What's on Los Angeles | Index

Pick of the Week

by Jody Zellen

Starting July 5, 2018, I began posting a pick of the week, to What's on Los Angeles based on what was memorable from my weekly art outings.

This continued through 2022 (except from May 14 - June 11, 2020, when most art venues were closed due to Covid-19, so I presented a series of studio visits rather than exhibition reviews).

My reviews will continue in 2023 but rather than being weekly, they will be less regular.

July 11, 2024

Rebecca Campbell
Young Americans
L.A. Louver
May 29 - July 20, 2024

Rebecca Campbell

A grid of fifteen portraits of teenage boys and girls painted in a multitude of styles fills the far wall of the gallery. Are these the 'young americans' of the exhibits title? Young Americans was also the title of the 1975 album by the late David Bowie and was seen as his breakthrough in the United States: it also contained the hit song "Fame". Thinking about Bowie and rock and roll and youth culture then —in comparison to now— it is possible to conclude that as different as things are in 2024, innocence is innocence, vulnerability is vulnerability, strength is strength and the young eventually grow old.

Two large paintings set the stage. Greenhouse and California Love (both 2023) are exteriors. In California Love, Campbell portrays a fruit tree surrounded by flowers. Behind a wooden fence are palm trees. In the foreground, colorful plants appear to dance in the magical light. This is the California dream. Although the painting is devoid of people, the human presence abounds — as gardener and appreciator of California's unique light. Greenhouse celebrates Campbell's excellence as a painter and as an observer of domestic life. Here she presents the family home — a green house with a balcony that is surrounded by plants and trees. A mix of styles inhabits the surface ranging from highly detailed renderings to blurred abstraction in addition to thick applications of paint. With Campbell, every stroke, gesture, area of color and expression is deliberate and purposeful. In Greenhouse, she allows three isolated figures— a painter on the balcony, a silhouette in an upper window and a shoeless youth seated on a wall at the edge of the homes back stairs to exist in their own worlds, connected and disconnected simultaneously.

This is evident in the eighty-inch square painting In Utero (2023) where a boy sits cross-legged on the floor. He has long hair and is wearing a t-shirt from "In Utero," the band Nirvana's 1993 album. He has dark red sneakers with white stripes and laces that formally relate to a red locker located behind him, as well as to the red edges of the paintings hanging on the wall in the room (that resembles Campbell's studio) behind him. His gaze is pensive, his face a melange of colored brush strokes with shadows and highlights that reinforce a dynamic, rather than static being.

Hollywood is a sign (2023) is a similarly evocative painting that features two young boys peacefully floating in a deep blue swimming pool. In the background is a reproduction of the iconic Hollywood sign set against distant hills. As the rectangular pool recedes, the incongruities of the scene and the location take shape. The boys are in a pool in the desert. Why is the Hollywood sign there too? The boy in the foreground rests his chin on the pools deck, his head leaning on his shoulder, his face partially in shade. He seems complacent and relaxed. Behind him, magically floating or perhaps just sitting in the shallow end is another boy in a lotus pose. They seem connected, yet alone with their thoughts.

In the diptych Wolf Moon (2024), Campbell extrapolates. A youth wanders through a stream at night. A full moon behind him illuminates the transparent fabric that envelopes him. Is he a dancer? A mysterious arm emerges from the drapery behind the main figure. Is it real? A dream? Spiritual? The beautifully painted image represents the freedom to express, to be whomever one wants to be dancing in the shimmering night.

In Between (2024) is a painting of two girls. One present and looking forward, one seen from behind and looking back at a distant city. Both are clad in an ornate red dresses that dissolve into dripping paint toward the bottom edge of the canvas. They sit above a freeway in what appears to be a cave or a bunker with an uneven hole in the cinder-block wall behind them. There is an aura of sadness and longing, though their gazes never meet. The focus is the space between— a silent freeway and an urban silhouette.

In Campbell's work dreams come to life. There is loss and celebration, desire and hope. Many of these subjects are Campbell's own children and their friends, so she can be simultaneously objective and subjective in their depictions. She extrapolates from her own life to create paintings that communicate more universally about what it means to be young in an ever changing world.

Click here for Rebecca Campbell on its own page.

July 4, 2024

Shawn Huckins
Zippers Short and Skinny
Richard Heller Gallery
June 15 - July 13, 2024

Shawn Huckins

Shawn Huckins is an exacting artist whose works often begin with recreations of American masters that he paints with uncanny skill and detail. His works are a lot more than faithful reproductions however. With each series he injects surprise, be it overlaid text or emojis within the painting, or the addition of actual woven fabrics. In an early series from 2011 he juxtaposed historical works with the now familiar shorthand of text messages. The title Zippers Short and Skinny — his current exhibition at Richard Heller Gallery — is a play on words found when re-reading “Leave Any Information At The Signal. Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages,” a book on Ed Ruscha. Huckins states, "The original phrase in the book was ‘Zippers Long and Skinny’, but since my show is about masculinity, I changed it to ‘Zippers Short and Skinny.’  It’s basically an innuendo for small male genitalia." In these pieces he "explores the complex phenomenon of masculinity within the societal landscape."

In some ways, Huckins' pieces also share a kinship with Vanessa Prager's recent portraits as her thickly impastoed paintings also reference historical works. Prager replaces the sitter's facial features with bouquets of flowers to create an unsettling yet evocative mass. While Prager's works are a feminist critique, Huckins is interested in an abject depiction of masculinity. The first works viewers encounter are paintings of seated male figures partially obscured by drapery. Portrait in Pink Satin Fabric (Joseph Sherburne after Copley), 2024 transforms John Singleton Copely's realistic portrait of Joseph Sherburne, a wealthy Boston merchant, by covering the face and half of the subject's body with soft pink fabric that whimsically flows down from the top of the painting. Huckins retains the deep blue patterned fabric behind the figure, as well as the floral decorations on his brown-robe and the frilly white cuffs that surround his hands. Portrait in Green Satin Fabric (Nicholas Boylston after Copley), 2024 similarly focuses on the depiction of green satin fabric that Huckins introduces into the scene.

The draw however is Richard Heber (after Copley), 2024. Huckins recreates the upper portion of John Copely's painting of Richard Heber painted in 1782 that pictures the nine-year-old boy casually leaning against a tree. In Huckins' version, the bottom of the painting has been replaced by tufts of colorful yarn that form a rug descending from the boy's chest and cascading onto the gallery floor. The Brown Boy (Thomas Lister after Reynolds), 2024 also begins with the recreation of a historic portrait— Joshua Reynolds' 1764 depiction of the young Thomas Lister, who later became the 1st Baron Ribblesdale. Again, Huckins presents a fragment of the painting, this time installed off kilter and resting on the floor where it connects to an array of colorful yarns that spill out like a shag carpet. Huckins brings out the colors in the sky, flowers and myriad hues of green, transforming them into an uneven grid. In these pieces, Huckins plays with ideas of masculine and feminine, as well as craft and fine art, to invite a dialogue that challenges traditional notions of male bravado.

Various Fabrics: Portrait of Thomas Abthorpe Cooper (after Harding), 2023 is an earlier work from Huckins' Dirty Laundry series. In this painting, he wraps the entire head, obscuring the face from Chester Harding's c.1822 portrait of Thomas Abthorpe Cooper with a turban of colorful and patterned fabrics. In describing these works he states, "We use cloth to conceal, but also to express, selectively, based on how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. Of course, we don’t express all facets of our identity, some things we hold near out of habit, nature, or fear of ridicule. We all have dirty laundry, literally and figuratively. "Dirty laundry", the phrase, is defined as personal, or private affairs that one does not want made public as they would cause distress and embarrassment. "Dirty Laundry", the series, employs contemporary fabrics painted over traditional American portraiture to explore questions surrounding what, how much, and how well we share and hide."

These altered portraits, fragmented images of young aristocrats and effeminate hands emerging from silky fabrics challenge traditional notions of masculinity. Huckins presents images from the past in a new light and suggests that male bravado as depicted by American Masters was shielded the sitter's true identities.

Click here for Shawn Huckins on its own page.

June 27, 2024

Sidney B. Felsen
First Came a Friendship: Sidney B. Felsen and the Artists at Gemini G.E.L.
Getty Research Center
February 20 - July 7, 2024

Sidney B. Felsen

Gemini G.E.L. is a Los Angeles based print shop founded by Stanley Grinstein and Sidney Felsen that opened in the 1960's. Best friends and fraternity brothers at USC, they were also art collectors who wanted to work with artists and establish friendships. They joined forces with lithographer Ken Tyler and opened what was to become one of the most respected printmaking studios in the world. Over many decades, Felsen photographed the studio and the artists at work. It is his images and insightful documentation of the art that was created and the people involved at Gemini that is the focus of this evocative and historically significant exhibition.

Felsen's archive of more than 70,000 photographs are contained in the Getty Research Institute's collection and through the discerning eye of curator Naoko Takahatake, viewers can travel through time looking at images of a range of artists at work. While the list of artists includes those still working as well as some who have passed on — ranging from Claes Oldenburg to Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, John Baldessari, Elizabeth Murray, David Hockney, Ann Hamilton, Julie Mehretu, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Tacita Dean and Analia Saban — what becomes apparent is how much they enjoyed what they were doing.

While questions about whether Sidney B. Felsen was or even wanted to be an artist surface, that is hardly the point. What Felsen did was create a visual history of a certain place as it grew and evolved over time. While there are numerous images of artists in the process of creation, there are also pictures of parties, adventures and just plain fun. The images are intimate as Felsen had the trust of these people. He was not an outsider looking in, but a friend and a peer of those he photographed. Gemini became an extended family.

Across the walls are not only images Felsen made documenting the artists and their printing processes, but also photographs of him with his family, as well as of the Los Angeles environment that he shared with east coast artists to entice them to come to L.A. Annotated calendars with notes and pictures illustrating the goings-on both at Gemini and in the city itself are personal and informational details that expand and inform the intimacy of the exhibition.

Noting the recent passing of Richard Serra, the exhibition becomes a trip down memory lane where viewers can smile knowingly at pictures of John Baldessari, Ellsworth Kelly and Elizabeth Murray and wonder what they'd be creating now, as well as delight in Gemini's embrace of younger artists working today like Julie Mehretu, Tacita Dean and Analia Saban.

The exhibition is not a history of the prints made at Gemini (nor does it claim to be), but rather is a celebration of the community Felsen and his pals created: one that continues to evolve and inspire to this day.

Click here for Sidney B. Felsen on its own page.

June 20, 2024

Jim Isermann
Pacific Design Center Gallery
May 2 - June 29, 2024

Jim Isermann

Primary colors and simple geometric shapes in different configurations can create complex patterns and dizzying experiences as exemplified by Wrapture a spectacular installation by Jim Isermann at the Pacific Design Center Gallery. Isermann has been creating and exhibiting colorful, hard-edge geometric works on paper and canvas for years. He also uses vinyl to create shapes that can be tiled to span large walls and become installations. When the paintings and vinyl decals come together, the whole becomes much greater than the parts, especially when the walls and the architecture of the space are integral aspects of the installations. Isermann's work has connections to Op Art as he is interested in the optical effects between forms and colors, however it goes beyond the formal to resonate on multiple levels. He brings together exacting precision and mathematical computation, craft, decoration, pattern, geometry and color theory to look at the relationship between high and low, intermixed with Queer identity and camp aesthetics.

It is difficult to separate the individual works from the installation here as the intricacies within the paintings extend to the array of patterns that serve as wall paper or backdrops. The entry wall of the exhibition is covered with orange decals consisting of four sections of a pill / jelly bean shape contained within a square. When tiled together, the oblong ovals join to create complex patterns across the wall. On the opposite side of this wall, an identical graphic — blue rather than orange — has been installed. Two variations of the painting Untitled (8,4,2) (2019) hang on the wall to initiate a give and take, back and forth dialogue between the paintings and their relationship to the pattern behind them. This "conversation" continues as viewers proceed up the stairs into the vast main space where they are bombarded with more wall decals and paintings.

Isermann covers one wall in metallic silver— these stickers/decals have excised circles and ovals that reveal the wall behind them. On top of this reflective surface are red, white and blue paintings: Untitled (hole painting)(1187) and Untitled (hole painting)(1587) both 1987. In Untitled (hole painting)(1187), Isermann builds a pattern around an empty square at the center of the work. Concentric squares in red, white and blue rotate a few degrees as they get larger and larger to form the rest of the painting. At first glance, Untitled (hole painting)(1587) appears to be identical, but in this piece Isermann alternates squares and circles without any rotation.

Each wall is covered with a different configuration of vinyl stickers that range from criss-crossing light blue and orange diagonal stripes to more complicated patterns of wider and thicker lines in different arrangements and colors. These vinyl backgrounds become infinitely repeating patterns composited together from multiple square or rectangle sections. From a distance the compositing is seamless, but up-close the individual segments can be discerned. Installed over these complex patterns are paintings created between 1986 and 2019.

The paintings contrast, as well as complement what hangs behind them and the juxtaposition often creates a kaleidoscopic effect in one's visual field. Isermann understands the complexity of color relationships and geometry and is deliberate with the oscillations and rotations of shapes within each painting. His surfaces are smooth and the edges between colors exact. What at first glance appears obvious and simple— squares within squares alternating yellow, orange, red and blue— as in Untitled (yellow 116, orange 1505, red 179, blue 2925), 2009 is in fact a mathematical sequence of colors and shapes that both curves and recedes into the distance. Untitled (0386), 1986 is a hexagon-shaped canvas with six triangular sections over which Isermann has outlined abstract petal shapes that are red or yellow depending on where they intersect with the two-toned blue background. But dissecting the geometry of Isermann's paintings is not the point. The point is to appreciate them for their formal beauty and enjoy the way they play off one another while marveling at their complexity and intricacy.

Click here for Jim Isermann on its own page.

June 13, 2024

Tony Cragg
Marian Goodman Gallery
April 26 - June 29, 2024

Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg is a British born, German based sculptor who was best known in the 1970s and 1980s for floor and wall based sculptures made from found objects. These were often plastic parts or toys organized and assembled by size and color across walls into human shapes or recognizable objects. In the 1990s, Cragg began to move away from works made from found materials and started to create more monumental sculptures that had dominant presences in space. These pieces were less conceptual and more about investigations into the physical properties of their materials.

On view at Marian Goodman Gallery are awe-inspiring free-standing sculptures created between 2018 and 2024. These are displayed as "families" within the gallery, allowing viewers to compare and contrast the physical properties of various substances and structures. Cragg has the uncanny ability to transform as well as personify bronze, steel, wood or stone into light, airy, organic shapes that appear to dance on their pedestals despite their weightiness.

The exhibition opens with the wooden sculpture In No Time (2018). This abstract form filled with intricate folds and layers of wood feels both human and other worldly. While the work wants to be appreciated from afar, it simultaneously demands close scrutiny as the smooth surface has been carved, molded and manipulated. Cragg's wooden sculptures are made by gluing together many pieces of cut plywood that are then ground down to form a smooth surface.

Multiple sculptures are titled Masks. The two dated 2021 are made out of Guatemalan green stone while the work dated 2023 uses bog oak wood. All three feel like compressed layers or odd shaped disks that have been fused together to resemble geographical strata. All of Cragg's works have dimensionality as they are created through an assemblage of two-dimensional forms. Somehow the lines and the individual shapes are retained while the sculptures blossom into space. They twist and whirl in unpredictable ways. The veins of the green stone and the dark wood give the works depth and texture. They do take on human characteristics and become unsightly masks without identifiable features.

Works entitled Incident (2023) are also exhibited together. These stainless or Corten steel pieces are looser and strangely expressive. Rather than being dense "blobs" for example, the stainless sculpture Incident (2023) is alien-like and hyper reflective. The curvilinear forms have mirrored surfaces and rise from the floor or from low pedestals like elongated and distorted human skeletons.

Vessel (2023) is a bronze sculpture filled with horns and holes. It resembles entangled and enlarged branches with softened thorns that surround shallow nests or hollows that penetrate the stoic form. Hedge and Stand (both 2023) are rusted Corten steel structures. Hedge is floor based and spreads out like a surreal hedge made of interlocking and overlapping organic forms, while Stand has the properties of a distorted silhouette neither male nor female, yet human-like nonetheless.

It is interesting to contemplate the trajectory of Cragg's sculptures and the relationship between small-scale, fragmented throw-away plastic shapes and the monumental presence of these later works. It is almost as if he has scaled up and refined the fragile aspects of the found objects, now transforming them into solid, robust forms made from materials most often used in contemporary and traditional sculpture. While the new works still explore the relationships between the parts and the whole, they are more concerned with materials and their formal properties and the complex methodologies needed to create them, than in any commentary or critique of the environment from which these materials come.

Click here for Tony Cragg on its own page.

June 6, 2024

Karla Diaz
Wait 'til Your Mother Gets Home
18th Street Arts Center
February 17 - June 22, 2024

Karla Diaz

Karla Diaz has been drawing since she was a child. The title of her current exhibition Wait 'til Your Mother Gets Home is something her aunt would say to her when she would draw on the walls of the family home. Consisting of 37 paintings and works on paper, that when seen together become a personal narrative about the many facets of Mexican American identity. Diaz combines figuration and abstraction to explore and revisit her memories of growing up in Los Angeles. In these compelling works, many of which have the feel of posters from the 1960s, Diaz places flatly rendered portraits and figures into abstracted landscapes and cityscapes. The pieces reference Mexican, as well as Mexican American traditions, in addition to depicting intimate moments with family and friends. The watercolor and ink on paper pieces are illustrative and rendered in vivid colors, whereas many of the paintings have more muted tones giving them a soft, dream-like quality.

On the buildings exterior walls outside the gallery are five colorful large-scale banners: each one a self portrait. One depicts Diaz as Frida Kahlo surrounded by a halo of red roses, whereas in another, Diaz wears a bright blue eye patch. In Self Portrait with Raised Fist she holds an image of a male revolutionary in front of her face. He has a raised fist and is wearing dark sun glasses. Self Portrait with Nopales Ears is more playful. Here, Diaz depicts herself with bunny ears shaped like green cacti.

Moving from exterior to interior, the works become smaller yet have similar impact. Installed in a line along the gallery walls, the images begin to tell a story that weaves through Diaz's life and relationships to familiar locations, be it the 99 cent store, a swap meet, a park or subway interior, or significant moments like when family members crossed the border. In one of the smaller spaces, Diaz presents an installation that pays tribute to the civil rights activist Rubén Salazar who was murdered August 29, 1970 on the day of the National Chicano Moratorium protest against the Vietnam War. Diaz not only paints a watercolor of the Silver Dollar bar, the location of his murder, (The Silver Dollar, 2021) but also includes a separate painting of his bloodied body (Rubén Salazar, 2023).

Diaz's style is quirky and illustrative. Her backgrounds are patch-work splotches or loose gradients of bright color — pinks, oranges, greens and yellows — that serve as the ground for her portraits and other scenarios. The figurative and narrative elements often merge with the background shapes and palette to create a layered effect that is more formal than content driven. Diaz's drawn lines emerge from these color fields to depict people and places with admiration, wit and intensity. For example, in Dona Juana (from the Swap Meet series (2023)), Diaz portrays a woman in front of a stall holding a shoe in one hand and a cell phone with a portrait of a child in the other. Her bright pink shirt is decorated with back to back exotic women with piled black hair, long eye lashes and extended tongues. Dona Juana stares at the viewer and smiles.

No Te Metas Con Mi Cucu (Don’t mess with my ass) (2022)) is an image of protest. Assembled together are portraits of women holding pro-choice signs in front of a court house juxtaposed with a colorful rendition of an older man wearing a suit and pink tie seated in a chair resembling the famous image of Huey Newton. While Diaz allows the forms and figures to overlap, the focus of the image remains intact. Although That Fire (2021) is acrylic on canvas rather than watercolor on paper, the intensity of the moment is deftly portrayed. Diaz tenderly captures the agony and dismay on a woman's face while flames engulf the building behind her. While The Fire is an image of pain and suffering, My Sleeping Beauty (2021) is an image filled with love, as different colored flowers surround a woman, perhaps helping to induce a dream state.

Diaz's seductive images tell personal, as well as universal stories. They are humble without being didactic, colorful and to the point. The pieces are about domesticity, as well as urban life while exploring how the two are interwined. As a Mexican American, Diaz draws from her heritage but also from the world that surrounds her. Her pieces fuse fact and fiction, dreams and reality to create narratives about her experiences growing up and living in Los Angeles.

Click here for Karla Diaz on its own page.

May 30, 2024

Art 2
April 6 - June 1, 2024


Quotation. Appropriation. Art about art. Using the works of others as a point of departure is hardly new. Throughout art history, artists have borrowed from, modified, erased and even copied pieces verbatim as homages or critiques. The list is long and includes a wide range of approaches. For example, Yasumasa Morimura and Cindy Sherman re-staged famous paintings as photographs, while Rachel Lachowicz, Deborah Kass and Elaine Reicheck have replicated works by their more famous male counterparts, often infusing them with a feminist agenda. The Brooklyn, NY collective MSCHF is a somewhat new addition to this diverse group of artists and while their work is as much about consumerism and consumer culture as it is about art, they play around the idea of readymades.

Coincidently, at the same time MSCHF is exhibiting works at Perrotin, pieces by Elaine Sturtevant (1924-2014) are on view at Matthew Marks Gallery. Throughout her long career, Sturtevant produced copies of works by well known artists to challenge ideas of originality and in the current exhibition, there are exacting recreations of famous works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jasper Johns and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, as well as The Dark Threat of Absence (2002) where Sturtevant reproduced the jarring video by Paul McCarthy.

MSCHF's approach is more sardonic and tongue-and-cheek as they toy with art history and high and low cultures. While many of their projects are also commodities available at their online store, they are quite serious about their gallery presentations. This installation includes 249 reproductions of Pablo Picasso's tiny carved wooden sculpture, Le Poisson presented as a large grid on the wall like a choreographed school of fish. Titled Possible Real Copy Of Poisson By Pablo Picasso (all works 2024) this piece does contain one Picasso original. In another series based on the book Animorphs, MSCHF creates oil paintings where a classical sculpture transitions to a contemporary work as illustrated in JaguarKourosDavidCowBoyMan. Against a blurred landscape, the painting shows various Kouros sculptures that morph into Michelangelo's David and finally into Takashi Murakami's My lonesome cowboy. A similar transition occurs in Murakillendorf's Venus. Outlined in yellow, the painted reproductions morph from the Venus of Willendorf to Murakami's large busted sculpture Hiropon.

In the Botched Masters series, MSCHF starts with found 17th and 18th century religious paintings. They recklessly paint over these (possibly) valuable oils, obscuring faces and turning figures like Mary and Jesus into cartoon blobs, in essence destroying the original while creating new value. In AirBnB (Botched L'Adoration des Bergers), they cancel out the haloed Mary and replace her with an incongruous representation. Similarly, in Flower Boy (Botched Portrait de jeune garçon à la guirlande de fleurs), they obscure an 18th Century depiction of a young boy with a crudely painted and modernized rendition. These works are horrifying and humorous simultaneously.

Another art about art reference is Touch Me Sculpture One More Time, a large free standing sculpture in which bronze bodies in the style of Michelangelo and Bernini are entangled together on top of a pentagonal shaped white pedestal with an illuminated LED display with an ambiguous numerical readout. Bullets Fired Into A Wall By A US Veteran recalls Chris Burden's Shoot, and Met's Sink Of Theseus calls to mind both Duchamp's Urinal and Maurizio Cattelan's gold-plated toilet America, (2016) installed in a restroom at the Guggenheim Museum and later stolen from the Blenheim Palace and reportedly melted down.

Scattered throughout the exhibit are colorful Bootlegs, cartoony sculptures based on the boots worn by Astro Boy (a 1960s Japanese cartoon). Like disembodied figures situated randomly across the gallery, these over-sized resin boots sprout ungainly hairy legs. MSCHF's works are all about camp. They are ironic and seductive while in the know about contemporary art and popular culture. They also strive to challenge accepted norms about the art marketplace and conventions of art connoisseurship and consumption. The exhibition asks viewers to think about craft and digital culture, as well as expanded boundaries of what is accepted or acceptable for artists and for galleries.

Click here for MSCHF on its own page.

May 23, 2024

Kristen Morgin
My Love Must Be a Kind of Blind Love
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
April 27 - June 1, 2024

Kristen Morgin

Los Angeles based Kristen Morgin is best known for her delicate sculptures. More often than not, these works are crafted from painted unfired clay and are to scale tromp l'oeil renditions of books, album covers, games, toys and other child-like objects that are weathered and worn. No sculptures are on display in My Love Must Be a Kind of Blind Love. Instead, she presents large-scale detailed drawings for the first time These mixed-media pieces read as quirky assemblages of two-dimensional materials from a melange of subjects that are brought together to create fascinating narratives.

[Vibes Playing Softly...] (2024) is a large, horizontal, graphite and pencil work on paper filled with a detailed depiction of a giant bowhead whale that spans the composition. Centered on its back is a cartoon princess sleeping comfortably in the crook of the whale's spine. The giant crustation appears to be suspended by ropes carried by tiny flying birds towards the top of the image. At the bottom are a gathering of small silhouetted figures watching the scene unfold. A snake swims alongside the whale as they traverse a patchwork of taped together graphite textures. All of this "action" takes place atop graphite renderings of large film sprockets.

Different species of whales appear in two other images. In the sepia-toned The Puppet and The Whale or So Far Away, (2022) Morgin juxtaposes a spotted orca gracefully swimming in a darkened celestial space (it could be sky or sea) with two floating balloons, trying to get free of the chains that surround its fins. What appears to be a thin horizontal shelf crosses the top of the image on which rests a non functional puppet that could be a sleeping Pinocchio. In What the Whale Dreamt (2024) Morgin combines two different types of paper that are combined with ragged masking tape. The top drawing depicts a pencil sketch of a sperm whale on which rests a sleeping Snoopy drawn is a contrasting style.On another sheet of paper, hanging from strings attached to the whale's body, is an beautifully drawn abstract mandala/flower that transforms from a realistic representation to a grid of back and white pixels.Mo

rgin purposely collages elements and renders aspects of the works in different styles to give the works a patch-work effect. Through the combination of graphite drawings with masking tape and collage, the pieces feel as through there were rescued, magically reconnected and brought back to life. Similar to her quasi-broken ceramics, Morgin salvages forgotten moments and objects from the past to presenting them as cherished entities.

Her stream of consciousness works delight in random associations and strange juxtapositions that criss-cross genres and time. The "cutesie" aspects of the pieces are purposeful like in the tiny drawing I can Feel It In My Bones (2020) where Morgin illustrates a valentine holding skeleton. Vanishing Wild Things (2020) pays homage to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Here, a range of completed and outlined animals from the book share the space with trees and Nintendo-looking pixelated figures. Whimsy and magic are all pervasive in Morgin's works on paper. The drawings are delightful, unpredictable and imaginative. She seamlessly re-purposes and re-configures appropriated and invented imagery to make thoughtful mixed-media works that are infused with complex narratives and skillful reproductions.

In the back gallery is an exhibition of works on paper by Tom Knechtel that perfectly complements Morgin's drawings. Both artists imagine the ways animals and humans can interact and how what animals communicate when they take on human characteristics. It is a pleasure to see works by both these accomplished artists on view at the same time.

Click here for Kristen Morgin on its own page.

May 16, 2024

Daniel Gordon
Orange Sunrise with Flowers, Fruit, and Vessels
Nazarian / Curcio
April 20 - May 25, 2024

Daniel Gordon

Daniel Gordon is one of a number of contemporary artists who work within the parameters of "Constructed Photography." In addition to Gordon, some artists/photographers who work this way are Matt Lipps, Chris Engman and Thomas Demand. Constructed photographs are images created in the studio and shot from a particular vantage point. They use carefully created objects set on table tops, or made to scale so they cohere within the image to form a believable, though hand-crafted scene. Gordon has created unsettling Cubist-like portraits as well as still-lives that are assembled from different pieces of cut paper as tableaus and then photographed. In the exhibition titled Orange Sunrise with Flowers, Fruit, and Vessels, he presents both large-scale, colorful still lives as well as paper sculptures in the form of ceramic vases. The vases are a recent addition to his oeuvre and elucidate the complex process he goes through to construct his photographic works.

Presented in a line on white pedestals, Gordon's vases and vessels recall museum displays of traditional and classical pottery, however, his renditions are invented and entirely modern. These sculptures are made from carefully assembling cut-out shapes from inkjet enlargements to become three-dimensional collages. Checkered Vessel in Green (all works 2024) stands twenty-inches high and can be seen from all sides. It alternates rows of what originally would have been different colors of green ceramics divided by black lines of grout. Pitcher with Shapes is a white pitcher decorated with an array of geometric shapes all cut from enlargements and reassembled.

The sculptures on display are similar to objects reproduced in Gordon's photographs. Still Life With Figs and Oranges is a large image (74 inches high). Here, Gordon creates a table top display consisting of numerous vases and fruits organized on a table and shelf. Though the image is flat, the setting has dimensionality. On a purple shelf trimmed in bright green are both figs and oranges as well as two vases filled with plants that cast a shadow on the back wall of the scene. In the foreground is a rounded table on which sits random figs, figs in a bowl, a smaller vase without flowers and two oranges. What is fascinating about the image is that it is entirely constructed out of paper and each object is made by assembling photographic fragments. In this image, Gordon is attuned to color opposites as the orange vase casts a blue-purple shadow that has a red-orange outline giving the entire composition a Matisse-like aura.

Oranges with a Blue Crown of Thorns is a smaller composition that also plays with the relationships between flat background colors and assembled objects. Four different sized and shaped oranges, a vase with blue flowers, a smaller empty vase as well as a pitcher rest on a red shelf trimmed in cyan. Below the shelf is an orange plane — either the wall behind or the shelfs edge— and behind the still-life are colorful silhouettes that follow the contours of the vase and pitcher against an orange background framed with cyan. Aloe With Onions and Zucchini is also a collection of vases and vegetables, this time on top of a bright yellow table trimmed with green. Here, Gordon arranges onions and a zucchini in relation to two vases, one empty, the other containing an aloe plant. Again, these objects cast shadows onto the background, this time presented as a white void outlined in black.

Once one has a clear understanding of Gordon's labor-intensive process and the mental activity of de- and re-constructing are completed, the works can then be appreciated for their formal beauty, inventive color and curious scale-shifts. In the end, Gordon's still lives are not about perception, nor the illusionistic properties of photography, but rather they are abstract still-lives that are concerned with design, color and form. He delights in the activity of transforming a photograph of an object into a sculpture and then back into a flat image as he explores the relationship between the real and its reproduction.

Click here for Daniel Gordon on its own page.

May 9, 2024

Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy
January - May 12, 2024


In Hamburg, Germany from June 4 - August 31, 1987, Luna Luna opened to the public. Conceived by Austrian artist André Heller, it was an open air museum billed as the "world's first art amusement park." Heller invited over thirty artists from numerous countries to participate including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Josef Beuys, Salvador Dali, Sonia Delaunay, Monika GilSing, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Rebecca Horn, Roy Lichtenstein and Kenny Scharf. After the exhibit closed in 1987, it was scheduled for display in the United States but, the story goes, Heller had disagreements with the handling of Luna Luna's American launch. This provoked years of litigation and landed the artworks (packed into 44 shipping containers) somewhere in the middle of Texas where they remained for many years.

Quoting from a Yahoo!Finance article by Suzi Coen (December 4, 2023) "an estimated 250,000 people visited the fairground in 1987. André Heller had hoped Luna Luna would then tour the world, but his plans fell apart. Three years later he agreed to sell the whole project to the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, who had hoped to show it in San Diego. Because of complications, the plans were never executed and Luna Luna was moved to rural Texas in 2007, where it was left untouched for another 15 years. The creative director Michael Goldberg first discovered Luna Luna in 2019 and became obsessed with the project during the Covid pandemic. He then pitched the idea to Drake and his team. The crated artworks were purchased site unseen by Drake and his company DreamCrew and shipped to Los Angeles in 2022."

A downtown warehouse was secured, the crates unpacked and examined, walls built and painted so that the artworks that comprised the original Luna Luna could be seen once again. In early 2024 Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasyopened with great public acclaim in Los Angeles where it is scheduled to be on view through Spring 2024.

The difference between the original and the current iterations is experiential. In Germany, the display was outside. The rides functioned. The space was active. The atmosphere was like a party or a carnival. Here, in Los Angeles the project has been "museified." It feels more like documentation — objects and displays that can be viewed passively rather than actively — and in this sense, it disappoints. After being directed to the appropriate parking area, viewers enter a vast, darkened warehouse space. Once inside, they are given a map and told that there are numerous guides to answer questions about the exhibition. One can wander at leisure through two connected spaces while reading about the original display of the works, but able to see them only as static objects in this contrived setting. While each artist created a unique and meaningful piece for the 1987 showcase, they don't resonate in the same way today as they probably did then. Why is the dominant question. Is it because many of the artist have passed away — Beuys, Haring, Basquiat, Litchenstein, etc.— and we are now seeing their pieces in relation to their life spans and trying to contextualize them within their career trajectory?

What stands out? In 2024, immersive installations, technology driven works and digital displays are a given. While Salvador Dali's Dalidom one of the few structures that can be entered in the current iteration, is a geodesic dome and mirror chamber — for today's audiences, it is a selfie opportunity reminiscent of Yayoi Kusama's nfinity Rooms. Keith Haring's work was the subject of a recent retrospective at the Broad Museum (Keith Haring: Art is For Everybody May 27 - October 8, 2023) and although the murals and painted carousel he created for Luna Luna are fantastic representations of his iconic mark-making, todays audience is quite familiar with his work. The same can be said for Jean-Michel Basquiat whose quirky paintings and drawings were also recently on display in Los Angeles (Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure, March 31 - October 15, 2023). In retrospect his Painted Ferris Wheel is quintessential Basquiat.

Missing from the experience are the crowds, the cheers and the sounds— as music was also an important component of many of the artworks. In Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, lights occasionally dim and then shine on the different pieces to shift audiences' attention through the space. Kenny Scharf created cartoony creatures that are presented here as stand-alone sculptures. Because the ceiling of the indoor space was too low to place other figures on top of a swinging chair ride with as they were originally, they sit forlorned nearby.

As conceived of and first presented in Germany, Luna Luna was a participatory spectacle. In Los Angeles, Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy is a historic display with a few enterable installations, but for the most part functions as roped off exhibits along with plenty of documentation. To augment and highlight the original presentation, there are displays of artifacts, walls of photographs, as well as historical timelines to contextualize the artists and their works. Is Luna Luna fun? For sure. Educational? Of course. Innovative? At the time, yes. Worth the trip? Sure, because it gives Los Angeles audiences a chance to experience the artworks created for the 1987 event and to view long forgotten works, some of which are seminal pieces in these artist's careers. But also no, because it is expensive and ultimately a bit of a disappointment due to the hands off nature when compared to its 100% hands on original presentation.

Resurrecting Luna Luna was clearly a costly endeavor and while the installation feels like it could be in a museum, it came about through private funding and is costly to visit. To de-crate, restore, transport and then re-install the artworks took time and a huge team. It was an admirable effort and the organizers should be applauded. Is it an exceptional art experience? No, but as journey back in time and as a way to view what occurred in a specific place at a specific moment, it is worth a visit, despite the cost.

Click here for Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy on its own page.

May 2, 2024

Pat Steir
Painted Rain
Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood
February 28 - May 4, 2024

Pat Steir

The point of departure for Pat Steir's exhibition Painted Rain at Hauser & Wirth is an exploration of blue, a color omnipresent in Los Angeles. When first visiting the city over fifty years ago to teach at CalArts, Steir was struck by the quality of light and the color of the sky and sea, in contrast to the muted tones of New York. This aura permeates her current paintings and coincidently, the pieces (as they are filled with drips) also evoke the recent weather — the violent storms and torrential rains that have pounded the region this season.

Steir has been painting since the 1970s and throughout her five-decade career she has been celebrated for her large scale abstractions presented both as canvases and as site-specific wall drawings. Her works are often created by pouring and dripping buckets of paint from the top of a tall ladder. This allows gravity to dictate the flow of the colors. She began making drip paintings that resembled waterfalls in the 1980s— powerful and evocative pieces that relied both on chance (as drips and pours cannot be completely controlled) as well as Steir's innate sense of color. To create the paintings on view, she begins by covering the canvas with a solid color ground that still emits a glow through the work, although just the base layer. She next applies a grid of chalk lines that become a geometric framework or structure that contrasts the more fluid chaotic forms of the drips which are poured on top.

The background in All the Colors (all works 2022-23) is reminiscent of a twilight sky just before night that still retains an azure essence. The painting is divided in quarters by two white chalk lines that meet in the center of the canvas. Placed just above this intersection are six horizontal brush strokes that occupy the center and take command of the work. Orange, deep red, green, yellow red and light blue stand as elements of color in an otherwise barren ground. In Thin Air, she covers a cobalt background with textured layers that are a lighter tone of blue. Wide horizontal bands of red, white and yellow are painted just above the center and allowed to drip and meld together as they cascade down the length of the canvas toward the floor.

While the majority of the paintings explore the relationship between striations of color against a range of blue backgrounds, in Green on Top Steir covers a dark rust ground with overlapping stripes that drip down to become veins of intermingling green, orange and dark red. In Some Blues, the white chalk lines divide a deep red background into a grid of rectangles. Toward the center of the work, Steir paints thirteen separate horizontal lines that transition from light to dark blue to create the illusion of a gradient. In this piece, the lines do not drip or fuse together. Steir explores the tensions between texture and color here, as well as playful foreground and background relationships.

Steir's new works are a celebration of color— specifically the color blue. It is somewhat ironic to learn that eight years ago she was diagnosed with color blindness and learned she cannot see that hue. That being said, Steir still mixes her paints to maximize the subtle differences in this color and through an exploration of both gesture and chance has created a powerful and emotionally complex body of work. Her pieces are simultaneously a formal examination of the properties of color and paint, as well as an experiment in controlled chaos. These large scale paintings take their inspiration not only from color but also from nature (the flow of rivers or rain) and the fluids that run through the human body.

Click here for Pat Steir on its own page.

April 25, 2024

Clayton Schiff
March 1 - April 13, 2024

Paco Pomet
Last Adventures in High Res
Richard Heller Gallery
March 30 - May 4, 2024

Clayton Schiff and Paco Pomet

There is a strange affinity between the paintings of Clayton Schiff (at Harkawik Los Angeles) and Paco Pomet (at Richard Heller Gallery). Perhaps what ties them together is the unsettling humor in their debased presentations of human beings who are "off" in uncanny ways. Both also use quirky, limited color palettes.

For his exhibition Routing, Schiff presents medium sized oils on canvas in which isolated human-animal hybrids travel through urban and natural landscapes. The green figure in Enroute (2023) wears a pink tracksuit and seems fixed on getting to his destination as he (it?) approaches a labyrinth of criss-crossing pathways that intertwine as they recede into the distance. In Summer Screed (2023), Schiff presents a male figure (with a dog-like head surrounded by flies) wearing shorts, a tank top and sandals while sauntering through a quasi-desert— a space filled with dead birds, spilled liquids and dropped food items. Various tufts of green plant matter dot the acidy yellow-green ground.

While Enroute and Summer Screed are exteriors, paintings like Babble, Cleanup and Over There take place inside. A creature dressed in a blue robe with a long snout and a horse-like tail vacuums an unpopulated dimly lit hallway that curves off into the distance in Cleanup, while in Over There, a naked, pinkish green, short-tailed creature sits perched on a stool in the corner of a room and stares out an open window. Binoculars in hand, (he/it) gazes at dirt pathways lining the rolling hills alongside a distant shore. What he sees, or what he is looking for or at remains a mystery, as does the uncertainty of why.

Schiff's locations emit an aura of emptiness while his figures show an indifference to their situations. Within each scenario, Schiff hints at a need for connection that never seems to materialize — each character remains trapped or isolated within the confines of these barren invented places.

A sense of unease and disquiet also envelops Paco Pomet's paintings. His single hued mostly-monochromatic works (in tones of sepia, blue and gray) have a timeless quality and appear to be sourced from appropriated photographs from another era. These muted and carefully painted scenes are juxtaposed with jarring full-color cartoon characters or gestures that disrupt the tenor of the images while moving them from the believable and real to the "surreal."

In The Audition (all works 2024), a suited man sits at a piano with his arms poised above the keys, but instead of hands, Pomet paints a twisting coil of fat orange "spaghetti" extends from his wrists and globs all over the keys and up onto the piano like paint oozing out a tube. Three elongated beads of white cartoony sweat outlined in black float some distance from the man's head against the sepia toned background. Embedding offers a similar sense of "what is going on?" Set in what appears to be a 1950s or 1960s styled room, in this painting, a woman pulls a Murphy bed down from the wall. Caught between the wall and the mattress is a very surprised cartoony depiction of a distraught man.

There is an unsettling disconnect between the sketchy and impastoed brush strokes that define the woman and her surrounding verses the more illustrative style of the cartoon. While Poment's monochromatic palette recalls works by Mark Tansey, the seriousness of his compositions is thrown off base by the addition of unexpected elements be it alien light sources, cartoon characters or emojis. These humorous and witty works delight in rendering the "real" as "surreal." Pomet, like Clayton Schiff defamiliarize — they both create works that render the ordinary strange and in doing so change the way everyday scenarios and human interactions are perceived.

Click here for Clayton Schiff and Paco Pomet on its own page.

April 18, 2024

Allen Ruppersberg
25 Ways to Start Over
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
March 16 - April 20, 2024

Allen Ruppersberg

The works of Allen Ruppersberg can be applauded for their wit, intelligence and humor. Each project is conceptually savvy and visually engaging. In his latest exhibit titled 25 Ways to Start Over, Ruppersberg does not disappoint. The works are based on a set of questions or premises that engage with the concept of "starting over." Among the 25 ways of starting over prescribed within the pieces are the directives to: Change your name, Begin at the beginning, Do a self-portrait, Embrace nostalgia, as well as Count backwards from 100. Each suggestion becomes not only the title of the individual artwork but also appears as texts within.

Ruppersberg is an avid collector, reader and writer. Some of the works in this exhibition draw from his stockpile of "pulp fiction" books written by authors using pseudonyms. Others take their point of departure from Life: a User's Manual, Georges Perec's 1978 novel where the main character makes and later dissolves images fashioned into jigsaw puzzles. In the three large works inspired by Perec, Ruppersberg presents a large digital print mounted to plywood that features a combination of disparate ephemera: snapshots, drawings, posters, book and album covers and the typewritten title 25 Ways to Start Over, and a subtitle: for example, #20 Do a self-portrait (tic-tac-toe). For this piece, he combines nine appropriated images— old photographs, reproductions of statues, spin art, etc.— and overlays them with crudely drawn X's and O's so they become the background of a tic-tac-toe game.

Ruppersberg removes large shapes from each printed image — a figure, a head, a leg, as well as text bubbles like those found in comics — that become voids in the composition. The cut-out elements are hung on the wall or placed on the floor. While it is possible to realign the missing elements to complete the image, Ruppersberg is more interested in drawing attention to the absence than in the possibility of recombination. 25 Ways to Start Over (#13 Count Backwards from 100 (99, 98, 97, etc)) is a similar work that hangs alone in the back room. It is a large two-panel digital print filled with numbered fragments (from 99 to 1) taken from reproductions of works of art. Myriad associations and references are inferred but through Ruppersberg's deliberate ambiguity, his intentions are never revealed.

The standout in the exhibition is 25 Ways to Start Over (#14 Embrace Nostalgia. Get Out the Old VHS Tapes). Here, Ruppersberg has covered a wall from floor to ceiling with a mural collage of flattened old VHS tape boxes presented as an overlapping cacophony. This site specific piece complements four works all titled 25 Ways to Start Over (#3 Change Your Name) where Ruppersberg combines various pulp fiction novels by writers using pseudonyms (pierced with holes as they have been screened onto pegboard) with "real" books, drawings, album covers and miscellaneous found objects. On a nearby table is The Pseudonym Library of Allen Ruppersberg, a book that reproduces a number of the covers that appear in the works, in addition to providing biographical information on the "real" identity of the authors. It also includes an introduction by Al Reed (Ruppersberg's own pseudonym).

Vernacular as well as pop culture, as well as its nostalgic allure have always attracted Ruppersberg: be it trashy book covers and their titles, or outdated VHS tapes. In this presentation, he curates an ironic trip down memory lane, whimsically and thoughtfully connecting past and present. As in his other works, he considers them in relation to our current moment and weaves a narrative that juxtaposes these objects from the past with contemporary times and in this particular series, he contemplates the absurdity of starting over.

Click here for Allen Ruppersberg on its own page.

April 11, 2024

Ville Kansanen
Future Primitive
Marshall Gallery
March 2 - April 20, 2024

Ville Kansanen

Ville Kansanen is a Finnish multidisciplinary artist based in California whose works use digital photography to examine "transcendent aspects of the natural environment." He ventures into the desert — an ever changing expanse of barren land — equipped with camera and props and assembles sculptures that he documents over time. While there is a rich history of artists who work in and with the natural landscape including Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long, as well as photographers who are interested in perception and representation who have documented interventions created to be viewed from specific vantage points like John Pfahl (1939-2020) and the contemporary Los Angeles based artist Chris Engman, Kansanen's interventions collapse time and space.

For Future Primitive, he has created works in situ at Coyote Dry Lake Bed near Barstow, California represented as digital photographs made by compositing layers of images taken over time. This allows the final photograph to not only align with distant mountains, the sun or the moon, but also to be both sharp and out of focus through shallow depth of field. For Landstones #1 (2024), he brings various materials including painted wood, fabric, earth and limestone to the gallery to create a site-specific sculpture similar to what he might construct in the desert. Here, medium size stones are bundled together and suspended within a wooden framework in front of a wall whose top half is painted black and whose bottom half is covered with brown desert mud. The suspended stones are likewise half black and half brown and when viewed from a certain vantage point, the rocks perfectly align to create a horizontal line that cuts across the wall. Having an actual sculpture in the gallery helps viewers understand Kansanen's process which is otherwise presented in the photographs.

Kansanen is drawn to the solitude, light and timelessness of the desert landscape. He is interest in creating sculptures and performances that he documents as they evolve and then presented as single images. In many of the works, the compositions emphasize the horizon line which is often bisected by wooden armatures holding suspended objects. For example, in Landstones #2 (2020), Kansanen inserts a vertical pole in the crackled ground that holds a cluster of rocks in position just at the horizon line, resembling the illusion in the gallery. The rock held in place in Mountain/Rock #1 (2018) rests above the dip in a mountain, perfectly placed so that it hovers just above the valley and surrounded by blue sky.

Kansanen also tracks the way the desert changes from day to night. He records the movement of the sun and the shadows it creates, as well as the differing shapes of the moon. In doing so, he thinks about the relationship between land and sky as well as light and dark. In Annular Eclipse Tracker Triptych (2023), Kansanen photographs from multiple angles a large circle inscribed in the sand that parallels the shape of the eclipse. In the left panel, the moon is a horizontal crescent and the parallel painted mark in the sand is a white semi-circle. In the center image, the white (painted) circle is complete to match the glowing halo where the moon now blocks the sun. In the third piece, the glowing moon is an upside down crescent and the mark in the sand appears at the bottom of the image as a deep brown line indicating his alteration of the landscape.

While Kansanen's images are formal studies that rely on perceptual acuity, they are also concerned with supernaturalism and the spiritual aura elicited by the desert. An image like Sky/Sun 06 (2016) is playful as it appears as if Kansanen is pulling clouds down from the sky, while photographs including Land/Earth #5 (2017) and Land/Earth #8 (2018) are eerily haunting as Kansanen evokes portrays of the supernatural. Having spent a lot of time in the desert, Kansanen has a reverence for nature and is respectful and cognizant of its vastness and unpredictability. His process begin with observation. He then creates interventions that are photographed in varying stages. The final images are about perception and reveal the how these interventions reflect both the magic and power of the desert. They celebrate the light and space in the desert, as well as the passage of time.

Click here for Ville Kansanen on its own page.

April 4, 2024

David Byrd
Nothing to Say
Matthew Brown Gallery
February 22 - March 30, 2024

David Byrd

David Byrd (1926-2013) was an artist living in the Hudson River Valley north of New York City who worked as an orderly in the psychiatric ward of the Montrose, New York veterans affairs hospital from 1958-1988. Before that, he studied at the Ozenfant School of Art (NY, NY), but did not pursue a career in the arts upon graduation. Rather, he worked odd jobs in New York City and then in 1958 moved near Montrose, NY to work at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. At work, he began to observe the patients' daily rituals and routines, often making sketches during work hours. In essence, the patients became his muses.

During his retirement years, Byrd focused solely on his art and made drawings and paintings documenting his environs: both people and the landscape, as well as created works from his memories of working on the psych ward. In the final decade of this life, he began to chronicle his time at the Veterans Center, gathering drawings and textual fragments that described his experiences there and compiling them into a 218 page book. Many of these pages are on view in the exhibition.

Though not really recognized for his artworks during his lifetime, Byrd did have one solo exhibition in 2013 just before his death. In recent years, his work has found an audience and has been more widely exhibited and collected. Byrd painted because he wanted and he needed to. He regarded it as a meditative process and as a means toward self improvement. He states, "I tried to paint because I had the remote idea that it might serve me in my behavior to others." Looking at the works through the lens of need and self improvement, as well as direct observations of the sufferings of others, the images collectively not only document a specific era and place, but also the effect this work had on Byrd's psyche. His realistic scenarios were created with sketchy outlines and a soft palette consisting mostly of earth tones. They are compassionate and thoughtful, while also describing the horrors and suffering he witnessed.

This large exhibition — his debut in Los Angeles — is comprised of twenty-one paintings, eleven framed drawings from Byrd's sketchbook, as well as thirty pages from his handmade manuscript documenting his time at Montrose. The paintings are culled from different series and feature quirky landscapes and images representing his family, as well as patients at the hospital. In each, Byrd articulates a range of emotions, be they pain or pleasure. For example, in the oil on canvas Hell of an Evening (1992), three people are seated at a table in the center of a brown hued "room" that is otherwise mostly empty. A large woman has her back to us, another raises her fist in a fit of anger. On the left, a half naked man sleeps on a small bench. Two other male figures appear to be washing dishes at a sink located at the back of the room. An elongated figure in a blue coat or robe approaches a doorway on the right.

Feelings of distress and isolation are also captured in Patient Pondering (1995). Byrd depicts a receding interior space — a hallway or cell with a single light source. Five men are illuminated by this window. Closest to it, a man in brown pants and shirt with a green hat gazes into the distance, a patch of sun filling his chest. Behind him and further back in the room are the other men — two on the floor, one creeping against a wall and the last in blue silhouette toward the back. Each figure appears lost in their own thoughts, neither aware of nor engaged with each other. Other "hospital" paintings include Alcove (n.d.), Man With Mirror (1999) and Agonized (1970) where a man extends his body, splayed across a wooden chair, filling the composition like a hovering ghost with a clown- like, exagerated expression of agony emblazoned on his face.

Paintings like People at the Bar (P53), (1960), Pool Players (n.d.) and Sparring Partners (1954) fall more into the Social Realist tradition. Here, Byrd depicts the outside world, be it people playing pool, enjoying drinks at a fancy bar or gathering at a boxing match, capturing the everyday in a way reminiscent of Edward Hopper, Ben Shahn or Jacob Lawrence: stylized and illustrative simultaneously. As a painter, Byrd has a light touch. The works have a sketchy, drawn quality. His palette is sombre and his application of oils is subtle and washy rather than thick impasto.

In addition to these tender and captivating paintings, there are eleven framed, untitled pencil on paper drawings from Byrd's sketchbooks depicting interior and exterior scenes, as well as studies that juxtapose random fragments like in Sketchbook 5, p. 13, (n.d.) where he combines a woman in a swimsuit carrying an umbrella, a woman brushing her teeth, work boots and a man dressed in winter garb. His drawing style is both descriptive and expressive at once.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the display of pages (spread out in vitrines) from Montrose VA 1958-1988, a self made book that Byrd worked on from 1999-2013. Here, he recorded his impressions and memories of working at Veterans Center, taping his small sketches to pieces of construction paper and compiling them into a 218 page artist book/diary. In pencil and all caps, the texts describe Byrd's observations in the hospital. He recorded in depth the interactions between patients and staff, as well as the ways he saw the patients relating to the physical space. Many of the drawings in the book were later recreated as paintings and it is interesting to compare the original sketches with them.

Byrd had a facile hand and was able to capture intense and often outrageous incidents with compassion and tenderness. One page from the book depicts and describes showering. It is a colored pencil sketch of two naked men against the wall in a room presumably showering, joined by a third that is more monster than human. The text reads: "Asked what does the picture represent, I can't say for sure. An old man with water feeling good on old bones, a middle person I thought would make the picture better, and a soaped up third character that is momentarily unrecognizable."

Byrd's images of the Veterans Center call to mind the works of Henry Darger and Martin Ramirez, both prolific "outsider" artists. While Byrd had artistic training, his works mine similar content — the goings on in the minds of those experiencing psychotic episodes and the places designed to keep them safe. The witty, psychological, and compassionate body of work he left for others to ponder resonates long after viewing.

Click here for David Byrd on its own page.

March 28, 2024

Amir Zaki
Nothing to Say
Diane Rosenstein Gallery
February 24 - March 30, 2024

Amir Zaki

Amir Zaki is a Southern California based artist who uses digital photography to scrutinize the natural as well as the built landscape to make pictures in the documentary tradition that transform what actually exists "in the world." He begins by capturing his surroundings with a camera (sometimes also using a GigaPan, a device for stitching many digital images together into one). Using other digital tools, he transforms these images into something other than reality. At first glance, Zaki's photographic images often appear "normal", but upon closer examination something is off — added, subtracted or perhaps both — causing pause and reflection between what is pictured and what is expected. In his series On Being Here, (2022), Zaki architecturally skewed the perspective of piers. For Empty Vessels, (2019) his subject was skateparks where he manipulated the forms to emphasize their bunker like architecture and in Getting Lost, (2018) he illuminated and photographed trees at night, capturing them so they seemed to be in conversation with each other.

In his exhibit Nothing to Say, he presents two new series: Signs and Trees. The photographs in Signs feature outdoor commercial signage devoid of text, presented as architectural monumental structures that jut into the sky. The images that comprise Trees similarly tower into the sky against a variety of cloud filled backgrounds. Looking closely reveals isolated birds nested within the leaves or perched atop the branches.

Taking the title of the show literally — and Zaki's titles do direct the reading of his works — the signage without words does have "nothing to say." Beautician (all works 2023) is an altered Norms Restaurant sign where Zaki has digitally removed the letters— N, O, R, M, S— and replaced each of the original five white shapes that supported the letters with light hues ranging from yellow, cyan and magenta to a soft black. The newly colored and empty sign appears sculptural against the sombre yellow-gray sky (the way Los Angeles skies often appear at dawn or dusk). In the lower left hand corner, an airplane appears as a tiny spec flying out of the frame.

The Designer references a Modernist era, Art Deco style sign. Shot from below and looking up at an angle rather than straight on, the photograph features a white pole that rises from the bottom of the image. The pole is bisected by three ovals with orange fronts, above which is a large rectangular box filled with a delicate pattern of small orange dots to the left and empty space to the right where letters would have been. In The Painter, a rusted pole supports six rounded rectangles that at one time advertised a restaurant or business but in Zaki's rendering, the letters are gone and each rectangle has been filled in with a single color: red, green, light orange, cyan, off white and purple, becoming a geometric abstraction against a pale blue sky.

