Newsletter, October 2, 2021

Click here for Vincent Van Gogh on its own page.

October 14, 2021

Hanna Hur
Red Ecstatic
September 11 - November 8, 2021
Kristina Kite Gallery

Hanna Hur

It is hard not to wonder if Hanna Hur's paintings were made explicitly for Kristina Kite's gallery space or if it is pure coincidence that the black and white checkerboard floor so perfectly complements the geometric patterns within the paintings. The way the space recedes in the room parallels the sense of depth in the paintings. While at first glance the large-scale acrylic paintings appear to be bold shapes, upon closer examination the gridded structure that comprises the backgrounds becomes apparent. The installation has a formal elegance as the placement of the works is dictated by both color and spatial relationships.

Jupiter and Saturn (all works 2020-21) faces the door and is the first painting viewers see. Black triangular shaped shards emanate from a small green circle made with malachite pigment at the center of the work. The tan canvas background has been gridded out with thin white lines. Though static, it is easy to imagine this work coming to life as a spinning pinwheel or hallucination device. There is an implied sense of movement in many of the paintings as if Hur is using geometry to take us to another world. Each meticulously rendered work layers circles and rectangles in subtle colors as if to say I am transporting you from something predictable into the unknown. In Muse, Hur fills in a small grid with graphite squares that appear to be a floor in a vacant room topped with a black ceiling. Four small, light red ameoba-like forms are centered in the corners. The ambiguous organic shapes are a surprising interruption to Hur's precise geometry.

The pattern in Quad, Quad ii, Quad iii and Quad iv is essentially the same, yet rendered in different hues. Quad is flesh toned, Quad ii yellow, Quad iii green and Quad iv gray. In each work, the spaces within the 26 x 30 grid are blank or filled with a circle that slightly extends beyond the gridlines to create an oscillation or vibration within the mind's eye. Toward the center of each painting are four circular shapes comprised of seven dots each that are situated on top of four squares from the grid that divert the gaze and cause a disjuncture in the pattern and shift our perception to a different plane.

Depending on where one stands in the gallery — moving between natural and artificial light — different aspects of the works are apparent. What seems to be an even grid in Red Mirror reveals a glowing starburst that shimmers when seen from a specific vantage point. Hur's works are seductive and sly. While they relate to Neo Geo, they are softer and more subtle. She plays with spatial illusions both within the individual works as well as within the gallery. While highlighted by the specifics of Kite's gallery, her paintings have an architectural grandeur that also extends beyond this space. She is an exceptionally accomplished painter who manipulates formal geometry to transcend expectations.

Click here for Hanna Hur on its own page.

October 7, 2021

Aubrey Levinthal
The Breakers
September 18 - October 16, 2021
M+B Gallery

Aubrey Levinthal

Aubrey Levinthal is a painter based in Philadelphia whose works illustrate everyday moments culled from family life. Her subjects -- mother (the artist), child, father and friends are rendered lovingly. They feel remembered fragments collaged together to create a story about the last eighteen months. Levinthal depicts interior and exterior spaces, using a soft, subdued palette that accentuates both the vulnerability of the people in the scenes, as well as a tender intimacy.

These works reflect the malaise and isolation brought on by the pandemic. In Bed Beach (all works 2021), Levinthal looks straight on at the head of a woman lying on her stomach, her body stretched out behind her. In this close cropped image we see a woman at rest, her head nestled in a pillow cover all but one eye. Her dark hair is piled into a bun and she gazes out past the viewer, or at an unseen screen, as a small TV remote sits by her foot at the back of the bed. There is a weightiness to the moment. Perhaps the woman is indulging in an afternoon nap, or is fatigued by the goings on in the world. A similar moment of repose occurs in Man as Table. Here, Levinthal transforms a man into a table. Cutting across the bottom of the composition is a brown rectangle with an iPhone and a pad of yellow ruled paper sitting on it. At first glance, it is a table, but upon close inspection, it turns out to be the body of a man. His arm and hand parallel the bottom edge of the painting, his head projects diagonally out of the frame. Above this reclining figure is a white shape that becomes the body of a child who rests his head on his father's chest. Once this distorted perspective resolves, it becomes clear that Levinthal has captured a sombre and delicate moment.

Father and son also appear in The Boys. The two figures are seated at a table. On the wall is a print of Hokusai's The Great Wave of Kanagawa that leads the eye toward an open window revealing a suburban neighborhood. The man and the boy do not look at each other and appear lost in thought. Reflected in a napkin holder at the bottom of the image is a tiny rendering of a woman: present, yet not a part of the scene. In Knife Reflection, two sunflowers and a slice of cantaloupe are placed on a cutting board on a kitchen counter. Inserting herself into this banal scene, the artist is reflected in a serrated knife that sits on the left.

While bright yellow curtains etched with a flower pattern and a like toned sweater on the girl in Neighbor are intended to be uplifting, the girl remains isolated, framed by a window and looking longingly at the outside world. Alluding to the unsettling aura that has pervaded over the last year, even the plants in the flower box are not in full bloom. Self-Checkout has the composition of a casual snapshot that captures four women in a supermarket, two carrying babies. As in her other paintings, the scene is somewhat ordinary, a chance encounter, an interaction with others— but here, no one makes eye contact. This situation is reminsscent of how the social structure of everyday life has changed.

What is most captivating about Levinthal's paintings is her attention to detail and her uncanny ability, despite a purposely muted palette, to convey a sense of light and emotion. These thinly painted oils on panel are quiet: filled with longing and a sense of melancholy. It is easy to relate to the woman in Hotel Lady. In this disquieting scene, a lone woman leans against the wall, her legs draped over the side of a couch. Her arms are crossed against her mid-section, her head angled against the wall and cushioned by a light blue shawl. A thin band of light strikes her face creating a line down its center, only to fade out toward the bottom of the image. Behind her, soft light falls on a coffee table and illuminates the rest of the space.

Whether capturing a scene at home or out in the world, Levinthal's paintings evoke familiar moments. Her realistically rendered figures are devoid of fine details, heightening their vulnerability. These emotional paintings make the private public and while doing so, Levinthal shares her memories and observations about life during the pandemic year.

Click here for Aubrey Levinthal  on its own page.

September 30, 2021

Yvette Gellis
September 14 - October 16, 2021
LA Louver

Yvette Gellis

For some, the pandemic was a time for reflection. With the directive to stay at home, many people confronted isolation and had to redefine their connections to the outside world. Those living in Los Angeles were lucky. With good weather and ample sunshine year round, nature was always within reach. Watching the moon or sun rise and set, the palm fronds blowing in the wind brought a constant joie de vivre. Painter Yvette Gellis, motivated and inspired by the beauty in nature, channeled these feelings to create the mural Sacred Spaces, which was installed outside along the 450 foot long fence that surrounds the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. In this work, Gellis linked together twenty-six panels, consisting of digitized vinyl images, many over-painted by hand, to create an expressive panorama of the mountains and the sea that progresses from dawn to dusk. The work was meant to bring peace and joy to those who wandered by. It functions as a wonderful reminder to appreciate the beauty of one's surroundings, no matter what the state of the world.

In her exhibit Verdure, Gellis continues these explorations of nature and "the interconnectedness of all people and all life." While the paintings that comprise Sacred Spaces depict the natural landscape true to form, the works in Verdure are obscure, vibrant and explosive. In Gellis' large-scale (84 x 84 inch) paintings, loosely rendered figures dance across bright surfaces and mingle with plant life as well as architectural fragments. Verdant (all works 2021) juxtaposes muscular interlocking figures with twisting vines atop a vivid pink background. For Ascension, Gellis intertwines four overlapping female figures filled with a mix of transparent washes and lines that simultaneously define foliage. Part atmosphere, part plant life, These figures dominate a cloud filled sky that is positioned to create an upward diagonal, a metaphor for an ascending journey. In the hot pink space that defines Kudzu, green-hued figures move forward as if trying to burst out of the confines of the picture plane. Fragments of a darker pink and green receding checkerboard pattern are collaged behind and in some cases become part of the figures. The inclusion of these carefully painted and collaged geometric, architectural details directs the viewer's eye deep into the painted space and while doing so, creates a curious contrast with the figures.

The orange yellow ground in the painting Verdure is home to a small array of huddled, crouching figures. A seated female in the foreground holds her hand up over her face as the others look on. Her arm and hand transcend abstraction to become a more well defined form. This gesture is one of yielding acceptance or submission and sadness, despite being surrounded by lush green vegetation. In each canvas gestural figures inhabit brightly colored spaces that appear like fragments from a sci-fi world.

Gellis retreated within herself to examine what it meant to be alive in a crisis and emerged with this new body of work. While there are references to past series, specifically with the collaging of the checkerboard patterns, rather than be about place, these paintings are about people and emotions. They are filled with dancing muses who engage in playful tussles. Gellis and in turn her figures have internalized the goings on of the last year and emerged from the pandemic to proclaim a new outlook on life.

Click here for Yvette Gellis  on its own page.

September 23, 2021

Yifan Jiang 
Medium-sized dry goods 
July 17 - August 14, 2021
Names for airy nothings 
August 28 - October 16, 2021
Meliksetian Briggs

Yifan Jiang 

Yifan Jiang is a young Canadian artist who was born in Tianjin, China and is now based in New York City. She recently received her MFA  from Columbia University (2020) and debuts new paintings and a projected video in back to back solo exhibitions at Meliksetian Briggs Gallery in Los Angeles. Jiang works in a range of media that includes painting, performance and animation. In the first of her two exhibitions, Medium-sized dry goods (July 17 - August 14, 2021), she filled the gallery space with five large-scale and two modest sized paintings. The second exhibition, Names for airy nothings (August 28 - October 16, 2021) also featured large and small paintings that shared the space with a thirteen-minute projected animation.

In her expressively painted, representational works, Jiang explores places where reality and fantasy collide. What is striking about these paintings is the use of perspective and to create unusual foreground background relationships. The paintings feel like close-cropped fragments extracted from larger scenes.

Included in the first exhibition is Subway Horses (all works 2021), a painting that depicts a long, subway corridor partially adorned with advertising posters. Seen racing away from the viewer and down this narrow hallway eerily glowing from fluorescent lights are four running people and two galloping horses placed in different locations along the receding space. What the people and animals are running from or toward is never revealed, but the urgency of their movement communicates fear. 

Unit 1 portrays a passageway or tunnel like those found in Central Park that while familiar, is also uncanny. The vaulted interior leads to a bright opening. In the foreground, Jiang paints an outstretched hand above which hovers a small globe that resembles a miniature version of the earth. An ambiguous, small winged creature in silhouette floats in the distance at the edge of the blinding white opening, neither coming nor going. Perhaps it is controlled or connected to the hovering orb.

Plaza Monkeys is even more disconcerting. In a city at night below a rising skyscraper, four monkeys graze and splash in a pond or puddle that reflects a full moon. Above this a horizontal yellow band bisects the painting from edge to edge just below the center. This yellow area is cluttered with mottled white-green, frolicking figures. The scene is curious as Jaing presents an urban landscape inhabited by humans and animals simultaneously. The works in this first exhibition pose strange questions that cannot be answered. In Drone, one wonders how a large black bird became entwined with a smaller drone and what its relationship is to a distant helicopter looming above. Similarly, it is hard to know if the small group of people seated in the middle of Picnic (oblivious to the goings on above them) will be obliterated by the shower of debris (from a satellite?) falling from the sky. Jiang states that the exhibition is "an exploration of vast possibilities within the neighborhood of our existence: a visit to unlikely circumstances and novel instances, a trek between low possibility events and pure fiction, a roam on the shore of the absurd."

The paintings in Jiang's second show are likewise surreal, but also melancholic. What exactly is happening in Farm? The small (10 x 10 inch) painting depicts two gigantic hands at either side of the work holding a black strap across the path of a boy who is making his way down a road. Again, Jiang confounds the size relationship as the boy is about the height of one of the fingers. Butterfly, (also a 10 x 10 inch canvas) is a yellow-toned seascape filled with disproportionately large silhouetted butterflies that float in front of the sun (or moon) above the horizon. A band of musicians walk on water in Nap—- trudging across undulating waves while in the distance, another tiny figure naps on a swan floating away towards the upper left of the composition. Two Tailed Cat is an unusual image in which a two-tailed orange-brown cat is perched high on a tree branch, its orange eyes peering down toward the viewer as if it is about to pounce. The limbs of the tree are surrounded by highly saturated green and yellow brushstrokes that suggest blowing leaves in a swirling wind.

The gallery has dark and light states: light to view the paintings and dark to see the animation. Deep red drapes are drawn to block out the windows in order to view One Sunday Morning. While her paintings depict isolated moments, Jiang tells a longer and more complex story via animation. This 13-minute piece is narrated by a soothing male voice with a British accent that takes viewers on a strange journey to places on two sides of a world where language has disappeared and experiences are shared via touch. In this beautifully crafted and evocative work, people awake one Sunday morning to find that they cannot speak. As the narrative progresses, Jiang illustrates how the communities of 'Downtown' and 'Uptown' deal with the situation and learn to communicate using touch. 
The depiction of the people and places within the animation are similar to the paintings — rendered in a loose sketchy hand, but often cut out and collaged together. Using digital technologies that emulate stop-motion techniques, Downtown and Uptown come alive. The narrative unfolds over a year and during this time, the use of touch communication becomes more complex as well as problematic. Two inhabitants— Barbara from Downtown and Trevor from Uptown— pack their bags to escape and travel the world. After a year, they crave human interaction as they can no longer tell what is real and where things came from. When Barbara sees Trevor, they run towards each other and embrace. Amidst a swirling dance and changing landscape, they instantaneously begin to relive each other's lives. Because they have nothing in common, they experience each other's history from birth to the present, but this takes so long to transpire that they die in each other's arms.

Thinking about life without language, one revisits the paintings and Jiang's idiosyncratic world. Through both painting and animation, Jiang presents the future as a place that is part dystopic and part utopic. In her fantasy, the sky turns yellow, musicians walk on water, birds tussle with drones, humans and animals co-exist and people communicate via touch rather than with words. Together these two exhibitions "explore the limits of language and human empathy" leaving viewers to ponder these strange new possibilities.

Click here for Yifan Jiang  on its own page.

September 16, 2021

Andrea Bowers
Energy with Intention
Vielmetter Los Angeles
August 21 - September 25, 2021

Andrea Bowers

As a self-proclaimed feminist and social activist who creatively fuses her politics with her artworks, Andrea Bowers is an artist with convictions. She seamlessly integrates thoughtful interpretations of current and historic events with beautifully crafted drawings, collages, installations and videos. The subjects of her projects range from international relations to women's and worker's rights and global injustice, as well as climate change. Whether a single drawing or a full-on installation, Bowers is able to communicate her commitment to social causes with sophistication and grace. Her work is never didactic or preachy.

For Energy with Intention, six large-scale mixed media works are dispersed across the spacious gallery. Six smaller drawings (studies for these pieces) appear together in a line on one wall. In the back gallery, there is a video from 2002 (remastered in 2021), Avenging the Ghosts of My Younger Self (Situated Between Minimalist Art and Arcade Games) in which Bowers is filmed performing martial arts movements and self defense kicks in front of flourescent light sculptures by Dan Flavin. Wearing street clothes that take on the hues of the lights, Bowers kicks and punches into the air throughout the 2:53 loop, never really interacting with Flavin's work. Knowing her attitudes toward the male dominated art world, specifically with regard to Minimalism, the video is a humorous jab at this canon.

According to Bowers, an ongoing theme in her work is the linkage between civil disobedience and dance and many of the gestures in the video have the feel of a beautifully choreographed dance. Her recent "Self-Defense Drawings" featured in this exhibition also focus on the relationships between aggression and dance. To make these new works Bowers photographed women from Los Angeles who are practitioners of different forms of martial arts and self defense. She asked them to wear street clothes and dresses, not the traditional martial arts uniforms. She then transformed the photographs into graphite drawings which were then enlarged and painted with acrylic and pigment ink onto surfaces composited together from hundreds of pieces of found cardboard. Bowers has been using discarded cardboard as the ground for her work since attending the Occupy Wall Street protests where she fell in love with the myriad iterations of cardboard placards. She states, "I think about these collaged cardboard works as monumental protest signs. The grounds are made entirely of recycled materials while simultaneously providing interesting content with the cardboard browns and tans. I wanted to show the beauty of the collaged cardboard, so I kept these drawings minimal in their use of color and line."

In Fighting Women, Maritza, Side Punch from an Arrow Stance (all works 2021), viewers are confronted by the magenta haired Maritza. She wears a cyan dress and appears ready to throw a punch. Outlined in black her body forms a triangle within the tan-colored collaged background— head at the top, feet spread wide, dress draped in between. The corrugated pattern within the cardboard becomes the texture of her skin. Bowers presents her as a powerful, dominant and threatening force. Fighting Women, Ivy, Jump Axe Kick depicts Ivy from the side in a long blue dress covered with a pattern of yellow sunflowers. While the subject's facial expression and body language depicts the aggression of the action, her clothing is uncharacteristic for this type of activity and an intriguing contrast. Like Maritza, she fills the entire cardboard ground. Her arms are positioned to protect her face and one foot is extended high above her head. Fighting Women, Sunny, Jab has no color. Sunny's short slip-like dress hangs just above her muscular thighs. A steady and descriptive black line defines her form, allowing just enough details to imply both the movement of her hand about to jab, as well as the determined expression on her face.

Each of the six portraits is the result of a collaboration between Bowers and her subjects. She chose to photograph live models rather than to work from archival or media images so as to have more control over the results. It is interesting to compare the original drawings to the enlarged paintings (the photographs are not available) to see what Bowers changed or left out. The smaller drawings are softer, the women more vulnerable than empowered. In the final works, Bowers presents larger than life-sized strong, self assured and determined women trained to protect themselves while still asserting their femininity.

Bowers offers a challenge to Minimalism through the creation of large-scale images of fierce women challenging the status-quo who, like Bowers in her video Avenging the Ghosts of My Younger Self (Situated Between Minimalist Art and Arcade Games) can protect themselves from anything that crosses their path.

Note: this review also appeared in Visual Arts Source (VAS) Weekly Newsletter, September 11, 2021

Click here for Andrea Bowers on its own page.

September 9, 2021

Gegam Kacherian & Chris Trueman
Tufenkian Fine Arts
August 28 - October 10, 2021

Gegam Kacherian

Bazmaket is an Armenian word that means many dots: similar to ellipsis in English. A bazmaket, or ellipsis at the end of a sentence references an unfinished thought or a continuation. In Los Angeles based artist Gegam Kacherian's latest work, the 'dot, dot, dot' metaphorically signifies the space between… 

the space between US and Armenia

the space between war and peace

the space between sun and moon

the space between myth and reality

the space between fact and fiction

the space between church and state

the space between abstraction and representation

Kacherian's paintings explore how narratives are created using diverse imagery culled from disparate sources. His dream-like, sci-fi environments are filled with gestural abstractions, fragments from nature and nods to his ancestral homeland. It is easy to get lost in these atmospheric paintings fluttering with swirling brushstrokes and swashes of bold colors.

While Kacherian began as an abstract painter, he now excels at realistic rendering. The paintings have a collage aesthetic with disproportionate elements working in concert with each other in relation to pulsating backgrounds. He draws from history and current events, as well as the natural landscape, especially the colors of the sky at sunrise and sunset and montages the fragments he observes and appropriates into whimsical paintings that coalesce intuitively.

In Desire in Absence, the base layer is a receding bright yellow and blue sky covered at the bottom with rolling green hills and a pink stream from which surreal flowers and animal forms frolic. At the top the composition is bisected by a thick diagonal pink band, under a heaving canopy of dark green and a thinner layer of red. Together these elements form a landscape that contains, at the far right edge, the facade of a modern glass house. Toward the bottom left, a pale yellow car from the 1950s sits above which is perched a giant yellow bird (a goldfinch) on a branch between two thin tree trunks. How these elements relate is ambiguous as Kacherian allows viewers to weave their own narratives through his painted cues.

Out of My Hand is a surreal landscape where fantastical creatures inhabit a bright pink sky above and a blue-green ground beneath a detailed contemporary cityscape. Looking closely reveals loosely painted vintage automobiles, as well as a suited businessman, cows, birds and a flock of penguins. Like in Hieronymus Bosch's, The Garden of Earthly Delights, this painting is filled with realistically rendered, yet incongruous elements. 

Kacherian makes both large and small scale works. In intimate paintings, such as the 12 x 12 inch Tegher, the outlines of the Monastery of Tegher built in 1213 are the grounding element for swirling abstract lines atop a fiery background. The painting alludes to Armenian history and the strength of architecture to withstand time, as well as to the dancing flames of fire and war. Moving from the small to the large, the evocative 60 x 96 inch diptych Cascade at first glance depicts a cityscape based on New York, yet less dense than its actual skyline. As the eye traverses the work moving from ground to sky, it encounters birds, floating businessmen and other biomorphic-creatures in what becomes a fantastical universe. Upon successive glances more and more details are revealed.

The exhibition includes a new suite of square paintings, each begins with a linear depiction of a church or monastery fused with bright backgrounds. Kacherian melds these architectural icons with more fanciful imagery, taking the eye on a visual journey from the concrete to the abstract. Kacherian outlines the shapes of these buildings as if to say it all begins here… They are contrasted with gradients that are overlaid with non objective markings reminiscent of Arshile Gorky or even Lee Bontecou— concentric shapes and transparent swaths of color that criss-cross the compositions. The works are dynamic. Kacherian carefully leads the viewer's eye across the compositions from areas of pure color to figures balancing on painted lines as if suspended in air that ultimately dissolve into small zig zags, completing the circle.

Kacherian fuses observation and memory to transform fragmented imagery into twisting and twirling abstract shapes that interact with outlined architectural structures. While the paintings at first glance appear bucolic, in reality they are weighted with nostalgia for a past that can never be returned to and an uncertainty about the future. 

Also included in the exhibition are paintings created in collaboration with Chris Trueman. In this collaboration, the rules were fluid. Kacherian and Trueman engaged in a playful back and forth that allowed Trueman's abstract backgrounds and oscillating patterns (visible in Transmutation and Contour) to become platforms for more representational imagery that then gets folded back into the abstracted ground. Through their exchange, Kacherian and Trueman created a conversation about the myriad ways background textures and foreground imagery could work in concert to create a densely layered receding space.

*note: This essay was commissioned by the gallery to accompany the exhibition.

Click here for Gegam Kacherian on its own page.

September 2, 2021

John Baldessari
The Space Between
Sprueth Magers
June 12 - September 11, 2021

John Baldessari

The final works by the late John Baldessari (1931-2020) on view at Sprueth Magers are a series of inkjet prints on canvas that juxtapose selectively painted photographs culled from his vast archive of movie stills and press images. They include text that examines specific relationships imposed on the images by Baldessari's alterations. While the thirty paintings appear to be variations on a theme, Baldessari cleverly and wittily uses what is depicted, as well as what is no longer visible in the artwork as a forum for questions about what we see and where we look. He remarks, "When you’re looking at two things, don’t look at them, look between them . . . The space between two things, that’s very important."

Each 54 x 57 inch black and white inkjet print on canvas is captioned in capital letters "The Space Between ..." where "..." refers to something specific within the image. For example, The Space Between Two Figures and Rock. (all works 2019) shows two silhouetted figures standing on a giant rock overlooking a vast rugged landscape. Baldessari has covered the rock and the figures with white acrylic to obscure any details and unify them into a solid opaque object looming above the desert. 'The space between' becomes not only the space between the individual figures and the space between them and the rock, but also the space between the rock and the land, as well as the space between presence and absence, negative and positive, far and near, etc.

In some of the canvases the background is been removed. In others, the figure was painted out, while in a few, Baldessari has cropped aspects of the picture into rectangles that float in a field of white, as in The Space Between Two Women. Here, the heads of two women contained within separate rectangles, face each other from opposite sides of the canvas. The Space Between Two Heads. is also a mostly blank white canvas. Here, Baldessari removes from the original movie still all but the hair of two figures, one male and the other female, as well as a gun that occupies the space between their heads. While the woman's hair retains its photographic veracity, the male's hair has been painted black to match the gun that is held by the woman and pointed at his face. One can imagine the scene and extrapolate potential outcomes. Yet Baldessari pushes it further, asking us to think about the difference between fact and fiction, reality and representation, or even life and death.

The Space Between Two Rifles. is a chilling work. In this piece, Baldessari paints out in white the silhouettes of two gunmen who are posed and ready to shoot through open windows. The rest of the black and white image is intact and depicts an interior space with empty shell casings on the floor. Between the two silhouettes is a young boy holding two rifles. Baldessari plays with ideas relating to presence and absence, calling attention to the space between the two men, the space between the two guns the boy holds, as well as the space that exists outside the open windows.

The Space Between Two Legs. is empty. All that remains in the image is the blackened shape of a headless male figure who holds a long gun as if ready to shoot at an invisible enemy. The space between his two legs is triangular. What once was there has been obliterated, as is everything that surrounds him. It is easy to imagine a scenario as gunmen are abundant in films, but Baldessari wants to call attention to that which is missing, which could be just about anything.

Throughout his long career, Baldessari cut apart and reassembled appropriated imagery to call attention to what was there, as well as to what was not. He purposely made images that were 'wrong' to point out photographic faux pas and excelled in creating meaning from seemingly random juxtapositions. Through his works, he questioned the relationship between painting and photography, words and images, fiction and reality, audience and creator, past and present, mind and eye. Yet, for Baldessari, nothing was random. The works in The Space Between are carefully constructed commentaries on art, film, history and life. They explore "how we encode and decode the world around us" with visual acuity and ironic wit.

Click here for John Baldessari on its own page.

August 26, 2021

Conrad Ruíz
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
Nino Mier Gallery
August 7 - September 11, 2021

Conrad Ruíz

News images containing flames and fire have been a routine occurrence for years. It is hard to forget the riots or the fires that have blanketed the globe recently. Conrad Ruíz is a collector who has amassed an archive of these haunting and vibrant pictures from myriad sources, be they photographs he has taken himself or appropriated from the internet or print media. He sifts through his archive, sometimes mixing and matching imagery to foreground the impact of the event. Ruíz also looks to Hollywood and often titles his images after commercial films to infuse them with additional references and potential meanings.

His exhibition, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, is comprised of eight modest-sized watercolors on paper, that have a visceral impactful and lasting effect. Gleaming the Cube II (all works 2021), depicts a dreadlocked, backpack wearing skateboarder performing tricks on a street in front of a burning car. It is named after the 1989 film in which Christian Slater plays a skateboarder investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother. Likewise, Gleaming the Cube III is a painting of an exploded car whose flames and smoke cloud billow in front of the gray facade of a residential building. As if oblivious or indifferent to the explosion, a boy rides his bike toward the flames, doing a wheelie along the way.

Denzel Washington was the star of Tony Scott's 2004 film Man on Fire, playing a body guard who is out for revenge. Two works in Ruíz's exhibition are titled Man on Fire, both images of burning men flying through the air. Are these men victims of a violent act? Suicides? Superheroes? Man on Fire XV pictures a man leaning against a wall in front of a treelined park. His body is surrounded by burning paper, his head aflame. His arms and legs could perhaps, propel him forward to safety, yet he is immobilized. Ruíz paints this gruesome scene with exacting detail, his command of watercolor luminescent, aglow and congruent with the content of the image.

While the fiery monster truck in Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken is named the 'Avenger' and the event is sponsored by 'Lucas Oil' — clearly film references —, the consequences of the explosion cannot be ignored. Because they are all too familiar, there is little humor in Ruíz's depictions. That he chooses to spend time beautifully rendering these hororific scenes calls attention to the need to explore the cause and effect of violence and examine why with over exposure, some become numb to it while others can't get enough. The works in Ruíz's exhibition examine the theatrics of violence. They are apocalyptic, yet also staged. These powerful paintings are both attractive and not so easy to look at and take in. Ruíz imbues his work with cultural as well as pop-culture references, yet to those not in the know, they remain reminders of the realities of war and climate change and human vulnerability.

Click here for Conrad Ruíz on its own page.

August 19, 2021

Blitz Bazawule
A Moment in Time
UTA Artist Space
August 7 - 28, 2021

Blitz Bazawule

Blitz Bazawule is an artist who works across numerous disciplines. He is well known as a director, producer, musician and author. Yet he is also an accomplished visual artist who has a series of new paintings on view at UTA Artist Space that explore the relationship between past and present. This series, A Moment in Time, stems from Bazawule thinking about the old photographs that hung on the walls of his childhood home in Ghana, freezing images of his family at different points in time. This memory piqued when he happened upon a vintage photograph of a woman standing in a square in Morocco. Standing in the same place where the photograph was taken prompted him to think about this type of juxtaposition. Struck by the similarities and differences between then and now, he embarked on a series of paintings in which he superimposes images of Black individual and families from old photographs onto contemporary scenes.

These figurative works, painted in the illustrative style of artists like Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden are both nostalgic and forward thinking simultaneously. Bazawule states in the press release for the exhibition, "It is the viewer experiencing the painting today, transported to yesterday with a clearer view of tomorrow." Each painting depicts a familiar place, be it a barbershop, pool hall or baseball field painted in vivid colors. At the base or side of each image is a hand that juts into the composition, casually holding a painted version of a black and white photograph in front of the scene. As the viewer's eye moves back and forth from the hand to the photograph to the current location it is impossible not to think about the time passing and what might have changed both personally for the subjects as well as universally, with respect to culture and politics. For example, in The Pool Hall (all works 2021), three well dressed pool players are gathered at the side of the table. One Black male figure is posed, ready to shoot the cue ball. The others — a smiling Black woman and cigarette holding Black man — watch as he readies the shot. The current location is a decorative pool hall with three tables, decorated with 1960's style wall hangings, yet devoid of people.

The Commute is a painting of a New York subway train (specifically the Brooklyn Express N Train) with one passenger regarding their cell phone. Atop this everyday scene, Bazawule montages a photograph of a black family seated on similar public transportation, perhaps en route to Bay Ridge. The father appears to be contently looking out the window with his wife and son by his side. The painting inspires thought about the transformation of the NY Subway system, its riders, its safety and upkeep over the years. In Beach Day, Bazawule illustrates a pleasant day at the beach. A dog sits on a blue blanket facing away from the receding tide. A red lifeguard stand is positioned at the waters edge, the lifeguard gesturing toward unseen figures. The scenario presented in the photograph shows a couple embracing beneath a beach umbrella at a shore line that parallels the one behind it. The umbrella in the black and white image aligns with the red and white umbrella in the present scene, suggesting a s seamless continuum from past to present.

The Jam Session is presented in a separate, darkened room. Rather than hold a painted photograph within a painted background image, Bazawule excises the shape of the photo and replaces it with a screen onto which a video is projected from behind the canvas. In the present, a young black man sits on a stool strumming his guitar in a windowless room with black walls, an ornate red and black rug. There is also an amp and a microphone. His red baseball cap is on backwards, his eyes closed as he concentrates on the music. The scene in the video is similar, yet worlds apart. Here, a cap wearing black man sits on a chair strumming his guitar. Who are the players, how do their sounds differ and whether they are professionals or amateurs is left to speculation.

In each painting, Bazawule imagines a connection between past and present and rather than spell out the specifics of the relationships, he allows the viewer to fill in the blanks and draw on their own experiences and memories. He presents familiar locations and tender moments that are iconic in African/African-American history. That Bazawule has a cartoony, flat and illustrative style links his paintings to other social realists who were also interested in depicting that which surrounded them and preserving those moments in time. Bazawule looks to the past, not necessarily to understand the present but to suggest a possible trajectory from then to now.

Click here for Blitz Bazawule on its own page.

August 12, 2021

Dana Powell
Drinking Dust
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
July 24 - August 28, 2021

Dana Powell

Dana Powell is a painter based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina who notices the little things -- the shadows of a tree on a doorway, the light glistening on a pond, the shape of a hole punched in a wall. In her first solo Los Angeles exhibition, Drinking Dust, she presents sixteen small oil paintings on canvas that range in size from 6 x 8 to 16 x 20 inches. Powell's paintings are minimal and intimate works explore natural and man-made worlds. The scenes are sparse and the canvases delicately rendered— the coverage little more than washes of oil paint that acutely describe the subject while also allowing the texture of the linen to show through.

Powell gleans the exhibitions title from a passage in Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire an iconic work of nature writing that reads: "My canteen is nearly empty and I'm afraid to drink what little water is left - there may never be any more. I'd like to cave in for a while, crawl under yonder cottonwood and die peacefully in the shade, drinking dust..." A melancholic sentiment, similar in feeling to the passage in Abbey's writings, pervades the exhibition. The paintings are quiet and devoid of people. Powell is sensitive to an implied aftermath, be it what happens after a bolt of lightning strikes on a distant horizon as in Rain & Lightning (all works 2021) or the repercussions of climate change as illustrated in Flooded -- a painting of a water filled road at night.

The abstract yellow-green swashes painted over a darker green ground in Pond, perfectly capture the pattern of light reflecting on the water. While in Pond Powell crops the image to focus on this detail, in Yellow Door she renders a slightly blurred shadow of a tree silhouetted against a section of a musty yellow door equipped with two locks. Punch is a more aggressive painting. It depicts a white wall that has been punched leaving a hole with ragged edges. While the actual depth and what lies behind the hole is ambiguous, Powell beautifully presents the crumbled surface. Night Watch presents a different kind of ambiguity. It is a painting of a police car at night. Powell surrounds the vehicle in blacks and grays so it appears to be emerging from the unknown.

Powell delights in the wonders of nature -- four leaf clovers, animage of the moon revealed amongst the clouds in the morning sky, the cracked surface of a frozen pond. She simultaneously examines the impact of man on the environment-- the imprint of tire tracks on a green field, graffiti painted on the facade of a barn, as well as the faux tree that extends above and behind an industrial building in Tree Tower. Who has not noted the absurdity of tall cell towers shaped as trees that no dot the landscape.

Powell's small works demand close viewing. While at first glance they seem to depict banal and mundane scenes, Powell imbues these everyday moments and places with poetic feeling. The works are as much about what is evoked as what is rendered. Each painting is a point of departure for further meditation on the complex relationship between man and nature.

Click here for Dana Powell on its own page.

August 5, 2021

Wade Guyton
The Undoing
Matthew Marks Gallery
May 22 - August 14, 2021

Wade Guyton

Undoing, redoing, doing... what? These questions pervade Wade Guyton's latest work created during the pandemic. Guyton is most often referred to as a painter, but is primarily a digital artist who makes 'paintings' on the computer that are then output on large scale Epson printers and stretched like canvases. He uses images culled from newspaper websites, as well as cropped and fragmented pictures of his own works in his studio, or on display elsewhere. These are often juxtaposed with enlarged black and white textures akin to digital noise, or with brightly colored glitches atop manipulated photographs. Guyton's large canvases are graphically striking and when seen together, they form a narrative about the formal qualities of painting— texture, color, shape, etc.— and the principals of design. Meaning could be constructed from the combination of unrelated elements filtered through the glitches and accidents that happen during the process.

In The Undoing, Guyton presents one work that consists of 26 Epson Ultrachrome HDX Inkjet prints on linen that are 84 x 69 inches each. These large-scale digital paintings fill the walls and reflect the trajectory of the pandemic from March 2020 (its beginning) to the present. While most of the canvases are conceived of as diptychs or split screen montages, Guyton includes a few single images --a photograph of a hand holding a thermometer that reads 96.8 degrees and a sideways photograph of a computer monitor displaying an image of Andrew Cuomo's news conference presented by the New York Times under which is placed a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Both images are symbols of the pandemic and the precautions taken to be safe. Guyton's couplings of personal and media images emphasize the fragmentary way news is propagated, received and interpreted. The pieces are familiar, yet strangely distanced due to the degrading of the image during the printing process.

Among the newspaper webpages Guyton captures are live updates about the Coronavirus, coverage of Black Lives Matter protests and the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The headline from the New York Times on January 6 was "Mob Incited by Trump Storms Capitol." Guyton presents a screen shot of this page that includes ads for drives and controllers at the top— as if to say, I am appropriating the entire page. In Guyton's reproduction, the newspaper page is divided in two, split down the center and purposely misaligned. In addition, the right half of the image is partially obscured by an overlay of black and white digital noise. On the gallery wall, it is placed in a sequence of seven canvases and hangs between an image with a more opaque, darker pattern of digital noise coupled with a brightly colored manipulated picture depicting numerous folded tests of Guyton's artwork piled on the studio floor and a canvas with an image of two square prints with blue taped edges, also placed on the floor for viewing.

Each of the 26 canvases has a specific position and role within the sequence to create a trajectory that weaves from interior to exterior, as well as from headline news to colorized glitches. The undoing of the title references the pandemic and how it undid life as we know it. Production, travel, creation, socializing, all these things came to a halt. While Guyton's piece is a meditation on that time (not a distant memory), it is also a savvy work rooted in appropriation. Guyton's visually pleasing artworks draw from many different movements in the history of art— be it Appropriation, Colorfield painting, Pop Art or Minimalism. He simultaneously embraces new technologies. The work and his process shares affinities with Richard Prince's use of appropriation and display, specifically his latest presentation of Instagram postings.

For Guyton technology— using computers and printers to make the work is part of his process. The digital glitches, slippages, streaks and blobs of ink are a language that Guyton embraces and celebrates. He states in an interview in Numéro Art (January 9, 2020 by Nicholas Trembley), "The process is simple; technology is now part of our physicality... I’m not sure how philosophical I am, but yes, there is a lot of repetition, there is a compulsion, the work consumes itself. Files close, reopen, are remade. There is something kind of beautiful about that process for me." Beauty and process are key to Guyton's work. He is unabashadely self-referential, yet also brings in mediated imagery that locates his work in a specific time and place. The 26 pieces that make up The Undoing encircle the viewer taking them on a journey through Guyton's dealings with the pandemic and the trials and tribulations of the last year… something everyone can relate to.

Click here for Wade Guyton on its own page.

July 29, 2021

Camilo Restrepo
The Other Names
Steve Turner
July 1 – July 31, 2021

Camilo Restrepo

The Other Names is an exhibition by the Columbia based artist Camilo Restrepo consisting of more than five hundred 11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inch drawings on paper presented in large grids, four rows high by the width of each gallery wall. These are comical, ironic, cutting and witty portraits of Columbian criminals— narcos, paramilitary, hitmen, blackmailers, gang members and corrupt politicians— that were mentioned in the newspaper, El Tiempo in 2020, under an assumed name or alias. To create this collection, Restrepo researched each alias while also keeping a calendar (that appears on the back of each drawing) that marked the days the alias appeared in the paper. This transforms the set of drawings into a record of criminal activity in Columbia during the year.

The drawings are created on mangled sheets of paper. Restrepo folds, crumbles, scratches and distresses the pages before drawing on them giving them an aged and decrepit aura. They are ironic caricatures, often based on a combination of Google searches, common knowledge and pop culture myths. For example, Pedro Orejas (all works 2021) is an image of a 'Fred Flintstone' look alike with blood dripping from one ear and an explosion emanating from the other. The cartoon figure has a ball and chain around one foot. The fingers on one hand are inserted into a large green emerald. Googling Pedro Orejas reveals this headline: A U.S. court determined this Monday that the emerald Pedro Nel Rincón Castillo, better known as "Pedro Orejas" will pay a sentence of 19 and a half years for drug trafficking. It is not the only crime for which justice found him guilty. While Restrepo does not linger on actual crimes, the portraits often contain weapons or activities that allude to the offenses committed.

In Quirico, the subject is depicted with chicken feet sawing himself in half with a giant handsaw, whereas in Gonzalito, Restrepo presents his subject posed as a muscular action figure or lucha libre dressed in a deep yellow costume with light yellow wings. He has the head of a huge yellow bird. Jota refers to a fast paced folk dance and in this drawing, the smiling, helmeted, farcical figure's body has been pierced by torches, despite being clad in armour. In Chiqui, a round yellow chicken with bulging eyes has been shot by a cannon. Red blood streams from it's wound creating a puddle at the bottom of the drawing.

While some of the references and associations are specific to Spanish speakers, especially those knowledgeable about Columbia's turbulent underworld, the drawings do have universal appeal. Restrepo often references American popular culture and uses well known cartoon icons like Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny or Popeye, as well as characters from the Simpsons TV show and the Minions films (as in Kevin which is a drawing of a gritted-tooth figure dripping blood in blue coveralls who appears to be ripping his own heart out.)

At first glance, the installation of over 500 numbered drawings is daunting and overwhelming. But even contemplating just a few begins to shed light on the breadth and significance of Restrepo's project. While in 2020-2021, much of the world was ravaged by Covid-19, it appears that criminal activities remained a hot topic in Columbia. Restrepo tries to make sense of it all by making drawings that call attention to the absurdity of these glamorized lives of crime.

Click here for Camilo Restrepo on its own page.