Zaki never depicts the ground or base of the sign, but rather presents them as flattened shapes against the sky. Once the words are removed, Zaki either fills the empty space — inside the signs structure— with sky or opaque colors. Although these signs no longer advertise places or things, they do communicate and engage not only with Zaki's past works, but with the history of art, as well as with the shrinking boundaries between photography and digital technologies.

In addition to the signs, Zaki also displays a series of photographs called Trees. The Trees are named after family members and could perhaps be thought of as portraits or tributes to those close to him. Like the signs, they are shot from below, have no anchors (ground or trunks) and enter from the bottom of the frame where they intersect with an image of the sky. In Dori, Zaki presents a tree with brown, rust and green colored leaves and peeling bark against a light blue sky filled with billowing pink-orange clouds. Sitting on a small branch on the left side of the picture is a solitary bird. Similarly in Mateo, Zaki includes a bird resting on a thin branch at the top of the tree. While it is hard to identify the species, perhaps it is the birds rather than the trees that Zaki is pairing with family members. Nevertheless, though these image are silent, it is possible to imagine the birds singing— perhaps even to the ones that populate the other pictures. Were the birds actually in the trees when Zaki shot the pictures? Probably not, but their presence gives the photographs a surreal aura. While a photograph cannot replicate a birds song, Zaki's juxtapositions, be it birds and trees or wordless signs still communicate. As the tree photographs represent an extended family, and the birds a focal point of each image, it appears that they and Zaki have "something," rather than "nothing" to say.

Zaki is a master at compositing— adding as well as erasing aspects of images he shoots— transforming the observable into something hyperreal, imagined and fantastical. Throughout disparate series, he has converted the natural world as well as the built environment into images and scenes that depict impossible, but believable places. He consistently transforms that which is objective into something subjective, beautiful and unexpected and this is what sets his work apart.

Click here for Amir Zaki on its own page.

March 21, 2024

Rachel Lachowicz
The Gravity of Color
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
February 3 - March 29, 2024

Rachel Lachowicz

Throughout her thirty-year career, Rachel Lachowicz has been celebrated for her inventive experimentation with non-traditional materials. In the 1990s, she began to use cosmetics— specifically eyeshadow and lipstick— to remake Minimalist forms created by iconic male artists such as Carl Andre or Donald Judd. Using a seductive combination of wax and red lipstick, her sculptures "feminized" these hard-edged works. Lachowicz also appropriated sculptures by Kurt Schwitters and imagery by Chuck Close and Andy Warhol, recreating likenesses of their pieces with grids of eye shadow containers. She also crafted geometric abstractions and pieces that recalled the works of California Light and Space artists with subtle colors of pressed eye shadow.

In her current exhibition The Gravity of Color, she presents a series of colorful geometric wall-based works. What stands out in these pieces is their imprecision and melding of hard and soft edges. Each work is comprised of small pressed-eyeshadow tins in large grids where each rectangular element is a two- or multi-toned section that creates the overall pattern when combined. Seen close-up and individually, each "container" is a tiny abstraction. Works like Deep Weave, Radiofrequency and Ocularity (all works 2024) pay homage to artists like Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely, whereas the yellow and white Pistil Stamen references the pollen producing parts of plants. The anomaly is the more diagrammatic It From Bit. In this work, Lachowicz combines different pastel colored diagrams of seemingly impossible three-dimensional shapes on a white ground. The title It From Bit comes from physics and "symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has... an immaterial source and explanation," according to Physicist John Wheeler.

While Lachowicz's latest eyeshadow pieces conceptually draw from scientific theory and optics in an attempt to "make sense of the systems and laws that define our existence," they are first and foremost formally elegant and visually dynamic works that demand attention and close examination. While still drawing from art history, there is real visual pleasure in looking at the disparate pieces contained within Radiofrequency or comparing and contrasting the color circles and backgrounds in Ocularity.

Two large sculptures occupy a back gallery: Packets of Light (Yellow Field) and Granularity of Space. In these more confrontational and flashy works, Lachowicz has welded together hundreds of eyeshadow tin plate pans (powder coated yellow triangles in Packets of Light and bright-blue circles in Granularity of Space.) Again, Lachowicz draws from past artistic movements — in this case the "Fetish Finish" group prominent in southern California in the 1960s that included artists like John McCracken, Larry Bell and Ron Davis. Their abstract, non-objective works often had a glossy, slick machined surface. Where Lachowicz's Cell Interlocking Construction from 2010 re-interpreted Schwitters' The Merzbau with plexiglas boxes filled with pigment, these new works have no specific art-historical referents and emanate more from her imagination. That being said, both pieces have wave-like auras and allude to the climate and surf culture in Southern California.

Hardcore, Core and Legal Whip are monochromatic wall works made from a combination of lipstick and oil paint applied to the surface as thick gestural marks to create an impasto effect with the appearance and consistency of cake frosting. Once again, Lachowicz combines her materials in surprising and new ways to create the unexpected. While many of Lachowicz's earlier works had clear art historical referents and could be easily placed in a canon of feminist critique of the male-dominated art world, these new works are more nuanced and personal, while being inspired by more existential and scientific ideas.

Click here for Rachel Lachowicz on its own page.

March 14, 2024

Lucia Engstrom
Lovers & Dreamers
Von Lintel Gallery
February 3 - March 23, 2024

Lucia Engstrom

Lucia Engstrom's enigmatic works combine textiles and photography. By adding patches of thread she changes the overall tenor of the landscapes depicted in her images. Engstrom's use of embroidery differs from other artists like Maurizio Anzeri, Julie Cockburn, Flore Gardner or Diane Meyer who stitch on top of small-scale photographs essentially drawing over what is below and turning the surface into pixels or embellishing the image with decoration. Engstrom's amalgamation of different types of hand dyed threads (colored by the artist to match elements within the photographs) have more in common with works by artists such as Channing Hansen who collects and dyes raw fleece, spins it into yarn and assembles this material into complex knitted forms recalling open weave abstract paintings.

In older series like Diffused Landscapes (2013-2018) before Engstrom added embroidery to her pictures, she explored the relationship between water and sky to present the natural landscape as over-saturated and abstracted blurs hovering above and below the horizon line. To create the images in her Lovers & Dreamers series, she uses a needle and organic threads like silk, mohair and wool, piercing the printed cotton rag paper to augment specific areas of the photographs with sewn textures that give the images a sculptural quality.

In a work like Baltic Blue (all works 2023), tufts of blue and green threads of varying thickness emerge out of the landscape at the horizon line. The base image is an extremely blurred yet brightly colored landscape filled with a gradient of blue— the sky and sea— that surrounds a fuzzy line of green-brown hills. The embroidered shape covers the center of the composition to become something at once derived from the image in terms of color, yet completely alien from it in material and texture. This constantly moves the eye from seeing the contrasting forms and textures apart from one another to integrating them.

In Blue Storm, wave-like shapes of yarn cover an image of cascading waves as they hit the shore. The deep blue sky is filled with ominous clouds suggesting an approaching storm. The sewn shapes dance in the foreground (and into the white border of the paper) as if a close-up of the turbulent sea. Mirage is more subtle. Here, Engstrom depicts a group of small tree-filled islets surrounded by water and sky. Like in the other images, Engstrom portrays the landscape as a poetic expanse of either bombastic or subtle colors. White threads appear like soft mustaches or wispy clouds disrupting the calm sea as they hover above the surface of the print and move beyond the borders of the image. Some of the plant life in the lower portion of the photograph has also been stitched over, adding texture and dimensionality.

Home: Blue/Yellow is more reminiscent of Engstrom's previous work. It pictures a brightly lit and out of focus wooded area filled with blue and green trees that are backed by soft yellow leaves and patches of white sky. This over-saturated image is bracketed by clusters of embroidery that approximate the colors and shapes of the landscape. These interventions extend beyond the edges of the printed image into the white border area and break down the confines of the rectangle, frequently spilling the relief of the embroidery off of the flat image and into the viewers’ space.

Echo (Burnt Orange) has the most aggressive application of stitching. Atop a sharply focused black and white seascape split in half — sky at the top and water at the bottom — is a bulging shape made from a melange of orange, yellow, mauve, gray and purple threads. Like the shape in Baltic Blue, Engstrom spins the overlay emerging out of the photographic image from her imagination. It may begin within the confines of the photograph, but the completed image transforms it to a dramatic (as is the case in “Echo (Burnt Orange”) or more subtle result. The tensions between what is first photographed and subsequently added, as well as the relationship between the flat printed surface and the imprecise or gestural dimensional stitching, is what gives these works their intrigue and appeal.

Click here for Lucia Engstrom on its own page.

March 7, 2024

Jose Dávila
Photographic Memory
Sean Kelly
January 20 - March 9, 2024

Jose Dávila

Jose Dávila is a multidisciplinary artist based in Mexico whose conceptual practice spans numerous media. While he creates paintings, works on paper and sculpture, as well as public art, he is best known for borrowing (or appropriating) from other artists. He has replicated Donald Judd's Minimalist forms using cardboard or shipping containers and in his "cut-out" series, he removes the key element from reproductions of iconic architecture, popular culture and arts such as Dan Flavin, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso and Richard Prince.

Dávila began his cut-outs in 2008 and in this ongoing series, removes artworks or architecture from an image to leave a white void, often in the center. Although many artists have worked with erasure and absence from Gordon Matta Clark to Robert Rauschenberg and John Baldessari, Dávila's technique was inspired by the Mexican folk-art tradition of papel picado or "Cut-Paper," which he applies to contemporary art to explore the power of negative space.

For the exhibition Photographic Memory, Dávila appropriates specific images from Richard Prince's "Cowboy Series" that were displayed for the first time at the Los Angeles Museum of Art in 2018. To create his "Cowboy Series," Prince rephotographed and cropped expansive color image of Western landscapes filled with cowboys riding horses, many of which were used in the all pervasive Marlboro cigarette advertising campaign. Prince presented these appropriated pictures as his own artwork— a strategy that was prevalent in conceptual based art from the 1980s and 1990s. In Dávila's reworkings, he not only scales up Prince's originals, but also carefully removes the horses and riders to leave a negative space in the two-dimensional plane of the print. This void becomes the focal point of the new image.

In 2008, Dávila created "Buildings You Must See Before You Die," a series of fifty photographs where he removed the central subject from images of architectural landmarks around the world and presented them in a large grid. With the buildings removed, the focus of the images became the surroundings as well as the space around them. He has also cut away important elements in paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso. In Untitled (Femme d'Alger) (2016), a series of photographic works that included thirteen variations, Dávila sequentially removed different aspects of Lichtenstein's work until all that was left was its linear structure.

There is something kitschy, ironic and fun in many of Dávila's cut-outs. For example, it is hard not to smile when looking at the image of a woman staring up at a huge phallic shaped void from Dávila's multi-panel piece a chronological history of sculpture (2013), or marvel at the blank spiral void in a reproduction of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty.

What stands out in Photographic Memory is the conversation about the history of appropriation with Prince as the master appropriator, for better or for worse. The works pay homage to a strategy of art making while also positing that these new creations are uniquely his own. Each Untitled (Cowboy) (all works 2023) in Photographic Memory is a large-scale archival pigment print, either a single image or a diptych based on Prince's originals where Prince removed pages and spreads from magazines keeping the torn edges and Scotch taped centers. Because Dávila's images are reproductions of reproductions, they have a prominent dot-screen. Dávila simply cuts away (though not conceptually simply) the cowboys to leave the landscapes that surround them. This cut-out space casts shadows on the wall seen through the clear frame. The missing image is filled by the surface of the wall and a new dialogue ensues. Devoid of context, the Untitled (Cowboy) images feel incomplete. However, when seen and contemplated in relation to the history of appropriation and Dávila's own body of cut-outs, they further the endless cycle of reproduction and continue the art about art conversation.

Click here for Jose Dávila on its own page.

February 29, 2024

Catherine Opie
Harmony is Fraught
Regen Projects
January 11 - March 3, 2024

Catherine Opie

In Harmony is Fraught, Catherine Opie displays photographic images shot over the entire span of her career. She has been photographing domestic spaces, friends and family, the urban landscape, acts of protest, as well as the gay community since the late 1980s and in this expansive exhibition of more than sixty images that have never been publicly displayed, the specificity of her points of view becomes even more evident.

The exhibition opens with a wall of small, square, framed black and white photographs, some from the mid 1990s, others like the portrait of Stanya and Harry is from 2005. In these intense images Opie captures not only the love amongst the individuals depicted but their openness and trust of her, the image maker, exposing their vulnerabilities and personalities. In these photographs the setting was controlled as most were shot in a studio against a neutral white / gray backdrop.

Both color and black and white images are on view and while they are not arranged chronologically, the installation is grouped somewhat thematically with occasional one-offs or anomalies that reference both well known series such as 105 Freeway (1994) a large-scale black and white print of the empty 105 freeway which was constructed in 1993 and more singular images like 6th Street Bridge Construction (2022), a color photograph documenting the bridge under development.

A few photographs resonate personally — Tony Greene's Studio, September 12, 1990 — a picture of postcards and image fragments on the wall of her friend and late artist Tony Greene's studio around the time he passed away from AIDS, as well as beautiful early portraits shot in the late 1980s and early 1990s of Richard Hawkins, Judy Bamber, Bill Jones, John Greyson and Matias Viegener, artist friends and CalArts professors.

Opie's sensitivity to her subjects dominates in these intimate portraits and while she is better known for her documentation of figures in the S&M scene, gay bars and queer domestic spaces, it is the less bombastic, more subtle images of those close to her that resonate and illustrate a broad sense of community. The exhibition does include numerous nudes — some like Gay Pride Day or Yes Ma'am are overtly sexual, while others like Pam shaving (all 1990) depict a private moment now made public.

The never before seen video Making of Self-Portrait/Cutting (1993) is a thirty-one minute documentation of the making of one of Opie's most iconic images — a color photograph of the artist, shot from behind against an ornately patterned deep green fabric that depicts her back which has been incised with a crude, childlike drawing of two women holding hands under a cloud and next to a simple house. The image is "quintessential" Opie — rough and tender simultaneously. The hard to watch footage documents the process of slicing her back with a scalpel, wiping off her blood and washing her back with antiseptic— refusing to mask the pain while acknowledging the pleasure of the process.

Opie is unabashed about her personal life and these images reveal conflicts as well as triumphs. Throughout her thirty-year career she has faithfully documented a wide variety of subjects — from intimate moments with her son or lovers to incidents of street violence, urban construction as well as destruction and the joy of letting go and dancing in a club. To her credit, she has refused to be pigeonholed as a certain type of photographer and this has allowed her the freedom to traverse the world photographing that which appears before her. This heartfelt exhibition attests to her commitment to show the world as she sees it and how it is.

Click here for Catherine Opie on its own page.

February 22, 2024

Nathan Vincent
Teach a man to ...
Walter Maciel Gallery
January 6 - March 2, 2024

Nathan Vincent

Two installations featuring crocheted or knitted sculptures by Nathan Vincent are on view at Walter Maciel Gallery: Locker Room (2011) and Let's Play War (2015). In Locker Room, Vincent replicates a life-size typical male gym changing room equipped with two rows of lockers and benches surrounded at either end of the back room by three urinals and three showers, all to scale and tenderly crocheted, giving the hard-edged objects a feminine aura. Interested in contradicting stereotypical gender associations, Vincent offers an altered sense of masculinity— one that is softer and gentler than the norm. Though no longer functional, the objects are placed amidst institutional blue/green walls to further the illusion of a realistic space. The piece is simultaneously beautiful and unsettling.

Despite his mother's reluctance to teach him this craft, Vincent's interest in needlework began when he was young. In college, he began embroidering his painted canvases and eventually transitioned out of painting to fully embrace yarn as a medium for art making. For the larger works, he crochets around armatures or begins with foam and builds on that.

In conjunction with Locker Room (which went on view in November, 2023) are miscellaneous "soft" yarn-objects in the front room, as well as evocative pieces collectively titled Let's Play War, originally commissioned by the Bellevue Arts Museum (WA), where it was shown in 2015. Here, Vincent presents figurative sculptures covered in green or tan yarn based on the iconic small-scale children's plastic toy soldiers. Approximately enlarged to the height of ten-year-olds, these figurines are positioned in acts of play (or war) acting out all too familiar scenarios. Some climb the walls, others recoil from attack. Meticulously crafted, Vincent faithfully replicates the subtle details of the readily available plastic soldiers using yarn.

Continuing the theme of war are other objects scattered throughout the space — Don't Make Me Count to Three! (2015) is comprised of piles of crocheted sticks of dynamite with a detonator, Joystick (2011), as well as Threat II pink, grey, teal (2017), a soft pink and teal hand-grenade innocently placed on a small shelf that calls out: Touch-me, pick me up, see if I am no longer a danger.

The works on view pose questions: What is a weapon? What connotes power? (How) can weapons and symbols of power become inert? Vincent is interested in merging masculine and feminine tropes to challenge accepted norms using what is often considered a "woman's" craft to make his artworks. The soft-sculptures on view are impactful as well as cuddly. It is ironic to think of hugging a crocheted soldier or hand grenade as one might a teddy bear and Vincent's works allow for that dichotomy and intrigue. While the pieces from 2011 and 2015 still resonate (almost ten years after their creation), there remains a curiosity about Vincent's current projects and where he has gone from these powerful and thought-provoking pieces.

Click here for Nathan Vincent on its own page.

February 15, 2024

Krista Svalbonas
What Remains
Marshall Gallery
January 20 - February 24, 2023

Krista Svalbonas

Recent photographs from Krista Svalbonas' Displacement series are on view in an exhibition titled What Remains. These laser cut pigment prints fuse black and white photographs of facades of buildings shot during her travels to Lithuania, Latvia and Germany (the birthplaces and early residences of her parents) with appropriated texts culled from personal letters from other displaced residents. Similarly, in her What Remains series more post-industrial buildings are juxtaposed with decorative patterns that fill the space around the structures.

As a child of immigrants, Svalbonas "was always interested in ideas of home and dislocation." Researching, retracing and imagining her parent's origins amidst the turbulent political climate imposed upon them and their subsequent journey away from their homeland led her to Displaced Person Camps in Germany where refugees fleeing the Baltic States spent the years after WWII awaiting permission to emigrate to the United States. Through rigorous archival research, Svalbonas located numerous camps and traveled to Germany to document those that remain. Today, the buildings give little indication of their prior use or those who once inhabited them.

In her Displacement series, Svalbonas describes the dwellings as "impersonal structures appropriated from other civilian and military uses." Photographed in situ they are printed in desaturated tonalities where the architecture fills most of the frame. Within the computer, Svalbonas collages these images with texts from letters she discovered that were pleas for asylum sent by refugees to governments in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. These words are typeset in dense overlapping rows that span the entire surface of the images and cover the buildings. The digital collages are printed and then fed into a laser cutter that etches the spaces between the letters to create an intricate, lace-like texture where the sky and foreground surrounding the buildings dissolve into a pattern of barely legible words.

Lauingen (2022) depicts a building in the town which is located in the district of Dillingen in Bavaria, Germany. The three-floor structure appears to be a traditional European residence with numerous windows, nicely landscaped and inviting. This contemporary image offers little about the buildings past. To provide context and content, Svalbonas overlays the photograph with a dense texture of words to create an evocative and unsettling juxtaposition. Because the condensed, overlapping type fuses with and disappears into the building, it is not possible to read the letter in its entirety, though the salutation "To Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt" is visible in the upper left corner of the image. Another plea appearing in the image Geisligen (2022) begins, "We Baltic Women in exile..." This text accompanies an image of a friendly treelined street with a variety of homes. The photograph representing Hamburg is a multi story apartment building apparently undergoing renovations as scaffolding is situated against the facade. The text reads: "June 1947... To the [...] board of Human Rights ..." Although only fragments of the letter are clear, the content and urgency is evident in contrast to the calm and well composed architectural photographs.

With these delicate and mesmerizing works, Svalbonas investigates notions of memory as well as displacement as an attempt to retain and preserve a certain history before it disappears. In a recent interview, she stated "Each of these layered pieces becomes a puzzle I am struggling to complete before the history is lost forever, a composite of my own experience and the fading memories of my parents and their generation. My goal is to give voice to this near forgotten history that also speaks to the impact of contemporary forced migrations."

In addition to her Displacement photographs, Svalbonas also presents a number of works titled What Remains (2021-2022). These images juxtapose black and white photographs of imposing Soviet architecture from the Baltic regions with complex and delicate textile patterns from traditional Baltic designs. There is a sharp contrast between the concrete, industrial architecture and the geometric cut-outs culled from folk-art patterns, which were often used for mittens, scarves and table cloths as well as curtains. The voids in the prints that were removed by the laser cutter show a slightly burnt golden residue that references the past. According to Svalbonas, this work "examines the ways in which people are shaped by their environment, and how they can rebel against it to preserve their identity and culture."

These images couple objective photography (like the Bechers) with archival research that stems from personal stories. Seen together the photographs from both the Displacement and What Remains series speak to both the present and past. The works intelligently and gracefully integrate ideas of home and dislocation with architecture and design.

Click here for Krista Svalbonas on its own page.

February 8, 2024

Katrien De Blauwer, Ken Graves, and Kensuke Koike
Fragmented Lucidity: The Art of Collage and Photomontage
Rose Gallery
December 9, 2023 - February 17, 2024

Fragmented Lucidity: Katrien De Blauwer (l), Kensuke Koike (c), Ken Graves (r)

Defined as a technique of assemblage to create a new whole, collage most often refers to visual works. It has a rich political, as well as aesthetic history. When the term collage or photomontage is mentioned, numerous historical artists and movements come to mind: Hanna Hoch (Dada), John Heartfield (German political montage), Picasso, Braque (Cubism) and El Lissitzky (Constructivism). Fragmented Lucidity: The Art of Collage and Photomontage at Rose Gallery features work by Katrien De Blauwer, Ken Graves and Kensuke Koike, three contemporary artists who excel in the making of collages in unique and unexpected ways.

Self described as a "photographer without a camera," Katrien De Blauwer is a Belguim based artist who creates small-scale collages that feel as if they come from another time. She often juxtaposes a few fragments culled from old magazines and newspapers. These are casually cut, though not with straight lines, and often contain large areas of a single color. In Forces 4 (2022), for example, a clipping that features the top of the head of a woman with brown hair, shot against a deep orange ground is placed below a black and white photograph of rolling waves in a turbulent sea. The top of the collage is a rough edge of cardboard or backing that suggests a mountainous shoreline. Many of De Blauwer's collages feature images of women, in some instances clothed, in others nude but never overtly sexual. Rather, she uses the human body as a compositional device similarly to the way she incorporates objects, as well as large areas of color. Each fragment is a formal, design element that may also trigger memories through juxtaposition. Single Cuts 133 (2018) is a collage made up of three photographic sections bordered by light backing paper. In this image, De Blauwer crops a black and white magazine or book photograph of a woman wearing sunglasses whose arm rises up toward the top of her head to block the sun. She cuts and rearranges it so the upper torso is positioned above the top of her head. Her face is missing entirely from the collage.

The cutting and repositioning of body parts and faces is also a methodology for the Japanese artist Kensuke Koike. Koike often begins with found vintage photographs like old studio portraits or antique cartes de visites and carefully removes aspects of the scene or the people depicted within the image and replaces the extracted elements with different parts taken from the same original. Say Cheese (2020) is a photograph of man and woman about to embrace: their lips approach one another's. Koike has removed a rectangular section of the image around the mouths of both the man and woman, switching their lips. The result is unsettling and absurd. In Traveler (2020), Koike cuts away the outlines of two overlapping squares that intersect the face and shoulders of a seated man from a vintage sepia toned portrait. He turns each square 90 degrees (one clockwise, the other counter clockwise) before re-inserting them to transform a banal portrait into an abstraction. The splitting of a head or full body in half or thirds, or the displacement of certain facial features are alterations that Koike employs in many of his collages. It is hard to believe that such seemingly simple maneuvers would so significantly alter the tenor of the image but they do so in striking ways. His surrealist images have lasting power.

Ken Graves' witty and often ironic collages draw from a variety of source material ranging from found photographs to magazine images. Through inventive compilation and juxtaposition, each work becomes a self contained narrative that offers new interpretations of pop culture. The collages on view were created between 1976 and 2015. The earliest image — Putting Them Out of Their Misery (1976) is a small black and white work, just over 3.5 x 4 inches depicting a range of mangled hard-back chairs suspended from the ceiling of a well lit living room. In the foreground, a man sprays one of the chairs from a can, suggesting that either the spraying or hanging will put the chair "out of its misery." The Home Movies (1986) is a color collage of elderly, people in fancy dress who are intently watching a movie being shown in their home. The screen is placed on a woven rug and takes up the lower half of the composition. Facing the viewer, the back-side of the screen transparently shows a heavily tattooed man from behind. Squash (2011) is a surreal montage in which a seated man wearing a suit appears to be steering a large orange squash from which golden drapery tumbles. Graves' collages allow for playful free association where the viewer can invent whatever narrative they choose from disparate elements. While collage has come in and out of vogue over the years, these three artists illustrate the various ways it continues to resonate and remains a go-to-medium.

Click here for Fragmented Lucidity on its own page.

February 1, 2024

Hector Dionicio Mendoza
Buscando Futuro / Searching for a Future
Luis de Jesus Los Angeles
January 13 - February 17, 2024

Hector Dionicio Mendoza

In Buscando Futuro / Searching for a Future, Hector Dionicio Mendoza presents mixed media floor and wall-based sculptures. The overarching theme of migration and the various ways both people and animals move from place to place is both subtly and overtly communicated. Through the individual works, the installation itself becomes a journey of discovery, place and sense of self as articulated through the sensual assembling of unusual yet commonplace materials.

It is impossible not to be immediately drawn to Leaning, Holding, Pushing (2020-2023) a gigantic figure and its shadow sculpted from among other materials, tree bark, wood and cardboard. The oversized man leans against a gallery wall, his arms extended to support his body in a position of submission that resembles someone being arrested. To the right and slightly below the sculpted figure is his flattened silhouette painted with stenciled abstract lines and floral shapes that is flush with the wall. The three-dimensional body was created by assembling numerous pieces of bark and cardboard and appears surreal and mechanical, alien and definitely not human, yet sympathetic rather than threatening.

Many of the works derive from Mendoza's experiences of the border between the United States and Mexico, as well as and the politics and narratives intertwined with borders and border crossing. This is most evident in Familia Universal / Universal Family, (2021) a spray paint on wood panel wall work that depicts five abstracted figural silhouettes presenting people of different ages and genders on the move. The leader is a woman, followed by a man with a baseball hat facing backwards who is supporting a one legged man also wearing a baseball hat. Last in the sequence is a pregnant woman holding hands with a young girl who carries a backpack. The work references the generic immigrant crossing highway signs, yet is much more nuanced and evocative.

While sculptures alluding to individuals with their implied stories dominate the exhibition, Mendoza also includes numerous images of animals such as Perros Callejeros / Street Dogs, (2024) and Beast of burden, jackass / Pinche burro, asno, (2023-2024). Beast of burden, jackass / Pinche burro, asno, features an incredibly heavy load piled high on an almost life-size silhouette of a donkey. Towering up the wall, it is an obvious burden to an animal whose lower legs and feet have been transformed into human body parts. Mendoza seamlessly juxtaposes two- and three-dimensional aspects to give the flattened animal both physical and psychological depth.

A more whimsical piece — When I dream, I fly / En mis sueños, yo vuelo, (2023-2024) is situated in the center of the gallery. Here, a figure wearing a ratty olive green "hoodie" arches back on a home-made skateboard with bright blue wheels. The feet-less rider's legs are attached to the skateboard and he has long blue feathers instead of hands. In addition, feathers also hang below his outstretched arms. His face is comprised of mirrors and glass and is nested inside the tightly drawn hood. The sculpture references "dreamers": those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and whose immigration status remains in limbo.

In his pieces, Mendoza incorporates found materials, as well as his own concoction of "ethnic bread" — a melange derived from his study of global flatbreads that he molds into different shapes and body parts. While the finished sculptures have an ad hoc look, they are also precisely crafted to carefully integrate abstract and representational elements. The works in the exhibition allude to unbalance and uncertainty. While hopeful and majestic, Mendoza has created a suite of sculptures that suggest stories about hopes and dreams and loss and the myriad issues facing migrants and refugees in all parts of the world.

Click here for Hector Dionicio Mendoza on its own page.

January 25, 2024

Sarah Conaway
Interior Castle
The Box
December 2, 2023 - February 3, 2024

Sarah Conaway

Sarah Conaway presents ten digitized Super 8 mm films in the large darkened space of The Box, as well as a series of twenty film-stills installed in a separate room at the back of the gallery. Derived from the moving images, the stills encapsulate an instant from the larger whole. The films are all screened at the same scale from projectors meticulously installed on white pedestals. Each is a fragmentary meditation no longer than four minutes with varying still life, exterior or interior shots that are dream-like and fleeting. The series is named after the spiritual treatise Interior Castle from 1577 by Teresa of Avila (a Carmelite nun and prominent Spanish mystic, also known as Saint Teresa) which describes the "contemplative life" as a castle with seven chambers. Conaway's films are reflective and carefully observed simple moments presented as studies of color, light and shadow.

When thinking about the relationship between the still and moving images, without careful scrutiny it is hard to discern which still came from which film, though that is hardly the point. Titled like the films by number (Still Life No. 1 to Still Life No. 20) the sequence of small scale (11.25 x 13.25) grainy images depict the environs that surround Conaway's apartment. These include concrete stairs, palm trees silhouetted against the sky, drapery folds, shadows of plants on a wall and the sidewalk, in addition to dried flowers in a vase and other more abstracted interior and exterior scenes. Because the pictures are enlarged from the tiny Super 8 footage they have a shallow depth of field and a softness that harkens back to experimental film from a pre-digital era. Still Life No. 17 depicts a light sepia/orange hued image of a vase with dried flowers and its shadow. Along with numerous other shots of flowers in interiors, these images recall Andre Kertesz's photograph Mondrian's Studio (1926), as well as the aura of Maya Deren's classic film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).

The journey through the ten films moves between interior and exterior spaces while focusing on plants, architectural details, shadows and drapery. None of the completed short films are single takes, but rather slow fades that jump between subtle observations. Interior Castle I (all works 2023) is grainy and black and white. It begins with silhouetted palm trees blowing in the wind against a gray sky, then shifts to close-ups of light coral on a dark ground followed by leaves and flowers in a vase. The film segues to curtains and the light seen through them followed by details of cracked paint on walls. It then returns to silhouetted flowers in vases and their shadows moving ever so slightly on the walls before moving outside where the footage traces the shadow of a wrought-iron fence on a sidewalk before concluding with blurry shots what appears to be crumpled paper.

While each short sequence is unique, the imagery within them is strikingly familiar as Conaway repeatedly films the objects that surround her. The differences are what drive the content as she shifts her view from down to up to out while taking advantage of the ways lenses flatten space and capture shadows. The movements within each scene are subtle for the most part: a slow pan where the focus changes or a jump from close to far as seen in Interior Castle II where Conaway's camera fluctuates between a distant and closer view of drapery gathered on the floor, or hovers over a white ribbon on a dark ground. The colors are often washed out and faded hues or sepia tones except when Conaway shoots footage of garden plants. Bright green objects and deep pink backgrounds appear in Interior Castle X giving pause as if referencing a moment from a different dream.

Each projection appears like a moving painting on the gallery wall. There is no overt narrative, but rather the films and accompanying stills allude to emotions and feelings while delighting in the way the mind can drift in numerous directions when triggered by familiar, yet somewhat abstracted imagery. The works are about time, space and nature through the qualities of light that fall upon interior and exterior spaces. Returning to Teresa of Avila's book and the notion of "mansions of the mind," Conaway's films construct a journey that reveals the power and beauty in the everyday.

Click here for Sarah Conaway on its own page.

January 18, 2024

Paul Pfeiffer
Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom
Museum of Contemporary Art
November 12, 2023 - June 16, 2024

Paul Pfeiffer

Paul Pfeiffer began exhibiting his mixed media works in the mid 1990s and was immediately applauded for using a technical innovation in a conceptually significant manner — digitally erasing aspects of stock sports photographs and video clips using programs like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere. In John 3:16 (2000) he cropped and composited 5000 frames culled from National Basketball Association games, carefully manipulating the footage so that the basketball remained centered in the frame while the background and players' hands were in constant motion swirling around it. Rather than project this two-minute video loop or present it on a large screen, Pfeiffer displayed it on a small monitor that extended out from the wall on a long metal armature so it appeared to be floating in space like the basketball. This iconic work is among the thirty pieces that comprises Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom, his first museum survey.

Titled after Cecil B. DeMille’s opening remarks introducing The Ten Commandments, the show spans the expansive MOCA Geffen warehouse space which has been divided into separate rooms to house the individual works. The exhibition design was done in collaboration with the New York City based architecture firm Büro Korak Duman and facilitates thematic rather than chronological pathways through Pfeiffer's works. Throughout his various still and moving pieces, Pfeiffer investigates ideas relating to "spectacle" — in both sports and entertainment — and draws from abundant found footage and photographs to create his idiosyncratic and compelling works. When Pfeiffer started, the culture of appropriation was still in vogue and he found innovative ways to critique and comment on popular culture. Much of Pfeiffer's work involves the process of recreation — be it filling in erased elements from the original source material or by hiring foley artists to mimic the shouts and gestures of stadium crowds.

The title of the exhibition is also the title of a 2000 video diptych presented on small monitors where Cecil B. DeMille is caught in a loop walking in and out of the draped curtains at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to deliver a speech, but never quite reaching the stage. Endless loops are prevalent and can be seen in works including Caryatid (2003), Live Evil (2003) and The Long Count (2000-2001), a trilogy of short video works that manipulate Muhammad Ali's most famous boxing matches so that the fighters appear to be ghostly images in an otherwise empty ring. While many of Pfeiffer's videos are exhibited on small monitors, he also creates room-sized installations.

For the MOCA presentation, these include The Saints (2007) and Vitruvian Figure (2008). The Saints was commissioned by Artangel and first presented in London in 2007. It is a recreation of an iconic football (soccer) match at Wembley Stadium in 1966 where England beat West Germany and won its only World Cup title. Upon entering a large, empty, bright space with seventeen wall mounted speakers emitting the sound of a roaring crowd, one is struck by the contrast between the minimal installation and the maximal sound. Inset into a wall toward the far end of the space is a tiny monitor positioned in the center of a large wall on which a version of the game appears. In this iteration of the footage, Pfeiffer has removed all but one of the players. He is alone running back and forth across the empty field as the disembodied sound of the spectators fills the room and surrounds the audience. On the other side of the wall, Pfeiffer projects two videos side by side. On the right is the original footage from the game and on the left, a taped re-staging of the sound by 1000 Filipinos voicing the cries and cheers in sync with the action.

Like The Saints, Vitruvian Figure is also a re-creation but this time, rather than work with the footage of an event, Pfeiffer built a room-sized replica of the proposed 2000 Sydney Olympic Stadium (that seats 80,000 people). His version is scaled up to accommodate one million people. He states, "It's a sculpture based on the stadium form, which I think of as one of the oldest architectural types in the Western building tradition. For me it’s a way to think about mass viewership through the ages, from Classical Greek Antiquity to the present and into the future. I also think of the stadium as a reflection of the larger social environment. All the conditions that shape the viewing experience of spectators in a stadium are equally active in the daily lives of people outside the stadium." To access the work, viewers ascend via a ramp and a stairway and look down on the simulated seats and tiny green playing field, made with the help of artisans in the Philippines. Pfeiffer is Filipino-American and although he is mostly based in New York, he has taught and lived in the Philippines on numerous occasions and has repeatedly worked with Filipino laborers and students on his projects.

Although Pfeiffer makes contemporary works using a range of analog and digital mediums, his practice is rooted in history as well as his cultural heritage. He often draws from art historical, biblical and religious references, infusing the pieces with a timeless aura linking past to present. This well deserved survey introduces audiences to a range of his exceptional, thought provoking and challenging works and allows them to wander freely through the many different aspects of his ouevre.

Click here for Paul Pfeiffer on its own page.

January 11, 2024

Louise Lawler
Going Through The Motions
Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
November 10, 2023 - February 10, 2024

Louise Lawler

Louise Lawler has been making photographic works that focus on the presentation and collection of fine art since the early 1980s. Her work is conceptually based and she is associated with the "Pictures Generation" — artists known for appropriation including Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger and Sherrie Levine. Through photographing the artworks of others for most of her career, Lawler has examined various notions of "in-situ." Early on, her images were straight forward black and white photographs that documented artworks in museums, auction houses and collector's homes. Over time, the images became larger, full color and eventually she began to use digital tools to manipulate the pictures so they could span huge walls. Lawler's intention was to create social commentaries that focused on juxtapositions that she framed. She has always been interested in context and the relationships between the items on display, as well as the infrastructure and the curatorial practices of the institutions or individuals exhibiting them.

Going Through The Motions begins outside the gallery with a quasi-generic sign placed among the buildings landscaping that reads "Louise Lawler / False Compensation / This Weekend." The meaning of these signs is obtuse until one sees the exhibition inside, which includes photographic pieces from Lawler's swiped, adjusted to fit, and traced series. To create the images that encompass her swiped series, Lawler physically moved the camera during long exposures resulting in a partial blur. The blur is unsettling and disorientating, especially when the image depicts known artworks such as 1944-N No.2 and One: Number 31, 1950 (swiped) (all works 2022/2023) which features a double exposure of the Jackson Pollock painting One: Number 31 hanging on a wall adjacent to a semi-transparent and faded depiction of Clifford Still's 1944-N No.2, both on display at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA). Similarly, The Palace at 4 a.m. (swiped) is a dark, blurry and shadowy photograph of a fragment of Alberto Giacometti's iconic sculpture also installed at MoMA. In Lawler's image, the bird-like creature appears in motion as if taking flight. Lawler does not limit her explorations to MoMA as Edison Price and Breuer (swiped) is an out of focus image looking up at the numerous lights in the ceiling of the former Whitney Museum (now referred to as the Breuer building), another enigmatic double take.

Covering several of the huge gallery walls are pieces from Lawler's adjusted to fit series. For these works, Lawler instructs each exhibitor to digitally manipulate and scale the original images to match the width and height of a given wall. Often distorted beyond recognition, works including Vir Heroicus Sublimis and Abraham (swiped) (adjusted to fit) and It Spins (adjusted to fit) are printed on adhesive material and fused with the given walls. Vir Heroicus Sublimis and Abraham are both works by Barnett Newman in the collection of MoMA as is Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel which Lawler photographed closely cropped from above.

Two small, black and white photographs in the corridor leading to the upstairs gallery are significant, though easily missed. Position (verb) and Position (noun), originally shot in 1982, are photographs of an interior space with a lamp, two arm chairs and an early mixed media work by Eva Hesse. In the upstairs gallery, Lawler again presents large-scale images adhered to the walls. These black and white works are tracings of Lawler's photographs done in collaboration with the children's book illustrator Jon Buller. The relationship between Lawler's original photographs and the tracings becomes evident when regarding Position (noun)(traced), 1982/2020/2023 because viewers can compare and contrast the original photograph with its tracing.

Why reduce a photograph to a line drawing? What does a trace reveal or leave out? Why turn something seemingly objective into something subjective and gestural? Each of the tracings is derived from one of Lawler's photographs and simplifies the spaces and images contained within them into lines. It is possible to identify some of the artworks — like one of Damien Hirst's severed animals in Dots and Slices (traced), 2006/2013 or Jeff Koon's balloon dog in Egg and Gun (traced), 2008/2016 as well as Felix Gonzalez-Torres light bulbs in Bulbs (traced), 2005/2006/2019 — and imagine the original photographs. The fact that these works exist as digital files and can be scaled to any dimension is in keeping with the practices of numerous conceptual artists whose works were presented as instructions. Congruent with Lawler's ideas with respect to re-presenting and reframing, twelve of her tracing images can be downloaded from MoMA's website for children to color.

Although Lawler's photographic practice appears straightforward — she photographs artworks on display — it is always changing as she continually devises new ways to frame and re-frame her subjects. She has recently also embraced digital technologies to allow for further experimentation. Lawler questions authorship and "swipes" images from others. Although the works are not "false compensation" as the signage outside the gallery proclaims, they knowingly and slyly take and re-present the works of others to become evocative and telling documents of collections and exhibitions.

Click here for Louise Lawler on its own page.

January 4, 2024

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
November 11, 2023 - February 3, 2024


Though best known as the lead vocalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, artist/musician Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson (Jónsi) is also an accomplished visual artist. For Vox he presents three pieces in which he combines speakers, LEDs and sounds in different ways. Although each work occupies its own space, they are interrelated, investigating not only how sound can envelope a space, but also its visual qualities. While sound on its own is not visual per se,  its method of display (as arrays or canopies of speakers) can be. Both Var (safespace) and Silent sigh (dark) (all works 2023) share affinities with the work of Alan Rath (1959-2020) whose sculptures often combined numerous speakers that undulated like animated entities pulsating up and down and emitting softs sounds according to Rath's computer algorithms.

Like Rath and the San Francisco based artist Jim Campbell (known for his LED installations), Jónsi's works rely on sophisticated electronics and programming. Var (the Icelandic word for shelter) hangs overhead and consists of hundreds of small speakers wired together to form a canopy or tent-like enclosure. According to Jónsi, it is supposed to evoke a "safe space" filled with calming sounds (a six minute loop) and the scent of cis-3-hexenol (one of the components in freshly cut grass). Yet while the suspended canopy offers "refuge" in some ways, its wing-like shape also calls to mind the body of a flying bat from afar.

Silent sigh (dark) is a free standing sculpture that fills a small, dimly illuminated space. The work is arranged in an array like a mechanical snowflake where the larger speakers are in the center and the smaller ones extend out toward the edges. Jónsi uses computers (nested in the base of the sculpture) to control direct currents that change the physical state of the different speakers. This causes them to ripple and emit breath-like sounds alluding to the idea that they could be "alive."

Filling the darkened main gallery space is the eight-channel sound and LED installation Vox. With a duration of twenty-five minutes, Vox visualizes the human voice. It intertwines Jónsi's own voice with those generated by an AI to create an eerie and ambiguous audio environment that syncs with choreographed bursts and flashes of light on approximately two-foot high LED screens encircling but not filling the four walls of the gallery. While it is difficult to make out actual words or sentences, the work evokes a sense of awe and mystery with the sound becoming visually palpable. Viewers enter the space through a curtain and as their eyes adjust to the darkness they might notice a single bench that appears to be floating in the middle of the space like a horizontal version of the monolith from 2001, its black surface reflecting aspects of the pulsating light. This bench beckons. It is an indicator that to experience the piece in full, one might want to sit. As the tonalities begin to ebb and flow the LEDs follow suit to become a visual and aural soundscape that is both soothing and other worldly simultaneously.

Jónsi's sound-works are subtle and not meant to overpower the space or the viewer. Though electronically created, they reference the subtleties of the natural as well as the built world. The pieces are seductive, contemplative and inviting. As a musician, Jónsi has performed in different arenas, as well as worked with visual artists such as Doug Aitken and Olafur Eliasson, so he is familiar with the power of immersing audiences within seemingly empty spaces. Once filled with both frenetic and soothing sounds, these spaces can become a visual field for the imagination.

Click here for Jónsi on its own page.

December 28, 2023

Ava McDonough
All I hear Is the Symphony
Lowell Ryan Projects
November 18, 2023 - January 20, 2024

Ava McDonough

Ava McDonough is a young, self-taught, Los Angeles based artist whose solo debut at Lowell Ryan Projects is a mixed media installation titled All I hear Is the Symphony. The mostly black and white works are intricately constructed collages on panel made by assembling hundreds or thousands of hand-printed images. Obsessive collaging of this nature made easier by digital technologies, but McDonough's works are hand-made and in some ways recall assemblages by Elliott Hundley, as well as drawings and paintings by outsider artists like Howard Finster and Adolf Wölfli, in addition to the all-over mark-making of iconic artists including Jean Dubuffet, Keith Haring and more recently, Trenton Doyle Hancock.

To create her dense and idiosyncratic compositions, McDonough begins by carving her drawings into linoleum blocks which are then inked and printed over and over again. She allows the saturation of ink to diminish over successive iterations resulting in different tonalities (shifts from deep black to light gray) in the small prints. Each block is printed multiple times and the imagery is often repeated across the many panels on display.

McDonough's doodle-like markings range from people to objects, to occasional words. Some of the imagery is generic —a shopping cart or scissors— while other drawings feel more personal. From afar, the works appear to be abstractions consisting of undulating shapes that range from light gray to deep black. The collaged elements within the large triptych, I, As a Sky-painting Journeyman (all works 2023) appear skeletal as if enlarged x-rays of the human body, yet upon close examination the overall shapes and structure dissolves into a montage of small-scale glyphs or pictographs that can be thought of as McDonough's alphabet. As the eye traverses the work, it may rest upon white silhouetted figures that morph into animals as well as utilitarian objects while the mind tries to create a narrative across the many tiny images.

Feral Ecstasy consists of overlapping curvilinear forms that suggest intersecting bodies. Looking at the individual fragments, one finds an array of nude figures, a teddy bear, a boxer, a box of Marlboro cigarettes, a toaster, the hare-rabbit illusion, a sign that states "hell" and another that reads "one way do not enter." How these elements "jive" is dependent on the viewer and their interpretation of the accumulation of line drawings. While McDonough might suggest a way of reading the works through her titles, they remain open ended.

Smaller works including the 7 x 5 inch My Beloved Vegetables! and CARNIVORES are easier to decipher. For example, in My Beloved Vegetables! there are myriad pills and pill bottles, a razor blade as well as a hunched over seated figure suggesting pain and despair, while in CARNIVORES McDonough presents a melange of human and animal forms. It is necessary to spend time with the images to discern McDonough's intentions and the works darker meanings, however it is also possible to enjoy the pieces on the surface and celebrate McDonough's labor intensive process and densely populated and evocative compositions.

Click here for Ava McDonough on its own page.

December 21, 2023

Todd Gray
Rome Work
Vielmetter Los Angeles
November 18, 2023 - January 13, 2024

Todd Gray

Los Angeles based photographer Todd Gray was a 2022-2023 Fellow at the American Academy in Rome and his exhibition is comprised of work made during that residency. Rome Work features images of iconic architecture, statues and churches in Rome combined with images from previous bodies of work, some shot in Ghana, others a selection of self-portraits, many of which depict the artist's head covered with swaths of white shaving cream. Gray is a master of juxtaposition and has devised a way to creatively layer his images, encasing each element in its own (glassless) and often oval frame so the finished works have dimensionality. 

This is most evident in the large-scale floor-based group of images, Rome Work (San Giovanni in Laterano, Goree Island, Senegal:Palace of Fontainebleau, Salaga), (all works 2023). Here, Gray combines a photograph of the facade of San Giovanni in Laterano, the oldest public church in Rome, with a contemporary image of people at the shore on Goree Island in Senegal (known for its role in the 15th-19th century Atlantic slave trade). Both these photographs are partially obscured by a large oval picture frame filled with a dark silhouette of the artist shot from behind. These three images comprise one side of the work and they lean against a smaller set of photographs like an ad hoc sandwich board. On the verso, Gray presents an oval-shaped reproduction of a religious painting depicting God and angels from the Palace of Fontainebleau in Paris, as if suspended in front of a tree surrounded by bricks in a square in Salaga, Ghana. Leaning against the tree is a mangled sign that reads "Welcome to Salaga Slave Market," which was the largest slave market where people were bought, sold, or traded for cattle in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Gray layers people and places to create a trajectory through cultures and histories that, to quote Gray, "explore[s] the diasporic dislocations and cultural connections which link Western hegemony with West Africa." In these works, he alludes to racism and oppression across space and time. While his works are formally elegant and conceptually astute, they are also quite personal as he delves into his own image archives — Gray worked as a commercial photographer early in his career and was even Michael Jackson's official photographer in the early 1980s. On Pointe (Grotesques) includes a cropped image of Michael Jackson's feet dancing on stage, his shoes on pointe, partially covered by a photograph of Gray's head and face grotesquely slathered with white shaving cream so his head resembles that of an animal. Both these framed images sit atop a photograph of an ornately painted church ceiling filled with monsters and animals.

Rome Work (Niobe and her Chirren) is a long horizontal photograph that spans nine feet across. The base images are two closely cropped color photographs of sculptures of Niobe and her children which are on display in the gardens at the Villa Medici in Rome. In Gray's collage, he overlays a tondo shaped self portrait in silhouette that mirrors the gestures of some of the sculptured figures. In Triple Play, he also connects past and present by inserting three gold framed, oval photographs of his shaving cream covered face held aloft by various attendent putti on a wall with gold trimmed architectural details— as if to say I belong here, too.

In his Rome series, Gray beautifully brings together photographs of the "Eternal" city that speak to darker times, wealth and poverty, construction and destruction. While Rome is a city full of ruins, Gray injects new life into his depictions. His images are an attempt to weave a path through different periods in history as a way to suggest that the evils of the past connect to the present. His evocative and thoughtful juxtapositions combine art, architecture with personal imagery to create new Black narratives that expose and explore legacies of colonialism in Africa and beyond.

Click here for Todd Gray on its own page.

December 14, 2023

Stephen Neidich
Lost Mix Tapes
Wilding Cran Gallery
November 4, 2023 - January 6, 2024

Stephen Neidich

For his past exhibitions at Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles based sculptor Stephen Neidich has created kinetic works. In 2019, he activated the gallery space by installing more than two-dozen metal chains that dangled from ceiling to floor, clicking and clanging in discordant harmony as they were dragged over a pile of concrete fragments placed in a circle on the floor below. For his 2021 exhibition, sensors triggered subtle movements of hand-crafted Venetian blinds augmented with LED lights to create an ever changing array of color and movement within the room. His current exhibition, Lost Mix Tapes is quiet. None of the wall-based sculptures move, yet they still command the space as strange objects infused with wit and intelligence. Spanning the walls are dysfunctional rusted steel Venetian blinds that exude character and personality. Who would have thought a Venetian blind could wink?

All The Answers Are In That Book (all works 2023) is a wall-based sculpture consisting of thirteen horizontal rusted steel strips tethered together like blinds with nylon cord and secured to the wall by metal brackets. The piece appears to be stuck in a partially open position and has seen better days, as many of the slats sag and sway between their supports. Two of the slats are bent and may imply an eye or mouth shaped portal. All The Answers Are In That Book could conceivably be functional, while many of the other pieces are purposely exaggerated. Oh, Is It Your First Time? is extremely long (28 feet) and spreads out from the top of a wall more than half-way across the gallery floor. While its rusted surfaces allude to the tones and textures of abstract expressionist painting, its material and form recall minimalist sculptures like those of Richard Serra and Carl Andre.

In We're Taking 3 Cars and Not No, Neidich twists the bottom half of the sculptures steel slats so they echo the shape of oversized intersecting folded paper hand fans. Almost everyone has encountered Venetian blinds that misbehave and Neidich exaggerates these occasions— like when one side rises but not the other (How Quickly You Forget). I Can Tell You But I Can't Explain It feels more like an unsafe floating broken foot bridge with its supports completely out of whack.

Neidich's works are serious and humorous simultaneously. His titles, including the title of the exhibition, Lost Mix Tapes are ambiguous and seemingly unrelated to the sculptures. Mixtapes are a thing of the past, while Venetian blinds are still in use as everyday items. By casting them in steel, Neidich negates their vulnerability, but solidifies their dysfunction. In doing so, there is a human quality to the work, as well as a sense of familiarity, perhaps like those Lost Mix Tapes, something still yearned for and forever embedded in memory.

Click here for Stephen Neidich on its own page.

December 7, 2023

Lia Halloran
Warped Side
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
November 4 - December 22, 2023

Lia Halloran

Warped Side is an exhibition of selected images from the newly released publication The Warped Side of Our Universe: An Odyssey through Black Holes, Wormholes, Time Travel and Gravitational Waves, a collaboration between the visual artist Lia Halloran and the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Kip Thorne. The book is the culmination of more than ten years of friendship and working together resulting in 500 plus drawings and discussions to "mobilize science, art and poetry to explore aspects of the universe that many people are curious about: black holes, wormholes and other strange phenomena." The images on view (mostly blue ink on drafting film) depict swirling vortexes and even imagined voyages through black holes as experienced by Halloran's wife who is pictured in many of these evocative representations of the world beyond and the surprising forces of nature.

In her site specific installations as well as smaller scaled works, Halloran has experimented with a wide range of media (drawings, paintings, photographic cyanotypes) to create works that explore relationships between the body and various scientific principles. These include investigations of scientific classification systems as well as our solar system. Her works are seductive and extremely impactful when seen from afar and upon closer examination, the nuances of her chosen subject matter become evident.

In this exhibition, many of the smaller works are hung on a single wall that has been painted a deep blue and extend across it in a sequence that becomes a long, flattened rhombus. As viewers move from left to right, from single, to double or triple hung images, they can piece together an implied narrative about a journey, perhaps from Earth to unknown worlds. Halloran uses different hues and opacities of the color cyan to paint concentric circles and intersecting lines that become planets, starbursts, vortexes, funnels and black holes. Some of these works on paper, including WS115, WS116, WS117 and WS118 (2016), depict a long-haired female figure engaging with, emerging from, or spinning around vortexes and orbs that could be the Earth or another planet.

Seen outside the context of the book, these celestial drawings are devoid of text and visually they suggest the vastness of space and the beauty of the unknown. Whether imagined or illustrated, scientific principles or telescopic observations, each drawing informs the group but also functions on its own as a unique work. WS473 (2023), one of the few to include red, features two intersecting blue globes. At the point of their intersection, thin, curvilinear red lines flow out in all directions toward the edge of the paper, while blue lines appear to emanate from the top and bottom of the combined shape. Another piece, WS320 (2021) also includes both red and blue spiraling lines that form an electrified circle that surrounds an awkwardly shaped blue sphere.

In larger works the gestural lines and individual brushstrokes dance in more open spaces, appearing less confined and free flowing. In WS602 The Wormhole (2023), two tornado shaped vortexes are tethered together even though they move in opposite directions. In the more amorphous WS603 Chaotic Singularity (2023), an organic shape akin to flowing water or flames of varying opacities of blue descends from a rectangular support.

Halloran's lines fill empty white spaces and allude to masses that exist beyond our solar system. The works are graceful and allusive and though grounded in scientific principals, they also engage with the language of abstraction.

Click here for Lia Halloran on its own page.

November 30, 2023

Rirkrit Tiravanija
No More Reality (For PP)
1301 PE
September 16 - December 16, 2023

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Rirkrit Tiravanija is an artist whose work has employed unusual and diverse mediums: cooking, staged readings and platforms for socializing. The forms and formats of his installations and presentations are participatory and unconventional, often involving the sharing of meals. That is not to say that Tiravanija does not also make objects and drawings that can hang on a wall or fill a conventional gallery space. In 2020, he covered the walls of The Drawing Center in New York with over 200 demonstration drawings — black and white works on paper derived from photographs of demonstrations published in the International Herald Tribune. World events and the propagation of news has long been an interest of his and for this installation, No More Reality (For PP), he covers the gallery walls with pages of daily American newspapers (collected in 2020).

The phrase "No More Reality" was used in a series of film and photographic works by Philippe Parreno in 1991-1993 and Tiravanija pays homage to Parreno by enlarging the words and painting them in black capital letters over the grid of newspaper pages. For this evocative and timely presentation, individual spreads from newspapers across the United States are mounted on linen and hung in four rows (from the ceiling almost to the floor) on the walls of the lower gallery. While it is possible to see the content of the newspaper through the washy paint, the installation is not about what can be read versus what is obscured but rather about the way "reality" is presented. With thousands of headlines and images to view, the varying agendas and perspectives of different regions becomes clear. In August 2020, Covid was raging, fires were burning, Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, there were explosions in Beirut, religious clashes in India and myriad other local and international events that were reported by the various newspapers.