July 22, 2021

Nari Ward
Say Can You See
Jeffrey Deitch Gallery
June 5 - August 21, 2021

Nari Ward

Nari Ward is a Jamaican American artist based in New York City who makes mixed media works from recycled and found materials. These pieces address social and political issues about class, race and consumer culture in challenging and unexpected ways. Ward has exhibited nationally and internationally since the early 1990s and is included in collections world-wide. It is surprising that he has not yet had a solo exhibition in Los Angeles, so the installation Say Can You See at Jeffrey Deitch serves as the city's introduction to his multifaceted and remarkable practice. On view are large-scale works created between 1993 and 2021 including historic early sculptures like the room-sized Exodus (1993), a mixed media installation where Ward used tires, wheels, boxes, firehoses and drywall screws to construct rectangular bundles that contain discarded clothing, objects and toys— items that could have been left behind by refugees or those forced to relocate due to gentrification.

Another striking early work is the large-scale Iron Heavens (1995) that extends onto the floor and consists of a wall mounted montage of overlapping porcelain enamel broiler pans, below which lean burnt baseball bats adorned with cotton balls that have been transformed into small amulets. The elements in this construction are juxtaposed into a beautiful sculpture that references destruction and healing simultaneously. In Bottle Whisper (2006), Ward suspends different colored empty bottles from the gallery ceiling. They are tied together with white string that is nicely coiled on the floor around disparate bottles that are also placed there. Many of the bottles are filled with drawn messages— pieces of paper covered in doodles and scribbles. The work evokes bottle trees, (an African derived tradition) as well as the the sending of messages in a bottle.

Drawing viewers toward another sculpture, the sound from Glory (2004) fills the vast gallery space. Glory is a juke-box / light-box made from oil barrels that have been joined together and then split in half to open like a coffin or tanning bed and filled with backlit images of the stars and stripes from the American flag. The looping soundtrack is a word tutorial for parrots. To access the work, one must meander through a barrier of white towels decorated with rubber roofing membrane held in place by home-made stanchions consisting of poles placed in cement filled paint cans. Continuing the flag theme is Say Can You See (2021). Here, Ward has attached six-thousand security tags to a huge American flag that drapes down from high on the wall to the floor. Using tags —like those that are often attached to clothing in chain stores to prevent theft— Ward conflates ideas about national security and corporate capitalism in this impressive and poignant piece.

Roll, Jordan, Roll (2021) is a wall-work where the phrase 'Roll, Jordan, Roll' is spelled out using shoelaces inserted through holes in the wall. The piece references both the basketball star Michael Jordan and a spiritual created by enslaved African Americans. In Lazarus (2019), he also uses shoe laces to spell out specific words from poet and activist Emma Lazarus' 1883 sonnet that appears on the base of the Statue of Liberty. In Ward's work, the text now reads: Tired, Poor, Refuse, Huddled, Yearning, Homeless, Wretched, Tempest-tost. Again, Ward offers commentary on the state of immigration and immigrants' continual struggles for safety and acceptance.

Say Can You See is a challenging and thought provoking exhibition that illustrates the breadth and inventiveness of Ward's work. One has to marvel at his innovative use of materials and the way he crafts beautiful objects from detritus. Ward often draws from the past— be it through both historical texts and found objects to reframe and represent that which has been discarded, left behind or deemed useless.

Click here for Nari Ward on its own page.

July 15, 2021

Em Kettner
Slow Poke
François Ghebaly Gallery
June 26 – July 24, 2021

Em Kettner

In her first Los Angeles exhibition Slow Poke, Em Kettner, an artist based in Northern California, presents small, fragile, ceramic and woven cloth sculptures. These pieces have a craft and folk-artsy sensibility. She draws from these disciplines, sharing affinities with the devotional aspects of creation. In this exhibition, the works are installed on and in the walls, as well as on a large, hip-high white pedestal topped with a piece of plywood. Many of the table-top sculptures are freestanding, elongated individuals, or entwined couples embedded into hand-crafted beds with heads that stick out at one end and feet that emerge from the other. In these works, the body parts are separated by and integrated into pieces of woven fabric that become coverings akin to blankets or quilts. Although the figures are confined to their beds, their facial expressions are not always pained. In fact, many appear quite joyful: making the most of their location and enjoying the company of others. In The Invalids (2020), two figures cuddle in a cot. The woven fabric that connects them is decorated with a colorful pattern of triangles that is attached to similarly decorated ceramic legs rising about three inches off the table. Missing bodies, the figures are simply two heads, a single hand and a phallic bulge that emerges at the far end, as if to show that they are enjoying their time together.

While The Swingers (2021), The Long Night (2021), The Prairie Sickbed (2020), The Lemon Drop Dream (2021), The Mending Bed (2020) and The Lovers' Quarrel (2020) illustrate both the positive and negative emotions of being recumbent, other works are more about nimbleness and the imagined twists and turns of the body. Like bendy or fidget toys, Kettner's sculptures are contorted into impossible positions and relationships. Two figures often become one, joined in suggestive and erotic entanglements. These sexual gymnastics are evident in works including The Cross (2021) and The Sycophant (2019) where the figures delight in the coupling of invisible body parts.

While Kettner's bodies appear to have a doll-like innocence, they are most definitely engaging in adult activities. The installation has the playfulness of Calder's Circus where disparate creatures and props coexist as a table-top display, yet Kettner's figures engage in more than play. That Kettner herself is disabled (she has a rare form of muscular dystrophy) helps to fill in the backstory in this strange portrayal of both confined, as well as liberated individuals. In many of the works, oversized feet and hands extend from porcelain bodies wrapped with woven cloth that morph in unusual and unsettling ways. For example, in The Divining Rod (2021) a stick-like body in the shape of a sling shot and wrapped with multi-colored yarn is topped by two heads that gaze into each other's eyes. In The Orchard, two long arms extend up to become a circle that surrounds a checker-patterned weaving while the head and feet dangle towards the bottom. Whereas in The Mirror, a head, arm and long leg with a single foot protrude from a black fabric oval that becomes the center of a non-reflective hand-mirror.

In addition to many sewn and ceramic sculptures, Kettner also embeds small (two by two inch) glazed porcelain tiles either high or low in the gallery walls so they are easy to overlook. These charming pieces depict cartoony figures in bed under blankets. With titles such as Grovel, The Slow Poke, Settle and Unfaithful (all 2021) they speak to the fragility of the human condition. Like the rest of Kettner's pieces, these small ceramic 'drawings' are haunting and enchanting simultaneously. As hybrid forms, her figures become stoic and humble, yet forever empowered.

Click here for Em Kettner on its own page.

July 8, 2021

Dani Tull
Take a single letter from the stream
Diane Rosenstein Gallery
June 5 - August 14, 2021

Dani Tull

Dani Tull is a versatile artist who has been exhibiting his paintings and sculptures since the early 1990s. While the style and content of the work has morphed throughout the years, no matter the backstory or motivation, the pieces are always thought provoking, visually engaging, impeccably crafted and never simply eye candy. In the past, Tull has drawn from pop-culture in addition to embedding personal references in the work. His recent paintings follow suit. In this current series he begins with a base layer of language —in the form of hand written words and poetry— only to obscure this text infused underpainting in favor of abstraction. The texts are never revealed, yet they are the impetus for the paintings.

In Take a single letter from the stream, he presents eighteen large to modest sized canvases. Each begins with personal texts or poems written by others that he inscribes with graphite in long lines that arc across the compositions. These lines of language are then painted over to become colored stripes or, as Tull refers to them, 'streams' that undulate across stained or opaque backgrounds.

Send sentences as vessels at dawn (Rilke in LA), (all works 2021) is a 72 x 60 inch painting with six discreet striped ribbons above a raw linen base stained with drips and geometric shapes in pastel colors. Layered on top of this light airy ground are curvilinear ribbons — striations — made from differently colored thin lines of paint that sweep across the composition and butt up against each other, but never intersect. In this painting, Tull fills in some of the areas in between the streams with sections of opaque paint in hues culled from the striations. The concentric lines could be extrapolated to become lanes on a freeway, grooves on a record, a meandering racetrack, or even extravagant ribbon candy.

In La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) — a reference to Gaudi's Barcelona basilica, Tull paints a succession of differently colored striped bands that appear as simple curves flowing across the composition from left to right above a painted background that resembles a color field painting akin to works by Paul Jenkins, Morris Lewis or Helen Frankenthaler. The juxtaposition between the fluid quasi-transparent stained background treatment and the dense stripes of paint gives pause as their relationship is somewhat incongruous. Yet, Tull has always been interested in working with dissonance while finding ways to create harmonies.

Looking at an image posted on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/CPBgkt3l9jl/) of the paining at an early stage helps to understand Tull's process. In the first photo, assistants slowly write out lines of text following stripes that have already been painted. Then, using brushes, these new texts are painted over as single bands of color that completely obscure the hand written words. This happens over and over again until all the words disappear. The ends of each stripe of color fade out or fray like the threads of an old blanket. Knowing the paintings are text based causes frustration and curiosity to know what lies beneath the colors and what motivated Tull in the process of constructing the works.

Backstory aside, it is a delight for the eyes to travel the paths of the streams in paintings such as Cascading Voices where the ribbons overlap and intersect, or Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea where five discrete ribbons emanate from a deep green-blue stain toward the bottom left of the canvas. While Tull is specific about the color of each ribbon — drawing from personal memories, objects and past artworks — these references do not always reach viewers. Rather, one is left to extrapolate or simply indulge in the pleasure or the gestures, rhythms and internal energies of the paintings.

Click here for Dani Tull on its own page.

July 1, 2021

Takashi Homma
mushrooms from the forest
June 5 - July 17, 2021

Takashi Homma

Takashi Homma is a Japanese  photographer (born in Tokyo in 1962) who has worked professionally for advertising agencies, as well as for magazines like I-D in London. Artistically, he is known for his artist's books, many of which pay homage to the artist Ed Ruscha, as well as photographic series that document youth culture in Japan where he looked both objectively and expressionistically at his surroundings. For his first Los Angeles exhibition, Homma presents mushrooms from the forest, a body of work consisting of photographs of mushrooms from Scandinavia and Stony Point, New York that complement pictures taken near the sites of the Fukushima (2011) and Chernobyl (1986) nuclear disasters. 

Six months after the accident in Fukushima, Homma began visiting the area to make photographs of mushrooms in situ. He would carefully excavate distinctive specimens from the ground and place them on a white backdrop he carried with him to set up a makeshift studio. Shooting with natural light in less than pristine conditions, Homma treated each mushroom with respect as if making a portrait of a person, capturing its uniqueness and personality. It is impossible to know what level of contamination, if any, penetrated any given mushroom and the surrounding leaves and dirt, yet Homma's larger than life photographs allude to there being something wrong or off with these fungi. Is the slimy glaze that covers the heads of the mushrooms in Mushroom from the forest #15 (2011) due to the nuclear accident, or is this how this variety always looks? The black brown coloration of Mushroom from the forest #13 (2011) gives pause, as does the cluster of brown/red capped mushrooms whose heads are covered with small, rounded protrusions in #18. Homma's photographs of mushrooms from Chernobyl taken more than 25 years after the event, are caked with dirt and encased in debris. That life —albeit it in the form of potentially poisonous mushrooms— can spring from this barren soil is something Homma celebrates, yet is also wary of. Who would eat, yet alone touch the damaged cap and pocked-mark stem blanketed with black dirt in hernobyl #12 (2017). 

To provide context, Homma includes a few photographs of the forests where the mushrooms were found as part of the exhibition. Fukushima #1 (2012) for example, depicts a rich, lush green landscape, whereas Scandinavia #10 (2015) shows an environment of leafless trees and broken branches. In addition to making pictures around Fukushima and Chernobyl, Homma also photographed mushrooms in Scandinavia (noting that just under 70% of the available land in Scandinavia is covered with forests) and Stony Point, New York, which was the noted avant-garde composer and mushroom aficionado John Cage's place of residence for over 16 years. That Cage had a passion for mycology inspired Homma, as did the artist's books of Ed Ruscha — specifically Ruscha's book, Colored People (1972), which was a book with an ironic and charged title, filled with images of cacti framed against a blank white background.

Why mushrooms? Mushrooms are mysterious. They can be toxic or poisonous. They are often phallic shaped. They can be hallucinogens. They are symbolic— as in the mushroom clouds of another man-made nuclear disaster. They also have an exotic appeal. By documenting mushrooms and their forests, Homma engages with the dualities of nature: the forest as an open ended, ever changing expanse and the mushroom— an anomaly that continues to thrive and grow even in radiated environments. mushrooms from the forest can be seen as a straightforward photographic exhibition featuring pictures of mushrooms, yet upon close examination and with a bit of thought, it turns out to be so much more.

Click here for Takashi Homma on its own page.

June 24, 2021

Rebecca Campbell
Infinite Density, Infinite Light
LA Louver
May 24 - July 2, 2021

Rebecca Campbell

The radiant and complex paintings in Rebecca Campbell's exhibition Infinite Density, Infinite Light draw from the past, yet are very much about the present. They explore the nature of family, the freedom of being a child and the fragile nature of memory. Using found images including family snapshots and Polaroids, Campbell transforms isolated moments into stories about the people in her life-- be it her children or parents. Within each work, she uses different painting styles to create an evocative journey through her own history.

Although the exhibition is predominantly a show of paintings, Campbell also includes a sculptural installation in the center of the gallery that directs the interpretation of the other works. Titled To the One I Love the Best (2017), this mixed media piece consists of a collage of translucent silk banners suspended from copper piping. They contain enlarged reproductions of concert tickets, a Western Union Valentine's Day Telegram, hand written letters and other documents that span different periods in Campbell's family. Campbell explains, "Almost any narrative can be fabricated out of the open weave of light and dark, past and present, true and false, joy and tragedy of the multiplicitous histories. One generation lays their pictures, their text, and their experiences over the foundation of the last, privileged remnants are pulled through into focus and others let to fade, subsequent generations often choosing different narratives to strengthen or occlude."

In her paintings, Campbell often juxtaposes realistically rendered areas with looser, more abstracted brush strokes and thicker applications of paint. These gestural markings create a dream-like sensation that suggests the passage of time. This is most evident in Nature Boy (2021), a large painting of Campbell's son in a tree-filled woods. He wears a white t-shirt with red letters that spell the word LOVE and holds a single plant stem. Behind him is an inkling of a path that leads to a giant tree trunk painted abstractly with swirling strokes in a range of soft colors. Campbell's melange of styles enhances a narrative that weaves past and present, dream and reality. The setting is simultaneously peaceful and unsettling as the child's expression is one of defiance and awe.

In addition to lush wooded landscapes, images of Campbell's children also appear at the sea. In contrast, the paintings that depict the past are often interiors as in Bricks and Balloons (2020). This painting is based on a Polaroid photograph: Campbell renders the iconic fat top and bottom borders of the image with wide swaths of thick white paint. The scene appears to be a birthday or similar celebration as red and green balloons float in the background rising above the head of an older man who hugs two young girls seated in his lap. All appear to smile for the camera. While Campbell paints the clothing, background and balloons with a lifelike clarity, the three faces contain multicolored patches of blotchy paint. The aggressive handling of the painted faces and the fact that one of the girls' skin has a ghost-like glow takes an otherwise benign family snapshot into a new direction, perhaps suggesting other narratives.

Campbell is a master at conflating different styles and applications of paint. The melding of techniques is pushed to extremes in To Have and to Hold (2019). Here, Campbell begins with a prom photograph from the 1960s or 1970s that features a fancily dressed boy in a blue patterned dress-jacket with a black bow tie. On the left where his date would be situated is a DeKooning-style painting of a woman. Whoever she was has been overpainted by abstract expressionist brushstrokes obliterating all but a hidden smile. In Vanta Envy (2020) Campbell similarly interrupts the narrative— a woman seated on a chair in a den or living room holding what is presumed to be a large wrapped present in her lap — by painting the rectangular shape a deep dark black and turning it into an unsettling void. Trevin (2018), also brings together disparate styles. Here, a blond-haired boy wearing a white button-down shirt and khaki pants dissolves into a patchwork background of Scotch plaids.

The paintings in Infinite Density, Infinite Light challenge the idea that there is a straightforward narrative about family: children growing into adults, having children of their own and negotiating the wonders of life. While Campbell depicts her subjects with compassion, at times she places them in potentially ambiguous situations interrupting what is represented in the original photographs with an abstract overpainting that suggests a divergent trajectory. In this exhibition, Campbell invites viewers to bear witness to her personal journey, while simultaneously suggesting it could resonate universally.

Click here for Rebecca Campbell on its own page.

June 17, 2021

Christiane Feser
In Between
Von Lintel Gallery
May 15 - June 27, 2021

Christiane Feser

Rather than use a camera to frame the outside world, Christiane Feser creates three-dimensional sculptures in her studio that she then photographs. The works in her exhibition In Between are photographs of these assemblages which are often made from layering cut paper and small objects like pins. Because photographing the 3D sculptures flattens them, Feser then proceeds to print multiple copies of the image which she cuts, combines and rephotographs to return dimensionality to the work. The resulting pieces are photographs and constructions that are strangely two and three dimensional simultaneously. The works complex patterns in subtle tonalities that when looked at closely become even more difficult to figure out and reconstruct.

Partition 145 (2020) is an undulating array of blue-toned cut paper shapes that in some ways resemble the plan of a city seen from above where each folded piece of paper represents a home. Some of these angular forms are actually cut out from the printed page and folded so they rise from the surface while other shapes remain flat and are part of the original photograph. The cut fragments cast real shadows that are juxtaposed with the shadows captured within the original image. The final picture is hard to decipher as it is both "real" and an optical illusion -- which is exactly Feser's point. Partition 144 (2020) is also a dense pattern of interlocking shapes. Here, Feser fills the image with folded fragments of paper in different shades of blue/gray to create a paper tapestry The work is both textured and flat, comprised of an all over pattern that fills the composition. Again, when viewed from the side, the depth of the assemblage is revealed. In T_6 (2021) Feser layers transparent and opaque rectangles and strips of paper across a light blue background to create a maze-like configuration to form vertical and horizontal pathways that cast both "real" and photographed shadows. Similar illusions occur in T_10 (2021). Both recall works like Piet Mondrian's Composition 11 (1942), a non-representational and abstract, albeit architectural and lyrical painting of vertical and horizontal lines that inhabit the painted surface. 

Feser's photo objects are intriguing puzzles that ask viewers to decipher which aspects of the final image are sculptural as opposed to photographic. This sometimes requires moving one's body in front of the image to block the gallery lights. These nuanced differences are revealed when standing in front of Nullpinkte 23 (2020), a dizzying photograph of hundreds of stick pins presented in an organic herringbone pattern that resembles fluttering buds on interlocking branches. Each pin has a small black or while heads. The constructed image has been photographed against a neutral white ground and carefully lit so the pin heads extend varying amounts from the surface of the page and cast multiple shadows. The fact that some of these shadows disappear when the viewer moves across the image reveals that the image is both a photograph and a sculpture at once.

Feser's works seem more engaged with the issues inherent to photography than in the creation of optical and visual illusions. They are evocative formal studies that explore the relationship between flatness and depth. As abstract photographs they are playful and beautiful. But, because they are constantly changing depending on the light in the room, they transcend the photographic to become dynamic framed wall sculptures.

Click here for Christiane Feser on its own page.

June 10, 2021

Polly Borland
Nino Mier Gallery
May 15 - June 19, 2021

Polly Borland

Polly Borland is an Australian photographer who currently resides in Los Angles. She is best known as a commercial photographer who specialized in editorial and portrait work. Her extensive resume and online portfolio reflects the scope of this impressive career. At Nino Mier, for the first time, she turns the camera on herself to create a highly personal body of work titled Nudie. Borland's Nudies may be thought of as "selfies" — digital photographs made with an iPhone camera to share with an audience— as she even often creates them using a selfie stick but unlike traditional selfies, these images are not about showing off where one has been or who one has been with. Rather, these large-scale color photographs are unsettling, close cropped and distorted images of her aging body.

Self portraiture has a long, rich history in artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Cindy Sherman who have all examined their face and/or bodies in works of art. While many painters and photographers have reproduced their bodies faithfully, others have cropped and abstracted it, using these fragmented representations a point of departure for more psychological explorations. Borland's photographs transform the body into ungainly and awkward shapes dotted with veins, wrinkles, and occasional age marks. While her objectives and images share affinities with painters such as Jenny Saville, Lisa Yuskavage and Marilyn Minter who all present enlarged and/or distorted female bodies, the pieces also connect with Hans Bellmer's Surrealist photographs and more directly to the black and white images by John Coplans who similarly scrutinized his aging body turning it into a strange object.

Cropping the figure and presenting it in fragmented form causes it to become depersonalized so it can be seen as an abstraction or a landscape. In Nudie (4) (all works 2021), the folds of Borland's torso descend from the top of the composition like upside-down sand dunes. Nudie (2) presents two sets of breasts pressed against each other turning the body into an awkward sculpted form. Nudie (13) while an image of Borland's protruding and wrinkled gut, is also a study of light on skin and the voluminous folds of an aging body. To create these images Borland often presses a mirror against her skin to flatten it while simultaneously confusing the sense of space by reflecting the body within the frame. In most of the photographs, Borland's body fills the frame, leaving only small areas of negative space. The folds of the skin, the color and shape of the breasts, torso, arms and legs are melded together into seemingly impossible positions to create evocative and surprising compositions.

At first, it is hard not to turn away from these awkward and uncomfortable images, yet Borland is unabashed and committed to the exploration. She speaks of not being comfortable in her own skin and having scrutinized others while making her portraits, she decided to do to herself what she has done to others— strip away the facade to reveal inner vulnerabilities. She decided she had nothing to hide and used the camera to look closely at herself to present her body as sculpture. While Borland's Nudies are images of a naked woman, they are not sexualized nor does she present the body as an object of desire— rather she sees it as a pliable, intricate and delicate material that can be shaped in surprising and beautiful ways.

Functioning as an index for the project is a grid of 50 Polaroid photographs (Untitled) that juxtapose small croppings of Borland's torso shot in different lighting conditions so that there is an array of colors and tonalities. Here, the sagging skin, floppy breasts and her curvaceous folds are objectified, yet still seen as parts of a whole. The jump from the small-scale Polaroids, to the larger than life-sized iPhone prints is both shocking and gratifying as in the larger photographs, Borland makes the leap from study to finished pieces that proclaim this fragmented, cropped, aging body is atypical but powerful material for works of art that reveal the essence of the self.

Click here for Polly Borland on its own page.

June 3, 2021

Jorge Mino
Lois Lambert Gallery
May 1 - June 12, 2021

Jorge Mino

Jorge Mino is a Buenos Aires based artist who digitally composites architectural details, repeating and reversing these fragments to create illusionistic yet abstracted spaces. Though familiar at first glance, each picture is the result of intensive manipulations. Mino photographs in cities while traveling and has amassed a large archive of source imagery from which he creates his works.

Volume of the Void (Blue) and t The End of Everything (all works 2019-2020) are vertiginous large-scale monochrome prints made from overlapping images of escalators and staircases to create spaces that loop back upon themselves in impossible ways. Volume of the Void (Blue) is a tangle of blue-toned handrails and striated escalator steps that Mino shot while in Washington, DC. He uses layering to manufacture glowing columns of light that rise from darker voids.

In the striking, red toned At The End of Everything, Mino begins with a photograph of the iconic staircase at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. The zig-zag of the ascending/descending steps is duplicated across the composition at different scales and transparencies to create a disorienting composition that implies movement. This work recalls the endless staircases of M.C. Escher, as well as Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Imaginary Prison etchings. Piranesi and Escher both explored labyrinthine spaces that were confining while also suggesting an infinite expanse from which there was no escape. Mino's depictions have a rhythm and formal elegance that is more playful than claustrophobic.

The largest work in the exhibition is a diptych that spans 105 inches across the horizontal. Titled Balancing the Tensions, it juxtaposes two concrete walls and presents them as abstract shapes made up of intersecting rectangular and diagonal planes. Mino successfully captures the way the light falls on the buildings, creating angular shadows that transform a bland concrete facade into a beautiful array of tones and shapes. For Tension Balance (Multi-Color), Mino layers multiple images of what appears to be an interior shopping mall using the lenticular process to create the illusion of movement and infinite depth. In this dizzying and colorful work, the hand-rails alongside staircases / escalators stand out to become a maze of blue, red and yellow lines that defy traditional geometry in the way they criss-cross the picture plane. Due to the lenticular process, moving one's head from left to right across the image increases the sensation of movement. Other lenticular pieces in the Tension Balance series create a similar sense of disorientation through the intermingling of divergent planes, colors and angles.

Smaller digital prints make up the 24-part The Density of Weight Series which is shown as a six by four grid in a separate room. Focusing on a staircase or wall, each photograph in the grid is a grainy black and white image depicting a close-cropped fragment from a concrete building in the style of bunker architecture. Though Mino's process is not explained, it appears as if the images were (perhaps) first printed on fabric where they were twisted and stretched, then rephotographed in this fluid, non-rectangular state. The results are architectural details whose geometry becomes pliable. Mino's pieces are formal explorations that investigate tensions and balances between shapes, angles, light and shadow. He is interested in built spaces and though his images are devoid of people they are full of movement. Each print in the exhibition displays an internal rhythm based on the structure of the architecture that has been gracefully enhanced by Mino's careful compositing.

Click here for Jorge Mino on its own page.

May 27, 2021

Vera Lutter
Museum in the Camera
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
April 1 - September 12, 2021

Vera Lutter

One of the most uncanny things about the photographs in Vera Lutter's exhibition Museum in the Camera, is the fact that many of the galleries depicted, as well as the buildings themselves are no longer there. Lutter shot on site at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from February 2017 - January 2019, before the recent widespread demolition meant to make way for the new museum structure.

Using both stationary room-sized and portable smaller scaled pinhole cameras, Lutter created images of both interior and exterior spaces at LACMA, as well as individual works of art. A pinhole camera is a camera without a lens. Light passes through a small hole that functions as an aperture projecting the object or scene in front of the "hole" onto the opposite wall, photographic paper or film. Pinhole cameras usually require long exposure times which results in motion blur as well as the absence of any objects that move continuously in front of the lens. The image created is also a backwards and upside down negative.

Before gravitating to pinhole cameras in the early 1990s, Lutter turned her New York loft into a camera obscura to project large inverted images onto mural sized sheets of photographic paper to create unique large-scale negatives. She later constructed room-sized cameras she could use on location. Working with a crew at LACMA over two years, Lutter was able to fabricate not just one, but four room-sized cameras that she used to capture aspects of the museum, documenting exhibitions, gardens and the various buildings on LACMA's campus. She also built smaller pinhole cameras to make individual photographs of specific objects of art and paintings. To create the oversized three panel image European Old Masters: December 7, 2018 - January 9, 2019 (2018-19) Lutter hid the camera behind a specially constructed wall and positioned the vantage point, the gallery lights and even the paintings to perfectly recede in space. The resulting photograph is an eerie and ghost-like image of the gallery in which these old master paintings hung. As a black and white negative, the walls are dark and the is ceiling white with black spots where the lights were positioned. The frames surrounding the artworks glow against the dark walls and in relation to the now lightly rendered paintings. The reflective corridor is devoid of people due to the month long exposure.

Art of the Pacific, II: September 21, 2017 - January 5, 2018 (2017-18) is another three panel photograph (97 1/8 x 168 inches) where Lutter positioned objects and artifacts for the camera. Using objects from LACMA's Pacific Islands collection, Lutter composed the photograph based on aesthetics, rather than factual relationships stating, "I was allowed to pick all my favorite pieces…. I brought all these characters together that aren’t from the same tribe, and aren’t from the same island, and might not really speak the same language, but I wanted them all to talk to one another." In the resulting photograph, the three-dimensional objects appear flat, their tonalities a surreal group of tones due to the fact that the image is a negative. The arrangement of objects were similarly finessed by Lutter from inside the camera to maximize the compositional balance within the image.

Included in the exhibition are pinhole photographs of individual artworks carefully shot on custom made "copy-cameras." There are pinhole cameras arranged to face easels onto which Lutter placed specific paintings. Though recognizable as paintings, Lutter's photographs highlight different aspects of the originals as again they are presented as reversed black and white negative images.

When Lutter first visited LACMA to contemplate the project, she became enamored by the area known as Rodin's Garden. Not only was it beautiful, but it represented Los Angeles, with its billowing palm trees and traffic just beyond the fence. The plaza was both quasi-urban and a cultural landmark simultaneously. Her image, Rodin Garden, I: February 22, 2017 (2017) exemplifies this experience. Though recognizable, the quality of light and blurriness of the treetops takes one beyond reality into a dream-like environment. It is curious that Lutter includes two versions of this image, one is high contrast, while the other is much darker (over-exposed) with a more muted range of tones.

Lutter's images call certain photographic truths into question. While they were made with a camera, what was placed in front of the aperture (pinhole) changed due to the long exposures (some took several months). These images are single shots that were created not in fractions of a second, but over time and this durational aspect gives the finished photographs an uncanny quality. Although "real" they appear surreal because LACMA no longer has many of the courtyards or galleries Lutter documented and most of the art is in storage. Wandering through her exhibition, one cannot help but reflect on the demolished architecture and memories of the museum. While the works on view in Museum in the Camera serve as a reminder of what LACMA was, more importantly they are intriguing images and new works of art that re-present what is gone in surprising and unusual ways.

Click here for Vera Lutter on its own page.

May 20, 2021

Lorraine Bubar
Peak Experience
Los Angeles Art Association
April 17 - June 4, 2021

Lorraine Bubar

Lorraine Bubar gravitates towards nature, marvels at its wonders and is able to translate the experience of the natural world into artworks made from cut paper. On view in her exhibition at Los Angeles Art Association's Gallery 825 are pieces created during casual visits or after extended stays in U.S. National Parks as an artist in residence. Each park, be it Denali N.P. in Alaska, Zion N.P. in Utah, Petrified Forest N.P. in Arizona or Lassen Volcanic N.P. in California, has a unique terrain which Bubar represents exquisitely through layered cut paper in varying colors, textures and transparencies.

Bubar talks about her interest in paper-cutting both historically and culturally, as well as from the perspective of craft. On her website she states, "Creating intricate lacework out of colored papers sourced from countries where I have traveled, has connected me to the heritage of papercutting that exists in so many diverse cultures, from Eastern Europe (my background) to Japan, China, and Mexico." She continues, "My paper-cuts reflect the hierarchy of nature and the intricate layers of life. I reveal bold color contrasts and lacy textural patterns reflecting the contrast between the fragility and strength found in paper itself."

It is impossible not to appreciate the intricacy of the handwork that goes into Bubar's creations. Being in Butterflies is at first glance an image of a backpacker trekking toward a distant peak. It is a clear day with a bright blue sky. The hiker, centered in the composition, appears unphased by the melange of orange butterflies framing the composition. A second figure (the artist) subtly mirrored on both sides of the image, delights in the array of fluttering orange insects.

Doubling or mirroring is a technique Bubar uses in many of her pieces. In Half Dome for example, the iconic Yosemite peak is centered within a shape made from the mirroring of the branches of a tree. Here, Bubar carefully excises flowers, birds and grazing deer from a large piece of blue paper that is then backed with different shades of green for grass, blue for sky, gray for mountains and yellow, pink and white for the flowers. In the image, everything but Half Dome is perfectly mirrored along the vertical axis creating a receding vantage point somewhere behind the mountain.

Desert Dawn is a work about the desert created in earth tones of pinks and greens. The composition rises from the ground and includes striations of butterflies, flowers, tortoises and rabbits, cacti, trees and giant rock forms against a light purple sky dotted with a circular full moon. Again the composition is divided in half with the details repeated across the vertical axis.

The mirroring in Walking on Water a.m. only occurs at the bottom of the work where Bubar depicts roots and flowers. Above this abstracted ground are grazing deer and an expansive vista with three hikers heading across the plain toward snow covered mountains. In the sky amongst billowing clouds are two large birds.

Bubar's works are composites created from memories of her time in the landscape. Rather than paint or draw these places, she painstakingly creates an outline by cutting small pieces out of large sheets, then filling the voids with different types and colors of paper. The result is a quasi-stained glass window effect made from the nuances of these varied sources. Each image is a marvel to behold and in a year of not traveling, these works are reminders of the beauty and positive effects of experiencing, and escaping to nature.

Click here for Lorraine Bubar on its own page.

May 13, 2021

Elana Mann
Year of Wonders, redux
18th Street Art Center
March 29 - July 2, 2021

Elana Mann

In the fall of 2020, Elana Mann was an artist in residence at Artpace, San Antonio, TX. There, she created work for her exhibition Year of Wonders which was on view November 19, 2020 - January 10, 2021. Created during the height of the pandemic and inspired by Geraldine Brooks' book Year of Wonders that focused on the 1666 pandemic plague in England, Mann's installation takes into consideration both the civil unrest and the isolation that occurred during the year of Covid-19. Mann has recreated the exhibition now presented as Year of Wonders, redux for 18th Street Arts Center.

The large sculpture Our work is never done (unfinished business) (2020-21) sits in the the center of the space. It is a fiberglas bull horn 120 inches long with multiple speaking tubes. According to Mann, it was "modeled on the Mega-kazoo-horn originally made by the legendary folk music figure Charles Chase." It also recalls Erika Rothenberg's Freedom of Expression National Monument (1984) —- originally presented in New York for Creative Time's annual program Art on the Beach -- another participatory sculpture that invited viewers to broadcast their thoughts. Mann's piece was conceived of as a protest horn meant to be played by six people simultaneously to "harness the power of a collective voice." Because of the pandemic, it has to be experienced individually which in some ways has kept the sculpture from fulfilling Mann's intentions for it. At 18th Street, it beckons seductively, yet remains silent.

Around the perimeter of the gallery whose walls have been painted a deep blue, are 50 unique rattles each with a beautiful turned wood handle and capped with a ceramic top that has been glazed with words or phrases. Collectively titled Unidentified Bright Object 11 – 60 (2020), these rattles all have different sounds, shapes and words. Wearing a white glove, it is possible to lift the rattles from their supports and shake them to create myriad sounds that become individual voices within the space. Choosing from texts like We/Me, No, Speak, Stand Up, People/Power, Hear, Peace, Go, etc., it is possible to compose slogans and rhythms in one's mind.

The rattles are visually engaging objects that function as both wall based sculptures and as instruments whose purpose is to create sounds. This of course would be better achieved with multiple participants, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, group interactions are still limited. Upon entry, I was handed a white glove and encouraged to remove the rattles from their holders and shake them as I circled the exhibition. It was extremely gratifying to feel the different weights of the rattles and think about their disparate sounds. Usually, I associate interaction with technology— the click of a mouse, viewing something through an app — so enjoyed the body activated and activating aspects of this interaction.

Also on view are works on paper including After Sister Mary Corita Kent and Rising waves (2021), a five-panel edition depicting abstracted waves with a text attributed to the economist, journalist and policy advisor Barbara Ward that reads: "… we are either going to become a community or we are going to die" and the compelling Self-portrait as radical empath (dedicated to Pauline Oliveros) (2021) where a line drawing of the artist's head fuses with the bell of a horn. Two short videos fill a darkened space. One is more abstract — an imagined landscape of floating instruments, while the other documents possible commands, sounds and gestures of the rattles. Here, hands are filmed shaking rattles proclaiming "hope" and "no" that pulsate against a bright pink background. They are followed by "see" "hear" "know" which then becomes "see" "peace" "help." "Truth" and "shame" also appear. These words are a call to action — expressing some of what has occurred during the last year.

In Mann's installation, there is much to see, touch and think about. Though currently experienced individually or in small groups, she has encapsulated the sentiments of the pandemic and created a thoughtful meditation on the possibilities of collectivity.

Click here for Elana Mann on its own page.

May 6, 2021

Ken Marchionno / Amir Zaki / Eileen Cowin / Golden Hour
Museum of Art & History Lancaster, CA
January 23 – May 9, 2021

Amir Zaki / Eileen Cowin / Ken Marchionno

Ken Marchionno
300-Miles to Wounded Knee: The Oomaka Tokatakiya, Future Generations Ride

Amir Zaki
Empty Vessel Excerpts

Eileen Cowin
What it takes to survive a crisis or the imaginary Richter scale of rage

Golden Hour
Images from the Museum of Art & History's permanent collection

Golden Hour
California Photography from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Photographic images of all kinds now fill the Museum of Art & History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA. While many of the spaces at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have been demolished for the new construction, it is fortunate that MOAH opened its space for the presentation of works from LACMA's vast collection. The exhibition, Golden Hour, includes works by more than seventy artists who explore myriad aspects of California, be it the cityscape, landscape, its history or imagined future. Traditional black and white images are juxtaposed with large-scale digital prints in vivid colors. The exhibition spans genres and materials to give viewers an insightful introduction into a wide range of photographic practices. Highlights include Laura Aguliar's Three Eagles Flying (1990), Andrew Freeman's Zegwaard Hall, Saint Vivian Catholic Church, Independence, California and Boy Scout Building, Bishop, California (2005) from his Manzanar Architecture Double Series as well as Edward Weston's Wrecked Car, Crescent Beach, 1939. 

Supplementing the exhibit of LACMA photographs is a small show of works from the MOAH's permanent collection that includes works by Naida Osline, Thomas McGovern, Osceola Refetof, Darryl Curran, Sheila Pinkel and Nancy Webber among others. While the works from LACMA begin to tell a story of one type of photography in California, the works from MOAH illustrate a wealth of different more experimental approaches.

These two survey shows are complemented by three solo shows. Amir Zaki, presents excerpts from his Empty Vessel series. In these images Zaki photographs empty skate parks to emphasize the monumentality of their architecture. Using GigaPan technology Zaki composites thousands of photographs together to create a seamless final scene. The pictures seem "real," yet simultaneously slightly off and unbelievable. In Concrete Vessel 63, Concrete Vessel 89 and Concrete Vessel 53, the concrete architecture appears sculptural. Zaki lets the form undulate allowing the shadows to highlight the discrepancies between shapes. These photographs are juxtaposed with close cropped images of broken pottery— comparing and contrasting the monumental with table-top-sized objects. Also on display is an artist's book Zaki created to accompany this intriguing body of work.

Eileen Cowin tries to make sense of the pandemic in her new work, What it takes to survive a crisis or the imaginary Richter scale of rage, (2020). Her exhibit opens with Time of Useful Consciousness (2014/2020) a photograph of a startled young deer in an urban alleyway at night. Lost perhaps, and definitely out of context. This picture encapsulates how many of us have felt during the last year and in a grid of small images entitled You Good? printed on paper and tacked to the wall, Cowin explores the different ways pandemic isolation has affected her. The grid, which reads like the pages of a book, includes images of masks and hand washing, newspaper headlines and TV news reports in addition to images from television series like Law and Order. Cowin documents the surroundings of her bedroom/office, the books she has read as well as images of spaces that reflect the changing light. Images of loss and longing pervade. She even includes a photograph of a half filled glass of water, which begs the question is the glass half full or half empty— a metaphor for the time spent in isolation, as well as the uncertainty of the times to come. This intimate work gets under your skin as it documents our new reality. Also on view is the short video A Sudden Sense of Dislocation, a fragmented trajectory of an undocumented family living in a trailer at the edge if a wooded area. The video expresses a mother's love for her son and the challenges and uncertainties of border crossings.

From 2004 - 2009, Ken Marchionno participated in a 300 mile horse ride that takes place every December in North and South Dakota. Run by the Lakota Indians the journey begins at the site of Sitting Bull's death and ends at the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. During this yearly journey that takes place every December, Marchionno not only documented the trip, but became part of the ride's extended family. The exhibition, 300 Miles to Wounded Knee: The Oomaka Tokatakiya, Future Generations Ride occupies the main gallery space at MOAH, filling it with photographs and video presenting different aspects of the ride, as well as the people Marchionno encountered. For the artist, it was important not be treated as a tourist or outsider as he rode with the Lakota on this symbolic journey. While at first his role was to take photographs, he later created the Future Generations Teen Photojournalism Project, teaching photography to Reservation teens on the ride and some of their work is incorporated into the exhibition. 

What becomes key in the exhibition is who and what is framed and how a physical journey can be translated into images that display the intensity and intimacy of the trip. Marchionno carefully choreographs the images, letting viewers discover the people, the landscape and different weather conditions of the ride as the photographs unfold across the walls. He includes video to not only provide context but to illustrate the difficulties the group encountered along the way. The images include portraits of participants with their horses, the group riding in all conditions on roads and trails, in sun and in snow. Family moments are included because for the Lakota Indians the ride is also a way to reclaim their history and is an homage to their ancestors. Large photographs are interspersed with grids of smaller images to create a flow along the walls that parallels the journey of the ride. Marchionno is an insightful photographer who is trusted by his subjects and that reciprocity comes through in the exhibition. Not only is 300 Miles to Wounded Knee: The Oomaka Tokatakiya, Future Generations Ride documentation of a special journey, but also a testament to the importance and power of photography.

This review was previously published in the VAS Newsletter, April 10, 2021.

Click here for Ken Marchionno / Amir Zaki / Eileen Cowin / Golden Hour on its own page.

April 29, 2021

Fin Simonetti
My Volition
Matthew Brown Gallery
April 3 - May 8, 2021

Fin Simonetti

In My Volition, Fin Simonetti has installed a wide flat metal railing that zig-zags through the gallery. While this waist-high barrier disrupts the normal flow into and through the space, it simultaneously functions as a display shelf. Several hand carved stone sculptures are strategically placed along its surface, leading viewers into the back room. Each object along the railing is a material marvel — carefully chosen pieces of marble or honeycomb calcite — intricately carved to highlight the nuanced colors and textures of the stone. Though formally gorgeous, the subject matter of some of these stone sculptures is disturbing. They depict body parts including dog limbs (My Volition 4 and My Volition 1), (all works 2021) and the top half of the animal's snout (My Volition 6), as well as beautifully carved trowels / spades. Seen together, it is impossible not to try to ponder the relationships between them. Are they the tools of excavation and the excavated, and if so, why? What constitutes a tool rather than a weapon? Could the artifacts have been unearthed and are now preserved as all that remains of the whole animal? As presented, the objects call to mind classical sculptures that are often exhibited as fragments in metal display cases. Simonetti's disembodied animal parts appear both solid and vulnerable; her tools, dangerous but also useful.

To complement these unusual sculptures, Simonetti also presents a series of found barbershop posters that are framed behind hand-crafted, stained glass panels. These evocative pieces consist of faded or dilapidated posters with photographs of male models of varying ages and ethnicities sporting different types of close cropped hair styles. The images are partially obscured by patterns in the stained glass that isolate specific aspects of the heads. For example, in Cathedral 10, lines of leading hold together white and yellow-orange, smoked and textured glass fragments. This uneven grid of rhomboid shaped glass is interspersed with circular openings that fall over the ear of each model.

In Cathedral 6, lead lines define brown, gray, black and red irregular geometric shapes, as well as a pattern of small four-petal flowers that partially cover the faces depicted in the background. The posters titled Chapel feature fewer haircuts. Chapel 3 highlights the faces of four men with closely cropped haircuts seen through clear glass that form a quatrefoil pattern. These patterns abut opaque pieces of light and darker brown glass that obscures the rest of the image below. A chapel or cathedral is a house of worship or prayer— places often filled with stained glass — and Simonetti's juxtaposition of stained glass and barbershop posters suggests what would otherwise be seen as instructive or commonplace can be something more sacred.

Volition or will is defined as the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. Simonetti's volition defamiliarizes. It takes the ordinary — be it barbershop posters or disembodied animal parts — and gives them new significance by transforming them into exquisite art objects. The exhibition touches on ideas relating to control, confinement, desire and balance while simultaneously alluding to the body and its vulnerability.

Click here for Fin Simonetti on its own page.

April 22, 2021

Paco Pomet
Richard Heller Gallery
April 3 - May 8, 2021

Paco Pomet

Paco Pomet's paintings are a strange mix of the real and the surreal. In his exhibition Beginnings, he inserts small brightly colored painted elements into monochrome representations that appear to be culled from a 1950s image archive. Pomet has a knack for altering found images and creating unexpected juxtapositions that both contemporize the original and change its meaning. The works become cutting and humorous commentaries on society today.

Fake (all works 2020 unless noted) is a sepia toned painting of a man with a monkey's head standing in front of an easel, painting a picture of a banana. The dapperly dressed man/ape hybrid wears a suit coat and top hat and stares out at the viewer rather than at his creation. The only saturated color in the work is the banana which is a realistic yellow. Below it, Pomet has inscribed the text "Ceci n'est pas un", an obvious homage to the artist René Magritte. Another art historical reference appears in Das Erhabene Buro. Here, Pomet has carefully reproduced the figure from Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1817), a painting that expresses the awe of nature and the sublime. Rather than have the figure gaze out at the sea, Pomet places him in an empty office space equipped with large wooden desks, chairs and antique phones. Seen through an open door, hovering in a back room is a bright round yellow ball whose intense luminosity resembles the sun. While this light casts a glow on the scene, it is difficult to discern if it represents the sublime, or a vision of impending danger.

In The Lesson, Pomet again begins with a sepia-toned historical image of an instructor and a group of children sitting in wood backed chairs in what appears to be a classroom staring at a brightly painted glowing orange mushroom cloud that has been placed into the scene. Hesperides depicts a group of four smiling young women in 1950's style dresses seated at a table. Their hands carefully grasp miniature clouds and a sun across a sunset colored tablecloth that has been transformed into an expanse of sky. The table's edge forms the horizon line. The image is Pomet's representation of the Hesperides — nymphs of the evening amidst the golden light of sunset. Little Big Grief is a more humorous work illustrating (a presumed) 19th Century pastoral boating scene into which Pomet inserts a monumentally-sized ball that radiates an orange glow onto the scene. This personified though featureless sphere with cartoony arms and submerged feet, is bent over as if glum or contemplating— an uncanny and oblivious anomaly disrupting the otherwise pleasant scene.

While monochromatic backgrounds with superimposed glowing, orange-yellow circles predominate in the exhibition, Pomet also includes paintings like Middle Age Crisis (2021), in which a flatly painted blue, black and white cartoon version of a running businessman is inserted between two more realistically rendered jogging youths. In The Distance, the neckties of two, walking, briefcase-carrying businessmen are adjoined and transformed into a bright orange sash that connects the figures and makes them dependent on each other. If one pulled too hard or got too far ahead, the other could choke. These slightly disturbing, enigmatic images are impossible scenarios with a tinge of what if? They evoke feelings of unsettledness because of their absurdity.

Pomet purposely disrupts carefully rendered scenes that have been drained of color to create paintings that are simultaneously elegant, charged and mysterious. His works are filled with surprises — fragments from other pictures, landscapes or the internet— taken out of context and inserted into the scenes to give pause and stimulate viewers to think about the relationship between past and present, life and death, endings and beginnings. Though much of his source imagery comes from the past, the paintings live in the present and are thoughtful and compelling reminders of our fragile world.

Click here for Paco Pomet on its own page.

April 15, 2021

Cindy Sherman
Sprueth Magers
February 16 - May 1, 2021

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman has been creating self portraits since the 1970s. At first these were small black and white images in which she embodied stereotypical roles culled from film stills. She later posed for the camera recreating images from art history or dressing up in myriad guises becoming both women (and men) of varying ages from a wide range of social stratas. While still continuing to make large-scale photographic images, Sherman has recently begun to contribute to Instagram (#cindysherman) where she has more than 300,000 followers. For Instagram she indulges in more playful and obvious image manipulations using face altering filters, often performing for the camera in surprising and unsettling ways.

Because Instagram originals are low resolution that would pixelate if greatly enlarged, Sherman decided to forgo making them into large-scale photographs and turned to creating tapestries (fabricated in Belguim), her first venture into a non-photographic medium. In the tapestries the different colored pixels are translated into the "warp and weft of thread." Gone is the crispness of the printed photograph in favor of the soft, muted, melded palette of the fabric.

On view are nine untitled works, dated 2019 and 2020, each approximately nine feet tall by seven feet wide. In these aggressive and bombastic larger than life sized images Sherman as usual takes on the identity of different characters— a bearded, tousled haired boy; an aging beauty; a distorted nymph— evoking a range of emotions and references. The pieces are simultaneously grotesque, beautiful and astonishing. In one tapestry she becomes a determined and focused young woman with large round glasses who wears a blue smock with a blue dotted bow in her long curly hair. In another, she tilts her face against her hands as if to suggest an endearing "gosh, me." Her long brown hair flows down below her shoulders in a 60's bob. The red tones of her ruddy cheeks and lush lips are exaggerated by the texture of the weave, becoming rough, jagged areas of color. It is hard to discern if this is an image of pleasure or pain.

The purple face in Untitled (2020) stares out from in front of a mountainous landscape depicting the setting sun and its orange glow. The woman in the picture wears a white shirt with pink markings swirled by an Instagram filter. She has dark painted eyebrows and overly made-up eyes that are open wide. Her buck teeth protrude from her open red lips. Her expression suggests she is unaware that she is no great beauty as she snaps this selfie. The splotchiness and off color of the image is enhanced by the woven fabric, transforming the photographic image into something tactile and unexpected.

While the nine tapestries share similarities with Sherman's photographic works, the translation to this new material allows her to take the images in a new direction, one that favors the surreal in favor of the real.

Click here for Cindy Sherman on its own page.

April 8, 2021

Yashua Klos
How We Hold It All Together
UTA Artist Space
March 12 - April 10, 2021

Yashua Klos

Yashua Klos' works fuse drawing, printmaking, collage, abstraction and figuration. Most of his large-scale pieces are made from woodblock prints featuring textured striations, crosshatched lines and actual wood grain that have been precisely cut and then composited to create portraits. These portraits of people in his community and friends are monumental and intimate simultaneously. Filling the vast gallery of UTA Artist Space are framed works on paper, wall based paper constructions, as well as an installation in the back of the space that replicates what goes on in his studio and allows audiences to get a glimpse of his process and materials. Here, Klos has casually placed his various tools and a selection of smaller prints that could be collaged into the framed works, in addition to two large pieces of etched wood used in the printing of the (192 inches wide) paper construction TBT Feather, (all works 2021), an image of a huge curlicued feather from which emerge arrays of crystals and floating bricks.

Precisely assembled from disparate fragments, Klos' collages are never flat and this dimensionality gives the pieces uniqueness and power. He speaks about growing up in Chicago, aware of the segregation within the city and his works reflect the tensions between people and places. While extremely architectural, they are also figurative and narrative. Klos infuses the works with a sense of necessity, something he terms "survival strategies" while alluding to the strength necessary to persevere during difficult and unsettled times.

Eight large, framed portraits that hanging low on the wall filling one large gallery space are the focus of the exhibition. Each is a hybrid construction consisting of a disembodied, fragmented, head bisected by architectural detritus. The 84 inch high You Stare Off Into Yourself, features an African American woman's face that has been composited from different pieces of blue-hued wood grain prints. Her braided hair, fashioned into a bun is comprised from printed paper etched with cross hatched lines cut to shape the braids. Her head appears to be protruding from a concrete wall or barrier whose pieces begin to scatter across the composition. Similarly, in You Drift On Your Own, Klos creates the gigantic male head from collaged fragments of varying skin-toned colors. These heads have the structure of classical sculptures as they are assemblages of multiple angular planes. The face in You Drift On Your Own appear to be breaking through a wall of wooden fragments and cinder blocks. The top of the head appears to be a quasi-halo —a graphite drawing of swirling curls that is both hair as well as billowing smoke or water, similar to the textured images found in traditional Japanese woodblock prints. Although the figure's eyes gaze down, his expression is calm, despite the frenetic activity.

In addition to the portraits, Klos also presents three large unframed paper constructions that feature images of hands. All This Black Shit Valuable, Flower Father and Diagram of How She Hold It All Together contain printed images of open hands in different states of offerings. The hands in Flower Father, for example support a blue rose, whereas the long nailed, female hand in Diagram of How She Hold It All Together holds a precarious stairway of bricks in her palm.

In his large-scale works on paper, Klos montages fragmented images of urban detritus and human faces. These jarring and monumental paper assemblages are both personal and universal. They speak to longing and the ongoing struggles of African Americans without being heavy handed or didactic. Klos' pieces are hybrids containing numerous unrelated fragments that coalesce to become thought provoking and unforgettable constructions.

Click here for Yashua Klos on its own page.

April 1, 2021

Petra Cortright
Predator Swamping
1301 PE
13 February - April 10, 2021

Petra Cortright

Petra Cortright is a master at manipulating digital files and incorporating stock digital effects. She seamlessly moves back and forth between creating animated and printed images and is as adept with programs like Photoshop as she is with compositing video footage. Cortright first came to prominence in the mid 2000s for webpages filled with low-brow animated gifs appropriated from a wide range of online sources. She was also celebrated for short video performances captured by her computers webcam and posted to YouTube where they were available to stream, as well as purchase for a price based on their number of views. In many of these purposely manipulated, kitschy and campy performances, she posed for the camera to act out 'girly' fantasies. The poster for her current exhibition, Predator Swamping, is a fragmented image of her looking suggestively out at the viewer and alludes to those more performance based works. Instead, Cortright presents digital paintings based on appropriated photographs of the landscape, many of which are incorporated into wall-sized tableaux.

Cortright's "digital paintings," are created in Photoshop where she uses the programs tools to subtract from and add to existing photographs. Her images reference actual places while simultaneously fragmenting and abstracting the appropriated originals beyond recognition. The source imagery for this particular body of work — landscapes photographs culled from the internet featuring the high desert, Bolivia and Patagonia — are montaged together into geometric abstractions filled with textured digital "brushstrokes" juxtaposed with snippets of repeated imagery of actual, as well as drawn flowers, mountains and earth. In Oasis nude_order flowers +ovid+metamorphoses, 2020, Cortright combines photographs of snow capped mountains, cracked and dried earth with gestural marks inspired by their forms and colors. The finished digital "painting" is printed on linen (to simulate a 'real' painting), stretched and framed. Several of these works hang on the walls alongside translucent cloth and transparent mylar banners (some suspended from the ceiling, others attached to the wall with large magnets) speckled with fragmented digital renderings that extend the work off the wall and back into three-dimensional space.

Her loose and seemingly spontaneous painting style draws from both Fauvism and Abstract Expressionism, but differs from these ways of painting as she begins with a representation. Although the black and white "La Ley pictures" LAST DAYS OF POMPEII "later aligator" mp3, 2020 has been desaturated, the colors from the original appear in aspects of the tableau that surround it on the wall. Within the linen piece, Cortright adds gestural markings and blobs of gray that partially cover the photograph, yet she never completely obscures the source imagery. It is centered on the wall on top of a slightly larger deep blue, vinyl rectangle. Pieces of digitally printed mylar cover parts of the long wall both above and below the framed work, echoing its mountainous topography. The banners contain enlarged gestures, rough sketches of weed-like plants, as well as colored, fragmented representations from other related landscape photographs. These additions and extensions transform the "painting" into an installation and make it more substantial and engaging.

Artists including Jessica Stockholder, Cady Noland and Rachel Harrison have played with extending two-dimensional imagery into three-dimensional space and Cortright's use of installation follows suit. While the framed "digital paintings" on linen are the completed works, they are more active and interesting as tableaux. In some ways, Cortright's work is more successful when it is confrontational and directly engages with transformations — like her projected gifs and video portraits — than when it appropriates aspects of landscape painting to investigate the principals of abstraction. The works in Predator Swamping are purposely "messy" and fragmented. While their titles hint at hidden content and source materials, without more information they do not transcend being manipulated landscapes. When placed within these tableaux, they begin to be more like what we have come to expect from Cortright.

Click here for Petra Cortright on its own page.

March 25, 2021

Stephen Neidich
Five More Minutes
Wilding Cran Gallery
February 13 - April 3, 2021

Stephen Neidich

Upon entry to the gallery, a sensor is triggered that begins an eight minute sequence of subtle movements of hand-crafted Venetian blinds. Soft, whirling clanging mechanical sounds envelope the slightly darkened space as the automated kinetic sculptures begin their choreographed movement. Each of Stephen Neidich's ten blinds can be thought of as a mechanical monochromatic painting created with LED lights. Though most are attached to the wall, one titled But they should never be buildings, (all works 2021) hangs from the ceiling to allow both its front and back sides to be viewed. As the blinds move up and down, their apparatus -- carefully positioned chains, cables, idlers and motor boxes -- comes into view. The largest work in the exhibition spanning 117 x 209 inches is The birds, a vertical rather than horizontal blind. Like the others, it is fit with a strip of glowing LED lights along the top. In this piece, LEDs cast red-toned hues on the steel slats, as well as the concrete floor, referencing the colors of an explosion, fire or sunset. When fully extended, the work appears to be an undulating red wall that shimmers from its own internal light. As it begins to compress, the slats slide to the left along their upper carriage, propelled by a long motorized chain that is attached to the wall in a 'W' pattern. Like most vertical blinds, the motion is not seamless and in Neidich's creations, he allows for imperfections in the movement which in turn produce sound.

As the viewer's eye shifts from yellow to orange to red to blue to green to pink and finally to purple it becomes apparent that Neidich has organized a rainbow progression of colors within the space. The calm and joy associated with rainbows suddenly pervades. Though each piece is a constructed creation assembled from large and weighty mechanical parts, the works are remarkably light and playful. As they open and close in relation to one another, the space is filled with a symphonic resonance. Niedich enhances that playfulness in I can tie a trucker hitch in my sleep by inserting a hinge that creates a peep hole or separation in the otherwise parallel horizontal slats. The chain loops diagonally behind the piece which never fully opens. You keep letting me down is the only double blind with red LEDs that ebbs and flows out of synch. Though partners, the two columns move up and down to their own beat.

The installation calls to mind an artist like Alan Rath who also allowed the cords, speakers and machine parts that drove his sophisticated digital works to be an integral part of the pieces. Like Rath, Neidich's installation has a low tech/high tech aura. The works are sequenced to perform by a complex algorithm, yet at the same time, what appears on the wall is only the hardware necessary for their movements. The arrangement of all the various parts and objects on the wall or floor should be seen as part of a three-dimensional drawing.

While it may be possible to reverse engineer how Neidich's blinds operate, that is a futile endeavor. Better to be swallowed whole by the experience and listen to the sounds of chains propelling steel forward and back while noticing how those movements change the aura of light within the space. The overall impression might be an ever changing rainbow, yet, the pieces emanate from a darker place. During the year of Covid, blinds separated us from our neighbors and the outside world. As we kept it all out, as well as keeping ourselves separated from the world, we longed for connection and color and sound. Neidich's harshly mechanical installation takes viewers on a journey that allows them to move beyond the confines of these self imposed barriers.

Click here for Stephen Neidich on its own page.

March 18, 2021

Ulala Imai
Nonaka Hill
February 6 - March 20, 2021

Ulala Imai

Although Amazing is the first exhibition of Ulala Imai's works in Los Angeles and the United States, she has quite a following in Japan. Imai is a prolific painter as the presentation of over thirty paintings at Nonaka Hill demonstrates. She successfully combines wit and technique to transform banal objects and simple moments culled from everyday family life including children's toys and food such as bananas, pineapples and toast. Her style is expressive and straightforward. Her colors are soft and realistic. In her majestical works she portrays all that surrounds her, elevating the banal and mundane into something extra-special and provoking thought and awe in surprisingly ways. Each loosely rendered work is painted with love and care.

Children's toys have fixed expressions. No matter what the context, their smiles or frowns remain unchanged whether they are placed in dangerous or loving situations. Imai takes this to heart. It is hard to resist feeling 'all warm and fuzzy' when regarding an image like Hold (2020), a modest-sized painting of a stuffed monkey hugging a teddy bear. In the composition, the background is split in half, the top rendered in a deep blue and the bottom a light gray— perhaps representing a distant wall and a table or counter top. As if lit from above, a subtle shadow is cast on both surfaces. The monkey snuggles with the bear, its head cocked to the side and resting on the ear and arm of the horizontally positioned animal. The bear stares out at the viewer, its down-turned mouth locked into an unhappy frown. The loving gesture of the hug given to the bear by the monkey cannot change it's demeanor, yet profoundly resonates. The teddy bear also appears in Melody (2020). Here, it is uncomfortably positioned on top of a curved banana on a reflective surface. The implication is that the bear can use the banana to rock to and fro, like a rocking chair; a heartfelt image that elicits smiles and a sense of nostalgia. Banana Ambassador (2021), features ripe yellow bananas on a table encircling a small statue of Darth Vader that looks longingly at the viewer like a puppy dog. The yellow bananas contrast with the black and white coloration of the toy figure.

Imai's paintings are personal and intimate. She carefully composes arrangements of household items in real and imagined scenarios. La Seine (2020), for example could be representative of a corner in Imai's home. It is a painting of the edge of a brown bookshelf that is situated next to a leafy green plant. On the shelf sits a selection of toys — Charlie Brown and Lucy, a gorilla's head, a white giraffe, what appears to be Peter Pan — as well as a few horizontally stacked books. Charlie Brown and Lucy migrate from their secure place on this shelf to also appear in the large paintings Lovers and Nocturne, as well as the smaller work, Friends (all 2020). In each of these paintings, Imai constructs different imagined relationships between these comic book characters. It is not unusual for Imai to depict her subjects in a range of scenarios. Like Charlie Brown and Lucy, the teddy bear appears in a number of works.

Mask (2021), is a tender painting that alludes to the year of the pandemic. In this work, the teddy bear is dressed in a colorfully decorated bathrobe and rests against the back of a chair in front of a table with a loaf of bread. The bear's head is obscured by a large bright green Loki Mask that covers its face, keeping it safe, as well as socially distanced. It is easy to imagine a child configuring the bear this way to simulate what is going on in much of the world with inanimate objects as human stand-ins.

While Imai's paintings of toys have the most emotional impact, her depictions of plates of food also resonate. Small works such as Potato, Avocado, or Peaches (all 2021) are tightly rendered, yet expressive images of basic foods, whereas Madame Pineapple and Mr. Pineapple are more playful personifications. Here, Imai has transformed halved pineapples into faces, using grapes as eyes and bananas as hair. These still-life arrangements may be silly, yet speak to Imai's spirited creativity. In the office, one finds a painting entitled Rodney, an homage to one of the gallery directors. This wonderful work is a snapshot of a recurring moment. In a green baseball cap, Rodney sits at the table in front of his laptop, surrounded by everyday objects— a cell phone, various cups and beverages, a plant and his beloved retro Japanese hamburger lamp. On the wall behind him is one of Imai's paintings of a bear and monkey embracing. Rodney is complacent, hard at work, absorbed and seemingly satisfied, despite what is happening in the outside world. Imai has a knack for capturing melancholic moments that are infused with compassion, allowing us to dissociate from whatever plagues us at the moment and enjoy the pleasure of her creations.

Click here for Ulala Imai on its own page.

March 11, 2021

Doug Aitken
Flags and Debris
Regen Projects
January 16 - March 13, 2021

Doug Aitken

Banners are defined as a long strip of cloth bearing a slogan or design, hung in a public place or carried in a demonstration or procession, whereas debris is defined as scattered pieces of waste or remains. Doug Aitken's poetic and poignant exhibition, Flags and Debris invites viewers to contemplate the relationship between flags or banners and debris in relation to this specific moment in time. Hanging from the walls of the front gallery and containing phrases such as Digital Detox, We The People, Resist Algorithms and Data Mining are eight large-scale fabric 'banners' made from hand cut and sewn letters in a range of colored fabric.

These large-scale banners were created during the pandemic and are Aitken's way of exploring and coming to terms with the isolation and the distancing it imposed. Searching for materials within his home, Aitken began to cut apart clothing with an interest in how different fabrics could be quilted together to form both shapes and words. In the 111 x 95 x 3 inch Nowhere/Somewhere, (2020) 'nowhere' and 'somewhere' extend across the quilted background in a clunky stencil typeface. As the words descend down the composition, it becomes apparent that different parts of the letters have been purposely left out to create misreadings and a sense of confusion that parallels these trying times. The feeling of being nowhere while wanting to be somewhere pervades.

In I lost Track, (2020) fragmented letters replicate a short passage from Joan Didion's The White Album (1979). The text is set against a gray background and each stenciled word is a combination of different subtle earth tones. The work concretizes Didion's idea of "a projection on air." Positioned both vertically and horizontally, right reading and upside down, Aitken has collaged the word 'noise' into the center of Target, (2020) a striated, multicolored, camouflage patterned banner. The juxtaposition of the word 'noise', the camouflage and the concentric circles of white and blue that form a target suggests the pandemonium and sounds of war.

The banners have a solid and imposing presence on the wall, so it is somewhat disconcerting to see them appearing weightless, floating through the streets of Los Angeles in Aitken's three channel video projection Flags and Debris, (2021) made in collaboration with LA Dance Project. In the video, some of the same banners that are seen hanging on the gallery walls are brought to life and taken on an evocative journey. Aitken has filmed the environs of this city in the past (Electric Earth, 1999) and has a precise and insightful way of interspersing close-ups and distant shots to suggest a haunting narrative about the empty metropolis. Though Aitken has worked with actors, the inclusion of dance at first comes as a surprise, but a few minutes into the footage it becomes clear this is an unusual and engaging collaboration. The dancer's bodies are engulfed by the large banners with only an occasional sighting of a hand or foot. Their movements suggest flapping birds, erupting fountains and paper blowing in the wind, as well as moving body bags. While the shape and size of the flags approximates the blue plastic tarps often used by the homeless for shelter or to cover their possessions, they are never static. Even when shown suspended from a bridge or submerged in the L.A. River, they are in constant motion. As the invisible dancers gesticulate wildly, criss-crossing parking lots, industrial zones and desolate residential areas, the banners take on alien forms to become the presence and absence of life simultaneously.

Aitken's video installation brings the flags to life and invites viewers to immerse themselves in a fantastical journey through the seemingly uninhabited city. Though for the most part devoid of people, it is full of words and gestures, shadows and pulsating lights that evoke both the presence and absence endemic to today's pandemic stricken urban environment.

Click here for Doug Aitken on its own page.

March 4, 2021

Karen Carson
Middle Ground
Gavlak Los Angeles
January 9 - March 6, 2021

Karen Carson

In the documentary Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art a film about the Knoedler Gallery and forgeries of abstract expressionist paintings implicates gallery director Ann Freeman the main interviewee in the film. Watching the movie, I was struck by the way one of her tops could be zipped to form a rectangle and unzipped to become a triangle. It reminded me of one of Karen Carson's early works on view at Gavlak Los Angeles. In Middle Ground Carson juxtaposes unstretched canvases from her Zipper series (1970s) with painted bas relief wooden pieces created between 2018 and 2020.

The Zipper works are playful. Created in response to male dominated Minimalism, Carson constructed canvas pieces where different colors of fabric were zipped together and pinned to the wall. These works could be zipped and unzipped to allow for different configurations of shapes in infinite arrangements. In Red, Black, White (1972-2016), sections of the double sided, hand-sewn red, black and white canvas are unzipped to form squares, triangles and other geometric shapes. In Two Right Angles (1972), portions of the canvas fall to the floor exposing not only areas of blank wall, but also allowing gravity and entropy to come into play. While based on possibilities within fixed geometries, there is an implicit looseness and flexibility in the Zipper works. They are beautiful and unsettling simultaneously and though created in dialogue with art from the 1970s, they continue to resonate today.

Carson's current works are smaller, tighter and more colorful than the older Zipper pieces. Begun while summering in Montana, the bas reliefs reflect the colors and shapes of nature rather than the urban landscape. Each work is comprised of fragments of painted wood, pieced together to form overlapping and criss-crossing geometric shapes that rise off the surface. The effect is like looking into a kaleidoscope. The colors are bright and bold and each work seems to have an internal rhythm. Yellow Diamonds (2018), is a quasi-symmetrical work where angled wood painted in tones of light to darker yellows extend from the center toward the edges to create wedges of interlocking diamonds that rise above a background of vertical stripes in various hues. Turquoise Eyes (2018-19), is more complex. The eyes of its title are orange triangles surrounded by turquoise and black that allude to animal eyes (perhaps an owl?). The work reads like a multi-colored, geometric, rorschach pattern and becomes a visual palindrome. In Red Fracture (2020), Carson has inverted and flipped the composition. A thin black strip of wood protrudes at the center of the piece, dividing it in half. From here, gray and red toned slats become a pattern of lines and angles as they extend toward the edges of the structure.

Like her Zipper series, Carson's latest works are hybrids— both paintings and sculptures. While the older canvases explored how hard edged Minimalism could become soft and floppy, the bas reliefs can be seen as flattened landscapes where the colors and shapes of mountains, deserts and sunsets have been abstracted into three dimensional geometric forms.

Click here for Karen Carson on its own page.

February 25, 2021

Robert Russell
Anat Ebgi
January 23 - March 6, 2021

Robert Russell

A Google search for teacup reveals delicate fluted cups and saucers, many decorated with floral patterns. The association is afternoon tea in England, a formal spread with snacks and fine china. The sources for Robert Russell's Teacup paintings are random photographs posted online. He collects images from Ebay and estate sales to amass an archive that he adapts to create his works. Found images from the internet have been central to Russell's work. He previously made paintings of other men named Robert Russell, as well as a series of paintings of artist's monographs where the cover of each book featured a picture of the artist's work and their signature— all culled from online sources. Russell's work is simultaneously rooted in painting and in conceptual art. He is invested in the ideas of reproduction, seriality and transformation as each of his projects presents variations on a theme. That being said, he is also an exceptionally accomplished painter.

Though he begins with a tiny computer image, many of Russell's final works are quite large, ranging from 48 x 48 inches to 70 x 80 inches. Each cup and saucer combination is centered on the canvas. The remaining space is painted a lush deep black. Whatever else might have been in the original image has been overpainted so the focus is on the ornate shape and decorative motif. The teacups Russell has chosen to reproduce are shot from slightly above so both the saucer and inside of the cup are visible. They are covered with either bouquets or single flowers which allow the paintings to reference traditional still lives.

Teacup #13, (2020) has a pink rose leaning left and stemming from the center of a slightly green tinted, porcelain cup. A purple and yellow iris tilts to the right. The gold-rimmed cup sits upon a similarly embellished saucer. Russell has perfectly captured the highlights bouncing off the rims as well as the shimmering glows within objects. In Teacup #10, (2020) Russell indulges in contrasting surfaces and textures of black. It depicts a tall, black glazed cup with a pink rose on its side. The white interior of the cup is topped by a gold band. The edge of the black saucer and bottom of the cup are likewise trimmed with gold. Again, Russell has meticulously rendered the details of the flower, as well as light reflections glinting on both the cup and saucer against the flat black background that surrounds it. The paintings are photorealistic, specifically in Russell's portrayal of light and the flowers and also impressionistic, as sometimes Russell fills areas with looser textured brushstrokes.

What is uncanny about Russell's teacups is their size. Each object has been enlarged to such a monumental scale that they lose their preciousness and delicacy to become anomalies — though beautiful, they are also monstrous. Like Robert Therrien's large-scale sculptures of everyday objects, Russell transforms the commonplace into something unusual. That each teacup has been removed from a context and presented against black adds to a sense of drama and disorientation. The works may draw from 17th Century Dutch Vanitas still-lives, many of which were painted against a dark, neutral ground. However, unlike Vanitas paintings, Russell's renderings do not seem to be centered on death, as they allude to something pleasurable in life —  the drinking of tea from a fancy cup. Russell's paintings are a celebration of skill that also present stasis. The deep impenetrable black could sign for the pandemic, its unsettling effects and the void it has created. The flowers that decorate the teacups could be seen as memorials commemorating those who have passed— as flowers are often left at grave sites. However, they could also be interpreted as images of life and hope. Either way, Russell has created a body of evocative and powerful paintings that resonate long after viewing.

Click here for Robert Russell on its own page.

February 18, 2021

Cammie Staros
What Will Have Being
Shulamit Nazarian
January 16 - March 6, 2021

Cammie Staros

The small multicolored fish swimming within Cammie Staros' sculptures, Figlinum aquticum, Futurum fluidum and Sculptura liqeffacta (2021) interact with different types of plants and rocks, as well as submerged ceramic vessels inspired by nature as well as classical pottery from the Greco-Roman era. While Staros' sculptures are intricately patterned and seductively shaped, they often become backdrops for the nuanced movements of the fish continually darting around the filtered aquariums. Staros' use of living creatures calls to mind the installations of Pierre Huyghe (who has created works to both acclaim and cutting criticism) that incorporate bees, dogs, ants or fish. Without a doubt, the inclusion of live animals changes the reception of the works because static objects cannot compete with constant dynamic movement.

In her exhibition What Will Have Being, Staros transforms the gallery into a dramatically lit immersive installation. It opens with the formal presentation of three ceramic vases, different variations of twisted natural forms, attached to steel stands or encased within a plexiglas vitrine indicating the preciousness of the objects. The pieces are titled with Latin names like Scaphium evolutum, Mutatio naturalis, Fictile ficticium (2020), which further links them to rare specimens that might be found in natural history museums. These evocative works serve as reminders of how many classical sculptures have been removed from their historical contexts or found in shipwrecks, only to be celebrated for their unusual shapes and beauty.

Set into the wall that divides the entry from the main gallery space and open on three sides is Figlinum aquaticum, an 18 x 30 x 12 inch aquarium into which two joined terracotta pots painted black on the inside and with painted scalloped patterns on the outside is submerged. This double pot has a handle at each end and holes at the bottom. It rests on its side attached to clear acrylic supports. Within the confines of the aquarium, from the front it has the appearance of two large glowing eyes. Futurum fluidum is similarly personified. Within a tall aquarium sits a ceramic vessel painted with a decorative interlocking pattern. From one side, the pot appears symmetrical with a rounded base and tapered neck. From the verso, it resembles the abstracted curve of a woman's body.

The main gallery space has been divided into two rooms, each with a different color glow emanating from neon fixtures attached to the gallerys light tracks. These shaped neon tubes resemble stalactites and in some cases, Staros places puddles of colored cast glass on the floor to reinforcing a sense of dripping. The green blue hues of the front room subtly transition into a pinkish-red glow in the back room. Concha Clavata (2021) is positioned in the center of this warm, womb like space. It is a large earthenware floor-based sculpture whose insides are covered with small white porcelain spikes. The contrast between the sculpture and the aura of the room is jarring.

Staros does not limit herself to one material and in this installation juxtaposes works made from ceramic, neon and glass, as well as onyx. There are multiple ways to interpret Staros' sculptures. They can be looked at formally and appreciated for their unusual materials. They can be seen as bridges between past and present — how her contemporary forms relate to Greco-Roman antiquities. And they can be read conceptually— as a feminist interpretation of classical forms. The inclusion of fish and her use of functioning aquariums transports these unusual works into something unexpected— at once calming and disturbing, perhaps indicative of these disconcerting times.

Click here for Cammie Staros on its own page.

February 11, 2021

Robert Irwin
Kayne Griffin
January 9 - February 27, 2021

Robert Irwin

In Unlights, Robert Irwin uses basic industrial materials to create sculptural wall works that play with viewers' perceptions as well as expectations. Each piece consists of six-foot fluorescent tubes mounted to rectangular fixtures that are vertically attached to the wall in sets of fifteen units. They are formal experiments that engage with the principles of geometric abstraction to form visual palindromes. Each work combines fluorescent tubes wrapped with translucent gels and strips of electrical tape to become oscillating waves of subtle colors, lights and darks.

In the past, Irwin has juxtaposed lit and unlit fluorescent lights examining the ways their halos both blur and expand the space around the vertical lines. In Unlights, he creates and explores implicit undulations of the wrapped fluorescent light fixtures without their glowing luminosity. Though firmly ensconced on the wall, the works change depending on angle of view. From the side, they appear sculptural, while from the front they resemble colorfield paintings made from wall paint, metal, plastic and glass objects. Because the fluorescent tubes are round, they reflect light in myriad ways, changing as viewers pass by or as the light in the spaces transitions. A similar shift occurs when regarding the reflective white supports.

The five works (all from 2018), are 72 inches high and range in width from 95 to 104 inches — the discrepancies based on the relationship between single and double tubes and the spaces between them. Each is named after a place-- Muscle Shoals, Mesquite, Fargo, Mozambique and Balboa -- suggesting the works are landscapes in which disparate places are represented by striations of color. The fifteen sections of Fargo span the wall alternating between blank units (solid white boxes that are approximately 4.5 inches wide) and units with one or two colored tubes. Irwin's soft palette contains blues and greens augmented by traces of light yellow and deep purple. The work is perfectly symmetrical, the colors and number of tubes mirrored, as the composition extends out from the center to either side. A unit with two light green tubes is flanked by units (with single light blue-gray tubes) whose outside edges are lined with black tape. From here, the pattern moves to yellow then blue and gray, then a blank unit, followed by two more light green tubes, then another single blue-gray tube. While the spaces in between are empty in Fargo, in other works like Balboa, Irwin adds a medium gray to the thin strip of wall wall between the units and in some instances also colors the side of the units which increases the illusion of depth, confounding what is painted, what is light and what is shadow.

In Mesquite, Irwin tapes black lines down the sides of six of the fixtures creating a visual border. The only double unit (tubes wrapped with black gels with lines of gray tape) is positioned in the center. From there, Irwin intersperses gray, copper and white (clear) tubes with tubeless fixtures. There is a Mesquite, Texas, as well as Nevada. Mesquite is also a plant. The various associations of the word both ground and obfuscate the meaning of the work. But perhaps that is Irwin's point. He has remarked that, "It’s not about answers. It’s the constant pursuit of the possibilities of what art is," and these intriguing and beautiful works seem to encapsulate the different phases of his creative endeavors. What at first glance seems to be floating lines, turns out to be carefully constructed artworks that investigate complex color and perceptual relationships. Irwin uses minimal materials to invite the viewer to contemplate ideas pertaining to color, light, perception, space, environment and illusion. His Unlights are at once minimal and maximal works that blur the boundaries between object and environment.

Click here for Robert Irwin on its own page.

February 4, 2021

David Hicks
Diane Rosenstein Gallery
January 9 - February 13, 2021

David Hicks

David Hicks has filled Diane Rosenstein's spacious gallery with works on paper, as well as large-scale and intimately sized ceramic pieces. Hicks is an extremely prolific artist and his floral amalgamations are at once familiar and dystopic. Inspired by the agricultural landscape of the San Joaquin Valley where he resides, Hicks observes and then reinterprets and re-presents elements of the natural world. His sculpures feature bulbous blooms and a variety of flowers and bulbs, stalks and branches gloopily glazed in bright colors and assembled together to become monster growths. Hicks also creates smaller individual pieces and in this exhibition they are presented on long, rough-hewn, white wooden tables. In works such as Clipping (White Bloom), or Clipping (Persimmon Bloom), (both 2020) he separates the plant from its environs to present each carefully molded bloom with an idiosyncratic, often unglazed base. I am reminded of a table of fresh artichokes at a farmer's market, where each vegetable has a unique formation. Although the sizes and shapes of Hicks' sculptures resemble 'real' plants, their thickly glazed surfaces give them a surreal or hyper-real aura.

Hicks' large pieces are elaborate constructions where he secures each ceramic element to a maze-like steel armature. The ceramics within Poly Panel (2020) a wall work which spans 78 x 64 x 16 inches are wired together and to the edges of the frame becoming an array of fabricated species. To build these works, Hicks starts with one piece then looks for others in his "collection" to position alongside the first. The work grows organically from there. Hicks pays attention to color and form as he builds these sculptures hoping to create a conversation between the individual elements. A floor based work in the round like the unglazed Terraflora (2018-2020) is a fascinating assembly of terra-cotta blooms, bulbs, stems and steel wire tangled together to create a kind of ordered chaos. Toward the bottom of the piece, Hicks fashions together a melange of wires without ceramics to form the base of the human-scaled sculpture which stands about 86 inches tall. An Offering (Blue), An Offering (Yellow and Persimmon) and An Offering (White) are ceramic works placed on the floor or on low pedestals that appear to be rogue baskets of fruits with intensely colored, oozing and dripping glazes. A mishmash of intertwined forms, these pieces have their own internal structure suggesting the uncanny beauty of plants gone to seed.

Also included are pastel, ink and charcoal works on paper collectively entitled Library Drawings (2018-2020). These bright pieces share a palette and have the graphic power of Corita Kent's posters while also exhibiting a kinship to the works of Terry Winters— almost as if Winters' pieces were reduced to their essential shapes and colors. In Library Drawing #13, two abutting yellow flowers are connected by a thick black line that emanates from the flower's receptacles forming an intertwined and elongated "S." Library Drawing #23 and #32 suggest a montage of overlapping musical notes, whereas Library Drawing #16 represents seeds growing above and below the ground. Here, the composition is divided in half— deep yellow on the bottom and a turquoise blue on the top— and bisected by bulb-like shapes that blossom into a formation of disparate dark dots.

Hicks' idiosyncratic installation could represent the world after a meltdown or what could possibly go wrong in nature. However awkward they might be, the pieces simultaneously suggest possibilities and a way of moving forward, one seed at a time.

Click here for David Hicks on its own page.

January 28, 2021

Esther Pearl Watson
Safer at Home: Pandemic Paintings
Vielmetter Los Angeles
November 21, 2020 – February 6, 2021

Esther Pearl Watson

As of this writing (12-24-2020) we have been living with Covid-19 for more than 250 days. How do we account for the time, the changes in life and lifestyle? Esther Pearl Watson began making small (around 8 x 10 inch) paintings in January, 2020 documenting the events in her life in her folk-artsy signature-style. In the gallery, she presents these works chronologically in uneven grids interspersed with black cloth banners hand sewn with white numbers representing the count of Covid-19 deaths in the United States. Over time, the numbers grow (as do the banners size) from hundreds in March, to hundreds of thousands by November 2020. The diaristic paintings link Watson's personal experience to this haunting reality.

A painting toward the beginning of the timeline January 24, There is a New Virus states, "January 24, 2020: There is a new virus in China, The flu is more dangerous we are told. I get a flu shot" and depicts a car and a few people in front of a medical center. February 26, CDC Confirms a Case, 2020 reads: "CDC Confirms a Case of Covid-19 community spread in California. There is the flu going around too. Some of my students were absent. Some students wear masks to class." The accompanying illustration is of an Art Center College of Design building, cars and people in the crosswalk and street against a starlit and cloud filled sky. For March, Watson clusters the paintings as one piece, collectively called "Safer at Home - Month of March." These 19 paintings also include four similarly sized black banners with the numbers 250, 500, 1,000 and 2,500.