Because the phrase "No More Reality" takes up a lot of space, the individual words occupy different rooms: "NO" fills a corner and a grid of 40 pages. "REALITY" covers four different walls. Seeing through these giant letters prompts one to turn the phrase from statement to question and back again.

Upstairs, Tiravanija presents framed spreads (front and back page) of a selection of newspapers — The Keene Sentinel, The News Sun, The Sun Chronicle, Starkville Daily News, The Herald Republican — from mid-August 2020 and covers them with a smaller painted version of the same phrase. In these works, "No More Reality" is flush left and a rendered in a washy red, allowing what is printed below to remain visible. The headlines of the day, including "Woman' Suffrage Celebrated," "Voting Rites," "10th Annual Dog Paddle Calls for Sponsors," are interspersed with news about Covid 19, weather and sports to create a snapshot of the times and the priorities of these different locales. How these come together to depict the larger whole is what Tiravanija is ultimately interested in. Like in his previous projects, he mines popular culture and world events to create what becomes and archive of images and content that explores disparate presentations of truth.

Click here for Rirkrit Tiravanija on its own page.

November 23, 2023

Joe Rudko
Double Take
Von Lintel Gallery
October 21 - December 2, 2023

Joe Rudko

As in his previous exhibitions, Seattle based artist Joe Rudko begins with other people's discarded snapshots. He cuts them apart, organizes them by color and subject, then reassembles them into geometric patterns to make his complex compositions. For Double Take, he uses both the front and backside of the photographs so his montages intersperse color fragments with white from the back of the images (including bits of text and hand writing). There is also a type of mirroring or doubling in many of the works which are presented as diptychs. For example, in Emerald Double (all works 2023), two intricate compositions of small rectangles, what is a "picture" on one side of the diptych is white on the other. Like in all of Rudko's works, it is impossible to "reassemble" the originals as each piece is comprised of many photographs. In Emerald Double, the fragments are suggestive and harken back to the source, in this case landscape and garden imagery in hues of yellow and green.

Sample is the most complex work in the exhibition. In this piece, Rudko divides the composition into eight sections, each one a combination of white and one color culled from the source photographs. Blue for oceans and skies, tan for sand and interior walls, green for grass, trees and gardens, red for flowers and miscellaneous lights. From afar, the pieces appear as abstractions that reference patterns of patchwork quilts. Yet upon close examination, the nuances of the fragments become apparent giving viewers the opportunity to construct their own narratives through the compositions.

In 9-patch, the photos' alternating fronts and backs are organized by color and informed by the snippets of texts that move across the images, indicating places and dates as handwritten artifacts suggestive of another time. Ripple combines rectangles of bright color— cropped sections of the originals— with printed simple black lines that often framed old family photographs. Rudko uses these as horizontal and vertical bands to frame the abstract elements.

Rudko's images command attention and draw viewers in. While at first glance they are somewhat ambiguous — are they abstract or representational? Upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that they are both. The pieces are labor intensive and specific— every fragment plays a role in the overall design and leads the viewer's eyes through a rainbow of colors and imagery. The works are tinged with nostalgia, especially in the digital age, as they are reminders of those boxes of images stored in drawers or basements. For those who grew up with snapshots — faded images that were processed at photo labs and drug stores on different types and textures of paper— these works have a particular resonance.

Click here for Joe Rudko on its own page.

November 16, 2023

Christopher Badger
Ideas Without Edges
SMC Barrett Gallery
August 25 - December 2, 2023

Christopher Badger

Christopher Badger is a Santa Monica College professor who teaches classes in design, digital media and coding. For his exhibition Ideas Without Edges, he presents artworks that stem from assignments he has given to his students. On view are his responses to prompts such as "Chemical Painting," "Computational Choreography," "Psychological Color Theory," "Sculpture as a Model of Physical Phenomena," and "Mathematical Composition of the Picture Plane." These prompts are weighty, philosophical and scientific. Badger thinks beyond the obvious and rather than use code to create screen based works that illustrate these ideas, as well as the process of their making —complicated algorithms— he uses code to create physical objects.

While one of the first works viewers see when entering the large gallery space is mathematical —a set of spiral bound notebooks placed vertically between two red book ends on a wooden table— it is presented in a traditional analogue format. Badger fills fourteen-volumes with the 24,862,048 digits that make up the largest known prime number. For this work, What is a Number? Badger invites viewers to take the time to look through the printed pages and to think about how expansive that number actually is. This work is both literal and conceptual and sets the tone for the entire exhibition — an installation that draws from ideas in art, mathematics and science.

Incremental Information is placed on the walls adjacent to What is a Number? It is a suite of five digital prints that document the gradual pixelation and disintegration of a black and white photograph of light on water. The five pictures sequentially represent higher and higher levels of magnification so the image eventually breaks down to become an abstract pattern of black and white squares. For those who are not used to thinking about the relationship between images and pixels, the sequence is revelatory.

The works become increasingly complex and complicated as Badger delves into systems that repeat to produce shapes and marks that are combined in different ways. For example, Interference Field is a large wall work consisting of Iron blue pigment, gesso and joint compound on plywood that is a physical manifestation of custom software that models interference patterns of ripples and waves on water. The interference algorithm was fed into a laser engraver which was instructed to remove layers of pigment off the gessoed ground leaving a pattern of deep blue marks that spiral out from the center to create what appears to be a vortex that is atmospheric and suggests a celestial expanse.

The largest and most colorful work is the multi-panel piece Vanishing Points. This work investigates a formal system —specifically Wang Tiles— and presents eleven squares —each made up of four isosceles triangles of any of four different colors— in a line to explore the infinite tiling of a plane. This particular presentation concludes that the sequence is aperiodic (irregular) rather than periodic. While the intentions are to illustrate computational systems, the resulting color choice and sequence has artistic precedents that can be found in works by Sol LeWitt and Ellsworth Kelly. Badger's pieces (though not interactive) are also reminiscent of the code-based sculptures by Daniel Rozin, a professor of digital media at NYU.

Many of Badger's works are derived from "instructions" that are based on code and then translated by machines that make analogue outputs from these digital files. For example, wood works like Interference Field are created by sending the software to a CNC milling machine. Visually, what stands out in the works is the relationship between chaos and control and how programmed algorithms can create the unexpected. It makes sense here to revisit the artworks of Sol LeWitt who created explicit directions for the making of his wall drawings where length, color and direction of lines were written out to be followed (with freedom for interpretation) by the person installing the piece on site. While theoretically the works could be the same each time they're exhibited, in practice, they never are. Similarly, what is striking in Badger's explorations is the way software which is specific and objective can be output to create vastly different results.

Click here for Christopher Badger on its own page.

November 9, 2023

Terri Friedman
tomorrow is just a thought
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
September 23 - November 22, 2023

Terri Friedman

tomorrow is just a thought is a wonderful exhibition of woven tapestries by the El Cerrito, California based artist Terri Friedman. Friedman has been creating her "yarn paintings" — applying formal principals of color, shape and texture to her compositions as if they were traditional "paintings"— for a number of years and in her stunning installation at Shoshana Wayne Gallery, she showcases both abstractions and a new series of woven "portraits" each titled after a different feeling or emotion. The works "respond to internal and external uncertainty" and present positive possibilities through the use of bright color, unusual materials and open ended non-objective abstraction. Her palette and compositions pay homage to Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay, but also share similarities with the knitted works of Channing Hansen. While some of the pieces contain words, they are meant to be suggestive rather than didactic. Friedman also cites interests in neuroplasticity, the capacity humans have to reshape their brain toward a more optimistic outlook as one of the motivating forces behind her endeavors. Even the title, tomorrow is just a thought can be seen in a positive, rather than negative light.

Refresh (2022) is a large tapestry of undulating shapes, colors and textures that resemble a mountain landscape/seascape dotted with droplets that dangle above zig-zagging and cross-hatched lines. Areas filled with green, pink and purple weaves overlap below dark-thread spelling out the word "refresh." What can go right (2023) is a five panel tapestry filled with floral imagery that shares a kinship with children's renderings of gardens. Trees and flowers populate the mostly yellow hued background that is filled with different colored yarns forming swirls, circles and triangles as they recede into a distant landscape. Nested within eye-shaped ovals at the top of the abstract tapestry Sometimes OK is good enough (2022) are the letters "O" and "K," giving the image an aura of positivity. Though busy and frenetic, the soft colors and suggestion of facial features offer a sense of calm and encouragement.

While the front gallery is filled with Friedman's larger pieces, seven smaller works are presented in the back space. Faces depicting "elevated states of emotion" fill these tapestries. Though brightly colored, they are messy, somewhat confrontational and a bit disconcerting. A deep purple background surrounds the lighter purple and green face of a man with black hair, magenta eyes and an open mouth in Whoa (2023). The mouth outlined in yellow thread is actually a hole in the weave. To the right of the mouth is a stained glass inset in the shape of a tear that echoes golden tears that fall from the figure's eyes. Homesick (2023) exudes sadness. Here, Friedman weaves the head of a girl with black hair — a curl on one side and four different length dreadlocks on the other side of her face. Her open mouth is filled with gritted teeth. She has one open blue eye with dark purple eyelids. A weave of dark red and yellow threads, the other eye is vacant, held open by a vertical piece of stained glass that creates a void. The figure in Atonal (2023) spews multi-colored threads from their mouth that dangle at the right edge of the composition, whereas the two heads in Ditto (2023) are mirror images of each other. The space between their multi-colored and thickly textured faces is an abstract gradient filled with orange, pink and yellow.

Though at first glance, Friedman's tapestries appear unwieldy, they are thought out compositions that are calming for her to fashion. This tension between the process of making and viewing give the works a commanding presence. They are colorful, gestural, soft, tactile, beautiful and disturbing simultaneously. They catch your eye and hold your gaze, engaging with the language of painting and textiles on complex and multiple levels.

Click here for Terri Friedman on its own page.

November 2, 2023

Dike Blair
Karma Los Angeles
September 16 - November 4, 2023

Dike Blair

Dike Blair is a New York based artist, writer and curator. He is often associated with the "Pictures Generation" and known for his sculptural assemblages, as well as his realistic paintings. While his sculptures are conceptual and minimal, his small-scale gouache (at first) and now oil paintings are more painterly and representational.

In these works, he captures everyday moments. They derive from both analogue and digital photographs he has taken over several decades and gathered into an archive. What is a moment? How moments mark or trigger memories is the subject of his ongoing investigations. When going through an archive of photographic images, Blair must decide which he will translate into paintings and the motivations for these choices also filter into the exhibition. Many of the images are banal locations or non-spectacular, people-less scenes that are casually framed, though not without compositional and formal considerations. Light also plays an important role in the pictures. While they could be divided into categories— food and drink, walls or corners, what is seen through a window, illuminated roads at night— Blair sequences the images on the wall to suggest narratives. The twenty paintings on view range in size from 6 x 8 inches to 28 x 21 inches. All are untitled and were painted between 2020 and 2023. These oil on aluminum works are both vertical and horizontal and many have the casualness and the format of cell phone photographs. His choice of surface and paint application adds to their intriguing flat character.

The paintings that focus on corners of elevator interiors or bathroom doors have a peculiar draw. These include an image whose focal point is a partially rusted "slide bolt door lock" that joins together off white and industrial green surfaces— perhaps the inside of a bathroom stall. In an Untitled painting dated 2023, Blair renders the jarringly bright mustardy-yellow wall inside an elevator, as well as its reflection in the adjacent steel panels. The composition focuses on a corner and divides the image into two parallelograms and a triangle (the floor). In a similar painting from 2020, Blair paints another elevator interior. Here, the walls are wood grain and off white and include a silver handrail. A small triangle at the bottom of the painting highlights a blue and white checkered floor that could be carpet.

Commonplace spaces and everyday objects trigger something for Blair— enough to first photograph and then to select particular images from his archive to reproduce as paintings. The resulting images are formal explorations of contrast, color and texture while simultaneously referencing nondescript places that could be anywhere. Blair's interiors also capture a certain kind of artificial light. His exteriors and paintings looking through windows present the colors and glows found in nature. One painting depicts blurred pink flowers and green grass as seen through closed textured glass window louvers. Blair juxtaposes the brightness of the outside with a portion of the darker window sill and frame. In another painting, he allows a deep blue sky with a few floating white clouds to dominate another space framed by a fragment of interior architecture.

Exteriors at night include an image shot from inside a car of an empty country road receding into the distance. The cars headlights illuminate a two lane road, a grassy shoulder and a red barn. In another painting, Blair focuses on the way two tall trees are lit by lights in an otherwise empty and dark parking lot. He often photographs what he eats and drinks, here including a painting of a slice of orangey yellow fruit cake without a plate on a black table. Another painting depicts a cigarette in an ashtray next to a cup of coffee in a white mug and yet another is a cocktail in a translucent blue glass set on a tray on top of a labeled napkin on a United Airlines plane.

Blair has remarked that while his original photographs are not all that interesting, they are shot and composed with the knowledge they will be transformed into paintings that will be seen as a group so that viewers can construct a narrative. The works collapse space and time, as they come from various years and places, yet together become an intimate and personal look at the details of everyday life that surround us.

Click here for Dike Blair on its own page.

October 26, 2023

Julian Charriere
Buried Sunshine
Sean Kelly Los Angeles
September 14 - November 4, 2023

Julian Charriere

Julian Charrière is a Swiss-born, Berlin based artist whose work often focuses on nature, ecology and the changing climate. He was included in the Venice Biennial (2017) and was recently the subject of a solo show at the Dallas Museum of Art (2021). For his first Los Angeles exhibit, Buried Sunshine, Charrière was drawn to the subject of oil and researched the history and photographed the oil fields that dot the L.A. landscape. He has beautifully crafted a seductive, mixed media installation that includes the video projection Controlled Burn (2022) and a new series of heliographs titled Buried Sunshines Burn.

Controlled Burn is a 32 minute video that cycles through the sights and sounds of numerous implosions, flames and fireworks that fill the darkness of the night sky. Shot from above by drone, the footage documents ambiguous and deep quasi-military, yet now abandoned spaces including cooling towers, rocket silos and oil platforms that are surrounded by ricocheting projectiles. Amidst thunderous roars, viewers who look carefully may suddenly realize that what they are seeing is impossible and that Charrière is projecting the footage in reverse. This makes it even more bewildering.

Along the walls in the darkened gallery space are large-scale photographic images — heliographs. Scenes shot on location around Los Angeles' oil fields are imprinted on high-polished stainless steel with light sensitive emulsion that incorporates tar from the LaBrea, McKittrick and Carpinteria Tar Pits. Charrière traveled around the state to document local oil fields from above and presents them as subtle, reflective abstractions that need to be viewed in low light in order to see the nuances of the depictions. These heliographs, including the 86 inch tall Buried Sunshines Burn | 1Z.CXO (2023) hover between abstraction and representation, as well as art, history and science as Charrière takes into consideration Los Angeles' dependency on oil and the cities conflicting relationship to it, especially given the increasing environmental concerns.

As the title Buried Sunshine suggests, Charrière's images do not depict sun-filled skies and receding horizons or colorful sunsets. Rather, he is interested in how cities like Los Angeles appear from above and investigates how the intricacies of the natural and man-made worlds intermingle. The photographs, while amazingly beautiful and seductive, are about industrialization and the black fluids that travel beneath the earth's surface. Coupled with Controlled Burn, the exhibition serves as a warning of an imagined apocalypse to come.

Click here for Julian Charriere on its own page.

October 19, 2023

Cammie Staros
Monster in the Maze
Shulamit Nazarianh
September 16 - October 28, 2023

Cammie Staros

For her exhibition Monster in the Maze, Cammie Staros has transformed the normal pathways through the gallery into a maze-like display consisting of bare metal studs and a number of new walls of mixed heights which direct the viewer's trajectory. This labyrinth not only segmentizes the viewing of the exhibition, but also allows for unusual sight-lines and juxtapositions. As Staros presents three different kinds of works all based on classical Greek artifacts— vessels, coins and marble sculptures— the display is meant to play with the ways archeological relics and classical sculptures are presented in museums.

The vessels immediately stand out as extraordinary. Rather than being perfectly perpendicular and symmetrical, Staros' ceramic pieces are morphed and askew vases balanced on round, fluted, white columnar pedestals inset with shells and pebbles. For example, in Attributed to: Human and Earth (all works 2023) the entire red-orange terra cotta vase is decorated with quasi-narrative bands of imagery depicting warriors, Gods and animals. These forms are painted in flat black and often outlined in white. The enchanting Half Beast appears like a dancing figure whose handles resemble tusks. This time the vessel is more subtly painted — covered with slightly lighter markings and patterns.

In contrast to these delicate ceramic forms, Staros also created a number of life-sized carved travertine sculptures that appear to be fragmented human figures. Cora Kore presents the bottom half of a draped figure on a rectangular limestone pedestal. The arm is cropped above the elbow and connected to nothing as the hand grabs hold of the folds of a robe or gown. The figure's neck and head are not included but left to the viewer's imagination. A similar sense of disorientation occurs in Cult Classic, Staros' abstracted and sensual presentation of a partial torso. Though made of marble, these sculpted forms are etched with lines that give them an airiness while also alluding to flowing lava, melting ice or running water.

The most delicate and fascinating works on view are Staros' coin "tapestries." To create these intricate pieces, she first cast and then glazed hundreds of irregular coin-shaped ceramics so they resembled ancient corroded treasure. These were later assembled into expansive flat reliefs that are held together with thin bits of gold and silver wires and interspersed with elaborate and intricate web-like chains. Rather than place all the coin works on the walls, the largest, Undercurrent is suspended to function as another barrier along with the unfinished metal studs. The interweaving of the coins and spider webs draws parallels between presence and absence, past and present and the fragility and vulnerability of living beings and ancient artifacts.

Staros has looked to classical sculptures from the Greco-Roman period in much of her work. Her interest in these antiquities is formal, as well as narrative and she is mindful of how the past shapes the present and how what was depicted in Greco-Roman times can be recontextualized and reinterpreted today. Her installations and individual works use ancient Greek artifacts as a point of departure to comment on war, the Gods and mythologies. Staros pokes fun while also respectfully representing imagery that might be found on ancient vessels. On one side of Prize Amphora / Trophy Cup for example, she paints five naked men who appear to be dancing across the distorted vase. On the other side, she includes three horses, two ridden by headless riders as the third rider gazes at the headless forms leading the way across the composition. Staros' vessels, coin tapestries and marble sculptures have a post apocalyptic aura. She mines ancient forms, presenting "monsters in the maze," a maze of her own creation that speaks to destruction and preservation simultaneously.

Click here for Cammie Staros on its own page.

October 12, 2023

Vanessa Beecroft
Rules of Non-Engagement
Jeffrey Deitch
September 8 - October 21, 2023

Vanessa Beecroft

When she first emerged in the 1990s viewers found Vanessa Beecroft's practice so intereting— not only the participatory nature of her performances and the odd directives given to her performers, but also for the way she handled their nakedness. Fascinated by the nude models hired for drawing classes while in art school in Milan, she came to the realization that their actual bodies were more compelling than the drawings she produced, so she began to conceptualize performances with them. In 1996 when renowned dealer Jeffrey Deitch opened his New York gallery, it was with one of her performances. Now on view in his Los Angeles space is a thirty-year survey of Beecroft's work.

Printed large on the wall in all caps are sentences from Beecroft's "Rules of Non-Engagement" that include these statements: "Do Not Talk, Do Not Interact With Anyone, Do Not Whisper, Do Not Smile, Do Not Laugh, Do Not Move Theatrically, Do Not Move Too Fast, Do Not Move Too Slow, Be Natural, Be Detached." This large-scale wall text describes how her performers were told to act. Viewers can see these statements in action on a wall-sized projection that cycles through a selection of Beecroft's US and Europe based performances from 1996 - 2010. Seeing the documentation is a reminder of how radical and unsettling these stunning and strange pieces were when they first appeared. Though nudity and sexuality have a long history in performance art, Beecroft objectified her models who were often made to stand together en masse in huge empty spaces, sometimes barefoot, other times wearing only colored high heel shoes. These works are evocative and campy simultaneously.

Watching the clips of the eight performances adds up to just over three hours, more time than most viewers spend in a gallery, but seeing this footage (or even just snippets of it) informs the rest of the work on view. Over the last year, Beecroft has focused on painting and has transformed photographs from many of her performances into large scale oil on canvas works. Numerous paintings fill the vast gallery space in addition to recent ceramic sculptures — some heads and busts, others full figures.

Translating the relationships between performance and painting becomes an underlying subject of this exhibition. For example, one of the things that is the most eye-catching in performance VB43, Vanessa Beecroft Performance, 2000 Gagosian Gallery, London is the wild and brightly colored hair on some of the models. Beecroft exaggerates this in the painting Untitled (VB43), Gagosian Gallery, London, (all paintings 2023) leveling the flesh tones so the different models' red and orange hair becomes the focal point. The paintings that encapsulate but also enhance the performances are the most interesting and the least like amateur nude studies. In both Untitled (VB46), Gagosian Gallery 2001 and Untitled (VB50), San Paulo Biennial, Brazil, Beecroft darkens the background and in Untitled (VB50), San Paulo Biennial, Brazil, she even depicts bodies in blues and greens.

While some of the performers enact classical positions like contrapposto, most stand inert and blank and it is this calm aura of banality that Beecroft brings to the canvases. Her painting style is casually realistic, but with more than 30 paintings on view, the sketchy quality suffices to convey the gist of the performance. The paintings are less about reproducing bodies in exacting detail, than about transforming these excerpts and cropped moments into painted commodities. In addition to painting scenes from the performances, Beecroft also includes a number of portraits as well as ceramic heads and busts. Stunningly installed in the back gallery, alongside an expansive wall mounted plaster cast of disparate bodies, the oversized ceramic heads in contrast to the life-sized busts assert a different physical presence that is more abstract and interpretative.

Beecroft is a versatile and ambitious artist who is skilled in a wide range of materials. She is unabashed in her use of excess and abundance and this is the take away from the exhibition. In this case however, more is not better as it dilutes what could otherwise be a powerful presentation of female forms and interactions.

Click here for Vanessa Beecroft on its own page.

October 5, 2023

Jenny Holzer
Ready For You When You Are
Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood
September 1 - October 21, 2023

Jenny Holzer

It comes as no surprise that Jenny Holzer is engaging with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate the texts in her dynamic LED artworks. She is best known for language based pieces, ranging from her Truisms (1977-1979) to more recent large-scale paintings, etched marble benches, projected displays and LEDs. Holzer's text-based works draw from political and historical sources, as well as the news media. In recent works she re-presents de-classified documents as found, transforming these pages into formally elegant and amazingly powerful artworks. For her exhibition Ready For You When You Are she has installed three large-scale robotic LEDs two of which display AI-generated texts that contrast those on her more subtle oil on linen paintings —covered in gold and platinum leaf — based on reproductions of redacted government documents.

WTF (2022) is a twelve-foot long LED sign that cascades across the vast gallery space swinging in irregular arcs as it moves back and forth along a rail from one side to the other. The animated text that fills the four sides of the thin rectangular sign are culled from tweets Donald Trump shared during his presidency, as well as posts by the "leader" of QAnon. Below this bombastic work are stamped lead and copper plates shaped like Greco-Roman curse tablets— thin sheets of metal incised with texts that call for harm or disruption to their victims. These works are displayed haphazardly on the floor under the path of the menacing LED column. They are also inscribed with fragments from Donald Trump's tweets. While there is much to read, it is not always possible to scrutinize every text as the installation is more about the accumulation of inanities, lies and dis-information put forth by the then president than any of his individual statements.

In many ways, the exhibition is an extensive research project where Holzer and her team amassed an archive of de-classified government documents and memos on subjects ranging from counterterrorism to the Patriot Act and The US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Heavily redacted, Holzer's reproductions present these pages as glowing and reflective rectangles akin to Mark Rothko compositions, yet rather than being washes of paint, Holzer juxtaposes different types and tones of metal leafing which give the works a constructivist aura. They are formally exquisite, as well as powerfully suggestive compositions that are also filled with occasional words, phrases and sentences that read like concrete poetry.

In two tall rectangular columns, BAD and GOOD (2023), Holzer used AI to generate the pulsating phrases that illuminate the LED surfaces. For GOOD, she instructed 'the bot' to generate text about "human and nonhuman, as well as physical and immaterial experiences" that relate to thought and emotions. Selections of the AI's output were sequenced into an animated display that traverses the vertical column as it spins on its axis. Conversely, in BAD the AI drew from extremist content and, according to Holzer, created texts filled with writing about "secret cabals, corrupt and illegitimate leaders, invasions and coups, deep state plots to eliminate free will, insurrection, information warfare, overbearing federal regulation, fraudulent elections, the deception of climate science, the socialist threat, political correctness, disinformation from the mainstream media, and a coming doomsday or civil war." A motorized system spins the column in quirky bursts that are paralleled by pulsing explosions of color that reinforce the sentiments expressed in the AI generated phrases.

Holzer's work is intentionally political, but also formal. It is beautifully crafted and designed. She excels as a visual artist, creative thinker and problem solver who loads content into her artworks without being overly didactic or pedantic. It is hard to take one's eyes off pieces like Sensitive Information (2023), a smaller-scaled painting where she contrasts shimmering sections of moon and red gold leaf, one covering the background and the other reproducing the lines of redacted text to create a beautiful geometric abstraction with an occasional readable word.

Holzer is interested in what can be read between the lines literally (as in her redacted paintings) and metaphorically when official documents are transformed into works of art. Throughout her fifty-year career, Holzer has continued to mine new territories to create rich and powerful pieces that resonate on multiple levels.

Click here for Jenny Holzer on its own page.

September 28, 2023

Miya Ando
Sky Atlas
Wilding Cran Gallery
September 2 - October 21, 2023

Miya Ando

The sky in southern California is a deep shade of blue or a subtle gradient transitioning from a lighter blue to gray to orange as it approaches the horizon. There may be billowing clouds or a canopy of small dots of white overhead, but for the most part the expansive sky gives the impression of being monochromatic. On days when the sunrise or the sunset fills the sky with fiery reds, oranges and yellows it is a cause for celebration and reflection.

Miya Ando is a New York-based, Japanese American artist who looks at the natural world from scientific, philosophical and visual perspectives. She is interested in the changing seasons, the cycles of the moon, as well as the different ways clouds fill the sky. She approaches her art making (as a press release states) "from a learned perspective that mixes Eastern and Western cultures through the lens of natural phenomena ... She harnessed the Japanese notion of mono no aware – an innate sensitivity to the fleeting nature of our world." In Sky Atlas, she presents a series of luminescent works— ink printed on aluminum composite— resulting in seductive and reflective surfaces that share a kinship with Tintypes and Daguerrotypes.

It is hard not to be transfixed by the works in Ando's Lunar Spring series. On view are three grids of twelve-inch square photographs presented in rows resembling the shape of calendars for February, March and April of 2023. Shooting one image per day of the sky outside her New York apartment, these pieces track the slight variations of clouds against the sky, which appears blue, gray, orange or purple depending on the time of day the image was shot as well as the light and angle of view in the gallery. March 1-31 2023 Cloud Grid With Lunar Phases NYC consists of 31 different photographs— all images of the sky with different cloud variations — where the darker toned images represent specific phases of the moon. When looking at the the grid, it is interesting to think about how the images track time and the ever changing nuances of the sky.

In addition to the three calendar grids, Ando also presents numerous individual large and small scale photographs from her Unkai (A Sea of Clouds) and Kumo (Cloud) series. Each of these images is titled by the time and date they were created. What is most striking about them is their reflective surfaces and luminescence— they capture the impermanence of light and represent a single moment from nature's ever changing continuum. At first glance, an image such as Kumo (Cloud) 07.27.2022 1:01 PM NYC, 2022 appears to be just a picture of semi-translucent white clouds on a silvery (aluminum) surface, but from different vantage points parts of the image reflect blue from outside the gallery window or a golden yellow from the interior illumination. This infuses the image with a sense of both depth and movement. 11.2 Cloud Study (2023) at just 12.25 x 12.25 inches oscillates between silver, white and light orange, the texture of the sky fusing with the grain of the aluminum.

While one might think of the works of Califonia Light and Space artists when regarding Ando's work, one reading of Sky Atlas could be that it is simply an exhibition of images of sublime sky-scapes. But Ando's practice is more than a formal exploration. She fuses observation with process, drawing from East and West, her knowledge of East Asian Studies, as well as metalsmithing (she apprenticed with a master metalsmith in Japan) to create unique works that are about perception and the ephemeral nature of the natural world. These seductive and captivating images leave a long-lasting impression while also inviting viewers to look up and contemplate the vastness of the sky and the clouds above.

Click here for Miya Ando on its own page.

September 21, 2023

Aubrey Levinthal
September 9 - October 7, 2023

Aubrey Levinthal

In her first exhibition at M+B in 2021, Philadelphia based painter Aubrey Levinthal looked inward, making works about the isolation of the pandemic and the guarded interactions that followed. In her current exhibition Tourist, her paintings begin to look outward, depicting figures on the go, traveling and socializing, in addition to experiencing quiet moments alone. Levinthal works with a soft, muted palette rendering her scenes tenderly and somewhat abstractly, as often the figures merge with, or are bisected by the backgrounds. While based on observation, Levinthal also extrapolates and allows her imagination to infiltrate the scenes.

For example, Windowbox (13th St.) (all works 2023) is a painting of a woman passing by a windowbox filled with flowers on the exterior of a nondescript building. Levinthal presents a tight crop of the location so the dark, olive-green windowbox sparsely populated with red and purple flowers fills most of the composition. A woman passes by. Her shirt is rendered in translucent whites which allow the shadow at the base of the box to merge with her body while the skin tones of her head and neck take on the colors of the front of the container. In profile, she stares straight ahead with wide open eyes as if lost in thought and unaware of her surroundings.

A similar sentiment pervades Waiting for the El where Levinthal portrays a lone woman wearing a light blue dress and coat, carrying a darker blue handbag, as well as a backpack filled with flowers. She casually leans against a support column as she gazes down at her cell phone. While the woman occupies most of the left side of the composition, depicted behind her and on the right side of the image is the architecture of the empty train station painted in washy tans and grays. A second figure sits on a bench in the distance partially obscured by a dark vertical beam. While the woman's expression is complacent, there is an aura of loneliness that emanates from the scene.

It is not hard to imagine the artist among the woman seated in Three Women (Amsterdam) sharing a moment and a drink together as city life goes on around them, or even enjoying a moment of solitude and contemplation in Sauna Lady, a painting of a woman seated on a wooden bench with legs extended, surrounded by paneled walls and steam from the hot rocks in the sauna. Draped in only an opaque white-toned towel, the figure subtly fuses with her surroundings.

A narrative is inferred through the trajectory of the paintings that illustrates a range of human emotions and experiences: from vulnerability and melancholy to self-reflection and even joy. The narrative moves from leisure time, like Morning Aerobics, a painting of a man and a woman relaxing in a pool, to travel, as in Terminal A and moments of intimacy like Studio Nintendo that depicts a small boy sitting across the lap of a young woman seated on a huge pink arm chair. Both figures appear to be zoning out with their eyes closed, ignoring what might be on the computer screen.

Levinthal has an uncanny ability to express a lot with minimal depiction. Her painting style is light but expressive, a wonderful combination of lines and fills, transparencies and opacities. Figures dissolve into architecture as if to reinforce the impermanence of human life while simultaneously asserting their presence. Levinthal is both a voyeur and a participant, chronicling that which unfolds around her: wary, but also delighted to celebrate what it means to be alive.

Click here for Aubrey Levinthal on its own page.

September 14, 2023

Annetta Kapon
Proxy Gallery 10 Years
The Floating Gallery LA
August 5 - September 30, 2023

Proxy Gallery 10 Years

In 2013, Annetta Kapon held her first exhibition at Proxy Gallery: a cube that measures 12 x 12 x 12 inches. In the ten years since its opening, Proxy has presented 85 exhibitions. Invited artists and curators can use the space however they choose, decorating the inside and/or the outside of the box, or even not using it at all. Proxy has been nomadic at times. It lived for a while on a wall at the Otis College of Art graduate studios in Culver City, but also traveled to Greece and Paris. To celebrate this achievement, The Floating Gallery (another nomadic space) is exhibiting documentation of each project, as well as the physical gallery where viewers can see exhibit #85 by Mirena Kim.

Kapon is a long time educator and visual artist who created Proxy Gallery as a "conceptual project that allows a platform for discourse." It was formed while she was an MFA professor and came out of discussions with her students about creating their own conditions to make and show work, regardless of limitations. Proxy fits within the parameters of Kapon's art production. While she creates collages, sculptures and installations, she has also been influential as a professor of art as her students (many of whom have exhibited at Proxy) can attest. In this unique space, she is the sole proprietor and decision maker. She invites other artists as well as accepts proposals. She writes insightful press releases "to get the discursive ball rolling," as she states. Like any conventional gallery, Proxy has a website, opening and closing receptions, is occasionally reviewed and has printed business cards and invitations. The fact that it is small is beside the point. Yet, it is its small size and the challenges it brings for each artist that makes her project unique.

For the exhibition at The Floating Gallery, the entire history of Proxy is presented. Each exhibition is represented by a single square image that is dated and captioned. These are installed in two long horizontal rows across opposing walls of the space. The works are hung chronologically so viewers can easily trace the history of the exhibits and exhibitors. Some may be well known, others unknown, perhaps students or artists from Greece or Paris where the gallery traveled. A few, but not that many artists have had multiple exhibitions over the ten years. Kapon and her student Katie Thoma inaugurated the gallery with an exhibition of their works in January 2013. From there, contributors rose to the challenge in different ways: Shiva Akibadi covered it in faux fur (referencing Meret Oppenheims's Le Déjeuner en fourrure (1936)) and carried it to myriad commercial gallery openings in the Los Angeles area. Susan Silton created Exchange in 2015, covering the front of the gallery cube with a box of expired Agfa Photography paper that belonged to Allan Sekula. Silton inserted a peep hole into the center of the Agfa box that allowed viewers to see into the gallery where they confronted a hand written message that states, "Who is it... Who's There?" In 2022 in her second Proxy exhibition, Renée Petropoulos inserted her head into the box to create a performance piece entitled Outburst-Conjugation 2 presented at the Athens School of Fine Arts in Greece.

During Covid, the exhibits were virtual and documented by the artists. In some instances, the exhibitors forgoed the actual box in favor of surrounding walls, as in the installation Holla Holla Holla by Sharon Barnes in 2021. What is most striking about the exhibition at The Floating Gallery is the fact that uniformity of Kapon's presentation (each exhibit is represented by a single still photographic image) does not diminish the uniqueness of any of the projects but rather calls attention to the different creative ways that the artists approached the given parameters of the space. As an exhibitor myself in 2016, the representation of my work is a partial experience as I drew on all the different sides of the box and created a 3D image inside to be viewed via red/blue stereo glasses through a small opening. This could not be represented by a single image. However, in the context of the exhibition it resonates as yet another approach to solving a complex and unusual problem. Not to say that creating an exhibition is simply a problem to be solved, but in certain ways it is.

Kapon gave each of her artists "carte blanche" to create a new work that was not, as she states, "a miniature version of what they usually do," but rather a thought provoking and conceptually savvy solution to the specifics of a space that happens to be a 12 x 12 x 12 inch cube. While primarily documentation, Proxy Gallery 10 Years is also a work of art, one created by Kapon over ten years that is nuanced and smart and a celebration of works being made by a range of artists in Los Angeles and beyond.

Click here for Annetta Kapon on its own page.

September 7, 2023

Clovis Schlumberger
Virtual Cravings
YiWei Gallery
August 19 - September 17, 2023

Clovis Schlumberger

Keith Haring's iconic figures (on exhibit at The Broad May 27 - October 8, 2023) have permeated art and popular culture for almost forty years. While his canvases, stickers and buttons are filled with dancing, playful characters that radiate humor and joy, his works also were imbued with political and social commentary about issues that included racism and homophobia. Clovis Schlumberger's paintings on view at YiWei Gallery in an exhibition titled Virtual Cravings are filled with figures reminiscent of Haring's. Schlumberger's people populate imagined landscapes as well as cityscapes and interiors— his figures cavorting through these spaces individually, as well as in groups. Schlumberger's illustrative style also extends from his canvases to merchandise. Three of the gallery walls display his paintings while the fourth serves as the backdrop for his various commodities: t-shirts, stickers, phone cases, socks and pillows displaying his yellow hued genderless characters — a rounded version of the universal symbol for figures — in a range of poses.

Rather than install the canvases along a line, Schlumberger presents his works quasi-salon style, hanging them at different heights. He also paints a few of his figures directly on the wall as if they jumped out of the paintings. Game (all works 2023) is a canvas installed on a wall that matches the golden yellow color of the border and background of the work. Within the image, Schlumberger depicts a landscape filled with blue trees outlined in black against a blue sky. The trees emanate from a golden ground populated by three groups of lighter gold-hued figures who appear to be at play. Toward the back of the composition is a lone dog that stares out into a distant blue expanse. Other animals include disparate butterflies that float through the flattened space. Although it is hard to discern exactly what "game" is being played, the atmosphere appears to be joyful.

Dismissed depicts a somewhat chaotic interior space that could perhaps be a school room where each figure is positioned on or behind a gray rectangle that signs for a "desk." The twelve figures gesticulate and interact with each other and their desks within a space that has been subtly subdivided by what appears to be an EKG line or stock market graph.

The scenario within 45 inch model-Cling is a mountain landscape that recedes toward concentric gold circles on a blue background surrounding a vertical golden rectangle hovering like a monolith in the sky. Light-gold hued figures play and walk amidst the rocks and hills. All of this takes place within a painted computer monitor that is centered in the gold-hued canvas.

While 45 inch model-Cling, Dismissed and Game contain Schlumberger's idiosyncratic figures, other works including 37 Inch Model-Steep, 38 Inch Model-Searching and Bloom are people-less natural and urban landscapes created as outlined forms, filled with gradients and flat areas of color. Bloom for example, the smallest painting in the exhibition, is an image of a flower with a long green stem that bisects a rectangle that could be a screen or window. Scattered throughout the composition are white flower-petals that have fallen off the plant and litter the frame.

There is both humor and seriousness to Schlumberger's endeavors. His genderless figures stand for everyone and while mischievous and cunning, they are also quite endearing. They are placed within simplified backgrounds both real or imagined that reference the digital world. Schlumberger makes images of screens as well as the landscape, asking viewers to think about the impact of the virtual on everyday life.

Click here for Clovis Schlumberger on its own page.

August 31, 2023

Candace Thatcher
Scroll Interference
The Landing
July 22 - September 2, 2023

Candace Thatcher

An algorithm is defined as a set of rules that are followed in calculations or problem solving operations, more often than not using a computer. Yet, there are also many artists (working in both analogue and digital formats) who create their pieces based on algorithms that rely on a set of "rules" or instructions. An example of an analogue artist working this way is the Conceptual Minimalist Sol LeWitt whose wall and paper drawings were often made by others following a set of precise instructions. How artists use computers and code and the different ways instructions can be created and followed has been the subject of numerous exhibitions. These ideas were explored most recently in Coded Art Enters the Computer Age 1952 - 1982 an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (on view from February 12 - July 2, 2023). Except for the fact that they were created after 1982, Nevada City-based Candace Thatcher's paintings could have fit within the premise of that exhibition.

In her exhibition Scroll Interference, Thatcher presents recent paintings from her Archive Scan series. At first glance, these acrylic on panel works appear to be complex geometric abstractions that share a kinship with Josef Albers, as well as the Op Art patterned paintings of Victor Vasarely and with digital artist Casey Reas' recent homages to Vasarely— METAVASARELY and An Empty Room — (both 2023 and presented online by LACMA as part of the Coded exhibition). These mesmerizing pieces follow a programmed sequence based on Vasarely's works that generate an infinite array of visual patterns.

Thatcher's works are process based and labor intensive as she follows a specific sequence of steps to transform found digital images into abstract paintings. Using the program "Processing" (coincidently developed by Reas), she translates the pixels into topographical lattices which are then output as vinyl screens used as stencils to create complex multi-layered paintings. The layering of the different lattices suggests an illusion of depth in these multi colored and dimensional works.

What is striking about Thatcher's Archive Scan pieces (2022-2023) is how they read as abstractions rather than translations of actual photographs. As completed paintings, there are no obvious referents to an image, only to screens or distorted grids in various colors that are layered on the surface to create intricate moire patterns. Archive Scan XXI, (2022) is a 36 x 36 inch acrylic on panel work in which hues of reds, oranges and blues oscillate across the composition creating depth on the flat surface. While the majority of the pieces are in color, Thatcher also presents a handful of paintings that are simply black and white. Looking closely at Archive Scan XXXIX (2023) reveals an all-over, but not repeating pattern comprised of short and long white lines on a black ground that undulate throughout the composition. Another black and white work, Archive Scan XXX (2023) appears to be a pattern of overlapping squares that form a gridded moire. The blue-green hued Archive Scan XXIII (2022) has the tonalities of highly saturated camouflage: that pattern conflicts with a subtle circular shape in the center of the image.

Thatcher's abstractions are absorbing and perplexing. They are difficult to decipher, perhaps because they are computer generated, yet created by hand. The pieces allude to topographical maps, moire patterns and layered window screens and while they are completely devoid of imagery, they resonate with a power and depth that references something tangible, yet also unknown.

Click here for Candace Thatcher on its own page.

August 24, 2023

Jorge Méndez Blake
I remember it was raining...
1301 PE
June 1 - August 26, 2023

Jorge Méndez Blake

Jorge Méndez Blake is an artist based in Guadalajara, Mexico whose art takes apart and re-construct literary texts and re-present them as concrete poetry. Méndez Blake works on paper and canvas in addition to creating wall and ceiling based installations. In his exhibition I remember it was raining..., Méndez Blake uses the writings of the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1971) as a point of departure rather than universally recognized authors such as Kafka, Joyce, Borges or Dickinson. Bishop was known for her highly detailed, objective and distanced point of view with an avoidance of personal subject matter and Méndez Blake tries to turn that distance into something more personal and familiar. For example, the silkscreen print I remember it was raining (Bishop), (all works 2023) simply states, "I remember it was raining and I was reading Elizabeth Bishop."

The largest work on view, Proposal for a Ceiling Landscape fills the upstairs gallery ceiling across two rooms. Because Méndez Blake leaves the walls blank, the viewer's eyes are immediately directed upwards where the ceiling which has been painted a deep blue and is covered with irregular lines of type in a white serif font. As the language (taken from Elizabeth Bishop's work) extends from the stairs to the windows across the ceiling, it forms clusters that ebb and flow. Words repeat and overlap, making it difficult to read the text in its entirety. Méndez Blake is interested in the visual aspects of language and fragments the original text, transforming a narrative into visual poetry that in many ways shares a kinship with Fluxus and other concrete poets. When viewing Proposal for a Ceiling Landscape, it is necessary to look up at words that hover above like stars in the sky. While some might try to read across the composition to reconstruct Bishop's work, Méndez Blake wants viewers to ingest selected fragments and think about visual poetics and the power of language.

Like in many of Méndez Blake's other works and installations, while the source is specific and important, he consciously obfuscates any direct reading. In a smaller painting, I Remember It Was Raining (The Flood. Elizabeth Bishop), large and small sized white letters descend from top to bottom on the black canvas, reminiscent of falling rain. The cadence of the letters, rather than the meaning of the words, are what makes this image resonate. Méndez Blake similarly distorts "Calligrammes" by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) in two new additions to his ongoing Il Pleut Fort paintings, again allowing the words (in their original language) to become vertical lines of type that fill the space like rain.

The words Méndez Blake uses are often presented in the language in which they were written— be it English, Spanish or French. He is neither interested in providing translations to aid in the reading of the works nor citing specific sources: rather his concern is with the flow and visual structure of the words, as well as the different ways they can be abstracted.

Click here for Jorge Méndez Blake on its own page.

August 17, 2023

Urs Fischer
July 20 - September 16, 2023

Urs Fischer

Urs Fischer's Denominator (2020-22) is four high-definition LED screens forming a 12 foot by 12 foot cube. It displays a constantly changing array of clips culled from various international television commercials from the 1950s to the present. This bombastic work is presented alone in the center of a cavernous but otherwise empty space across the street from the main gallery where it can be seen from the street beckoning curious passersby to come inside. It is an ever-moving, fast paced digital collage that is more about information and information overload than a critique of the strategies of advertising.

Denominator follows on the heels of Fischer's other recent technically sophisticated digital projects -- CHAOS #501 (2022) and the series CHAOS #1 - #500 (exhibited at the Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles in 2022 and also released as NFTs)-- for which 500 found objects were 3D-scanned from every angle and shown as pairs projected on three large screens oscillating against a white background. The objects connected and intersected with each other in mysterious and unpredictable ways. Fischer later combined all 500 into the single channel work CHAOS #501. Here, the individual objects move independently rather than as pairs. This movement is generated by a computer program that sets the flow of the objects as they cascade across the 349 inch wide LED screen. The objects range from toys to furniture to clothing to detritus and are meant to represent every-day "stuff" that has been discarded for whatever reason. Through the scanning process however, the objects are "repaired" and "cleaned up" to giving them a new life. A similar strategy occurs with the collection of advertisements in Denominator.

Browsing anonymously using a VPN, Fischer and his team collected thousands of advertisements from online sources such as "YouTube" which were compiled into a database. Later, an AI engine / custom algorithm was employed to sort through the clips according to specific "directions" -- grouping them by color or theme to be displayed in sequences that move as different sized rectangles across the LED surfaces. As the images flow over the four sides of the cube they appear to be carefully choreographed rather than a random layering. While the number of clips presented within the display is not stated the imagery does not appear to repeat. Rather, fragments traverse the sides and around the corners, layered on top of each other and often obscuring what is below. Objects, talking heads and textual fragments in different languages appear and then disappear. The display is seductive and mesmerizing. Some of the clips are for well known products like Coca-Cola though others are for European products less familiar to U.S. audiences. While recognition is a factor, what stands out is the relationship between the fragments and the way they behave on the display to become a collage of different sized rectangles that move in front of and behind each other similar to the movement of the found objects in CHAOS #501.

Both works are more about the collective -- imagery and experience -- rather than the individual assets. The takeaway is not a product -- whatever the original advertisement was created to sell -- but a feeling -- a cacophony of clips that are familiar and discordant. It is interesting to try to follow a single clip as it travels around the cube changing its size as well as its position within the numerous layers until it eventually disappears, only to be replaced by another clip that catches the eye for whatever reason to be tracked and lost over and over again. For those of us drawn to the big screen, yet loathe to commercials, this artwork is surprisingly playful and provides much to contemplate as it presents, or rather re-presents years of diverse and unrelated content organized by machine learning or an AI algorithm rather than being choreographed by human eyes and thought.

Click here for Urs Fischer on its own page.

August 10, 2023

Hank Willis Thomas
I've Known Rivers
PACE Los Angeles
July 15 - August 26, 2023

Hank Willis Thomas

Is more (always) better? That question has become more relevant when looking at artworks with the advent of Augmented Reality and other technology driven processes that create multiple viewing layers or experiences for the audience. There have been numerous artworks that offer something "else" when seen through mobile devices, be it an alternate view or a moving image. Hank Willis Thomas has been experimenting with retroreflective materials and uses them to create images that have two distinct but interrelated layers. Retroreflective materials are made from tiny glass beads that reflect light back at the viewer and are often used in the fabrication of traffic signs and pavement markings. For the second layer in Thomas' works to be revealed, it is necessary to make a flash photograph with a mobile device, or view the images with a flashlight available from the gallery attendant. To capitalize on these dualities is cumbersome as it necessitates looking at the work with or through a device. To what end remains an enigma.

Thomas makes visually stunning works that intertwine art and politics. He freely appropriates from art history and advertising to explore issues ranging from race, colonization and globalization to identity politics. For the exhibition I've Known Rivers, the titles of the individual pieces use lines from Langston Hughes' 1921 poem The Negro Speaks, anchoring the images to a literary context. Thomas simultaneously references art history with works by Henri Matisse and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as Romare Bearden.

Formed from irregularly cut pieces of vinyl, many of the large-scale pieces are infused with tones of blue that suggest bodies of water. In My soul has grown deep like rivers and I've known rivers (all works 2023), a silhouetted figure (reminiscent of Matisse's late collages) — either sitting on a rock or drifting below what appears to be a night sky — is juxtaposed with a blue ground comprised of abstract shapes in different hues. When seen with a flashlight or photographed with a flash, these areas are transformed into dizzying collages filled with overlapping fragments of people alone, or in crowds, in addition to snippets of protest signs and newspaper headlines, as well as different types of currency. How these references relate to the unmediated image is something to ponder.

The largest work on view, I Looked upon the Nile and raised pyramids above it pays homage to Roy Lichtenstein's Pyramids (Corlett 87) (1969), an image of three triangles partially filled with his signature benday dot patterns against a yellow background. Thomas' transformation respects the structure and tones of the original image, but adds a gigantic and abstracted silhouette of a reclining man with African features in front of the triangular pyramids as well as references to nature — leaves, a red flower and the suggestion of an undulating river. This is the initial view of the image. It is striking and powerful. While Thomas has mastered the dual effect and the layering of non-reflective and retroreflective materials, the "afterimage" becomes dense to the point of being indecipherable.

Thomas layers his work with content that is appropriated from a wide range of sources. His works are graphically sophisticated and visually compelling while what they are about suggests different possibilities. While the use of the retroreflective materials takes the works in a new direction and allows Thomas to present two images simultaneously, the journey from past to present, from black to white, from day to night and from abstraction to representation becomes a burden for the viewer who must entrust the viewing of the 'other' content to an external device. Once the wow factor has worn off, there is still much to reflect upon as these beautiful works resonate on multiple levels without needing anything more.

Click here for Hank Willis Thomas on its own page.

August 3, 2023

Sculpture into Photography
Moskowitz Bayse
July 15 - August 19, 2023

Sculpture into Photography

Sculpture into Photography is a group exhibition that takes a contemporary approach to a show that was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1970: Photography into Sculpture, which received both praise and criticism. It celebrated a more expansive approach to "photography" that went beyond "flat prints" in the documentary style. The exhibition was one of the first to present photography as "art," a subject that continued to be debated over the years. Robert Heinecken was in the MOMA show and is also represented at Moskowitz Bayse with the iconic work Fractured Figure Segments from 1970.

The fifteen artists included in the exhibition take an experimental approach to photography, fashioning images into sculptures in addition to collaging and cutting apart their pictures (as Heinecken did), as well as working with video and digital technologies. While Sculpture into Photography is in no way inclusive, it serves as an introduction to a number of artists working today who are interested in challenging the commonplace, technical, illusionistic and conceptual parameters of the medium.

Along with Heinecken's works (also on view is TV Diner from 1971, a crinkled hand-colored image of a TV dinner printed on linen), the other "historical" works are by Barbara Kasten. nstruct NYC 9 and onstruct XXII (both 1984) are Cibachrome photographs of assorted mirrors and objects assembled to be photographed from a fixed vantage point. These share a kinship with Anthony Lepore's 2023 Looking at Each Other in the Mirror, a large-scale, Trompe-l'oeil image comprised of wooden supports, some with red edges, that are both shelves and a frame simultaneously. While it appears to be a geometric abstraction, it is also a physical object dramatically lit so it comes across as flat and three-dimensional at the same time.

It is always a pleasure to view works by Matt Lipps, here represented by Camera (2013), an arrangement of black and white cut-outs of different types of cameras as well as many other iconic images (culled from Time-Life educational volumes) presented on glass shelves against a red-orange background that appears to be a brightly toned image of an eye. Lipps' arrangements are created to offer new associations and relationships between historical images. While Lipps works with appropriated images, Soo Kim cuts shapes out of her own. In the double-sided, free standing large-scale image The DMZ (Ballad of branches and the trunk (side 1) (2018), Kim has removed most of the information from the original photograph leaving a structure that suggests architecture without providing the details. Seeing through and beyond are also themes Valerie Green explores in works such as I think We're Alone Now (2023), a physically layered black and white image filled with textures and patterns cut into the surface to reveal others below. Though not a static photographic image, Brian Bress' slow moving video HalfZebraHalfAcrylicHalfMan: I turned rainbow, closed my eyes watch my brain glow (2023), is a thirty-two minute loop revealing a costumed yet mostly hidden Bress moving colorful-cut out images along the surface of the screen to subtly change the composition over time.

The artists in the exhibition are interested in expanding the boundaries of photography and while some of their works begin with a photographic referent, they are open to cutting, collaging, drawing on and turing their images into sculpture. With digital technologies and the proliferation of imagery generated with AI, the notion of a "photographic truth" has become even more outdated so creators feel free to push the envelope and manipulate images that were once held sacred into something new and unexpected. Audiences are no longer really wowed by the "wow" factor, so content and the integrity of the artist's intentions is what makes the works in Sculpture into Photography resonate. The relationship between the image and the object it becomes, as well as how the two interact is at the crux of this thought provoking exhibition.

Click here for Sculpture into Photography at Moskowitz Bayse on its own page.

July 27, 2023

Keith Haring
Art is for Everybody
The Broad
May 27 - October 8, 2023

Jean-Michel Basquiat
King Pleasure
The Grand LA
March 31 - October 15, 2023

Keith Haring & Jean-Michel Basquiat

Both Keith Haring (1958 - 1990) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 - 1988) were prolific artists active in the New York Downtown scene in the 1980s. Both died young and left behind an expansive legacy. Haring and Basquiat catapulted to fame for their idiosyncratic works that not only resonated at the time, but continue to have impact now, more than thirty years after their deaths. They were crowd pleasers in many ways. Haring capitalized on that fact by creating The Pop Shop and distributing buttons, stickers and tee-shirts emblazoned with his iconic graphics like the barking dog and the crawling baby. Basquiat might have been lesser known outside the art world at the time, but his collaborations with artists like Andy Warhol eventually put him in the public eye as well.

Two concurrent exhibitions in downtown Los Angeles showcase works by Haring and Basquiat and create a curious conversation across Grand Avenue. At The Broad, in Art is for Everybody there are more than 120 pieces on view, many selected from The Broad's own holdings as Eli and Edythe Broad were early collectors and supporters of Haring's work. The show was organized in conjunction with the Keith Haring Foundation and is the first museum exhibition in Los Angeles to present an expansive body of his work ranging from documentation of his subway interventions to ephemera, drawings, paintings and sculptures.

At The Grand LA (a new Frank Gehry designed building complex which is not a traditional exhibition venue), is Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure, a large-scale exhibition produced by Basquiat's estate that features more than 200 works. In addition to paintings, there are recreations of Basquiat's studio, rooms from his family home, the VIP room at the Palladium in NYC, as well as numerous videos where family members recount personal narratives. The Basquiat exhibition develops a context for his work via a timeline and trajectory that illustrates his influences, political and social concerns, education and family life. It outlines his proclivity for drawing at an early age and his interests in comics, cartoons and graffiti. Basquiat began as the tagger SAMO and was determined to be a "star." While his paintings continued to develop, he got involved with partying and drugs and the "downtown" scene. Although his work was widely shown and collected during his lifetime, there were many works left in his studio at the time of his death and it is these pieces, as well as childhood and teenage works (all of which now belong to the estate) that comprise much of the exhibition.