As time went on, the restrictions on life continued, testing began, protests occurred, there was an election and much political turmoil. Reading through short blurbs scrawled in the top left corner of each dated painting gives a sense of how Covid-19 impacted Watson's life, as well as those around her. She describes her concern for her mother at a senior living facility and the fact that "hugs were a no" in a painting from April 12, 2020. Images of streets full of unmasked people give way to images of empty roads and mask-wearing dog-walkers. Watson depicts protests as in June 7, La Pintoresca Park Protest, 2020. Here she paints people of varying ethnicities, all wearing masks and carrying 'Black Lives Matter' and 'RIP George Floyd' signs as they gather in front of a local laundromat.

The virus, coupled with protests and fires takes its toll on Watson and her family. She allows this anxiety, desperation and frustration to enter into the work. For example, in September 14, Pandemic Brain Fog she writes "Pandemic Brain Fog has returned in out family. We worry global warming and fires are the new normal." The painting features four masked people in an empty field that abuts a strip of green trees behind which are flames in the distant hills along with a hovering helicopter. On September 27, Watson laments the possible cancellation of Halloween that was revised to "not recommended" with a whimsical painting of a house flanked by two skeletons, a jogger with her dog and signage for free masks. On October 8, Watson created a painting of the long line of cars waiting for Covid tests at Dodger Stadium. A painting commemorating Ruth Bader Ginsburg was created on September 25 as Watson presents a house in Culver City with a large painting of RBG on its garage.

The final works in the exhibition date from November and include a painting about election day, November 3 and one from November 9 displaying a bus filled with masked riders passing by a store whose sign states "Beauty 24/Pharmacy" against the backdrop of downtown Los Angeles. It reads "There is now a vaccine that will one day be available. For now, my mom gets a flu shot." These pieces are hung alongside the largest black banner in the exhibition, commemorating 238,000 deaths.

Watson's matter of fact, colorful and simplistic style shares affinities with folk artists like Grandma Moses. Her process is to document the everyday, that which surrounds her and is simultaneously banal and in these dire times, disconcerting and unusual. The pieces are at once familiar, stemming from observation, yet also surreal. Her "Pandemic" paintings were created quickly and together create a narrative that traces the uncanny spread of the virus and how it affects the individuals, students, families and communities of Los Angeles.

Click here for Esther Pearl Watson on its own page.

January 21, 2021

Aryo Toh Djojo
Wilding Cran Gallery
January 9 - 30, 2021

Aryo Toh Djoj

Aryo Toh Djojo's quasi narrative sequence of paintings are hung in clusters that extend across two adjacent gallery walls and suggest a science fiction film. Each modest sized acrylic includes a UFO -- either as the main subject of the work, or as a subtle, sometimes fuzzy dot near the distant horizon. It is hard not to read the works in relation to the pandemic, as well as the political climate in the U.S. today. The first image, Suck at pulling out, (all works 2020) depicts the word "fucker" as if written in the sky with jet fumes, juxtaposed with two small blurry dots ringed by a thin dark red line. Below this painting is Contact High, an image of a hand holding a lit joint or cigarette whose smoke gracefully billows into the night sky where there are three glowing green-yellow spots. Fragmented paintings of Los Angeles exteriors and interiors follow. Toh Djojo never reveals too much and his airbrushed technique gives the paintings a dream-like quality. He states: "To most people UFOs are exactly what you see in the media: malevolent, mind-controlling invaders who are trying to take over the planet. However, I'd like to believe they are benevolent vehicles to help us transcend to a higher state of consciousness. Hopefully, my handling of the paint adds to that experience."

The paintings reference the expansive vistas and vantage points endemic to Los Angeles that are often represented in films and capture the ambience of silhouetted palms, sunsets, vintage cars and reflective sunglasses. At first glance, the paintings are straightforward snapshots and impressions, until the UFOs are spotted. On the one hand is a painting of a lit room at night. A lone figure is seen by the window. While it is hard to discern where the building ends and the night sky begins, the glow of the tiny spaceship in the top right corner of the work suggests a supernatural light source. In Just Pass Supreme, four towering palms share the space with the art deco sign for Canter's Deli -- a quintessential L.A. landmark -- and three ambiguous light green dots. Heavy Petting is a painting of an outstretched hand with a butterfly resting on the middle finger. The subtle palette of light grays almost masks the small UFO in the upper half of the image.

While in most of the paintings the UFO is rendered as a far-off, distant dot or sequence of dots floating high in the sky, Toh Djojo also includes larger and (perhaps) more threatening depictions of flying saucers as in Adult Entertainment and Channel 99. The largest and most realistically rendered painting in the exhibition, Two in the pink, One in the stink, is a drone or satellite surveillance image focused on a black spot in the landscape. While the textual information is incomplete, the image clearly suggests a foreign presence.

Toh Djojo's paintings are seductive and intimate. They perfectly capture a moment that is at once familiar and completely foreign. For Toh Djojo, the UFOs represent a way to move beyond, to transcend, and to project a different present. Together, the painted fragments -- both expansive, as well as cropped compositions -- feel like jump-cuts or quick edits in a long trajectory and disjointed narrative about Los Angeles that exists in the space between what is real and what is imagined.

Click here for Aryo Toh Djojo on its own page.

January 14, 2021

Brie Ruais
Spiraling Open and Closed Like an Aperture
Night Gallery
November 21, 2020 – January 23, 2021

Brie Ruais

Brie Ruais' stunning ceramic sculptures have a visceral quality. Though created in her Brooklyn studio, they stem from private, site specific performances in the desert where the naked Ruais uses her entire body to shape clay into large geometric formations that meld with the desert terrain. The physicality of her process and the resulting pieces recall sculptures by other women working in the landscape or with female forms including Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, Lynda Benglis and Judy Chicago. Over the years, Ruais has returned to the Great Basin Desert in Nevada to create works on the desert floor that respond to the surrounding environment. She leaves these pieces in situ allowing them to fade away over time and their eventual disintegration as the years pass is well documented from overhead via drones. The aerial photographs, many of which are included in the exhibition, illustrate past and present interventions and this documentation provides context for her large-scale ceramic works.

Ruais channels the experience of working in the landscape back to her studio re-engaging the process by pushing and pulling masses of clay across her studio floor. It is interesting that works composed on the floor are later hung on the wall as the viewer's perspective matches hers while creating them. Her palette is rich, with colors that stem from nature — blues for the sky, yellows and oranges for the sun, rusts and browns for sand and hillsides. Ruais often begins with an amount of clay equal to her body weight and in Closing in on Opening Up, Nevada Site 6, 127lbs, 2020, for example, she laboriously spreads the clay out from the center with her hands allowing the mound to break apart to form abstracted starbursts that recall the rays of the sun as well as blast waves from an explosion. Each of twelve triangular sections moves out from a central void like a clock that can no longer keep time, transitioning from a light yellow to a darker brown and reflecting a path from sky to earth.

To create Opposing Tides, Shaping Forces, 2020 two people spread mounds of clay equal to their body weight across the floor, moving toward each other from opposite ends of the room. The finger marks from the constant kneading and wedging of the clay is evidence of the process, becoming a gestural, as well as textured surface. The finished shapes dart across the gallery wall like two wide flares or comets. The things we build, the things we let fall apart, the things we destroy, 2020 is a floor based work where Ruais juxtaposes unfired shards of brick and white clay formed into a circular pattern with rocks gleaned from her desert travels piled to become a low stone wall extending across the gallery like mountains on the distant horizon.

Collectively, the pieces that comprise the installation Spiraling Open and Closed Like an Aperture reference the land as well as the sky. Seeing the photo documentation with the actual works allows viewers to imagine Ruais using the reach and strength of her body to create these simultaneously fragile and solid, monumental and intimate, large-scale three-dimensional works.

Click here for Brie Ruais on its own page.

January 7, 2021

Andy Moses
Recent Works
William Turner Gallery
December 5, 2020 - February 10, 2021

Andy Moses

In Andy Moses' recent paintings, contrasting colors flow within circular and hexagon shaped canvases to create a push/pull sensation across the surface. The works draw viewers in and ask them to suspend the known in favor of the unexpected. Moses wants to take his viewers on a visual journey that is simultaneously celestial and molecular. In each painting, he employs a limited palette of intense colors that often emanate from the center and swirl out toward the edges. Integral to the pieces are the alchemical properties of paint and the uncanny ways colors interact on the surface. For example, in eodynamics-1703 (2020), gold and blue-green swashes of color undulate across the hexagonal canvas alluding to the constant motion of ocean waves that ebb and flow from a central vortex.

Moses' paintings are complex imbroglios that defy understanding. While his process is additive, it is impossible to reverse engineer the construction of the images. Fascinated by the micro and the macro, the geologic and the galactic, Moses references nature and its dynamic forces, creating abstract works that explore basic color relationships while simultaneously suggesting lava or river flows as well as star trails in the night sky.

Moses often starts small, creating studies for his larger works where he determines color relationships and the possible flow of the paint. A wall of seven 20-inch acrylic on lucite hexagon panels serves as an index to the larger pieces where Moses carefully enlarges and perfects his method.

Circular works like Geodesy 1505 (2019) and Geodesy 1508 (2020) both 72 inches in diameter have the feel of abstracted planets seen from afar where fields of contrasting colors: magentas, blues and yellows in Geodesy 1508 and blues, purples and greens in Geodesy 1505 oscillate, flowing from the center of the tondo in controlled arcs toward the edges. While the circular works seem like planets —- contained worlds of imagined colors—- the hexagons are less reminders of the natural world than the history of abstraction and color field painting. Moses' concave paintings including Nocturne 1502 (2020) and Geomorphology 1707 (2019) are large rectangles with arced surfaces that accentuate the idea of a horizon line or a vanishing point within an abstracted landscape. Within these mysterious and luminous spaces, Moses explores tensions and energies created from expanses of interlocking colors that flow across the canvases. In Geomorphology 1707 (2020) a striation of white splits the composition into two halves. Above could be sky, below the sea. Though not mirror images, the top and bottom portions of the painting have similar ripples of blue, green and yellow-orange curvilinear striations that suggest celestial storm surges or spiraling vortexes being swallowed into the sea.

Moses is a master at his craft and his evocative and intriguing paintings allow viewers to get lost in the unknowns of abstraction and delight in the power of overlapping and contrasting colors that undulate atop the paintings. Because of their size, the paintings have a commanding presence and dominate the viewer's field of view— which becomes an open invitation to enter into Moses' world and to remain there as long as they are able. What they see and what they take away is dependent on how easily they are open to the idea of transcendence.

Click here for Andy Moses on its own page.

December 31, 2020

Peter Hujar
Like a Street full of Friends: Studies for Speculative Monuments
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
November 14, 2020 - January 9, 2021

Peter Hujar

Peter Hujar's square format black and white photographs are a reminder of the beauty of film and the power of a well composed, carefully lit and patiently observed image. Hujar died of AIDS in 1987 at the age of 44 and left behind an exceptional body of work that includes self portraits, portraits, photographs of animals, as well as cityscapes. No matter what subject was in front of his lens, he framed it with the same degree of respect and sensitivity: a photograph of a goose or two cows has the same impact as a portrait of, for example, Susan Sontag or Divine.

Hujar's compassion toward to his subjects — whether human or animal, animate or inanimate — was unique and the people (or animals) in his images display not only vulnerability, but also a sense of trust. In Divine, (1975/2020), Hujar captures the man casually dressed, reclining on a lush black throw. Divine seems relaxed, neither performing, nor in costume. He pensively and thoughtfully gazes down, surprisingly not at the camera or out of the frame. The fabric that surrounds Divine is beautifully lit, its rich black and gray tones contrasting with Divine's white clothing and the light gray wall that tops the composition. A similar air pervades in David Wojnarowicz, 1981, a portrait of the artist in repose staring off into the distance. Wojnarowicz (who also died of AIDS in the 1980's) is shirtless and depicted relaxing against a rumpled pillow and folded sheet, at ease within Hujar's viewfinder.

In Daniel Schook Sucking Toe (Close Up), 1981 Hujar delights in the angled geometry of the subject's nude body as he leans over to suck his big toe. Similarly, in Gary Schneider in Contortion, 1979/2020, Hujar celebrates the body's ability to bend in unusual ways, photographing Schneider's muscular and twisted body from the back as he places his leg behind his arm and over his head. The shape of Schneider's backside and the subtlety of the folds and tonalities of his skin bring to mind Edward Weston's iconic photograph of a pepper.

Thoughtfully installed with a mixture of images, the exhibition implies a narrative that proclaims — "this is where I live, these are the people I associate with, this is where I go and this is what I see when I am there" — as viewers move from portraits, to cityscapes, to images of undulating ripples in the Hudson river. In Butch and Buster, (1978/2020) two cows stare out from the center of the photograph. The texture of their matted fur is echoed by the trees behind them as well as the grass upon which they stand. Each cow displays a distinct personality and neither seems bothered by Hujar's presence. When framed in his lens, be it person, place or animal, each subject is presented with integrity and compassion. Though the settings are often barren —just a white wall and concrete studio floor with few props or decorations— Hujar allows his sitters to fill the frame both literally and metaphorically.

Often paired with Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe, Hujar was not interested in sensationalism or that which was out of the ordinary; rather he was concerned with the essence of the person and what was implied or inferred by the portrait. A master craftsman, his black and white, precisely framed pictures are lush and sensual, each fold of fabric, swish of hair or pensive gaze, the perfect shade of gray. While the images on view represent a fraction of his output, they attest to his mastery of the photographic medium and to the tragedy of a career and life cut short.

Click here for Peter Hujar on its own page.

December 24, 2020

Robert Longo
Storm of Hope
Jeffrey Deitch
November 21, 2020–January 30, 2021

Robert Longo

Two things immediately come to mind when thinking about Robert Longo's artwork: drawing and appropriation. Longo is an impeccable draftsman whose mural sized works simultaneously have the hard-edged veracity of photographs and the delicate softness of charcoal drawings. Longo was part of the Pictures Generation of artists from the 1970s and 1980s who became known for their use of appropriated imagery. Integral to his process is scanning the news media for relevant source material which he transforms into something that can be enlarged and monumentalized. In Storm of Hope, he presents drawings of found photographs including a black panther, melting icebergs, refugees at sea, the California wildfires, protests, an ICU during the pandemic, as well as huge multi-panel pieces depicting strangely altered views of The Supreme Court, The White House and The Capitol.

Each image is "loaded" in a particular way as Longo is not bashful about stating his politics with his work. Without seeing the original images, one can only surmise Longo's alterations. However, The Capitol is set against a stormy and threatening sky, The Supreme Court is split down the middle between framed panels and The White House is seen from the vantage point of a rodent or soldier looking up from a dirt-filled trench surrounded by barren trees at the glowing building against billowing clouds. Longo clearly depicts these places of power as isolated and menacing presences. Untitled (Black Panther), 2020 offers a change in tone and numerous associations. While Longo draws a close up of the animal's face, it is difficult not to also think about the recent film Black Panther as well as the Black Panther Party. In Longo's panther drawing, the intense eyes of the creature stare calmly at the viewer, it's nose pressed against the frame, it's white whiskers cropped at the edges of the tall composition. Though many times larger than life, the panther does not come across as threatening or intimidating.

It is interesting to think about the idea of transformation when confronting Longo's work. He was among the first artists to be celebrated for their use of appropriated source materials and has continued to mine that territory. While compelling and distressing news images are plentiful as there are always conflicts and natural disasters to choose from, what does Longo do to them to make his drawings so charged and relevant today? In the dimly lit gallery, the framed drawings have the appearance of cinema. Protected behind glass, they become large screens to gaze upon. Collectively, Longo's works reflect an ongoing newsfeed or a copy of a daily newspaper where images about the pandemic, protests, the presidency and climate change rage. These works are about the now. Though Longo aestheticizes, his intent is not merely to beautify, but to dramatically call attention to newsworthy events within his chosen medium — drawing. The works are monumental and in many ways, framed monuments, charcoal artworks that tower over the viewer.

Three-dimensional monuments are also present within the exhibition as it includes Longo's 2018 Death Star, a sculpture comprised of 40,000 inert bullets that form a giant sphere, as well as two resin and steel and sculptures— Lost Monolith and More Monolith (also from 2018). These pieces are resin and steel monoliths that function like bookends supporting the works hung on the gallery walls. More proclaims what is needed: "more pizza, more kissing, more imagination," while Lost laments "lost elections, lost muscles, lost ideals," etc. It is interesting to reflect upon the power of these domineering structures and think about them in relation to the sudden appearance (and disappearance) of a monolith in the Utah desert, presumed to be a work by John McCracken and likened to the monolith from Arthur C. Clark's 2001.

Longo's exhibition is a powerful display of power structures. While elegantly crafted, the works "expose the politics of power, futility and aggression." They are bold and challenging, as well as chilling documents of what is both right and wrong with the world at this particular moment in time.

Click here for Robert Longo on its own page.

December 17, 2020

Renee Petropoulos
Like a Street full of Friends: Studies for Speculative Monuments
November 1 - December 19, 2020

Renee Petropoulos

A point of reference for Renee Petropoulos' compelling and thought provoking exhibition Like a Street full of Friends: Studies for Speculative Monuments at as-is.la is her 2014 public artwork installed in downtown Santa Monica: Bouquet (Between Egypt, India, Iraq, the United States, Brazil, Ethiopia & Mexico). This thin, 27-foot high towering sculpture has a giant bouquet of flowers (representing the different nations) extending from a spiraling representation of a faux concrete block wall that suggests the shape of Tatlin's unbuilt Monument to the Third International (1919) on its frontside and a gridded mirror on the backside.

Although the majority of the pieces in the gallery are framed mixed-media works on paper, a mirrored wood and plexiglas bench and the companion to her Santa Monica public artwork, Bouquet (Flower Girl) (Between Libya, Scotland & United States), 2014, are included to help imagine three dimensional versions of the proposed monuments. Each of seventeen framed works is dedicated to a writer that Petropoulos says changed her way of thinking. These include Gertrude Stein, Georges Perec, Leslie Dick, Eileen Myles and Amiri Baraka, among others. Though not portraits in the traditional sense, they can be seen as a conversation between the artist and author where fragments of text, photographic flowers and eyes, as well as drawn geometric shapes that suggest sculptural supports co-mingle on the paper. Each element for Petropoulos has a specific (though not stated) association with the author or author's writings. While the diagramatic collages are too frenetic to be realized as sculptures, they call to mind the monuments proposed by Russian Constructivists where the integrity of form was not dissuaded by the force of an internal dynamism.

The presence of Bouquet (Flower Girl) (Between Libya, Scotland & United States) helps audiences imagine how the works on paper could be realized as sculptures. In For Hannah A. Arendt (2020), a black triangle and a yellow trapezoid placed at a diagonal as well as two orange rectangular shapes could be seen as supports for a lattice of intersecting lines form a quasi-architectural structure. Growing out from this structure are photographic cutouts of a red rose and a purple lily of the nile. How the light gray handwritten phrase "HOW THEY LIVED THEIR LIVES" that bisects the composition and the typeset words "is," shown both right reading and reversed on opposite sides of the text would become three-dimensional forms is a complex undertaking.

For Chris Kraus (2020) is a bit simpler. Here, Petropoulos balances an antenna-like arrangement of black lines and irregular red circular shapes upon a small arrangement of drawn ovals akin to a pile of stones. A deep-red rectangle as well as two photographs of eyes extend from an upside down black "L" situated at the top of the pile. Expressively typeset along the upper most line is the word "Reality." It is not impossible to see this image in the landscape. For John Berger (2020) is a collage clustering rectangular signs placed in the ground, each containing a different abstract pattern or appropriated fragment of newspaper text or image. The work is an apt metaphor for different "Ways of Seeing" that was integral to Berger's writings and reminiscent of the diversity of signs at current political protests.

Although Petropoulos has incorporated a select vocabulary or lexicon of shapes and symbols within these studies for monuments, she uses them in expansive and expressive ways. What she gleaned from the myriad authors is reflected within the collages as a poetic tribute to their influences on her. The works are lyrical as well as graphically sophisticated. Perhaps a key to understanding her motivations is Monument #1, 2013 a small mylar and paper sculpture placed on a shelf in the upstairs gallery. This piece is an homage to Tatlin, though Petropoulos has personalized the message asserting: We are here... You are here... I am here. Thinking about this when regarding the elegant installation that in many ways appears "like a street full of friends," it is possible to enter into a dialogue with those who are absent. Petropoulos' works memorialize these artists / authors, celebrating their effects and affects on her as abstracted speculative monuments that resonate beyond words.

Click here for Renee Petropoulos on its own page.

December 10, 2020

Glen Wilson
Slim Margins
Various Small Fires
October 30 - December 19, 2020

Glen Wilson

The works that make up Glen Wilson’s exhibition “Slim Margins” are striking and unique. Wilson has an uncanny sense of materials and a keen ability to juxtapose incongruous elements to create the unexpected. Wilson sites the influence of documentary photographers like Gordon Parks and Roy DeCarava, as well as Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson whose early photographs empowered female African American voices, yet his works also share an affiliation with the woven photographs of Dinh Q. Lee and the overlapping-framed photo-montages by Todd Gray.

These references aside, many of the most enticing works in Wilson’s installation are hybrids of photography and sculpture. The exhibition starts in the courtyard where Wilson presents four large-scale, double-sided freestanding sculptures: TexarkanaCaliCool / Relaxing With Mr. Dafney (2019), Immaculate (Sundial) (2020), Deliver Us (90291 x 10037) (2020), and King Solomon (2020). In these pieces, as well as in many on view within the gallery, Wilson weaves photographic strips between the spaces in large sections of chain link fence reconstituting the image as a dynamic object. In the courtyard, it is easy to walk around the works and inspect all sides. King Solomon depicts the silhouette of an African American dancer balancing on a stool at Venice beach on one side while his feet are acrobatically poised towards the sky in a handstand on the other. The piece is perched high on a pole like a flag or banner, paralleling the body’s skyward movements. Though the images coalesce when viewed from afar, up close one is aware of the fragmentary nature of the imagery and that which can be seen between the printed strips.

Many of Wilson’s photographs have the aura of snapshots, people, and places he has observed and captured within the frame of his camera. He is interested in where the private and public intersect and his images serve as celebrations of intimate and often playful times, as many of the photographs depict leisure activities and people at the beach. But for Wilson, the photographic image is a point of departure for further exploration rather than an endpoint. He states, “I have always considered the photograph an object that might introduce ideas orconcepts which may be further elaborated when brought into dialogue with other objects, photographic or otherwise... Single images may be multiplied, combined, borrowed, juxtaposed or otherwise manipulated to broaden context, and narrative.”

In his pieces, Wilson fuses numerous images that can be thought of as before and after, or different aspects of the same scene. These fragmented and undulating photographs are integrated with a variety of formats of chain link fence (gates, swinging doors, and free-standing sections) that function as both a barrier and a framing device. The kids at play in Ritual Unions (2020), are nested between ocean waves and an opening in the two pieces of chain link, akin to a portal to the unknown beyond. Where fences are usually barricades, Wilson transforms them into something inviting and playful. The notion of play is further articulated in Notice of Intent (2020), a close-up of the hands of two men playing chess on a paper board. The image is split in half on two sides of a gate. Because Wilson fills the spaces in the fences with color photographs, he transports viewers to his personal world.

The sculptural aspects of the work and the use of dilapidated fencing as an apparatus are apropos to the “slim margins” of the exhibition’s title. While the works are reminders that a fence is often erected to say “stay out,” Wilson suggests imagining what exists on the other side can be a positive experience, even during dire times. “Slim Margins” is a rich exhibition filled with thoughtful and beautifully executed works using the power of photography to show the importance of community and family. Though put together with discarded materials, Wilson’s works are constructed memories of more positive times that illustrate how looking, seeing, and making sense of that which surrounds us can be a rewarding experience.

Click here for Glen Wilson on its own page.

December 3, 2020

Brendan Lott
Safer at Home
Walter Maciel Gallery
7 November - 19 December 2020

Brendan Lott

When the Covid-19 pandemic first encroached upon Los Angeles, many Angelenos hunkered down in their homes and apartments obeying the stay at home directive. From his downtown loft, Brendan Lott began to pay attention to the goings on in the apartments he could see from his window. Entitled Safer at Home, the resulting series of photographs is "street photography when no one is in the streets" according to Lott. He goes on to say, "This is Robert Frank's The Americans when America is stuck at home... This is Walker Evans' subway portraits when no one has anywhere to go." The series also calls to mind Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, the voyeuristic work of Sophie Calle as well as Merry Alpern's Dirty Windows photographs (1995).

Lott's voyeuristic images carefully frame private and intimate moments against the geometry of the high rise architecture, simultaneously capturing interiors and fragmenting people. Because Lott observes his subjects unbeknownst to them from afar with a telephoto lens, he can wait patiently until the action (or non action) aligns with his compositional sensibilities-- people divided by window panes, their faces obscured by the architecture. What is striking about the images is how often they depict the mundane aspects of everyday life-- individuals performing banal tasks like lighting a cigarette, making a bed, sweeping, watering a plant and often staring at their mobile phones.

In isolation, the screen has become a best friend. It is always there and can be called upon for companionship. It is curious that in Lott's pictures more people regard their screens than actually talk on the phone as in July 23, 2020, 9:43 pm where Lott presents a woman seated on her pink couch, gazing at her cell phone screen illuminated by a bright circular light that forms a wide halo around her head. In July 23, 2020, 7:35 am Lott looks down from above into a bedroom. Here, the composition is divided in thirds. A white comforter and mattress fill the bottom left, a bit of wood floor is shown at the top, and the arms and torso of a woman amongst white sheets staring at her phone. The details of the window frames-- be it horizontal bars, pea-green molding or traces of atmospheric dirt-- call attention to the inside/outside dichotomy. Lott's photographs accentuate the fact that he is shooting windows. While he is looking into private lives from afar, he is as interested in how the images are framed by the existing architecture and how the surfaces are reflective and sometimes spotted with handprints (inside) or debris (outside) -- as he is in the personal environments within.

July 21, 2020, 5:15 pm represents an instance of melancholy. Within the image, Lott captures a man bending over, resting his head on one arm which is positioned against the window frame. The other arm extends out the window holding a lit cigarette. The curtains are drawn obscuring a view of the interior. While it is not possible to see the man's face, the implied narrative suggest a moment of despair. In May 16, 2020, 5:52 am, Lott intrudes on a moment of slumber. Here, in the early morning light he photographs the feet and hand of a woman extending out from a white comforter. Because the telephoto lens flattens space, the windows become a series of rectangles that frame different aspects of the room and sleeping figure.

Though Lott is indeed a voyeur, his purpose in making these photographs is not to expose risqué behavior, but rather to illustrate the monotony of quarantine. His pictures reflect daily life filled with personal rituals, moments of reflection and isolation, the comfort pets provide, as well as the dependency on mobile devices. Within his beautifully framed images narratives develop. Though they maybe be fictions, we infer a growing frustration, longing and desire as the dates of the photographs move from April to September, reflecting the seemingly endless duration of the pandemic. Lott's images are indicative of the now-- a time of suspended animation.

Click here for Brendan Lott on its own page.

November 26, 2020

Thin as Thorns, In These Thoughts in Us: An Exhibition of Creative AI and Generative Art
Honor Fraser Gallery
September 8 - February 20, 2021

Thin as Thorns, In These Thoughts in Us: An Exhibition of Creative AI and Generative Art, installation views

What is AI? Artificial Intelligence, or AI relates to "the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence." AI employs machine learning to improve the fullfilment of any task. How scientists, technologists and the entertainment industry employ AI is well documented and it comes as no surprise that artists are also exploring what is possible with this technology. A compelling exhibition organized by curator Paul Young and Kenric McDowell of Google, brings together robotic and code-based, as well as analogue works that look at the myriad possibilities of machine learning. Included are a diverse group of international artists: Memo Akten, Sougwen Chung, Harold CohenChris Coy, YACHT, Holly Grimm, Joanne Hastie, Agnieszka Kurant, Annie Lapin, Allison Parrish, Casey Reas, Patrick Tresset, Christobal Valenzuela, Roman Verostko, Siebren Versteeg and Tom White.

In the entryway of the exhibition and functioning like a prologue or introduction to AI is Memo Akten's mesmerizing seven channel video installation Deep meditations: A brief history of almost everything in 60 minutes, (2018). To produce this work, Akten amassed tens of thousands of images from Flickr that were tagged with words like life, love, faith, ritual, god and nature, and created custom software that composited these imagers so that an ever changing sequence was produced in which they morphed and flowed into one another according a specific algorithm to become a meditation on the expansive and wondrous nature of the universe. Though located in a darkened room in the back of the gallery, selections from Casey Reas' recent project Compressed Cinema serves as a conceptual bookend Akten's video display. Projected are three short loops: Untitled (Not now. No, no.), (Two dead!) and (I withdraw), (2020). To create these works, Reas used General Adversarial Networks (GANS) and programmatically sequenced mutated stills from a range of different films spanning numerous genres into a new cinematic experience. These ambiguous and haunting pieces are accompanied by an equally chilling sound track by Jan St. Werner.

No AI exhibition would be complete without a functioning robot and in this exhibition, Patrick Tresset's robotic drawing machine, Human Study @2, La Toute petite Vanité au coquillage, (2020) becomes a central attraction. In this sculptural work, Tresset explores not only how machines can draw in real time, but also how they begin to exhibit human-like behaviors. It is hard to turn away from the progress of the robotic arm as it skillfully replicates portions of a still life. A different kind of AI robot is presented in video documentation of Sougwen Chung's performance, Flora Rearing Architectural Network (F.R.A.N.), (2020). In this work, Chung records a human/machine duet where a robot creates drawings and paintings in a style similar to hers. Holly Grimm and Joanne Hastie have also trained machines to emulate their drawing and painting styles. Grimm's machine creates figurative works, whereas Hastie's makes abstractions. Hastie worked for decades as an R&D engineer while painting during the evenings and on weekends. In 2017, she began to combine these interests and applied her knowledge of robotics and AI into the process of machine painting. On view are selections of painted brushstrokes made by a robotic arm. While Chung, Grimm and Hastie have trained robots to paint, Allison Parrish uses AI for poetry. She feeds data sets into the computer and creates algorithms that dictate the output of words. Her many zines and animations document these experimental practices.

The exhibition also includes works by Roman Verostko and Harold Cohen, pioneers in algorithmic art. Harold Cohen's acrylic Athlete Series, (1996) is an example of his automated painting process. This large acrylic work was created by AARON, one of the first AI robots programmed to produce artworks. Roman Verostko began to write computer software for plotter printers in the 1960s and his enigmatic artworks opened up new ways of both creating and thinking about computer based art.

Thin as Thorns, In These Thoughts in Us: An Exhibition of Creative AI and Generative Art is a fascinating exhibition that brings together works from the past and the present, created both locally and internationally and is a solid introduction to how artists are using AI to meld art and technology.

Click here for Thin as Thorns on its own page.

November 19, 2020

Gregory Crewdson
An Eclipse of Moths
Gagosian Gallery
September 24 - November 21, 2020

Gregory Crewdson: Redemption Center, 2018 - 19 / Red Star Express, 2018 - 19 (© Gregory CrewdsonCourtesy Gagosian)

The sixteen images in Gregory Crewdson's exhibition, An Eclipse of Moths depict isolated individuals in abandoned, dystopic small town environments. Crewdson picks locations (these images were shot in Pittsfield, MA in the summer of 2018) and works with a large crew, directing his actors, finessing the lighting, dampening the streets, placing props and selecting the vantage point for the camera. In An Eclipse of Moths, there is a similarity to the photographs, as they are mostly shot from above, looking down on the scene, framing people who appear frozen in time, as if they were about to do something but cannot remember what. Though created before the pandemic, they echo the sense of hopelessness and despondence that permeates the now.

Like on an involved film set, the settings and props Crewdson assembles for the photographs are 'real,' however the scenarios he orchestrates are fictions. He hires actors, finds appropriate props and sets the stage for action to unfold, but because he is making still images, the action represents a single moment along some imagined continuum. For instance, in Redemption Center (all works 2018-19), a partially bald, gray-haired, shirtless man gazes into a puddle. His shopping cart, filled with bottles and other detritus is a few feet away, as is a blue child's bicycle, on its side as if left in a hurry. The majority of the foreground shows a large vacant parking lot. About a third of the way back and in the center of the photograph is a single light pole that divides the composition in half. It guides the viewer's eye right of center to a building that gives the photograph its title — Redemption Center. All this action (or inaction) takes place on "U…" Street. Two billboards, one celebrating the 'Birds of the Northeast,' tower above a bar that has two old Cadillac sedans in the parking lot it shares with the redemption center. On the other side of the composition, a male teenager sits in the open doorway of a white trailer in conversation with another boy wearing a maroon hoodie. The image and road extends to the right into a residential neighborhood. The title and choreography of the elements — the light, the signage and billboards, the presumaby homeless man's demeanor— call into question the notion of "redemption" and what it means to be saved from sin, or evil.

Who or what is evil in today's world echoes through Red Star Express. Three boys on BMX bikes gaze, but do not react to a trailer in flames in a vacant lot not far from the middle of the road where they are situated. Like Redemption Center, this photograph is shot from afar and above, in an empty expanse of road that eventually recedes into the distance and fills the foreground. The setting is rural. On one side of the street are one and two story homes, on the other side, Crewdson places the burning trailer in a secured area, behind a fence, surrounded by concrete. A large tree leads the eye to a grassy embankment and toward rolling tree-lined hills in the distance, beyond what appears to be a warehouse or factory. Questions arise. Did the boys set the fire? Is this kind of destruction so commonplace that no one bats an eye?

In the center of The Taxi Depot, a half-dressed woman sits on a tree stump. She is flanked by an abandoned 1960s Chrysler and a dampened mattress upon which two boys sleep. There is also an old truck filled with furniture that appears to be ready for the dump. The depot has a flat roof and a pile of tires and other junk outside its door. Attached to it is what could be the family's home. The sky is a light blue-gray and the driveway/parking lot is filled with puddles as if there had been a recent rain. In the distance, alongside some railroad tracks, a shirtless man sits in a motorized wheelchair. The photograph presents a moment of stasis. The viewer is left to fill in the blanks and construct their own narrative about who these people are and what exactly is going on.

All these lone figures are akin to moths who flock to the light, though in these pictures the people are motionless, and instead of being an attraction, the light is oppressive. It is neither inviting or seductive but merely a time of day, either before sunset or just after sunrise when the air and the atmosphere is still. In creating these images, Crewdson positions the viewer as a voyeur or a spectator who witnesses the aftermath of something that is never revealed, but only alluded to.

What caused the light pole to topple into the street in Starkfield Lane? Or the traffic light to fall and remain crumpled on the side of the road in Alone Street? While the photographs in An Eclipse of Moths are less surreal, yet more banal and melancholic than in some of Crewdson's previous series, they still exhibit a strangeness— a kind of Twilight Zone inexplicable uncanniness like the appearance of an empty gurney in Cherry Street, or an abandoned baby carriage in Alone Street.

The slice of life Crewdson chooses to depict is specific — these images for the most part depict the impoverished, homeless and disabled, living in small town America among abandoned cars and dumpsters, apparently cut off from the world at large. Their expressions, when visible are blank and matter of fact, as if hardly affected by the dramas that surround them. The scenes Crewdson fabricates are self contained, offering little that connects the inhabitants to anything outside the boundaries of the image. Is Crewdson a neutral observer who does not pass judgement? While these constructed scenarios appear real, they are entirely fictions and as fictions they have been carefully scripted and staged. Why stage images of such acute poverty, abandonment and despair when it actually exists? What does Crewdson add? The pictures don't suggest hope amongst this poverty, but rather indicate that people can survive in just about any conditions, going about their everyday lives oblivious to and unconcerned with that which surrounds them.

In many ways Crewdson's images exist outside of time. They are grandiose epics that are unspecifically nostalgic, while simultaneously taking place in the present. It is impossible not to view them through the lens of Covid-19, the directive to keep a distance and to stay at home. Perhaps these pictures are about the long-term impact of poverty and isolation— as beautiful as the images may be, they are not 'pretty pictures.'

Click here for Gregory Crewdson on its own page.

November 12, 2020

Cindy Phenix
Particles of Abnormality
Nino Mier Gallery
October 17 - November 14, 2020

Cindy Phenix

Particles of Abnormality is an exhibition by Chicago based Cindy Phenix. In the main gallery space, she bombards viewers with large paintings cluttered with fragmented figures, snippets of buildings and colorful abstract shapes that reference aspects of the natural landscape. In a smaller gallery a few doors down the block, she creates an installation that entices viewers through a labyrinth of monsters painted onto full sheets of drywall. These discrete bodies of work play off and inform each other, almost as if selected figures emerged from the chaos of the paintings, migrated down the block, coming to fruition at human scale on full sheets of drywall.

In the front gallery, Phenix presents dense works that sometimes juxtapose outlined imagery covered with areas of thinly applied as well as thickly impastoed paint. These frenetic pieces invite the eye to dart from here to there across the compositions, never settling in one location. Conceivable Improvised Perspectives About the Future (all works 2020), weaves together colorful faces, surreal and unrealistically colored male and female figures and quirky abstract shapes to cover the 96 x 144 inch work. In some ways, it is hard to make sense of what is going on, but that seems to be the point. The works delight in bringing together random elements culled from a wide range of sources to become an improvised choreography of forms. There is so much to look at in this painting and with every glance, new elements are revealed. While Conceivable Improvised Perspectives About the Future is jam packed, Fluidity Will End the Apocalypse, feels unfinished in contrast as Phenix purposely leaves large portions of the linen unpainted. She fills in the delicately drawn outlines with just enough paint to suggest figures and settings. Many of the paintings feel like projected and painted enlargements from sketches and collages created on the computer and blown up so that fine lines become jagged and pixelated. The different elements seamlessly morph from one form and color into another. The effect is unsettling and a bit disorienting.

In a smaller gallery, Phenix has constructed a quasi-maze attaching full sheets of painted drywall and gold-leafed MDF to the base of tall wooden supports that run from the floor to the ceiling. Within each vertical 8 x 4 foot drywall panel, Phenix depicts a flatly painted, larger than life figure that is part human, part monster and appears to be trapped within the confines of the frame. These gestural works confront the viewer head on, yet are neither threatening nor inviting. While they seem to reach out, they cannot escape from the confines of their frames. And because Phenix has constructed a tight maze through which to view them, in some ways they become like images in fun-house mirrors, reflecting fragmented and disembodied representations of the self. In works like The Inexplicableness of Strangeness, Struggle and Persist and Both Real and Artificial, disjointed amoeba-like shapes come together as if remnants from a dream that one struggles to reconstruct upon waking, but never fully coalesce. These hybrid figures are juxtaposed with delicate gold-leaf abstractions— panels filled with irregularly shaped cut-outs with titles like A Collection of Preciousness, Own Destruction and Proper Ending, that suggest their surfaces have been excised or melted away. The contrast is a bit jarring, calling attention to Phenix's use of materials and process of de-construction and re-combination.

Because of the small size of the space and the way the works are positioned, it is impossible to see more than a few at once. To do so, it is necessary to criss-cross the maze moving around the panels to try to take in the full installation. Viewing these sparser panels in a claustrophobic space is diametrically opposed to the experience viewing the denser paintings surrounded by white walls in the larger gallery. In some ways, the maze-like installation becomes a physical manifestation of the denser paintings, placing the viewer directly inside the works. Together, what Phenix's installations say to each other and ask of us the audience, is to embrace ambiguity and indulge in the experience and delight of the unknown. A positive message of hope in these isolating and unsettling times.

Click here for Cindy Phenix on its own page.

November 5, 2020

Sam Durant
Blum and Poe
October 1 - November 7, 2020

Sam Durant

What stories do monuments tell? Is there more than one story, more than one point of view? Can monuments be moved from one location and placed in another? Confederate statues taken away from the Kentucky capital go where? How can they be recontextualized? During the summer of 2020, numerous statues and monuments, rightly or wrongly, were toppled during political protests for Black Lives Matter. The Mellon Foundation has pledged to spend $250 million over five years on an initiative that will reimagine monuments "in an effort to better reflect the nation's diversity and highlight buried or marginalized stories." 

The Mellon Foundation's Monuments Project bears a curious relationship to a 2018 body of work by Sam Durant now on view at Blum and Poe. In his exhibition Iconoclasm, he presents a recent two channel video projection and six large-scale graphite drawings created in 2018 whose source is historic photographs featuring statues and monuments that have been defaced or are in the process of being toppled. Durant has titled this body of work Iconoclasm which, according to Wikipedia, "is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons." 

These evocative and beautifully rendered drawings portray certain historical struggles and conflicts over class, race or religion. Looking at the works chronologically, Durant begins in Utrecht in 1572, drawing a reproduction of a photograph showing the altar piece from St. Martin's Cathedral and focusing on its destroyed faces from an attack during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He then moves to 1871 Paris and an image of the toppled statue of Napoleon from the Column Vendome, destroyed by the Paris Commune. Next is Budapest in 1956, where a massive statue of Joseph Stalin was pulled down by anti-Soviet crowds. Durant depicts the graffitied relic amidst a crowd of onlookers. Fort-de-France, 1991 is a drawing of the headless statute of the Empress Josephine in Martinique. She was instrumental in reinstituting slavery in the French colonies less than ten years after it had been banned in 1789. Coincidentally, her statue was completely destroyed by Black Lives protesters in July, 2020. On the 'Day of Indigenous Resistance' in Caracas, 2004, protesters pulled down a 30 foot high, 100 year old statue of Christopher Columbus. In Durant's drawing, the rope used to dislodge the statue extends across the composition in the moment before it falls to the ground. Mosul, 2015, is an image from an online video showing two ISIS fighters defacing statues from the Mosul Museum in their belief that representations are apostasy.