While Basquiat developed a personal iconography that drew from popular culture and music, his works were gritty and expressive in contrast to Haring whose pieces were more playful, imbued with humor and joy. Haring had his "dark" side as well but for the most part the works, even when about AIDS or other political topics, radiated "fun" as his lines danced across his compositions. Haring's exhibition brings smiles of remembrance to those who first saw his works in the subways of New York City at the same time that it brings inspiration to those new to his creations. Haring and Basquiat knew each other and were included in numerous exhibitions together, but now exhibiting in two very different venues, the motivations behind the presentations direct the readings of the works in ways that are less about the why and when they were made and the scene the artists belonged to, but more about commodification and legacy. Struggling with and investigating issues surrounding racism, homophobia and celebrity, both Haring and Basquiat brought issues of art and life together. How that conversation would have continued thirty years later is at the root of these concurrent exhibitions.

Even without describing specific pieces, the names Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat elicit images, personalities and tragedy— The AIDS epidemic that took the lives of so many in the 1980s and 1990s including Haring, and the struggles with drugs and addiction that Basquiat confronted and finally succumbed to. That being said, both exhibitions are celebrations: of life, of vision, of creativity and of artists who followed their own paths and left large bodies of work that continue to have influence today. That the organizers are sponsoring workshops and the galleries are filled with school children attests to these artists remarkable and long lasting legacies and importance. Both exhibitions are not to be missed.

Click here for Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat on its own page.

July 20, 2023

Francesca Gabbiani
Wilding Cran Gallery
June 29 - July 29, 2023

Francesca Gabbiani

Francesca Gabbiani is best known for her cut paper works-- images created by collaging and layering precisely cut bits of colored paper into compositions that draw from both the natural and urban landscapes. Her subjects have included surfers, interiors, spaces that are overlooked and forgotten, as well as the effect of wildfires on the environment. For Mutations she combines her iconic cut paper collaging with ink, gouache and acrylic to create works that focus on devastation -- inflamed palm trees and forests, off colored seascapes and skies -- calling attention to the beauty and the horror simultaneously. The standout in this exhibition, however is the seven-minute stop-motion film Sea of Fire (2022) that tracks the movements of a giant black spider accompanied by a pulsating sound track by Eddie Ruscha.

The film is an exciting extension of Gabbiani's studio practice. The hand-made qualities of her works on paper beautifully translate into stop motion animation and this gives the film its charm. Gabbiani does not try to hide the puppet-like motion of these elements but rather ingeniously combines fragments from her paintings and collages with actual footage of flames and their destructive aspects. The film "stars" a large black spider that careens through the landscape on a journey to the sea— a place spiritually and metaphorically far from the encroaching flames.

In conjunction with the film are new large-scale paper pieces dated from 2020-2023 that isolate and capture spectacular moments like flaming silhouetted palm trees blowing in the wind against a surreal orange sky as in Mutation XLVIII, Hot Panorama III and Hot Panorama V. In Phosflorescence VIII (2022) Gabbiani presents the setting sun as a large orange-yellow ball hovering above the horizon where night sky meets the sea, its glow spreading out across the ocean and illuminating a bank of phosphorescent waves.

Gabbiani's individual works are time consuming masterpieces— a combination of hand cut papers and painted grounds that reference the environs of Los Angeles: specifically when there are fires in the distant hills that cause the sky to turn gray and the sun to become a ball of fire that casts an eerie aura across the city. Gabbiani perfectly captures these odd and unsettling times. Seeing the works on paper in conjunction with the film infuses Gabbiani's project with a sense of urgency that looks at the vulnerability of the landscape and the dangers of climate change coupled with a sense of humor and narrative sophistication. In the film, the spider weaves its way through the landscape, ambling, as well as skateboarding away from fire-filled skies toward the magical salvation of the ocean, it is transformed from "animal" to "athlete"— a surfer riding away from the flames balancing on majestic blue waves— an image of hope amongst the devastation.

Click here for Francesca Gabbiani on its own page.

July 13, 2023

Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Coming Back to See Through, Again
David Zwirner Los Angeles
May 23 - July 29, 2023

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

During a visit to Victoria Miro Gallery in 2013, I happened upon pieces by Njideka Akunyili Crosby in the group exhibition Cinematic Visions, Paintings at the Edge of Reality. It was my first encounter with her work and I was blown away. They were unlike anything I had seen and they resonated both for their straight forward representations of Black life and their inventive use of photo-transfers combined with drawn lines and painting. Who was this artists from Los Angeles showing in London that I had never heard of? Ten years later, I have had numerous opportunities to see Akunyili Crosby's works and I remain in awe of her skill and the beauty of her works: now more nuanced and sophisticated.

In her first exhibition at David Zwirner's new Los Angeles gallery, she presents a selection of multi-layered works on paper that juxtapose photographic transfers and painted depictions of interiors and exteriors some with, but many without people. Poetically titled Coming Back to See Through, Again, collectively and individually, these large-scale works on paper suggest a range of periods of time, as well as the possibilities of different worlds, glimpsed through windows and doorways.

Blend in - Stand out (2019) is a large scale work that spans 95 x 123 inches. The image depicts an interior setting, but true to form, Akunyili Crosby simply suggests the room, with walls and floor presented as flat solid colors. Within this closely cropped space are two figures —-a woman hugging a man-— seen from the side, four chairs, a rug and a table with a plant on it. An abstract painting of plants, similar to the flowers in a pot on the table, as well as other paintings in the gallery, hangs on the wall. Akunyili Crosby's blend of painting and collage is evident in this work with the beautifully collaged elements creating an interesting contrast to the painted areas. While aspects of the background —walls and flowers, the seated man's arm, white T-shirt, sneakers and green trousers, as well as the woman's hand and legs— are painted, almost everything else is carefuly constructed or overlaid with collaged (transferred) elements that come from both personal and historical sources. Akunyili Crosby's use of collage infuses her works with a sense of history that implies a continuum from then to now and helps to define her characters.

Like Blend in - Stand out, the painting Still You Bloom in This Land of No Gardens (2021) is a self portrait. Akunyili Crosby sits on a chair with her young child on her knee outside her home surrounded by vegetation. The interior of the home is visible through an open door. The work is a layered composition juxtaposing flatly painted areas with painted patterns and collages made from photographic transfers. Seen both in front of and behind them, the mingling of plant life, patterns and photographic montage both obscure and concretize the figures. Akunyili Crosby draws from her childhood in Nigeria, the African diaspora and notions of displacement and identity to weave together narrative paintings that are at once personal and universal. That the child wears a T-shirt that reads "Black is Beautiful" is visually subtle, yet politically specific.

Interspersed with the figurative images are works that foreground nature. At first glance, pieces like Dwellers: Cosmopolitan Ones (2022), Persistence of Vision: Screen Walls & Fruit Tree (2022) and Potential, Displaced (2021) appear to be images of dense vegetation and architectural details in both solid tones and Akunyili Crosby's patterns of transfers. She is interested in the origins and migrations of plants (as well as people), their cultural and historical associations and has done extensive research on plant-life in both Los Angeles and Nigeria. The green-hued leaves on a tree positioned at the bottom of the composition in front of a light-tan screen/wall that dominates Persistence of Vision: Screen Walls & Fruit Tree are in fact green painted transfers culled from photographs and magazine pages. While seemingly an image of the type of residences built in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s, Akunyili Crosby connects it to those who inhabited the area.

Akunyili Crosby's layered works can be seen on numerous levels. From afar, they are exteriors, portraits and landscapes that explore issues of family and nature. Upon closer examination, they become encyclopedic adventures that integrate past and present, Los Angeles and Nigeria, paint and photographic transfer, abstraction and collage to become evocative, seductive, engaging artworks that reveal more and more the longer they are observed.

Click here for Njideka Akunyili Crosby on its own page.

July 6, 2023

Elaine Reichek
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
June 10 - July 22, 2023

Elaine Reichek

Over the years, numerous artists have used the works of others as a point of departure for their own creations. The list is long and includes a wide range of approaches. Yasumasa Morimura and Cindy Sherman re-staged famous paintings as photographs, while Deborah Kass and Elaine Sturtevant replicated paintings by their male counterparts, often infusing them with a feminist agenda. Elaine Reicheck also draws from pre-exisiting works.

In her compelling exhibition Frock-Conscious, Reichek appropriates artworks of varying styles and periods to explore the relationship between textiles and paintings. Choosing both well and lesser known examples, she recreates aspects of original drawings, designs and paintings as delicate embroidery, both hand sewn and digitally fabricated. The term "Frock Conscious" comes from a quote from the Diary of Virginia Woolf that reads, "My present reflection is that people have any number of states of consciousness: & I should like to investigate the party consciousness, the frock consciousness, &c." Reichek uses the idea of "frock consciousness" as a jumping off point for this series to look at the representation of clothing or fabric. Each small piece reproduces a fragment of texture or pattern from the original artwork and often centers it within a solid colored background, also derived from the source. Because the source material is not always that obvious and she often isolates a small section, her finished pieces at first glance appear to be colorful abstractions. To aid viewers' understanding, the gallery provides a helpful handout that illustrates Reichek's sources.

For example, Bronzino Curtain on Green (2020) presents a section of drapery from the background of Lodovico Capponi (ca. 1550–55), an oil painting by Agnolo Bronzino. Reichek focuses on the folded green fabric behind the subject, rather than the portrait. Similarly in Tissot Ruffle (2020), she recreates a section of the pink ruffled dress worn in Jacques Joseph Tissot's Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant (1866). Rousseau Dress (2018) is a striated abstraction centered in a rectangle of raw linen that comes from the garment worn by the sleeping gypsy in Rouseau's painting. More contemporary borrowings include Kerry James Marshall's Untitled (Gallery), (2016) and John Currin's, Tapestry (2013) presented as two fragments positioned on the wall at the same distance that they appear in the painting.

The twenty-four works are installed salon-style on the wall and become a curious sampling of art history as Reichek appropriates from male artists to transform their painted works into what is commonly thought of as a woman's craft. Together, they create an interesting conversation about appropriation, women's work, the relationship between thread and pixels (as many are digitally produced) as well as the relationship between fine art and craft.

Also included in the exhibition are curious homages to Jackson Pollock and Henri Matisse. JP Textile/Text 1 and JP Textile/Text 2 (2021) are large-scale works where Reichek has embroidered citations from Jackson Pollock's bibliography in different fonts and colors atop commercially produced fabric that emulates one of Pollock's all-over drip paintings. A second reference to Pollock is a triptych of digital photographs printed on silk. Vogue, March 1, 1951, Photographed by Cecil Beaton against Jackson Pollock Paintings (2023) is taken from Vogue magazine and shows women modeling ball gowns from the 1950s in front of paintings by Pollock.

Reichek has transformed the back gallery into a sitting room or showroom devoted to the work of Matisse and his circle. Here, Reichek's embroideries are presented with commercially produced fabrics inspired by Matisse: two chairs, a rug and a number of potted plants whose shapes are similar to Scattered "Sheaf" with Felt and Fabric (2022). The installation uses Matisse's colorful, graphic shapes of leaves and his depictions of bodies as the inspiration for a suite of small scale embroideries. Screen Time with Matisse (2022) separates the different aspects of the installation: a folding screen collaged with fabric swatches, embroidery and photographic reproductions.

Although Reichek loads the installation with a wide range of references and implied conversations between past and present, the installation is more playful and humorous than didactic. It is a delight to compare Darning Sampler: Lewitt's Color Grids to Darning Sampler (both 2018) and acknowledge the similarities as well as the differences between traditional embroidery patterns and LeWitt's algorithmic process of combining lines and colors. Reichek looks hard at the history of art and creates her own timeline— in order to critique and to celebrate certain modes and methods of representation.

Click here for Elaine Reichek on its own page.

June 29, 2023

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982
February 12 - July 2, 2023

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age

With Artificial Intelligence, or AI, on everyone's mind, it seems pertinent to go back in time to 1952 and think about a pre-digital world, a time before the personal computer, cell phones and social media. The exhibition Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982 conceived and curated by LACMA's Leslie jones, harkens back to this era, showcasing early experiments in graphic arts, conceptual art and art made with primitive computers. The works span from the creation of the first purely aesthetic image made on a computer to the replacement of the main frame by the personal computer. While terms like mathematics, generative and informational appear often in the exhibition, Jones’ keen awareness of aesthetics has led to a show not about information, but of stunning artworks influenced by and created with the aid of available technologies of the time.

The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, drawings and projections that weave through the different ways artists were experimenting with what was new and inspiring. In the first room, viewers see Edward Kienholz' The Friendly Grey Computer— Star Gauge Model #54 from 1965 and Lowell Nesbitt's I.B.M. Disc Pack)— neither of which are works that use technology. Kienholz’ piece is an assemblage made from industrial parts, while Nesbitt’s is a hyper realistic large-scale painting of I.B.M. discs. As the show progresses, Jones juxtaposes art output by plotters, like Frederick Hammersley’s Computer Drawings (1969), with more conceptual by artists like Sol LeWitt who created hand-made pieces that followed specific algorithms. Examples of Minimal and Op art are shown alongside generative patterned works created on computers by for example, Vera Molnar, as well as Coletter Stuebe Bangert and Charles Jeffries Bangert. As Hans Haacke’s News (1969)— a telex machine that prints headlines from newswires in real time—endlessly spews text printed on ever flowing rolls of paper that spill onto the gallery floor, one can’t help but think of how things have changed from when getting news in real time was not available to the general public.

An underlying theme in the exhibition is how artists work with code and think about motion and movement. Pausing to watch one of the video and film works — be it Sheila Pinkel’s Intuition (1977) or Stan VanDerBeek's Poemfield No. 1 (Blue Version), (1967) or Permutations (1968) by John Whitney Sr.— takes viewers back in time, but also forward to compare current high tech animations with the inventive low tech experiments on display.

While Jones relies on a specific trajectory through the exhibition, the takeaway is about the relationship between now and then: how ideas are generated, what inspires artists and how they use what is available—be it paint, pencil, words or a snipped of code. The process of creation from inception to execution is what drives these artists, and with all the talk of AI, it is interesting to ponder process and whether AI (now in its infancy) will transcend the evils that surround it in much the same way art made with computers or code has come to be appreciated, respected and valued today.

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982 poses and answers questions that are as relevant now as they were then. It is doubtful that in 1952, or even in 1982, one could have predicted that most everyone would carry a small computer in their pocket and be globally connected at all times. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to each of us. Regardless, the ways technology has inspired creativity continues to grow.

Click here for Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982 on its own page.

June 22, 2023

Karla Klarin
Big Pink
Vielmetter Los Angeles
May 20 - July 8, 2023

Karla Klarin

A native of the San Fernando Valley, the painter Karla Klarin has been interested in the cityscape of Los Angeles throughout her career. In documenting her surroundings, Klarin sees the sprawl as abstraction and fills it with different colors that extend across her compositions in many directions. In her early paintings, she often captured expansive freeways and receding hills like in Valley View (1984), as well as modern high-rises like those in Monster Twins (1983). Her larger-scale cityscapes including LA Boogie Woogie (2022) and For Piet (2019) are, as their titles suggest, Mondrian-esque works with criss-crossing diagonals that reference the planes of a landscape that lead towards a horizon filled with mountains and the sky beyond.

The works that comprise Big Pink are specific. They explore Klarin's memories of a pink-hued house that belonged to her neighbor Natalie. In the earliest paintings from the series (not on view), Klarin depicted a typical Los Angeles tract home combining architectural precision with broad washy brushstrokes. The dwelling is a one story house with an attached garage and low pitched roof in Klarin's rendering. It appears as an array of rectangular, textured shapes filled with swirling lines. What stood out about this particular home was its color and she uses its particular pink hue as a point of departure in the subsequent paintings.

In the later paintings, Klarin delights in abstraction by allowing the planes of the architecture to morph into a more expansive landscape of interlocking triangles and trapezoids in different shades of gray against a light pink sky. While she creates both small and large paintings, it is the larger works (more than 90 inches across) like Big Pink LA 1 (2017), Big Pink LA 2 (2016), and Big Pink LA 4 (2021) that evoke the sprawl that characterizes the terrain of Los Angeles.

The thick black brush strokes that criss-cross Big Pink LA 1 are reminiscent of the freeways that cut the city into odd shaped pieces. While Klarin's works are not necessarily maps, they have a map-like presence with the paintings unfolding as irregular grids beneath an impasto sky. Klarin cites Richard Diebenkorn and his Ocean Park paintings from the 1960s as an influence and there are parallels in the way both artists abstract the landscape into geometric shapes and striations. Her pink and gray palette is also reminiscent of Philip Guston. While there is no 'real' pathway to navigate Big Pink LA 4, an area of dripping black brush strokes toward the bottom left of the painting suggests the on/off ramps of a freeway that extends along the diagonal of the two panel composition into a pink haze. The painted sections are assembled like pieces of a complex puzzle that are combined to create what Klarin terms "spacial vistas" and "gridded neighborhoods."

Klarin's smaller paintings are a bit more intimate and can be thought of as excerpts from the larger works. These numbered "Landscape Studies" range in size from approximately 13 x 27 inches to 25 x 53 inches and have the same colors and fragmented perspectival space as the larger works. For example, Landscape Study 88 (2018) is simultaneously a geometric abstraction filled with gray and white trapezoids of differing opacities, as well as a representation of a slice of urban sprawl whose focal point is the horizon line — where flat land becomes mountain and meets the sky. The large triangular shape that dominates both Landscape Study 125 and Landscape Study 140 (both 2020) recalls "sci-fi" excavations drawn in perspective. In Klarin's imagination, these are undeveloped and/or uninhabitable places, rendered in black and white and set against a faded pink horizon, foretelling the Los Angeles of the future.

Klarin has been a longtime resident and astute observer of how Los Angeles changes. While she portrays LA as a decentralized concrete jungle and a barren, people-less place filled with an uncanny pink sky above an ever-changing grid, it is done with admiration and respect rather than distain. It is clear that Klarin loves to paint that which surrounds her and to represent the sprawl as an evocative geometric abstraction.

Click here for Karla Klarin on its own page.

June 15, 2023

Sarah Charlesworth
Karma Los Angeles
May 6 - July 7, 2023

Sarah Charlesworth

Sarah Charlesworth first exhibited the photographs from her Neverland series in 2002. These brightly colored images followed 0+1 (1999), a much more subdued series that explored the threshold of vision and were all shades of white, which made it hard to distinguish the picture from the background. Charlesworth (1947-2013) was an artist associated with the "Pictures Generation" and well known for her conceptually based works that often incorporated appropriated materials. Her iconic images from "Modern History," including Herald Tribune January 18 - February 28, 1991 and Arc of Total Eclipse, 1979 presented the front pages of different newspapers with everything removed except the header and a selection of images (for example, a photograph of a solar eclipse in Arc of Total Eclipse). These works were often displayed in a line or as a grid to allow viewers to compare and contrast image size and placement of the featured image within the layout of the front page. Charlesworth's approach to photography, including the formal elegance and conceptual rigor of her works influenced generations of artists and photographers.

Seeing Neverland again is not only a reminder of the tragedy of the untimely death of an artist in her prime, but also poses questions like what might have come next? How would she have reacted to AI? What kind of images would she have created with this new technology? In Neverland, Charlesworth stepped aside from appropriation in favor of photographing objects in the studio, each one placed on a matching monochromatic and vividly colored background. The results are striking and unsettling. For Teapot (all works created in 2002) Charlesworth placed an ornate yellow teapot against a similarly hued background. The teapot appears to be in mid-pour although there is no hand holding it nor liquid coming from its spout. A typical household object, in this context it also references Aladdin's magical lamp. Devil, Candle and Pencil are all bright red photographs with each displaying the similarly colored object of their title. Centered in Devil is a completely red devil mask, whereas in Candle, the flame stands out as a realistic orange-yellow and in Pencil, the point and end are true to life— black lead surrounded by wood.

While it is noted that in Neverland, Charlesworth digitally manipulated her images for the first time, it is impossible to know the extent. Did Charlesworth find a red candlestick holder that matches the red of an extremely long candle that floats in a deep red shadowless space, or did she use a computer to match the colors? Unusual scale shifts also occur across the images. What size was the small tree in Tree? Was it smaller or larger than the pipe in Pipe, an homage to Réne Magritte's The Treachery of Images (1929)? While Magritte's painting of a pipe was not a pipe, Charlesworth's depiction is neither a pipe nor a painting, but rather a photograph of a pipe. Other art historical associations include references to still lives as in Fruit Colored Fruit — red and green apples, a lemon, bananas and grapes draped over a white bowl against a black background, as well as in Teacups, a precarious tower of teacups and saucers.

By titling the series Neverland, Charlesworth evokes the fictional, faraway, magical island associated with Peter Pan and the images are infused with a surreal, impossible aura, despite the fact that for the most part, Charlesworth frames ordinary objects. Through her lens, coloration and conceptual savvy, she elevates these "things" into something extraordinary. Whether straightforward, or digitally manipulated, the photographs from Neverland have a long-lasting and powerful resonance and it is a privilege to see them together again.

Click here for Sarah Charlesworth on its own page.

June 8, 2023

Ricardo Cabret
Un Neuvo Manglar
Kohn Gallery
May 6 - June 17, 2023

Ricardo Cabret

Ricardo Cabret is a Puerto Rico based interdisciplinary artist who uses painting and software to revel in the tensions between technology and the natural world. At Kohn Gallery, he unveils a new body of work titled Un Neuvo Manglar (a new mangrove) that includes several paintings as well as a generative artwork presented as a large scale projection filling one wall in a darkened corner of the gallery. Cabret has degrees in computer science and electrical engineering and his artwork draws from his technological background.

Guión Criptográfico 3.0 (2021) is a web based software piece that generates ever-changing compositions of different colored squares filling a gridded space. He draws from popular encryption algorithms and protocols that are commonly found in the building blocks of cryptocurrency blockchain networks and specifically focuses on phrases that echo current concerns in his native Puerto Rico. The resulting display is a mesmerizing composition that nods to neo-geo painting as well as other browser based works with ever changing abstract compositions.

It is interesting to think about the relationship between code and paint. How does the generative display based on an algorithm translate into paintings and is there a connection, or is Cabret making two discrete bodies of work? The paintings are not geometric or brightly colored. Rather, they are soft hued and atmospheric. They could, perhaps relate to the receding spaces in sci-fi themed computer games, but that feels like a stretch. For example, Barracas (2023) is an evocative landscape with what appears to be a city in the distance. Tall buildings painted as jagged abstract shapes fill the middle of the canvas. In the foreground is a flat multi-colored field comprised of different colored rectangles that perspectivally recede toward the horizon. The top half of the work is sky — a hazy blue expanse with floating areas of white suggesting clouds. The painting has a second layer where it seems as if Cabret covered the surface with arcs of concrete-colored gel. A middle layer features a set of arches that cut across the horizontal of the composition and suggest open ended Quonset huts.

El secreto subterráneo (2023) (The underground secret) is also a sci-fi cityscape covered with more open Quonset huts that resemble extended underground arches or tunnels. The purple hued sky gives the work an apocalyptic aura. Smaller works titled Estudio de textura are intimate fragments where Cabret focuses on layers of paint and varying textures created by overlaying gel polymer. These pieces have a grid-like structure, yet lack the movement of the digital iterations.

Cabret's people-less paintings allude to futuristic worlds. If based on systems or specific structures, they are overwhelmed by the process of painting and making something by hand. The imprecision makes them intriguing. Though based on Cabret's memories of the Puerto Rican landscape, the works are not specific but rather a melange of past, present and future.

Because the paintings are seen in conjunction with the projected software work, one wants to draw connections, but the pieces seem to exist in different realms and rather than intuit relationships, it is best to enjoy both for what they are.

Click here for Ricardo Cabret on its own page.

June 1, 2023

Chris Engman
Luis de Jesus Los Angeles
April 29 - June 10, 2023

Chris Engman

Chris Engman creates photographic illusions with an exact vantage point where the images cohere. In the past, he has transformed gallery spaces by covering the walls and floors with images, pinpointing a spot on the floor from which to view the illusion. More often than not, these architectural interventions are fabricated in his studio and he documents them to present images within images. Engman's subject is often the natural landscape— be it an ocean, desert or mountain scene. That being said, he has also made works featuring crinkled paper inscribed with lines and geometric shapes extending out of a wooden frame, as well as pieces that confounded the geometry within the frame to disrupt the immediate of perception of a photographic image. He explores the many different ways he can play with illusions.

For Prism, he collaborates with his young son Elio who draws and paints atop the photographic murals placed on the walls of the studio, in many ways disrupting or breaking the perspectival illusion. Engman states that a prism "allows us to see what is present but not perceived." He continues that a camera is a prism and his son is his prism... "The world I see through his eyes is new and strange, terrifying and beautiful."

The best way to understand the images is to dissect one. At first glance, Play Room (2021) is a color photograph depicting a horizon where the sky meets the ocean. Centered in the image however, is a rectangle that is, in fact a window backlit from the light outside the space. Upon close examination, it becomes evident that this is not an image of the ocean, but rather an image of an interior space that has been covered with large-scale photographic images of an ocean and sky. Many prints have been fragmented and reconstituted to appear as a single image. Placed along the walls and corners of the room are children's toys that are not covered with these image fragments while squiggly marks in different colors of chalk cover parts of the walls and floor, in essence breaking the illusion.

In addition to numerous enigmatic images like Play Room, Engman also includes a few objects in the gallery space— a ladder, a stool and a shelf— that help those not familiar with his process comprehend how the works were constructed for the camera. For example, the object Stool (2023) comes directly from the setting of Play Room. Here, Engman covers a wooden cube with a photograph of children's toys and markers adhering them to the surface so that from a certain perspective they become a flattened image. Ladder appears in the work Cliff (2022) leaning against a wall covered with an image of a cliff, as well as being a stand alone object covered with the same photograph as it appears in the image, yet now removed from its setting.

Looking at Engman's works is often like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle. What at first glace appears to be a landscape is in reality a composite of multiple image fragments. From a distance in Pour (2022), the picture coheres as a forest of lush trees. Looking closer, one makes out steps leading up and a wide plank at an angle that parallels the stairs. Though covered with photographic murals that comprise the forest, soon it becomes evident that there are long drips of paint that have cascaded down the incline and pooled up where it meets the floor. Once the mind recognizes the representation and the actual setting of the image, it vacillates back and forth between the two possibilities in much the same way as the duck or bunny brain teaser.

Many of the pieces in Prism are covered with marks by Engman's son. Using his son's interventions as a point of departure, Engman covers Monsters (2023) -- a large work that spans 120 inches square and depicts a rocky peak -- with blobs and gestural lines in acrylic and oil pastel. Gone is the illusion in favor of the pleasure of collaboration and the pure joy of spontaneity. Engman's exhibit delights in the juxtaposition of complex and precisely constructed mind teasers with lines drawn by a child. By allowing an aspect of play to enter the work, he has expanded the boundaries of his practice.

Click here for Chris Engman on its own page.

May 25, 2023

James Busby
Lowell Ryan Projects
May 6 - June 10, 2023

James Busby

James Busby is a South Carolina based artist whose Los Angeles debut is an intriguing mix of abstract and representational works. One of the most striking factors in the otherwise subtle installation of small scale works is how Busby extends the geometric lines from some of the pieces onto the walls to create a structure and container. The works alternate between abstract oils on canvas that consist of patterns of short brush strokes and contrast with representational but sketchy drawings in graphite on gessoed panels that reproduce trees and animals seen on the grounds of Busby's rural studio.

At first glance, the 11 x 14 inch Double Tracked (2023) appears to be a white on white minimal abstraction, but upon close viewing a beautifully drawn deer comes to life between two linear elements. Busby carefully renders the deer, reducing its size, taking it out of context by isolating it in a white field, yet illustrating it with tenderness as an artifact. Birds of a Feather (2023) similarly presents an exquisitely drawn fragment of a bird that is cropped by intersecting lines that divide the otherwise barren white ground. Numerous depictions of trees as seen in Dreamsicle and Half my Mind (both 2023) are presented at angles nested within hard-edged lines that distort any connection to real physical space or perspective.

Contrasting these minimal yet beautifuly rendered elements from nature are pure abstractions such as All the Go In-Betweens (2023), Trying to Catch a Deluge in a Paper Cup (2022) and Middle Distance Runner (2023). To create these paintings, Busby dips his brush in paint, applying dabs to the canvas over and over again until the paint has run out. This creates a pattern of lighter and darker tones that extend across the composition and share a kinship with stitches or knitted designs. These works feel like fragments from a greater whole in a way that seems similar to Busby's drawings on panel. Seen from afar, these paintings have an internal structure and geometry that punctuates the sequence of images on the wall and relates to the lines painted within the gallery space.

The wall markings are hand painted dark lines that form irregular polygons on the wall extending from floor to ceiling. In some senses, the relationship between the lines and the paintings parallels the relationship between the graphite trees and animals and the lines Busby has inscribed within the individual panels.

The anomaly is a 2019 work titled Detlef Schremph #2 a colorful geometric abstraction on hand-shaped wood that is a melange of painted lines and shapes centered within a dark grey background that has a Russian Constructivist sensibility, alludes to the shape and markings on a basketball court (Detlef Schrempf was a German NBA player) and relates to Busby's earlier works.

The latin meaning of "suspirium" is "deep breath" and is a fitting title for Busby's installation that is both contemplative and aggressive simultaneously. Rooted in process, the works illustrate Busby's patience and interest in the meditative qualities of repetitive mark making as well as his interest in observing the world around him and transforming what he sees into refined illustrations. With a deep inhale, time stops and a moment of calm ensues. Busby's installation also gives viewers the opportunity to look close and reflect upon that which surrounds them.

Click here for James Busby on its own page.

May 18, 2023

Alex Hedison
A Brief Infinity
Von Lintel Gallery
April 22 - June 10, 2023

Alex Hedison

During the pandemic when people were confined to their homes, photographer Alex Hedison began to experiment with "chemigram" works that explore the interactions of chemicals and light on black and white photographic paper and are made without a camera, so they are devoid of a "representational" subject. She applied different "resists" to the paper to block its exposure to light and changed the duration of time the paper was exposed.

Even after learning how to control these elements the results were often surprising and somewhat unexpected particularly in terms of color and texture. Due to the fact their existence on unfixed photographic paper, they also continue to change over time. Knowing the images would begin to fade, Hedison "photographed" them at different stages to preserve specific instants and even applied silver metallic paint to parts if the surfaces. These photographs of the original "chemigrams" comprise her exhibition, A Brief Infinity.

The abstract patterns are extremely painterly and while they vary in size each piece has unique characteristics. At only 6 x 8 inches, ABI_059 (all works 2022) is a layered composition of interrupted horizontal bands in varying opacities of olive green and dark pink. The palette and composition is reminiscent of abstract paintings from the 1950s, yet upon close viewing, the nuances of chemical interactions appear. Many of the images were made by applying metallic paint and varnish as well as adhering strips of tape to the paper, exposing it to light and then submerging it in a chemical bath. The lines from the tape and speckled array of color splotches are remnants of Hedison's process. Sometimes Hedison enhances these patterns by applying more metallic paint to the printed images.

Another small-scale picture, ABI_052 resembles an abstracted snake skin with golden highlights among striations of white, brown and black. ABI_056 alludes to intricate stained glass windows, its complex geometry a delicate pattern of white, yellow, rust and brown that is reminiscent of details in the works of Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are ABI_048, a two panel work where abstract metallic shapes akin to John Chamberlain car parts recede into a deep yellow void as well as ABI_045 where vertical strips that appear like different kinds of fabric that descend from the top of the composition. ABI_023 and ABI_022 are printed on glossy metallic paper. Their vivid blue hues become a background for wavy, thick, white-yellow lines that undulate across the composition becoming borders of irregular rectangular shapes.

Hedison's experiments are complex and evocative. The images transcend their material nature to become spiritual journeys into an unknown world. The photographs draw you in and keep you looking as the more time one spends with them the more there is to see.

Click here for Alex Hedison on its own page.

May 11, 2023

George Porcari
Things: A Story
April 22 - June 3, 2023

George Porcari

The subject of each photograph in George Porcari's exhibition Things: A Story is a narrative that can be constructed from the relationship between what appears on the cover of a book and the objects Porcari has also placed around it in the image. Titled Still Life With Books, each picture is followed by a number and dated 2008-2023. Shot with natural light in Porcari's Los Angeles apartment, the pictures have wide-screen proportions to reference cinema, yet are tightly cropped to juxtapose the books with carefully arranged commonplace household objects. While many of the volumes are about filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni or Roberto Rossellini, others are works of literature by authors like Joan Didion, Roland Barthes, Charles Bukowski and Georges Perec. The choice of books is specific and in many of his photographs, Porcari has chosen a book where a black and white portrait of the author or filmmaker is centered in the frame.

Though referred to as "still life's," the photographs in Things: A Story resonate as extended portraits that use the title of the book and its cover image as a point of departure. For example, in Still Life With Books 2, Porcari chooses the edition of "Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes" where the author is depicted in a black and white photograph with his right hand gently placed below his lips as if in a moment of contemplation. The book rests on what appears to be a slim, silver DVD player or radio receiver next to a pair of headphones, a green ceramic bowl with Asian calligraphy, as well as other miscellaneous objects that are cut off at the edges.

The focus of Still Life With Books 40 is Joan Didion's "The White Album." Porcari places the hardback book in an empty freezer and stands it upright on one of the shelves, perhaps in reference to this passage: "We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience." During a conversation with Porcari at the opening, he intimated that he put the book in the freezer based on his close reading of it.

Still Life With Books 47 features a paperback version of "Godard on Godard" face up on a table surrounded by various computer cables and hard drives. The bright red lettering on the books cover is echoed by the round top of a pill bottle as well as the red heart in a "I Heart…" button that is partially obscured by the aluminum arm of a desk lamp. The black and white photograph surrounded by red text on the cover of the book depicts a couple gazing into each other's eyes with the woman's hand gently placed on the man's neck. Underneath the book is a cartoony drawing of a white gloved cartoon hand (perhaps from Bugs Bunny) on blue material, that appears to be an extension of the man's arm, adding a touch of humor and irony to his representation.

Still Life With Books 130 contains César Vallejo's "Aphorisms" placed in a grimy sink and shot from above. The book is next to the drain and adjacent to a soapy cup from which an orange handled utensil emerges. Again, Porcari selects a volume with a black and white portrait of the author with his hand curled around his chin. The grainy image has an affinity with the texture of the sink. Why it is placed there is anyone's guess, but like Didion's book in the freezer, this strange juxtaposition makes for an interesting image.

Although Porcari's photographs are filled with cultural icons and references, they are not one liners directed to those in the know. They are intimate and personal images that include books that are significant or have personal meaning for Porcari. They are also beautiful and intriguing photographs that invite viewers to think about the bigger picture and perhaps the relationship between their books and the other objects that surround them.

Click here for George Porcari on its own page.

May 4, 2023

Pam Posey
April 15 - May 13, 2023

Pam Posey

Observing: the trees that line the path during a walk in the woods; the distant view of a mountain through clouds; the light on a branch arched over a pond. These are the kinds of things Pam Posey notices and captures in her magnificent paintings. The modest-sized oils record a mood and a sense of place and though representational, are not hyper-real. They are thoughtful impressions that depict the wonders of nature and how they are transformed from lived experiences into memories that come alive once again as paint on canvas.

While each work stems from observation, they are in fact created in the studio and become fictions — places reimagined. Titled Thereabout, her exhibition of more than twenty paintings completed between 2020 and 2023 offer an intimate glimpse into the natural world. It is easy to get lost in Headland (2023) following the criss-cross of wild grass along a bluff that overlooks a body of water extending toward a gray horizon. The foreground of the painting is an array of tufts of brown and green toned grass pointing in all directions and stopping where the bluff intersects with the water above. The composition is comprised of three planes of color — gray (sky), blue (water) and green/brown (grass) that cohere to suggest an infinite expanse.

Point of Return (2022) is about light. Here, the eye moves down a shadowy tree-lined path to the center of the image— a bright spot where leaves sparkle, illuminated by a patch of sun. The leaves and branches at the edge of the painting form a darker circle that surrounds the light. Where the path ultimately leads is unknown but the luminescence radiates a positive aura. Soothsayers Mountain (2022) and Displacement (2020) are more expressionist images. Soothsayers Mountain captures a hilltop encased in clouds presented as a textured field of connected and undulating, irregular forms, whereas Displacement focuses on the explosive spray of a raging waterfall. Here, Posey brackets the turbulence with two groupings of delicate plants, contrasting the dispersion with elements of calm.

In Island in the Subjunctive (2022), a cluster of plants float like an island in a blue-green pond. Brightly painted stems extend up from a small patch of green reflecting light as well as casting a subtle shadow below. In the distance, Posey defines a darker green forest — as a series of expressive brush strokes — at the far edge of the pond. The island is a microcosm and a metaphor for a feeling of isolation, simultaneously welcomed and dreaded.

Rather than install the works along a fixed line, the paintings are placed at different heights on the gallery walls paralleling the way one views nature — up close as well as from a distance, at, above and below eye level. The installation draws viewers to each work as a separate entity. Together, they create a narrative about the beauty and power of nature and offer a respite from endless media bombardment. Posey does not turn away from the political, but rather explores conflict and resolve as it manifests in the natural world.

Click here for Pam Posey on its own page.

April 27, 2023

Jay Mark Johnson
Íslenskir Fossar
William Turner Gallery
April 8 - May 27, 2023

Jay Mark Johnson

Many of the ten large scale color photographs that make up Jay Mark Johnson's current exhibition Íslenskir Fossar depict Iceland's volcanic landscape, specifically raging waterfalls and geysers captured using slit scan technology— a digital way of using multiple exposures to create one image. The subject is recorded through a "slit" a thin slice that only allows a small portion of the image to be exposed resulting in a succession of horizontal or vertical bands that often appear animated or even blurred.

Johnson has been making pictures with this technology for the last decade, exploring what he calls timeline photography— a way to capture motion —presenting moving objects like trains, people walking and ocean waves as they traverse space within a single image. His process turns the natural world into evocative abstractions. Though based on reality, his pictures have an otherworldliness.

His works are panoramic in proportion and consist of striations of color that appear to extend across the composition moving from from left to right. In this body of work (from 2021), Johnson transforms glaciers and geysers into abstractions that accentuate the way light is refracted off particles dancing in the sea and the sky. The horizontal bands approximate colored pixels that have been dragged across the surface and recall the striped paintings of Gerhard Richter, as well as some of the digital manipulations by photographer Rory Donaldson and video works by Golan Levin.

GEYSIR #1  (Haukadalsvegur, Iceland), (all works 2021), is surreal. In this image, a huge amorphous white shape emerges from a colorful ground fusing into the sky above, its white coloration reflecting the blue of the sky, as well as the tones of the sea. The lower portion of the image is composed of long horizontal stripes ranging from gray to brown to blue with bits of red, green and even yellow. These bands cascade across the image implying motion and are in contrast to the undulating form that rises above.

In SELJALANDFOSS #4, (Rangàrthing Ekstra, Iceland), Johnson's image is a melange of water and sky presented as a layered abstraction that unfolds across the horizon. Across the center of the image is a wide band of light blue, bisected by lines that are a pinkish-white and recall clouds. Above this is a green gradient and below, a receding ground presented in more earth-toned colors. Covering these colors is a veil of blurred vertical lines that flow up and down somewhat diagonally across the image as if spray from crashing waves or streams of rain falling from the clouds.

The exhibition also includes two earlier works depicting Stewart Falls, shot in Sundance, Utah in 2019. STEWART FALLS #43 and STEWART FALLS #6 are dizzying and expressive photographs that turn the powerful movement of raging waterfalls into colorful abstractions that suggest the force and awe of nature.

In his works, Johnson embraces the cameras ability to capture and transform the atmosphere and landscape, presenting instants that represent something unfolding over time. He has learned how to manipulate 'slit-scan' technologies to create incredibly beautiful and colorful abstractions that, although derived from nature, come across as digital fabrications.

Click here for Jay Mark Johnson on its own page.

April 20, 2023

Michael Hilsman
Man In Water
Various Small Fires
March 25 - April 29, 2023

Michael Hilsman

Michael Hilsman's paintings are quirky and somewhat disorientating. Many of the works feature a central character— based on the artist himself— that is often obscured or covered, as in Man With Face In Book (all works 2023). In this small-scale painting, Hilsman presents a close-up of a head in profile. The balding, bearded man's face is hidden by a book with a red-orange cover and decorated with two flowers and a box of matches. In Man With Cutlery And Citrus, a similar sized painting, the bald man's profile faces the opposite direction, but this time it is draped by dangling vines with oranges and floating cutlery (a red handled knife and fork). Roughly centered in both paintings and taking up a third of the composition, is the man's ear, although it is neither paintings focus.

Among the larger works are Man With Book in Landscape and Man Touching Thorn, both spanning 78 x 114 inches. For Man Touching Thorn, Hilsman depicts a white t-shirt, blue-jeans wearing figure from the side. He is positioned behind and partially obscured by flowering cacti. All of this is set against a blotchy blue background (representing the sky) and a thin strip of brown (referencing the earth or soil) that hugs the bottom of the canvas. Although both the man and the plants are rendered in flat tones with few details, they come across as more realistic than abstract. The man extends his arm out horizontally pushing one finger from his oversized hand into one of the thorns of a cactus. At this intersection, a blood-shaped tear appears. The cacti are flowering and in the prime of their life, yet the man's expression is never revealed. The fact that he is touching a thorn makes his relationship to the plants curious and ambiguous.

Man With Book in Landscape is similarly obtuse. In this painting, Hilsman divides the composition in two. The narrower upper portion of the image is filled with a mountain landscape painted in brown and green hues. Below is an expanse of deep blue that covers the bottom two thirds of the canvas. On top of this blue expanse floats a male figure: his face is covered by a red book, his feet extend out from what appears to be a long white sheet draped over the figure to become a quasi table. Carefully laid out on the sheet are an array of objects including a pistol, a vase of flowers, plates of fruit, a single black glove, an animal skull, as well as three playing cards. The arrangement feels like it could be the figure's last meal, or some gesture before departing into the blue void.

Hilsman's paintings illustrate unsettling narratives. The works while physical are also metaphysical — theatrical, dream-like and absurd while simultaneously grounded in reality. In most of the paintings, the figure's head is masked. In Man With Roses the same man carries a bouquet of red roses in his hands so they obscure his eyes and mouth but not his complete face. His right leg is bent behind him and parallels the ground, his black shoe points straight down and just touches the green floor as if resting on a shelf. Surrounding him is an orange dial telephone, a scissors, numerous teeth and three sunflowers that enter the composition from the top. Again, the elements are evocative and suggestive but do not add up to any logical conclusion.

Hilsman's paintings pose questions that cannot be answered. They invite viewers to contemplate how the elements in the still lives and landscapes come together to form a greater narrative about the ambiguous man and his relationship to what surrounds him.

Click here for Michael Hilsman on its own page.

April 13, 2023

Hannah Morris
Acting Ordinary
Steve Turner Gallery
March 25 - April 22, 2023

Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is a painter based in Barre, Vermont whose narrative works incorporate images culled from stories and advertisements in American magazines from the 1940s-1970s. Morris collages disparate reproductions filled with figures, furniture, objects and urban or natural landscapes and then overpaints them with Flashe and Gouache on panel. She masks the photographic veracity of the originals while creating new contexts for the characters. The eight works on view present a range of scenarios filled with people going about their business and not necessarily interacting with each other, even though they seem to occupy the same space.

Depicted in Cottage Industry (2022) is a man relaxing and reclining on a bed atop a patterned flower quilt, two other figures building a clay pot, a boy shuffling index cards, as well as a woman parading with a small red flag in celebration or protest. Knowing that Morris gets her source material from various magazines — craft, lifestyle, humor and news — and that she choses fragments that she initially composites in her mind, before actually collaging them together. These backgrounds serve as the sketches and under paintings for the final works. Conscious of gender, race and class differences portrayed in the now historical advertisements and editorial stories, she juxtaposes people and objects that might not otherwise coexist. Although little remains of the original images, the contours of the magazine fragments are still visible below layers of often translucent water-based paint.

In The Crossing (2022), Morris presents the goings on at a busy city intersection. While there are no cars, the urban scene is filled with figures of varying ages, shapes, sizes and colors in different types of clothing ranging from the formal (a suit and tie) to the casual (patterned shorts). Toward the back of the painting are tall buildings rendered with a childlike simplicity. A number of unrelated figures dart along a crosswalk— what appears to be a tour guide holding a flag, a worker in carpenter's pants, as well as two men who could be dancing. The mood is festive as these individuals come together within the composition, representing the different strata of the city. What stands out in the image and what makes it interesting is the skewed perspective of the buildings as well as the isolation and the disconnect between the varied figures. Morris unites disparate scenarios to create a sense of simultaneity.

This idea is further explored in Summer Camp (2023) where Morris juxtaposes two awkward and off kilter men who appear to be throwing a ball back and forth on a blue-green basketball or tennis court, a girl perched on a bicycle wearing shorts and red sneakers featuring a yellow Nike swoosh, an abstractly rendered picnic area and a crowd of festively dressed people looking off toward the distance as if ready to run forward, their backs to the viewer. At the bottom of the image are a bird and a duck standing in the grass. Myriad flowers and trees are also depicted within the composition

In these nostalgic works, Morris collapses space and time. She collages unrelated elements, creating narratives that unite in surprising and satisfying ways. The images are playful reinterpretations of appropriated materials taken from different source that cohere through Morris' creative juxtapositions and painterly style.

Click here for Hannah Morris on its own page.

April 6, 2023

Urs Fischer
Ice Cream Truck Democracy
Gagosian Gallery
March 9 - April 22, 2023

Urs Fischer

As an artist, Urs Fischer is unpredictable and full of surprises. For his 2022 exhibition at the Marciano Art Foundation (another Gagosian space), he presented Chaos #1-#500. The front room of the installation consisted of long tables filled with hundreds of found objects in all shapes and sizes. In contrast to the actual objects, three giant screens were suspended in the back gallery displaying tumbling intertwined pairs of these objects as digital scans. In the scans any disintegration of the object was erased so they were seen as unblemished, as if new.

The source material for his current exhibition at Gagosian is a printed book titled, like the exhibition, Ice Cream Truck Democracy. In the book, Fischer fills the pages with photographs of things that caught his eye around Los Angeles: the sky and the street; facades and window displays; myriad cars, live animals and their stuffed counterparts. Some of these colored images are inverted (printed as negatives). The book also includes photographs showing his paintings in the studio.

On the gallery walls are large-scale blow ups of portions of these images that have been silkscreened to the canvas as a collage. Many are overlaid with hand-painted or stenciled elements to create a kaleidoscopic bombardment. Fischer emphasizes the fragmentary nature of Los Angeles and presents the urban environment as a montage of fleeting instances. When seen together, these fragments begin to coalesce to create an idiosyncratic narrative that weaves through the sprawling expanse of the city.

Schmalifornia (2022) combines photographs of advertisements of an upcoming reality television series ("The Come Up") plastered on the walls of a construction site. The sidewalk adjacent to the posters is strewn with trash. In what appears to be a puddle or cloud overlaid on the scene is an upside down shot of the Los Angeles skyline. The work juxtaposes what is cliché and what is exemplary of L.A. For Numbaste (2023), Fischer montages two renditions (one positive, the other negative) of a headless, dancing, cartoon-figure originally painted on a wall over a green-tinted photograph of a craftsman style house situated on the corner of an L.A. street and partially blocked by a sign post with a banner for the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The textured figures have been screened onto the canvas so they sit above the flat background image giving the painting depth.

High Maintenance (2022) uses an image depicting a quintessential Los Angeles sunset as the background over which he composites a photograph looking into a store window where a broken Batman doll rests against the wall below toy cars coupled with a tall blue inflatable tube figure located behind a bus bench whose sign reads "Just a Prick" (it is an ad for HIV testing). Fischer pays attention to chance juxtapositions and through digital montaging also plays with scale shifts when compositing the images. While the photographs in the book are crisp and exact, he plays with opacity changes in the paintings while creating the final compositions to allow multiple layers to be seen simultaneously.

In Mulholland Drive (2023), he focuses on the twisting curves of the road. The original photograph depicting a sports car driving down the street is presented as an inverse, so the cars shadow appears white rather than black and the trees more light than dark. A painted abstraction fills part of the background paralleling the curves in the road and giving the image a sinister, nightmare-like aura.

Fischer cleverly transforms his photographs into evocative compositions that speak to the diversity of Los Angeles, not in terms of its population but in terms of the experience of the natural and urban landscape and how that defines the city. While the paintings are large composites, the book of photographs is a thoughtful and insightful document that illustrates the complexity of the city— a place where one can witness a coyote crossing one street and a stuffed monkey sitting in a tree on another. Fischer is an astute observer who captures the nuances that make Los Angeles such a unique and special place.

Click here for Urs Fischer on its own page.

March 30, 2023

Robert Russell
Porzellan Manufaktur Allach
Anat Ebgi
March 9 - April 22, 2023

Robert Russell

Robert Russell is a Los Angeles painter whose conceptually based process often begins with an internet search. Be it for other people named Robert Russell, artist's monographs, tea cups, or for his current exhibition, Allach porcelain figurines, Russell culls online sources for imagery which he then transforms into large-scale paintings.

The images that comprise Porzellan Manufaktur Allach, come from auction catalogues offering the few remaining and now extremely rare figurines produced in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s with concentration camp labor in factories funded by former Nazi party leader Heinrich Himmler. Russell was cognizant of the loaded history of the figurines and wanted it to contrast with the beauty of his paintings. Originally, the figurines were meant to celebrate the 'purity' of German culture and were given as gifts among SS soldiers. They often took the form of cute animals like rabbits and deer and were depicted with large eyes and complacent expressions.

Russell speaks about his works as "painterly interpretations of photographic images." To create the final compositions, he manipulates the originals in Photoshop, removing backgrounds and replacing them with sombre colors while adjusting the contrast so the painted animals 'pop' in relation to the non-spaces they occupy. What is so striking, as well as off-putting about the figurines in the paintings is their scale and the shifts and transformation that occur in the process of going from the original objects (which are around twelve inches high) to their photographic documentation on a computer screen to giant-sized paintings many spanning a height of 80 inches. .

Junger Hase (2023) features a painting of a bunny in a crouched position. The white/tan bunny with brown around its feet and eyes has a glossy and reflective surface that Russell has perfectly preserved. Situated in a purple-gray 'no mans land' Russell has painted the animal very close to all the edges of the canvas and gives it very little breathing space. It is simultaneously repulsive and something to cherish. Junger Hase Sitzend (2023) is another painting of a bunny, though this time it is seated and looking in the opposite direction. Liegendes Rehkitz (2022) depicts a fawn lying down (a sympathetic Bambi-like creature) that elicits a sense of compassion. Among the ten paintings are also statues of a puppy, a bird, seated and standing dogs, as well as a large bear on a pedestal. These are creepy chotzkies with a history usually found in antique shops.

Russell paints in a vanitas and memento mori style making faithful reproductions that are hyper-real. The size of the paintings removes the preciousness of the original porcelain figurines and imbues them with a power and dominance that is reminiscent of their Nazi heritage. The unsettling history of the objects and their manufacturing can't be separated from the paintings and that is Russell's intent: to fuse the beauty and the horror and to let the viewers come to terms with how they chose to interpret what they confront on the canvases.

Click here for Robert Russell on its own page.

March 23, 2023

Vanessa Prager
Diane Rosenstein Gallery
February 14 - April 1, 2023

Vanessa Prager

Just looking at her paintings, it seems obvious to conclude that Vanessa Prager loves paint. Her canvases are filled with thick blobs of oil paint that become bubbly-textured surfaces reminiscent of multi-colored cottage cheese ceilings. Over the years, she has created abstractions as well as figures, faces and flowers, all encased in gloopy paint. For her current exhibition, she creates evocative quasi-portraits replacing sitters' heads with elaborate floral arrangements. These hybrid plant/people are humorous and grotesque simultaneously. The paintings undeniably pay homage to the works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th Century Italian painter who created portraits made by combining a variety of foods and plants. While Arcimboldo's depictions were illusionistic, Prager's portraits are expressive and abstracted. For example, The Card Player (all works 2023) is a monumental diptych that spans two long large canvases. An overabundant bouquet appears as a huge plume of brightly colored hair rising above a bit of white and green diamond patterned clothing covering the neck of a figure at the bottom of the image. Although it is hard at first to discern if Prager is depicting the front or backside of the person, upon close examination, two deep blue off kilter eyes emerge from the wide swirl of flowers. More monster-like than human, a face slowly appears from the mass of colors.

While Prager's paintings clearly draw from Arcimboldo, they also reference paintings of flowers by artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, as well as many other Impressionists. They also derive from portraits of Florentine women from the 15th Century, many wearing jewelry on exposed necks, their gazes toward the viewer. Although these art historical references can be cited, Prager's portraits are uniquely her own and speak to a transformation from person to thing, be it real or imagined. As a self taught painter, she is knowledgeable about the history of art, yet chooses a style of depiction that is more naive than realistic.

Viewing the exhibition can be like a treasure hunt, looking for eyes and mouths amongst the foliage. The works play with personification and it is interesting to think about how the constructions of these towers of flowers take on different personalities. In Visit of the Sun, Prager paints a torso wearing a white shirt with black rectangles supporting a blossoming array that recalls Van Gogh's images of Sunflowers. The shapes of the sunflowers can be seen as a cartoony face and give the painting a comical aura. Silhouette in Yellow is a side, rather than front view of a female figure. Here, the flowers form her hair, brow and chin, as well as suggest decorations in her hair.

Prager's impasto and sculpted surfaces are filled with flowers, created with true to life colors— red, yellow, purple, blue, pink— and often dotted by areas of green (leaves). They can be seen as elaborate masks, like those worn at masquerade balls that obscure the faces of the wearer. Who these faceless entities were and who they have become is part of the intrigue. Prager embraces transformation and imbues her paintings with a raison d'etre that celebrates an uncanny sense of beauty and opulence.

Click here for Vanessa Prager on its own page.

March 16, 2023

Refik Anadol
Living Paintings
Jeffrey Deitch
February 14 - April 29, 2023

Refik Anadol

Refik Anadol has quickly risen from making humble data driven artworks that adorn public facades, filling them with undulating colors based on different systems and information sources to become an international super-star whose generative imagery covers museum walls and even recently served as the backdrop for the 2023 Grammy Awards. The Istanbul born, Los Angeles based artist creates large-scale, ever-morphing generative imagery that uses AI and draws from various datasets. 

His first solo commercial gallery exhibition also serves as an introduction for those not already familiar with his work and his process, as some of the pieces on exhibit are as didactic as they are visual. Included are explanatory videos that illustrate the concepts and research that went into creating the works. While it is helpful to understand the why and how, the power of the exhibition is its visual and sonic bombardment.

One of the exhibition highlights is a huge LED wall that alternates between Artificial Realities: Coral Dreams and Artificial Realities: Winds of LA, Pacific Ocean, California Landscapes (both 2023). These pieces are based on datasets collected from the Los Angeles area and the display alternates between abstract and representational imagery. Through the sequence, coral and sea plants become undulating and twisting abstractions derived from data-mapping the source imagery. Anadol often collaborates with scientists and composers on the development and final presentation of the works and Artificial Realities resonates with such impact in part because it is coupled with a frenetic soundscape that increases the intensity of the experience. While it is easy to be mesmerized by the nuances of this ever-changing large-scale display, it is only one of many works in the exhibition.

Moving from the front to the very back of the darkened gallery, one finds Anadol's Los Angeles rendition of Infinity Room (originally created in 2015), an immersive mirrored environment filled with black and white projections featuring lines and geometric shapes that completely surround the viewer. A four channel soundscape accompanies the work which runs for fourteen minutes and was created through Anadol's custom software. The installation is purposely disorienting. Upon entering the room, one's equilibrium and conventional modes of perception are skewed, creating a jarring sense of space. 

In contrast to the more immersive works, the exhibition includes a scale model and video documentation of Anadol's 2019 projection on the Walt Disney Concert Hall. For this site specific commission, Anadol developed a unique machine intelligence program that culled through the Los Angeles Philharmonic archives to create a visual artwork that was projected on the facade of the building. The work traces the history of the LA Phil, integrating images and graphics in a kaleidoscopic collage. Another explanatory video engulfs the far back wall of the gallery from floor to ceiling. This piece illustrates some of Anadol's environmentally based visualizations and is juxtaposed with three small square screens on pedestals showing versions from Machine Hallucinations: California Landscapes, a work based on a dataset of 155 million images of nature. As described on his website, "using StyleGAN2-ADA to capture the machine’s hallucinations of California landscapes and colors in a multi-dimensional space, Anadol and his team trained a unique AI model with subsets of the collected image archive. Each image in the series displays a cluster of chosen "hallucinations," and Anadol makes selections from countless serendipitous allusions to landscape images occurring in the machine-mind." Anadol has dedicated resources researching machine learning and trains his computers to be "artists." Using AI, they "generate abstracted landscapes, constructing new aesthetic visuals and color combinations based on the dataset and through unique lines drawn by algorithmic connections." Using a term like hallucinations suggests an embodiment of machines that is reminiscent of the current frenzy around newly released AI tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E.

Along the central space, twelve vertically oriented LED screens span opposing walls, displaying looping videos that visualize different aspects of the California landscape. Each screen houses a sixteen minute sequence that illustrates the diversity and complexity of Anadol's algorithms. It is interesting to try to reverse engineer the process to understand how the machine interprets data, turning pictures of natural elements into arrays of ever-mutating pixels. Relationships can be made between recognizable depictions of the landscape and the machine's interpretations. Anadol's works at any scale are filled with undulating and swirling arrays of colored imagery, presented as tiny pixels that are forever breaking apart and coalescing. The motion is always mesmerizing and eye-catching. 

Anadol explores the intersection between technology and aesthetics. As the technologies become more complex, they move further and further away from "artistic" subjectivity and while Anadol is interested in the brain and the way memories can be visualized, the works are mostly about process — how the machine learns and how AI can sift through data and transform it into graphic arrays that wow audiences, but ultimately don't do much more than that.

Click here for Refik Anadol on its own page.

March 9, 2023

Peter Fischli
Rena Spaulings Fine Art
February 17 - April 1, 2023

Peter Fischli

Peter Fischli is best known for his collaborative works with David Weiss. They began collaborating in 1979 and although they created numerous projects and exhibited regularly as Fischli/Weiss, they are best known for their Rube Goldberg-est film The Way Things Go from 1987. While the duo worked together until Weiss' death in 2012, Fischli now makes works that stem from their collaborations and exhibits on his own. For his exhibition, Ungestalten, Fischli presents nine new sculptures and a series of photo-collages.

Hung as diptychs, the mostly black and white photo-collages were shot in Zurich over the last three years and while they are based on images of vandalism, Fischli has transformed them into humorous urban interventions. The images collage different shaving cream blobs made by teenagers on poles or on the ground throughout the city — a form of temporary graffiti as the shaving cream dissolves overnight — with out-of-focus negative images also taken in Zurich's urban areas. Fischli's creations celebrate the foamy shapes, turning them into mountains and other three-dimensional elements. While the photographs occupy the perimeter walls of the gallery, the sculptures are presented in the center of the open space.

They appear to be ad-hoc traffic lights that resemble minimalist sculptures as well as gallows composed of vertical and horizontal beams with dangling light boxes that flicker on and off at indeterminate intervals. These free-standing structures are haunting and dysfunctional as traffic signals. The boxes contain circular lights and are hung at different heights like fruit on a tree and display either white, red or yellow illuminations that cycle on and off at different rates. Some of the devices work, while others are unplugged or in different stages of disrepair— with missing fixtures and rogue cords and wires. Fischli has fabricated these works out of wood, glass and cardboard and has allowed patches of different tones of gray paint to accumulate on their surfaces to suggest repetitive repairs. They have a ghost-like appearance and though modern in their design, they feel like they were constructed for a stage set or rescued from a defunct city model. Though some are functional, their purpose is ambiguous and their signaling unclear. Walk or wait? Stay or go? The atmosphere they collectively create is at once daunting and comical.

Seen together, the sculptures and photographs allude to a decaying city, once a place of beauty but now undergoing a slow and irreversible demise. One further work is situated outside the gallery and embedded under a steel grate covering a hole in the sidewalk near the front door. As one enters the space, a careful listener will notice music emanating from below, another example of Fischli's intervention into the fabric of urban life. While much of Fischli's work is conceptually driven, he is also a formalist whose works nod to Minimalism, while simultaneously exploring the fragile nature and vulnerability of city spaces.

Click here for Peter Fischli on its own page.

March 2, 2023

Clayton Schiff
Close Quarters
February 11 - March 25, 2023

Clayton Schiff

Clayton Schiff's paintings metaphorically depict psychological states and emotions that everyone can relate to. While his characters have some realistic qualities, they are for the most part cartoony exaggerations featuring male figures situated in interior and exterior spaces. In Subject (2022) the large, bald head with huge ears and bulging eyes of a body-less figure lifts himself up by his hands to peer across an expanse where a much smaller version of a man (perhaps the figure's older self) walks away toward the lower edge of the gray-brown canvas. The intense stare and confused expression reflects the subject's surprise. Council (2022) features four iterations of a similar figure. Here, an older man without clothes is stretched out across the diagonal of the painting, head toward the bottom left and feet toward the upper right. He is lying on a beige colored carpet, or perhaps the ground, which could also be sand. From a large hole in his midsection emerges the head and shoulders of a younger version of this figure who stares directly at the older man. Two other figures pop up from holes in the ground and gaze upon the head of the outstretched figure.

While the spaces in Subject and Council are undefined, the setting of Sanctum and Check-In (2023) are urban exterior scenes. In Sanctum, a gigantic green figure slouches against a building as if leaning on and merging with the facade simultaneously. His head rests on the flat roof as his feet extend out along the ground completing the curve made by his slack legs. One of the figure's elongated arms stretches across the top of the building, it's hand droops over the edge and grabs the upper portion of an open window for support. The other arm and hand fuse with the green foliage that grows from the buildings corner. The painting radiates a moment of obscure tranquility as well as sci-fi absurdity. The facade of an Art-Deco building is pictured in Check-In where a Gumby-like figure climbs up a ladder and looks at a window only to see his reflection looking back. The two figures hold each other's gaze and do not appear to think this is out of the ordinary.

A naked old man with a wrinkled forehead is wedged between large light-colored rectangles that resemble three-dimensional paintings or Minimalist sculptures in Close Quarters (2023), and in The Clipper (2022), another elderly figure with extremely long legs and arms, wearing only socks (with holes in the toes) sits on a wooden school chair clipping his fingernails. An eerie light filters in from the windows behind him casting a green-toned aura around his head. At the end of the long hallway illustrated in Getting In (2022), a man who has the body of a bear puts a key in the lock of the door to his apartment. He appears to be returning from shopping as he is carrying bags, two of which are draped over his wrists, the third rests on the floor against the wall. As in Schiff's other paintings, this solitary figure is depicted in a space that is recognizable and realistically rendered. At the same time, he appears to be an apparition— both human and not human simultaneously.

Schiff's humble figures go about their business, be it the intimate tasks of personal grooming or the everyday activity of shopping. His characters appear to be at peace with their abnormalities. While recognizable places are depicted, Schiff's closely cropped views are surreal. They have a cinematic and dream-like fragmentation and suggest an unknown journey into the character's and perhaps the artist's unconscious.

Click here for Clayton Schiff on its own page.

February 23, 2023

Jake Kean Mayman
Le Maximum
February 4 - March 12, 2023

Jake Kean Mayman

Comprised of just six paintings strategically placed on the gallery walls to form a conversation with each other, Jake Kean Mayman's evocative exhibition Ergonoptics not only illustrates his technical skills as a painter, but also his conceptual wit. The title of the exhibition is a made-up word combining "ergonomics" and "optics" that both explains and confounds the work. The paintings range from the depiction of strange, uncanny objects like obscure medical devices and an ergonomic keyboard for one hand to single sheets of upright folded graph paper. Each large scale oil painting has a monochrome background, be it black, blue, green or light pink-orange. Within these colored fields, Mayman presents realistically rendered objects, strangely illuminated as if placed on seamless backdrops and softly lit with colored gels.

Suture Pad (Ethicon) 2023 greatly enlarges what is actually a small polypropylene suture pad designed for the practice of stitching skin. The flesh-toned pad is scored with straight lines and curves that represent different shapes of surgical incisions. It is an unusual subject for a painting and could easily be misinterpreted as a drawing template. In Mayman's presentation, it is larger than life and rests in an otherwise empty space, appearing more like a discarded mattress than a medical instrument. Suture Pad (Polydioxanone) 2023 is similar in color, though it depicts a suture pad with raised mouth-like shapes rather than thin recessed lines. One corner is raised at the edge and jumps off the canvas with trompe l'oeil veracity.

In contrast to these two flesh-toned works are two paintings with light blue backgrounds, matching the color of the lines on graph paper. Again, playing with trompe l'oeil, Mayman presents these creased pages standing upright as if dancing. In Coordinate Paper (Primary Scatter Plot, Off Grid Yellow) 2022, a small folded yellow paper dot jumps out from the background in the upper right corner of the painting and draws the viewer's eye diagonally down the composition to a filled in red square in the lower corner of the gridded paper. Coordinate Paper (Primary Scatter Plot, Off Grid Red), 2022 is in some ways a mirror image as here the dot at the top of the canvas is red whereas the filled in square is yellow. From a certain position in the gallery, these paintings can be viewed together allowing the viewer to compare and contrast their subtly different blue backgrounds and the intensity of their painted shadows.

The largest painting in the exhibition, Orthotic Leverage Augment (Gary Fay Articulated Fingers) 2023 features a disembodied arm that cuts across the horizontal of the canvas jutting out from a mottled black background. Attached to each finger is a brightly colored (purple, red, blue, yellow, green) mechanical extension. Are these devices meant to aid or to entertain? The beckoning hand is a curiosity, both inviting and off putting. Mayman is interested in where the natural and the technological intersect and in Ergonoptics, he has constructed a suite of paintings that juxtapose man-made objects (some designed to help the human body adapt to machines, others designed for the hand to mark upon) with pure color to explore how the optical and the ergonomic mix.

Click here for Jake Kean Mayman on its own page.

February 16, 2023

Phillip K Smith III
Light + Change
Palm Springs Art Museum
November 25, 2022 - May 7, 2023

Phillip K Smith III

Phillip K Smith III makes works that glow. His individual pieces and his installations share a kinship with California Light and Space artists like James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Larry Bell as they are primarily about light and the nuances of shifting colors of light over time. Differing from that earlier group of artists, Smith is interested in "light + change." His works are durational and in order to be experienced in full, viewers need to stand in front of them taking in subtle transitions in colors. Some of Smith's sculptures are high tech— created with LEDs, electronics and other man made or synthetic materials, while others are built from wood.

Presented in the natural landscape, many of Smith's pieces are site specific and immersive, yet they are still quite engaging and successful when seen inside museums and galleries. Light + Change includes works dated from 2004 to 2022 and these floor and wall based sculptures fill a specially designed darkened space in the museum. The earliest pieces (located in the center of the installation) are Smith's Cylinders (2004), floor based sculptures that are lit from below and comprised of interlocking Douglas fir stakes fashioned together to create towering, complex, geometric forms that emit an internal glow as they rise from the ground.

As viewers move from space to space, the different types of glows become more apparent. Twelve 90's (2022) opens the exhibition. It consists of twelve glass and aluminum "boxes" positioned on the wall at 90 degree angles, each side emitting a different color of light. The sculpture appears to change as viewers pass because it is programmed to cycle through different colors and displays infinite combinations. Numerous, ever changing colors also occur in Two Corners (2022) where large mirrored light boxes filled with LEDs are installed on adjacent walls that meet in a corner. Viewers see themselves in the mirrored surfaces, along with numerous receding rectangles that slowly morph from hue to hue. In his site specific installations, Smith choreographs experiences that explore not only principles of color theory, but also how the human eye perceives colors that radiate, mix and contrast with each other.

Smith’s seductive and captivating work is simultaneously architectural and perceptual, sculptural and environmental. He is a master craftsman who is as skilled in shaping large acrylic formations into curved shapes, as he is at programming electronics. Sky Torus 2.1, 3.1 and 4.1 (2022) are large illuminated disks of concentric rings of different widths and changing hues, installed on three separate walls. While each Sky Torus is an individual sculpture, they work in concert with each other to create an environment. Both alone, but more so when seen together, Smith's awe inspiring pieces have a meditative and even spiritual aura. While the "wow" factor is huge in Smith's installations, the works retain their initial appeal and illustrate Smith's sensitivity to the changing light in the desert landscape where he makes his home. He is a thoughtful observer interested in echoing natural phenomena and translating that experience into powerful and memorable works of art.

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

February 9, 2023

Elliott Hundley
Regen Projects
January 14 - February 19, 2023

Elliott Hundley

Elliott Hundley's creations have always been superabundant. His dense canvases are usually filled with thousands of small cut-outs— shapes, figures, snippets from advertisements— pinned to the surface of the works and extended out at different heights to turn the two-dimensional paintings into three-dimensional sculptures. For Echo (an exhibition named after his parrot), he uses the gallery space as a grand "canvas" and fills it with both new and old paintings, sculptures, works on paper, neon and objects from his collection. The result is an immersive installation that invites viewers to travel through a carefully curated trajectory that culls together different aspects of his work spanning twenty years.

The poster for the exhibition features his parrot Echo posed in front of The Plague (2016), one of Hundley's densest compositions. The parrot was the inspiration and partially responsible for the piece Echo (2022), a mixed media sculpture and one of the first works viewers encounter, comprised of broken bits of light purple foam compiled into a dilapidated structure. As Hundley worked in his studio, his parrot also made art — tearing apart the foam— and these discards became the focus of the piece. Purple foam (he uses this material like a palette to support his pins) walls also encircle the front room of the gallery presented as readymades— combinations of paintings, framed works on paper and Hundley's now iconic assortment of pinned shards that are interspersed between the works, not as an afterthought, but rather as a connecting thread.

It is interesting to try to figure out which works are the most recent and which are earlier as Hundley has created abstract paintings throughout his long career, some covered with pins, others not. The overall motifs are swirling interlocking spirals, be it wires, paint or collaged fragments. The works are filled with literary references and often take their point of departure from Greek tragedies (Euripides) or other iconic writers like Jean Genet. One of the most spectacular pieces in the show is the multi-panel, forty foot long work Balcony (2021), titled after Genet's 1956 play set in an unnamed city in the throws of an uprising. The chaos within the play, brought to life within Hundley's work, is depicted as a cacophony of overlapping elements that explore the relationship between fantasy and reality, as well as issues of resistance, protest, hysteria and pleasure.

Because there is so much to look at in the exhibition, the experience becomes a colossal collage. The impact of the totality is greater than the power of the individual pieces. While it is interesting to see Hundley's development and the interconnections among the works, the real thrill is the discovery that comes with looking closely. To learn that a voluble parrot follows him around the studio and was a quasi-collaborator on one work inserts a human element into what otherwise can come across as impenetrable because it contains so much. By breaking things down and exhibiting his process and history, Hundley opens up a space for dialogue and conversation. This can be interpreted as a pause rather than a bombardment and thus invites close scrutiny and further contemplation.

Click here for Elliott Hundley on its own page.

February 2, 2023

Pace Gallery and David Kordansky Gallery
January 21 - February 25, 2023


To fully experience Calder/Tuttle: Tentative one must cross La Brea Avenue and visit both David Kordansky and Pace Galleries. On view at Kordansky are Richard Tuttle's new, small-scale, wall based sculptures, as well as intricate and minimal works on paper. Pace Gallery is showing works by Alexander Calder from 1939 selected and installed by Tuttle. The relationships and conversation between the two exhibitions flows forward and back with a force equal to the cars criss-crossing the avenue.

At Pace, one assumes they will encounter an exhibition featuring Calder's graceful mobiles and sculptures flowing freely within the space, but that is not the case. Each of Calder's works seem to be barricaded: surrounded by large sheets of white PVC hinged together to create walls and plinths that enclose or elevate the sculptures. These "pavilions" function as interruptions and are dominant enough to change the way the pieces are experienced. It is not unusual for Calder's works to be placed on special pedestals or for walls to be built to isolate the mobiles and sculptures from surrounding artworks and to direct where the shadows are cast. Tuttle's intervention is extreme, presenting Calder's works as if they are held prisoner. That Calder created these delicate works in 1939 amid the outbreak of World War II comes into play. Perhaps Tuttle's enclosures are a form of protection? Where these pieces fall within the trajectory of Calder's ouevre may be important, yet their history and even their visual beauty is overshadowed by the installation.

The floor-based red wire sculpture Sphere Pierced by Cylinders is placed in front of two freestanding "walls" forming a "V" that limits the view to only one side. A smaller untitled work rests on a pedestal that is enclosed by four "walls" with small rectangular slots that form windows to provide cropped views of the piece. Tuttle also clusters a group of small sculptures/maquettes together, placing them on an ad hoc "shelf" that extends horizontally about waist high and is bordered by tall vertical partitions. He presents Calder's work Little Mobile for Table's Edge balanced not on a table's edge, as it is usually displayed, but on a tower of nine small cubes that resembles a Minimalist (Sol LeWitt/Carl Andre) sculpture.

Across the road, Tuttle is "Tuttle the artist" rather than "Tuttle the curator," where two new series are on view: Black Light (wall based sculptures) and Calder Corrected (works on paper). In keeping with Tuttle's "paradoxical relationship to dematerialization," the seemingly fragile works that comprise the Black Light series are constructed from paper, tape, glue and t-pins, tinted with watercolors and marked with graphite. They are abstract forms— appearing as casual assemblage of shapes — long rectangles, curves and squiggles that are more like three-dimensional drawings than robust sculptures. As in Tuttle's previous works, these pieces display a gracefulness and simplicity that alludes to more philosophical and conceptual ideas relating to confidence and certainty as referred to in the exhibition title: Tentative.

In Black Light #10, two tall thin boxes or miniature "beam-like forms" painted with a light brown wash are crossed by a third angled at a diagonal that could be seen as a hashtag missing one line. Above and in front of the single angled cross bar is a purple quotation mark reminiscent of a tear-drop against a small white parallelogram shape with a bit of yellow that seems to function as support. From the side, the dimensionality of the forms becomes evident, as does their funky construction: folded paper shapes painted delicately on their front sides only. Black Light #22 is a vivid yet washy orange and yellow assemblage consisting of intersecting beams that could stand in for long warehouses seen from above, nested against a more compact central office. From the front, the shapes appear to flatten out and become a single entity while from the side, Tuttle's stacking of the elements is more apparent. Many of these works have small hand written numbers and letters, as well as words indicating placement like "top," as if the pieces were maquettes.

While there may be anticipation that the Calder Corrected series will in some way relate to actual works by Calder, they in fact are pairs of pages from Tuttle's notebooks containing doodles, lines and shapes that have been interrupted, yet come together as incongruous juxtapositions. In Calder Corrected, 8 two white and one yellow-gold rectangle meet along an imaginary center line. The yellow-gold rectangle is covered in scribbles whereas the collaged white rectangles cover stray pencil marks. Calder Corrected, 2 is comprised of four disparate groups of slightly curved parallel pencil lines with all but one group covering a third of the pages. A rectangle overlaps the one set of lines that extend to the edges of the paper.

The ambiguous and provisional nature of these works also references the exhibitions title. While Tuttle's works may appear tentative, they are always purposeful. The linkages to Calder are not obvious in Tuttle's pieces, yet, both artists are interested in weight and balance as well as the relationship between positive shapes and negative space. It is enough to have Calder in mind when regarding Tuttle's work and Tuttle's in mind when viewing Calder's to think about how making art in pre-war 1939 may parallel the menacing and fragile world we live in today.

Click here for Calder/Tuttle on its own page.

January 26, 2023

Mungo Thomson
Time Life
Karma, Los Angeles
January 14 - March 4, 2023

Mungo Thomson

Time Life is an installation by Mungo Thomson consisting of eight short stop motion animations that cycle through pages of books accompanied by soundtracks composed by Andrea Centazzo and Pierre Favre, Laurie Spiegel, Sven-Åke Johansson, Lee Ranaldo, Ernst Karel, Pauline Oliveros, Adrian Garcia, and John McEntire. Time Life has myriad associations— the iconic magazines Time and Life, as well as a series of books (published between 1961 and 2000) spanning various topics from art and photography to science and history. The title of the show brings to mind the works of Matt Lipps who created a series of photographs based on the 17-volume book set, Library of Photography, published by Time-Life Books in 1970-1972. For this series, Lipps cut out and assembled pictures from the actual books, placing the black and white fragments on shelves and then rephotographing them against colored backgrounds. Printed large, these arrangements explored how new spatial and conceptual relationships could be created through the juxtaposition of unrelated images. Lipps was also interested in the connections between the analog and the digital, a subject that Thomson also explores.

Thomson's eight films touch on a range of seemingly arbitrary topics: Volume 1. Foods of the World (2014–22), Volume 2. Animal Locomotion (2015–22), Volume 3. Flowers (Nahbild) (2015–22), Volume 4. 1000 Questions (2016–22), Volume 5. Sideways Thought (2020–22), Volume 6. The Working End (2021–22), Volume 7. Color Guide (2021–22), Volume 8. Seashells (for Shane). In each fast paced film, the reproductions fly by at such speed that it is often impossible to read or retain what is depicted. Each work is carefully composed and choreographed in addition to being syncopated with a unique soundtrack that enhances the flow of information.

In the first film Volume 1. Foods of the World (2014–22), snippets of pages from cook books are presented ranging from fragmented recipes, pictures of food— wine, fruits, vegetables, all kinds of meals— as well as titles and other details from the various pages. As the film cycles through the images, it becomes obvious that they have been photographed at different orientations so some pictures are on their side or even upside down. Many are cropped to create a quasi-narrative that moves in close, then further back to isolate different aspects of the pages. Sometimes the grid of the copy stand is present, alluding to the apparatus used to create the work.

A similar disorientation occurs in Volume 2. Animal Locomotion (2015–22) where Thomson captures images of both men and women doing various types of exercises (the title refers to the famous photographic series by Eadweard Muybridge). For Volume 3. Flowers (Nahbild) (2015–22), the sequence moves through reproductions of flowers while oscillating between close-ups where the printed dot screen becomes an abstract pattern to images of the flowers with their names pictured in the landscape, or in gardens. In Volume 4. 1000 Questions (2016–22), every question from a 1992 book set called Understanding Science and Nature bombards the screen, whereas in Volume 7. Color Guide (2021–22), the entire frame is filled with colors culled from more than 2000 Pantone swatches that appear to extend across the room while creating an ever-changing glow in the space.

As the current news is filled with stories about AI and machine learning/vision, it is easy to imagine accumulations of data like Thomson's collection of images being fed to a computer. That his starting point is printed rather than digitized source material resonates. It also brings up questions between the digital and the analog, especially with respect to how-to manuals. For example, when still images are filmed in sequence, they become animated and when they were originally created, the aim was to provide step-by-step instructions, whereas today if one wants to learn how to cook, or tie a knot, or perform a certain stretch, thousands of videos can be found online. Although Thomson's films are fast paced, they harken back to a bygone era and retain the CMYK dot patterns of pre-digital mechanical reproduction. The films are mesmerizing and sophisticated and hard to turn away from. While one can imagine a machine being instructed to scan through and preserve millions of pages from books, Thomson's films are hand crafted to appear mechanical and use a carefully sequenced progression of imagery and sounds to draw viewers in and hold their attention. They are amazing progressions that resonate formally, structurally, aesthetically and conceptually long after the screen goes dark.

Click here for Mungo Thomson on its own page.

January 19, 2023

Christopher Murphy
Billis Williams Gallery
January 7 - February 18, 2023

Christopher Murphy

Since his first exhibitions in the early 2000s, Christopher Murphy has presented paintings and works on paper, often derived from found photographs. Murphy looks closely at both people and their surroundings, including the built and natural landscape, and he appears to faithfully reproduce the originals with exacting detail. While at first glance, his works are "normal" and "believable," there is always something purposely off, or "surreal" in his depictions. Murphy's works are disorienting as he uses images of the past to comment on the isolation and need for connection missing from recent times.

In the exhibition Tangle, Murphy focuses on groups of people, often closely pressed together. There is something strange about these works. As the title of the exhibition suggests, what is most striking is how the figures intersect to become a tangle of intertwined bodies and limbs. For example, I thought We Settled on Florals (all works 2022) is a closely cropped image looking down at a crowd of young men, all (but one) wearing mustard yellow t-shirts and matching caps. They are gathered together: perhaps waiting for an unknown event. All have close cropped dark hair. Some wear thick black glasses, while the facial features of others are obscured by their hats. Centered in the composition is an individual with crossed arms dressed in a floral patterned shirt and hat, obviously the "odd man out."

Hang in There is equally familiar and disconcerting. In this painting, (presumably based on a photograph from the 1970s or 1980s) Murphy portrays six girls from the just above the knees, many wearing patterned sweaters over white, button-down, collared shirts. Their hair rises toward the top edge of the painting against the sand-colored background. The painting seems to be oriented incorrectly to show the figures right side up. After a "double take," it becomes evident that these kids are hanging upside down at a park or a playground with their long brown hair pulled down toward the ground by the force of gravity. That two of the figures are wearing the same sweater as well as pants gives pause and invites closer examination as to whether these are indeed the same person repeated in different outfits.

While Murphy describes the starting point for his works are found photographs culled from family albums, thrift shops and estate sales, he also speaks about the fact that he often re-contextualizes the figures, re-stages the action or creates invented scenarios. While photographs are instantaneous, paintings take time. The surface of a photograph is often smooth whereas a finished painting is the result of many layers that become a combination of textures resulting from different applications of paint over time. If one squints, the paintings verge on pattern, as Murphy repeats gestures and forms across the compositions like in Four on the Floor and Shake a Leg where "cheerleaders" or "dancers" are duplicated and become visual rhythms consisting of cropped bodies.

What is unique about Murphy's work is how he translates the photograph into a painting. The skin of the people in many of Murphy's paintings is a fractured texture akin to peeling, modulated paint or a scraped cottage cheese ceiling. In some senses, this texture is off putting, as in Coordinate, a painting of four young women all wearing the same multicolored striped sweaters, perhaps sisters, or even the same person at different moments in time. The contrast of the textured skin with their refined hair and the abstracted background not only illustrates Murphy's dexterity as a painter, but also his interest in complicating the formal aspects of painting to combine abstraction and representation in a single image.

Click here for Christopher Murphy on its own page.

January 12, 2023

Petra Cortright
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Palm Springs Art Museum
September 26, 2022 – March 26, 2023

Petra Cortright

Behind the huge entry wall with a large-scale, multi-panel digitally created photographic landscape is an array of 50, same-sized monitors looping numerous different short videos created by Petra Cortright between 2007 and 2022. Cortright garnered attention with a series of video self portraits uploaded to YouTube made by posing or performing in front of the web-cam on her computer. Often these campy videos would depict her in costume, cavorting and twirling seductively for the camera. She also incorporated stock digital effects and screen savers by overlaying them into the imagery. These performative videos are juxtaposed with several screen recordings of her layered Photoshop compositions. Here, the process of building some of the digital landscapes prints on view in the rest of the exhibit is revealed.

Though not the first thing viewers see, this video wall serves as the index of the exhibition and provides the trajectory of Cortright's process. She emerged as a net artist in the early 2000s, then segued into showing videos and installations and has now transitioned to creating printed images filled with fragments of appropriated imagery, as well as her own digital/drawn gestures. While the mesmerizing video wall serves as a summary, the focus of the exhibition is her printed digital landscapes.

Five small-scale framed works — Flash Stills — serve as an entry point to Cortright's process. The label accompanying these prints relates how she created the series by hacking into the software used to generate animated screen savers to extract 'content' that she later manipulated and collaged together resulting in a suite of surreal images that purposely disrupt the calming nature and intention of the originals.

To fabricate her larger pieces, Cortright composites thousands of layers of textures and photographic imagery. While some of her pictures are her own, most of her imagery is culled from online sources. In her complex collages, she often plays with the relationships between different digital artifacts, as well as high and low resolution graphics to confound viewers about scale and source material. While some of her imagery is clearly recognizable, for example in SHIRLEY'S OF HOLLYWOOD_Seismologist essay_sea kayaker magazine SCHEMATICS GUITAR, (2021) "real" flower petals, leaves, fruit and a vase are intertwined with abstracted lines and gestures made by stroking through layers of color and imagery in Photoshop that criss-cross and obscure any photographic veracity.

Gazzetta Ufficiale SCHOLARSHIP SEARCH "smoking fetish" uk hardcore (2021) is a large-scale (59 x 84 inch) digital painting on anodized aluminum that shimmers and appears to change hues and tonalities depending on how the light reflects off its surface. The imagery resembles elements found in the landscape or seascape as it is filled with clumps of plant-life — tufts of salmon colored grass that could also be interpreted as flames. Cortright's source material is forever mutable and because she is not overly concerned with differences in resolution, these elements are repeated, enlarged, silhouetted and blurred. She unabashedly appropriates from "the endless digital realm" to fabricate works that feel both real (recognizable) and surreal (otherworldly) simultaneously. Rather than obscure her process, Cortright exhibits variations that allow viewers to compare and contrast how adding or subtracting layers changes the work. This is most clearly evident across 1 yr tbill const mat wkly_1998 election results Yavapai County Arizona, Africa Map_anime+manga+background_arbeitsbl‰tter fernsehen, Babyface_Behandlung Muskelkrankheiten.calendar 1998, and 70's television cartoons_Accommodations in Sidney, Australia (all 2022) — where a central "tree" is surrounded by different compositional elements.

Using fragments, pixels and broken down imagery, Cortright has invented a new vocabulary of paint-like gestures that are extracted and repurposed from aspects of the original source material. While she is a painter who does not use paint, her works (although sometimes printed on canvas or linen) do not transcend the digital and in fact are more successful when they embrace their "digital-ness," rather than when she attempts to mask it.

The works are abstract and ambiguous and more about reaching for a digital sublime than about the goings on in the world. That being said, Cortright's titles root the pieces in the present as they are mash-ups of words and phrases from the internet that often don't seem to relate at all to the content of the images. These titles are as enigmatic and puzzling as her imagery and harken back to her career as an internet artist. Cortright's tools are computer software and a range of digital printers, while her material is the internet. She uses these elements as artists from pre-digital eras used brushes, pens, pencils, paint and canvas. It is with insight, skill and determination that this prolific artist has mastered her tools and continues to push boundaries. Petra Cortright: sapphire cinnamon viper fairy, her first museum survey in the United States is an intriguing introduction to the range of her past and present works.

Click here for Petra Cortright on its own page.

January 5, 2023

Poppy Jones
Body & Soul
Overduin & Co.
December 10, 2022 - January 28, 2023

Poppy Jones

At first glance, Poppy Jones' small, intimate, single hue paintings appear to be photographs. They are close cropped depictions of everyday things — jackets, folded shirts, boots, flowers, lamps, a candle and most beautifully, a page from a spiral bound notebook covered in shadows. These highly detailed paintings have a photographic veracity. They feel like contact prints from vintage negatives that have been selectively hand colored.

For the exhibition, Body & Soul, like in her past installations, the works are given ample space and presented in a line along the gallery walls suggesting a quasi-narrative. The first, (or last) image in the sequence is Shell (all works 2022) a realistically rendered conch shell resting on a table in front of a darker toned vase. The shell approximates its "actual" size and fills most of the 7 5/8 x 10 1/8 inch canvas. A light source outside the frame illuminates the scene, creating a fluted shadow on an adjacent wall. Because it is painted on suede (Jones sometimes cuts up her own garments or uses fabrics such as suede, silk, or cotton as a surface), there is an unevenness to the ground that accentuates the texture of the shell in this case. Here, Jones' focus is on the way light illuminates objects and while she depicts fragments and interior scenes, she is conscious of presenting moments that radiate quiet. Her "still lives" are just that — still.

Lumen, Interior (Evening) and Lux are also painted on suede in singular sepia tones. In Lux, the metal arm of a floor or desk lamp enters near the bottom left side of the composition and extends toward the right across the frame. Jones depicts the bright glow of a light bulb housed within the shade in contrast to the black of the lamp and the gradient of mid-tones on the wall behind. There is nothing else in the picture. Interior (Evening) and Lumen are less contrasty. In these subtle and minimal paintings, there is little that differentiates the object from the background. As if created in low light, Jones delineates the shapes of a candle, as well as the shade of a table lamp filling the image with a soft, glowing aura.

While none of the paintings depict people, they are present and alluded to. Folded jackets or shirts fill the space in Dawn, Mortal Form (Autumn), Mortal Form (Spring), Sea Weather and Summer Leaves. Titled after seasons, times of day, or the elements, these works are a combination of painted fabric (stripes, quilted down) and the marks or shadows that happen to fall on them. The pieces beg questions— whose garments? Are they in use or discarded? Where are they placed to capture the light and shadow? Each painting suggests a narrative or a story and one of the pleasures in regarding the work is to imagine the scene beyond the image. For example in Glass/Edge, questions arise as to who left the empty wine glass on the edge of the bannister? Why is it there?

While Jones' works are skillfully painted, they resonate beyond their formal qualities. It is not surprising that she draws from literature where descriptions of rooms and objects allude to ideas beyond. A previous exhibition was titled "Cutting Shade" after a verse in a Gertrude Stein poem and for this exhibition, the press release references Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse," pointing to the silence of dilapitated spaces. Like Woolf, Jones brings inanimate objects to life. She captures indistinct moments and imbues them with memories. Her paintings give a delicate presence and a satisfying permanence to that which might otherwise be overlooked. These small works have an expansive intimacy and a lasting aura. 

Click here for Poppy Jones on its own page.

December 29, 2022

David Hockney
20 Flowers and Some Bigger Pictures
LA Louver
November 16, 2022 - January 7, 2023

David Hockney

The combination of his versatility and his ability to embrace new technologies and methods of working sets David Hockney apart from many other artists of his generation. He has had a long and very successful career making paintings, prints, drawings, photographs as well as operas and stage sets. Most recently, he has been creating works with an iPad. Since 2008 when he first got this device, he has experimented with the application Brushes and a custom stylus provided by Apple, developing ways to create drawn lines on the screen that have depth and texture. There is a casualness and spontaneity to Hockney's iPad drawings. They are humble and expressive. When speaking about his early iPhone works he stated, "I draw flowers every day on my iPhone and send them to my friends, so they get fresh flowers every morning... And my flowers last."

In February 2021, Hockney began painting the flower images that make up his current exhibition, 20 Flowers and Some Bigger Pictures. Flowers in vases could be construed as old fashioned and easy but it is remarkable the way Hockney uses his iPad to transform the arrangements, capturing the light and the individual shapes and colors of the stems and petals, as well as the way light reflects through the glass vases. Images of landscapes and flowers have long been the subject of Hockney's work. During the pandemic when travel was limited, a vase on the table caught his attention. He states in the wall text accompanying the exhibition. "I was just sitting at the table in our house and I caught sight of some flowers in a vase on the table. Being February the sun was low casting a deep shadow on the table. I decided to draw it, the background was dark so I made a rich brown for it. After printing it I put it on the far wall facing the table. There it stayed for a few days. It looked very beautiful to me. A few days later I started another from the same position with the same ceramic vase, this took longer to do. I then realised if I put the flowers in a glass vase the sun would catch the water and painting glass would be a more interesting thing to do. So then I was off."

Twenty flower prints (each 35 x 25 inches) are evenly spaced along deep blue walls, bracketed by small and large versions of 25th June 2022, Looking at the Flowers (Framed). In this multi-panel photographic print created via three-dimensional scanning, Hockney is depicted twice, both times from the back, sitting in different chairs, but wearing the same cap and bespoke plaid suit. A stool with an aqua colored vase and a single pink rose (like those in some of the images), as well as a low table with two packs of Camel cigarettes and a bottle of water separates the two depictions of the artist. He regards a deep blue wall covered with the twenty flower images in the show, each in a different decorative carved frame. Hockney delights in the contrast of the old-hand carved fames and his hand-drawn pictures, created in a new way — on the iPad.

In addition to the twenty flowers-- variations on a theme -- are "some bigger pictures" also made with the iPad. Here, Hockney ventures outside again and records his impressions of the area around his studio focusing on trees surrounding a pond, as well as a flowing stream, in addition to a more abstract work, August 2021, Landscape with Shadows, a twelve panel work that depicts a more Cubist view of the landscape as each panel (individual iPad painting) contains wide areas of bright colors and textures, that when presented together don't exactly line up. This creates the illusion of movement, as well as depth. Not only is Hockney an astute observer, but he has the unique ability to transform 'reality' into the flattened picture plane, in such a way as they still retain their crispness and the subtleties of experiencing nature.

That Hockney is prolific goes without saying and while he might create similar images, each work has its raison d'etre and becomes an integral part of the series. He has not only embraced digital technologies, but has excelled in making the tools disappear -- for him, painting on the iPad is like using a pencil on paper or a brush on canvas. His iPad images continue to get brighter and bolder. This, coupled with changes in ink jet printing technologies and three-dimensional scanning (photographing subjects from all sides and digitally compositing them), has enabled Hockney to create bigger and more complex works that continue to wow viewers.

Click here for David Hockney on its own page.

December 22, 2022

William Kentridge
In Praise of Shadows
The Broad
November 12, 2022 - April 9, 2023

William Kentridge

The first work I saw by the South African based artist William Kentridge was in Germany at Documenta X in 1997. On view was the mesmerizing, just under nine-minute animation Felix in Exile (1994), a narrative about the horrors that occurred during apartheid in South Africa. The story was created through a stop motion process that captures a succession of ever changing gestural, charcoal drawings. It chronicles the relationship between the fictional characters Felix Teitelbaum and Soho Eckstein as they navigate the terrain and politics of 1990s South Africa. To make this and his later animations, Kentridge executes a scene or a figure in charcoal, erases parts and adds to it, documenting the steps along the way with a camera. The drawings, as well as the finished video are sometimes exhibited together. Over the years, Kentridge has expanded his practice to include multi-channel projections, stage sets for theatre and even opera. I have had the great fortune of encountering many of Kentridge's stop motion animations and installations in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad since my first encounter with his work and was pleased to see some of his iconic pieces: The Refusal of Time (first shown at Documenta 13 in 2012) as well as Seven Fragments for Georges Méliès (at MOCA Pacific Design Center in 2005), which are also included in the survey exhibition at The Broad.

In Praise of Shadows spans thirty-five years and gives viewers the opportunity to view his sculpture, stage sets, animations and works on paper at the same time. The underlying subject matter of much of his work documents the history of apartheid and the fight against it in South Africa. Kentridge is an astute and thoughtful reader of history, as well as an informed observer of current events who skillfully integrates political messages into his art without overwhelming it.

Whether through a single channel video, a multi-screen projection, or a miniature stage set, Kentridge takes his viewers on a journey. Sometimes the journey is metaphysical, sometimes it is actual, and often it is both as in 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès, Journey to the Moon and Day for Night. Projected together in a large room at The Broad, these films take viewers from the earth into space through a series of ad hoc scenarios. Kentridge cleverly uses props in his studio to create the surface of the moon and the rocket ship needed to travel there. These pieces are breathtaking, delightful and even humorous at times. In addition to these films, other highlights of the exhibition include the spectacular The Refusal of Time (2012). Set within a darkened room filled with crates, chairs and sculptures, The Refusal of Time is accompanied by a cacophony of sounds, as well as five separate video projections in which Kentridge and other actors appear. This bombastic and frenetic piece explores the nature of time and topics relating to both colonialism and industry.

While it is impossible to describe each of the more than 130 works in the jam packed exhibition, the take away is that for over thirty-five years, Kentridge has surprised and amazed audiences, whether through drawing, sculpture, video or installation. He has the uncanny ability to create politically and socially engaged works that are never didactic. While the pieces are beautiful, extremely well executed and emotionally riveting, they more importantly explore past and present injustices in the world and are inspirations for both their candor and exquisite execution.

Click here for William Kentridge on its own page.

December 15, 2022

Uta Barth
Peripheral Vision
The Getty Center
November 15, 2022 - February 19, 2023

Uta Barth

Uta Barth has been exploring the way light interacts with walls, surfaces and spaces throughout her career. The work is often minimal, showing empty areas or flattened planes and it relies on repetition and difference, sometimes subtle, other times drastic or dramatic. Peripheral Vision, an exhibition organized by The Getty Center that traces the highlights of her career includes examples of her graduate student works created at UCLA in the mid 1990s (black and white photographs made in the darkroom) as well as a recent commission that combines color digital photography with a subtle slow-moving video, in celebration of The Getty Center's twentieth anniversary. What is unusual about the way the show is installed is that many of her series are recreated and presented in full as they might have appeared in previous exhibitions. Rather than choose just a few representational photographs, viewers can experience the works as Barth conceived of them— as extended sequences rather than as individual images.

The exhibition opens with the new multi-panel piece titled ...from dawn to dusk (2022), which was shot on site at the Getty over a years duration. Twice a month, she would photograph the entrance to the Harold A. Williams Auditorium every five minutes from dawn to dusk and this archive of images, now printed in different colors and tones, at a range of scales and with a variety of croppings extends across the room, allowing viewers to meditate on the way light and architecture interact and play off each other in this particular location. While some of these images simply record the way light falls on the building, others have been digitally enhanced— colorized, inverted, solarized and/or blurred. The installation spans three walls and is presented in an uneven grid of different sized square photographs, formally paralleling the square blocks of Richard Meier's architecture. It becomes a study of difference, absence, presence and the power of light and its opposite — shadow.

Jumping from the present to the past, many of Barth's early images, while still concerned with architecture, depict more ambiguous spaces. Photographs from series like Ground (1984) and Field(1995-6) are purposely soft and extremely blurry. Ground #41 depicts an out-of-focus bookshelf and Ground #42 features two blurry framed artworks on an aqua-colored wall. Both these images call attention to the periphery and even the space beyond the edges— what might be outside the frame becomes part of the focus, albeit out of focus. For the series Field, Barth photographed distant landscapes and cityscapes to appear like those in the background of films that allude to unspecified locations behind the actors. white blind (bright red) is a suite of work from 2002 in which Barth documented trees and power lines seen through her window. These images are exhibited as a long row that transitions from detailed views to monochrome colored panels — interspersing photographs that are both abstract and representational. Similarly, and to draw a bright white line with light (2011) is made up of photographs that extend horizontally across the gallery space, illustrating the undulations of light and its transition to wavy lines as it passes through drapes covering Barth's bedroom window.

Two very different series from 2017 are examples of more recent work, whereas the commission ...from dawn to dusk is her most current project. The photographs in Untitled (2017) focus on a large blank stucco wall filled with an array of subtle shadows and textures defined by subtly evolving qualities of sunlight. Each mostly "white" or "blank" image is bordered by a strip of gravel at the bottom and a patch of sky, seen through a band of windows or spaces separated by two-by-fours at the top. The shape and large scale of these photographs pays homage to canvases made by colorfield painters as Barth is interested in mood and the emotions elicited by the play of light. The works in In the Light and Shadow of Morandi take their point of departure from the still lives of Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). Here, Barth assembled differently colored glass vessels horizontally along a table (or desk) and a long shelf, turning them into stunning dark silhouettes with magical flares and highlights. These objects were carefully lit to emphasize their volume as well as their flatness simultaneously. Barth accentuated the distortion by presenting them as trapezoids within rectangular frames rather than simply as rectangles.

Barth's photographs are never straightforward and while seemingly minimal, they are carefully constructed and conceptualized. Though many of the works feel more empty than full, the emptiness contains patterns of light and shadow or reference distant spaces or are about foreground background relationships. At its core, Barth's work is about perception and the act of looking. Her pictures frame what is seen as well as what is absent and this duality and ambiguity is what makes her work unique.

Click here for Uta Barth on its own page.

December 8, 2022

Nancy Holt
Locating Perception
Sprueth Magers
October 28, 2022 - January 14, 2023

Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt is best known for her iconic Sun Tunnels (1973-76). But in addition to making land art, site specific installations and sculptures, Holt (1938-2014) was also a prolific photographer whose serial works, often installed in expansive grids, had visual savvy, conceptual underpinnings and a poetic flare. In the first exhibit of her work in Los Angeles since 1985, Sprueth Magers presents Locating Perception which brings together works from the 1970s and 1980s, including three series of photographs: Light and Shadow Photo Drawings (1978), California Sun Signs (1972) and Western Graveyards (1968), as well as "Locator" pieces and the amazing site specific installation Electrical Systems from 1982.

The nineteen square photographs that comprise California Sun Signs are playful pictures containing illustrations of the sun and signage using the word 'sun' that are often featured in street signs and business names. Shown salon style, but not as a precise grid, the photographs recall California's golden era and promise of hope, as well as its inherent contradictions. Though taken in the early 1970s the images feel very current, as if they were recently shot, except for give-a-ways like the photograph of the Sunland Gas Station where the price of gas is 33-35 cents.

To create the photographs for Western Graveyards, Holt photographed dilapidated grave sites in Lone Pine, CA and Virginia City, NV. Across the sixty color photographs (like California Sun Signs, they were also taken with a square format camera), Holt focuses on the shapes of the actual grave sites, the accompanying names and epitaphs, as well as their relationship to the landscape beyond. Though the images are for the most part documentation of found objects, they physically and conceptually resonate as "land art."

In contrast to the square, color photographs shot in the landscape, the black and white images in Light and Shadow Photo Drawings were created in the studio. Holt would shine light through curved cutouts and carefully frame, within the camera, the varying shapes and shadows that appeared on the wall. These grainy abstractions featuring interlocking and overlapping arcs and circles in differing shades of gray recall celestial expanses— they evoke the shape of the planet Saturn, as well as the movement of the stages of the moon across the sky. Through photographs, Holt referred to them as drawings— as they were more about line, shape and texture than the capturing of something found outside. The inclusion of two pieces from Holt's Locator series complements this multi-panel photo-work and helps viewers understand the way Holt conceptualized framing space. In these sculptural pieces originally installed in her studio in NY, an open ended metal tube was placed on a stand and directed toward a window, a wall, and/or the floor. At Sprueth Magers, a large black circle is painted directly on the wall that corresponds to the area framed by the pipe. In many ways, these Locator works are precursors to Holt's monumental Sun Tunnels — large tubular sculptures placed in the Utah desert.

Electrical System occupies the upstairs gallery. Comprised of industrial materials — electrical fixtures, wire, light bulbs and 3/4 inch steel conduit— this site specific sculpture criss-crosses the space, filling it with undulating forms that ebb and flow, rising from the floor towards the ceiling. An accompanying drawing, Electrical System (for Thomas Edison), is a proposal for an installation at John Weber Gallery in 1982 that illustrates how Holt conceived of the work, configured it for that particular space and where it would tap into the existing electrical system. For Sprueth Magers, the installation is re-designed specifically for that space, as here, it wraps around columns and extends horizontally along the walls. Captivating to look at and created by organizing more than seventy lightbulbs and many yards of steel conduit, the work is a three-dimensional rendering of a closed system. It celebrates the rhythms and patterns that form when industrial materials go beyond their intended means.

Throughout her long career, Holt examined the act of looking, be it through, at or beyond. She was interested in the many aspects and manifestations of human perception and the ever changing relationships between light and space. Seeing these early pieces allows viewers to better understand her contributions to the fields of conceptual photography and site specific installation as well as her importance in the canon of environmental art.

Click here for Nancy Holt on its own page.

December 1, 2022

Brad Stumpf
Shadow Plays
November 18, 2022 - January 20, 2023

Brad Stumpf

Thirteen modestly-sized paintings comprise Chicago based artist Brad Stumpf's exhibition Shadow Plays. The paintings are beautiful, personal and intimate. Formally, Stumpf combines thickly applied paint that defines spaces— walls, desks and objects— with more sparsely painted areas representing pieces of paper. These are filled with subtle pencil drawings— flying birds, couples in bed or riding bikes, in addition to affectionate nude depictions of a woman (his wife) and himself. Conceptually, the pieces are about the nuances of home and everyday life. Stumpf arranges and lights still lives inside wooden boxes that rest on table tops, filled with an array of props including small drawings. He then carefully paints these scenarios, flattening the space to fit the two-dimensional picture plane.

For Beating in Sync (2022) he juxtaposes a white bird with a small blue (matchbox sized) toy car: both are expressively rendered with thick brush strokes and wide areas of color. Dangling above the bird and car are four yellow butterflies hanging from strings. Stumpf portrays the scene a glowing yellow as if illuminated by the setting sun. Centered in the composition is a white piece of paper (painted, not collaged) taped to the back of the box and featuring a pencil drawing of two figures lying head to head, their bodies extending horizontally toward the edges of the frame. Though more ambiguous, the painting references the shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell and celebrates the beauty that can be inferred from a collection of random things.

Our Hearts Half Submerged (2022) is a painting of the exterior of a blue house with a triangle shaped roof set against a lightly washed pink background. The house rests at the back of a table (another one of Stumpf's intricate constructions) behind an orange conch shell in the foreground of the composition. Across the facade at either edge of the house are drawings of a naked man and woman holding their hands out toward each other. Centered in what could be construed as a 'picture window' are more nuanced drawings of the couple with prominent orange dots where their hearts would be. Stumpf enjoys creating enigmas and his juxtapositions are poetically suggestive rather than didactic.

In To Be Eclipsed By You (2020) the still life within the box includes domestic objects. Two coffee mugs, one sitting on top of a piece of white paper with interlocking stain-rings like those created by spilled coffee, the other at the right edge sit at the base of the box. Above the mugs, is a pencil drawing on dark orange paper resembling the jagged lines of an EKG, and below that, two pages torn from a spiral drawing pad have been push-pinned to the back of the space. These feature two tiny figures (one male, the other female) riding bicycles on what appears to be a wide concrete expanse. Next to this, Stumpf again includes the detailed drawings of the couple with the orange hearts from Our Hearts Half Submerged, only in this painting a larger orange circle covers and partially obscures another circle that is painted a darker blue. As the title suggests, Stumpf muses on the myriad meanings and presentations of 'eclipse.'

In his quiet and charming paintings, Stumpf focuses on the relationship between painting styles— simply and thickly rendered household objects— and more lovingly detailed pencil drawings of figures. For each work, he creates an elaborate maquette that is carefully lit, filled with specific objects and then faithfully reproduces it as a painting. What he has to say about house, home and relationships is illustrated with both humor and honesty, making these paintings an inviting pleasure to view.

Click here for Brad Stumpf on its own page.

November 24, 2022

Lucy McRae
Future Sensitive
Honor Fraser
October 1 - December 17, 2022

Lucy McRae

Lucy McRae describes herself as a science fiction artist, filmmaker, inventor and body architect. While the terms inventor and filmmaker do not need clarification, what does it mean to be a body architect and science fiction artist? McRae combines technology with industrial and clothing design to create sculptures and wearables: essentially machines that are welcoming. These cushioned and sometimes womb-like objects are meant to provide comfort and support, while simultaneously investigating the impact technology might have on human evolution. McRae's work is collaborative as she often works in partnership with others like a design or architecture studio. Her studio's output "considers how human biology might be augmented by a mixture of physical design, modification of genes and emotions –– technology transforming the body and ethics." McRae has given TED talks, exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Ars Electronica and created projects for NASA. She is currently a visiting professor at SciArc.

In her evocative exhibition, Future Sensitive (coming just a few months after Futurekin and including pieces from this recent installation created for SciArc), McRae fills the gallery with photographs, films and sculptures, fabricated in a variety of materials, that imagine a future world. Her references to the body, interests in sci-fi and the physicality of her installations brings to mind works by Matthew Barney, Andrea Zittel and Lita Albuquerque, artists who also engage with film and sculpture and explore the relationship of the body to a futuristic landscape.

Like Barney, Zittel and Albuquerque, McRae often appears in her own pieces — or designs them for the proportions of her own body. In sculptural works like Post Apocalyptic Sherpa (2019) McRae is depicted in photographs wearing a brown, tan and orange hiking outfit and like a sherpa, carries this load— a futuristic survival kit— on her back. The "kit" is an elaborate, multi-part object equipped with a modified black-out mask, cushions and mats that can be spread out on the floor, or in the natural environment to provide shelter and comfort. A similar work designed to support a single person, Solitary Survival Raft (2019) is a rust and orange hued, full-size fabric raft that imagines what might be necessary to survive when lost at sea.

Heavy Duty Love (2021) is cushioned weightlifting/workout station installed in what appears to be a modified basketball court within the gallery. In this complex contraption, a would-be user pushes their body into the machine and is cradled by soft fabrics that surround them. The work was "designed as an aid to compensate for lack of human touch early in life" and while alluding to betterment, it reads more like a fantasy. McRae constructs detailed narratives for each of her works, creating backstories and scenarios that are prescriptions for life improvements. While at first glance, the outfits and machines in the installation seem confining and even intimidating, akin to stepping into a straight-jacket, McRae asserts that they are devices and places that offer a replacement for human connection.

While technology plays a role in McRae's work, it is often implied and not present. The pieces, while futuristic, are neither mechanical nor infused with sensors or other high-tech devices. Many of the works are soft-sculptures, rather than hard-edged machines. Also featured within the exhibition are three short films including Institute of Isolation, 2016, Delicate Spells of Mind, 2022 and Futurekin, 2022 where McRae's invented worlds come alive. To see the costumes and machines in use by McRae and other actors in the films gives them context and allows for a better imagining of the range of her explorations in relation to the post apocalyptical world that she envisions.

Click here for Lucy McRae on its own page.

November 17, 2022

Daniel Dove
Philip Martin Gallery
October 29 - November 26, 2022

Daniel Dove

In the exhibition Picasso Cut Papers (Hammer Museum October 1 - December 31, 2022), numerous animal forms emerge from folded and cut pieces of paper. Picasso had the ability to maximize the minimal and elicit creatures from just a few marks or gestures, often crafting them into playful and whimsical works. Many of the paintings in Daniel Dove's exhibition reAnimal feature recognizable animals as Dove pays homage to Picasso. An interesting dialogue about influence, inspiration and appropriation occurs as one thinks about the shows in relation to each other.

Dove's painting Grrrl with Guitar (all works 2022) is a "riff" on Picasso's Girl with Mandolin (1910). Here, Dove has modernized the image— while maintaining the Cubist fracturing— depicting the musician in profile with long flowing hair, strumming a guitar. She is set against a background that could be seen as abstracted bright stage lights, suggesting the energy of the Riot Grrl movement, rather than the more sedentary playing of a mandolin. Equus II also draws from Picasso. In this work, Dove isolates the large horse with pointed-tongued in the center of Picasso's iconic painting Guernica (1937). He removes it from its environs and places it in a surreal desert landscape where it appears to be trapped in a modified Marc di Suvero sculpture located in a graffiti filled concrete park.