Although Durant's source material spans time, we regard the drawings in the present. At this moment, it is impossible not to relate these images to the recent destruction of monuments world-wide and think about the reasons why they are under attack. While Durant's choices of source imagery depict acts of violence, he softens the impact of the destruction by presenting the original photographs (which are easily found on Google) as enlarged graphite drawings with lush tonalities of black and gray. This is not an exercise in the aestheticization of appropriated imagery, as Durant has been drawing and creating sculptures culled from significant moments in history throughout his career, but a way to call attention to the current situation.

In his drawings, Durant represents a single moment in time captured by a photographer at the scene. It comes as a surprise to then see the destruction unfold as it occurs in his latest video, Trope (2020). In this two channel, twelve-minute piece, he slows down found internet clips of statues being defaced and destroyed  and sequences them into loops that meet in the corner as they are projected onto two adjacent walls. The clips play both forward and back simultaneously, becoming an uncanny diptych that is slightly out of sync. At first, it is somewhat of a shock to see the toppled monuments resurrected, but the rise and fall injects a Buster Keaton-like humor into the dramas and calls attention to the absurdity, as well as the passion that goes into pulling down these towering and powerful monuments. Remarking on the destruction of statues and memorials during political protests, Durant states, "We are seeing those impulses acted on around the world today as people who have been traumatized and whose dignity has been assaulted take down symbols of their oppression." In his current exhibition he memorializes by preserving these resonant symbols of protest.

Click here for Sam Durant on its own page.

October 29, 2020

Rachael Browning
Minor Adjustments
Moskowitz Bayse
October 10 - November 7, 2020

Rachael Browning

There is beauty in the chaos of nature. Right angles and straight lines are unexpected in the natural landscape where meandering vines and trees askew signify a welcome unpredictability. While some artists have been motivated to try to improve upon nature, others have devised projects that changed one's perception on how nature might be framed. For his series, Altered Landscapes produced in the 1970s, John Pfahl positioned the camera using specific vantage points, juxtaposing aspects of the natural landscape with his own constructed grids and geometric shapes. Contemporary artist Chris Engman uses photography to reconstruct outdoor environments indoors, exploring the ways a camera can create the illusion of three-dimensional space. Land artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer permanently altered the actual landscape: Smithson creating a spiral jetty in Utah and Heizer cutting two enormous trenches into a mesa in Neveda, among other interventions.

In Minor Adjustments, Rachael Browning presents sculptures based on the materials she uses in her photographs as well as photographs that document her temporary alterations to the natural landscape. To create these images, she intervenes in the environment by making slight adjustments to trees, rocks, flowers and expanses of ground using rope, turn buckles, straps and miscellaneous hardware in primary colors. Her goal is to make these things appear "level." Each adjustment is photographed from mid-distance, centering the alteration in a square frame, including some of the foreground and/or background for context. While the set ups are complex and elaborate, the motivation behind these actions remains elusive.

For #75 01, (all photographs 2020), Browning constructed a wooden and metal armature to straighten a Joshua Tree. She fashioned blue straps around the trunk to nudge it to the right in order to straighten it. A blue level is positioned against the lower portion of the tree, indicating that it is now "level." A similar apparatus is constructed to adjust the cactus in #79 05. Here, pieces of wood, protective pink foam, a red-orange strap, various hardware and red rope are used to reposition the prickly cactus. The plant is strapped to a counterweight -- a concrete filled red-orange bucket to keep it balanced. Although a red level confirms the success of the adjustment, this cactus now appears as an anomaly in a field of unadjusted cacti.

In addition to adjusting desert plants, Browning also straightens flowers, (#78 08) and urban trees (#52 07 and #77 11). She even levels rocks (#93 01), balancing a larger piece of granite on top of a smaller one with a pliable orange stretch strap until it is parallel with the horizon. Photographs #49 11, #81 02 and #54 03 depict long horizontal levels placed within hand-made shallow trenches carved away from expanses of sand, dirt, rocks and leaves. There is a formal beauty to the images. Browning is deliberate about what color hardware she uses and how it interacts with the colors in the natural environment.

Brownings photographs capture sculptures created for the purpose of a photograph. They are humorous and curious simultaneously. While they have a precedent in land art, conceptual photography and performance, they also call attention to an environmental taboo --who and why would anyone try to adjust a flower, rock or cactus to reposition it so it aligns with the man-made notion of level? While the conceptual basis of Browning's photographa is rooted in absurdity, there is also something seductive about the images. They seem all wrong, but logical as an experiment: an elaborate intervention with an ironic poke at purism.

One assumes that Browning leaves the landscape as she found it, removing all traces of her presence. The photographs document her 'minor adjustments' to nature -- artworks that may or may not improve upon that which already exists.

Click here for Rachael Browning on its own page.

October 22, 2020

Matt Lipps
The Body Wants to Live
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
September 25 - October 31, 2020

Matt Lipps

In the 1990s, fashion photographer Richard Avedon created what was then considered a cutting edge campaign for Gianni Versace posing supermodels in evocative and suggestive positions. For his new series of black and white photographs, Matt Lipps appropriates Avedon's pictures, using their silhouettes as framing devices. What he captures within Avedon's stylized body poses are pages from the exhibition catalogue of The Family of Man, a landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1955. Curated by Edward Steichen, it was conceived of and presented as an inclusive look at cultures throughout the world. On view as an installation were images by international art, fashion, landscape and commercial photographers. Installed without captions, the images were often greatly enlarged to poster size and presented devoid of their original context. While the exhibition was meant to celebrate the "universality of human experience," it was criticized for its removal of social, political and historical specificity. A catalogue was published to accompany the exhibition that continues to be readily available due to its popularity. In the book, the images are captioned and attributed to a publication, place and/or photographer, but they are not dated. Rather than locate the images within the context of a story, Steichen juxtaposes them with poetic quotes, but never offers any kind of explanatory text.

The Family of Man has been rebuffed and critiqued over the years, as well as reimagined in different ways. Lipps' choice of this material follows his appropriation of photographic imagery culled from well known printed sources including Horizon Magazine and Time-Life Books: The Library of Photography. In previous works, Lipps cut out select portions of images from the books and magazines, attached small stands and arranged them onto shelves, sometimes using his own colorful photographs as backdrops. Using dramatic lighting and colored gels, he rephotographed these tableaux to create his final images. Exploring interrelationships between fashion, photography and art history, Lipps constructed new narratives through re-presentation and unusual juxtaposition of these historic photographs.

The numbered, but otherwise untitled, black and white photographs that comprise The Body Wants to Live are unique, modest sized, silver gelatin prints that fuse two image sources. For each photograph, Lipps creates a silhouetted cutout from one of Avedon's Versace images and overlays with pages from The Family of Man catalogue. This freestanding montage is given a base so it can stand on its own and placed against a seamless gray backdrop which is then dramatically lit from the side so the cutout casts a shadow onto the ground. In the resulting images, the shape of the models' silhouetted bodies are surrounded by gradients of gray-- as if on a stage set or a live fashion shoot-- but filled with pictures from The Family of Man. In addition to creating reproductions of reproductions, Lipps also plays with shifts in scale. The silhouetted body is reduced to the size of a page, yet somehow retains its integrity.

In No. 171 (all works 2020) a woman in high heels strides across the image, her arms raised as if captured in a 'hands-up' position. Her torso and head contains a fragmented portrait of a Black man separated from two smaller images below -- both suggesting some type of protest or conflict -- fill her shoes and lower legs. No. 131, is a silhouette of an off balance model leaning backwards with arms extended. Contained within her shape are segments from two photographs of couples: posed or candid images depicting moments of respite and affection. No. 060 features an iconic image from the book— a high contrast photo of a man on a plank shot from below against a white sky and about to swing an axe into a large tree, nested within a separate photograph of a lush forest. The pose of Avedon's model echoes the pose of the axe swinger. While images from pages of The Family of Man fill many of Lipps' cutouts, something curious occurs when the cutouts frame partial images or the gutter of the book. Here, the works become constructed image taking advantage of chance juxtaposition. It is curious that Lipps chose to reveal his obscuring of the captions with rectangles of white tape or paper. These redactions are obvious and the covering up of benign identifying information is reminiscent of what was missing from The Family of Man exhibition.

Lipps is interested in what was and in what it can become. He has devised a methodology to transform appropriated photographic imagery into tableaux that are then rephotographed in a way that further decontexualizes them. The images are about design, fashion, photography and transformation and while they call attention to their source, the formal elegance of the new images overshadows any intended criticism.

Click here for Matt Lipps on its own page.

October 15, 2020

Joakim Ojanen at Richard Heller Gallery
September 12 - October 31, 2020
Max Maslansky at Five Car Garage
September 12 - October 18, 2020

Joakim Ojanen & Max Maslansky, installation views

Stockholm-based artist Joakim Ojanen’s delightful exhibition of paintings, drawings, and ceramics at Richard Heller Gallery is aptly titled: “A Show for the Lonely Distant Baby Souls.” According to the artist, it is “a celebration of the human being.” He goes on to say, “Let the stupid feelings take over. Get mad, get angry, get drunk, get happy, get sad! Find a friend, give them your heart, smoke a cigarette, look up in the blue sky, suck a flower, enjoy the day but also cry. Please don’t forget to cry. There’s many of us, we can make miracles together, beautiful things! But most of the time it’s hard to understand each other, that’s OK but just please be nice.”

The works presented encompass a wide range of feelings and the topsy turvy emotions experienced during the pandemic. While Ojanen’s drawn and painted characters express states of anger and joy, it is his three-dimensional ceramic sculptures that bring these feelings to life. In the two-dimensional works, Ojanen fashions compositions where figures with large irregularly shaped heads are intertwined, their thin, long limbs function as branches between them. These works have a cartoony simplicity and allure and in many ways beg to be seen from all directions. Ojanen delivers this through his sculptures.

In the back gallery, situated on top of an extremely large table bordered with flat metal cut-outs of people and animals, are more than twenty glazed ceramic creatures. Here, a melange of isolated, dejected, abject, droopy-eyed, long-eared, part animal, part human figures in a range of sizes wait alone or in groups for something: is it companionship, success, salvation? With titles like Everything has two sides. There isn’t always one good side, sometimes both can be bad I remembered this morning. The trick is to find that third side, I used to think life was easy too, now I know better, I can’t read minds so how can I trust anybody?, Ojanen personifies and captures a range of sentiments compounded by our current social and political situation.

Max Maslansky’s exhibition of ceramic sculptures at 5 Car Garage is also titled to play into these disconcerting times: “Octopus and Vessels Pretending, Vessels of Birds Fishing and Crabs Emoting, Sardine Cans Opening, a Shell Bedroom, and Some Sea Gods that Feed on Shame.” While Maslansky’s floor-based works are more abstract than Ojanen’s, they similarly reference human qualities and emotions. Each vessel/totem has been placed on sliced tree trunk pedestals of varying sizes and this adds to the uncanny uniqueness of the works. Simultaneously sculptures and dysfunctional pottery, Maslansky has imbued each work with a specific personality. The twenty-one inch high Happy Crabs Sad Crabs (all works 2020) is an ironically humorous work that stacks five “crabs.” From one side they are bright and smiling, while from the other they are glazed in dark tones and frowning. Emerging Fishing Bird (I Stay Below to Go Above) is a fantastical thirty-six-inch tall sculpture. At the top, a fish is caught in a bird’s beak as if the bird emerged from below rising up to catch the fish. The bottom portion of the vessel contains images of swimming sea creatures whereas in the upper half the fish morphs into a bird. Maslansky’s menagerie of creatures imagines a world of coexistence and symbiosis that is only possible in make-believe.

Many artists working with ceramics today view clay as another material to mold into sculpture. Ceramics is no longer considered purely craft, and should be appreciated as a viable material for creating three-dimensional works of art. Another striking ceramics show, a curious pairing of ceramic works by Sterling Ruby and Masaomi Yasunaga, is on view across town at Nonaka-Hill.

This review was originally published in Artillery Magazine on October 7, 2020

Click here for Joakim Ojanen & Max Maslansky on its own page.

October 8, 2020

Raymond Pettibon
Pacific Ocean Pop
Regen Projects
September 12 - October 31, 2020

Raymond Pettibon

Raymond Pettibon has been covering gallery walls with his drawings for more than thirty years. He combines black ink outlines with colored fills to define people, places and things. These images are often juxtaposed with cryptic hand written poetic or descriptive texts. His works on paper range in size from the intimate to the monumental and are often hung salon style, though arranged in specific groupings. At Regen Projects, the works are separated according to themes including baseball, Gumby, superheroes, gangsters, animals and surfers on ocean waves. While the majority of images are clustered by subject, three large-scale wave drawings are presented alone in the center of their walls functioning like pauses or punctuation between the other motifs.

To take in a Pettibon exhibition requires reading as well as looking because in each work, what is written is as important as what is depicted and a fleeting glance will never reveal Pettibon's underlying ironic wit and allusions. His installations unfold as narratives in which the individual works build upon each other to create meaning. A portrait of Gumby with X'ed out eyes reads, "cancel the fake world," a clear commentary on Trump's rants about 'fake news.' A particularly haunting work features a large back rectangle topped with an urban skyline reminiscent of downtown New York pre 9-11. Under the black void, Pettibon has written "One Tower."

While many pieces are bombastic commentaries about the state of the world, Pettibon is not without humor. A drawing of a pointy-eared batman reads, "prick up your ears" while an image of an open books states, "the pages are blank." Pettibon has a casual drawing and painting style, though some of the works are beautifully rendered outlines while others fill the paper with color. Most feel like illustrations of dream-like thoughts or spontaneous ideas that want to be recorded and remembered.

Pettibon's range is remarkable and the breadth of subjects within any exhibition is far-reaching. Surfers may gravitate to the images of giant cascading waves like Str8 Line (all works Untitled, 2020), Making a wave, The Clear-cut brow, while movie lovers might be wowed by Nancy Regen playing, an image of a woman's red high-heeled shoes and mustard colored skirt with the text "Nancy Regen playing Judy Garland." Sports fans might like When you're a, a red drawing of a pitcher ready to throw the ball that reads "When you're a red you're a read all th' way."

Many of Pettibon's works are self referential or acknowledge the creative process. i'm aware says just that while For the squares is an ink drawing of enlarged cross hatching with the words "for the squares: my homage to the crosshatch and the grid." Fluff is a blur of blue brushstrokes that transition from light to dark across the composition. The wall of animal works is more melancholic with drawings such as My Russian Lapdoyd — a portrait of a longhaired dog with a bright red tongue, as well as three large race horse drawings.

Moving through the installation gives pause, as the world seen through Pettibon's eyes and point of view is not a pretty place. As a point of fact, today's world is not a pretty place. These are unusual, difficult and disconcerting times. Pettibon's work captures the moment perfectly, inserting bits of humor and hope into a world gone mad.

Click here for Raymond Pettibon on its own page.

October 1, 2020

Linda Stark
David Kordansky Gallery
September 19 - October 24, 2020

Linda Stark

Linda Stark paints slowly and precisely. Her oil paintings on canvas and panel have a subtle dimensionality and the raised and often textured surfaces give the works a uniqueness and allure. While hearts, the subject of her current exhibition might be a well used motif, she imbues each work with significance and meaning. Stark lost her beloved husband Don Suggs last year making her choice of iconography resonate. These intimate paintings combine the personal and the universal. In the center of the skin-toned canvas Bleeding Hearts, (2020), two small red hearts resemble crying eyes, dripping long red tears beyond the bottom of the panel. Suffragette, (2019) depicts a medal in honor of womens' suffrage where five deep maroon hearts comprise a flower-like center. Perylene Heart Weave and Valentine, (both 2020) are paintings that emulate heart-shaped candy boxes, yet in Stark's renderings the light red box is covered with darker translucent thick red stripes in a plaid pattern, connoting something sinister and dangerous rather than the traditional delight of a box of chocolates. Purple Heart, (2018) replicates the honored military decoration, while Telltale Heart, (2016) references the Edgar Allan Poe short story. When viewed together, Stark's plethora of hearts not only resurrect long forgotten imagery, but offer new ways to interpret this popular symbol.

Thought modest in scale, Stark's paintings demand attention and close viewing. She carefully melds together different textures of paint drawing attention to her love of the materiality of this medium. In her painted works, the imagery often rises off the surface and extends beyond the edges, enticing the viewer to not only look at the piece straight-on but also from the sides. Stark's works on paper, installed as a single line in another room in Kordansky's new space, are as rich and purposeful as her paintings. Stark combines ink, graphite, watercolor, acrylic or collage to create delicate and intimate works. Ruins Study #1, (2012) juxtaposes a line drawing of the ruins of Stongehenge with a more geometric pink-toned structure that resembles a pendant of vaguely Meso-American origins. In Painting (stigmata), 2013 the word 'Painting' drawn in cursive with graphite sits in the center of the page. Each letter is pierced in one or two places and each small hole is outlined in thick red paint. Each 'i' is dotted with a large tear shape also filled with red. Two Eyes, (2016) has an elegance and simplicity. Centered in the composition are two eyes, one brown and the other blue, each set within a multi-sided polygon. A single blue tear extends from a line hanging down from the blue eye while three long rectangles (one red, one blue the other yellow) shoot down from the brown eye's center. Though no face is depicted, the work evokes a range of emotions.

Stark's imagery is enigmatic. Though not confrontational, these edgy pieces have subject matter that extends beyond their formal qualities. Be it feminism, religion, history, the military or love or loss, Stark pares down her compositions to their essential elements and represents them with finesse, giving her paintings and works on paper both a preciousness and stoicism. Her seemingly simple pieces are anything but that.

Click here for Linda Stark on its own page.

September 24, 2020

Kenny Scharf
Jeffrey Deitch Gallery
August 1 - October 31, 2020

Kenny Scharf

In Kenny Scharf 's over the top installation MOODZ, 250 tondo-shaped paintings each depicting a different cartoon face are installed salon style across the walls of the vast gallery space. Using various colors of spray paint and working in his usual spontaneous manner, Scharf has created an immersive experience comprised of an array of four different sized paintings that take viewers on a roller coaster ride of feelings and sentiments. Scharf 's installation reflects myriad emotional states. None are drab or as simple as happy or sad. The paintings are imbued with and elicit a range of responses that are impactful, unexpected and reflect the powerful up and down mood swings associated with the current pandemic. Scharf's faces express glee, anger, frustration, lust, agony, loneliness, boredom and elation -- moods familiar to us all during Covid-19.

Scharf has been spray painting on exterior walls as well as canvases and other surfaces throughout his career and has a facile hand with this medium. To create an image, he gesticulates wildly, almost dancing as he moves in front of the developing work. He begins with a pristine white tondo, which is subsequently filled and shaded, layer by layer with different areas of color and finished with a series of lines that define the features -- eyes, nose, mouth, teeth -- of each face. Some of the images are extremely geometric while others resemble robots or monsters. Despite their cartoony aura, they convey recognizable human emotions. Like evolving moods, Scharf's depictions are changeable and varied, coming about spontaneously and solidifying as the paintings evolve. As the application of spray paint on canvas is direct and unforgiving and there is no room for mistakes— if accidents occur they are integrated within the works. As Scharf remarks, "there is no lying with spray paint."

While there are multiple points of entry into the installation, there is no linear or specific narrative, other than reflecting a huge range of moods and emotions. It is fun to single out individual pieces and think about them in relation to one another. Fab, (40 inches, 2020), for example is a brown-toned painting depicting a face with a single triangular eye, a V-shaped mouth filled with white teeth and an uneven diamond shaped nose. A criss-cross pattern of sprayed lines fills the background, while the facial features are outlined in black and high-lighted in white. Cemento, (40 inches, 2020) is also very geometric— here two quasi-square eyes, a brick-like nose and black rectangular mouth are set against a grey background. Blounder, (60 inches, 2020) has a more sinister demeanor. Scharf combines oranges and greens to create a monster-like face with a bulbous nose, bulging eyes and pointed teeth inset into an amoeba-shaped mouth. Kry Babee, (60 inches, 2020) evokes pity and unhappiness. The face in this yellow painting has vertical ovoid-shaped eyes bisected by light green circles with black-dots as centers. These eyes are set against a squashed oval nose which sits above a down-turned line -- an inverted smile signifying sadness.

Whether 20 inches or 70 inches in diameter, each painting asserts a presence and contributes to the effect of the whole. Through the duration of the installation, depending on both personal and world-wide events, viewers will likely be able to identify with the dramatic range of sentiments reflected across the 250 works.

Click here for Kenny Scharf on its own page.

September 17, 2020

Peter Williams
Black Universe Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
July 9 - October 10, 2020

Peter Williams

Peter Williams is an African American artist whose exemplary career spans more than forty years. While teaching at the University of Delaware for fifteen years, though he is now retired, and before that at Wayne State University for seventeen, he also exhibited extensively. Williams paints both figuratively and abstractly, focusing on formal qualities like color, pattern and paint application, as well as on content that stems from current events and includes topics like racial discrimination and climate change. In his exhibition Black Universe (a concurrent exhibition of related works is on at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit), he presents a series of paintings that are informed by a fantastic narrative about a journey to outer space in search of a better world. Williams depicts the adventures of dark-skinned astronauts —whose uniforms identify them as part of 'NABA'— floating through space as well as on new planets. The paintings incorporate various styles and use familiar corporate trademarks like FedEx and the Nike swoosh. While they may inspire viewers to laugh, they are also critiques that touch on more serious issues. Without a doubt, the paintings on view are an impressive body of work: they are large, colorful and jam packed — as one looks longer and deeper, more is revealed.

The astronauts who glide through deep blue space —represented as a background made up of short gestural brush strokes in He Was a Global Traveler, 2020— are pictured from multiple angles drifting forward and back. While their body positions and decorative space suits are reminiscent of Egyptian sarcophagi, these figures are very much alive. Their expressive faces exhibit both a sense of intensity and determination, perhaps an indicator of the unknown that awaits them in the new world. A limber astronaut dances to the music only he can discern in All that Jazz and passes by abstractly rendered planets, satellites and clouds, as well as through an ambiguous double helix in On the Way (both 2019). In these images, Williams does not paint in the astronaut's gloved hands or booties but rather leaves them untouched to exaggerate the way the white canvas contrasts with the more colorful striated background behind. Like in He Was a Global Traveler, the astronauts' space suits are more stylized than realistic or functional, but here their facial expressions are more dazed and confused.

Where the astronauts are going, what happens to them when they arrive, as well as what becomes of what they left behind is alluded to in many of Williams' more scenic paintings. Traditionally, goggles are put on for protection and in the painting Goggles, 2019, Williams illustrates what is seen outside as well as through the lens. It is hard to discern if the view through the googles is better or worse than what surrounds their rust colored frames. Cars criss cross the densely packed composition where abstract shapes coalesce to form mountains and buildings. Planets and stars can be seen in the sky as well as two newly arrived astronauts yet to be filled in with color. Words dot many of Williams' images and in this work, they include FedEx, Oil, Capital, Bingo and Floater. A floater is a dark shadowy spot in one's vision. They are harmless, but can be annoying. The fact that Williams includes the word Floater in the middle of the are seen through the goggles may be both a commentary on age and a warning about the inaccuracies of vision.

Control Room, 2019, is a chaotic painting filled with disembodied, head-set wearing figures that seem to be in control of the path of three 'NABA' astronauts, one who has the letters BLM on the arm of his bright green uniform. The astronauts are sailing an unpainted (raw canvas) boat with wheels, decorated with intricate pencil markings, rather than commandeering a traditional spaceship. They appear to float above the planet and are depicted within a red pock marked sky filled with purple amoeba-like shapes that could be clouds or technological remnants. Below them is the control room where a crowd of onlookers has gathered. The only dark skinned man among them seems to be in charge, uttering the word WHipipo!.

Many of Williams' paintings recall aspects of other artists' styles. There is a Guston-esque head in Mortal Ice, 2020 and flowers with faces that resemble those by Takashi Murakami in Romulus and Uncle Remus, 2019. Figures akin to those painted by Picasso also make an appearance. Williams draws freely from myriad sources to create paintings that are packed from edge to edge with a range of compelling fragments. The works are purposely funky. While portions of each painting are realistically rendered, aspects of each canvas are also left unpainted or partially finished. Williams combines different styles ranging from illustrative to cartoony and making works that are amalgamations. While he is a skilled painter, Williams allows for a certain casualness in his depictions. He imbues these works with a social and political consciousness while offering subtle cultural critiques that are not undermined by painting style. The underlying message of Williams' narratives speaks to our urgent need for change.

Click here for Peter Williams on its own page.

September 10, 2020

Senga Nengudi
Sprueth Magers
August 18–October 2, 2020

Senga Nengudi

Two intriguing installation pieces by Senga Nengudi occupy Sprueth Magers' vast Los Angeles first floor gallery. These pieces bookend and in some ways play off each other as opposites. Sandmining B, 2020 invites entry, but can only be observed from afar, whereas Bulemia, 1988/2018 is an immersive experience— an intimate room filled floor to ceiling with newspapers. Facing the entryway is Sandmining B, a large white wall extending from floor to ceiling, splattered and rubbed with swishes of multi-colored pigments. Perpendicular to the wall is a similar-sized rectangle of sand on the floor, criss crossed by myriad foot prints, dotted with breast-shaped mounds and a few car parts. Situated behind the wall of Sandmining B in the other half of the space, one comes upon Bulemia, which is presented inside a separate self-contained square room with an unadorned framed sheetrock exterior. A subtle sound piece also permeates the gallery occasionally as part of Sandmining B.

Nengudi has a long history of creating works that engage with the body as well as with political topics. She became active in the 60s and 70s making performances and sculptures that explored issues of race and engaged with feminist concerns, as well as the more formal principals of abstraction. She is perhaps best known for sculptures comprised of nylon stockings filled with sand that were suspended and stretched across walls and corners and also used as props in her performances. The sand, a substance contained within her sculptural works, now spills out across the floor. Sand mining causes unnecessary erosion, and refers to the extraction of sand through open pits. In Nengudi's installation, the protruding pyramid shaped mounds with brightly colored apexes scattered across the sand also recall land mines— something dangerous hidden beneath the surface. In either case, Nengudi is calling attention to the mechanization of our world and the destruction of the natural landscape. In one corner, a twisted pipe emerges from the sand appearing like a snake slowly making its way toward a second assemblage of car parts installed vertically on the wall and adorned with twisted pieces of nylon. In the past, Nengudi's use of nylon was clearly a reference to women's bodies, but in this installation the car parts combined with the nylon feel more masculine than feminine. Sandmining B also references an empty stage, filled with the relics and remains of a performance. The performative aspect of the work is echoed by the sound track that cycles on every ten minutes filling the space with fragments of spoken text and music.

Although Sandmining B can only be observed from the perimeter, Bulemia is an enclosed space that can be entered. Within this room, Nengudi has wallpapered the upper half of the walls with grids of newspapers culled from a wide range of sources, spanning many years. The work was first presented in 1988 and many of the newspapers date from that time, as well as from 2018 when it was first recreated. While the tenor of the articles is specific to the events of their time, Nengudi carefully curates a point of view that references and notates historical events that touch on race and civil rights, as well as reviews of art shows and dance performances by African Americans. Many of the pages have been spray-painted gold, masking everything but a few specific words or images Nengudi wants to draw attention to. Choice words remain, in some ways becoming found or concrete poetry. More often than not she emphasizes the positive rather than negative aspects of the news. Halfway down the walls the gridded newspapers become less structured, presented as an array of draped, overlapping folded pages that flutter as they reach the floor. On the floor, Nengudi has crumpled the newsprint into balls, many of which are also spray-painted a metallic gold. Across one wall, Nengudi has scrawled the piece's title: Bulemia. While bulimia is an eating disorder, Nengudi wants her installation to reframe the notion of disease becoming instead "a metaphor for exploring the nature of creativity." Taking in, transforming and spewing this now altered material back out..

Nengudi's exhibition presents two distinct installations that when seen in juxtaposition become contemplative spaces where the poetic and didactic come together to say something profound about the past and the current state of the world.

Click here for Senga Nengudi on its own page.

September 3, 2020

Soft Vibrations
Heather Cook, Roger Herman, Jim Isermann
Praz Delavallade Los Angeles
May 16 - September 5, 2020

Soft Vibrations

What makes a group exhibition resonate? In my opinion, a group exhibition has staying power when the relationships between the individual works offer something cumulatively. Often, group shows fall into two categories: those that feature one work by many artists selected to illustrate an idea and those that present an ample selection of works by just a few artists.

Soft Vibrations features works by three artists: Heather Cook, Roger Herman, Jim Isermann. It is a compelling installation that juxtaposes paintings by Isermann, ceramics by Herman and woven works by Cook. Each artist is concerned with pattern and abstraction, yet engages in different materials and processes to achieve their desired results. Isermann's paintings are visual illusions incorporating hard edged geometry. In Untitled (yellow 116, orange 1505, red 179, blue 2925), 2009, the pattern of concentric rectangles in differing hues of blue, red, yellow and orange causes the canvas to oscillate and appear to be three-dimensional, rather than two. A similar disorientation occurs in Untitled (orange 21, ochre 124, green 397, red 1788), 2009. Here, Isermann creates undulations by layering concentric red squares over wide green and orange stripes that cross the square canvas along the diagonal. The red squares increase and decrease in size to create a sense of movement.

While Isermann's pieces are precise, structured, colorful and kaleidoscopic, Roger Herman's ceramic vessels have a funky hand-crafted quality. Several smaller glazed ceramic works occupy a shared white pedestal located in the center of the gallery space, while the larger works sit atop individual pedestals. Each work is imbued with areas of modulated glazes in a wide range of colors and textures that in some ways come to resemble three-dimensional Hans Hoffman or other similiar modernist paintings. Herman is an apt colorist and with a keen sense of design who excels at creating intriguing and complex surfaces built up trhough a process of layering.

Heather Cook's woven paintings are subtle and intricate. Her modest sized works are comprised of zig zagging herringbone patterns in tones of red, blue and gray that span the width of her canvases. At first glance, the pieces appear to be found fabric patterns, but upon closer examination, Cook's hand work is revealed. The images in her Shadow Weave series (2020) are a combination of acrylic paint, cotton yarn and canvas. Within each work, there is a fluctuation or interruption to the pattern as if to say the hand has an impact on that which appears manufactured. Within the horizontal black and white striations that make up Shadow Weave Black (13) + White (14) 8/4 Cotton 15 EPI, 2020, Cook inserts rectangular shapes with vertical lines that disrupt the continuity of the surface and add to the intrigue of her creations.

How Cook's, Herman's and Insermann's works play off and inform each other is neither obvious nor intuitive. Through the act of looking and thinking about algorithms, process, patterns and disruptions, these artists' works resonate in new ways when seen in the context of each other.

Click here for Heather Cook, Roger Herman, Jim Isermann on its own page.

August 27, 2020

Kaz Oshiro
Nonaka Hill
July 11 - September 5, 2010

Kaz Oshiro

The spring exhibition at Nonaka Hill was a mixed media installation by the Japanese artist Sofu Teshigahara (1900-1979). As they often do, the gallerists enhanced the space by painting the walls a vivid sky blue and by creating a rock garden into which Teshigahara's sculptures were strategically placed. The gallery faces a parking lot and has large glass windows which allows the exhibitions to be seen from both inside and outside the space. Teshigahara's installation offered a peaceful oasis in contrast to the bustling boulevard and the strip mall surrounds. Some of this remains as the setting for Kaz Oshiro's subsequent installation, although a feeling of disarray and unrest has replaced the aura of calm.

The pandemic and current charged political climate has put people on edge and blanketed the world with unease. Oshiro and Nonaka Hill Gallery take this uncertainty and use it as a point of departure. Rather than present Oshiro's works (selected pieces spanning 2003 - 2020) traditionally — as individual objects placed on white walls or strategically positioned on the floor, in a pristine gallery — the space appears to be in flux. Half the walls remain blue from the previous exhibition, while some are now white and others look like they are still in the process of being painted. The supplies used in painting and cleaning — mops, rollers, paint bucket and ladder — are casually strewn within the space left in juxtaposition with Oshiro's artworks.

Throughout his career, Oshiro has made works that question notions of reality and reproduction. He is a "master of deception," creating illusionist paintings and sculptures that look exactly like ordinary objects. Whether replicating speakers, amplifiers, trash bins, I-beams, appliances or kitchen cabinets, each work is a trompe l'oeil object, fabricated to simulate a well used original. From the front, his works are often mistaken for the real thing, but from the back (which is often left open to view) the nuances of their construction reveal a complex combination of canvas and stretcher bars. Though his works are three dimensional with many flat surfaces to cover, Oshiro acknowledges the influence of painting, be it in the style of pop or abstract expressionism, on his practice. His unique hand crafted works emulate mass produced everyday objects.

Oshiro's installation 96375 (the zip code of his neighborhood military base in Okinawa) centers on ideas relating to dislocation, as well as misunderstandings. That 96375 is a military, not a California zip code, sets the stage for this installation which poses and attempts to answer questions. Is the gallery open or closed? Is the installation finished or in process? Which objects are artworks and which objects are just objects? Is the large crate in one corner a work by Oshiro or an actual crate? The crate is a crate, but the upholstered cushion leaning against it is a work of art. Without consulting the checklist, it is hard to know for certain and that becomes part of the pleasure of the exhibition.

In the section of the gallery that has been painted white sits the crate, as well as a life-sized, graffitied dumpster on casters. Circling around the crate reveals that it is hollow, made from canvas and stretcher bars and is indeed a work of art. The same conundrum confronts the viewer regarding I-beams on the floor Untitled (Steel Beams), 2016, a trash bin, Trash Bin #4 (turquoise), 2003-4, a tail gate Tailgate (YO, Up Yours), 2020 and a torqued painting that leans against the wall, Untitled Still Life, 2014. These things are all Oshiro's creations.

In the blue room, three more large I-beams (art) lean against an actual crate. There is a yellow mop bucket (object) as well as the remains of the rock garden from the previous installation. Amidst this disarray, hanging on the blue walls, are three recent paintings: California Shuji (Pearl Seaform, Salmon Pink drip), California Syuji (Pearl Blue, Orange splatter), and California Syuji (Pearl Blue, Yellow drip), (all 2020). These abstract works reference the drips and splatters of abstract expressionism as well as graffiti and calligraphy and represent Oshiro's merging of cultures and stylistic traditions.

In Oshiro's installation, many things are and are not what they first seem to be. Oshiro wants to engage people aesthetically, conceptually and philosophically and make them think about what exists beyond the obvious and their initial perceptions. His collaboration with Nonaka Hill is daring and challenging as it confounds traditional gallery displays.

Click here for Kaz Oshiro on its own page.

August 20, 2020

Kevin McNamee-Tweed
Tableaux Vivant
Steve Turner Los Angeles
July 25 - August 29, 2020

Kevin McNamee-Tweed

Charming is one of the first words that comes to mind when looking at Kevin McNamee-Tweed's seventeen glazed ceramic tableaux. Yet upon further consideration, charming might not best describe these works as there is more than meets the eye. The pieces, all less than twenty-inches tall, are jam-packed with drawn replicas of framed artworks, everyday objects, anomalies, doodles, texts, as well as personal and art historical references. McNamee-Tweed hand crafts ceramic panels into irregularly shaped or round-edged rectangles and then uses the clay as a drawing surface. Each piece in the exhibition, Tableaux Vivant, features an interior space depicting a fragment of a wall hung salon style with a wide array of objects, as well as a table-top or floor (like one might see in an antique shop) cluttered with things. While flat, these still lives also have dimensionality due to McNamee-Tweed's skillful rendering, shading and glazing of the clay. The drawn line is at once exact and simplistic as if a coloring book illustration. Yet because the works are executed as ceramic, they transcend traditional drawings.

Within the pieces, McNamee-Tweed juxtaposes random objects to weave together quirky narratives that do not always cohere. Use Side Door (all works 2020) is a display of more than thirty objects. On a wall are framed artworks and canvases no larger than a few inches each. These include portraits, flowers, a poster of an old-model car sinking in a lake with the letters X O X O... below, a sign for bagels and one that reads: NO NEW / HIPPIES / OLD USE SIDE. On a table at the bottom of the tableau is a lamp or statue, a spray bottle and various other unrelated objects. Y Corner has ragged edges and feels like a fragment of a fragment. Within the composition, hanging on a brown-toned wall is a calendar with a cartoony image of a blue deer with orange antlers, a poster of an owl that could be a fraternity poster, the letters "F" and "Y," as well as miscellaneous images including a black and white cow and an alien head. On the desk that abuts the wall on the bottom right is a single can of beer, or perhaps soda. Petrarcha references the pre-Renaissance scholar/poet, Francesco Petrarca and is a more oval-shaped tablet with brown shelves on which sits a smiling cat as well as a small television with the image of a red-roofed house surrounded by grass, trees and a cloud filled sky. Two line drawings of interiors are taped to the wall amidst a few other drawings and random objects on a table. While the work is situated in the present, it seems to also reference the past.

There is a lot to look at in McNamee-Tweed's compositions and the looking is pleasurable. Not only is the use of ceramic unusual, but McNamee-Tweed's choice of subject matter is also idiosyncratic. McNamee-Tweed has a knack for combining unrelated elements and making meaning from these seemingly random juxtapositions.

Click here for Kevin McNamee-Tweed on its own page.

August 13, 2020

Amy Kim Keeler
Future Jupiter
Lowell Ryan Projects
July 18 - August 29, 2020

Amy Kim Keeler

Amy Kim Keeler's intimate works could best be described as drawings made with colored cotton thread that has been carefully stitched onto brown corrugated cardboard. Using the undulations of the corrugation as a guide, Keeler creates geometric patterns that flow along the vertical lines dictated by the cardboard, but also sometimes ignores the striations to create more naturalistic images. Both approaches are labored processes as the small stitches take time to accumulate. In Another Universe (2019), Magnetic Mountain (2019), Just Below the Surface (2019), Threshold Consciousness (2020) and Neither Day nor Night (2020), Keeler's stitches become horizontal lines that overlay the rises in the corrugated surface. These works reference the landscape, depicting sky, mountains and land as textured abstractions. Though not specific places, they offer something tangible and familiar.

Works including Finding the Way, Before and After and Astral Evolution (all 2020), are non-representational. Here, Keeler creates basic geometric shapes -- concentric circles or triangular patterns -- in rainbow colors surrounded by black outlines. Her color stitching follows the vertical lines of the corrugation transitioning to different hues between black borders that form circles or are placed horizontally and diagonally. From Now On (2018) and They Know The Way (2019) are compositions featuring more organic and geometric shapes in natural soft tones resembling woven tapestries rather than hard-edged geometry, whereas the rectangular shapes in Everything is Connected (2019) and Old Moon Consciousness (2020) are softer renditions of geometric patterns.

In Between Death and Rebirth (2020) Keeler creates three overlapping trapezoids -- one green, one yellow and one blue -- each outlined in black. Where they intersect, she creates new shapes by combining their colors. The form as a whole is set against a light stitched ground. As the title suggests, Keeler's works explore spaces between — what exists between life and death, day and night, past, present and future.

Keeler is interested in natural forms and rhythms. The patterns within her works are derived from sound, light and ocean waves, yet rather than reference didactic scientific depictions Keeler infuses her works with spirituality. Her practice grows out of Anthroposophy, a philosophy that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. According to the principals of Anthroposophy, Future Jupiter will be the next condition of consciousness -- perfected imagination.

Looking at Keeler's pieces through the lens of Anthroposophy, they reflect the execution of a humble task -- sewing or stitching. Here, her repetitive gestures and labor intensive process beget subtle and beautiful works that allude to infinite ways to imagine the natural world.

Click here for Amy Kim Keeler on its own page.

August 6, 2020

Eleanor Swordy
Earth Signs
Moskowitz Bayse
July 11 - August 29, 2020

Eleanor Swordy

In her latest exhibition, Earth Signs, Brooklyn based artist Eleanor Swordy continues to paint individuals and groups of abstracted, bulbous figures. Often depicted from above or straight on, Swordy's figures dominate her canvases, appearing like blow-up dolls that have been flattened and rolled onto the picture plane to fill the available space. These figures are somewhat reminiscent of Picasso's women, while simultaneously suggesting modern day adult Putti. Swordy not only abstracts the shape of the body, but also gives the figures a cartoony presence by reducing their facial features to dots and lines.

While Swordy's backgrounds reference locale and provide context, the works are concerned with the formal aspects of painting— specifically issues of abstraction and representation as Swordy employs an exaggerated flatness and explores how these shapes can sign for human beings with recognizable emotions.

This is Fine (all works 2020) is a painting of a squatting male at the sea shore wearing tiny red swimming trunks. The position of his body and legs form a wide squat that suggest the shape of a heart. The three small dots in the center of his chest (and the center of the painting) signify his nipples and belly button, while also creating another face within his body. He casually rolls a light blue mat over sand cluttered with detritus where the beach meets the waters edge. The sentiment — "this is fine" — alludes to this as an acceptable location to sun bathe despite the trash.