Giant, isolated creatures centered in the natural landscape are the focus of many of the smaller paintings. In these works, Dove also channels Picasso, painting his animals with minimal features and flat planar bodies. These depictions are more machine than flesh-like, recalling reproductions of sculptures assembled from metal detritus and exhibiting a childlike innocence, despite their monumental scale. The 'beast' painted in Edge Lord is comprised of rusted steel sections, covered with unreadable scrawl, that coalesce into the shape of a bear. The incongruity of the setting — a large sculpture in a desert landscape — recalls the dinosaurs on Interstate 10 near Cabazon, CA. Stance and Nocturnal similarly contain depictions of sculpted animals, functionless anomalies placed in beautifully rendered, innocuous landscapes: something out of place and not quite right.

In Faint Heart, Dove combines a curvaceous human form presented in both two and three dimensions. He merges the trompe-l'oeil foreground and its shadows into the flat background shapes to create a composition that defies expectations and reality. For Embedded, he fragments a kneeling female, placing the individual sections, each painted a different bright color, into separate compartments of a jagged-edged box as if displaying evidence. One of the arms is presented as an orange cylinder, and gives the painting a Surrealistic aura that is reminiscent of Rene Magritte and Louise Nevelson.

Dove is an accomplished painter with the ability to realistically render actual, as well as imagined subjects. In these works, he explores the relationship between flatness and volume by placing invented sculptural forms into California desert landscapes. His fascinating works draw from observation as well as art history. By recontextualizing recognizable elements, he creates new contexts to explore the familiar against the unknown.

Click here for Daniel Dove on its own page.

November 10, 2022

John Divola
Blue with Exceptions
Louise Alexander Gallery / AF Projects
October 15 - November 30, 2022

John Divola

Since the 1970s, John Divola has traversed Southern California photographing abandoned structures found in the natural landscape, as well as interventions he creates within those structures. He has also worked with appropriated photographs including vintage Hollywood film stills, classifying them by subject — mirrors, hallways, evidence of aggression — and assembling them into large grids. Frequently exhibited series include color photographs from Zuma Beach in the 1970s, where he documented changes he found, as well as created, inside a dilapidated house. In works from the 1990s, such as As Far As I Could Get, he shot black and white photographs that caught him in motion running away from the camera. And, in Dogs Chasing My Car In The Desert he produced a series of grainy black and white photographs depicting dogs chasing his car. More recently, for the series George Air Force Base (2015-2017), he has again documented abandoned buildings, visiting the decommissioned George Air Force Base (GAFB) in Victorville, CA numerous times.

Though the camera is Divola's tool, his work is more conceptually based than traditional photo-documentation. While he does produce photographs that beautifully capture a specific light and time or place, his practice is rooted in the exploration, as well as the creation of an "archive." He states, "I have always considered photographs to be artifacts of a physical, intellectual, technological, and experiential engagement. I have come to consider groups of my photographs produced in this manner as archives, and to consider the archive itself as the core of these projects."

In the exhibition Blue with Exceptions, he presents a grid of small-scale black and white photographs, as well as much larger color works shot on site at George Air Force Base. The focus of the color images is not only the crumbling walls and spray painted, windowless interiors, but more poetically how the combination of light falling on both the ruins and Divola's painted interventions intermingle to form beautiful abstract shapes that relate to colorfield painting. These layered images have sight lines that move from irregular and hastily spray painted shapes on walls in the foreground to views beyond, whether down hallways into other rooms or through glassless window panes to trees and other houses outside. In the diptych Blue with Exceptions 1-6-2020, Divola juxtaposes two photographs of long vertical holes in walls, one tinted blue, the other a pinkish-red. Interior walls with spray painted dripping circles, double the size of light switches, are framed through these jagged gashes. There is an uncanny beauty in Divola's depictions of decay.

Contrasting these vivid color photographs is Enso: 36 Right-Handed Circumference Gestures (2018), a grid of thirty-six (8 x 10 inch) black and white contact prints each containing a large black spray painted circle that marks the circumference of Divola's right arm. Divola speaks of these painted gestures as a trace of his physical being, as well as an index of a place and time. Shot on multiple early morning visits to GAFB between June 7th and August 12th, 2018 in different structures on the site, these images document Divola's intervention, while simultaneously highlighting differing degrees of deterioration. Each imprecisely hand-sprayed circle is centered in the frame of the photograph, separating the composition into two distinct parts — what is contained within and what appears outside this shape.

While the photographs are shot straight on from a similar vantage point and arranged chronologically on the wall, they call attention to sameness and difference. The actual shape of the circle and the conditions of the surrounding walls, as well as the way the morning light illuminates the space, calls attention to the uniqueness of each image. In many instances, Divola encircles a section of torn wall with views into another space within, or even outside the building, as if highlighting the location of the wound. Sometimes his circle frames other circles to create a playful pattern.

Seen together, the thirty-six photographs in Enso: 36 Right-Handed Circumference Gestures reference the minimalist grid, graffiti-like repetitive mark making, action based performance and process art. Collectively, they are also a visual archive of the vandalism (includinghis own) that occurred at GAFB. Like much of Divola's other works, Enso: 36 Right-Handed Circumference Gestures and the other photographs in Blue with Exceptions are ultimately about how photography encapsulates history and time, how it records change and what it means to mark a place by leaving a trace.

Click here for John Divola on its own page.

November 3, 2022

Michael Harnish
Lowell Ryan Projects
October 15 - November 12, 2022

Michael Harnish

Lining opposite walls and filling most of the long, narrow gallery space are twelve large-scale vertical paintings (72 x 60 inches), six per side, by Fullerton based painter Michael Harnish. Another suite of ten smaller paintings (48 x 36 inches) are installed along one wall in the upstairs space. Presented as a sequence, but not necessarily a narrative, these idiosyncratic works have abstract as well as representational elements. Titled Shangri-La, the exhibition references that idealized utopia of James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon.

In Harnish's paintings, utopia is a collage of disparate elements juxtaposing paintings of printed representations of nature with ocean views, sunsets and flowers. Searching online for past works and information on the artist reveals a 2020 webpage that showcases his collages. Both carefully cut, as well as torn pages from decor/style magazines filled with flowers, textures and patterns are assembled into works that layer and fragment real and imagined spaces and explore color and different styles of paint application. Harnish uses these collages as a point of departure for his paintings and carefully transforms the printed elements into paint. While there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between the paper collages and the paintings, the works on canvas do retain the collaged referent, especially as Harnish depicts torn edges and white borders often found in reproductions. He also combines different styles and materials— oil, acrylic and spray paint — to convey these varied sources.

Paved Paradise (all works 2022) depicts concrete steps leading up to an area of lush green trees painted with loose expressive brushstrokes. This landscape is interrupted by a sideways fragment of what appears to be a Japanese woodblock print featuring rolling hills or ocean waves outlined in black. Below this is another image fragment with white edges, painted in black and white. In the center of I Try is a headless figure in a bright yellow coat probably culled from a fashion magazine. It is surrounded by other irregularly shaped elements ranging from illustrations of flowers, patterns and receding landscapes that coalesce in a unified composition.

Soft Landing is a jumble of disjointed snippets from myriad sources painted in varying thicknesses and degrees of veracity that are casually arranged on the canvas as if thrown up in the air and allowed to fall randomly. In contrast, Withstanding the Elements feels more structured and deliberately arranged. Here, an abstracted representation of movement (reminiscent of a Japanese print) is centered in the composition bisected by a section torn from another Japanese print of a bright blue and green landscape. While the background suggests mountains and sky, it is impossible to pinpoint the specifics, or a clear sense of space.

Traversing the paintings in sequence is like a journey through a seemingly familiar yet completely unknown and disorienting landscape. Between what is recognizable — flowers, trees, leaves — and the abstract shapes and swaths of color and textured paint that allude to the natural world are reproductions of images with white borders or ragged edges that reinforce the notion of collage. Harnish's montages are not about past and present, but rather explore the relationships between reproduction, observation and memory/imagination. His version of Shangri-La is an inviting yet ambiguous place filled with an array of styles and references, more fragmented and dystopic than an image of paradise.

Click here for Michael Harnish on its own page.

October 27, 2022

Stan VanDerBeek
Panels for the Walls of the World: Phase II
The Box LA
September 17 - November 5, 2022

Stan VanDerBeek

Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) was an experimental filmmaker and visual artist best known for his live action and animated films. These were often presented as multi screen installations to become layered filmic collages. VanDerBeek also created photomontages, often juxtaposing images and headlines from the media as a way to comment on current events. Before many artists integrated technology into their work, VanDerBeek investigated the ways art and technology could intersect. In the 1970s, he was invited to be the first artist-in-residence at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

On view at the Box LA is Panels for the Walls of the World: Phase II, an installation that reconstitutes a work originally created for multiple venues in 1970. First conceived in 1967, VanDerBeek's idea for Panels for the Walls of the World was to transmit collages to multiple locations via a Xerox Telecopy Machine (an early version of Fax technology). As they were received, the images would be assembled into a large grid on the wall following VanDerBeek's layout. He conceptualized the work as 'process art' and a durational project that could reach many audiences at once. Arranged by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in March 1970, the mural was simultaneously sent and constructed over time at Boston's City Hall, Children's Museum, DeCordova Museum and the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts.

In March 2022, the original components of Panels for the Walls of the World (constituting Phase I of the exhibition) were installed at Document Space in Chicago. New transmissions of the individual panels were sent from the VanDerBeek Archives in Brooklyn to Document Space, as well as to the Hyde Park Art Center and EXPO Chicago. Document's exhibition was the first time the original components from VanDerBeek’s facsimile murals were publicly displayed, as well as the first re-transmission since the 1970s to multiple sites simultaneously, in keeping with VanDerBeek's initial intentions.

Phase II of the exhibition is at the Box LA. Here, the original paste-ups are displayed in separate vitrines and the first transmission is installed as a large grid spanning a wall. On an opposite wall is a new version of the transmissions made from saved PDF files that were emailed to the gallery from the archives, printed on site and installed as they arrived, over the duration of the exhibition. The completed Panels for the Walls of the World consists of 153 panels (8.5 x 14 inches each) that when shown together form a grid that is 6 feet high by 20 feet wide. The transmitted copies are black and white and pixelated, in keeping with the image quality of early faxes. In the paste-ups on display, one becomes aware of the yellowing of the original newspaper pages, the fact that many of the photos were in color, as well as VanDerBeek's hand work which consisted of pencil and charcoal lines surrounding many of the images, as well as the presence of green-hued, drawn nude figures. VanDerBeek was among the first artists to embrace electronic technology and was forward thinking enough to investigate ways to send his art via phone lines from one place to another.

The work shows an interest in the collaborative process, as well as how a static work could develop over time, like a film. Today, Panels for the Walls of the World can be thought of as a time capsule documenting the events of the Vietnam War, Nixon's presidency, racism, protests, poverty. The work, while dated, is still current and extremely relevant. Archival photographs, drawings and documents about the project also accompany the exhibition, as well as the compelling Panels for the Walls of the World (Raised Fist), a 15 panel paste-up that illustrated the events around the Kent State killings shaped into a raised fist.

While VanDerBeek's collages share a kinship with Dada, Surrealism and John Heartfield's political photomontages, they are unique because they were conceived as a durational artwork to be sent over phone lines to multiple locations. The work pre-dates the internet and the ease of todays instantaneous global communication systems. Early on, VanDerBeek understood the power of the media and technology and had the foresight to bring the two together, creating powerful works like Panels for the Walls of the World that still resonate today.

Click here for Stan VanDerBeek on its own page.

October 20, 2022

An Te Liu
Low Fidelity
Anat Ebgi
September 17 - October 22, 2022

An Te Liu

In “Low Fidelity” An Te Liu’s bronze, ceramic and steel sculptures juxtapose various packing materials and sports equipment into forms that feel at once familiar yet unexpected. Many of the works are cast from complex molds. Through cropping and selection, Liu fashions these materials into evocative sculptures that draw from his childhood while simultaneously referencing ancient artifacts and modernist sculpture.

Alberto Giacometti comes to mind when first taking in the installation. Carefully positioned in front of a central white wall are four works from Liu's “Stele” series that appear to emerge like poles or plants directly from the concrete floor. These thin, human-scale cast bronze pieces have different patinas and are slightly anthropomorphic. Although they have no discernible body parts, the sculptures allude to headless stick-figures.

In botany, the stele is the central core of a stem, while in archaeology it is a stone or wooden slab, taller than wide, erected as a monument. These pieces cleverly reference both meanings. While they are without doubt formal free-standing objects, they take their cues from nature. “Cactoid I” and “IO (Verschlimmbesserung III)” have plant-like associations. “Cactoid” resembles a desert cactus while “IO,” though more abstract and cartoon-like, also has cacti color and form.

An Te Liu, “Stele Series (II, IV, III),” 2022, cast bronze with patinaThe pieces in Liu's “Verschlimmbesserung” series are derived from the heads of massage guns. They have been enlarged, glazed in earth-tones, turned upside down and placed on pedestals, turning them into sensual and organic presences. By titling the series “Verschlimmbesserung,” a German compound noun that refers to "an attempted improvement that only makes things worse," Liu questions not only the desire for self-improvement, but also the process of making art that transforms one kind of object into another. There is also an implicit self-critique as to whether or not his sculptures are an improvement on the source objects at all.

An Te Liu, “Over Time,” 2022, cast bronze with patina, 12 x 6 1/2”Sporting equipment finds its way into “The End,” where a deflated bronze soccer ball coated with copper leaf intersects with a steel beam as if placed there to block the ball's trajectory. In “Over Time,” Liu casts the form of a disintegrated Nerf football (the first piece of sports equipment he recalls owning), which simultaneously evokes a pinecone or chunk of coral. “Restraint” is a bulbous leather and bronze shape cast from two boxing speed bags joined at the center to form a roughly hourglass shape. Like many of his recent sculptures, the source is easily identifiable. While the alterations are quantifiable, their purpose remains ambiguous.

Liu's sculptures often have distorted head-like shapes that can be seen as contemporary interpretations of ancient masks. In “Spleen,” a boxing helmet is set askew to conceal an unidentifiable mass. The green, blue and copper hued “Martin, Bruno and Felix” are head-like forms cast from the vent of an air conditioner and attached to metal stands. Presented together on a pedestal, these disembodied heads have an archaic appearance.

While the title, “Low Fidelity,” highlights imperfection and deterioration, these are actually beautifully crafted sculptures meant to draw our attention to strange configurations of everyday objects. Liu imbues throwaways like Styrofoam packaging and deflated sporting equipment with new purpose and implied meaning. He transforms mass-produced materials and products into unique and at times wondrous objects that reference Modernist as well as ancient aesthetic sensibilities as the means to root them in the present.

(first published 10-15-22 in VAS Newsletter)

Click here for An Te Liu on its own page.

October 13, 2022

Arno Beck
Zen Them to Hell
Nino Mier Gallery
September 16 - October 15, 2022

Arno Beck

Despite being mired in digital culture, the Bonn based artist Arno Beck makes analogue works. In his exhibition Zen Them to Hell, he presents typewritten landscape drawings. Each of the eighteen identically sized and shaped, framed works on paper juxtapose cartoon-like clouds, similar to the ones found in early computer games like the 8-bit Super Mario Brothers (also used by Cory Arcangel in his seminal 2002 work, Super Mario Clouds) with pixelated mountain peaks and landscapes usually associated with 18th-19th century paintings of the sublime. At 20 x 20 inches, they are larger than the size of a traditional carriage on a typewriter, and therefore beg the question, "how were they made?" 

A video from the artist's Instagram shows him aggressively typing away on a modified typewriter that holds large-scale pieces of paper. The works are created by tapping specific keys (plus signs, periods, colons and the space bar) over and over again as the paper moves across the carriage, developing the composition gradually along the way. Beck at times interrupts the flow, overtyping certain areas to achieve the necessary texture and darkness that coincide with the landscape to be represented. The process is physically taxing and time consuming. He ignores any errors that occur. From close-up, the works are grids of lines and dots and spaces that coalesce into an image from afar. Though made by hand (and not on a computer) the source images are found online and transferred to the typewritten medium. They also resemble plotter prints from the early days of computer art.

It is not a leap to equate the typed marks with pixels. As Beck has remarked, "The analog production process breaks and livens up the grid, which functions as a structuring system." He is interested in the relationship between the digital and the analogue and in previous bodies of work, he has created paintings based on computer generated imagery. Reproducing low resolution computer graphics found in games, he meticulously recreated them by hand, focusing on the pixelated lines and jagged edges of the original graphics. While these landscapes could easily be rendered by a computer program or even as ASCII images, the wonder of the work is his process. As he says, "With my approach, I humanize technology, welcoming the glitches of the handmade – and the error is part of the beauty."

While there are subtle variations in the typewriter drawings on view, they have similar compositions-- a field or meadow leading to a row of trees or a jagged mountain peak rising into a sky which is comprised of rows of evenly spaced dots interrupted by billowing white clouds (areas without type) and outlined by a more concentrated presence of marks. Across the series, the number and placement of clouds change as does the shape and height of the peak as, in essence, Beck uses the same process to create each work. His methodology is in line with other 'post-internet' artists whose works examine the effects of the internet and digitally derived culture without necessarily using traditional digital tools. Beck's conceptual works focus on the ways photorealistic landscapes can meld with kitschy clouds to create an analogue production of digital imagery.

Click here for Arno Beck on its own page.

October 6, 2022

Eve Wood
My Heavens
Track 16 Gallery
September 10 - October 22, 2022

Eve Wood

Eve Wood's idiosyncratic drawings and sculptures speak to the present moment. Predominant in this exhibition are depictions of coat hangers, a reference to the recent repeal of Roe versus Wade. As sculptures, they are arranged on a wall salon style, each work using an actual coat hanger as the structure, support or content of the work. In American Legacy (Hang Up #3) (all Hang Up works 2022), miniature metal nooses are suspended from the base of the hanger. This Hanger is Also a Rainbow (Hang Up #1) features a padded hanger painted in the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag. In Perpetual Nosebleed (Hang Up #5), the bottom part of the hanger is painted red where it pierces a plastic nose. Cross Country Antics (Hang Up #23) is less dire and more fun. Beneath a sign that says "Let it Snow" (perhaps a reference to the lack of snowfall in California this year and/or to climate change more generally), two plastic skiers traverse black pant hangers topped with white paint representing snow. For Overkill (Hang Up #4), Wood tripled the length of the crossbar on one side of a wooden hanger and let it hang diagonally on the wall, rendering it useless.

Coat hangers with and without clothing also appear in Wood's works on paper. A full coat rack descends into the red lipped mouth of a blue eyed, blond-haired woman in The Wardrobe Inside My Mouth (2021). In Ear Sale (6 for $10 — After Nicole Eisenman) (2022), Wood created a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh offering bloody ears for sale, many of which are attached to coat hangers. It is difficult not to be affected by the image Hanging in There to Hang On (2021), a depiction of an anguished person bound by a straight-jacket, with bright green eyes, short golden hair and an open mouth. They are suspended from a bar and wrapped by an extended and distorted coat hanger.

Wood's funky sculptures and illustratively rendered works on paper are as witty as they are unsettling. She has a deft hand and her works often combine gouache and graphite with the drawn line filling in what the paint suggests. Her cast of characters include quasi self-portraits and other people who are never identified. These figures often interact with birds, dinosaurs, as well as her beloved dogs. One of the largest works in the exhibition is the diptych Shroom of Doom (2022). In this piece, Wood depicts a woman in a bright blue dress with light green eyes and blue lips. A painted red line starts at her wrist and extends across the two pieces of paper to the tail of a small one eyed dog standing on a patch of green. The woman is standing under a single sketchily rendered cloud from which large gray drops are falling.

In Wood's world, everything seems off. Her characters feel trapped in a nasty place from which there is no escape. Figures are shown with animal heads, meditating on dinosaurs, dancing over eggs, or wrestling with monsters. Even the compassion in Two Friends (2021) where a man rests his head on the shoulder of a woman is clouded by the coat hangers around their necks. Wood imbues her work with a sense of urgency and despair: the pieces reflect the chaos of our uncertain times. While ironic and cunning, they are also self-reflexive, humorous and lonely. The only large-scale painting on panel in the exhibition and the first work seen when entering the gallery, Deep Thoughts (2020) pictures an oversized black crow clutching the head of a lone figure in an otherwise empty space. The bird's open beak cries out— perhaps announcing what the rest of the works in "Hanging in There to Hang On" are about. Wood's unsettling viewpoints offer much to contemplate, but no definitive conclusions.

Click here for Eve Wood on its own page.

September 29, 2022

David Gilbert
My Heavens
Chris Sharp Gallery
September 10 - October 8, 2022

David Gilbert

Though consisting of just nine works, David Gilbert's exhibition My Heavens has tremendous impact. The elegant and minimal installation allows each piece to stand on its own whether large or small. The color photographs are beautifully composed and feature items from the artist's studio— flowers, drapery and props, as well as drawings and other photographs. Each image is a still life created in situ and photographed from a specific vantage point, not necessarily to emphasize a photographic illusion, but to capture the way light filters in, casts shadows and creates atmosphere.

In the large-scale ink jet print Morning (all works 2022), the foreground of the picture is framed by a dark doorway that directs the attention to the center where an ad hoc white wooden stand rests on a stool. Placed in front of an open window, it is illuminated by the light coming in. A wide piece of white satin arcs from one side of the stand to the other like a flowing cape. Further back in the photograph is another vertical stand draped with translucent pink fabric that creates a conversation between the two forms. The background is in shadow and partially filled with another photograph of a cloud filled sky, perhaps an indication of infinite space, as well as a reference to the skies that appear in traditional European paintings. Though devoid of people, the composition and the lighting call to mind the works of Johannes Vermeer.

In contrast to Morning, which is 70 inches tall, Hereafter is just 13 inches high. Dramatically lit, the image features layers of draped and cut fabric covering a window. Shadows criss-cross the diagonal uniting the different elements-- pink and green checkerboard cloth, a sheer curtain and translucent cut white paper and fabric-- that create geometric shapes as they overlap. Though confined to a shallow area foreshortened by the cameras lens, the space is intimate, seductive and inviting.

Shadows from slotted windows or horizontal blinds are present in Moonbeam and Slip. The larger of the two photographs, Slip depicts a giant loosely scrawled drawing of a flower that extends across multiple pieces of ripped and folded paper slipping down the studio wall towards the floor. The stem and leaves are cropped at the bottom of the image. Covering the floor are miscellaneous strewn papers, traces of paint as well as fragments from other artworks. Incoming light from an unseen window creates alternating light and dark striations across the scene. Though an amalgamation of fragments, the image has a poetic appeal. From afar, the 13 inch high Moonbeam appears to be a photograph of light filtering through blinds. It is a mostly monochromatic photograph depicting curved graphite lines drawn across several sheets of paper taped to the wall. The line poetically echoes the shadows cast by the paper. Though mostly a formal image, it is an elegant study of the way light falls on a surface.

The largest piece in the show is the 84 inch high Traces, a beautifully evocative image with subtle gradient-like tonalities that shift from blue at the bottom through red-orange and yellow-green hues to a deeper red-gray at the top. This large-scale photograph features a white-paper cut out of a plant push-pinned to another sheet of paper that is also pinned to a blank wall that takes on these shifting colors. Across the top half of the photograph are intersecting rectangles of soft reflected light— like when car headlights pass by a window-- that create a translucent grid--like pattern. The image exudes an inviting sense of calm and ambiguity.

It is evident that Gilbert is a master at creating vignettes by compiling materials in his studio and filling them with the commanding presence of light and shadow. Although the works are unpopulated, the props, gestures and remnants allude to human forms. The works can even extend beyond the frame as many of the images are croppings from a larger whole. There is a long history of constructed photography, yet Gilbert's work is unique in its framing and juxtaposition of solid studio objects with ephemeral materials. The pieces radiate melancholy and loss or absence becoming non-narrative visual poems that can be read in many ways.

Click here for David Gilbert on its own page.

September 15, 2022

The 59th Venice Biennale
The Milk of Dreams
April 25 - November 27, 2022

The graphic identity for The 59th Venice Biennale (April 25 - November 27, 2022) is an image of eyes. The title "The Milk of Dreams" is taken from a book by Leonora Carrington and the ever-present exhibition posters feature close cropped faces with a focus on the eyes that come from paintings by Belkis Ayón, Felipe Baeza, Tatsuo Ikeda and Cecilia Vicuña. This is an invitation to look and to see— to dream and to reflect.

What is so special about the Venice Biennale is that it takes place in the magical city of Venice and while much of the attention and publicity for the show centers on the official exhibits at the Arsenale and the Giardini, many ad hoc spaces are also used. Some are magnificent palazzos while others are funky dilapidated spaces. To view all of the art on exhibit is probably an impossible task. Sitting through long single channel videos or video installations, as always, poses a conundrum. In four or five days, it is possible to see many of the venues on the main island. A few more days are required to see what extends a boat ride away. One of the joys of the experience is happening upon something unexpected that is retained and resonates in meaningful ways.

My journey began with collateral events. Highlights from day one include the magnificent Pavilion of Kazakhstan featuring work by the collective ORTA that is a "multi-media sci-fi research center based on the ideas of the artist, inventor, writer, and “urban madman” Sergey Kalmykov —who died in complete obscurity in Almaty in 1967— but who inspired generations of contemporary artists in the region." The darkened space is filled with "rusting robots, embroidered memory drives, foil reflectors, and a monumental cardboard and light generator," a compelling mixture of high and mostly low tech. Another exhibition that resonated was the Pavilion of the Ivory Coast and its presentation The Dreams of a Story, a group exhibition with works by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Abdoulaye Diarrassouba dit Aboudia, Armand Boua, Saint-Etienne Yéanzi dit Yeanzi, Laetitia Ky and Aron Demetz. It was a real treat to see pieces by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, who was recently featured in a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as to be introduced to the provocative photographs and videos by Laetitia Ky, who documents sculptures created with the hair on her head. Off the beaten path was an exhibition featuring Stanley Whitney and showing paintings he made while living in Italy, and a funky installation of paintings and sculptures by Markus Lupertz at Palazzo Loredan (Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti).

Day two was the Giardini where the international pavilions are situated. The Italian or Central Pavilion is always the host of the curated exhibition and a good place to begin. Here, curator Cecilia Alemani installed one segment of her poignant exhibit "The Milk of Dreams." As always, this is a large group show with numerous artists. The surprise for 2022 was the predominance of women. Another unusual departure was the inclusion of mini historical sections organized by themes —The Witches Cradle, Corps Orbite, Technologies of Enchantment— and filled with mostly older and historical, yet under-recognized female artists from all over the world, both alive and deceased. Needless to say, this was an enriching experience, but given the amount of work on view it was a bit exhausting and overwhelming. Moving from the "central" pavilion to the national pavilions, my greatest hits include: Simone Leigh representing the United States— a real crowd pleaser. Her installation Sovereignty, transforms the U.S. Pavilion into an "African thatched hut" in front of which stands a 24 foot tall bronze female form entitled "Satellite."

Other stand-outs include: Ignasi Aballi who shifts the axis of the Spanish Pavilion, paralleling the given architecture with new walls that become a subtle and seemingly empty space filled with light and shadow. The installation Feeling Her Way, by Sonia Boyce from Great Britain, focuses on the vocal performances of five Black female musicians. The pavilion is filled with colorfully designed and patterned wallpaper juxtaposed with video documentation of the vocal performances. Francis Alys' Belgium Pavilion is a cacophony of overlapping voices and projections of children from all over the world at play. In The Nature of The Game, Alys documents different types of childrens' games and records the innocence of youth engaged in play, regardless of the sometimes dire situations that may surround them. The installation is a delightful presentation of hope in contrast to these war/plague-filled times. The collective Dumb Type consists of artists, programmers and musicians. In their installation in the Japan Pavilion, they surround viewers with snippets of projected red text from a 1850's geography textbook that rotates around the darkened room in concert with the sounds of voices reading.

Day three started with "Planet B: Climate Change and the New Sublime," a group show upstairs in a plain looking building that turned out to have an amazing interior space with arched windows and high ceilings. A highly decorative site specific wall mural by Haegue Yang filled the space and beautifully complemented Max Hooper Schneider's baroque sculpture.

Next stop was the Arsenale. A few international pavilions are located within the Arsenale, as well as the second and larger part of the "curated exhibition." Many artists have work in both curated shows allowing for different contexts: for example, Simone Leigh is represented by large works in both venues. Small gems are easily overlooked like Luiz Roque's short film Urubu, featuring footage depicting a bird in flight, soaring amidst the cityscape of Sao Paulo, as well as Ibrahim el-salahi's small-scale, delicate and intimate drawings made during the pandemic, Tetsumi Kudo's Flowers from Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule — artificial flowers bathed in fluorescent light. Technology driven works about AI, cyborgs and machine learning are present in the DIY sculptures created by Geumhyung Jeong as well as Tishan Hsu's mixed media pieces that question the relationship between humans and technology. Barbara Kruger filled the space at the end of the first section with one of her iconic text and image installations. The decision to sit through a lengthy video is always hard as time feels precious and limited. Lynn Hershman Leeson's video "Logic Paralyzes the Heart" is about a sixty-one-year-old cyborg played by the actress and filmmaker Joan Chen, who is reconsidering the trajectory of her life. This was a must see and thoughtful analysis of the future.

Among the hits of the national pavilions within the Arsenale were Monica Heller representing Argentina, who wowed audiences with an immersive installation of projections "The Importance of the Origin will be imported by the origin of the substance" and narrated by an animated bird; Fusun Onur, representing Turkey; Into the Light, a group show of artists from South Africa featuring works by Lebohang Kganye, Phumulani Ntuli and Roger Ballen; as well as the large-scale paintings by Tina Gillen of Luxembourg. Saudi Arabia presented a room-sized sculpture by Muhannad Shono, a giant mixed media tree that extends across the floor of the space. Outside the Arsenale but still on the grounds around the water in the dock area was a huge video installation on a bright LED screen by Wu Tsang. The six hour loop, "Of Whales" uses Moby Dick as a point of departure for a poetic meditation on the ocean, based on the whale's perspective. At the far back end of the grounds, one happens upon a glistening gold sculpture by Simone Leigh in the quiet of a natural setting. Not too far from the back exit of the Arsenale is Lita Albuquerque's compelling installation "Liquid Light," that features the two-channel projection of a film about the imagined journey of a female astronaut from another planet. Filmed on location in and capturing the amazing landscapes of Bolivia, the work sheds light on climate change and the transitioning aspects of the planet. The film is presented in conjunction with Albuquerque's signature gold leaf paintings and sculptures.

Definite highlights of the 2022 Venice Biennale were the many of the collateral events which included Bruce Nauman's "Contrapposto Studies" at the Punta Della Dogana; "The Soul Expanding Ocean" installation by Dineo Seshee Bopape and Diana Policarpo at Chiesa San Lorenzo; Mary Weatherford's "The Flaying of Marysas" and Georg Baselitz's, "Archinto" at Museo di Palazzo Grimani and the amazing exhibition at Fondazione Querini Stampalia curated by Danh Vo and featuring works by Vo, Isamu Noguchi and Park Seo-Bo. Also not to be missed was Human Brains at the Fondazione Prada, an historical exhibition that focuses on the history of studies on the brain, as well as Leila Alaoui's photographic work, Storie invisibili/Unseen stories, installed in the vast interior space of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, now a shopping center.

It is impossible to quantify the experience of the Biennale and to deem this or that artist or exhibition as the best. Every viewer has their own agenda and tolerance. Many come to Venice to experience the event as a whole. The joy of the Biennale for me is Venice, criss-crossing canals, eating gelato, getting to go inside fabulous old buildings with exotic chandeliers and to experience the history of the city and its architecture. I enjoy the mix of new and old: to see paintings by Tintoretto, Carpaccio, Bellini or Titian and then to take in an exhibition of NFTs is one of the fantastic contradictions of the Biennale. Of course, there is work about politics, climate change, disasters and global suffering. There are also beautiful paintings, compelling videos and site specific sculptures. What one retains and the extent to which one is moved by what one sees is often fleeting. Revisiting the experience in pictures helps, but really, the power of the 2022 Biennale, like its title proclaims, is to look and to see— to dream and to reflect.

Click here for The Milk of Dreams on its own page.

September 8, 2022

Documenta 15
Kassel, Germany
June 18 - September 25, 2022

The first iteration of Documenta, curated by Arnold Bode, took place in 1955. Since then, every five years for 100 days, Documenta occupies the city of Kassel, Germany. More often than not, it is an international showcase of current trends and ideas in contemporary art. A curator or curatorial team is chosen and given carte blanche to put together the exhibition. During the 100 days, thousands of visitors descend upon Kassel to see hundreds of exhibits presented in venues located all over the city. For 2022, the collective Ruangrupa, based in Jakarta, Indonesia was chosen as curators. This is the first time that artists have had curatorial control of Documenta and their exhibition has a different tone and attitude than any of the others. While Ruangrupa's work (in the form of a radio station) was exhibited in Documenta 14, it came as a surprise that they were invited to organize Documenta 15. Documenta 15 opened amid controversy: accusations of antisemitism and the resignation of the director general of Documenta have continued to plague the exhibit.

Ruangrupa has based Documenta 15 upon the values and ideas of lumbung -- principles of collectivity -- and one of the aims of their exhibition is "to create a globally oriented, collaborative and interdisciplinary art and culture platform that will remain effective beyond the 100 days." Another focus of Documenta 15 is accessibility and sustainability. As the curators state, "The theme of sustainability is reflected throughout all aspects of the exhibition planning and implementation." Documenta 15 features over thirty venues and for the first time in Documenta's history, the ticket to the exhibition provides free access to public transportation. Other implementations of sustainability are the myriad gardens created by artists and collectives invited to participate in the exhibition. Visitors to Documenta 15 expecting to be wowed by paintings and sculptures might be disappointed as Ruangrupa's curation does not celebrate aesthetics, but rather promotes discussion and community. It is interesting to think about how works made by artist/activist collectives and notions of community translate into Art. In fact, many of the installations are text based, instructive, didactic and not always visually compelling. While Documenta is somewhat of an urban experience, Ruangrupa invited collectives that prepare food, create gardens, as well as spaces to gather, converse and perform in parks and neighborhoods across the city. Sadly, during my visit because of a Covid outbreak, all gatherings, tours, films and lectures were canceled.

There are many trajectories through the numerous Documenta 15 venues. Most people begin at ruruHaus which serves as the welcome and information center. Here one can get a ticket, maps, a snack, use the restrooms, peruse the bookshop and view an informative timeline that outlines the complications (Covid 19, supply chain delays, visa and travel issues, heat waves, the war in the Ukraine) that hampered the production of the exhibition. In most years, the main venues for the exhibit are the Documenta Halle and the Fridericianum located in the center of the town, as well as the large grounds of Karlsaue Park. Artworks are also often installed in underpasses, at the train stations and in Kassel's art and historical museums, as well as in nontraditional locations and buildings secured for the duration of the exhibition.

With more than 1500 artists/exhibits it is impossible to quantify the experience. What follows is what resonated during my four days in Kassel.

For those who arrive at the Kassel KulturBanhof, they can visit a small installation by Jimmy Durham and A Stick in the Forest, a collective formed after the artist's death. Outside the station are Dan Perjovschi's drawings on painted white rectangles scattered across the pavement of the plaza. These poignant, cartoony, doodle-like drawings offer commentary on art and current events. Perjovschi's work also covers the columns outside the entrance to the Fridericianum. Toward the edge of town is the Hallenbad Ost (an old pool house that was empty for many years and recently rebuilt) where the Indonesian collective Taring Padi has installed a twenty-year survey of their work. Outside the building are hundreds of life-size painted cardboard cutouts (these are also presented inside and in front of many of the other locations) depicting various characters proclaiming different social, political and cultural issues. Nearby was St. Kunigundis, a Roman Catholic Church built in 1927 where members of the Hatian groups Atis Rezostans | Ghetto Biennale presented works that encompassed many media. Hübner Areal, (a recently vacant factory that used to build parts for buses, trains and tanks) is a huge warehouse-like space that houses works by many different artists and collectives. The installation has the feel of a funky art fair where there are no dividing walls to separate the projects. Included here are spaces for discussions and performances, as well as works that span the walls, floors and ceiling. The collective BOLOHO turned the factory cafeteria into a Cantonese-style cafe open to all. In another multi-floor, multi-artist building Hafen-strasse 76, were works by Nino Bulling (hand-painted drawings on silk suspended from the ceiling that expanded on their book abfackln) and Fehras Publishing Practices, a queer collective based in Berlin that investigates Arab-language publishing, has created a photo-narrative spanning more than 100 panels that focuses on the feminist women behind the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement.

Along the Fulda river are works by Black Quantum Futurism and the Nha San Collective who erected a bench on the bridge, as well as Nguyen Trinh Thi's projection / sound work housed within the Rondell, originally a defense tower built in 1523 that now serves as an exhibition space. Nguyen's evocative and peaceful piece consists of projected silhouettes of plants complemented by a haunting soundtrack. The work is based on the autobiographical novel by Bui Ngoc Tan, Tale Told in the year 2000, about life in detention camps in Vietnam in the 1960 and 70s. Other works in situ include: The Nest Collective who have created a walk in sculpture (that houses a video projection) made from large parcels of industrial and plastic waste, a giant compost heap, an active green house garden, as well as a sculptural tower that serves as a his/her public outhouse, a contribution by Mas Arte Mas Accion.

Inside the Fridericianum, it is a bit of a chaotic mish-mash. Upon entry, viewers are greeted by Dan Perjovschi's full-scale wall-work that annotates and comments upon the Documenta 15 funders. To the left, the space is devoted to RURUKIDS, which is in essence, Documenta daycare (closed due to Covid concerns during my visit): a space where parents and children can learn and play. Also located within the Fridericianum (as well as other venues) are quiet rooms where people can take a break from stimulation, sit in silence and stare at unadorned walls in a darkened space. On the top floor are pieces by Project Art Works, a group from Great Britain that works with people with learning disabilities, or who are neurodivergent, to explore their creative potential. Displays of films and ephemera from The Black Archives, the Asian Art Archive and the Archives des luttes des femmes en Algerie are full-fledged historical exhibitions nested amongst works by individuals and other collectives. One of the few painters given a solo presentation is the Aboriginal artist and activist Richard Bell. Bell's flatly rendered representational paintings depict protests and conflicts. He states that his works explore " the complex artistic and political problems of Western, colonial and Indigenous art production." Also in the Fridericianum are films by artists from the collective Sada [regroup] who came together in Baghdad from 2010-2015. This included a compelling short film Journey Inside a City by Sarah Munaf, about the after effects on Iraqi artists from the U.S. war to remove Saddam Hussein.

Adjacent to the Fridericianum is Documenta Hall and the Museum of Natural History Ottoneum. The entrance to Documenta Hall has been transformed by Nairobi based, Wajukuu Art Project into a tunnel made of corrugated metal that also covers many of the interior walls and windows, setting a tone that celebrates makeshift architecture. The corrugated metal reappears on the lower level of the Documenta Hall where one finds not only a functioning print shop that produces books and posters for the exhibit, but also a skateboard ramp and performance stage orchestrated by Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture, a collective from Thailand. The lower level is an active, dynamic space where viewers can hang out and interact.

Among my favorite artworks at Documenta 15 are a two channel video projection located in the Ottoneum by Korea's Ikkibawikrrr collective. This subtle and compelling 12 minute loop titled, Tropics Story, pictures war remnants at locations formally occupied by the Japanese Empire that include images of "overgrown airstrips, abandoned cave fortifications and burial grounds that hint at how war is metabolized by nature." In the Grimmwelt Kassel, a museum showcasing the works of the Brothers Grimm, is a multi-media installation by Jarkata's Agus Nur Amal who creates his own fairy-tales and story telling session on the top floor of the museum. Perhaps the most memorable space and installation was Erick Beltran's Manifold at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture— a space that collects and showcases works about the global rituals around death and dying. For Manifold, Beltran has created a series of hanging banners and wall mounted murals filled with texts and diagrams that explore the peoples' conception of 'images of power.' This complex installation also includes sculptures and a video where these images of power are animated to illustrate the relationships between them.

The takeaway from Documenta 15 is that art can't be separated from life. Much of what is on view is didactic — with prescribed political agendas, about social issues and made by collectives rather than by individuals— hard to digest and overwhelming to experience all at once. Yet, Documenta lasts 100 days and during this time, the gardens will grow, people will gather and the spaces and the exhibits will change. Those who can spend ample time investigating the myriad notions of collectivity will come away enriched. Those only looking for visual pleasure may come away disappointed.

Click here for Kassel, Germany on its own page.

September 1, 2022

Jinyoung Yu
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
August 6 - September 10, 2022

Jinyoung Yu

Jinyoung Yu's poly vinyl chloride (PVC) and fibre-reinforced plastic works are fascinating and unsettling sculptures that explore the disparity between the inner and outer self. Numerous female forms stoically stand within the vast gallery with transparent bodies and painted faces. Some of the figures have multiple heads, more than two eyes and different hair colors and styles. Kitschy depictions of pets —cats and dogs— stand by these figures, more friend than foe. These animals are small and opaque rather than transparent. Upon entry, one encounters I am okay (2022), a freestanding, almost life-size depiction of an armless young girl (presumably the artist, suggesting all the works are quasi-self-portraits) made from transparent plastic akin to a blow-up doll. On the ground by her feet is a little dog. Both the dog and the girl are wearing the same flower patterned boots. The girl's feet point inwards — pigeon toed. Though armless, her body cavity contains a flesh-colored hand that holds a yellow flower. The shape of the flower is repeated on her lips as well as on her forehead, where it appears to be a bruise. She stares ahead as if fighting back tears.

While I am okay is a solitary figure, in the Life #10 (2020), Yu combines five females huddled together, their bodies contorted in impossible ways as if participating in a collective armless hug. The sculpture has the feel of a three-dimensional drawing as the PVC shapes are surrounded by a deep brown line that differentiates the figures. The head and arm of a stylized cat emerges from the cluster of bodies, clinging to them with one paw in a manner that parallels the way they cling to each other. While Yu's bodies are empty, her mask-like heads are more realistically rendered supporting flowing waves of black or brown hair. The faces are a light skin tone, the eyes wide and far apart, the lips are shades of pink and red referencing a range of Asian facial features. Are these the same women at different ages, friends or sisters? The subtle curves of each body suggest both love and interdependency.

The head of the lone girl depicted in the Life #13 (2021) is a collage. Yu juxtaposes three distinct faces with different colored lips, eyes and eyebrows, sharing a bob-styled black head of hair to suggest a kind of simultaneity. The girl's neck is wrapped in a painted red scarf that matches her red slippers. Her legs are painted black tights while the rest of her body is transparent. As she grows from girl to woman, her body fills out and her expression morphs from innocence to wariness and concern. A small dog with a red collar stands to her right looking away. In this sculpture, as in many of the others, one figure is nested inside another, almost like she is encased in a second skin.

Both the Life #11 (2020) and the Life #12 (2020-21) are also images of transformation. In these sculptures, Yu depicts the emotional journey from young girl to woman, subtly changing the facial features and hair styles to reflect this evolution. In the Life #12, there are four distinct body forms. At the base of the work, a child is hunched over in a fetal position. She is surrounded by a larger version of herself. Perched on her back is a woman who sits straight and tall wearing a flower pattern dress. She is intersected by another older woman in a blue dress who is positioned at an angle across her lap. What looks to be the same cat -- cast from the same mold-- is present in both the Life #11 and the Life #12, suggesting the need for the emotional support of pets as one grows from child to young adult.

Yu's figures are void of environments. They exist as self contained entities that represent her experiences as a Korean woman. While it is impossible to be in her head or know the trajectory of her upbringing, these isolated and lonely women conform to, as well as question societal norms. Yu gracefully depicts this interconnectedness of these versions of the self and expresses the desire to fill empty bodies with shapes and colors. The installation becomes a collection of moments. Each sculpture metaphorically illustrates a woman's journey from childhood to adulthood. In Yu's world view, this is not an easy transformation.

Click here for Jinyoung Yu on its own page.

August 25, 2022

Andrea Bowers
Andrea Bowers
Hammer Museum
June 19 - September 4, 2022

Andrea Bowers

Andrea Bowers is an artist and activist who has the uncanny ability to make sophisticated, beautiful and visually engaging artworks that communicate her involvement with and dedication to a wide range of social and political issues. The exhibition Andrea Bowers at the Hammer Museum is a twenty-year survey that presents selected projects from her expansive and prolific career. The installation, organized by theme rather than chronologically, is a thoughtful presentation of more than sixty core works in a range of media— drawing, installation, sculpture, neon and video. The exhibition opened on the heels of the repeal of Roe v. Wade and several neon wall works celebrating women's rights, including My/Her Body My/Her Choice, 2017 and Empower(ed) Women, 2019, reiterate the dire consequences of this decision.

While the exhibition presents selections of the various materials Bowers has engaged with over the years, drawing is at the root of her practice. She has a deft hand and the ability to reproduce photographic images in graphite and colored pencil in ways that convey a sense of urgency and emotion. The figures are usually isolated protesters holding signs in the midst of a large empty white ground. A number of these drawings dot the exhibition. Included is the four part Study from May Day March Los Angeles 2010 ("Europeans Remember MayFlower Ship?"), ("Immigrant School Teacher"), ("Mexico"), ("My Parents are No Criminals") as well as For My Transgender Sisters (May Day March, Los Angeles, 2012), all titled after the signs held or the slogans on the individual's clothing. These drawings function as punctuation and are often hung between larger, more expansive pieces. They offer a through-line, connecting the many struggles and causes that Bowers has been involved with over the years.

Centered in the space is the magnificent sculpture Radical Feminist Pirate Ship Tree Sitting Platform (2013), a full-scale tree sitting platform like those used by tree-sitting activists (including Bowers) fashioned as a pirate ship with feminist sails. Other works that combine art and activism include: The United States v. Tim DeChristopher (2010), a drawing and single channel video that juxtaposes climate activist Tim DeChristopher describing his acts of civil disobedience to protect 20,000 acres of land from oil prospectors with footage of Bowers in the landscape writing the lot numbers of the parcels of land on a chalkboard. Originally installed at REDCAT, Bowers' Nothing is Neutral and Army of Three (2005), is a book, a video and a huge grid of photocopies and decorative wrapping paper that traces the fight for women's health rights and access to legal abortions. No Olvidado — Not Forgotten (2010) is comprised of 23 graphite drawings, each 50 x 120 inches. This monumental work honors those who have died crossing the Mexican/American border by displaying their names in ghostly white type on a darkened ground positioned behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

Among Bowers' latest works are large-scale acrylic marker drawings on collaged flattened cardboard boxes depicting feminist heroes that have been appropriated from news and historical sources. In Can You Think of Any Laws that Give Government the Power to Make Decisions About the Male Body? Quote by Kamala Harris During Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing in 2018, (Frontispiece by Unknown Illustrator from Les Femmes Illustres, Ou, Les Harangues Heroïques, by Madeleine de Scudéry, Published by Chez Antoine de Sommaville & Augustin Courbé, Paris, 1644) (2020), Bowers transforms the 17th Century illustration by replacing the original text with Harris' quote and fashioning the image into a portrait of the former senator. Other cardboard works include the gigantic The Triumph of Labor (2016), where Bowers adapted an 1891 illustration by British artist Walter Crane depicting 'Triumph' and 'Prosperity', as well as 19th Century laborers. Yet in Bowers' rendition, she has added the caption "Dedicated to the wage workers of all countries," in addition to updating many of the other texts included in Crane's artwork. In A Menace to Liberty (2012), Bowers recreated a 1912 Mother Earth cover featuring Emma Goldman and in I Am Nature: Champion International Clearcut; West Flank of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness (2013), she reproduces a photocopied flier of a clearcut forest from an Eco-Defense 'zine.

Bowers' practice is not media specific. She has created both small-scale intimate drawings and large-scale site-specific installations. Intimately involved in the issues, people and communities she works with, Bowers never comes to a topic as a voyeur. Her art and activism go hand in hand. She was even arrested during an eco-activist protest and includes a drawn replica of her mug shot in the exhibition. This image (grossly enlarged) also serves as the cover of the catalogue. Political and or protest art can be didactic and preachy. As the works in this retrospective illustrate, Bowers is that rare artist-activist who imbues her work with visual power and integrity. One is never in doubt of her talents, or her dedication and conviction.

Click here for Andrea Bowers on its own page.

August 18, 2022

Paul Tzanetopoulos
Silk Series
July 30 - September 10, 2022

Paul Tzanetopoulos

Throughout his long career, Paul Tzanetopoulos has created works that span many different media. He is probably best know for his columnar light sculpture that greets visitors flying in and out of LAX. In this monumental kinetic work, commissioned by Los Angeles World Airports in 2000, Tzanetopoulos choreographed a sequence of ever-changing colored light emitting diodes (LEDs) glowing within translucent pylons. Although the project at LAX is a permanent public work, Tzanetopoulos also makes small-scale pieces suitable for smaller spaces.

The works Tzanetopoulos exhibits at as-it.la focus on Scottish tartan patterns in varying colors and media. Four wall works from his recent Silk Series (2016-2019) fill the lower space. These mesmerizing paintings use technologies similar to the LAX project, yet rather than pierce the night sky, they subtly illuminate the gallery walls. Tzanetopoulos combines layers of silk, hand painted with specific tartan patterns and places them in wooden frames that are backlit by arrays of LEDs that have been programmed to move through a sequence of colors that shifts the hues of the painted silk. Each of the four "kinetic paintings" is titled after a "classic" pattern ranging from Ogilvie, to MacPherson, Fiddes and Jacobite. As the LEDs cycle through the spectrum, the appearance of the paintings oscillate. Moirés are formed when two or more pieces of silk are included and these "interferences" change as viewers look at the works from different vantage points. Tzanetopoulos knowingly has fabricated a series of complex, ever changing dynamic compositions.

While many of Tzanetopoulos' projects involve programming and digital technologies, he is also enamored with the analogue. In the upstairs office one finds Royal Stewart, a piece from his Typewriter Series (1990-1992) where Tzanetopoulos changed the color of the ribbon in a typewriter and typed specific letters and symbols over and over again on a single page to created a red, green, blue, white and black tartan. As Tzanetopoulos describes, "The familial name of the tartan relates directly to the manufacturer (brand) of the typewriter: there’s always a story within a story." Another work that engages with vintage technologies is Tumbling Microfiche Bell and Howell (Screen Series), (1989). Here, Tzanetopoulos presents a vintage microfiche reader that allows viewers to scroll through another plaid pattern while enlarging or decreasing its presence on the screen. This work is seen in relation to Ogilvie Old (Plaid Series), (1992) where Tzanetopoulos uses airbrush to enlarge and pixelate the tartan.

One might ask why tartans? While Tzanetopoulos is interested in the history of these patterns, the work seems to be more about the nuances and relationships between the digital and the analogue. The range of materials used to create the pieces enter into a dialogue between past and present. Tzanetopoulos explores both old and new technologies and celebrate the diverse ways aesthetics can be shaped by seemingly simple programs (like a changing light sequence). These pieces are filled with depth and movement. They are eye catching experiments in pattern and form.

Click here for Paul Tzanetopoulos on its own page.

August 11, 2022

Robert G. Achtel
The City of Namara
Marshall Gallery
July 9 - August 20, 2022

Robert G. Achtel

The City of Namara is a fictitious place created by Robert G. Achtel. In the photographs that define this curious and digitally fabricated location, Achtel presents Namara as a place devoid of people and filled with modernist architecture. Each building is shot straight-on and fills the frame. These evocative and precisely positioned structures are created by digitally compositing thousands of photographs of buildings, signage and the landscape, as well as fragments of sky and road that Achtel captured during visits to Nevada, Florida and California. Because they are digital composites, however seamless they might be, the works call into question the notion of photographic veracity. While Achtel begins with "real" physical forms, he changes the colors, proportions and relationships between the elements by using software, such as Photoshop, to create a heightened sense of place.

The Gateway (all works 2020) depicts the facade of a liquor store called Liquor Swamp. The scripted letters of the word liquor— white lines surrounded by black— are installed above diamond shaped plaques with the letters S-W-A-M-P on a striated dark green facade of a midcentury modern building that has a Jetsons essence. Bisecting the building is a tall light pole supporting a sign that states, "No Parking: Drive Thru Only." However, there is no visible drive-thru. Stone walls depicted in shadow make up the lower portion and are positioned on either side of the glass entrance. The building is set in a vast empty landscape with a few palm trees blowing in an invisible breeze. Telephone wires and the top of light fixtures provide a resting place for groups of birds that may or may not have been in the "original" photographs.

In Jealousy, Achtel presents a stark white facade with nine tall recessed spaces, each casting slightly different sized shadows consistent with their positions in relation to the sun. The black block letters across the facade of the building announce "The Modern Gentleman" while in the window below, there appears a neon sign stating "Nudes 24/7." As in The Gateway, the setting is devoid of life (except for occasional birds) and the landscape is a barren strip of road in a desert climate. To the left and just behind the central structure is a tall skyscraper jutting into the sky like a minimalist sculpture. To the right is another Jetsons styled modernist building with spiky yellow supports. At one time, this might have been a carwash or body shop, but in Achtel's image the sign now reads "B-O-Y."

Though each building is unique, Achtel's process becomes a bit formulaic. In most photographs he sets the main structure against a distant landscape with palm trees and birds, as well as other modernist buildings placed at the edges of the image to emphasize a vanishing perspective. The buildings in Achtel's city have specific functions — be it to entertain or heal— and Achtel reinforces this through the narrative implied by reading across the different fragments of signage. The facade of The Fix is a geometric design featuring bright green and blue interlocking diamond shapes. The patterned facade has nothing to do with the building's function— it is a "drug" store called "World of Drugs" that advertises it as "Doc's Choice." Achtel includes a windowless building in the mid-ground called "Relapse" creating an ironic contrast. Relapse, replace, revive are all words easily associated with Achtel's project. Many of the buildings photographed were once dilapidated, abandoned structures from bygone eras that Achtel has resurrected by compositing and then transforming myriad details from the originals.

What is most striking about Achtel's images is the Bechers-like straight-on presentation of these fabricated facades. Though different, they exist in the same space, set back from the white or yellow striped road surrounded by blue sky. Achtel purposely creates over-determined spaces that are reminders of both past and present. The images allude to a dystopia. Is this dream city heaven or hell? The facades in The City of Namara with their modern enhancements are drawn from the landscape discussed in Learning from Las Vegas and reference 1950s architecture found in both Las Vegas and Miami. Achtel imbues his city with texts that speak to loss, love and dependence, while simultaneously celebrating the visual power of "Modernist" architecture.

Click here for Robert G. Achtel on its own page.

August 4, 2022

Dave Muller
Sunset, Sunrise (repeat) b/w The Record Pavilion
Blum & Poe
July 9 - August 13, 2022

Dave Muller

Once upon a time there were "record stores" where one could look through bins of new and used albums, often organized alphabetically by musician/band and type of music, allowing listeners and viewers to troll through specific musical histories. Today, many people download songs to their mobile devices, completely bypassing the notion of an album with a fixed song order. Missing also is the album cover graphics that either pictured the band or related conceptually to the content of the album, as well as decorated and multi-colored vinyl.

In his exhibition Sunset, Sunrise (repeat) b/w The Record Pavilion that fills the top floor of Blum + Poe gallery, Dave Muller looks back at this time period. Muller is a visual artist as well as a DJ and themes relating to music, as well as to records are constants in his work. For this presentation, Muller recreates records labels (in both 45 and 33 rpm formats) at an enlarged scale by a wide range of musicians, many drawn from his vast collection. He also fabricated a record pavilion filled with bins of "old" albums that can be perused and purchased on the spot.