Pandora is a similarly stylized painting of a sole female figure. She gazes into an open chest — a geometric shape comprised of four deep rust and brown rectangles. A flurry of light akin to stardust explodes from the open box illuminating the figure's face displaying an expression of shock and perhaps awe. As the title suggests, opening Pandora's box can unleash the unexpected.

Air Signs is a humorous painting in which five abstracted and monochrome figures recline on top of clouds that float in a light blue sky. Colorful confetti encircles both the figures and clouds becoming a different type of 'stardust.' Pack It In, depicts a large naked female figure who relaxes on a puffy white cloud or blanket. She holds an orange fly-swatter and stares at the fly stuck upon it. Encircling her are other flies, as well as strange small floating colored objects. Her minimal features — two dots for eyes and a short line for a nose — gaze past the action around her toward the blue sky beyond.

Swordy's cartoony figures display a childlike innocence that is often contradicted by the settings and interactions within the paintings. The works are tantalizing— hopeful yet at the same time revelatory about the current state of the world. The images offer some respite through the depiction of fantasy worlds where innocence reigns. Yet, they also suggest that it is impossible to escape one's fate.

Click here for Eleanor Swordy on its own page.

July 30, 2020

Jackson Casady
Peccadillo Soup
Richard Heller Gallery
July 11 - August 8, 2020

Jackson Casady

Jackson Casady is a young Los Angeles artist (just 24 years old) whose surreal and satirical paintings cull their subject matter from the entertainment industry, popular culture and the manicured landscape of Los Angeles. His figurative canvases and works on paper have a dream-like quality— as if what is depicted is at once possible and impossible. The works are humorous and disorienting, functioning like absurdist dramas filled with self contained micro narratives in which made up characters do the most uncanny things. For example, in Smooth Criminals, (2019), three men emulate Michael Jackson's gravity-defying lean. The large-scale, (78 x 114 inch) painting depicts a minimally furnished but stylized living room with hard wood floors, flatscreen TV, red rug, pink arm chair, green potted plant and a floor lamp. Playing on the television is a clip from Jackson's video (Smooth Criminal) where he is in the midst of his famous lean. A round table occupies the bottom third of the canvas. On it are three Corona beers, three triangular slices of cake as well as uneaten plates of tacos. It appears as if mid-meal, three male figures magically levitated from the table to the center of the rug, perfectly paralleling the positions of the leaning dancers on the TV behind them. Their balance is as precarious as their identities.

Minor Major 7, (2020), depicts a similarly fantastical scene. Here, Casady creates another absurd situation. In a large wood paneled foyer, Casady paints a red carpeted staircase that leads up to a narrow green wall-papered landing. Centered in the middle of the painting at the base of the stairs is an oddly skewed upright grand piano. Multiple scenarios unfold on the piano's lid and within the interior including a conductor climbing a ladder, visiting the bedroom of a naked woman and battling an attacker amidst the piano's strings. Along the landing, equally disjointed activities take place— a woman on a phone, a dog leaning on the railing surveying the scene, three identical men in striped shirts listing to their left, and the denouement — an injured or dead body. These activities become the narrative of a cartoony thriller and they give the painting its intrigue.

Slouching towards La La Land, (2020) can be interpreted as a riff on both the film La La Land and Joan Didion's 1968 classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem. In the painting, a slumbering man wearing plaid pants slouches in a vine covered arm chair, using his dog as a foot rest. He not only ignores what remains of his take out McDonalds meal, but seems oblivious to the surreal horror show outside where a giant tongue emerges from a man trapped within the body of a huge green frog. Three extra long twisting golden arms emanate from various unlikely places on a statuesque woman in a fancy white dress. Each one holds a dragon-fly winged golden mallet as an offering for the frog-man's tongue.

Casady's paintings are beautifully rendered, combining both acrylics and oils to give the images a glowing aura. He uses thin and impasto brushwork within the same images. He also plays with simultaneity, scale shifts, unbelievable perspectives, flatness and depth. Casady renders each element with exacting care and detail turning his fantasies into reality. His paintings are over the top narratives that use the ruse of Hollywood (where he worked as a production assistant) as a point of departure. The scenes Casady paints are weird, yet slightly familiar and extremely engaging. Each work unfolds like a mystery in which Casady weaves together myriad clues that appear to elucidate the internal narratives within his dreams. Yet the goal is not to solve the puzzle, but rather to enjoy the process of discovery and to marvel at Casady's keen wit, use of cultural and art historical references and skills as a painter to create wonderfully strange and magical images.

Click here for Jackson Casady on its own page.

July 23, 2020

Jamison Carter
All Season Radials
Klowden Mann Gallery
June 20 - July 30, 2020

Jamison Carter

In his exhibition, All Season Radials Jamison Carter presents urethane resin works that fill the walls and floor of the gallery. These new pieces are made by combining poured urethane resin with drawing. Carter creatively experimented with these materials and ultimately devised a new technique whereby he draws with markers directly onto large sheets of plastic. He then pours black resin onto these sheets, molding the resin forms into irregular shapes. The finished works approximate flowery nebulas floating in black space. In previous series, Carter's mixed-media sculptures were hard-edged and geometric, often containing bursts of wooden shards. He often presented his sculptures alongside abstract drawings that echoed the three-dimensional forms. In All Season Radials, the drawn and sculpted elements have merged.

The bright concentric stripes and rigid geometry that dominated previous works have been replaced by drawings containing celestial bodies, inspired by the night sky that simultaneously reference the shape of the Covid-19 virus and formations within sand mandalas. The drawn elements within the works shimmer in contrast to the flat back plastic (some are even rendered with metallic tonalities) which reinforces their astrological nature. Works like Portal, (all works 2020) and Time are reminders of the thrill of looking through a telescope into the darkened sky and seeing a bright, colorful planet undulating through space. Because the works are drawn on plastic and transferred onto the resin there is an imprecision and modulation to their form which Carter embraces.They resonate, but also feel fleeting. In works such as the diptych Carnation Nebula, portions of the painted starburst inhabit two separate pieces of the wall mounted black urethan resin as if an explosion broke them apart. A similar juncture occurs in Landslide as the painted fragments are split between two resin shapes.

While Carter's resin wall pieces are thought provoking and compelling compositions that suggest portals into another world, his sculptural works, are enigmatic creations with more earthly and human associations. That Carter's parents passed while he was preparing for this exhibition influenced some of the pieces and can be seen as memorials to them. Mother husk, for example is a black resin totem decorated with golden lines that evokes the body as well as the spirit and stands 81 inches tall. Father rest extends horizontally across the floor-- an amorphous body covered by a tarp. The shape of a figure is suggested by the folds of the black resin. Although Carter has mapped the planets in the night sky onto the tarp, this work is mired an aura of death.

Carter's recent sculptures and drawn nebulas are imaginative, textured creations that extend to other realms while simultaneously being rooted in the realities of now. Though it is difficult not to view the exhibition within the context of the world-wide pandemic, Carter's works continue to be personal explorations that touch on spiritual as well as universal themes.

Click here for Jamison Carter on its own page.

July 16, 2020

Zoe Walsh
I came to watch the morning rise
June 26 - July 25, 2020

Zoe Walsh

The source for Zoe Walsh's evocative mixed media paintings are photographs from the 1970s that come from the Falcon Studios (producers of gay pornography located in San Francisco). While the original photographs depicted men engaging in sexual activities around swimming pools, Walsh's manipulations transform them into colorful montages that obscure both gender and place. The finished works are layered composites where fragmented silhouettes, palm trees and pool-side architecture are screened separately onto the canvas using a cyan, magenta and yellow color palette which creates hues that glow orange, pink and blue. The pieces call to mind both David Hockney's swimming pools and Monica Majoli's recentt Blueboys -- soft toned, muted watercolor and woodcut transfers based on images of naked men from Blueboy magazine from the mid 1970s. Like Hockney and Majoli, in these paintings Walsh celebrates queer desire, while simultaneously creating a space for trans subjectivity.

The pieces in I came to watch the morning rise not only use appropriated photographs from gay porn, but also take their titles from writings by gay authors Samuel Delany and Marilyn Hacker. The titles guide the interpretations of the works that at first glance appear to be colorful abstractions. In Boys who are not boys, (all works 2020), two translucent orange-yellow silhouettes fill the majority of the composition. They float on top of shimmering light magenta and cyan colored water at a pool's edge. Large transparent-blue rectangles are also silkscreened onto the work dividing it into colored quadrants. Through labored analog and digital processes and purposeful mediation, Walsh transforms the figures so that the original male bodies become more ambiguous allowing for trans identification and proposing trans subjectivity. The collapsing of public and private spaces as well as prescriptive body signifiers is core to Walsh's endeavors.

Walsh's process is to silkscreen multiple image fragments onto the canvases, combining different glazes of gel and color to build up layers with varying degrees of opacity and saturation that emphasize the quality and texture of the painted surface. There is a lush translucency and glint to the images that reinforce the reflective qualities of pool water, making the works simultaneously abstract and representational. Though a narrative can be inferred that imagines the interactions between two or more men at a pool-side gathering, the pieces are not ecstatic or highly sexual, but seductive juxtapositions of color and forms. Walsh explores, "the pool as a threshold space of heightened surveillance, exclusion, unfixed boundaries between public and private, and potentially, pleasure."

The arrangement of figures and architecture in I should have followed Carol, references both interior and exterior spaces. While the primary subject is a figure sitting by the edge of a pool, Walsh depicts other scenarios containing these silhouetted figures— casually posed together and alone, as well as engaging in intimate acts. In the distance are faded trees and the walls of a cabana or home that protects the privacy of the poolside environment. In Walsh's work, the viewer feels like a voyeur who has inadvertently happened upon a moment of lush and vivid intimacy. The way Walsh repeats elements both within and across the canvases creates a sense of familiarity. The works explore the place where sensuality, sexuality and architecture collide. Though graphically striking, the pieces are surprisingly subtle. Walsh transforms intimate moments from the past, originally captured on film, into a vivid present, infusing these moments with the presence of light and a sense of ambiguity, as well as an acceptance of queer and trans life.

Click here for Zoe Walsh on its own page.

July 9, 2020

Simone Leigh
David Kordansky Gallery
May 26 - July 11, 2020

Simone Leigh

Following solo exhibitions at both the Hammer Museum (2016-17), the Guggenheim Museum (2019) and a large scale public art project currently installed on New York's High line, Brooklyn based, multi-media artist Simone Leigh is now showing selected new works at David Kordansky Gallery. This exhibition features figurative sculptures in what has come to be known as her signature style, using both bronze and ceramic (glazed stoneware), in addition to works incorporating raffia (a fiber made from leaves from a palm tree native to tropical Africa and Madagascar).

The raffia pieces are the most striking and compelling-- Cupboard XI (Titi), (all works 2020) is a human-scaled sculpture of an eyeless nude female figure who rises from an oversized (93 inches wide) raffia hoop-skirt. The glazed stoneware bust has a stoic and commanding presence. The work invites viewing from all sides as one can walk around the sculpture which is dramatically presented alone in the back gallery. Cupboard X fills an entire corner of the larger space, rising fifteen feet off the gallery floor and referencing a skirt, as well as a daunting, impenetrable grass hut. The piece is both referential-- the use of raffia gives the artworks a folksy appeal while simultaneously locating them in the realm of African art-- and a work of minimalism as it is a large geometric form made from non-art materials.

The other works in Leigh's weighty yet sparse installation include the elegant bronze Sentinel IV, a towering work that recalls African figurative sculptures, as well as Martinique, a white-glazed stoneware sculpture depicting an armless as well as headless woman (similar to Cupboard XI (Titi) in the back gallery). Leigh's renditions of the black body vary from elongated abstracted forms to more conventional representations as in the mustard yellow Figure (1352-Y). Although Leigh's figures are not specific, they suggest the ways black women have been depicted over time.

Leigh trained as a ceramicist and does not deny the importance of craft in her sculptures. The quality of her glazes and textured surfaces are exquisite. Her works are, as she says, about "black female subjectivity," and as such draw from discussions about feminism and race-relations, yet they are also examples of exemplary craft. Leigh takes materials, form and location into consideration to make works that explore not only the relationship of the body to space, but the power of the sculpted female figure.

Click here for Simone Leigh on its own page.

July 2, 2020

Chris Engman
Luis de Jesus Los Angeles
April 25 - June 20, 2020

Chris Engman

Chris Engman's compelling exhibition Looking consists of six identically framed photographs. This suite of images features a large sheet of folded and crinkled paper surrounded by a square wooden frame. Each of the irregularly shaped paper forms are inscribed with a drawn line or painted shape that disrupts the depth of the surface. In most of his works, Engman creates visual or spacial illusions that play with perception, confusing the boundaries between what the eyes see and what is actually presented. The works are simultaneously flat and dimensional. Engman's process is performative and sculptural. He has created both room-sized installations that cohere when viewed from a single vantage point as well as individual photographs that document these interventions and experiments.

To make the works in his Paper series, Engman contorts a large piece of white paper and attaches it in various places to his studio wall, then he installs a frame around it. This 'dimensional' work is then photographed and that documentation is put into an actual wooded frame. In some cases, once this framed photograph is hung on the gallery wall, Engman extends part of what is within the image onto the actual frame and wall, furthering the illusion. For example, Acrylic on Paper II, (2020), is a photograph of a piece of white-paper molded into an abstract shape and pinned to the wall in such a way that the edges extend out into space. A painted blue rectangle seems to bisects the lower portion of the image. It appears as though Engman used a paint roller to create a stripe of blue across the entire set-up— the paper, image, frame and actual wall. The resulting picture invites a double-take as the viewer sees a photographic image of a flattened three-dimensional form as well as the painted frame and wall.

In these Paper works, Engman's illusions are not difficult to figure out. Rather, they are experiments into how line and simple forms can alter perception. Yet, to create these images Engman needs to be specific about where he places the camera so the vantage points line up. Paper V, (2019) presents a perfect graphite circle drawn over the sculpted paper and the wall upon which it hangs within the photographic image. To create this work Engman had to draw the image on both the wall and the paper and then align his camera to the perfect spot to capture the illusion. While Engman indulges in Tromp l'oeil, his goal is not to "trick" the viewer, but rather to explore the processes and expectations of perception.

The images and their extensions on the walls are thoughtful exercises in the properties and powers of photography. As Engman states, "What I'm trying to do is make images that disrupt the immediacy of photographs in order to make conscious the process of decoding them." His exhibition is both a puzzle and its myriad solutions.

Click here for Chris Engman on its own page.

June 25, 2020

Michael Tedja
The Color Guide Series
Chimento Contemporary
January 18 - March 24, extended to April 11, extended to June 30

Michael Tedja

Because of Covid-19, many galleries went into hibernation soon after they opened their winter / spring exhibitions and therefore never took them down. Amsterdam based Michael Tedja's show at Chimento Contemporary was originally scheduled to close March 24, but was extended first through April 11 and is now on view until June 30.

His installation, The Color Guide Series is an expansive display of 280 (25 x 18 inch) paintings on paper. The works are hung edge to edge creating colorful grids five rows high and spanning the width of all the walls. The individual images — in differing styles — are painted on top of reproductions from Tedja's book, The Holarium – Negeren Series 818:32, (2017). It is a large volume comprised of 818 drawings divided into 32 chapters, along with commissioned texts by curators and critics. In the book Tedja investigates how to navigate through such a comprehensive bombardment of disparate images, "He is constantly introducing images in new contexts, exposing and manipulating their mutability."

Tedja's unabashed recycling and recirculating of his images might come as a surprise, but obscuring the original with new gestural, figurative and abstract overpainting is integral to his visual language and method of communication. All that remains from the reproductions are colorbars (for photography) along the right edge of each page.

Within the large grids, relationships undoubtedly form between the paintings, but more to the point, the grid becomes the container and organizing structure through which to view the work. The power of the installation comes from the immersion— taking it in as a whole— rather than analyzing the individual elements. In essence, each painting is a building block that has a specific place in the overall structure. With 280 images, it is difficult to create a coherent narrative, but this is not his goal. As Tedja states, "Why do we need a specific connection in order to see things as separate from one another?"

The imagery ranges from abstracted trees, starbursts and flowers to quirky figures and faces, as well as symbols and objects like hands, eyes, hammers and nooses. The installation also includes numerous expressive non-objective abstractions. The works appear to be hastily painted and gestural, almost like doodles or stream of consciousness mark-making. While Tedja embraces a full palette of colors, darker hues are predominant. In some works, black blobs are trimmed with white outlines, while in others the surface is built up in layers. The overall effect is a dizzying array of expressive paintings that together invite the viewer on a journey using individual paintings as a guide to a greater narrative. Rather than be pigeonholed as a specific kind of image-maker, Tedja chooses to be all-encompassing, making works that juxtapose new and old, drawing from memory, popular culture and literature and recycling universal, political and personal themes and images from his vast archive to create installations with open-ended meaning.

Click here for Michael Tedja on its own page.

June 18, 2020

Rachel Hayes
Land Lines
Lowell Ryan Projects
May 16 - June 27, 2020

Rachel Hayes

Rachel Hayes' exhibition Land Lines at Lowell Ryan Projects is a formally elegant and beautiful installation consisting of twelve (150 x 120 inch) fabric banners that are suspended from the gallery's twelve-foot high ceiling gracefully brushing against the concrete floor. The hanging banners become a maze through which viewers (who make an appointment) can wander. While the pieces are meant to reference the colors and sight lines in the natural landscape, they are geometric abstractions made from fabric sewn together to create interlocking rectangles of varying dimensions, transparencies and colors.

Hayes' installation shares affinities with Robert Irwin's 1998 installation at the Dia Art Foundation in New York City, Prologue: x183— windows covered with colored gels and rooms separated by transparent scrims, as well as the California Light and Space artists whose works explored perceptual phenomena surrounding light, space, volume and scale. She also draws from Josef Albers' studies of color relationships. While the exhibition is comprised of individual works, when seen together they become a layered montage of overlapping rectangles. The composition of geometric shapes suggest windows and passageways depending on the vantage point of the viewer and how they align with the architecture of the gallery.

RBH_LL04 (all works 2020) is made from different sized and colored pieces of polyester, nylon and cotton. These fabrics are sewn together to create patterns of horizontal and vertical rectangles that range in tone and transparency, oscillating between opaque black, sheer white and hues of pinks, grays, yellows, gold and purples. Each section of fabric is folded around the edges and then sewn, giving each shape a dark border or outline. Hayes carefully balances light and dark across the vertical and horizontal sections, paying attention to the relationships between complementary and opposing colors.

RBH_LL02 grows from the center out becoming a rectangular spiral where as RBH_LL03 is made up of two rows of vertical columns separated by horizontal bands. Each banner is a unique pattern with a specific rhythm based on shape and/or color relationships. They pay homage to the history of textile design, as well as quilting while simultaneously occupying space as sculptures.

While each banner has a precise arrangement of colored shapes, what makes the installation so compelling is the inter-relationships that form when the banners are are seen together. Standing at the back of the room, for example and looking toward the front windows, the suspended banners interact with the specificities of the space— the walls and windows change the tonalities within each work based on time of day and the amount of light.

Looking through multiple rows of banners creates ever-changing, overlapping and criss-crossing fields of color. This overlap creates a more complex abstraction. Hayes' fabric banners have been installed in both interior and exterior spaces and she pays attention to the surroundings when designing the individual works. She is interested in how her works change the space around them and how the places where her works are installed come alive in new ways because of her interventions.

Click here for Rachel Hayes on its own page.

June 11, 2020

Heidi Johnson
Animal Kingdoms: The paintings of Heidi Johnson

There is nothing that gives Heidi Johnson more satisfaction than painting. Painting takes precedence over many things in her life. Like a runner whose addiction to exercise mandates the need to clock daily mileage, Johnson has that need to put brush to canvas. Johnson lives with numerous pets-- cats, dogs and even a pigeon-- so it comes as no surprise that animals inhabit her paintings. Before Covid-19, her large-scale, multi-panel oil paintings were fantastical landscapes that included both flora and fauna, as well as random detritus like coffee cups, beer cans and cigarette butts. These works were purposely chaotic, dense and lush, to reflect the bombardment of information in today's society.

During quarantine Johnson went from having a 1000 square foot loft to a 6 by 4 foot space in a spare bedroom in a rental house, which forced her to scale down her works to no larger than 48 inches square. Her new paintings primarily feature birds and touch on the schism between inside and out and the longing and then acceptance that comes from being confined. They reflect the unknown -- as Johnson states, "the unknown future, with unknown dangers and parameters that can enter ones life in unforeseeable ways."

Iced Coffee with Friends, 2020, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"

Gabrielle and Sister, 2020, oil on canvas, 24" x 24"

In Iced Coffee with Friends, Johnson uses Fairfield Porter's 1966 painting Iced Coffee as a point of departure, adding birds that disrupt the peaceful moment Porter depicts in his work. Two colorful cockatoos (one mostly red, the other yellow and blue), rest on a yellow dowel in an interior space, occupying the lower half of the square composition. Above them, two Northern Flickers wrestle with green bird-food baskets suspended by and swinging from chains that connect them to the ceiling. The setting is a porch or sunroom in a suburban or country home that is surrounded by inviting nature that can be seen beyond the blue window frames. Partially obscured by the birds and their food, sit two figures reading what appear to be mobile devices instead of the books in Porter's painting. A half-full glass of iced coffee sits on a table. In isolation, we are separated from our friends, though for Johnson, these animals have become an apt substitute. She whimsically transforms the moment of calm Porter captures into a moment of chaos that references both quarantine and contemporary life.

Gabrielle and Sister is a small work for Johnson (only 24 x 24 inches). It is a painted montage of seemingly unrelated elements—- a postcard reproduction of "Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs," (c. 1594), the well-known and infamous painting that depicts Gabrielle d'Estrées (the mistress of King Henry IV of France) sitting nude in a bath with her sister who pinches her right nipple. In the foreground of the painting are two pinkish white cockatoos that have an uncanny resemblance to the women. One bird obscures a sign for the "BoomBoom Room" which advertises cocktails but is off-limits during quarantine. At the left edge, a red neon sign vertically displaying the word "EXOTIC" ironically suggests an interpretation of the painting.

Sitting Ducks, ​2020, oil on canvas, 40" x 40"

Sottobosco Livingroom, 2020, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"

In Sitting Ducks, Johnson surrounds two domesticated blue parakeets that stare directly out of the painting at the viewer with a menagerie of other wild birds and animals that frolic through painted branches, flowers and leaves. Behind these birds (that are unaware of the dangers of hunting), is a postcard size reproduction of Winslow Homer's Right and Left although a sign for a bait shop sits outside their window). Johnson presents a painting that explores the relationship between inside and out, confinement and freedom. Sottobosco Livingroom features two black crows and two tiger-striped cockatoos clustered by the window inside a suburban house. Out the window, mostly obscured by the birds is a tree-lined street with two houses behind a white picket fence, set against a purple-hued sky. There is a disconnect between interior and exterior, as the animals appear to be on the inside rather than the outside of the window.

Johnson is a facile painter who represents her subjects with exacting detail. While the animals and settings are realistic, they are also extremely expressive. She delineates interior and exterior spaces, giving dream-like situations an aura of possibility. Her works are always jam-packed. They reflect not only the abundance in our over saturated world, but also the chaos. Johnson extrapolates and personifies-- her animals act out human interactions as well as display our fears. These new works are metaphors for lost freedoms, confinement and the disarray that comes from uncertainty.

For more information on Heidi Johnson's work please visit:


Instagram @heidiheidihoho

Click here for Heidi Johnson on its own page.

June 4, 2020

Fran Siegel
Suspended Drawings in Suspended Animation

Seam & Transfer, an exhibition of works by Fran Siegel and Paul Scott, opened at Wilding Cran Gallery on March 20th, just as Los Angeles was ordered to shelter in place. While the gallery posted ample photo and video documentation on social media, nothing really takes the place of experiencing art in situ. Two weeks before the extended May 30 closing date, the gallery offered viewings by appointment to give people a chance to see the exhibition. It was a privilege to examine the uncanny relationships between both artist's blue-toned works— Siegel's large-scale mixed media collages and Paul Scott's found and altered ceramics.

Fran Siegel Installation View, Wilding Cran Gallery

Paul Scott is a Bristish artist best known for his "contemporary transfer-printed ceramics." He combines and augments antique table-wares to address social-political themes. Interspersed with Siegel's suspended drawings are a suite of blue and white platters and plates with transferware collages and Kintsugi (golden joinery) that "subvert and update a classic decorative genre."

While Siegel's primary mediums could be considered drawing and painting, she often weaves numerous smaller-scaled pieces into large layered tapestries, sewing, gluing and collaging the disparate elements together. The starting point for her work is research and observation— be it a data set about environmental or population shifts in Santa Barbara, the history of early European porcelain found in various museum collections, or documentation of construction around San Pedro, CA. Many of the pieces (Siegel aptly refers to them as suspended drawings) in the Seam & Transfer exhibition juxtapose architectural and natural elements. For example, Henri's Open Fortress, (2018/19), which spans 120 x 150 inches is comprised of cut drafting film, pigment on cotton scrim, indigo dye on burlap, cyanotype, drawings and frottage on paper, cut drafting film, sewing and collage, attached amidst a plastic grid. Though delicate and translucent, it has a commanding presence and is simultaneously a barrier and a portrait of the landscape.

Inspired by Siegel's residency at the La Napoule Art Foundation in France near Cannes, the work references the local landscape and combines botanical patterns collected from nature and patterns from porcelain within the foundation's collection. Other large-scale works in the exhibition include The Collection, (2018/19) which Siegel refers to as a patch-work portrait of a place and Aperture, (2018/19) a work that references the orange of the sun in numerous ways. Siegel intersperses cutouts of the glow of the sun from old National Geographic magazines with orange mylar shapes, fragments from orange caution barriers and orange thread that suggest the rays of the sun. Many of the blue-toned prints on fabric are cyanotypes— a process that requires the light of the sun to be exposed.

Fran Siegel Installation View, Wilding Cran Gallery

While Siegel's pieces are beautifully layered and texturally rich, they are based on a sophisticated conceptual integration of research and backstory which makes them resonate beyond their formal qualities. The fragments contained within each work function as building blocks — Siegel's pieces are extremely architectural — that create a coherent whole. Siegel's pieces take time to comprehend and can be entered from multiples places within the compositions. The trajectory through them is individualistic and not prescribed, making the outcome even more satisfying.

Fran Siegel Covid Drawings

Often when Siegel finishes a body of work or hangs pieces in an exhibition, she steps back, taking a moment, as she says, to "reflect, restore and travel." As travel at present is out of the question, Siegel has been surprisingly productive in her studio preparing for two exhibitions later in 2020, one at the Long Beach Museum of Art, the other at Descanso Gardens. During quarantine she first created small (square) daily drawings— referencing the rapid growth of the Corona virus. Because Siegel's suspended drawings and collages are so dense and layered, seeing the individual fragments presented across her studio wall offer the ability to contemplate the intricacies of each element. The flower-like patterns inspired by the images of the virus channeled a connection between basketry and Fibonacci ratios. Working with line as well as color, these drawings have spontaneity and immediacy. The array of drawings led to the creation of a tableau of interchangeable tiles. As works in progress, Siegel is layering a table surface with a mutable arrangement of small stencils, patterns and string to create a work that feels like a model city.

Fran Siegel work in progress

As the quarantine subsides and life gets back to semi-normal it will be interesting to see how Siegel's work morphs and how she integrates pre and post Covid life into her creations.

For more information on Fran Siegel's work please visit


Wilding Cran Gallery

Click here for Fran Siegel on its own page.

May 28, 2020

Bill Barminski
Experimenting with the unexpected

Bill Barminski is full of surprises. He is an imaginative and versatile artist who has worked in a wide range of media to create projects that are humorous and charming while also socially and politically astute. Before immersing himself in digital media, Barminski exhibited paintings that critiqued a 1950's American consumerist mentality. Often, these pieces referenced popular culture as he would repetitively use familiar imagery as a point of departure. Text featured prominently, directing the viewer's interpretation away from the expected. In his cardboard sculptures (which he began in 2008), he reproduced everyday objects as oversized white forms with black outlines, many of which also included moving or electronic elements. Currently, Barminski is exploring different forms of animation including projection mapping and augmented reality. His recent projects can often be found on his various social media channels.

Barminski is used to working alone in his home studio, yet in this time of Covid-19, what he finds different is "the knowledge that there is a shared common experience." A new series of animations called Burnt Marshmallow captures this spirit of isolation. In each short episode, his characters deal with the current situation in different ways, both amusing and frightening in their truth. Barminski likened the experience of isolation to "sitting alone in the woods by a campfire. Which, in and of itself can be a beautiful experience, but in this case, you burn your one and only marshmallow."

images from Barminski's animations

In his animations, Barminski's figures wear masks that are extended beanies with cut-out eyes and mouth holes. In one episode entitled Quarantainment, a figure holds a beer can in one hand and a television remote control in the other, repeatedly asking Alexa to show him movies on Netflix he has not seen. Alexa replies he has seen them all. The figure sighs and remarks, "this is bad…" In another episode, Zoom Bomber, four friends are talking via Zoom when a scantily clad stranger suddenly suddenly joins their party and begins to dance. The friends quickly leave the call. In Dancing With Myself, Barminski depicts each of his characters awkwardly dancing alone in their home to the Billy Idol song, "Dancing With Myself." The camera slowly pans back to show multiple apartment windows, each with a lone figure dancing. Barminski succinctly calls attention to both the need to connect and for shared experience.

In addition to these animations, Barminski has also been posting documentation of projections— ad hoc works he clandestinely displays at night in his Los Angeles environs. In BoozyUzi walking and strutt'n, a cartoon dog saunters through the grass and against an old wooden shingled wall spraying a stream of flowers from his can of Krylon paint. In others— Covid Killer and Covid Crusher, figures and animals created using a 2-bit graphic style, repeatedly smash or shoot at the Covid virus, accompanied by low tech pinball machine sounds.

images from Barminski's animations

Barminski often recycles images from his personal archive, including old record albums, spray paint cans, cassette tapes and Uzzis, as well as cyclops figures (who now wear masks) that shoot flowers from an oversized arm that doubles as a gun. Many of Barminski's animations function like PSAs. They proclaim direct messages, like "don't touch your face," or "wash your hands." Enjoy is a quirky animation in which a mask wearing cartoon figure jumps to the top of a giant can of spray paint labeled ENJOY. He pushes the red button and amidst a spray of white, comes the words, "yourself… it's later than you think."

Barminski's experiments with augmented reality and projection mapping need to be seen in person. In these works, he often layers animations over or within static objects, bringing them to life. While Barminski's works have a narrative form, they are not belabored. Each image or animation is a playful take on our new strange everyday realities. In the time of Covid-19, they have become more serious, cutting, direct and to the point.

For more information on Bill Barminski's work please visit




Burnt Marshmallow Series

Click here for Bill Barminski on its own page.

May 21, 2020

Stas Orlovski
The running man has nowhere to go

Creating during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant different things for different artists. For many, it is a time for reflection and experimentation as day to day life is far from normal. As art professors are struggling to teach online, presenting lessons via Zoom, the energy they have for studio work has shifted.

Stas Orlovski thought his quarantine time would be an opportunity to delve into making complex new projects that he had been visualizing in his mind's eye for some time, but had not yet been able to focus on. The reality of this situation — the lengthly unknown of the pandemic and quarantine — prompted him to shift gears and rather than embark on more involved long-term projects, he has been creating daily works on paper. The satisfaction of working more quickly and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day became a way of coping with the open-endedness of quarantine.

Though trained as a painter, Orlovski also works with time-based media making site-specific installations where still and moving images connect. These are complicated projects that involve image mapping and stop-motion animation. Recent installations such as "Running Man" at the Wende Museum (September 29, 2019 - April 5, 2020) and "Chimera" at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (November 16, 2019 - March 22, 2020), used continuous loops projected onto walls to coincide with intricate xerox transfers and charcoal drawings. In both his animated and static works, Orlovski references Russian Suprematism, European Surrealism and Soviet experimental animation. These references are autobiographical: Orlovski was born in Moldova and as a child fled the Soviet Union to Tel Aviv, then Paris, eventually settling in Toronto.

Currently, in the center of his studio is a large table piled with books, fragments from abandoned sketches and left-over collage remnants. Each day, he spontaneously generates a collage drawn from these materials. While Orlovski often revisits recurring themes — heads, hands, statues, running figures, mirrors — he is doing so with a renewed vigor and intensity. The growing collection of works on paper (15 x 11 inches) combine childhood memories and dream imagery with fragments that reference current, as well as historical events in thought provoking and enigmatic ways. The new pieces purposely engage a limited palette: the tones of sepia, black, white and gray, as well as the colors of aged paper and book pages from different eras.

In numerous works Orlovlski creates a running figure. Often, silhouetted legs are connected to a triangular shaped body with no head, but sometimes a wide bowler hat. These figures are fleeing, but from what or who is never revealed. The running man drawings have a Constructivist sensibility built from an arrangement of fragmented geometric shapes. Heads are another recurrent theme. In Head with rocks, Head with pipe, Head with curtain and Head with plants, the central object is a featureless head, akin to a tailor's dummy into which or onto which Orlovski collages or transfers other items— be it small rocks, garden plants or the texture of a window curtain. These ambiguous heads somehow take on distinct personalities and emotions. Flags are another recurrent theme. Depicted as hard edged geometric triangles, as well as fluttering gestural brush-strokes, they appear alone, as well as in clusters. Flags are symbolic and can represent a range of causes— both celebratory and political.

Orlovski is indulging in the freedom to create in the studio without a tangible goal or a specific outcome. As he continues to work and re-work his pieces, he has given himself permission to play. That play is a treasured gift and a moment of respite in otherwise difficult and troubling times.

For more information on Stas Orlovski's work please visit www.stasorlovski.com
Instagram: @stasorlovski

Click here for Stas Orlovski on its own page.

May 14, 2020

Eileen Cowin
A culture of anxiety

Eileen Cowin was preparing for her May exhibition at as-is.la which has been postponed due to Covid-19. In many ways the work for that show encapsulates our global uncertainty and the new fear that this pandemic has unleashed. We are all very much like Cowin's "Deer in headlights" — innocents caught by surprise and immobilized, not sure whether to move forward or to stay put. In Cowin's image, a young deer stares out at the viewer; completely out of place in a back alley, removed somehow from its natural habitat.

Time of Useful Consciousness ©2014/2020

Cowin is a master at weaving narratives from disparate elements. She is a voracious reader of dystopian novels and often begins with a story, transforming the nuances of those written words into carefully composed images and videos that shed light on unseen aspects of the authors prose, as filtered through Cowin's world view. Two short video diptychs, "The Pedestrian" and "Insomnia" present an aura of loneliness and unsettlement. "The Pedestrian" is a two channel video that uses Ray Bradbury's short story as a point of departure. In Cowin's footage, she narrates a lone man's desire to walk, filming him as he ambles at dusk, through eerily silent and vacant spaces. He imagines the conversations and goings on in homes as he passes them, unable to cross the physical and emotion barriers between outside and in. His aimless wanderings feel melancholic, familiar and relevant.

still from the video diptych The Pedestrian ©2020

"Insomnia" begins with imagery of wolves charging through the landscape, then shifts to interior scenes, each focusing on an isolated individual suffering from sleeplessness and the different ways they cope with their insomnia. Filmed in subtle and disquieting light, the narratives presents the idiosyncratic struggles and frustrations of not being able to achieve peaceful slumber. As the camera oscillates between close-ups, details and medium ranged shots, the light shifts from night to dawn suggesting the disruption of time that affects the insomniac.

still from the video diptych No One is Sleeping ©2020

Though created before Covid-19, the multi-panel photographic strip "Now You know" speaks to the longing and isolation that currently pervades. The elegantly photographed and beautifully lit sequence begins with a close-up of the side of a man's face, shot from behind, focusing on the graceful curve of his neck. We ask: who is this figure— the one with three perfectly pressed white dress shirts hanging in his closet, who is perhaps in agony, alone in an apartment with evenly spaced windows and air conditioners and a brick facade. This is a narrative of stasis, until uncertainty sets in— unknown markings on a cinderblock wall in a dimly lit gated interior. What lurks beyond? Is it inviting or menacing? Cowin shifts the sequence to images of nature: trails damaged by heat and drought, and the entanglement of branches offers little solace. The final photograph closely crops the hidden eyes of a man adjusting his gas mask and poses the questions we all now face: Is it safe to venture out? Will this protection work? Cowin's haunting sequence elegantly presents the inner turmoil of the present.

detail from Now you know ©2020

Whether working on an intimate or architectural scale, Cowin's images get under your skin and unnerve. They are precisely visualized narratives that reflect the current political and social climate, exploring as Cowin remarks, a "culture of anxiety."

For more information on Eileen Cowin's work please visit www.eileencowin.com.

Click here for Eileen Cowin on its own page.

May 7, 2020

Rodrigo Valenzuela
Klowden Mann
February 29 - May 23, 2020

Rodrigo Valenzuela

Upon entering Klowden Mann's gallery space, it is impossible not to be immediately taken by its transformation. For his exhibition Journeyman, Rodrigo Valenzuela has fabricated a raised plywood floor that extends across the entire gallery and into which he has inset ceramic sculptures. These holes are illuminated troughs, scattered across the space as if floor-based skylights. Carefully centered in each cubby-hole is a dark gray three-dimensional work entitled Airstrip (all works 2020) that resembles machine parts disconnected from their source and rendered useless. They are presented as preserved relics. Each Airstrip (numbered 1- 6) has a geometric grace and balance with ample protrusions and holes that reference unknown functionality. Airstrip 1 could be a partial model of a battleship seen from above, whereas Airstrip 4 evokes a totem. These pieces are ghost-like and haunting in their stoic beauty.

On the walls are large-scale (31 x 36 inch) photogravures from Valenzuela's Stature series. These images also exhibit sculptural qualities and are constructions and performances for the camera, set up to be photographed from a fixed perspective. In this series, Valenzuela made clay and concrete casts from discarded consumer electronics packaging and arranged the materials into monumental forms that are carefully lit and delicately balanced within a peg-board walled set. Though clearly models, the pieces have the presence of Brutalist sculpture and architecture.

The sepia toned prints, though subdued, are still lush and textured. Valenzuela's choice of making photogravures gives the works a historic and scholarly aura. In a time of photographic immediacy, it is an ironic gesture to labor over casting parts to be assembled as sculptures that are photographed, then dismantled and printed using an antique process. In Stature No 8, a horizontal form comprised of seven rectangular sections akin to an abstracted model train or boat extends across the space perched on top of what could be a circular base. The sculpture is lit from above to cast a dark shadow below. Stature No 4 fills the space and is a Rube Goldberg construction of precariously balanced, machine-like parts.

In the back room, Valenzuela presents two older video works, Prole (2015) and Tertiary (2018). These short pieces are more directly about the experience of minorities in terms of class, work and institutional power. Valenzuela makes reference to labor and a day's work through the title of the exhibition, Journeyman. He states, I originally wanted to name my show "Jornada." This translates to "a day's work" in Spanish. I kept thinking about a single word to describe one full day of intense labor. I thought about what a journeyman does--what journey a person goes through when she or he is off to work.

Valenzuela engages with artistic processes that are labor intensive. In this exhibition, he even transforms the space by creating an elevated plywood floor that suggests both a stage set and a construction site. Although the photographs and sculptures take cues from brutalist forms, they are in fact, more playful and enigmatic than weighty. While Valenzuela draws from history and consumer culture and combines personal and cultural references, his works have an ad hoc immediacy and ambiguity. Not knowing exactly what they are or how they were made adds to their appeal.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in Art Now LA on April 18, 2020

Click here for Rodrigo Valenzuela on its own page.

April 30, 2020

Jennifer West
Future Forgetting
Joan Los Angeles
February 28 - April 26, 2020

Jennifer West

The centerpiece of Jennifer West's exhibition, Future Forgetting is a large projection of a nine-minute film originally shot on the banks of the Los Angeles River in 2016. Entitled 6th Street Bridge Film (all works 2020), it pays homage to the iconic bridge; yet rather than celebrate its architecture and cultural significance, West indulges in the detritus of the location and the bridges impending demolition. She manipulated the footage more recently, purposely discoloring and damaging her original print by submerging it in the river, allowing the debris and algae to leave an imprint on the celluloid. The result is an abstracted representation, a quintessential experimental film that overlays the scene with pulsating colors and textures. Inspired by L.A. historian Norman Klein's text from 1997, The History of Forgetting, West infuses the varied works on exhibition with a sense of loss and nostalgia for those parts of Los Angeles that have been and will be erased.

West is a thoughtful artist, dedicated to process and invested in history. Though best known for her "explorations of materialism in film," she also creates installations and objects. Integral to Future Forgetting are pigment prints that composite black and white clips of the bridge culled from her original footage; hand-blown glass bottles filled with river water and found objects like circuit boards, film strips and torn photographs; a hand-bound, accordion-folding zine printed with fragmented texts about and images of the L.A. river, as well as a work that presents nine flatscreen monitors tethered across the floor.