Sunset, Sunrise (repeat) b/w The Record Pavilion is, in many ways, a self portrait as Muller paints albums that have influenced him, as well as their price tags, often combining them in poetic ways. He states, "Music is constant for me, a filter I look through. The names of records, the language used in records, choruses and refrains — it's the language I use. Or maybe my second language." Each work is a carefully painted replica of the printed original with all of its age marks, blemishes and stains. Muller never glosses over the nicks and tears on the surface of the labels, but rather celebrates their age, as well as their agelessness.

For this installation, he has painted one wall the color of a hazy blue sky and dotted it with an array of circular paintings —acrylic on gessoed plywood panels— ranging from a few inches to more than seven feet in diameter. Many of the larger pieces are concentric discs of different colors with a range of type that combine songs or albums that span musical styles and generations. Where We Are Right Now (2022) juxtaposes Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding" with "What Do I Care by" Johnny Cash and "Moving to Florida" by Butthole Surfers. A Total Eclipse of the Heart (on paper) (2022) combines Traffic's "Paper Sun" with Miles Davis' "" and Duran Duran's "Harvest." While some will smile in recognition of these iconic albums, Muller is less interested in the individual objects than the meaning derived from his combinations. The coupling of The Doors "Touch Me" with X's "We're Desperate" is titled We/Me (2020), prompting thoughtful comparison. A similar feeling is evoked by Life & Death (2019) where Muller presents the front ("les chants de la vie") and backsides ("le rituel funéraire") of the same album. In a smaller work, Muller reproduces a 45 by Reggae singer Junior Delgado and not only delights in the image of two eyes behind spectacles that connect the word 'Observer' but also riff on the song I Am Still Thinking by titling the work ...Therefore I Still Am (2021-22).

In addition to the numerous works featuring individual records and combinations, Muller also presents large-scale paintings filled with price tags and labels peeled off the original objects. These colorful amalgamations, comprised of fragments of disparate shapes, sizes, colors and currencies, become kaleidoscopic compositions that reference a trip down memory lane. Muller titles these paintings Youth Misspent (in Record Stores), followed by a dollar amount that is the sum of the labels within the works.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is the record pavilion filled with bins of albums culled from Muller's personal collection, as well as from friends willing to sell their troves. This hands on experience transports viewers back in time, sending them into the past where vintage record stores were the rage. Music plays, lights flicker and transactions occur for those who covet a find. Muller has created a place to gather and reflect, providing a forum to delve into the language of song.

Click here for Dave Muller on its own page.

July 28, 2022

James Welling
Regen Projects
July 9 - August 20, 2022

James Welling

Throughout his long career, James Welling has explored the different visual and chemical properties of photography. A long time ago he framed what he saw with his camera, making black and white pictures of the buildings and landscapes that surrounded him. Later, he moved to the constructed image, creating photograms, as well as light studies that resembled Mark Rothko paintings. He eventually embraced digital photography, taking pictures of flowers, Philip Johnson's Glass House and modern dancers, then manipulated the hue and saturation of these images using the red, green and blue channels within Photoshop to enhance and highlight selected aspects of the images.

Welling is a visual explorer who continually finds new ways to de- and re-construct a photograph. It could be said he makes photographs that have many of the properties of paintings while somehow still retaining their photographic integrity. His latest works on view in the exhibition Iconographia are photographs called Personae, in addition to selected images from his Cento series. Many of these photographs are tightly cropped, decontextualized close-ups of ancient busts, sculptures and artifacts. Welling has selectively colorized the images, presenting them as they may have looked when they were first created, with highly saturated colors, toned hair and realistic eyes. Welling's process includes rolling a thin veil of oil paint on a dampened laser print to alter the surface and to desaturate the digitally enhanced colors. This results in works that are vignetted and depicted behind a transparent dark texture that parallels the gritty surface of the degraded marble. These pieces appear to be a muddled and diffused representation of the originals. Welling photographed some of the sculptures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while others are culled from online and printed sources.

With Welling, there is often the question of how, as well as why. How were these images made? What sequence of manipulations did Welling concoct to create the final photographs (he used toothpaste as an abrasive on some of them). Why color the lips and insert "real" eyes (even if they come from specific paintings) into ancient sculptures that are sometimes missing noses and shown in differing states of ruin? In Portrait of Kore 674 (2021), Welling presents a cropped and colorized interpretation of the head of the marble statue [Kore 674] from the Athens Acropolis dated circa 500 BC. In Welling's depiction, she has pasty skin, red-orange hair and lips, green eyes (from a Manet painting), pink eyebrows, a golden yellow cap and is positioned in front of a blue-black background. Gone is the grace and the simplicity of the "pure" marble sculpture in favor of this unsettling and uncanny transformation. Welling notes that for the individuals depicted in Personae, he sources the eyes, jewelry and clothing from old master paintings, but fashions the hair and make-up as he wishes.

Welling is an extremely prolific artist, this time filling the gallery with more than forty individually framed photographs (23 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches). Though in part, variations on a theme, it is interesting to compare and contrast Welling's evocative "portraits" and note the ways he transforms these stone sculptures, in many ways bringing them to "life." Some appear to gaze out at the viewer, lost in thought, an attribute that Welling actively encourages. He wanted to create "active personages with their own mental processes."

Interspersed with the "portraits" are images of ancient artifacts, body fragments, columns and free-standing sculptures that contextualize them and provide both a sense of scale and place. Called Centos, these pieces are poems made from collaged fragments. The works in Iconographia fit nicely in the continuum of Welling's explorations into how photography can be manipulated. They expand the boundaries of photography becoming hybrids that fuse digital technologies with aspects of painting and printmaking.

Click here for James Welling on its own page.

July 21, 2022

John Geary
Negative Sheep
Rory Devine Fine Art
July 2 - August 6, 2022

John Geary

Asked how he came up with the idea for Negative Sheep, Santa Monica based painter John Geary answered, "One late night in my studio I was smoking marijuana, lots of it and I threw a sheepskin rug over two ottomans. It looked like a sheep with no head and two rear ends. I took the idea of a headless, two-tailed sheep and made Push me, Push Ewe. It's foam over a wooden armature covered in sheepskin with sculpted bronze legs." In the exhibition Negative Sheep, three of these ambiguous and uncanny headless animals, two white and one black, are positioned as if grazing the concrete gallery floor. They are surrounded by more sheep-- a range of colorfully drawn and painted, realistically rendered as well as more abstracted and purposely kitschy depictions of these innocent looking creatures.

While Geary's sheep are cute and appealing, it is impossible to view the exhibition and not think about the term "black sheep," as well as "Dolly," the infamous clone created in 1996 and Geary plays with the cliches associated with the species. A gifted and talented painter, Geary has a deft hand and a knack for drawing and painting animals. His output includes earlier large-scale renditions of found images of wide-eyed dogs and cats as well as a series that featuring gorillas and apes. His Negative Sheep can be interpreted as mutations, some based on anomalies like two-headed sheep or rams with four horns. Geary often begins by digitally manipulating and then printing out found images. He openly embraces the printing glitches that sometimes occur, using these color distortions as a jumping off point for his pastels and paintings. Often, he will create an inverse image-- which led to the "negative," or black sheep works.

While the cheerful Three Double Negative Sheep presents three seemingly smiling young white sheep with dark noses and eyes in front of a fence set against a gray-blue "grassy" ground, in its complement, Three Negative Sheep, Geary uses the opposite colors and tones so the ground is lighter and the sheep have black heads and white facial features. In actuality, Three Double Negative Sheep comes from inverting Three Negative Sheep, creating the positive, or "double negative" of its title.

Another small-scale pastel, Lamb in Daffodils also conjures a feeling of innocence. Here, a pink-hued lamb is drawn amongst yellow flowers and green leaves. The animal looks out at the viewer with a naive expression of surprise. Pixelated Sheep comes in two versions-- pastel on paper as well as a large-scale acrylic on canvas painting. Geary obscures the head and part of the body of a four-horned sheep by reducing these aspects of the animal to a grid of pixels.

Encircling the gallery is an array of painted and drawn, large and small, negative and positive depictions of sheep. This menagerie is both seductive and disconcerting, seductive as who can resist images of cuddly creatures; and disconcerting as Geary includes sheep with mutations which immediately calls attention to issues of climate change and its effect on domestic and wild animals. While Geary turns headless sheep into bench/sculptures, it is not far-fetched to imagine a future where headless animals are bred for human consumption. Geary's negative sheep, often portrayed as black or multi-colored, are welcome mutations that celebrate the notion of difference.

Click here for John Geary on its own page.

July 14, 2022

Andy Mister
Snowing Sun
Lowell Ryan Projects
July 9 - August 13, 2022

Andy Mister

Andy Mister is an artist and writer currently living in Beacon, New York. He holds a BA in english literature and philosophy and an MFA in creative writing. Though art and writing are separate disciplines, his literary background has influenced the way he approaches creating visual art. He has published two books; Liner Notes (2013), a lyric essay and Heroes & Villains (2015), a book of drawings of historical and cultural figures who have been identified as both heroes and villains. According to his artist's statement, his work investigates the boundary between mechanical and manual reproduction. He is interested in how meaning is created or lost through copying, a way of working akin to appropriationist strategies. While in past series, Mister reproduced charged imagery culled from current or historic events-- crowds, protests, burning cars and buildings-- in his latest works, he recreates images of flowers, mountains, and crashing waves that reflect the allure and power of nature. The twelve works-- four seascapes, three mountains from Nepal and five images of flowers cropped within oval frames-- depict different aspects of the natural world.

These large-scale photorealistic works combine drawing and painting. He begins with "found" images that are scanned and altered and cropped using Photoshop. He then reproduces these photographs by hand with exacting detail on large sheets of paper covered with lightly colored acrylic washes and subtle gradients. He uses a carbon pencil and charcoal to delineate the texture and details of his subjects. The paper is mounted to panel when finished, giving the drawings a physical presence.

As in past exhibitions, the shows title is taken from song lyrics. In this instance, Snowing Sun is by the Italian band, Bellini. The title directs the interpretation of the work away from "reality" into a more poetic realm. The images are less about the place or the story and more about the translation by hand from photograph to drawing and how audiences interpret that process, rather than the original context of the source image. Nepal 2 (all works 2022) is an exquisite drawing of the top of a snow covered mountain peak with jagged edges jutting into the sky. The lower portion of the composition is in shadow and drawn as a solid black shape that contrasts with the nuanced tones of the rest of the image. The sky is lightly textured suggesting a haze or the approach of a storm, although there are no clouds. Rather than present the scene in full color or in back and white, Mister draws this mountain in black and white against a light pink ground. Nepal 1 and Nepal 3 also depict mountain peaks against white and light blue backgrounds. Across the wall from the mountains are drawings of ocean waves all titled An Invisible Terrain (1-4), most likely named after the book, Invisible Terrain: John Ashbery and the Aesthetics of Nature where Ashbery questions how "nature, not art might usurp the canvas." In Mister's images, crashing waves are juxtaposed with cloud-filled skies drawn in detailed black and white against colorful gradients that come across as more surreal than identifiable.

Upstairs, Mister installs five modest-size oval panels each presenting a different grouping of realistically rendered flowers in situ against subtle gradients that transition from orange to blue in Depending on the Weather and from purple to green in Underwater Moonlight. These beautiful and seductive works take the viewer away from the gallery into the natural world where they can not only marvel at Mister's technical skills, but also in the transformative power of nature.

Click here for Andy Mister on its own page.

July 7, 2022

Barbara Kruger
Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.
March 20 - July 17, 2020

Barbara Kruger

Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. is a classic Barbara Kruger experience. The exhibition serves as an introduction to those who may be unfamiliar with her work, yet also engages with seasoned viewers by re-presenting older works in grand, high tech and spectacular ways. Kruger is a master appropriationist who cleverly re-contextualizes her imagery, often enlarging the original photographs to monumental scale, or configuring them into dynamic videos. She is also an astute observer and cultural critic who uses her art to challenge, provoke, inspire and educate.

A good place to start however, is not at LACMA but across the street at Sprueth Magers Gallery. Here, a selection of Kruger's original paste-ups-- small scale, pre-digital collages-- are on view. In these pieces from the mid 1980s, Kruger juxtaposes appropriated black and white photographs of statues, animal jaws and body parts with declarative statements, including the iconic Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face), 1981 and Untitled (Business as usual), 1987. It is wonderful to see the original mock-ups for these early pieces, then walk across the street and see them again as integrated into large-scale, digital works and room-sized immersive installations. When walking across the street viewers are drawn to billboard sized works plastered on LACMA's construction fence. These new pieces serve as a dramtatic introduction to the exhibition.

Though a retrospective, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. is not a chronological survey. The exhibition begins in a room that reimagines Kruger's 1987 photograph, Untitled (I Shop therefore I am). In the original work, a red card with bold white words rests in the center of a black and white hand proclaiming, I Shop therefore I am. In this iteration, the hand holds montages of photographs by others that Kruger found copying her signature style. Kruger embraces these imitations and integrates them into her work, rather than dismissing them. Installed on one of the walls in this room is a large video display with texts that riff on the original, changing the wording to read variously I shop therefore I Hoard, I sext therefore I am, I need therefore I shop, etc. The image is separated into puzzle pieces that cohere and then break apart as the video cycles through the different variations.

As viewers traverse through the exhibition, they happen upon single channel videos, digital prints on vinyl, as well as room-sized, site specific installations where text, image and video projections fill the walls and floor. While the design and tenor of Kruger's works has remained consistent throughout her career, the presentation has evolved, partly due to changes in technology which Kruger has embraced and used to her advantage. In Untitled (Forever) (2017) and Untitled (Floor) (1991/2020), digital prints on vinyl span the gallery walls and floors. It is necessary to step on and over the words and move through the space in order to read the entire text. Untitled (Forever) states: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face." Often Kruger's texts are about the physical body, its relationship to theory and current events. Watching Kruger analyze an Artforum article in the video Untitled (Artforum) (2016/2020), by circling and then commenting on words like 'post-identity', 'post-race', 'post-gender' and 'post-human' concretizes the depth of her thinking.

While Kruger's works are graphically bold and eye catching, they are always about more than what can be seen on the surface. She looks hard at war, oppression, racism, feminism, social and cultural injustices, often presenting contradictory statements and allowing them to clash. In her work, Kruger wants to get at the truth, whatever that may be at any give moment. She immerses her audiences in a bombardment of images and texts, asking them to sift through the many layers to find a personal takeaway.

Click here for Barbara Kruger on its own page.

June 23, 2022

Kevin Beasley
On Site
Regen Projects
May 7 - June 25, 2022

Kevin Beasley

In conjunction with his exhibition at Regen Projects, Kevin Beasely has positioned speakers on the rooftop of the gallery. Outside, the soundtrack blends in with the street noise of Santa Monica Boulevard, but inside, viewers become aware of a collage of field recordings from various locations. Speakers are scattered through the interior connected by drooping wires that lead to a home-made utility pole —- The Source (all works 2022) -- situated in the back space. The Source is a grounded, mixed media sculpture that extends from floor to ceiling. In many ways, it is the anchor of the exhibition. Wires, steel pipe, lights, speakers, a cooler, as well as a pair of Nike sneakers and a bottle opener are suspended from its appendages. This ad hoc looking structure radiates sound, light and power. Earlier this year, Beasley erected a similar sculpture in the Lower Ninth Ward as part of Prospect New Orleans, where it provided light, as well as a wifi hot spot to the area.

Surrounding this sculpture are large-scale, wall-based reliefs made from dyed raw cotton and cut up clothing, encased in clear resin. As the content of Beasley's work is steeped in the history of the American South, as well as his childhood memories growing up in Lynchburg, VA, it is not a surprise that he would work with cotton. While his site specific installations and mixed media pieces are socially motivated and concerned with relational aesthetics, the works created for gallery exhibitions delve into process and materials— specifically cotton— which has a sordid history with respect to the American South. Called Slabs, these abstract and colorful works are simultaneously flat, bumpy, opaque, semi transparent and filled with gaps that reveal the wall behind them.

Site VIII is comprised of areas of light green dyed cotton that could be seen as the banks of a shallow stream filled with floating fragments of clothing-- bright blue house-dresses and t-shirts-- suggesting something discarded or left behind. Similar materials-- floral patterned housedresses, as well as shredded garments— are combined in In my dream I saw a landscape, to become a birds eye view of an ambiguous terrain. In addition to these non-representational reliefs in the front gallery, Beasley also presents works filled with t-shirts that are used as a ground for photographic images. For example, Wood Shed (on improvisation) features a distorted photograph of a light pink shed surrounded by a field and distant trees that is situated on Beasley's grandparent's property in Virginia. This rumpled image is juxtaposed with a hardened mass of raw cotton, some dyed in hues that parallel the colors in the scene. In the center of Grace is a photographic image of a large leafy tree, perhaps referencing the lynchings that occurred in the South. In the enigmatic le mémorial, a photograph of sea water breaking on rocks (printed onto a grid of t-shits) appears like a passageway or a door in a large wall of pink-toned cotton. The image was taken looking out from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. It also references an important location on an African diasporic tour: Ghana’s Door of No Return, through which so many stepped as they were forced onto slave ships headed across the Atlantic. Beasely states, "There’s this conflation between these spaces that’s also about a beautiful pink view. The glorious ocean vista, an unmarked grave for the millions who died during the Middle Passage, becomes a memorial."

It is hard not to think about the bathtub in Jacques-Louis David's painting The Death of Marat (1793) when circling Beasley's floor based sculpture the last bath. The empty tub sculpted from raw Virginia cotton and clear resin suggests a sarcophagus and signs for those who have disappeared, a reminder of all too many senseless deaths. Beasley's complex works are beautiful to regard, and heart-wrenching to think about as he infuses them with a tragic history through this loaded material.

Click here for Kevin Beasley on its own page.

June 16, 2022

Fawn Rogers
Your Perfect Plastic Heart
Wilding Cran Gallery
May 21 - June 25, 2022

Fawn Rogers

Paintings of oysters-- sensual and gooey-- dominate Fawn Rogers' exhibition, Your Perfect Plastic Heart. Why paint oysters? Rogers uses them as a metaphor and a point of departure to explore the aesthetics of sensuality, as well as issues relating to pleasure, lust and wealth. One could talk about ecofeminism, or the destruction in the Anthropocene, as Rogers explains these are some of her motivations. While she is immersed in cultural and art theory and has researched the pearl industry, as well as eaten her share of seafood, first and foremost this is an exhibition of painting. And the gallery is filled with lush, hyper-realistic, close-up paintings of oysters that are repulsive and seductive simultaneously.

A good place to begin is by watching Rogers' two channel video The World is your Oyster (6:52, 2020) that hones in on various mollusks, presenting their bulbous interiors, as well as footage in their natural habitats. At one moment in the video, a scallop appears to dart away from the camera, propelling itself just above the sea floor. Footage of pearl harvesting by female hands with brightly colored fingernails is juxtaposed with images of strands of pearls as a valuable commodity. The narrative presented in the video is complemented by a suite of paintings in the adjacent room. In these pieces (The World is your Oyster, Video Still #1-15, 2021), Rogers enlarges with photographic veracity images of female hands delving into and holding open oyster shells and digging within the vagina-like flesh for pearls.

Large paintings (65 x 85 inches) of open shells against solid color backgrounds such as Epoquetude 2021, The Most Beautiful Pearls Are Black 2021 and Happy As A Clam #3 2020, not only display Rogers' aptitude as a painter, but celebrate her willingness to highlight both the male and female sexuality of these protandric creatures. In another series of small framed acrylic paint on cardboard packaging titled Eat You Eat Me (2020), Rogers uses oyster and sardine boxes as backgrounds on which to paint nude figures of differing skin colors-- with male and female organs-- in various sexually evocative poses. The labeling of the packages -- Wild Planet, Powerhouse, Crown Prince, extra virgin, hand-packed-- directs the interpretation of the works, as does the implication of 'eat you, eat me.' This series focuses on consumption, packaging, unpacking and who and what is a commodity.

The final room in the exhibition is meant to offer respite. It has light blue walls and functions as a reading room where viewers can relax on a comfortable, clam shaped and colored couch, look at a range of art and theory books, listen to music from an old fashioned record player while regarding three of Rogers' most erotic and sexualized paintings. Vividly contrasting to the light blue walls are Free of God 2021, Our Lady Guadalupe 2020 and Atmorelational 2021. Not only are Rogers' paintings of these sea creatures hugely larger than life, they are meant to reference themes that range from climate change to violence to art history to religion and reproduction.

If Rogers was not such an accomplished painter, and intently focused artist, Your Perfect Plastic Heart might come across as a crass one liner and a presentation of kitschy sexualized images. But Rogers truly believes The "World is Your Oyster" and everyone has the opportunity to make the most of what life has to offer. Her use of myriad mollusks is a reflection on the exotic and erotic, the visceral and the intellectual with a dream of peaceful co-existence.

Click here for Fawn Rogers on its own page.

June 9, 2022

Saj Issa
I Was Out Partying While You Were Home Making Prayers
Le Maximum
May 14 - June 19, 2022

Saj Issa

In her impressive solo debut, Saj Issa presents a body of work that builds on her experiences growing up between Palestine and St. Louis as a point of departure. Issa challenges and provokes her viewers through the juxtaposition of ordinary objects and locations with cultural and social stereotypes of Arabs infused with a feminist twist. The five mixed media works and one sculpture on view at Le Maximum in I Was Out Partying While You Were Home Making Prayers bring to light Issa's mastery of craft and attention to detail, as well as the schisms between her two cultures.

In many of the works, Issa combines ceramic tile and oil painted panels to create images that draw from her own memories and history and focus on situations where people are automatically dismissed, overlooked or passed over because of their race. For example, Get Her Some Water (2022) is an impressive mixed media work depicting a man at the cash register working behind the counter at a 7-11. Visible in the image around the man is a display case with cigarettes and tobacco, as well as 7-11 branded food items. The realistic scene uses offset hand painted square tiles depicting the 7-11 logo as part of the store's architecture. Issa has spoken about the fact that her father, as well as others in her community have worked in convenience stores because this was the only position available to them as immigrants. In this piece, she masks the identity of the figure, replacing his face with a blow up of a 7-11 receipt, a record of her actual transaction. Issa calls attention to the erasure of the man's identity—reducing him to a faceless and easily forgotten attendant performing a service.

Other items related to consumerism-- fragments of cardboard wine cases recreated in ceramic, the shape of the iconic red Marlboro cigarette logo filled with a grid of hand painted ceramic tiles that transform the logo into an islamic design pattern-- are also tied to Issa's personal life. Drunk White Men At Parties, Tell Me They Love Me (2022) reproduces in ceramic four separate squares with ragged edges as if torn from the top of a corrugated cardboard box. The brand of the Pinot Noir -- Meiomi-- is hand painted on the tiles, juxtaposed with intricately drawn interlocking Islamic geometry. The work references Issa's experience as the 'exotic other' at parties in the United States. Portrait of Father (2022) similarly draws from conflicting cultures and merges East and West, as Issa likens the Marlboro chevron to the shape of a prayer niche, or mihrab.

Placed alone in the side room is the enigmatic sculpture Men Look At Women, Women Watch Men Look At Them (2022), a metal vanity and mirror covered with women's underwear, cosmetics and toiletries. The vanity has been fashioned from shiny metal embossed with diamond shaped non-slip tread. The objects are made from unglazed clay and covered with this same texture, which is meant to provide safety. Issa flips the notion of safety on its head, creating a work about vulnerability, desire and the boundaries imposed on many women of Islamic descent.

Issa is unabashed about her ancestral history and cultural heritage. In her works, she sheds light on the differences between the Middle East and the West, making beautiful and poignant objects that speak to women's empowerment and challenge notions of identity. She mines her life and memories stating, "I reinterpret domestic objects that reference my personal experiences to religion, politics, and parallels of the East and West. My work is a representation about my personal experiences of displacement, identity and social issues."

Click here for Saj Issa on its own page.

June 2, 2022

Jovencio de la Paz
Some Circles, Bent Pyramids, and Warped Grids
Chris Sharp Gallery
April 30 - June 11, 2022

Jovencio de la Paz

Jovencio de la Paz is a fiber artist based in Eugene, Oregon who is interested in the intersection between the hand and the machine and between traditional craft and digital technologies. de la Paz's (they/them) evocative works explore the anomalies that occur when the hand interferes with the computer programmed Jacquard loom, specifically the digital TC2 (Thread Controller 2). Developed in the 19th century, the Jacquard loom was originally controlled by punch cards that created complex patterns and now runs via computer software. de la Paz plays with the ways the weave can be mapped to pixels and though made of fabric, the compositions have a digital aura and are filled with irregularities reminiscent of computer glitches. In this sense, his work shares a kinship with Channing Hansen who spins fleece into yarn and then knits abstract forms based on complex computer algorithms. Both artists combine the hand made and technology.

Many of de la Paz's works are based on software written by the mathematician Nils Aall Baricelli in the 1950s that has been adapted by the artist and the programmer Michael Mack. As de la Paz states, "I have adapted Baricelli's original software to develop a tool to grow and evolve weave structures for the TC2 loom, capturing the growth and decay as woven cloth instead of graphical visualization. The resulting textiles are self-generating genealogies written line by line, pixel by pixel, by each pass of the weaving shuttle."

Rather than display the tapestries on a table as de la Paz has done in the past, or hang them directly on the wall, the weavings are surrounded by pieces of raw linen that have been sewn to the edges of the design, akin to assembling a patchwork quilt. The results are then stretched like paintings, extending their presence into three-dimensional space. Though made from soft thread, the works in the Bent Pyramids and Warped Grids series are complex geometric abstractions that reference Op Art. Irregular vertical stripes created by weaving light tan and blue threads ebb and flow across the composition to comprise the center of Warped Grid (1.2) (2022). The top of the weaving begins as a tight grid that evenly combines the two colors, but about a third of the way down, both the horizontal and vertical threads become looser, creating triangular shapes that form diamond patterns that recess below the surface. Similarly, Warped Grid (1.0) (2022) juxtaposes white and yellow threads to create hourglass and diamond shapes in various sizes. Some of the white vertical threads dissolve into loose wavy lines, while the yellow horizontal threads remain taut.

The Bent Pyramid works take their point of departure from the Bent Pyramid of Dahshur, an ancient Egyptian pyramid that appears "bent" due to the fact that it was initially constructed at too steep of an angle which then had to be adjusted to prevent its collapse. In this series, de la Paz's weavings play with the angles and relationships between triangular shapes as they emerge from striped backgrounds. 10 Failed Circles (2021) is a suite of ten smaller works that have the feel of children's drawings of the sun and feature woven concentric circles in hues of gray, brown, red, yellow and blue that fade to beige in the center. By adapting the program designed to produce perfect concentric circles, de la Paz directs the weave and the weft of the shapes to mutate so the expected perfect circles become distorted along the horizontal or vertical axis.

What is fascinating about de la Paz is the way they borrow from craft, art history, mathematics and digital technologies to create beautiful works that challenge expectations. Each woven section is created by making accidents happen on machines designed to produce perfect forms. By understanding and tinkering with the ways traditional craft and computer programs can work together, de la Paz has pushed the boundaries of weaving and created an ever evolving body of work. Simultaneously flat and dimensional, curvy and straight, saggy and taut, loose and precise, sometimes monochrome yet subtly colorful through combination, these pieces speak to the multiplicity within us all.

Click here for Jovencio de la Paz on its own page.

May 26, 2022

Evita Tezeno
My Life, My Story
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
April 16 - May 28, 2022

Evita Tezeno

Evita Tezeno is a Dallas based artist whose folksy, mixed media collages combine paint, colorfully patterned paper and occasional objects like buttons to depict a range of characters. In these lush and evocative works, Tezeno explores the everyday life of Black Americans, not seeing hardship, but rather celebrating family and relationships. Many of her portraits are based on people she knows ranging from friends to family members. While in her previous exhibition she exhibited modest sized paintings and works on paper, for My Life, My Story, she has created her largest works to date, some at a scale of 60 x 48 inches. Tezeno's process is to paint a wide array of patterns and textures onto paper. She then cuts out the various shapes that comprise faces, bodies and backgrounds from this source material and assembles the elements together. Tezeno shares a kinship with another Texan, Deborah Roberts who also creates mixed media collages that are filled with composited images of Black children. A major difference in their works however is that Roberts leaves the spaces around her figures blank (either black or white), whereas Tezeno's backgrounds are filled with cutouts that depict interior as well as exterior locations. Both artists draw inspiration from Romare Bearden and Cubism. Tezeno also cites the influence of Elizabeth Catlett and William Johnson, as well as other self-taught artists known for creating works about their communities.

Tezeno's painted collages are based on memories and stories passed down through generations and include lovingly crafted depictions of her great grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Tezeno remarks that Covid "made me reflect on how rich my history is. I have had my grandparents, I've had my great grandparents in my lifetime, and my life has been so full." Although the paintings are not titled with names or specific relations, it is possible to imagine a history for each character. For example, the strong, stoic, smiling, elderly woman depicted in Ain't Got Nothin' Else To Do But Work (2022) is based on Tezeno's great grandmother who "raised chickens and made teacakes." In the image, she proudly wears a white apron over a blue flowered frock and holds a stick (perhaps a broom or a rake) in one hand and has a pail draped over the other arm. A row of yellow brown houses with triangle roofs extends across the horizon, separating a blue cloud filled sky from the grassy green foreground in which chickens and roosters freely roam.

First Day at My New School (2021) is a portrait of a young girl holding a red arithmetic book. She is dressed in a purple flower patterned shirt with a yellow top and set in a landscape comprised of simple shapes: a modulated, dark blue painted sky with billowing collaged light blue clouds; a textured green and brown ground that represents grass and plants; a red (school) house with two windows and a large gray door; and high in the sky, a dark red-orange circle that signs for the sun. Tezeno's perspective is foreshortened so the girl appears larger than life. Her collaged head, a combination of disparate textures and tones of brown, is as large as the house and her eyes almost the size of the sun. Like the school girl, the boy depicted in I Want to Sail the Oceans When I Grow Up (2022), is composed of simple shapes. He is centered in the square canvas, filling most of the frame. He wears a green and yellow striped shirt and in his abstracted collaged hands, he holds a toy sailboat. Behind him is a tree with green leaves as well as a simple house with two windows and a door with a walkway leading out of the frame. He appears to be near a large body of water as striations of blue paper are also collaged behind him. What is most striking about the image is the expression on his face— one of wonder and complacency — as he thinks about his future sailing the oceans.

Depicted both alone and in groups, Tezeno's figures go about their activities in quasi-rural settings. Four women gather in Clothesline Chit Chat (2022) with baskets of laundry to hang on the line. Wearing patterned dresses with aprons and casual shoes, they pause, perhaps taking a moment to share stories or recount activities as they go about their daily tasks. Again, each face is composited from pieces of painted paper in a range of brown tones and textures giving each brown eyed woman a distinctive look and expression. Though many of the images are exteriors, some, like Come and Rest a Little While and We are Going to Cut The Rug Tonight! (both 2022) take place inside. In both these works, Tezeno includes walls with intricate patterns that house framed portraits, vases filled with flowers and windows that reveal the world outside. The woman in Come and Rest a Little While stares dreamily as if at rest, her head slightly turned to the side. In her lap is an open book and on the floor beside her is a light brown cat on a green rug who also appears to be napping. In this piece, Tezeno has captured an intimate moment, presenting it with respect and compassion.

Tezeno creates scenes of everyday life that have a timeless quality. They could be images of now, or from the past. While representational, they have a folk art quality so they appear simple, yet complex simultaneously. The works are composites filled with an array of different materials. Some of the figures are based on members of Tezeno's family while others are friends or people she imagines. Whomever they may be, they round out Tezeno's story and illustrate a vital community.

Click here for Evita Tezeno on its own page.

May 19, 2022

Mark Dion
Theater of Extinction
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
April 9 - May 25, 2022

Mark Dion

Mark Dion is best known for his conceptual artworks that riff on traditional historical or scientific presentations. He begins by collecting objects and researching a specific subject or locale, then merges his findings into evocative artworks that have an air of authority evoking museological displays, despite their fictitious aspects. For his first solo gallery exhibition in Los Angeles, Dion has created Theater of Extinction, an installation of sculptures and drawings that examine plants and animals that are threatened and on the verge of extinction. Many of these works take the form of annotated charts that juxtapose hand written texts and quasi-scientific drawings of skeletons or different species.

The main space features Dion's sculptures— some paralleling natural history museum displays, others akin to cabinets of wonder— works that combine found objects with authentic animal skeletons that speak to how climate change and other human planetary degradations have affected the natural world. In Tar and Feathers - Flamingo (2019), a tar-covered flamingo stands in a small aluminum trash can filled with trinkets and lost objects like pottery shards, pearl necklaces, old watches, keys, dice and myriad coins. The stagnant, goopy bird covered in black tar represents the suffering of animals killed by oil spills. That it is juxtaposed with the same detritus that also clutters the oceans reinforces Dion's message.

The objects collected and displayed in Cabinet of Extinction (2022) include five stuffed fish in varying colors though all the same size, model-sized replicas of a dinosaur, a long tusked elephant or mammoth and Durer's rhinoceros, as well as various skulls of extinct animals, coral, teeth and a giant egg. These objects are arranged in individual cubbyholes within a large wooden cabinet. Contrasting this arrangement of creatures and their parts is Cabinet of Marine Debris – East Coast/West Coast (2022), a tall gray cabinet with shelves displaying items collected from the oceans on both coasts. Included in glass jars, or standing in a line on a shelf are cigarette lighters in every imaginable color, as well as collections of ropes, bottles, balls of all shapes and sizes, as well as multi-color plastic shotgun shell casings — another reminder of the amount and variety of trash that finds its way into the sea.

Dion's works on paper are also focused on environmental wrongs, though they are less didactic and more humorous than his sculptures. Some Noteworthy Bird Beaks (2022) is a black and white roll up banner displaying a range of bird beaks under which Dion has written artist's names — John Baldessari, Hanne Darboven, Hans Haacke, and Adrian Piper for example, connecting two disparate worlds. Ecological Oriented Art Practice (2021) connects different art movements to the various body parts of a squid. In both these works, Dion draws with white ink on black ground. Pieces such as Extinction Vortex (2021), Anatomy of Global Warming (2021) and The Stegosaurus of Alfred H. Barr, Jr (2020) are modest sized framed drawings made with pen or colored pencil on paper. These works are modeled on scientific drawings where each part of the animal depicted is labeled and notated. Dion shifts the focus from labeling body parts to calling out the numerous ways humankind has contributed to the destruction of the planet and global warming in Anatomy of Global Warming and Extinction Vortex, whereas in The Stegosaurus of Alfred H. Barr, Jr, he links the bones from a stegosaurus' skeleton to different people and movements from the history of art.

Dion's works make seem convincing, but are also illogical and absurd. In many ways, that is his point: while calling attention to imminent dangers facing the world today, he simultaneously creates charming, masterful, ironic and poignant works.

Click here for Mark Dion on its own page.

May 12, 2022

Gary Simmons
Remembering Tomorrow
Hauser & Wirth
February 17 - May 22, 2022

Gary Simmons

In his first exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Gary Simmons fills the gallery with a video, small drawings, large paintings, expansive wall drawings, as well as a new sculptural installation. Titled Remembering Tomorrow the exhibition looks both forward and back. Simmons often begins by watching old films and researching historical cartoon characters infused with racial biases ranging from the crows in Disney's Dumbo (1941) to the ooney Tunes characters Bosko and Honey (1930s). He transforms these depictions into large-scale characters presented as thick white or black lines that are then partially blurred or smudged. Simmons has been making gestural "erasure" drawings for many years and the implications of wiping away resonate even more now than when he began. While Simmons acknowledges that he cannot completely erase and remove these types of stereotypical depictions and all cultural references to them, he does want to call attention to their place in history and the climate that precipitated such rampant and overt racism.

Simmons has a knack for orchestrating viewers' experiences and here, while immersing them in a room of wall drawings, he carefully takes them on a journey. As the viewer casts their eyes from the enigmatic 88 Fingers Fats (all wall drawings 2022), a depiction of Fats Waller furiously playing the piano, to Lindy Hop, two larger than life-size cartoony dancers, they also regard the magnificent Star Chaser, a wall drawing of shooting stars. The last image seen as they leave the room is the tragic Lynch Frog, a not so subtle reminder of the history of lynching in the United States.

The exhibition also includes ten large-scale paintings that feature different iterations of partially erased cartoon characters against textured backgrounds, some mostly black or gray, other white with streaks of color. All are made from a mix of oil paint and cold wax applied with brushes and palette knives. These images have a sense of urgency and motion that comes from Simmons' hand work— gesturally erasing, smudging and remaking the lines. Honey Typer (2021) depicts the bow wearing "Honey" character pecking away at an old fashioned typewriter. In Splish Splash (2021), the figure exults in a bath, water droplets emanating from his torso, whereas in Rogue Wave (2021), "Bosko" struggles to control the steering wheel of a boat about to be hit with a crashing wave. Simmons de-contextualizes these characters, wiping away their original backgrounds but still alluding to the fraught history of their origins.

Simmons' images appear like ghosts— tied to a past, yet very much in the present. He cites films and cartoons as an influence, as well as the canon of art history, especially minimalism and conceptualism. He investigates the ways "blacks" were depicted and how cartoons exaggerated these representations. His work does not necessarily right these wrongs, but calls attention to them. His process is as much about education as depiction and Simmons wants his viewers to understand how the past has influenced the present and how dissecting the past might change the future. He does not want to completely erase this history. In an interview in Flaunt (2/17/22), he states, "what I am trying to do is erase a stereotype, but it’s sort of futile because as much as I try to erase it, there is always going to be traces of it left behind, and that is where the work sits."

Throughout his thirty-year career, Simmons' work has explored themes of race and identity politics, as well as the role of education. In Remembering Tomorrow, he also returns to this theme through the compelling sculptural installation, You Can Paint Over Me But I’ll Still Be Here, (2021). Replicating a school cafeteria at the end of the day, Simmons has concocted a space where the walls are painted half beige (at the top) and half institutional green (at the bottom). Within this faux lunch room, he situates five folding tables with accompanying attached stools painted a bright cyan. Four of the tables are folded up in the center to become vertical, alluding to minimalist forms. The twelve stools (six on each side of the tables) extend perpendicularly and function as shelves onto which Simmons places cast resin black birds based on the crows from the original Dumbo cartoon. Drawn on and etched into the tabletops are numerous spirograph-like drawings, adolescent doodles and hand written notes that reference lunchroom conversations that unfold over time, as well as pop music band names, anarchist symbols and even references to Simmons' other works. While devoid of people, the piece invokes memories of crowded cafeterias, lunchroom brawls and school cliques. It simultaneously points out racist tendencies still prevalent in contemporary and popular culture.

You Can Paint Over Me But I’ll Still Be Here joins early works including Pollywanna (1991) and Erasure Chair (1989) that looked at how and what children learn. While artists do their own thing, they are still products of their upbringing and their environment. Simmons' works are reminders of the role of education and popular culture in forming societal norms. He calls attention to the ways people learn and think, asking audiences to be mindful of the mistakes of the past and to chart out a more equal and less biased future.

Click here for Gary Simmons on its own page.

May 5, 2022

Daisuke Fukunaga
Beautiful Work
April 7 - May 14, 2022

Daisuke Fukunaga

For his debut solo exhibition in Los Angeles, his first outside Japan, Tokyo based Daisuke Fukunaga presents a series of new paintings titled Beautiful Work. These pieces are based on the notion of work, looking abstractly at the laborer working and during moments of respite from workday activities. Fukunaga paints softly using a light and airy palette. His canvases are somewhat washy and, at the same time, detailed and descriptive. His cast of characters nap, sleep on the subway, or doze, even while their headlamps are illuminated.

Paintings like Dance (carriers) and Beautiful work (both 2022) pay homage to Matisse's 1910 Dance and Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881-82). Fukunaga uses the compositions from these iconic paintings as a point of departure, transforming them into scenes that resonate in today's society. Beautiful work depicts a young, female chambermaid getting ready to clean a bathroom. She wears a blue apron over a plush, bright green sweater that contrasts with her magenta pants and stares directly at the viewer, recalling the bartender in Manet's painting. She stretches on a yellow latex glove in preparation for the task at hand. Behind her are various mops and the tiled walls and floors of the space. Dance (carriers) is the largest work in the exhibition. Its composition parallels Matisse's work, yet rather than portray nude dancers, Fukunaga places workers interspersed with tall colorful luggage carts in a circular configuration appearing to "dance" on a blue marble floor as they go about their routine tasks.

Crawler in the City (2020) is also a large painting in which Fukunaga depicts himself as a Google mapper roaming the outskirts of a city with two cellphones and a contraption on his back. Intent on his job, the long-haired, red baseball cap wearing figure stares at the screen and tunes out his surroundings— which include plants on top of a wall and further in the background, the houses and buildings that make up the metropolis. Fukunaga's scenarios feel familiar and his characters, though abstractly rendered, appear serene and worry free. The man in Sleeping Man 4 (2022) lets his head fall to the right against his shoulder as he enjoys a moment of rest on the subway. His orange scarf stands out against his dark gray shirt and pants as he sits with crossed arms and legs leaning against the corner of the bench. Attuned to details, Fukunaga includes what the train is passing outstde through a small window in the upper right corner— trees, houses and a building.

In smaller paintings like Sleeping man 3, Sleeping man 2 and nap, (all 2022) Fukunaga captures workers at rest in interior, as well as exterior spaces. His washy, monochromatic palette creates a dreamlike environment for the characters to unwind and nod off. A shoe-less man leans back on a soft chair in a grayish tan room in Sleeping man 3. There is a small purple flower in a vase on the table to his left and a metal drum filled with larger plants in a nearby corner. Though oblivious to these surroundings, Fukunaga paints a safe space for the worker to stretch his legs and close his eyes. In Sleeping man 2, Fukunaga surrounds the resting figure in a sea of blue hues pierced by a lighter blue beam that emanates from the figure's headlamp.

Rendered with short, expressionist brush-strokes, Fukunaga's paintings capture a sense of calm in the frenetic world. His figures seem to be at peace and this sentiment pervades throughout the works, even though they were painted in a time of crisis. No matter what their dreams are made of, Fukunaga's characters feel free to indulge in moments of slumber, tuning out the surrounding world and unencumbered by the realities of their work-life.

Click here for Daisuke Fukunaga on its own page.

April 28, 2022

Em Kettner
The Understudies
Francois Ghebaly
April 2 - May 7, 2022

Em Kettner

In her first exhibition at Francois Ghebaly Gallery, (June-July 2021) the Richmond, California based Em Kettner created a series of small, figurative, ceramic and cloth sculptures that she spaciously installed on a large, low, wooden plinth in the center of the room. In addition to these unusual and fragile works, Kettner also embedded a series of two by two inch glazed porcelain tiles into awkward places — high and low — on the gallery walls that featured line drawings of cartoony figures that were haunting and enchanting simultaneously.

Kettner's subsequent exhibition, The Understudies, highlights her tiles. These pieces are still tiny, but now encased in much larger wooden frames asserting a greater presence on the walls. Together, they form a quasi-narrative that elucidates Kettner's phobias and pleasures. A number of the tiles depict doctors with large retro headlamps. Others feature intertwined lovers or snails that often appear on stages in front of an audience. For example, in Center Stage (Backlit Snail) (all works 2022) Kettner depicts a slow moving snail traveling under bright lights across a light yellow circus stage as an audience looks on. The snail is similarly presented on stage in Opening Act, though this time it is precariously placed beneath the foot of a disembodied leg. Kettner states in an interview with the gallery, "I think of the snail as a proxy for my own slow-moving body, and that slowness is simultaneously a choice, a burden, and an evolutionary advantage. There’s something silly and absurd about a crowd of people paying to watch a snail crawl across a stage, but I am earnestly insisting that we observe and value that pace of movement."

Many of the works are about scrutiny and observation by others, as in The Fates (Assembly Line), a tile that presents a row of doctors passing separated limbs from one to another, as well as Clinical Study or Operating Theater where two doctors with half shaded faces like twin theatre masks examine a lone snail or in another version, prod the snail's shell with an enlarged finger. In these pieces, Kettner also looks at the inner self and what appears under the facade, specifically in works like Early Morning, Second Thought and Two Guides. Here, a quirkily drawn hand separates a figure's face from the back of its head to reveal two smaller heads with ironic smiles. In numerous tiles like the delightful Balancing Act (Crawling on Quilts), lovers cavort, their intertwined bodies performing calisthenics and balancing acts on rugs in patterned rooms.

Kettner's doctors are usually males who appear to be examining female subjects, whereas the audiences in the theatre settings are comprised of both male and female voyeurs. The snails are gender-neutral and playfully drawn, sometimes in washy colors, but more often than not they appear as black lines against an off white background. The individual women could sign for Kettner and function as inquisitive self-portraits. Despite their small size, Kettner's porcelain tiles are powerful works. Though each tile displays an intimate vignette that tells its own story, they can be arranged in different configurations. The relationships between the parts build the whole. Ultimately these precious fragments create a narrative about performance and voyeurism asking who watches who, and what, and why?

Click here for Em Kettner on its own page.

April 21, 2022

Anthony Lepore
Scarce Material
Moskowitz Bayse Gallery
March 26 - May 7, 2022

Anthony Lepore

In some ways, the history of photography can be thought of as a trajectory of invention and amazements. The first images (almost 200 years ago) were created with box cameras and had long exposure times (lasting hours, or even days) that could not capture motion— a far cry from the speed, immediacy and bombardment of photographs made using digital cameras. Today it is common to question photographic veracity as many images are created from multiple exposures or negatives and composited together. Yet, photography still has the ability to be magical and many artists working with it celebrate its uniqueness as a medium, especially the cameras ability to distort perspective and create illusions. Anthony Lepore explores this sense of play in ways related to though distinct from another Los Angeles based photographer, Chris Engman. Both artists employ Tromp l'oeil, arranging objects and constructing scenes created for the camera that are then photographed from specific vantage points to purposely engage with the boundaries between what the eyes see and what is actually presented. Lepore's constructed images also recall photographs by Matt Lipps who has arranged cut-out from Time-Life's educational volumes on photography onto carefully lit shelves. These sets-ups are dramatically lit, rephotographed and presented at more than double life-size. Lipps' clever arrangements are meant to suggest new associations and relationships between historical images.

In many images from his compelling exhibition, Time's A Taker, Anthony Lepore combines multiple photographs of ordinary objects positioned on and framed by wooden shelves. I Yield My Time (all works 2022), depicts colorful, double stick popsicles in a rainbow colors and varying stages of disintegration. The melting blue, green, yellow, orange, red and purple popsicles are photographed as if attached to plywood shelves, standing upright like headless figures presiding over multi-colored puddles. To create the illusion, Lepore photographed alternating sets of six or seven popsicles against a wooden background stained with colored drips from slightly different heights which allowed the perspective to change, ranging from just below to somewhat above, the shelves. Each of the five slightly different photographs is mounted within a wooden frame that appears to be the actual shelves Lepore used to create the images. The result is a photograph and a sculpture simultaneously. Working on Us, comes across as a large photographic print of different sized owl figurines / Tchotchkes arranged by height— smallest to largest— across twelve sky blue shelves. Similarly to I Yield My Time, Lepore presents twelve photographs of the objects sitting on the shelves, shot from varying perspectives, mounting the images within a blue frame that brings the photograph back into three-dimesnional space. While the array of owls is a strange and curious collection, the image is more about shifting photographic expectations than the nuances of these knick-knacks.

Down to Sand appears to defy gravity. In this image, Lepore photographed groupings of small rocks nested within triangular spaces framed by two slats of wood in the form of an X within a wooden box. The lighting and therefore the shadows are simultaneously correct and impossible. The rocks that fill each of three triangular areas act as if gravity is pulling them toward the center of the X. This makes sense for the top grouping, but not for the bottom and left quadrants and creates the illusion that the rocks were photographed in these positions rather than assembled after the fact.

Nothing Burns Forever and Keeping it Together are also playful works that indulge in their impossibility. In Nothing Burns Forever, Lepore depicts orange and yellow flames confined within separate sections of a dark-red bookshelf. Again, he has carefully lit the individual images to suggest both one and multiple different vantage points while the flames are strangely contained within their distinct shelves. Similarly, in Keeping it Together, Lepore imagines what would happen if a garden hose spurting water this way and that was threaded through multiple displaced shelves. Sometimes they seem contiguous, while at other times they emerge from a different spot.

In these enigmatic images, Lepore creates fictions, yet because they are photographs, they purport to depict truths. It is these contradictions that are at the root of Lepore's investigations. He takes advantage of our tendency to assume a photograph captures one moment in time. Instead, he fabricates moments by assembling multiple images meant to be seen together, expanding the notion of time. Are we meant to believe that the sand moving through the hole at the top of a red "box" to form a triangular mound in Days of Our Lives is simultaneously flowing from three holes below the first mound and five holes below that to form a composition of sand piles that diminish in size? Lepore cannot stop time, but can assemble three different views with such precision that it is hard not to think he captured a moment that cannot exist. Time's A Taker continues Lepore's investigations of staged photography and where the boundaries between what is actual and how it can be manipulated co-exist.

Click here for Anthony Lepore on its own page.

April 14, 2022

Sabrina Gschwandtner
Scarce Material
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
March 12 - April 19, 2022

Sabrina Gschwandtner

To create the works for Scarce Material, Sabrina Gschwandtner has mined historical film archives looking for works made by women during the silent era (1890s-1920s). Her process is to scrutinize the original footage, and then select specific scenes to reproduce. These clips are reprinted onto new black and white 35mm film stock and the reproductions cut into strips and sewn together following the designs of classic quilt patterns. The works are presented backlit with LEDs to illuminate the walls of the darkened gallery. Gschwandtner is interested in the materiality and transparency of the film stock, as well as in the content of the films. For this exhibition, she researched the early works of filmmakers Alice Guy-Blaché, Marion E. Wong, Germaine Dulac and Lotte Reiniger, choosing aspects from their ouevres to use in her collages and quilts.

Cinema Sanctuary Study 2: Alice Guy-Blaché's 1897 Serpentine Dance By Mrs. Bob Walter (2019), is a large film quilt — six groups of concentric squares in a three by two grid — made from footage from Guy-Blaché's Serpentine Dance in which the dancer (Mrs. Bob Walter) performs for the camera. As the dancer moves, she fills the frame. Her costumed arms and body become animated shapes that echo her billowing dress. Each work comes with a story and Gschwandtner provides extensive notes about many of the pieces, describing the films history and the concerns of the filmmaker, as well as her choice of pattern for the quilt. In Cinema Sanctuary Study 1: Marion E. Wong's 1917 'The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles With the West' (2019), Gschwandtner began with a one minute sequence of the original film that featured a bride looking into a mirror and created her quilt based on what was happening in successive frames. The resulting work is a diamond-shaped quadrilateral that extends from the center out to become a complex pattern of alternating film footage and leader (black and transparent sections of the film). She states, "The center square replicates the mirror. I built out either side of the center square with the other shots from the sequence, in chronological order: first an establishing shot of the room, then the bride sitting down, then looking in the mirror, next having her hair brushed, then signaling she wants to do her own hair, then finishing her hair, and finally a cut back out to show the whole room."

Gschwandtner's backlit imagery draws viewers in, begging them to not only look at the overall shapes she has sewn together, but to notice the specifics of each tiny frame of film. Knowing the standard frame rate in motion pictures was 20-24 frames per second, Gschwandtner understands that in each strip she collages, there is little change in the imagery. These works are more about pattern, quilting and the material of film than the original narrative.

Hand-painted Serpentine Dance Video (2021) is the only timed based work in the exhibition. Here, Gschwandtner has created a short loop (1:12") that zooms in on fragments of the dancer's dress from the film Serpentine Dance. Using digital technologies, Gschwandtner has colorized and mirrored segments from the film to focus on the kaleidoscopic patterns of the oscillating fabric. This mesmerizing work pays homage to the genre of early experimental film, as well as to Alice Guy-Blaché's achievement.

While the front space is filled with Gschwandtner's film quilts, the middle and back galleries also include smaller photographic prints that collage together film fragments and Gschwandtner's hand written notes that encapsulate her research and celebrate other under-recognized women filmmakers. There is much to see and think about in Gschwandtner's compelling exhibition. Her process combines digital media and traditional craft and while the individual pieces are extremely contemporary, they are also rooted in history. The exhibition celebrates female filmmakers who, according to Gschwandtner should be, but are not widely known. She filters their work through her inventive process to create a thoughtful collaboration between past and present.

Click here for Sabrina Gschwandtner on its own page.

April 7, 2022

Bruce Richards
Craig Krull Gallery
February 26 - April 9, 2022

Bruce Richards

Art about art has a long and interesting history. Artists often quote or borrow from other artists both to cite influences and create homages. Of note are 19th Century paintings of salon filled walls. More recently, the work of Richard Pettibone and Elaine Sturtevant, or sculptures by Sherrie Levine and Rachel Lachowicz, as well as photographs by Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura follows in this vein of quotation. Los Angeles based painter Robert Russell even created an entire series of large-scale oils where he reproduced artist monographs.

In his thought provoking exhibition at Craig Krull Gallery, Bruce Richards fills the space with both paintings and objects that reference other works of art. Richards divides the exhibition into three sections and provides online commentaries for each. While it is somewhat of an imposition to scan QR codes and download the accompanying texts while in the gallery, they do provide background material and insight into the exhibition.

For "Narrative One: Ex Libris," Richards addresses the art catalog and what is lost when an artwork is reproduced making copies of copies on the printed page. "Narrative Two: Course of Empire" consists of images that use Thomas Cole's classic Course of Empire-Destruction (1836) as a point of departure. In "Narrative Three: Exquisite Corpse and Poetic Objects," Richards makes associations based on relationships he intuits among found objects. Works are hung in rooms and on the walls according to these categories.

The pieces that make up Ex Libris are meticulous reproductions of artworks that have influenced Richards. He inserts book page sized replicas of paintings by artists (including Rene Magritte, Ed Ruscha and Georgia O'Keeffe) into wooden objects that follow the shape and curves from open books. While paying homage to those that have influenced, him Richards is unabashed about having fun with his references, as in the humorous E.R. with Fly (2016), a painting that reproduces Ed Ruscha's Bowling Ball (1970) with the addition of a small housefly on the corner of the opposite page.

Richards' wit and ironic sensibilities also come through in "Narrative Two: Course of Empire." Here, Richards' paints images of burning tires culled from the news: these can be seen as icons of protests. As Richards states, "Their worldwide usage is to disrupt business as usual, obscure visibility and work as an act of resistance/defiance and push for desired change." Images like Aperture (2011), After image (2008) and Icarus (2011) refer to the shapes made by the flames, whereas Monogram (III) (2008) recalls Robert Rauschenberg's 1954 sculpture of the same name that features a tire around a goat. Installed salon style on the gallery wall, these various sized paintings are rendered in exacting detail and evoke beauty, as well as the horrors of warring nations.

In the third narrative, Exquisite Corpse and Poetic Objects, Richards also revisits art history through the use of the Surrealist parlor game "Exquisite Corpse." This is the basis for a body of work about appropriation that juxtaposes 19th Century oval frames, found antiques and sculptures, as well as myriad printed fabrics. In these poetic and fragmented works, Richards plays with creating a whole from disparate parts, just as the Surrealists did by having multiple artists work on the different sections of a drawing. In pieces like Crossroads (2021), he sees relationships between a parian of the war god Mars and an image of a mushroom cloud. In Washington's Dilemma (2016), he positions a bust of George Washington below a print of cherries.