Entitled Archaeology of Smashed Flatscreen Televisions Thrown off Bridges, this piece consists of short video loops shot from above showing objects West collected along the Arroyo Seco confluence in South Pasadena. West observed numerous broken monitors there (presumably thrown from the surrounding bridges) and began to assemble a collection of discarded electronics. She interpreted these shattered remains as the results of acts of violence against technology. West preserves the memory of the objects by filming them against a colored background (a green screen that due to a glitch, shifts from green to magenta) and displays them larger than their actual size on monitors scattered over the gallery floor. Atop each screen are the actual objects, creating an eerie conversation between the object and its filmed doppelganger. For example, on one monitor West has placed a cracked cell phone. This small object sits on a blown up, filmed version of its broken glass screen. Similarly, against a bright magenta background sits an array of plastic parts almost silhouetted against the glowing monitor. As the background imagery ebbs, flows and flickers (an ever-present reference to film), the work grows more surreal. It is as if the objects are part of a sci-fi dreamscape; West's cat even traverses the screen.

The experience of this work is akin to walking through a dilapidated electronic garden filled with fragmented artifacts that are representative of consumer technology and our ever-growing distance from nature. West's enigmatic installation evokes the past, as well as the future— where Los Angeles may become a ragged dystopian landscape. This imagery particularly resonates now as we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, and in our forced isolation, we have become immersed and dependent on this problematic, yet essential technology.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in Art Now LA on April 26, 2020

Click here for Jennifer West on its own page.

April 23, 2020

To Bough and To Bend
Bridge Projects
February 28 - April 26, 2020

Jennifer West

To Bough and To Bend is a large group exhibition curated on the subject of trees. The exhibition takes its point of departure from a poem by Mary Oliver ("When I Am Among Trees") and focuses on the hope and positive energy of nature. While Los Angeles is a city bordered by mountains and the ocean and filled with blooming gardens and towering palm trees, it is also a concrete jungle — a crisscrossing of intertwining freeways filled with speeding cars.

The works in To Bough and To Bendspan many media including painting, sculpture, photography, video and virtual reality. Tim Hawkinson's Sebastian, (2015) and Billy Joe Miller's Shasta Wreath, (2020) are different takes on the fate of trees. Hawkinson pieces together two large branches cut bare bisected by many hand-made wooden arrows whereas Miller (in collaboration with Nathan Weick and the Bureau of Land Management have) created a wreath and ash circle spanning 100 inches using remains from the Carr fire. Breathe, (2020) is an evocative sepia toned film-loop that simulates the dynamics and motions of breath using branches, light and shadow. Among the photographic works are Amir Zaki's large-scale color pigment print, Identical Twins, (2020) depicting two entwined trees against a white background; Todd Gray's Bamboo Hood, (2019) a collage of three separately framed color photographs mounted on top of each other of lush African swamps juxtaposed with a hooded sculpture in a garden; as well as Ken Gonzales-Day's, Two men were taken, (2007) that depicts two trees at the rural California site of a lynching many years ago.

Zoe Crosher's bronze cast from the series LA-LIKE: Prospecting Palm Fronds, (2017) are scattered throughout the gallery replicating the ever present palm fronds that fall to the ground in LA's windstorms. Gil Delindro's un measurements #3, (2020) amplifies the sound of a hollowed out, rotating tree stump as it passes four prepared transducer microphones, instilling a sense of nature's power and awe. Lucas Reiner's black and white etchings, Fifteen Stations, (2010) illustrate the grace and personalities of isolated trees through varying textures of line, whereas Ben Sander's Bonasi, (2019) marker drawings are colorful, quirky, cartoony representations of Bonsai plants.

The installation feels uncrowded and spacious despite the fact that more than thirty artists included.The range of works is vast and wandering through the exhibition is a revelatory experience. It is interesting to think about how these diverse artists incorporate aspects of nature into their works. For some, trees are stoic and revered, for others they are sites of trauma and racial tensions. Trees can be mystical and magical. They are comforting, protective and aesthetically inspiring. In these stay-at-home days of isolation, nature provides a respite and even looking out a window to see leaves blowing in the wind can offer a glimmer of hope.

Click here for To Bough and To Bend on its own page.

April 16, 2020

Don Suggs
LA Louver
March 11 - May 30, 2020

Don Suggs

Don Suggs' post-humous exhibition, Face-Off comes as a bit of a surprise. A beloved professor and mentor, Suggs (1945-2019) was well known for his paintings of concentric circles and photographs where he superimposed these same forms over images of the natural landscape. Suggs also made sculptures -- towers or totems of plastic shapes that extended from floor to ceiling. In these works, Suggs explored disruptions that occurred when views become altered. Although his works displayed a formal elegance, they were also conceptually based.

The paintings that comprise Face-Off juxtapose hard edge geometry with playful figurative drawing. They are strange anomalies for those unfamiliar with this aspect of his practice. Suggs was an avid draughtsman and scribbler, often jotting down quick sketches on note cards he carried in his shirt pocket. He called these drawings "autoglyphs" — spontaneous works that served as the basis for these larger, more colorful paintings.

Here, black outlined characters interact with colored shapes to create ambiguous narratives. Though not specifically referential, the paintings have the feel of political caricatures. For example, in Tyrant (2017) over a deep yellow ground, Suggs has loosely painted light yellow and orange-red rectangular shapes that serve as the boundaries for calligraphic lines that describe two heads, both part-human and part-animal. On the right, a bearded figure overlaying rough orange red brush strokes sticks it's tongue out as if licking the lighter colored head next to it. Both figures have cartoony eyes that stare out toward the left side of the frame. The title Tyrant directs the interpretation of the work. Is this figure the devil with his pointy ear and beard, or just a misogynist?

Talk to the Hand, (2018), presents a Guston-esque triangular shaped male head face to face with a more rounded head held in a disembodied hand as if a piece of fruit. A transparent pink wash covers the canvas, bisected by light aqua and purple stripes. The black outlined figures are positioned within these stripes. What transpires between them can only be inferred.

While many works juxtapose pictogram-like drawings with solid colored backgrounds sprinkled with geometric shapes, the exhibition also includes a selection from Suggs' small-scale (10 x 8 inch) Paintlings series. In Windling and Fledgeling (both 2018), he immerses animal heads in an energetic swirl of colorful paint (like a rake was dragged over it while wet) that approximates the texture of a marbleized surface. In Fledgeling, a bird's beak pokes through the paint, while its eyes remain submerged amidst the overlapping strokes.

While these works are rooted in drawing, they also reflect Suggs' understanding of color theory and the language of abstraction. The pieces function on multiple levels— as studies of form and color as well as insightful musings about the human condition. It is a tragedy that Suggs' career was cut short, but this unusual and unexpected exhibition celebrates the complexity of his vision.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in Art Now LA on April 10, 2020

Click here for Don Suggs on its own page.

April 9, 2020

Richard Prince
New Portraits
Gagosian Gallery
February 6 - April 25, 2020

Richard Prince

For Richard Prince, well known for his appropriationist works from the 1980s and 1990s, the discovery of Instagram opened a new window onto old methodologies. It was only after watching his daughter post to Tumbler that he came to understand the possibilities of social media. The grids and organizing principles of photographs he saw on Tumbler called to mind his "Gangs" from 1985— sets of nine photographs organized around a theme — Girlfriends, Heavy Metal Bands, etc. It did not take him long to realize the power of this global audience so Prince purchased an iPhone and began to embrace social media. Eventually, the past and the present coalesced. He found boundless source material online and was fascinated by the constant commentary about images, eventually joining the conversation, often contributing gibberish and emojis as "Richardprince4."

Who did Prince follow? What was he looking for on Instagram? To answer that it is necessary to consider his earlier work —the jokes, the nurses, the hustlers— as well as to understand his interests in media and popular culture, in 'image' and sex appeal. Instagram provided an ideal readymade. On Instagram, he found sexy women, raunchy dialogue and unabashed exhibitionism all within the rules of the game. Yet, Prince does not like rules and even found a way to hack Instagram feeds so his posts remained close to the image near the top. Realizing he could really only manipulate his view, he created screen shots to preserve the sequence. These images (and there are a lot of them) make up the exhibition New Portraits. The first time Prince exhibited the work, some of the subjects complained. They even went after him and this clash was all over the press.

So what went wrong? The commodification of images disseminated for personal gain by a male in his 60s was problematic to some of the people whose images he appropriated. The fact that most of his image selections contained pictures of women much younger than him was also an issue. He became an anonymous (or not completely anonymous) voyeur who captured a screen shot of something meant to be fleeting, printed it larger than life and then sold it for a lot of money. Therein lie the problems and the controversy.

In the past, Prince would select an image —be it from a magazine, newspaper or photo archive— rephotograph it and then reprint it and present it as an artwork under his own name. Other artists like Sherrie Levine also created works that were direct copies. In series including: After Walker Evans, After Edward Weston, After Man Ray, etc., she rephotographed 'famous' photographic images and asked viewers to look at them anew. Though this way of working was condemned by many, it —appropriation — was accepted by enough people and eventually came to influence a whole new generation of artists. That art could be made from other's art or from found photographs and still resonate was revolutionary. The artists of the 'Pictures Generation' were immersed in conceptual practices and through their work engaged in debates around authorship, context and interpretation. Although some artists working this way were sued for copyright infringement, it did little to change their desire to break new ground and stimulate conversation about the relationship between photography, art, advertising and commerce.

Rephotographing was a laborious process. With the onset of the internet, digital photography, mobile phones and social media, all that was necessary was to snap and post. Suddenly, there was a way to share everything instantaneously. Numerous websites now showcase images uploaded by a range of people, most of them not artists who do not think they are making art. They are merely posting friends and moments together and they have thousands of followers. Universal sharing is the norm. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have become communities, as well as sources for news and information. The notion of truth has faded, and fake news abounds.

In Prince's exhibition New Portraits, close to 100 images are installed salon style covering the walls of the gallery. The presentation has affinities to the way web pages are viewed — an array of like sized images amassed in a loose grid. How to begin? How to differentiate? Does anyone really want to read that much text on the wall? Each untitled portrait is a unique inkjet print on paper or canvas dated between 2014 and 2019. Instagram has a fixed format: the picture —either square or a vertical rectangle— is centered in a white background. The owner of the account is identified in a small circle at the top. To the right is a number that represents how many days (d) or weeks (w) ago the post was made. Below the image is the number of likes and a list of comments by both Prince and other followers. The pictures for the most part are juvenile and unremarkable. They are the kind of posed snapshots people post to Instagram to show off their outfits or their bodies or who they happen to be with.

While the photos are 'real,' it is impossible to know whether the situations are candid or fabricated for the Instagram audience. Prince indulges in this play, making screen shots of posts that catch his fancy. He comments on the images using a combination of emojis, shorthand and nonsense words. While most of the portraits have a few lines of commentary, some like an image by lilmiquela (from 2019) have paragraphs of text, in this case a diaristic diatribe about how to identify as a woman of color and three replies, one of which is a line of six red hearts. After careful scrutiny it becomes evident that a number of other screen names appear over and over again and that there is a rhythm to the conversation. Prince (@richardprince1234) and @joankatzz often post non-sense that has little to do with the image. After a while the images begin to cancel each other out and few resonate beyond the initial read. But perhaps this is the point. Prince has become a relentless voyeur who has chosen to reproduce an aspect of Instagram that celebrates celebrity culture and the desire to market a certain type of life style. There is nothing overwhelmingly special about this work, except for the price tag and the fact that Prince is still profiting from the fruits of others' labor, taking advantage of personal moments made public and ripe for the taking.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in Artillery Magazine, Gallery Rounds on April 1, 2020

Click here for Richard Prince on its own page.

April 2, 2020

Codi Barbini
The Executive Condolence
A+D Architecture and Design Museum
January 25 - April 5, 2020

Codi Barbini

Codi Barbini's immersive six channel video installation The Executive Condolence carefully montages excerpts from presidential addresses in response to mass shootings spanning the last thirty years. Barbini selects portions of clips from speeches by President Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, crafting them into a narrative sequence that does not follow a chronological trajectory, but rather weaves together and overlaps related fragments culled from official responses to these seemingly never ending tragedies.

Barbini's installation brings to mind the works of Robert Heineken, Omer Fast and Christian Marclay, artists who also gravitated toward appropriation, mining the media for subject matter, manipulating this content for their own ends. In 2002, Omer Fast created CNN Concatenated, a video work that collaged together single words from hundreds of hours of CNN newscasts. Fast took the images and voices of many different presenters out of context, rearranging the now connected fragments as a new monologue that was at once spot on and a complete fiction. Christian Marclay's 24-hour movie The Clock, as well as his installations Video Quartet and ar Movies were created by montaging appropriated scenes from films so that 'the media' became both the form and the content of the work.

Barbini's interest in mass shootings stems from personal experience and the shock of an active shooter at her cousin's high school. For the feature film, The New Normal she followed five students who survived the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School incident in Parkland, Florida from 2018. While this film documents the aftermath and effects on the students as they finish the school year, Barbini also became interested in the proliferation of school shootings and how they were presented via the news media, as well as how American Presidents publicly addressed the nation in the aftermath.

Using clips from the official Whitehouse broadcast channel, C-Span and other public TV stations, The Executive Condolence, weaves together a chilling narrative of loss, outrage, sadness, exasperation and lack of understanding. The sequence begins with the president approaching the podiums, greeting the public— with my fellow Americans— then addressing the specifics of the tragedy. As the images flow from screen to screen, sometime coalescing, sometimes repeating and sometimes fading to black becoming the Whitehouse logo, the viewer's eyes circle the monitors trying to keep pace with the narrative. The screens like the speeches pause, before speeding up, continuing with a bombardment of platitudes expressing disbelief while simultaneously trying to assure audiences that things are under control.

What is surprising about Barbini's collective narrative is how similar these different presidential personalities become when they express grief and try to calm the nation. As their cadences merge, their vulnerability becomes evident. The voice of authority and power is uncertain. He cannot prevent, or even understand what prompts these mass shootings. Through the sequences of official speech, the Presidents offer prayer and sympathy. They gaze out across the television screen trying to connect. Sometimes they shed a tear or hesitate, unable to find the right word to express the deepness of the wound. As the images ebb and flow around the six monitors that encircle the viewer, the repetition becomes evident. Which President says what hardly matters: what remains is the collective recurring experience and the wonder as to why.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in Artillery Magazine, Gallery Rounds on March 12, 2020

Click here for Codi Barbini on its own page.

March 26, 2020

Catherine Opie
Rhetorical Landscapes
Regen Projects
February 27 – May 2, 2020

Catherine Opie

At first glance, the two bodies of work Catherine Opie presents at Regen Projects seem to be worlds apart. Though best known for her portraits and more politically oriented works, Opie has also photographed the natural landscape. By entitling her recent pictures Swamps and presenting them under the title, Rhetorical Landscapes, Opie consciously references our political climate, specifically with regards to the phrase 'drain the swamp.' The origin of 'drain the swamp' stems from the need to cut back the mosquito population in order to combat malaria, specifically Washington D.C. which was founded on supposedly swampy ground. President Trump used this phrase during his presidential campaign to suggest the need for house cleaning, saying that he would, "drain the swamp of all the lobbyists who had hurt the country’s working class."

Encircling the gallery walls are color photographs of swamps taken while Opie was on a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. These images depict murky wetlands: expansive and quiet views of tangled trees growing out of black water that cast criss-crossing reflections, fluttering leaves, budding flowers and an array of creatures camouflaged with their surroundings. In Untitled # 2 (Swamps), 2019, for example, a partially submerged alligator floats peacefully at the waters edge. Though a "dangerous" animal, this one is not a threat, but peacefully at rest in its home habitat. Opie's lush photographs document the differing colors and temperaments of the ever-changing landscape. Opie's unpopulated pictures emphasize the beauty and importance of these eco-systems, especially with the ongoing reality of climate change.

Centered in the space and presented on large monitors that recall cellphone screens are Opie's low-tech stop motion animations in which magazine cut-outs representing myriad political issues gather and disband. Each of the eight screens display a short loop that coheres as a finished collage only to break apart and begin again. In Untitled 1 (Political Collage), 2019, Opie combines clippings of guns of all shapes and sizes that cascade down from the top of the screen, collecting at the bottom as a useless heap topped by an American flag ridden with bullet holes. Opie's animations investigate news-worthy topics and include numerous photographs of Trump and other politicians, natural disasters, political struggles, education and immigration issues all presented against blue painted grids that reference basic graph paper. Although infused with pressing content drawn from current events, these animations also display a tinge of satire and humor.

Opie is the rare artist whose work seamlessly spans the personal and the political. As evidenced in her exhibition, Rhetorical Landscapes, she is as comfortable documenting the natural landscape as she is in creating animations that point fingers at the injustices in contemporary society.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in VAS on March 21, 2020

Click here for Catherine Opie on its own page.

March 19, 2020

Hannah Epstein
Making Bets In A Burning House
Steve Turner Los Angeles
February 15 - March 28, 2020

Hannah Epstein

Hannah Epstein has a knack for transforming spaces. In her 2019 exhibition at Steve Turner, Do You Want A Free Trip To Outer Space? she filled the darkened gallery with animations and spot-lit hooked rugs depicting the adventures of her comic book hero Superchill. For this installation she also combines the tactile and the digital. Making Bets In A Burning House, occupies two of the gallery's smaller back rooms.

In one, she wallpapers an image of white bricks onto the wall and carpets floor with a fiery pattern of bubbling lava. Large and small-scale hooked rugs cover these faux-brick-walls, creating a melange of animal and human forms. The works are humorous and slightly crude. In Like a dragon unfurled its wings, (2019), a suggestive green dragon with breasts and high heels, spews red and orange flames. Hot Girl Summer, (2019) is a scantily clad woman with bright red lips and and long blond hair— a sly twist on the imagery that might appeal to those who frequent video game dungeons. More that fifteen works adorn the walls and floor of this small space presenting the viewer a curious cast of characters.

In the second room, Epstein projects digitized versions of her characters and presents them as polyfilled objects. In the center of the room is a circular green rug on which sits a single cell phone, three red cushions, a mangled black legless chair, as well as the floppy sculpture Soft Worm, (2019). Although Epstein creates an environment for the viewer to sit and relax, it is not that inviting. This digital fun house is ambiguous, slightly menacing and seems worlds apart from the implied innocence of the hand-made works in the other room. The viewer is at first captivated by the flickering animations, then drawn to a large flatscreen monitor that depicts the goings on in the first room from a hidden camera. The ah-ha moment… the work is about surveillance. While the relationship between the two rooms is ambiguous, the installation illustrates the scope of Epstein's interests. She is an artist who clearly is able to create compelling works that are simultaneously highly technical as well as folksy and hand-crafted.

NOTE: A version of this review first appeared in VAS on March 6, 2020

Click here for Hannah Epstein on its own page.

March 12, 2020

Arcmanoro Niles
The Executive Condolence
UTA Artist Space
February 12 - March 14, 2020

Arcmanoro Niles

In Arcmanoro Niles' compelling exhibition, I Guess By Now I’m Supposed To Be A Man: I’m Just Trying To Leave Behind Yesterday, he presents beautifully painted quasi-representational narratives about the stages of life. When seen together, these lush and colorful works suggest a trajectory and the emotional journey from youth to adulthood. Most of the larger (three by six feet and up) paintings feature an African American male with pink, orange or green day-glow eyes and lips, and similarly toned eyebrows and hair, with glitter added. Never Knew What Little Time We Had (I Lost The Nameless Things), 2019, is a painting of a young boy, clothed in a plaid shirt and overalls, sitting in the center of model train set laid out on a living room floor on what appears to be Christmas morning. Everything in the realistically rendered painting has a blue-green cast except for the boy's nappy, florescent pink hair and eyebrows. This glow gives the work a surreal and other worldly aura. The title suggests the innocence of childhood and a longing for moments past, when there was ample time for imagination and play.

Niles often includes drawn linear elements he calls "seekers" layered over the painted scenes— cartoony line drawings define naked women in evocative and sexual positions. Niles' "seekers" disrupt the composition offering a counter narrative. These disruptions take two forms— outlined figures in violent or suggestive poses, in addition to stuffed animal toys that appear like sinister avatars. The pink toned painting, All Hero's Get Tired (I Should Have Took You Driving), 2019, depicts an elderly man seated on a chair in what appears to be a hospital-exam room next to an empty bed. This pensive man has raised eyebrows and short hair that are a combination of glitter and paint. He stares out into space, perhaps reminiscing about his past and all the things he should have done. The nondescript room, painted shades of red and pink has drawn vertical blinds, a bright pink back wall and a darker red-gray tiled floor with a naked seeker hunched over a prone body.

In Still Trying To Figure Out Forgiveness (So I Can Say This Is The Way That I Used To Be), 2020, a bearded man in his underwear and a bright pink tank-top slumps against a bathtub. A shower curtain, the same pink as his shirt in contrast with the yellow-green wall-tiles, is nested along the wall next to a bathroom vanity. The man's eyebrows, hair, mustache and beard are a lighter shade of pink and textured with glitter. A "seeker" in the form of a naked woman enters the frame on the lower left, although the man does not seem to notice her. On top of the vanity and extending beyond the left edge of the composition is a small cartoon-figure with long dreadlocks and a wide open mouth filled with glowing pink.

The layering of different styles and types of imagery creates an uncertain dialogue between real and imagined worlds. Niles' speaks about his "seekers" as impulsive creatures, doing whatever makes them happy in the moment, in contrast to the main figures who appear lost in thought, reflective and vulnerable. Not quite alter egos, the "seekers" infuse the paintings with an alternate narrative— suggesting hidden thoughts.

In addition to the narrative paintings, Niles also presents a series of small-scale portraits of friends and family members. Like the larger works, these are surreally colored and stylized. In each, the sitter's head fills the majority of the canvas. Their hair is a textured medley of pink or purple paint and glitter; their eyes and lips a contrasting tone of pink, green or orange. Niles' portraits convey a sense of trust as if each subject is at ease under Niles' scrutiny. Stylistically, these paintings are confrontational and charged, yet his subject matter is personal and intimate. These uncanny works have staying power and intrigue, resonating both formally and emotionally. They describe moments that could be, as well as have been, that stem from the heart and seemingly from personal experience.

Click here for Arcmanoro Niles on its own page.

March 5, 2020

Tom Kiefer
El Sueño Americano | The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer
Skirball Cultural Center
October 17, 2019 - March 8, 2020

Tom Kiefer

In thinking about the exhibition El Sueño Americano | The American Dream and Tom Kiefer's presentation of photographs of objects border patrol agents seized from migrants at the U.S. Mexico border in Arizona, it is difficult not to wonder about the formal presentation of the objects and if that undermines the impact of the project. The objects — keepsakes, water bottles, letters, medications, toys and toiletries— are both generic and deeply personal items. That the migrants made their journey with these things indicates they had use-value and/or personal significance. The fact that they were confiscated speaks directly to the difficulties migrants and asylum seekers have as they seek entry into the United States. While some items are lost when detainees are transferred between locations and agencies, other items deemed "non-essential" are confiscated.

Kiefer's access to these objects stems from his job working as a janitor at a Customs and Border Protection Station in Ajo, Arizona from 2003 to 2014. He states, "In 2007 I asked a supervisor if I could begin collecting the food that was being thrown away and deliver it to a food bank ... And I found deeply personal items like rosaries and Bibles, family photographs. That was just not right. I was not going to allow someone’s rosary or Bible to remain in the trash. I discreetly began taking them." His pillaging of the station's trash bins led to a collection of more than 100,000 items. Six years after his collecting began, Kiefer started his photography project. He assembled and arranged like items from his archive, creating visually stunning images that showcased the differences and similarities in these objects. For example, USA!,USA!,USA!, 2019 is an image of red, white and blue toothbrushes arranged on a deep blue background. The horizontal expanse of the 50 toothbrushes gives pause, as at first the large image seems like an advertisement, yet upon closer examination it becomes clear that these items of differing shapes and sizes were used. They are also harmless and carried for personal hygiene. Why would the agents take them away?

What is the relationship between the object and the person? While Kiefer's aim is to shed light on the plight of the injustices and indignities of the migrants and asylum seekers, the photographs aestheticize the issues. The photographs are all artfully arranged. Some present multiple objects like the toothbrushes or combs and brushes, soap, sunglasses, bottles, shoelaces, and belts as well as packages of medicine and condoms. Hundreds of shoelaces are casually piled to form a large circular mass in one image while in another, Kiefer assembled numerous belts into a circular labyrinth. One photograph of pink combs and brushes is shot against a light pink background while in another he arranges black combs and brushes on a black background. The exhibition also includes two large grids of individually framed photographs, each presenting an object or small combination of objects against a colored background. The beauty of the arrangement is an immediate draw that leads to further contemplation about the story. Who did these things belong to? What happened to them? Where are they now? Were they let into the United States or sent back to the places they fled? Questions without answers and questions that the photographs cannot address.

The presentation of so many things, be it non-essential items or snacks like Snickers bars, calls attention to the fact that the people crossing the border, for whatever reason, are human and should be respected and treated as such. Kiefer's photographs illustrate personal idiosyncrasies, yet the project is as much about Kiefer's story as it is about the migrants' plight. El Sueño Americano | The American Dream, refers to loss— the potential loss of a dream as told through a collection of lost objects.

Click here for Tom Kiefer on its own page.

February 27, 2020

Karl Haendel
Double Dominant
Vielmetter Los Angeles
January 25 - March 7, 2020

Karl Haendel

Many years ago, in a ranging wind storm, Karl Haendel and I played tennis. A few years later, I asked him about his tennis game and he replied that sadly he had to give it up as he needed to protect his hands for drawing and could not risk injury. That dominant hands of his artist friends are the subject of his latest exhibition, reminded me of our tennis game and got me thinking about the compromises artists sometimes have to make in order to create their work. For Double Dominant, Haendel has created 24 monumental drawings which will be presented as a two-part exhibition, where twelve drawings are on view at a time. Each drawing is a mural-scale depiction of a set of hands. At first glance, the pair along with a small part of the wrists, seem to be a right and left hand. However, it soon becomes evident that Haendel has created an impossible combination, presenting the dominant hand of each artist twice, configured as if they could be a functioning pair when in reality the combination of hands is awkward and impossible.

Haendel is a talented draftsman with a knack for realistically rending just about any subject with a pencil. His early works and installations featured arrays of appropriated imagery from myriad sources that were redrawn by hand and recontextualized through juxtaposition. Personally, I have always been awestruck by the way Haendel puts pencil to paper— the details and sensitivity of his rendering is evident, as is his amazing sense of composition and how the images fill the page. He seems particularly interested in the relationship between positive and negative space. Lately, his subject matter has transitioned from objective re-presenations of imagery culled from the news media, to more subjective and personal images of the body that investigate issues of identity.

In describing the Double Dominant project in the gallery press release, Haendel talks about its inception and the first drawings he made. He mentions noticing the hands sculptural presence, as well as thinking about the interplay of touch, intimacy and power. The drawings in Double Dominant can be thought of as portraits, as well as homages to his artistic colleagues. Haendel begins by making photographs. He then digitally combines the photographs to create a composite image and then uses pencils to convert this fantasy image into a large drawing that extends across two very large sheets of paper. It takes a moment to register that he has depicted the same hand twice, but once that becomes evident it is amusing to try to understand the nuances of the juxtapositions.

While the hands are structurally similar, they twist and bend differently. In the drawings, Haendel depicts the different ways they interlock and intersect— illustrating occasional hairs and various adornments like rings or tattoos. What stands out are the gestures— and how the Haendel chooses to pose these artist's hands. The images seem to be very much about the animated quality of the pose and how that reflects back on the artist and their works. Again, Haendel speaks about community and influence and the importance of dialogue between him and his friends.

Whether the actual hand-gesture is a sign or a signal is less the point. How the two hands work together to define the space is more in keeping with Haendel's intentions. In Double Dominant 9 (Analia Saban), (all works 2019) the two hands seen from the side gracefully arc across the paper, whereas in Double Dominant 20 (Rafa Esparza) the two hands are arranged so the fingers from both hands merge to form a small rectangle. Double Dominant 12 (Jennifer Bornstein) presents the two hands in an implied sequence of before and after— thumb tucked into the fist, then extended.

These gigantic depictions of hands are a bit decentering. They bisect the picture plane from the edges and dominate the space, becoming uncanny representations of something normally quite familiar. Haendel's drawings are not concerned with the art these hands create, but rather the importance of the hand as a tool capable of creation that is sensitive to touch and capable of intimacy.

Click here for Karl Haendel on its own page.

February 20, 2020

Whitney Bedford
Reflections on the Anthropocene
Vielmetter Los Angeles
January 11 - February 22, 2020

Whitney Bedford

Whitney Bedford's exhibition Reflections on the Anthropocene consists of a series of new paintings entitled Veduta. In each work, Bedford appropriates and reinterprets landscapes by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable, Milton Avery, Edvard Munch, Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Singer Sargent, presenting them as backgrounds, seen through a window or interior space. Bedford plays with foreground background relationships in these works— an empty stage or room often separates the distant landscape from monochromatic and close-up depictions of plant-life, which are rendered in a more illustrative style.

In Veduta, (Friedrich/White Rainbow) (all works 2019) Bedford begins with Caspar David Friedrich’s Landscape with Rainbow (c. 1810), retaining the integrity of his green and yellow hues and sweeping white rainbow that arcs across the composition. She interrupts the expansive view by placing a neon yellow-green cactus-like plant in the foreground, at the edge of a turquoise platform. The yellow lines of this architectural enclosure bisect the sweep of the rainbow, calling attention to the relationship between past and present as well as the natural and man-made landscape.

Most of the paintings follow a similar formula— Bedford represents a historical painting, inscribes it within a viewing box, then interrupts the view with an image of plant life painted in a contrasting style. In Veduta, (For Turner), she captures the atmospheric and ephemeral sweep of color along the horizon line, bisecting this peaceful vista with a line drawing of prickly cacti, growing from a light brown floor that defines an interior space. Veduta (Avery Landscape), 2019 depicts a more expressionistic landscape with neon green and pink trees emerging from a snow-filled ground. An isolated light-pink tree occupies the foreground emerging from the bottom of the canvas. This lone-tree is set against a green plane that becomes the floor of a glassed in space. The Avery inspired landscape is seen through these imagined windows. Veduta (Munch), presents a distant landscape painted in Munch’s loose and expressive style as if viewed from adjacent windows. Again, Bedford juxtaposes the appropriated image with contemporary depictions of native trees depicted in a contrasting style.

In these works, Bedford subverts landscapes created by noted male painters, separating past and present via a platform or stage so they are viewed from the inside looking out. She includes the geometry of the imagined space further distancing her view and theirs. The paintings reference the shifting interpretations of the sublime as well as issues of climate change. These amalgamations of myriad styles and genres of landscape painting are at once, imaginative, playful and intellectual.

Note: A version of this review was first published in Visual Art Source, January 24, 2020.

Click here for Whitney Bedford on its own page.

February 13, 2020

John Millei
This & That
Lowell Ryan Projects
January 11 - February 22, 2020

John Millei

There is something satisfying about the simplicity of the gestures in John Millei's exhibition This & That. At first glance the works appear to be geometric abstractions where large swaths of color fill the picture plane. It does not take much time to realize these paintings are in fact quirky portraits and the areas of color loosely define facial features. Millei reduces his figurative subjects into thickly painted brushstrokes set against washy backgrounds while retaining their personalities and human qualities.

Four large-scale works hung together on one wall are different representations of Millei's daughter. Entitled Girl (Pink Bow), Girl (Orange Bow), Girl (Blue Bow) and Girl (Red Bow), (all 2019), they are variations on a theme. In each painting, Millei captures the essence of a girl with a bow in her long flowing hair. She looks out from the canvas with large oval eyes. Her mouth— a horizontal band of color is neither happy nor sad, but matter of factly presented. These large heads are cartoon-like illustrations where basic features are reduced to primary simple painted in bright colors.

In addition to these images, Millei also creates a work entitled Siblings (Same Same), a double portrait of two figures against a deep blue background. Here, the large faces are empty white shapes surrounded by horizontal and vertical bands of color that suggest hair. In another suite of paintings, Millei references Bruce Nauman. Hand Signals is a triptych in which crudely painted white and yellow-green abstracted arms and hands enter the canvas from the top, side and bottom, set against a deep black ground. The thumbs of the three fingered hands point toward and away from each other as if signaling or calling for attention. In the small work Mind's Heart, (2018), two thickly painted purple arcs are set over small blue dots. Positioned toward the top of a gray-green rectangle, these marks become eyes and eyebrows bringing the painting to life.

In addition to the large-scale paintings, Millei also includes a suite of eight smaller works on paper. In these untitled graphite drawings, Millei captures the essence of the human form through minimal marks. He explores how the different opacities of his gestures can sign for emotional states. A darker line that extends from an eye becomes a tear. The blackened oval shapes in one drawing appear to be sun glasses. Two arches represent eyebrows in one work and two "c" shapes sign for ears in another. In these reductive works, Millei still pays with figure ground relationships, exploring where shape and texture intersect.

This and That is an exhibition that elicits smiles. In a time when the drama of national and international events is on many people's minds, brightly colored abstract depictions reflecting the innocence of children offer some reprieve.

Click here for John Millei on its own page.

February 6, 2020

Nick McPhail
Ochi Projects
January 11 - February 15, 2020

Nick McPhail

Nick McPhail's paintings present aspects of the vernacular Los Angeles landscape that are often overlooked, focusing on moments and places that pass by unnoticed. Though the final works are paintings, McPhail starts with photographs of architectural details as well as dwellings surrounded by foliage. He transfers the basic composition of his photographs into drawings, then uses the drawings as a point of departure for the paintings. The paintings are created in layers as McPhail begins with a colorful underpainting that resonates through the subsequent layers, creating an internal glow. The overpainting is gestural, made with a thick brush that reflects a mood rather than an exact representation. In these works, the urban landscape of Los Angeles resonates as something both familiar and otherworldly.

The paintings illustrate how light and color are filtered through architecture and how intersecting planes create space and dimension. Entryway (all works 2019) is a painting of three rectangles on a washy light-purple and blue slab. The rectangles are the walls and doorway that define the closed entryway to a home. On the other side of these walls and hanging over them are trees. The actual color of the walls is unknown, but in McPhail's depiction pink hues emerge from the gray and blue-green facade. The image could be a driveway leading to a walled off home, yet for McPhail, who or what exists beyond the walls is less interesting than how they catch the sun and reflect the color of the day.

Structure with Trees is a painting of a towering yellow office building on stilts elevated off the ground. Seen from the distance, the building is bordered by green trees that appear to grow out of concrete pylons. An aqua blue sky is reflected in a horizontal stripe of glass windows that encircles the building. The painting is satisfyingly geometric and perfectly proportioned in the way the architecture frames the natural elements.

Hill has a similar compositional strategy. The underpainting, a thin orangy-yellow layer, emanates throughout the image. Here, McPhail presents a street view looking into the distance and down a hill. The bottom third of the painting is the street— painted in a transparent gray. In the middle section, McPhail details a modern home and a car partially blocked by the apex of the hill. Part of the home is in deep shadow, while the sunlit facade is a whitish blue. The house is surrounded by rounded green trees. In the distance is another building, the color of the underpainting. Branches dangle into the upper third of the image. The painting reflects how three-dimensional space is flattened by photography and McPhail happily emphasizes this illusion. Some of the paintings, like the 8 x 10 inch View present fragments, something the eye catches and the camera records in passing. The corner of a building seen through the trees. The moment is familiar and fleeting simultaneously.

Although none of McPhail's paintings contain people, the works are all about the human presence. People shape gardens, build buildings, drive and park cars and populate the city. Their absence gives McPhail a freedom to experiment and to become a voyeur who wanders through the urban landscape, imagining how the shapes and colors of the city coexist. McPhail creates private moments in public spaces and his loose style of painting allows the works to thrive in the place where abstraction meets representation. He plays with perspectives and vantage points, creating a knowing, insiders view of a specific aspect of Los Angeles. Though unpopulated, the images are not sad or lonely. They radiate with an internal glow that reflects the magical aura that is Los Angeles.

Click here for Nick McPhail on its own page.

January 30, 2020

Shirin Neshat
I Will Greet the Sun Again
The Broad
October 19, 2019 - February 16, 2020

Shirin Neshat

I Will Greet the Sun Again is an impressive, comprehensive exhibition featuring more than 230 photographic and video works, from 1993-2019, by Shirin Neshat. Neshat is best known for black and white portraits of women covered by hand painted Farsi texts, and for single and multi-channel videos that explore topics of exile, identity and displacement. In the exhibition at The Broad, the gallery is divided into discrete spaces containing either photographic images, some presented salon style, or video projections. To fully experience the exhibition requires significant time as Neshat's videos are narrative in form and are best viewed from beginning to end. Although many have relatively short durations between ten and fifteen minutes, they are rich works that require ample time for digesting.

Included in the exhibition are images from Neshat's Women of Allah series (1993-1997) in which black and white photographs of nameless veiled women are superimposed with the words of poets and writers in Farsi. While the decorative patterns of the writing partially obscures the subjects' faces, it simultaneously gives a voice to those who are otherwise silenced. The spiral of red and black ink that overlays the veiled woman in I Am Its Secret, (1993) is both beautiful and haunting. It is a surprise that guns feature prominently in these images, as Iranian women are not often depicted with weapons. Neshat includes the guns as symbols of both power and protection.

In many of Neshat's videos, men and woman are filmed separately and brought together as two-channel projections. This is most clearly evidenced in Rapture (1999) a thirteen minute, two-channel video installation. A work about gender and the sexual politics of everyday life. Neshat emphasizes the traditional roles of men and women in Islamic societies and allows viewers to witness the negative attitudes toward women and the limitations placed upon them.

While Neshat works in both color and black and white, it is the contrast between lights and darks within the black and white pieces— both photographs and videos— that give her work their power. Stripped of color, blue skies and water, sand-toned buildings and deserts, become images about conflict and contrasts. Neshat explores both formal and conceptual relationships in her work and is interested in the representation of black and white, good and evil as well as weakness and strength.

Although the exhibition flows chronologically, it is nice to move both forward and backwards in time to comprehend the nuances of the trajectory and influences in her work— specifically how they relate to world events. The most recent works in the exhibition are the HD single channel videos The Colony and Land of Dreams (both 2019) and the accompanying installation of photographs. In the film, Land of Dreams, Neshat documents a photographer as she travels through the Southwest United States interviewing subjects about their dreams. The images she took on this journey are presented salon style in the last gallery, becoming a compelling portrait of America and Americans representing both the perspective of an outsidee looking in and an insider looking out.

Neshat is a poetic and political artist and it is a rare treat to see this huge body of work presented together. As the exhibition run draws to a close, now is the time to revisit and indulge in her visual masterpieces.

Click here for Shirin Neshat on its own page.

January 23, 2020

Julie Mehretu
A mid-career survey
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
November 3, 2019 - March 22 and May 17, 2020

Julie Mehretu

While Julie Mehretu's works appear to be geometric abstractions, they are rooted in representation. Mehretu culls through the media and often uses news imagery as the basis of her explorations. While it is difficult to trace a one to one correspondence between the original image and her transformation, Mehretu speaks about the political and social resonances in her work. On view at LACMA is a compelling trajectory of paintings, prints and drawings spanning 1996 to the present. This survey illustrates that while the works have changed visually, her underlying principals and motivations have remained consistent.

Mehretu's paintings are most impressive when large-scale and in the vast space of BCAM Level 1, is the mural sized, four-part painting Mogamma, (2012). This work is "quintessential" Mehretu as it layers her iconic imagery— fragments from different styles of architecture with a flutter of gestural lines to create a synthesis of abstraction and representation. These monumental paintings take time to view. It is interesting to think about shifts in scale when looking at her pieces. Moving from large to small within Mehretu's ouevre allows viewers to appreciate the nuances of her practice and how line, shape and color work together in each composition and how the size of the canvas or paper dictates how she fills the composition. Many of her early drawings are maps that explore migration patterns and may social systems as well as architectural structures. These later morph into images of architectural structures while retaining a sense of movement and flow.

At the base of Mehretu's paintings and works on paper is her keen sense of observation and an uncanny ability to abstract the "real' world into gestures and diagrams that reference that which exists outside the studio, be it architecture or current events. At their core, the works are political and poignant, while simultaneously embracing the language of abstraction. It is a pleasurable experience to get lost in a painting such as Renegade Delirium, (2002) a tornado of overlapping shapes and colors that fly across the surface. Here, exploding architectural fragments, billowing smoke and colorful shards meld together to create a dynamic composition. It comes as a surprise that Mehretu's pieces are so flat. Though they are densely layered, the surfaces do not build up. It is as if the paint and ink have been absorbed into the substrate that holds them, allowing for an endless melange of overlapping details. The explosive and energetic works are full of motion. There is no pause or rest for the eye, and it is exciting and rewarding to discover formal relationships that surprise as one scans the works from left to right, top to bottom, as well as in scattershot pulses.

The most recent works are unexpected and an exciting new direction. These pieces begin as blurred news images— pictures of fires, violent acts or tragic crimes. Less frenetic and more richly colored, they offer a more open space for contemplation. Hineni (E.3:4), (2018) takes its point of departure from a press photograph of the California wildfires. The blurred orange and red hues serve as a background for Mehretu's gestural black lines and geometric shapes. She transforms an image of violence and destruction into something sublime. Similarly, in When Angels Speak of Love (Barcelona), (2018), the referent is a news image of a political protest in Spain. The original photograph is enlarged, blurred and rotated 90 degrees. The figurative aspects of the image appear to be both traced and erased, becoming fluid gestures that suggest the tensions and impending violence suggested within the photograph.

Mehretu's works are magnificently crafted, rich, dense, flamboyant and quite beautiful to behold. Yet, she wants them to resonate beyond their formal qualities and infuses them with subject matter and purpose that is not always obvious. It is the tensions between abstraction and representation that give the paintings their edge, allure and mystery. What makes Mehretu's work extraordinary is her unique genius in orchestrating a rigorous and compelling transformation of the substance of life into the formal qualities of art.

Click here for Julie Mehretu on its own page.

January 16, 2020

Kathleen Henderson
Watch me make you disappear
Track 16 Gallery
January 4 - February 1, 2020

Kathleen Henderson

Kathleen Henderson has a facile hand and a keen wit. She mines the news media for content and rather than make didactic and preachy work about the state of the world, she offers humorous interpretations of these troubling times. Her oil stick and oil on paper works have a gestural urgency and her thick strokes suggest her characters, rather than render them realistically. In the past, the drawings were black oil-stick outlines on white paper but now her palette has expanded and many of the works have pink and green lines and shading as well as brushed background tonalities. The latest drawings depict nude and hooded figures, animals, office spaces and political events with and without speakers. There are also images that suggest the unpredictability of nature and the changing climate.

Henderson's deadpan titles make reference to the works content, yet are often more metaphoric than specific. For example, Mushroom Cloud Party Hat Party, (all works 2018-2019) pictures a smiling, multi-breasted Venus of Willendorf-esque figure in mid-jump in front of a stone wall and a distant urban landscape with a green-toned sky. Scrawled on the wall are the words: mushroom/cloud/party/hat./party. The who, what, when and why remain a mystery. This ambiguous figure also makes an appearance in Artemis of Ephesus on Stage, as well as in many of Henderson's out-takes, smaller (8 1/2 x 11 inch) works presented as a large grid in the back room of the gallery. Within this seductive and engaging presentation are crudely drawn prisoners, the devastation of hurricanes, masked men with guns, crowds, politicians, skeletons and oil rigs.

The cumulative effect of viewing these 150-plus works on paper is like mainlining a year of news, taking in the foils, destruction and ruin through a sigh of disbelief. In many ways, Henderson's out-takes function as the index, opening possibilities for the creation of relationships and finding similarities between the larger and smaller works. Though not studies in the traditional sense, the out-takes represent the expansive nature of Henderson's undertaking.

Henderson's work speaks directly to the moment. She is not shy about expressing her political beliefs and pointing a finger at the absurdities within the current administration. While there are moments of reflection like in Kiss, where a figure leans over to kiss the ground or Narcissus in which a figure confronts his reflection, the overall effect of the exhibition is an expression of the dire state of our world.

Click here for Kathleen Henderson on its own page.

January 9, 2020

Gilbert & George
The Paradisical Pictures
Sprüth Magers
November 16, 2019 – January 25, 2020

Gilbert & George

The British duo, Gilbert & George now in their 70s, have been collaborating since the late 1960s. They have worked together for more than 50 years, creating at first performance-based works (they declared themselves “living sculptures”) and later large-scale drawings and multi-panel photographs. Gilbert & George’s approach to art and art-making has always been inclusive as they believed that any and everything is apt subject matter for their explorations. They are not shy about using their artworks as a means for expressing their opinions about art, sex, religion, social taboos, and current politics. Throughout their career, they have not only worked together but present themselves as dapper dressers who never let down their guard. In essence, they are the artwork, though they claim not to be performing as they go about their lives in public. Gilbert & George remain a unique presence and are remarkable artists who continue to grow and surprise with each new series of work.

Without a doubt, Gilbert & George are masters of their medium and have a unique way of compositing images. Each piece is a wall-sized photograph comprised of individual segments surrounded by black frames that are arranged in a large grid. Gilbert & George have devised a system for producing, shipping and showing their photographic pieces whereby the works are conceived as fragments or sections that cohere into the final image when it is installed on the wall. While early on, their pieces were black and white, they have enthusiastically embraced color to make pieces that incorporate the full-color spectrum in both realistic as well as fantastical ways. It goes without saying that Gilbert & George are prolific. Their current works are over the top, confrontational and thoroughly enjoyable. It is not unusual to walk into a Gilbert & George exhibition and be bombarded by huge colorful photographic grids that span the gallery walls. This is indeed the case in The Paradisical Pictures, their first Los Angeles solo exhibition in nearly twenty years. For The Paradisical Pictures, Gilbert & George have created thirty-five new works.

The new works take the idea of “paradise” as a point of departure. The compositions are filled with colorized black and white photographic images that become lush gardens, ripe or rotting fruit, and vibrantly colored leaves. Gilbert & George appear in these pictures dressed in their signature suits, but also as fragmented body parts— lips, eyes, heads. In On the Bench (all works 2019) colorized photographs of Gilbert & George are posed leaning against a wooden bench surrounding a large tree. This central image is encircled by larger than life pink flowers with neon green tendrils. On the left and right sides of the composition are portraits of Gilbert & George cropped at the chest, their enlarged heads gaze out of the frame, across each other and into the distance. Left Behind is a more abstract work. Here, their cropped and brightly colored heads— blue for Gilbert, green for George— peer out from behind a collage of high contrast, over-saturated maple leaves. While Gilbert & George’s skin-color matches the over-saturated leaves, their red and yellow eyes pop.

Gilbert & George’s work is infused with humor and self-parody. With an unabashed sexually explicit and confrontational style, The Paradisical Pictures are more suggestive than bombastic. Curl for example, is a montage that features the artist’s eyes amongst a swirl of curled leaves that allude to abstracted mask-like faces. Chains depicts Gilbert & George with composited heads and bodies outlined by chains. The background of the image is again a melange of over-saturated fall leaves. Clearly Gilbert & George are no longer young men and in these new works, they contrast the beautiful aspects of nature with its (and their own) eventual decay. Their acid palette and heightened color scheme suggests violence and unease as nature encroaches and leaves its mark on the body. Gilbert & George remain stoic as they compete with these overgrown plants that often overtake the picture plane and relegate them to the shadows, or presented as fragments. But even from the depths, obscured by unnatural colors, Gilbert & George take charge, refusing to be consumed by this deranged image of paradise.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Magazine's Gallery Rounds, December 12, 2019.

Click here for Gilbert & George on its own page.

January 2, 2020

Laura Owens
Books and Tables
Matthew Marks Los Angeles
October 26, 2019 - January 25, 2020

Laura Owens

Distributed across the otherwise empty gallery spaces (there is nothing on the walls) are carefully placed, custom designed wooden tables. Atop each table is a specific arrangement of artist's books by the painter Laura Owens. The presentation is inviting as the books are obviously there to be handled, (there are no white gloves in sight). Owens is well known for her large scale paintings, yet throughout her career, she has also made artist's books. While there is not necessarily a one to one relationship between her books and her paintings, the books allow Owens to play with appropriated materials, image-text juxtapositions and narrative structures in a more free-form, albeit contained presentation. It is exciting to see books large and small, printed and drawn, gathered together on these table tops. There are even surprises— as each table is equipped with pull-out drawers containing even more books, as well as sensors that activate sounds and projections.

Ask for a list that identifies the works on display and you will be directed to another publication, a small black book that cross references all the books by subject. This "index" identifies places, objects, and ideas within the publication by table and book number. For example, "tree of knowledge" is (T2.B1), while United States of America is (T3.B1, T3.B8, T5.B2, T5.B8). The list of topics is vast and impossible to categorize as it includes: Alarms, Ants, Banks, Trump, Trumpets, Toilet Paper, Works, Zebras and Zhou Dynasty, among other subjects. While what is presented on each table is loosely thematic, these themes are never identified.

The best way to view the exhibition is by picking up a random book. One books leads to another. It feels like an intellectual treasure hunt. Some books are untitled and small. One functions like a flip-book where a succession of photographic fragments become animated. Others, like Smartphone Projector, (2015) are large, beautifully bound and comprised of a sequence of mounted images of increasingly obtuse and distorted advertisements. Owens also presents elaborate fold-outs, sophisticated pop-up books, felt books, books filled with abstract gestures, doodles, recipes, or even audio and video clips. An appropriated historical text from 1699 provides the basis for A Rich Cabinet with Variety of Inventions. Kieseritzky / Anderssen reproduces a chess board documenting the famous 1851 chess match between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky. Attention Cream Puff Makers is a pop-up book filled with child-like drawings.

Opening a blank cloth jacket becomes a journey into the unknown. Will the book be drawn? Painted? Printed? Contain text or just images? Tell a story? Present a dialectic or a treatise. Or simply be a sophisticated arrangement of shapes and colors? Numerous untitled books with blank colored cloth covers reveal visual surprises like layered cutouts or content that extends across accordion folds.

If one stands at any of the tables long enough, mysterious things begin to happen: books slowly start to glide across the table, video images are suddenly projected onto the wall or dart across the table tops. Looking at the underside of the tables reveals an inter-twinning of wires and electronics, the ah-ha moment. Built into each table is an array of interactive elements. Sensors are programmed to react as the books are picked up and put back down.

Though the arrangement of books on the tables feels casual, nothing is arbitrary or left to chance. A book placed above a hidden drawer is formally connected to what is found below. While it would be amazing to be able to take any of the books home to peruse at leisure, each table is conceived of as a complete artwork. In essence, Owens has created an exhibition of discrete sculptures designed as displays for groups of books. Until the tables are ensconced in a museum or a collector's home, the books are available for viewing: a chance that should not be missed.

Click here for Laura Owens on its own page.

December 26, 2019

Channing Hansen
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
November 9, 2019 – January 4, 2020

Channing Hansen

Channing Hansen delights in bringing form to that which is amorphous. Yarn is his material and knitting is his process. Draped across stretcher bars are interlocking stitches in a wide range of soft colors and textures that ebb and flow across the picture becoming visual entanglements. Because they are knit, the pieces have an overall transparency and a weightless presence: the individual shapes and lines seem to float, hovering in front of the wall. Hansen speaks about the "source" for the seemingly abstract works and how his patterns and stitching sequences are often derived from specific algorithms related to scientific principles. He states, "This series [Entanglements] is based on growth patterns that structure fungus, neurons, and the distribution of galaxies." The pieces reference both nature and the cosmos — the microscopic and macroscopic — as Hansen weaves together wide ranging associations into unifying works.

There is a curious relationship between chaos and order in Hansen's pieces. In E2 (all works 2019) the apexes of two triangles meet in the center of the composition surrounded by a delicate array of tightly and loosely knit irregular shapes in a range of colors. The two triangles appear to be flat and three-dimensional at the same time, as each one is bisected by a thin blank space that functions as a line. E13 shows an open oval, just left and above center, revealing one of the four wooden cross sections that supports the work. Bordering the hole is a wavy line of neon green yarn that rises above the surface adding another layer of depth. Hansen knits in other protrusions to create a textured surface. Hansen's list of materials is always fascinating as he is quiet specific about the source of each element included. For E13, the materials are: California Variegated Mutant (Myth), California Variegated Mutant (Pierson), California Variegated Mutant (Rhea), Lionhead (Beatrix & Derek), Musk Ox, Romedale (January), Romeldale (Osage), Romeldale (Renault), and Romney (Korbin) fibers; Mawata silk and Tussah silk; holographic polymers, pearl dust, and photo-luminescent recycled polyester; banana cellulose, pineapple fiber, rose cellulose, and Sequoioideae Redwood.

As part of his process, Hansen prepares and dyes raw fleece, then spins the fiber into yarn and has begun to incorporates weaving and felting techniques, in addition to using a wide range of knitted stitches. While most of the works in his exhibition are large-scale "entanglements" of myriad types and colors of yarns and knitting applications, Hansen also includes a work entitled E-index. This 23 part piece, installed as an open grid in the back gallery is a more minimal and reductive presentation of his palette. Each twelve-inch square is limited to a single shade, type of stitch, or woven element. Together, they reference the more complex pieces. In E-index Hansen provides a key, revealing the base elements of his creations.

Hansen continues to expand his algorithmic processes and methodologies, integrating more complex elements into the mix which allows the compositions to become more precise and specific. That each work takes its point of departure from the natural world is essential. An observation — like the ways fungus grows on a cut-down eucalyptus tree is the inspiration for Hansen's research and exponential associations which in turn dictate the systems he uses when knitting. The works are visually engaging, vibrant, soft, solid and ephemeral simultaneously. This unusual combination of knitting, scientific principals and technology, combined under the auspices of abstraction is what makes Hansen's work so unusual and imaginative.

Click here for Channing Hansen on its own page.

December 19, 2019

Dean Monogenis
Side Project
Walter Maciel Gallery
November 2 - December 21, 2019

Dean Monogenis

I imagine Dean Monogenis as a child, sitting on the floor with an array of building blocks in front of him. He is constructing structures that attempt to defy gravity by stacking differently colored and shaped pieces of wood and "Lincoln Logs" creating off-balanced structures, that immediately come cascading down, only to be resurrected again, in a different arrangement.

In Side Project, Monogenis makes manifest these imaginary combinations. On exhibit are playful acrylic on paper depictions of painted blocks, cut logs and other building materials, piled and strapped together in unusual ways. As painted, the combinations are delicately poised and balanced. Their size and weight remains unknown as Monogenis creates them with exacting detail, but without context, centered within a blank space. It is important to note that Monogenis is not painting something already fabricated and photographed, but rather these constructions are imagined and arranged in his mind— he could be thinking of assemblages made with children's blocks or full-scale building materials.

Bound Angle (2019) is a painting that depicts a sculptural arrangement of cut wooden logs with dark bark and an occasional protruding branch, a yellow strap and four differently proportioned and colored (white, orange, blue, green) rectangular blocks. As depicted, three logs are stacked on top of the white block, that serves as the base of the sculpture. It is just longer and wider than the logs. Strapped to and encircling the green block are five logs. A long blue plank balances on top of the top log on which balances, as if a see-saw, a smaller orange block and another shorter log. If this piece actually existed, would it balance? How big would it be? These questions do not have to be answered, as what makes the works so enjoyable is imagining their physical presence.

Front End Loader (2019) is similarly confounding as it hovers between the possible and absurd. Is the depicted sculpture of geometric shapes balanced? Could it stand, or would it collapse? Here, Monogenis combines a plank and three rectangular blocks. They are strapped together with a wide orange strap. This amalgamation sits on two wooden logs and abstractly references a front end loader. On top of this stack is a longer plank from which hangs an open rectangle that is held in place with another orange strap and balanced by two open cubes that have the look and feel of cinderblocks. It is unlikely that this work would actually balance, however in Monogenis' painting, yet it appears like capable of carrying its load.

Precarious Me (2018) is a humorous impossibility. A yellow and white beach umbrella leans left, angled from a yellow strap that wraps around an aqua rectangular block that is bisected by a darker blue horizontal plank. These forms rest on a wooden stump that is approximately the same height as the umbrella and umbrella pole. Atop the aqua box are two more boxes, both green. One is divided by a yellow stripe, perhaps connected to the yellow strap that holds these objects together.

Because Monogenis presents these assemblages in a bare white space, they take on a life of their own. Some are personified, others surreal juxtapositions of disparate materials where the combination of the myriad pieces becomes an intriguing concoction that resonates on formal as well as metaphoric levels.

Click here for Dean Monogenis on its own page.

December 12, 2019

Takako Yamaguchi
New Paintings
As Is Los Angeles
November 3 - December 21, 2019

Takako Yamaguchi

For her 2018 exhibition at As Is gallery, Takako Yamaguchi displayed nine paintings that focused on women's clothing. Each piece was a self portrait of sorts as Yamaguchi was photographed in these outfits for the purpose of the painting. In these images, Yamaguchi cropped the body closely and never showed the face, but rather concentrated on the details and the specificities of the fabric, buttons and zippers. The eye gravitated to the textures and the precision of the painted renderings of the clothed body.

In her current exhibition, Yamaguchi presents seventeen minimalist, quasi-monochromatic, oil on linen paintings, all 18 x 24 inches. These trompe l'oeil works explore the optical illusions that occur when 3D becomes 2D. To create each painting, Yamaguchi constructed models that combined basic shapes— triangles, squares, circles, parallelograms, and rectangles— into geometric structures. These structures were then lit and photographed. Well aware that photography flattens space, Yamaguchi tasked herself with creating realistic representations of the photographs, carefully painting the white shapes, their shadows and varying tonalities to suggest their original depth.

Each painting depicts a low relief or built form against a white ground. Untitled (7), (all works 2017-2019) approximates a section of metal siding with triangular folds. One side of each of eight vertical strips is light, while the other side is painted a darker shade to suggest it is in shadow. This simple, yet strange illusion of depth is remarkably convincing. A similar illusion occurs in Untiled (4) where Yamaguchi paints two circles that appear to have been excised from the base rectangle. They sit side by side like two holes in the surface of the linen. Untiled (11) depicts a pair of concave and convex circles painted with absolute veracity.

The mind's eye understands that these are paintings of three dimensional forms, yet as presented, they are flat surfaces. The illusion is so realistic, it is tempting to look at the paintings from the side to make sure they are not sculptural. The push-pull— abstract/representational, photograph/painting— that Yamaguchi creates is what gives this body of work its magic.

That Yamaguchi is a skilled and conceptually savvy painter with a keen eye and a sharp wit is a given. While the paintings share a kinship with geometric abstraction and can be placed within the canon of monochrome and white on white paintings, this project feels like a conceptual undertaking. Yamaguchi creates hyper-real representations of abstract originals while literally and figuratively playing with what is above and below the surface. The works resonate beyond their simple configurations and demand to be appreciated on multiple levels.

Click here for Takako Yamaguchi on its own page.

December 5, 2019

Linda Besemer
An Abundance of Errors
Vielmetter Los Angeles
November 2 - December 21, 2019

Linda Besemer installation views.

It has been five years since her last solo exhibition, and during this time Linda Besemer has been experimenting. Her new works in An Abundance of Errors are paintings of glitches— images of the graphical chaos and disorder that occurs on screen when computer programs malfunction. No two glitches are the same. Old television screen errors displayed waves of zig-zagging lines. Today's computer glitches are colorful collages of intertwining moire patterns and cascading pixels with jittery edges.

In the past, Besemer's process was additive. She essentially fabricated acrylic tapestries embedded with complex patterns creating hybrids between painting and sculpture. These slabs of pure paint, more than 1/4 inch thick, were often draped over metal bars so that both the front and back sides of the works were visible. The pieces contained overlapping lines, grids and geometric shapes that formed patterns and created the illusion of three-dimensional space. While these works shared an affinity with Op Art, Besemer was also interested in exploring the materiality of acrylic paint and how it functioned as a solid substance. Perhaps Besemer felt she had exhausted the possibilities within this method of painting as her new works are more traditional in their presentation yet just as complex in their concept and construction.

To create the paintings in An Abundance of Errors, Besemer layers her acrylics, taping off specific areas within the frame which allows different planes of vibrant colors to intersect in mystifying and beautiful ways, while still creating the illusion of depth. Lil' Red (all works 2019) is a fusion of vertical stripes filled with rainbow colored gradients interwoven with arcs and concentric circles that shift in tonalities creating a kaleidoscopic effect. In D+G Space a background of black and white lines form catenary curves that are bisected along the diagonal by triangular shaped full spectrum gradients that recede into space. The result is a dizzying array of lines and colors. Warpy is another large-scale work that takes viewers on a visual journey through rainbow toned columnar structures that overlap a vortex of black and white moires. The melange of criss-crossing planes creates an impossible and fantastical space that is both atmospheric and architectural.

It is curious that Besemer chooses to paint digital artifacts and perhaps the 'abundance of errors' she references is an ironic nod to the instability and unpredictability of the digital world. That she carefully transforms these anomalies into paint, representing the digital in analogue form, calls attention to this schism. Each work is a puzzle that can't be solved or reverse engineered, as the rhythm of Besemer's geometry makes no logical sense. That their point of departure is a glitch reiterates this impossibility and makes the paintings even more fascinating to behold.

Click here for Linda Besemer on its own page.

November 28, 2019

Octavio Abúndez
Facts, contradictions, puzzles, an explanation and a few lies
Kohn Gallery
November 9 - December 21, 2019

Octavio Abúndez Installation views.

In Facts, contradictions, puzzles, an explanation and a few lies, Guadalajara-based, mixed media artist Octavio Abúndez presents large brightly colored canvases covered with snippets of text culled from disparate sources. The centerpiece, Hi(stories): A Utopian History of Humanity, (2019), a grid of 256 small canvases, is both an homage to Gerhard Richter's Color Charts and On Kawara´s Date Paintings while also a jumping off point for something completely different. Though Richter's color choices were based on industrially produced paint chips (coincidently the number 256 is also the number of web-safe colors formed through the combination of red, green and blue hex values), Abúndez's colored surfaces most importantly serve as backgrounds for white or gray texts about utopias.

It would be time consuming (but not impossible) to read through the entire work. Scanning the different texts sheds light on concepts of utopia throughout history that Abúndez has carefully organized and represented. Some of the descriptions are dated, others are headed "ongoing" or "unknown." Examples include: circa 360 BC: Plato describes Atlantis, whether it was allegorical or gossip, this paved the way to search for something that is not there; Ongoing: Since the dawn of Humanity, we have lived in an imperfect world. It is precisely that which makes us move towards perfection; Unknown: Language began. It will enable knowledge to overcome Death; The future: Utopia must invent its own Utopia. Through the presentation of contrasting and conflicting statements arranged in a structured grid, Abúndez's work illustrates ever-changing, expansive and amorphous utopian ideals.

Shown in conjunction with Hi(stories) are paintings from Abúndez's series, We Could be So Much Better. This consists of large striped works covered with snippets of dialogue from a list Abúndez created featuring 198 dystopian films. Each utterance is presented in a basic serif font, centered within a horizontal band of vibrant color. As the viewer reads though the quotes, a conversation is constructed. While the title of each painting lists the names of the characters from the films, it is only through accompanying cheat sheets that Abúndez's full source materials and references are revealed.

In Neo/Coffee Shop Manager/George/Owen Grady/Julius Lowenthal/The White Widow/Quentin/Worth/Quentin/Worth/Pinbacker/Tic’Tic/Fifi/ John Connor/Kuato/Joseph Lynch/Johnny Mnemonic, a painting on the theme of 'prophecy,' the dialogue begins, "The prophecy was a lie. / I am not a hero. / What are you gonna do? It’s a lousy world. / You should write fortune cookies…" And ends, "People don’t believe in heroes anymore. / I feel the weight of the future bearing down on me. A future I don’t want. / You are what you do. A man is defined by his action, not his memory. / A man grows with the greatness of his task. / Now suddenly, I’m responsible for the entire fucking world." In each of the nine pieces, the viewer comes away with a muddled understanding of what the characters are referencing. Yet, when filtered through Abúndez's ingenious sequencing, there is an ironic sense of hope, despite the hopelessness. While not every viewer will be able to recognize all the characters and quotes within the paintings, there are references to James Bond, Keanu Reeves' characters and the Avengers.

It is curious that Abúndez, whose native language is Spanish, presents his work in English. This feeds the notion that they are translations and interpretations. In my mind, Abúndez's pieces share an affinity with the work of Christian Marclay, who also composites fragments from films. Both Abúndez and Marclay sequence unrelated elements drawn from Hollywood movies, creating new meanings through juxtaposition.

The pieces in Abúndez's We Could be So Much Better series are playfully engaging, whereas the works on view in the backroom from a series entitled Chronic Complicatedness reflect more adroitly dystopic world views. These floor and wall-based sculptures have the look and feel of enlarged wads of crumpled paper. Each work is covered with a melange of overlapping texts extracted from science fiction novels. A bronze figure strategically placed alongside each piece and tiny in comparison, appears to wrestle with or hold the paper at bay. The weight of the words towers over these little men.

At first glance, Abúndez's work feels familiar and obvious, yet upon closer examination, these pieces are a smart and engaging interpretation and re-presentation of pop culture. Abúndez draws from literature and history, as well as cinema. He is interested in the visual power of language and the way words communicate and inspire what pictures can't.

Click here for Octavio Abúndez on its own page.

November 21, 2019

Russell Crotty
Paintings Distant and Perilous
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
October 20 - December 21, 2019

Russell Crotty images

Russell Crotty is an astute observer. He has spent endless hours drawing surfers and surf spots along the California coast, as well as looking up into the night sky and transcribing what he sees onto custom globes. He often works with a ball-point pen, filling large expanses of paper with doodle-like sketches that perfectly capture the tempo of the waves and aura of the atmosphere. His latest pieces are a departure from his well known method of working— an amalgamation of drawing, paint, sculpture and collage— yet not surprisingly, a continuation and expansion. Here, Crotty combines bio-resin, recycled plastic containers and depictions of the astrological as well as man made environments.

These new pieces are both celestial and terrestrial. Many feature quasi-space-ships that float in an ambiguous environment, a strange combination of land, sea and sky. Crotty's square paintings have a 1950s sensibility and palette. His lines, created with a stick dipped in ink, have a childlike simplicity that brings to mind the works of Paul Klee and Joan Miro.

With titles like Extra Solar Locator, Our Galactic Environs or The Data Server Conundrum, it is evident that Crotty is interested in how the technological, both real and imagined, has infected and affected the landscape. In each work, Crotty collages bits of three-dimensional clear plastic, drawn fragments and lines to describe architectural objects that hover between the compositions planes and receding space. In Carbon Star (all works 2019), a structure comprised of irregular circles, rectangles and triangles drifts by a large dark planet that occupies the lower third of the picture. Another smaller sphere in the upper righthand corner— the carbon star — is presented as a bright red disk with a glowing aura. The work is at once whimsical, magical and haunting.

Two amorphous, amoeba-like shapes occupy the foreground in Extra Solar Locator. One, a vessel or spaceship, contains a montage of smaller drawings— trees, mountains and planets— perhaps to help identify its quest as it approaches the other, an alien-tree-like form. In the background at what seems the edge of this world is a tall triangular tower topped with a light blue oval platform. The tower is inscribed with rows of hand-written block-letters that spell out obscure names, coordinates and dates: gibberish to all but those well versed in astronomy.

The works are beautiful and enigmatic. Crotty plays with figure ground relationships, creating spaces where incongruous structures can co-exist. The places are distant, yet familiar, both utopic and dystopic. He depicts an abstracted future filled with technological innovation, yet created by hand with an ad hoc temperament. In these strangely figureless landscapes he call attention to worlds as well as times beyond the present where human beings seem to have disappeared.

Click here for Russell Crotty on its own page.

November 14, 2019

Laura Karetzky
Ratio: Poems
Lora Schlesinger Gallery
October 26 – December 7, 2019

Laura Karetzky images

In Ratio: Poems, Laura Karetzky creates paintings within paintings. These intimate and personal works construct narratives that bring people together while also suggesting gaps in time. Karetzky layers pictorial fragments that resemble cell phone selfies and snapshots, juxtaposing large-scale realistically rendered scenes with smaller insets. The pieces are beautifully painted figurative representations that include close-ups of faces, corners and walls of interior spaces, as well as exterior scenes extracted from everyday life, many including groups of people. The works take their point of departure from the screen. Karetzky is interested in how people record and document their whereabouts through communications on their computers and mobile devices and how casually framed and cropped compositions have become the norm. What is included, left out and inferred come together in her paintings to create compelling, yet ambiguous narratives.

Previous bodies of work have depicted images of people holding cellphones taking pictures, as well as the screen’s interface, yet in these new paintings the phone is implied rather than represented. Embedded Red, 2018, features a woman drinking from a plastic bottle. The monochromatic, red-toned background tightly frames the subject cutting off the top half of her head, focusing instead on the hand that holds the bottle. Set within the painting, just to the left and much smaller than the woman’s hand, is a full-color snapshot-like rendering of a group of well dressed women and in the distance a man standing outside a building, perhaps at a gallery opening. The relationship between the two images suggests a before and after scenario, though it is unclear if one of the women is also the one drinking from the water bottle, as she is aggressively cropped.

In Embedded Brexit, 2019, an inset featuring a fragment of a woman’s face leaning forward, as if into a computer’s camera, is layered on top of another partial figure. The face that makes up the majority of the background is bisected by the edge of the canvas. Both images are painted in soft tones of reds, pinks and browns with sketchy brush strokes. As a user of SKYPE and other computer-based communication apps, the image is reminiscent of one of those awkward conversations where, although you see the person you’re speaking with, they are blurred or not in full view. The primary figure in Embedded Yellow, 2019, is painted in a yellow hue. Karetzky depicts this young woman in three-quarter view, sitting at a desk or table. She pensively gazes down towards her lap, though it is not included in the image. Perhaps it is a phone or a keyboard. The smaller inset, crafted with a more realistic palette, shows two women, one seated on a bed in the distance, the other just a sliver at the edge of the frame. The yellow tonality creates a somber mood that is contrasted by the aura of joy suggested in the more fully rendered picture, and the implied narrative suggests separation, or someone being left out.

While most of the paintings in the Embedded series portray interior spaces filled with fragmented figures, Karetzky also records the world around her. Presenting Jane depicts people attending a class or a lecture and Embedded Cameo Tiger Eye focuses on a ring on the forefinger of a hand, one pointing towards disembodied legs likely captured on a bus or subway. The cameo ring echoes the inset frames in Karetzky’s other paintings. Embedded Barnes is a painting of a boy behind a coat-check counter, presumably at the Barnes Collection. This painting shares a compositional kinship with Edward Hopper‘s Nighthawks (1942) as a large rectangle cuts across the composition implying a scene within a scene. Embedded Barnes feels both familiar and mysterious simultaneously.

The paintings are frames and windows that function as portraits as well as portals. They are about connectivity and longing to stay or to be connected. Karetzky talks about the works as poems and as ratios. She states, “I have been calling them Ratios. I like the reference to analogy, symbol, mathematical systems, the couple. "But they are also poems, and I like the reference to metaphor, written word, intentional editing." Through the process of painting these complex images, she considers questions like, "Who am I, and can I see myself in others? Is identity defining, or is it multidimensional?" Within these intimate and personal works, Karetzky creates a visual diary that alludes to the inevitable passage of time and the contemporary need to record and share every moment before it fades away.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now L.A., November 10, 2019.

Click here for Laura Karetzky on its own page.

November 7, 2019

Phillip K. Smith III
10 Columns
Bridge Projects
October 12, 2019 - February 16, 2020

Phillip K. Smith installation views

10 Columns, the inaugural exhibition at Bridge Projects is an immersive installation by Phillip K. Smith III. It is an exploration of light and color via programmed electronics. Smith has transformed the 7000 square foot space into an ever-changing environment of shifting colors. Human scaled light-boxes, some with mirrored panels, protrude from the sides of ten columns in varying configurations, calling attention to the architecture and dimensions of the vast space. Within the darkened gallery, a glowing aura morphs through an array of colors and tonalities, reflecting both the subtle changes in the transitioning sky from day to night, as well as the sensation of heightened colors due to fire (something familiar to those living in Southern as well as Northern California).

Smith's installation calls to mind the perceptual works by James Turrell and Robert Irwin, artists associated with the California Light and Space Movement, who explored transitions within the color spectrum using natural as well as artificial light, often constructing spacial illusions. While Smith has created pieces in situ that reflect the changing light in the natural world, this piece is situated within an empty dark space and focuses on the cadence of programmed LED light boxes and their mirrored reflections.

While some will want to understand the system in play and the algorithm that dictates the color changes, Smith's process is not disclosed. Viewers are invited to sit on benches or wander within the space letting go of expectations in order to be transported into a wondrous world of ever changing, floating rectangles. Smith has choreographed an experience that cycles through gradients of color to infuse the space with different hues, illustrating many principals of color theory including how we perceive colors that radiate, mix and contrast with each other.

At one moment the rooms glows yellow, then subtly shifts to a variance of reds and greens that transition into pinks and blues, only to fade back to a single tone. The eye moves from the light boxes to refracted reflections and then comes to rest on a back wall, still bombarded by afterimages. The eye perceives rectangles within rectangles that hover within the space. Close viewing is not the point, as the eye is overwhelmed by successive fields of light. Rather, why not embrace the experience and indulge in the idea of entering a prism or a kaleidoscope, confronted by constantly changing arrays of color.

Smith's work is simultaneously architectural and perceptual, sculptural and environmental. It is seductive and captivating. 10 Columns demands time and for those who let go and give in to the sensation, it provides a welcome respite while still referencing the goings on in the real world.

Note: This review was first published in Art Now LA, November 3, 2019.

Click here for Phillip K. Smith III on its own page.

October 31, 2019

Philip Guston
Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971
Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles
September 14, 2019 - January 5, 2020

Philip Guston

Of late, impeachment is on everyone's mind. It is mentioned in the news on a daily basis as more and more accusations are leveled against President Trump. Few presidents have been impeached and none removed from office. Nixon resigned, Johnson and Clinton were acquitted in the Senate. What happens to Trump remains to be seen.

Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971 is a must-see exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles consisting of works three discreet bodies of work Guston made or began in 1971. This was a prolific year for Guston. He was an artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome for five months where he created numerous small-scale paintings (presented in the exhibition as "The Roma Paintings") that abstractly referenced the relics, ruins and landscape of the ancient city. Upon return to the United States, Guston found America in turmoil. Nixon was in his first term, the war in Vietnam was raging and Guston needed to make sense of things.

Mostly created in the month of August, the second section of the show is The Nixon Drawings, consisting of over a hundred ink on paper works. In these pieces, Guston imagined Nixon's early years: growing up in Whittier, CA, as well as the trajectory toward his presidency with an ironic wit and satirical eye. Surprisingly, these works were never exhibited or published during Guston's lifetime (1913-1980) and it was not until much later that his daughter allowed the drawings to be exhibited and published. A book, Poor Richard, based on Guston's original sequence of 73 drawings, was published in 2001, however, they were not exhibited until 2016 when Hauser & Wirth organized an exhibition for their New York gallery. In 2017, they also showed them in London and are now on view in their Los Angeles space (through Jan 5, 2020).

When we view these images today, it is through the lens of history. We know Nixon was impeached and resigned from office. We know there was a scandal around Watergate. We know when the war in Vietnam ended and what the outcome was. In 1971, none of this was on record. It was a time before social media and Instagram and Tweets. The way news was communicated was more limited and Guston relied on the morning newspaper, radio and television broadcasts for much of his source material.

Nixon's unpredictable and corrupt politics angered Guston. Returning from Rome and confronted with uncertainty, he focused on the politics of the day. A skilled draftsman with a keen eye and wry sense of humor, Guston created a body of work that played with Nixon's extreme features. He imagined Nixon's daily life, fears and fate. In retrospect, what he created feels true. How these drawings might have been received at the time remains unknown.

In thinking about the daily bombardment of images and texts by and about Trump that we receive today and our constant access to breaking news, creating a series of works about today's presidential blunders would be relatively easy. Jim Carrey's project IndigNATION, which was on view at Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles in 2018, comes immediately to mind as an example of a recent body of work satirizing and criticizing our current president.

Guston's Nixon Drawings however, cannot really be separated from his other works and seeing them in context with paintings also made in 1971 sheds light on his struggles, process and motivations. His reductive style, pink-toned palette and now iconic forms were not fully embraced when originally presented. The return to figuration in the form of drawing was a way for Guston to reflect on how art and politics might fit together.

The drawings from Poor Richard include depictions of Nixon with bushy eye brows, a long nose and prominent chin. The title image, "Poor Richard" depicts Nixon at the beach under a blanket and umbrella. His dog Checkers stands on his extended body, kissing his nose. Objects surround him including a hat, sherifs' star, small TV, baseball bat, food items and some of his pipe-smoking cronies. In another drawing (all are untitled, 1971) Nixon is bodyless— just a long nosed head vacationing in Key Biscayne along with golf club carrying and pipe-smoking figures. Kissinger is depicted as a pair of thick black eye glasses. Agnew is a shown as a triangular shaped head. Guston was a facile satirist who indulged in pushing the boundaries of caricature. He was informed about Nixon's missteps and was able to create exaggerated depictions of his trials and tribulations. With Poor Richard, Guston shares affinities with Tiepolo, Goya, Daumier and Picasso— other artists who created in-depth series devoted to political and social causes.

The show concludes with five large paintings, grouped together as "Next Forms." Perhaps the 1971 painting, Alone sheds light on Guston's struggles with his practice and his place in a changing world. This large painting illustrates, in his pictographic style, a man alone in his bed, his head resting sideways on a pillow. Out the window is the city. The painting depicts sadness and despair, as if the subject can't face the day and connect to the things around him. While how we view Guston's work now does take into consideration how it was received when first presented, the wrath of criticism took its toll. It is only through the lens of history that we can understand how and why Guston created these works that are rightly celebrated today.

Click here for Philip Guston on its own page.

October 24, 2019

Andrew Schoultz
DENK Gallery
September 21 - November 2, 2019

Andrew Schoultz

In his installation Vessels, Andrew Schoultz has transformed the gallery space into a fantastical and playful environment. He presents sculptures, paintings and works on paper in his signature style, using an array of concentric lines that define shapes and objects —ranging from the pyramid and all seeing eye from a dollar bill, to elaborate dragons and vessels (ships and vases)— that while abstracted, also allude to a greater narrative. Schoultz's brightly colored works are infused with themes drawn from popular culture, history and life including war, the environment and human mortality.

With Escher-esque compositions and distorted perspectives, Schoultz's imagined worlds combine geometric shapes with more natural elements like cascading waves, puffy clouds, and leafy trees. He conceived of this show as an installation and carefully choreographs how viewers move through the works. He provides numerous painted benches —places to sit and contemplate— as well as a colorful archway constructed from foam blocks painted in tones of yellow, orange and red that functions as a gateway into the bowels of the exhibition. Once through this arch, viewers immediately see Fountain, a monumental painting comprised of 176 square panels. In this piece, hundreds of yellow, orange and red concentric circles emanate from a central point, becoming an image of a radiating sun in front of which sits a fountain spouting blue arcs whose endpoints drip into a watery horizontal plane.

In many of these new paintings, Schoultz juxtaposes two distinct styles of mark making. The contrast between his signature style —tightly drawn lines and more loosely rendered shapes he has begun using to create a stained glass effect— is both startling and refreshing. From the Window Comes Light and Life is a large work whose foreground features a gigantic vase decorated with a swarm of blue birds, yellow-orange eyes and a red and yellow four-legged monster that is more tiger than dragon. From this vessel sprouts a tree and a snake-like creature that zig-zags up the composition. More cartoony than menacing, the snake appears to be feasting on the green leaves at the top of the plant. Geometric shapes outlined in red and filled in a range of yellow, white and orange tones form a complex stained glass window that serves as the background of the painting. Schoultz frames this arch shaped window with red and white striped lines. He also paints a red brick floor on which the large vase sits. The eye oscillates between the foreground and background, trying to make sense of this dense layering.

Cathedral is another large, multi-panel painting that spans the far back wall of the gallery. While potentially the last piece viewed, it is in many ways the centerpiece of the show as it depicts an exhibition of Schoultz's works placed within an isometric view of a cathedral. Seen from both inside and out, Schoultz's elaborately rendered cathedral is filled with gigantic gray-toned, cave-like rocks, trees that serve as the support for snakes that extend from floor to ceiling, stained glass windows depicting mythical creatures and an arrangement of paintings hung salon style on a brick wall. The painting almost feels like it can be entered, and begs for extended viewing. It is a pleasurable experience to let the eye wander across the composition and then back into the 'real' gallery space.

Schoultz's smaller paintings and works on paper are as demanding to look at as his larger pieces. He takes the eye and the mind on a visual journey that weaves through time and space, indulging in the representation of the real and surreal as abstracted forms. Schoultz draws from history as well as from the present to create scenes and environments that are simultaneously enticing and unsettling.

Note: This review was first published in Artillery Gallery Rounds, October 23, 2019.

Click here for Andrew Schoultz on its own page.

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 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 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 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 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 Rodriguez 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 cachet. 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 on its own page.

April 24, 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 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 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 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 Korty 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 Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler 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 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 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 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 at LA Louver 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 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 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, hecuts 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 on its own page.

November 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 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 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.

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

Click here for Sol LeWitt on its own page.

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 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.

Click here for Rory Devine on its own page.

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.

Click here for Jerry McMillan on its own page.

September 13, 2018

Alex "Defer" Kizu
A site specific mural inL.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.

Click here for Alex "Defer" Kizu on its own page.

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.

Click here for Artists and their Books / Books and their Artists on its own page.

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.

Click here for Vincent Fecteau on its own page.

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.

Click here for Danica Phelps on its own page.

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.

Click here for Alison O’Daniel on its own page.

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.

Click here for Robert Levine on its own page.

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.

Click here for Stephen Berens on its own page.

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.

Click here for 3D: Double Vision on its own page.

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.

Click here for Greg Mocilniker on its own page.

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.

Click here for Young Joo Lee on its own page.

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.

Click here for Wendell Dayton on its own page.