Richards' conceptually based project has presence and integrity. While the installation evokes museum displays and the accompanying narratives resemble museum didactics, the works stand on their own as beautiful and well crafted. Richards is that rare artist who has historical knowledge, life experience and tremendous talent. He has the ability to put it all together and create presentations that are not quick reads, but rather experiences that resonate on multiple levels.

Click here for Bruce Richards on its own page.

March 31, 2022

Robert Levine
Rory Devine Fine Art
March 12 - April 16, 2022

Robert Levine

To support himself Robert Levine, like many artists, has worked as an installer for numerous Los Angeles galleries. In his current exhibition Work, Levine channels these experiences into his paintings which deal directly with his role as an installer. The new pieces are exquisitely rendered oils on canvas. These tongue-in-cheek depictions of art gallery installations include images of crates, fork-lifts and miscellaneous tools, as well as paintings of gloved art handlers. Levine purposely uses a limited palette to create paintings that are predominantly black, white and gray. The touches of color that appear in the works include the green base of a scissor lift, brown crates, installer's blue jeans and the red coke logo on a take-out drink. This sparsity is fitting as galleries are designed to be neutral spaces: The pristine white cube. Within the pieces, Levine slyly removes any references to the actual artworks, rendering the canvases haning on the gallery walls as large, empty, white surfaces.

The announcement image, Self Portrait with J-Bar (all works 2022) features the artist looking down at his cell phone. A tall, slim dolly, (the J-Bar tool of the works title) rests against his shoulder. Behind him is a large "blank" canvas and to his left the edge of a crate. Levine delicately captures the reflection of the white painting on the shiny gallery floor. In 2 Art Handlers a larger than life size white square fills the composition as two installers, wearing purple gloves, work to position it on a wall. Levine crops the image so that only the arms and hands of the installer's body are visible along the edge of the canvas. The Floor Tapers (After Gustave Caillebotte) uses Caillebotte's 1875 painting The Floor Scrapers as a point of departure. Rather than depict workers scraping a wooden floor, Levine mirrors the composition while shifting the location to a gallery. He transforms the three shirtless workers into blue jean and t-shirt wearing preparators who are carefully scraping blue tape from the gray floor. The Spackler and Person Lighting round out the installer's tasks. In these paintings, Levine illustrates the worker on a lift, his back to the viewer, focused on getting the job done.

Levine includes two exteriors, Studio Building and Parking Space both painted in the same gray tones and straightforward, deadpan manner. Levine's studio building is an anomaly, as the facade has a giant zipper running down the center and he captures the strangeness of the architecture with humor and aplomb. Parking Space is a painting of the empty space between two parked cars. Again, Levine depicts what is important to Los Angeles gallery visitors— a place to park, a clean, well lit space rather than the particulars of the art.

Also included are a selection of Levine's collages from 2015. In these works on paper, Levine juxtaposes unrelated elements like a tower of red Pacers in Stacked Cars rising above a cityscape and snow-filled mountains moving upwards in front of what appears to be an explosion. Urinals assembles together various sized white porcelain urinals depicting them as "junk" floating in space between the earth and the moon. Swimming Pools uses a photograph of the surface of a planet as the background over which Levine collages odd shaped swimming pools that are prevalent in the Los Angeles area.

Levine's work is personal. It draws from his everyday life— where he goes, what he does, what he notices along the way— and presents these places and things as matter of fact documents. While the works have a photographic quality to them, they are are more impressions that hyper-realistic renderings. His reductive style and minimal color palette is fitting for his subject. These semi autobiographical paintings are true to life narratives depicting the life of a gallery worker. As such they are filled with humor and irony.

Click here for Robert Levine on its own page.

March 24, 2022

Jemima Wyman
A Haze Descends
Commonwealth and Council
March 3 - April 2, 2022

Jemima Wyman

In the age of digital montaging, assembling collages by hand is something of an anomaly. Elliott Hundley is an artist known for pinning thousands of cutouts to the surface of his paintings. More typically, the collaborative team Simmons and Burke create digital collages drawing material from the internet and organizing the images by theme and/or color to make eye popping large-scale collages that comment on popular culture. To create the pieces in A Haze Descends, Jemima Wyman culls through her personal archive of saved imagery, as well as searches for images online. Wyman has been collecting and saving images since 2008, resulting in an archive she refers to as MAS (referencing en masse, in a group together). Once she has compiled these assets, she resizes the photographs and makes new digital prints, then cuts away the backgrounds so all that is left are the distinct shapes she will tape together to form her collages. Most of the imagery comes from documentation of fires or protests and Wyman combines and frames hundreds of these selected fragments into arrays filled with skulls, plumes of smoke, or demonstrators raising fists and holding signs. In addition to the framed works, Wyman also suspends translucent chiffon curtains that hang from ceiling to floor and are covered with enlarged versions of her swirling smoke collages to form a quasi-labyrinth within the gallery space. Wyman immerses viewers in an atmospheric cloud by suspending these curtains -- Haze 2 and Haze 5/6 -- across the space that function like soft barriers filled with montages of smoke. Upon entry, one can only see the works on the walls through this haze, further calling attention to ongoing atmospheric disturbances.

In previous bodies of work, Wyman used images from her archive to create intricate patterns of camouflage. While A Haze Descends draws from similar source material, these pieces focus on the symbolic attire worn by protesters and the apocalyptical presence of smoke. Plume 18 (all works 2022) is a collage in the shape of an expanding cloud created by assembling numerous cut shapes of gray and orange toned haze taken from various pictures of fires and explosions. Each individual shape follows the contour of the undulating edges of a plume and when combined they become an amalgamation representing the myriad fires that have broken out world-wide in the recent past. Undead Aggregate Icon (1) collages disembodied human heads, as well as photographs of skulls (ranging from cartoons to masks worn by protesters) into a shape that resembles a cascading landslide. While a single image of a skull can be a haunting and loaded symbol, this accumulation becomes even more disturbing and powerful. Transboundary Dissent is a large-scale collage that also features pictures of skulls, yet here, Wyman is more interested in the gestures of solidarity and defiance seen in protests and uprisings across the globe.

The installation as a whole, as well as the individual works, are colorful and seductive. Though familiar, they are also otherworldly: both uncanny and sublime. It is hard to take one's eye away from a collage like Haze 8 (Pink, Orange), a maze of spiraling pink and orange flames that emanate from a central vortex. The image recalls the fires, eruptions and clouds that often appeared in romanticized paintings of the sublime from the nineteenth-century. Wyman's works resonate now because we've recently been bombarded with images of fires and demonstration that accompany news stories about climate change, conflict and war. By collecting and then re-contextualizing these photographs, Wyman calls attention to the universal language of protest and the un-nerving presence of smoke filled air. Her collages speak to the moment and remind us that though beauty can be found in images of protest, smoke and fire, real dangers abound.

Click here for Jemima Wyman on its own page.

March 17, 2022

Chase Wilson
Americana Extravaganzoid: Table Edge World of False Empire: Window Time Thoughts of the Center Game of Spirit: Seeing Into the Negative
M+B Gallery
March 5 - April 2, 2022

Chase Wilson

Each of the almost square (42 x 44 inch) oil paintings in Chase Wilson's exhibition is given the long title, Americana Extravaganzoid: Table Edge World of False Empire: Window Time Thoughts of the Center Game of Spirit: Seeing Into the Negative, followed by a numbered parenthetical (1a - 12b) that encapsulates the specific work. The paintings are fragments and appear like croppings from a greater whole. As squares, they also reference Instagram posts-- images that are fleeting slices from the continuum of everyday life.

In the gallery, a selection of works are presented as a grid on one wall. These twelve paintings form a quasi narrative. The trajectory moves from (2a - Cowboy/Wyoming Freedom Emblem), (all works 2021), a sideways depiction of a cowboy on a bucking horse rendered in tones of pink and green derived from Wyoming's Freedom Emblem and ends with 6b - Seeing Ground, or observation of Sky Blue Puzzle Piece for Kent Oconnor, a painting of a lone, gigantic, bright blue puzzle piece that spans the mostly white painted canvas. Within this two row grid are paintings of pages from art and architecture books (10a - Steel Green Weaving and 11b - Bursting Spinoza Dream), images portraying cartoon figures, specifically Beaker from The Muppets (12a - The Amazement), and even close-ups of the artist's studio depicting walls and corners of his space (4a - the corner of the studio and 5a - Untitled Wall Shape while thinking of the shapes of States).

How these paintings relate to one other and the meaning behind the narrative remains elusive, however, Wilson's color palette and painting style command attention. The works meander between abstraction, figuration representing both personal and universal iconography. Wilson draws from memory as in the beautiful painting (2b - 1990s memory of school unity game with fabric), a colorful rendering of a folded picture of students in a gymnasium playing a game where they hold a large piece of red, blue and green fabric at the edges moving closer together and further apart causing the fabric to elevate and fall. The creased picture sits upon a tan-yellow ground that could be a wall or a table. While Wilson's rendering of the figures is more loose than detailed, the colors and gestures convey a sense of movement. A similar feeling is evoked in (4b - Kabul Airport Tragedy) a painting of a news photograph of people gathered around an airplane. While the specifics are ambiguous, the title and Wilson's gestural depiction allude to the urgency of the situation.

(5b - Moving, Sitting, Locked in, Parable to Stasis) is a painting of an overturned office desk chair. One can imagine getting up in a hurry or kicking the object in anger causing it to fall over. Again, while the narrative leading up to the moment is absent, it is possible to imagine a scenario. Rather than depict the full space, Wilson crops the scene honing in on the legs and underside of the chair angled in front of an orange and yellow wall. The metal legs are toned blue, the wheels dark gray and the seat a mustard yellow, an impressionistic rather than realistic representation.

What is magical about Wilson's paintings is the relationship between the details and the rest of the composition. (7b - The shadow of something resting or banal daily still life) is an all too familiar image-- a mask and earbuds casually placed on a desk or table the white and black straps and cords intertwining and overlapping in ordered chaos. Some images like (8b - Under) seem purposely ambiguous, while others including (9a - Image of resilience, growth- through glass) are more straightforward. In this painting, green leaves twist around an orange pipe, perhaps something Wilson observed through his window, relishing and preserving an image of natures resilience.

Created during the years of Covid, Wilson's paintings are focused images of isolation. These close cropped works enlarge every day "stuff," making the banal monumental. They allude to what exists outside the frame, suggesting that what happens in the studio is a mixture of fantasy and reality sparked by memory and observation. Wilson tries to make sense of the chaos of the world by looking hard at what surrounds him.

Click here for Chase Wilson on its own page.

March 10, 2022

Iiu Susiraja
Women's Work
Nino Mier Gallery
February 18 - March 19, 2022

Iiu Susiraja

What is it about the human body that attracts and repels us? Throughout art and photo history, artists have looked in the mirror, as well as turned the camera on themselves to document their bodies. They marvel at its beauty and examin what is ugly, perverse, or even unusual about their physical forms. Artists that have painted nude self portraits include Lucien Freud, Egon Schiele and Jenny Saville, while the photographers John Coplans, Cathy Opie and Laura Aguliar have also scrutinized their bodies. Coplans (1920-2003) made black and white images that focused on his aging, often cropping the torso into different sections in unusualy and disconcerting ways. Aguilar (1959-2018) depicted her large naked body in relation to textured rocks and trees in the landscape. In her evocative images, she depicted here form in relation to the natural world. Aguilar also created confessional videos where she discussed what it was like to be overweight. The directness of these works exposed her vulnerability, yet also empowered her. Like Aguilar and Coplans, Finnish photographer Iiu Susiraja turns the camera on herself, making both short videos and photographs where she stares blankly at the camera in less than innocent poses.

Susiraja is extremely overweight and she presents her large figure as both subject and object in many of her works. Her body is the centerpiece in Women's Work, a series of self-portraits that explore her physical presence as well as her sensuality and sexuality in offbeat and uncanny scenarios. The five videos and eight photographs that comprise the exhibition present Susiraja in revealing and provocative outfits and poses while interacting with innocuous household tools and objects. For the videos (all between one and three minutes long and presented on small tablets), Susiraja performs in the kitchen, bedroom or living room in unexpected and disturbing ways. In the photographs, she is often spread eagled on a bed, depicted with large stuffed animals or food items between her legs or against her breasts.

John Wayne (2020) is a 27 second video in which Susiraja, dressed in a purple and black bathing suit stands in a kitchen weilding two cordless drills topped with raw hot dogs. She holds the tools in the ready position like guns and pulls the triggers until the limp hot dogs fall to the floor. In Play with me 2 (Red Car), (2018) she sits with her legs apart on a twin-sized bed wearing a black slip and letting her underwear show. She caresses her head and body with a red toy car, running the object up and down across her upper body and finally into her groin. Baguette (2020) takes place in the kitchen. Here, she takes a baguette from the counter and places it between her legs. She then looks at the camera before smearing it with butter, breaking a piece off and stuffing it into her mouth. She continues to stand there gazing at the camera as she finishes eating the piece as if this was an ordinary occurrence. Finally, she waddles toward the camera with the remainder of the bread still between her legs. The phallic nature of the baguette (and Susiraja's ignoring of this fact) are what gives the video its intrigue and strangeness.

In Zoo (all photographs 2021) Susiraja is pictured with a multi-colored lollypop held against one exposed breast that sticks out of her red top, positioned as if she was feeding a child. Between her legs is the large head of a teddy bear whose decapitated body is placed on the bed to Susiraja's left. In Fountain, her obese body is stretched across the diagonal of what appears to be the same bed with a different colored sheet. An open, upside down, transparent umbrella filled with yellow rubber ducks sits between her upper thighs and crotch. Her bulging thighs and big belly are revealed as her blue top is raised up to just below her breasts. One arm is extended, the other is propped across her chest. She gazes out at the viewer nonplussed. For Road Trip, she wears a green housecoat and places two toilet plungers over her breasts. Spaghetti and meatballs are piled over a large globe that is nested in her magenta underwear and pulled down just below her knees.

Though suggestive, these images are more repulsive than inviting as in Meat Model 2 (2020), she holds packaged meat as she fondles her breast. They subvert traditional depictions of the seductress, who in this case is neither empowered, nor vulnerable. If the images are about control, Susiraja is in charge. She teases and feigns innocence and mocks the viewer, as the images are indeed loaded with self confidence. It is hard to look away from the pictures and videos as the actions have a slapstick humor reminssent of Laurel and Hardy, yet whether Susiraja ultimately wants to be seen as a victim of her own circumstances (eating too much is what makes fat people fat) remains ambiguous. Susiraja's works are abject and need to be looked at in relation to other artists who have celebrated difference, as well as explored the debasement of the human body— be it their own or that of another. Her contradictory messages about agency remain to be deciphered.

Click here for Iiu Susiraja on its own page.

March 3, 2022

Digital Combines
Nancy Baker Cahill, Jakob Dwight, Claudia Hart, Tim Kent, Gretta Louw, LoVid, Sara Ludy, Daniel Temkin, and Saya Woolfalk
Honor Fraser
January 19 - April 2, 2022

Digital Combines

Digital Combines, a group exhibition curated by New York based artist Claudia Hart, takes its point of departure from Robert Rauschenberg's notion of the combine— a joining of disparate mediums (for Rauschenberg, painting and sculpture) into a single work. Hart modernizes the concept, bringing together physical objects with a digital counterpoint (an NFT in the form of an animations, jpg or sound file) accessed via a QR code that is displayed on the wall alongside the work, as well as in the checklist. QR codes have become the standard way to access supplemental content that is housed online. Scanning a QR code with the camera app on a cellphone reveals restaurant menus, checklists for exhibitions, as well as didactic panels in museums. In her intelligent article in the Los Angeles Times (January 22, 2022) about QR codes and art, Carolina Miranda discusses the positive and negative aspects of this technology as a digital access point and suggests that dependency on such technologies may even subtract from the experience of viewing the art.

In Digital Combines, as well as other recent exhibitions with prevalent QR codes, it is sometimes hard to know where to start. While there is a back and forth between what is on the walls and what is presented virtually, should either one take precedent over the other? While Hart's premise was to "expand on the idea of an object by combining materials with things immaterial - whether a digital image, movie, sound or music," the digital augmentation is often just a jpg file and as such sometimes falls short of adding anything positive to the experience. When the QR code offers a surprise the Digital Combine is successful. When it reveals a digital replica of the work on the wall, it is as a disappointment.

Two animated GIF files complement Daniel Tempkin's paintings, Right-Triangular Dither 15% Teal and Right-Triangular Dither 1, 68% Grey, (both 2021). While the paintings are static geometric abstractions, the digital versions come alive with flickering movement adding another layer to the work. Tim Kent augments his oil on canvas, Data Lake: Combine (2021) with a 5 minute mp3 sound file that juxtaposes electronic music and a computer-generated voiceover. Greta Louw's digital contribution is an audio recording about artificial intelligence and the end of nature exposing the evils of technology. It nicely supplements her brightly colored digital tapestries which are filled with animal and mythological imagery. The QR codes for Jakob Dwight, Sara Ludy and Claudia Hart lead to static jpgs that only reproduce the works on the wall.

LoVid and Nancy Baker Cahill are artists who have been working with digital media for some time, exploring what can be done with augmented reality, as well as location mapping and animation. Here they have created Digital Combines where the two forms of work play off of and inform each other. Short videos that make elements within the paintings come alive are seen via the QR codes that accompany LoVid's two works. Quirky animations where two figures appear to embrace, dance or wrestle to the beat of an electronic pulse complement MT Summer / Hugs on Tape #8 and HugsCamera Skin / Hugs on Tape (Sky and Chelsea) (both 2021). It is exciting to move between the animated and static iterations while taking note of how these different mediums and methods of presentation can change the aura of the work. Nancy Baker Cahill's static images are moments or snapshots from the digital versions. Her mesmerizing invented landscapes Slipstream 17 / Slipstream 17 (cinematic) and Slipstream 18 / Slipstream 18 (cinematic) (both 2021) appear to be celestial wonders in bright hues that ebb and flow according to natural algorithms.

According to the press release, Hart's first Digital Combine contract stipulated that the digital work could not be sold separately from the physical work and that they were "two halves of a singular whole." The idea was that the digital file (or NFT) holds the works metadata and creates a single conceptual object. While the NFT market exploded in 2021, it is interesting to think about the physical and conceptual relationship between a work on the wall and a work that is immaterial, particularly in relationship to Rauschenberg. When you purchase an NFT what do you get beyond a certificate of ownership? Hart's idea of a Digital Combine satisfies those who want both— a work for the wall and a digital manifestation (that may or may not be worth something in the future).

Click here for Digital Combines on its own page.

February 24, 2022

Samara Golden
Night Gallery
January 21 - March 26, 2022

Samara Golden

Guts are internal, as well as external. Internally, they are the organs in the stomach or belly. Externally, guts is more of an emotional state-- empowered, as in it takes guts... or instinctual, as in a visceral (gut) reaction. Both meanings apply with respect to Samara Golden's spectacular installation, Guts in Night Gallery's new space. Within the expansive, raw warehouse, Golden has erected a tall white wall diagonally across the long room. Viewers can walk around the backside of this imposing wall to find a window opening, or ascend stairs to view the work from a balcony. Peering inside what turns out to be a triangular structure reveals a fantastical building with numerous floors (and ceilings) containing different objects and species. This structure is adjacent to a mirrored floor, ceiling and walls which creates an infinity mirror filled with endless receding perspectives. The work is breathtaking and hard to comprehend, making it even more intriguing.

Like Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms, Golden's installation takes viewers on a journey through the different floors of the building, alluding to both past, present and future. The white exterior frame of the building rises above the balcony to suggest a towering skyscraper that can be seen but not entered. The only option is to gaze into the space, looking up and down and try to assimilate its construction and understand the components that make up this incredible illusion. While in a few instances, intestine shaped snakes scurry out from their confines onto the mirrored floor, for the most part the 'action' is contained. One floor appears to be a flowing stream created by layering blue and green reflective materials. Another 'floor' (which is actually a ceiling in reflection) is filled with interconnected and overlapping intestines in a range of flesh-related colors. Chairs, couches and other remnants of a disaster are strewn across another level. Zombie-like disintegrating bodies in bright colors crawl through yet another space.

Looking through one of two open windows at ground level. or down into the structure from the balcony creates a dizzying, de-centered effect where any recognizable sense of place disappears until one catches their reflection in the mirrors, locating oneself in the chaos. Metaphorically, the work relates to the dissociated feeling brought on by the pandemic and months of isolation that exaggerated the need for human connection. None of the floors within Golden's building are inviting, rather they emit the aura of nightmares filled with fears and uncertainty. While it is hard to look away, this is not a welcoming place.

Guts painting 1 and Guts painting 2 (2022) are stand alone large-scale works comprised of intertwining sculpted bulbous intestinal forms in multiple colors that almost suggest a three-dimensional Jackson Pollock drip painting. They recall moments in horror or science fiction films where aliens burst from human bodies spilling the contents of their guts. These 'painting' have captured and preserved this refuse. Nuclear Bomb is another compelling and chilling work that sits alone in the darkened space under the balcony. Here, using soft fabric or lint, Golden has crafted the shape of a nuclear explosion confined inside a small mirrored box. It is easy to recall the image of a mushroom cloud spreading out in all directions from depictions in numerous documentary films and photographs. Yet in Golden's recreation, while the scale is diminished, its destructive power still reverberates.

Guts is a memorable and powerful exhibition that speaks to our fears, desires and dreams. Golden draws from history while simultaneously thinking about the future, creating a place no one wants to be and from which there is no escape. This gutsy, thoughtful and imaginative work resonates long after viewing.

Click here for Samara Golden on its own page.

February 17, 2022

Hung Liu
Rainbow: In Memory of Hung Liu
Walter Maciel Gallery
January 8 - March 5, 2022

Hung Liu

Hung Liu passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 7, 2021. Just prior to her death, the exhibition Hung Liu: Golden Gate opened at the de Young Museum in San Francisco where it remains on view through August 7, 2022. The exhibition at the de Young includes a reproduction of her seminal work, Resident Alien from 1988, enlarged to span an entire wall. The painting depicts Liu's own Green Card inscribed with the name "Cookie, Fortune" and remains one of Liu's most well known works. A Chinese immigrant, Liu was formally trained in the social realist style of the Chinese Communist Party, yet through her graduate work at the University of California, San Diego begun in 1984 (she came to the United States to study at the age of 36), she started to use her art to explore stories of immigration. Since the mid 1990s, she was a professor at Mills College in Oakland, CA.

Liu had her first solo show at Walter Maciel Gallery in 2006 and he continued to support and champion her work, giving her solo exhibitions every few years. It was fitting for Maciel to host an exhibition to honor her memory and celebrate her career. A gracious wall text by Jeff Kelley, Liu's husband and studio manager, serves as the introduction to the exhibition and informs viewers that Liu's mother passed away from pancreatic cancer ten years before Liu succumbed to the same illness. Liu returned home to visit her ailing mother and created a suite of fifty-one small paintings a year after she passed. This body of work, titled To Live is on view as an homage to both mother and daughter.

Presented in groups on horizontal bands of color representing the rainbow, the paintings take viewers on a journey of remembrance. The To Live paintings are juxtaposed with other works that span Liu's career ranging from video to paintings on hand-made ceramic tiles, as well as examples from her Unthinkable Tenderness series that feature paintings inspired by Dorothea Lange photographs, like the large-scale enigmatic depiction of 'the migrant mother' in In the Camp II (2016).

Though bittersweet, the paintings that make up To Live call attention to everyday life, things taken for granted or overlooked, while bringing significance to that which is left behind. Liu began this series, working from photographs of things left in her mother's Beijing apartment including a bulb of garlic, bowls and jars of food, a shower stool, a power strip and other personal objects found in her home. Liu painted these things in close-up — cropping in on the objects so they fill the frame— quickly and expressively with large sweeping brush strokes. She created one 12 x 12 inch painting a day. Together, they become a portrait of a person as defined by the things that surrounded her. The painting To Live 33 depicts an empty bed and is followed by an image of a hospital monitor with flat lines. It is here that the sequence shifts from a celebration of life to the reality of death. The next two images illustrate the blackness and feelings of loss (To Live 34 (II): Blackness, January 28, 2012 and To Live 34 (III): Circle on Black, January 28, 2012). Liu then moves on to the process of mourning as depicted by the remaining paintings of lit, flickering candles. It is impossible to view these works and not wonder how they relate to Liu's own collection of objects and to see the lighted candles as a tribute to the spirit of the artist.

Three videos, a medium Liu was not necessarily known for, complement the To Live paintings as meditations on life and death. Projected in a darkened room is the short loop Between Sky and Earth (2013). In this mesmerizing piece, Liu cycles through a continuous grid of twenty images that morph from cloud-filled skies, to lit candles and road kill featuring birds and deer, as well as the amazing shapes of the citrus fruit known as Buddha’s hand. Based on snapshots Liu took with her cellphone before her mother's passing, the work, especially now, is a powerful meditation on life and death. During the less than four minute duration of Black Rain (2013) dark drips slowly cover a screen obscuring the orange glow of a cloud filled sky. The 4:49 minute Red Candle (2013) also complements the candle paintings in To Live. In this video, Liu filmed a flame of a burning candle against a deep black void, while focusing on the disappearing wick and melting red wax. Again, given that the exhibition is a tribute to the artist, this work also symbolizes the trajectory of life to death.

While Rainbow: In Memory of Hung Liu only presents a selection of works from Liu's long and varied career, it gives viewers plenty to think about and is a fitting tribute to an artist whose life was sadly cut short just when she was reaching her prime.

Click here for Hung Liu on its own page.

February 10, 2022

Sam Messer
Go to it laughing
January 29 - February 26, 2022

Sam Messer

For some, a typewriter is an antiquated piece of machinery, akin to a rotary telephone. It predates digital technologies and relies on forcefully tapping the keys. Writing on a typewriter is much different than using a computer. It is hardly silent and often associated with a succession of loud clicks. In addition, one must insert a piece of paper to receive the ink, making the typing of numerous pages a laborious process.

Sam Messer has been painting typewriters since the early 2000s. The fascination began during a creative exchange with the novelist Paul Auster (who wrote most of his works on an Olympia typewriter) that resulted in the 2002 book The Story of My Typewriter. Since then, Messer has continued to explore the myriad ways typewriters are personified and come to life through paint.

The twelve works on view at M+B were produced during the pandemic when Messer was on an extended stay in Los Angeles. Like previous incarnations, the canvases are covered with thick applications of oil paint, yet the palette now reflects the golden sunshine and deep blue waters associated with southern California. The playful and humorous short video Don't worry baby, it's perfect here accompanies the exhibition (but only can be accessed by a QR code on label by the entrance as well as on the front desk). Set to a Beach Boys song, it pans through a selection of Messer's paintings that capture the spirit of life in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica -- bungalows, cafes, the pier, walks on the beach, as well as swimmers and surfers in the ocean.

Messer's typewriter paintings are often large-scale, thickly painted and aggressive works where the central object —- a typewriter displayed in varying states of clarity -- fills the majority of the canvas. Many of the backgrounds are brightly painted and filled with fragmented depictions that range from exteriors -- palm trees, sun flowers and other plant life -- to interiors, as well as gestural abstractions. In Seeking Signs (all works 2021), Messer outlines two dogs comfortably sleeping at the base of the composition beside a psychedelically painted vase. The typewriter fuses with the background wall to become both the face of an animal in black silhouette, as well as a functioning typewriter. Blazing Gizmo sets the machine against a pink, orange and yellow background filled with swirling brushstrokes that evoke the flames of a raging fire. The typewriter sits in front of the flames, appearing to be a face where the keys are teeth, the carriage return becomes an ear and the spools turn into eyes. A piece of paper rises from the paper bail inscribed with the words: "loves fire." In Don't forget me, the typewriter appears to meld with the blue ocean that comprises the background. A large sunflower reaches into an impastoed yellow sky above a piece of paper on which is written: "don't forget me." Slo mo is almost a ghost image: its dominant colors a translucent pink and yellow. The typed message reads: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."

In the smaller work Formally Feral the typewriter resembles an animal's face with one yellow and one orange eye, a white nose (where the upper space of the typewriter forms a void) and white teeth surrounded by a cyan-toned background (the area of the keyboard). The machine sits on a table covered with colored rectangles, in front of a similarly patterned wall that recalls the composition of a Hans Hoffman painting. Realistically rendered eyes gaze out in Keep asking. In this painting, the typewriter rests on a table covered with a black and yellow speckled tablecloth set against a bright yellow wall. A small plant outlined in black is adjacent to the machine. The black and gray keys cover a void that approximates a large mouth suggesting the typewriter is a living being.

Messer's typewriters are amalgamations of styles and attitudes. They communicate via written phrases (the typed pages inserted into the top of the machines) as well as through the expressive layers of paint. It is surprising that Messer can evoke such a range of emotions through the repetition of one object, but that is precisely the point. Each painting becomes a portrait that encompasses more than what the physical object represents. Messer infuses his typewriters with a sense of awareness, presence and nostalgia.

Click here for Sam Messer on its own page.

February 3, 2022

Ed Templeton
The Spring Cycle
Roberts Projects
January 22 - March 5, 2022

Ed Templeton

Ed Templeton's artworks reflect the people and places that surround him. He looks closely at the inhabitants and sprawl-scape of Orange County, CA making note of the many inherent contradictions. Working from photographs, as well as his memories, he combines idiosyncratic details to make paintings that are simultaneously ironic, humorous and cutting. While the photographs are fleeting snapshots that record an instant in time, the works on paper and paintings often combine disparate elements selected from the photographs. For example, in the 2013 black and white photograph Man watering lawn, Templeton depicts a man casually watering his lawn shot through and framed by a car window. In the painting Man Still Watering Lawn (2021), a gray haired elderly man is in a similar position-- his back to the viewer-- is pictured with a hose spraying straight down onto a patch of green grass surrounded by low pink and yellow apartment buildings. Templeton has an illustrative and detailed painting style. He pays particular attention to the details. In Man Still Watering Lawn he includes a woman sun bathing in a red bikini on a second floor balcony, two bottles in silhouetted seen through an open window, as well as a black bird perched at the corner of the building above security cameras focused on an unseen alley.

Newland Avenue depicts an intersection where a woman presumably texting on her cellphone and wearing a light pink bikini waits at the light to cross the street. She faces away from a toddler in a light blue jumpsuit who is awkwardly moving toward an upside down toy car in the middle of the sidewalk. A sign for a nail and vape store parallels the street. An empty cup was left on a green utility box at the corner of the street, surrounded by tufts of long, brown dried grass and a single blooming flower. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that the image represents our moment in time as one notices below the damaged sidewalk and a lone tree stump, a single blue mask lying in the gutter.

For Templeton, this is a typical scene rather than an anomaly. Swimmers, sunbathers, beach goers, bike riders, dog walkers and ice cream cone eaters populate Templeton's images. In the hand colored, black and white photograph, Girls in Bikini Shirts, Huntington Beach, 2017, 2021 Templeton captures two girls wearing oversized t-shirts picturing large-breasted women in bikinis. Perhaps because this curious scene resonated for him, he painted a female skateboarder wearing a similar t-shirt in Skating Woman (2021). In this painting, a sunglass wearing blond haired woman with black and white high tops carrying a pink plastic bag in either hand rolls along the sidewalk in front of a beige cinderblock wall separating a few trees from the street. She appears un-phased and un-hurried as she carries her purchases. Again, for Templeton a strange scenario is depicted as commonplace, rather than unusual. Pandemic Summer Suburbia (2021) captures the now. A blue-sandled, pink-purple tutu-wearing woman with large red lips, blue eye shadow and Medusa-like blond hair rides past a bus shelter on a green one-speed bike as a homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk by a trash can. A second man sits on the bench near a large sign that emphasizes social distance and the need to keep six-feet away.

Through the juxtaposition of photographs, drawings and paintings, Templeton creates a portrait of beach culture and street life around Huntington Beach in Orange County. He allows the differences in bodies, politics, class, patriotism and spiritual beliefs to coexist peacefully in the works, calling attention to the fact that this might not be what happens in real life. Though painted during the pandemic, Templeton portrays people seemingly unaffected by the times, alive in their own bubbles, going about their everyday lives as if there was nothing amiss in the world. His depictions, while sympathetic, also present this world with a sense of matter of fact-ness amidst the irony.

Click here for Ed Templeton on its own page.

January 27, 2022

Mel Bochner
Do I have to Draw You a Picture
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
January 15 - February 26, 2022

Mel Bochner

I was first introduced to Mel Bochner's work as a student while studying conceptual art and working on an exhibition from the collection of Sol LeWitt. Each student researched three artists: I chose Bochner because at that time I did not understand his work and wanted to make sense of it. Many of Bochner's pieces were about measurement and process. He called memory into question, as well as spatial relationships. One work consisted of a small framed drawing of a pencil line and stated, 'drawn at eye level'. What did that mean? Was it actually drawn at eye level? Or, was it hung at eye level? Another work pondered the meaning of "fourteen inches." Here, the text ' 14" ' was inserted between two long horizontal arrows. Bochner asked how do these words relate to the world around them? I have followed Bochner's work since the early 1980s and watched it morph from reductive and minimal to his current indulgence with lushly painted words.

His latest exhibition titled Do I have to Draw You a Picture begins outside the gallery. Here, one confronts a "Variable Message Sign" like those used to announce road closures or traffic problems. It has been co-opted by Bochner to cycle through three phrases: "ha ha ha". "blah blah blah" and "It could be worse". These words follow viewers inside where they confront large oil on velvet paintings covered with rows of phrases, all in the same artist designed font, but in varying sizes, colors and thicknesses. To create these canvases, Bochner paints wide blotchy horizontal stripes in a range of colors over which he then stencils words and sentences. All or Nothing (2014) reads, ALL OR NOTHING! across the top in blue, black and lime green paint, followed by NOW OR NEVER! in red, blue and pink against a black background. It continues, line by line, in a similar manner. No (2009) is painted on black velvet and proclaims, NO, NO WAY across the top. Expanding into a poem, the words continue: NO HOW, NO / SOAP, NOT / A CHANCE, / NOTHING / DOING NEV- / ER HAPPEN, / FUCK OFF / DROP DEAD.

Bochner is not casual with his text and seems to enjoy being direct and confrontational, sometimes making the viewer squirm. In colors of yellow, orange and green, Bozo (2018) reads BOZO / DUMB-ASS / DING-A-LING / YO-YO / NINCOMPOOP / PUTZ. While it is impossible not to read the paintings and try to make sense of Bochner's proclamations, the works also engage the act of painting using shape, color, tone and texture. Bochner is interested in the way paint reacts to velvet and the relationships between the color of the words and their backgrounds. As the press release states, the paintings are an "exploration of language in painting and painting as language."

Bochner remains a conceptualist at heart and while he has moved away from the more minimal "drawn at eye level", his works still have a certain directness, discipline and rigor. Two large paintings spanning 90 inches across encapsulate Bochner's intent. He asks, Do I Have to Draw You A Picture? and states, Talk is Cheap. Therein lies his underlying message about art and the state of the world.

Click here for Mel Bochner on its own page.

January 20, 2022

Jane Margarette
A Honey of a Tangle
Anat Ebgi
January 8 - February 12, 2022

Jane Margarette

Chains, locks and hinges made of clay are in many ways antithetical to their purpose. How can something designed for sturdiness and security also be fashioned from fragile material? Add in some unsettling scale-shifts and it is these anomalies that make Jane Margarette's installation of large-scale, wall-based ceramics so compelling. Hanging on the gallery walls are giant flying creatures, assembled like puzzle parts from numerous precisely shaped, beautifully detailed and glazed ceramic elements. Margarette combines these forms with commonplace hardware to create evocative sculptures that play with scale while simultaneously defying functionality.

Jam To-morrow, Jam Yesterday, (2022) is a relief depicting a dragonfly with outspread wings that span more than five-feet across. Suspended from both sides of these wings are old fashioned pocket watches (without hands). The watches are threaded through u-shaped hooks and held in place by branch fragments at the top. Psychically Milked, 2021 is similarly curious. Here, Margarette installs an oversized gate latch high on the wall. At the top of the latch is a long light-pink ceramic chain almost reaching the floor from which a white butterfly dangles, hovering above an open bear trap. The trap is attached to a white handle on the wall that supports a fragment of green chain. Is the butterfly the allure for an absent bear? What is Margarette's interest in security, trapping and capture?

The combination of utilitarian objects with normally innocuous insects and animals makes for a strange juxtaposition. While Margarette crafts off the shelf devices designed to offer protection and safety, she transforms them into playful armatures for her animal and insect forms. While the works faithfully reproduce items one could find in a hardware store, Margarette makes them into something offbeat, unpredictable and surreal.

The oxymorons in Margarette's assemblages have an ironic humor. Easy Daisy, 2021, for example combines a human scaled white studded collar with a huge antique pink padlock. Miserable with Carefulness, 2022 is the centerpiece of the exhibition. It is a nine-foot wide butterfly with black wings dotted with yellow spots that houses a chain of fruit -- a lemon, strawberry and grapes-- as well as a basket of what appears to be teeth and an upside down flame hanging from one of its wings. I Must Have Missed You, 2021 is a relief in the shape of an "X" comprised of two birds etched with lines depicting eyes, beaks and feathers. One bird's head attaches to its neck with a hinge, suggesting it could swing up and down, yet it is firmly held in place by nails. Where the bird's bodies overlap, Margarette has gathered a dark gray chain around an anchor onto which are hooked three small white roses.

The unusual combination of representations of living creatures and hardware creates a fascinating dichotomy and Margarette explores these and other dualities within the works. Be it the relationship between freedom and capture, hard and soft, fragile and strong, large and small, her pieces invite viewers to ponder fantastical relationships and to celebrate both her imagination and her skills of fabrication.

Click here for Jane Margarette on its own page.

January 13, 2022

Michele Asselin
Louise Alexander Gallery/AF Projects
December 5, 2021 - January 21, 2022

Michele Asselin

Michele Asselin is a Los Angeles based photographer who states her pictures explore "the impact of the social and physical environment on human experience." Before she began to exhibit her works in galleries and museums, Asselin had a successful career as an editorial photographer working for AP. Her art photography is therefore somewhat of a hybrid where she fuses her interests in social documentary with the aesthetics and installation strategies of high art. Recent projects include Recognition where she empowered workers by creating and presenting formal portraits of fifty-three women who were cooks, housekeepers, nannies and caregivers, as well as Forward Motion where she made photographs of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (Metro) Women and Girls Governing Council (WGGC). In other series like Hollywood Park and Clubhouse Turn, she examined architectural spaces in transition, documenting how light and shadow evokes specific moods and auras within the image.

For her current exhibition Exposure, Asselin has created a series of photographs that capture the intricacies of sunlight -- exploring the way light and shadows dance on interior walls and floors. These images are juxtaposed with photographs made by pointing the camera directly at the sun. Noting that 2020 was a year of isolation and a difficult time to embark on projects that involved photographing others, Asselin looked inward. She focused on her surroundings, shooting pictures around her Los Angeles home in addition to retreating to a house in the California desert. Drawn to the magical properties of light, these intimate and quiet images celebrate moments of reflection. In Exposure 91 (all works 2020) a line of light splits the image in half, illuminating a fragment of an otherwise darkened wall. In Exposure 65, angular white lines crisscross a maroon wall -- the result of light passing through a set of horizontal blinds not depicted in the image.

One must be patient and observant to photograph light the way Asselin has. Careful watching of myriad surfaces at different times of day under clear or cloud-filled skies allows her to monitor the varying intensity of the disparate shapes of light and shadow. What the eye and the camera see are not always identical and the final image often comes as a surprise. Some images contain harsh, well defined shadows, as in Exposure 33, while in depictions like Exposure 18, the light has an ephemeral, ghost-like presence. While most of the photographs capture single, isolated moments, Asselin does include one grid of twelve smaller mostly black and white prints (Exposure Grid) that document striations of sunlight on a range of darker surfaces.

Many of the various sized images are installed across a large wall in carefully chosen groupings that track the way light changes throughout a day. On the opposite wall, Asselin presents six large color photographs of the sun. In these works, an intensely vibrant orange ball is centered in the image surrounded by flares and a gradual gradient of lighter shades that radiate away from the center. These pictures have an uncanny glow and are reminders of those ominous fired filled skies where the sun burns its way through the haze. As installed, it plays on the notion that the light of the sun was responsible (as well as the camera and Asselin's timing) for the creation of these images that Asselin so carefully frames. In Exposure, Asselin presents beauty, as well as a warning about the effects of climate change on the environment. Through the juxtaposition of these two aspects of sunlight Asselin asks us to question our relationship to the natural world.

Click here for Michele Asselin on its own page.

January 6, 2022

Lee Mullican
Computer Joy
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
November 20, 2021 - January 8, 2022

Lee Mullican

Lee Mullican (1919-1998) was well known and respected as an abstract painter whose works were infused with criss-crossing lines against solid backgrounds referencing everything from cities to microscopic and celestial worlds. In the mid 1980s, while a professor at UCLA, Mullican began working with the university's Program for Technology in the Arts. He was interested in learning how his painting style could be translated into newly emerging digital forms. While his paintings were soft and organic, he was enamored and fascinated by the computer's jagged lines and pixelated designs. On view at Marc Selwyn Fine Art are select examples of his paintings from 1966-1985 juxtaposed with his digital files projected on the wall, as well as offered for sale as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

What are NFTs and why are art galleries so excited to present digital artworks in the form of NFTs? As a digital asset, an NFT can be a file, a song, a text, or an artwork that is offered for sale online and can only be purchased with cryptocurrencies. They are often unique, though some are variations on a theme. While NFTs are all the rage, they are also criticized with respect to the energy costs associated with their transactions. The NFT marketplace has finally given value to otherwise purely 'digital work' and encouraged the proliferation of these creations.

As Mullican's digital artworks were created pre-Photoshop -- they are TGA files with resolutions of only 512 x 482 pixels, not really enough to be output as large-scale prints -- the idea to project them seems apt. What is most exciting about these pieces is Mullican's experimentation and how they relate to his paintings. For example, the file for Boogie Woogie (1987) is a dizzying array of overlapping rectangular forms against a dark background. As the composition builds and intensifies the red, maroon, pink, purple, yellow and white forms appear to break apart into vertical lines. The forms appear to oscillate moving forward and back within the abstract space. When seen in relation to the 75 inch square painting Winter in Taos (1974), it is easy to imagine Mullican filling in the squares and rectangles that appear in this work with bright colors, darkening the background and allowing the ladders that flow within the painting to become individual pixels that flow across the screen.

A similar comparison can be make between the painting Totemic Space (1985) and the TGA file titled Computer Game (1987) where wide, jagged blue strokes glide across a black background overlaid with white and yellow lines that lead to concentric circles (or targets) with bright green, red, blue and black disks. Within the image there is plenty of what we now call white noise -- the disintegration of the form into black and white pixels which become a contrasting pattern. Totemic Space is comprised of undulating yellow and white roughly rendered marks that flow across a light blue ground juxtaposed with straighter lines that appear like paired down hieroglyphics or mathematical symbols.

From today's sophisticated digital world, Mullican's TGA files feel a bit simple and a little out dated. However, the fact that they were created using 1980s technology and that Mullican (an artist in his 60s) was interested in how he could use software to in a way that paralleled the ideas in his painting makes them significant as both historical and formal experiments. Mullican explored the relationship between the analogue and the digital so successfully and it is remarkable seeing the paintings and digital files together. This coupling allows for the beginning of an interesting dialogue.

Click here for Lee Mullican on its own page.

December 30, 2021

Kyungmi Shin
citizen, not barbarian
Various Small Fires
November 20, 2021 - January 8, 2022

Kyungmi Shin

When regarding Kyungmi Shin's recent work, it is difficult not to think about layering -- the layering of experiences, the layering of cultures and even the layering of generations. In her painted photographs, she ingeniously juxtaposes contemporary and historical images, many of which she also realizes as ceramic sculptures. The individual pieces are infused with issues of identity, religion, culture, art and family, that together create a narrative that weaves both forward and back in time. The works are most definitely personal -- based on Shin's own family history and Korean ancestry-- yet also resonate beyond the specifics of her story.

Centered in the gallery is a large, elaborate shelving unit with openings that face in numerous directions and filled with hand-made ceramic objects ranging from busts to sculpted hands and flowers (poppies) as well as vases and other vessels. That Shin has titled many of these decorative sculptures Chinoiserie -- a western style of decorative arts that drew upon Chinese motifs and techniques -- adds yet another layer to this body of work. Chinoiserie Hand #1, (all works 2020 and 2021) is a bright white ceramic arm decorated with a cobalt blue floral design. In Chinoiserie Hand #2 and #3, Shin attaches decorative handles to disembodied outstretched arms, fusing an element of traditional ceramics with the body.

The coupling of disparate motifs and imagery continues in the photographs. In Loving the Monster, Shin beautifully layers painted lines depicting flowering plants and exotic animals, as well as traces over of a photograph of her young mother, atop a fragment of Paul Gauguin's painting Woman in Red Dress (1891), calling attention to various notions of Eastern exoticism and the male gaze in the history of art. Similarly, in Carry Dreams Over the Mountains she uses Reclining Nude, 1917 by Amedeo Modigliani as a base layer over which she juxtaposes the same photograph of her mother, a yellow line drawing of an animal/monster, as well as full colored renditions of walking and flying blue birds. Modigliani's nude melds with a seascape background while simultaneously becoming a voyeur of the scene.

While Shin does not shy away from appropriation, she recontextualizes the found imagery she uses in her pieces, [never taking these elements at face value]. Rather she looks beyond the given and infuses each work with a narrative that investigates the trajectory of an immigrant (Shin emigrated to the United States at the age of 19) trying to come to terms with the philosophical and practical displacements and contradictions facing those trying to exist in a new land. In these elegant and sophisticated pieces, Shin embraces numerous facets of hybridity -- both artistically and culturally -- using her personal experiences to talk about more universal narratives.

As the title -- citizen, not barbarian -- (a quote from Edouard Glissant's Poetics of Relation) suggests, otherness is not something to disdain but rather to embrace and celebrate for what it brings and how it expands upon the myopia of Western culture and thought. In her multi-layered works Shin creates new ways of looking and thinking about the past, while expanding our understanding of the present.

Click here for Kyungmi Shin on its own page.

December 23, 2021

Tim Hawkinson
Drip Drawings
November 13, 2021 - January 15, 2022

Tim Hawkinson

Tim Hawkinson is full of surprises. He is an idiosyncratic artist who is at once a master craftsman, a scientist and a tinkerer who has an amazing facility with a wide range of materials and mediums. His works are precise and cerebral, yet often about the imprecisions of the body (specifically his body) and how it relates to space. Hawkinson embraces and elaborates upon the process of creation. He has filled galleries and museums with mechanically wondrous machines that are simultaneously humorous and complex. His latest project -- Drip Drawings -- is a series of works on paper where black ink is applied to large sheets of synthetic paper via a hand-made "contraption" Hawkinson devised for this very purpose. The machine approximates a modified tattoo gun and allows Hawkinson to control the flow of ink as documented in a short video that accompanies the exhibition. Once the process is revealed, the works become more rather than less fascinating.

The vast gallery is filled with single works, as well as grids of drawings, each with a specific pattern made from a combination of precisely spaced horizontal and vertical parallel lines.The patterns oscillate while also forming complex shapes that when presented in combinations appear to become letters or words. The pieces pay homage to Op art and share a kinship with works by Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely and even Yayoi Kusama -- artists interested in patterns and the creation of kinetic illusions. Hawkinson appears to follows suit, however his Drip Drawings are just as much about the mechanics of their making and how a succession of lines become shapes and how those shapes in turn, become complex dynamic forms. The drawings have the appearance of ruled lines, but are wavy because they are drips that rely on gravity and the smoothness of the paper surface, as well as the viscosity of the ink.

It is usually a somewhat futile exercise to try to reconstruct Hawkinson's process. For example, in seemingly simpler works like Sulus (2019) and Valival (2020), it is possible to imagine Hawkinson moving from left to right across the large paper applying dripping ink lines gradually become shorter as they reach the center, then become longer again as they approach the right edge. The video depicts how Hawkinson spins the paper 90 degrees to finish the drawings and connect all the lines which then cohere into curvilinear shapes creating an illusionistic form. Similarly, when trying to reverse engineer Valival, it is possible to imagine Hawkinson gliding his machine across the surface making shorter and longer lines and then filling in the spaces with more lines that flow in a perpendicular direction.

While each individual work is a marvel to view and a puzzle to deconstruct, together (as many are hung in large grids that span the length and height of the gallery walls) the scope and complexity of Hawkinson's endeavor becomes apparent. It is a pleasure to get lost in the lines and ponder the patterns, as well as marvel about how he created a machine that seemingly defies gravity and precisely stops ink from its inevitable cascade down the page. These works play on notions of control and reveal the endless possibilities within a fixed system.

Click here for Tim Hawkinson on its own page.

December 16, 2021

Laura Karetzky
Luis de Jesus Los Angeles
November 13 - December 22, 2021

Laura Karetzky

Laura Karetzky is interested in what occurs on screens and through windows, often inserting small rectangles into larger painted narratives to create junctures in time and across spaces. In Embedded, a previous body of work, she juxtaposed disparate moments by inserting fragmented views that resemble cell phone selfies and snapshots into paintings that documented aspects of everyday life. For Concurrence, she limits her observation to what occurs in a lone window located in a building she sees from her apartment. The set up is not unlike Hitchcock's Rear Window, or the recent photographs by Brendan Lott, who records the goings on in apartments he sees from the window of his downtown Los Angeles loft. Karetzky's recent work, like Lott's is pandemic specific and focuses on the isolation of quarantine. While voyeuristic, the works of both artists are as much about longing and self reflection as they are about the doings of others.

Karetzky's oil on wood paintings are realistically rendered works created with a purposely limited, almost monochromatic palette. In the gallery, they are installed as a quasi-linear narrative that goes back and forth between close up and distant views of the scene— looking across at a window in an adjacent building. As Karetzky looks out her window between the slats of her blinds, she sees a figure framed within another illuminated window. Unable to discern if the figure is a woman or man, old or young, Karetzky indulges in the ambiguity, painting them at a table, reading or eating, always alone, no matter the time of day. While Karetzky is curious about this person, she also accepts that it is unlikely they will ever cross paths -- this not knowing allows her to project and fantasize.

Throughout the series of paintings, the figure is in almost the same position. What changes is the vantage point and what aspect of her apartment Karetzky includes. In The Window From My Window (all works 2021) the window is viewed through slats in horizontal blinds. In Pink Room, the window is a tiny element, shifting the focus to the blinds. Karetzky borders the pink hued composition with a sliver of a bedside table and lamp, a bed with two pillows, as well as an old-fashioned radiator. Yet, the blue glow of the distant window, now centered in the painting, still commands attention. But Who's Watching is a predominantly yellow painting depicting the same interior space although in this work, the window is open and the blinds are raised. The neighbor's illuminated interior remains the centerpiece, yet beneath the blinds and reflected in a small pane of window glass is the face of a woman, perhaps Karetzky, looking out, as well as back at the viewer.

Karetzky takes this idea (looking in while simultaneously looking out) a step further by creating double-sided (sculptural) paintings. Three of them sit on white pedestals in the center of the gallery space bringing a three-dimensionality to the scenes depicted. In these pieces, Karetzky cuts holes in the paintings which literally become frames (or windows) to see through. Interiors and exteriors, close-ups and distant views align as the viewer encircles these enticing works.

Concurrence: All That Is Seen From is a painting of an interior space with a desk, lamp, chair and mirror that reflects the opposite wall where a young woman, as well as another window or mirror appear. This second mirror/window becomes a physical hole and depending on the vantage point within the gallery, this void is filled with a view of a painting on the wall behind it. Karetzky plays with ideas of simultaneity and what is seen or inferred through painted visual illusions. The works concretize the sense of distance and isolation many felt during the pandemic, yet rather than see limitations, Karetzky explores possibilities.

Click here for Laura Karetzky on its own page.

December 9, 2021

Bob Burchman
New and Recent Paintings
October 30 - December 18, 2021

Bob Burchman

Appropriation in art usually refers to the borrowing, copying or altering of an existing image or object and presenting it anew, relatively unchanged. Numerous artists working in a wide range of mediums have adopted different strategies of appropriation, using works by others as a point of departure for their own creations. Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura have used photography to restage famous paintings in which they assume the role of the central figure. Deborah Kass often mimics the style of her more famous male artist counterparts while infusing her works with a feminist agenda. Louise Lawler takes a different approach. Rather than remake, Lawler's long-term project has been to photograph walls filled with art hanging in museums, galleries and collector's homes. In these images, she calls attention to the spaces the art occupies as well as the relationships between them. Paul Winstanley observes museum and gallery spaces, making paintings of people looking at the art.

Bob Burchman is a Los Angeles based painter who works in the photo-realist tradition to create exacting reproductions based on photographs he has taken with his cell phone of works of art hanging in galleries and museums. Iconic photo-realists like Richard Estes, Chuck Close and Audrey Flack also begin with photographs. While their subjects are often landscapes and cityscapes, images of themselves or images based on pop culture and advertising, Burchman makes paintings of other works of art. He begins with close-up or awkwardly cropped photographs that include numerous layers of reflections. In the oil painting Untitled (Craig Kauffman with Dan Flavin in reflection), 2010-2020, Burchman presents a fragment of Craig Kauffman's 1963 bright green and yellow vacuum-formed acrylic wall work from the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles overlaid with a Dan Flavin sculpture that shimmers as a reflection. Similarly, in Untitled (Roy Lichtenstein with Andy Warhol, Marisol and viewers in reflection) 2010 - 2020, Burchman depicts a distorted, close up view of Roy Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl (1963) that catches the reflection of not only a grid of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans but also a museum guard, as well as numerous viewers staring intently at the various works.

Burchman includes two views of Jasper Johns' Flag painting from the 1950s (in the collection of MoMA): Untitled (Jasper Johns with Donald Judd and viewers in reflection) and Untitled (Jasper Johns with unidentified artworks and viewers in reflection) both 2010 - 2020. In one, the stars fuse with a Donald Judd stack sculpture being admired by two museum patrons. In the other, Burchman includes an ambiguous row of images (most likely installed on an opposite wall) nestled within one of the red stripes on the flag, as well as a silhouetted figure contrasted against the light of a tall window reflected in the grid of the flags white stars. Across the nine oil paintings, Burchman displays his skills and facility with the medium, juxtaposing hyper realism with impressionistic renderings as necessitated in reproducing subtle reflections.

In addition to Johns, Burchman's paintings also include reproductions of works by Piet Mondrian, Ed Ruscha and Vija Celmins, (well known and widely collected artists) all interrupted by reflections of other pieces and viewers-- some depicted as translucent silhouettes while others are captured in exacting detail. While the eye moves between these multiple layers of imagery, now flattened into one seamless painted plain, the intricacy of Burchman's depictions reveal themselves, as does his conceptual rigor. Rather than see the works as an infinity mirror -- continuously reflecting others' paintings and others looking-- or having anything to do with appropriation, it becomes evident that Burchman is showcasing his immense talent as a painter (self taught) and ironically inserting his works into the canon of art history alongside the painters he faithfully reproduces.

Click here for Bob Burchman on its own page.

December 2, 2021

Francesco Clemente
Twenty Years of Painting: 2001-2021
November 5, 2021 - January 16, 2022

Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente is an Italian artist who has also lived in New York as well as in India. The landscape and culture specific to these disparate locations have influenced his paintings. Early in his career during the 1980s, Clemente was often shown with other Italian painters regarded as part of the Transavanguardia movement -- the Italian version of Neo-Expressionism, painters who privileged figurative art and emotion over conceptualism. Other artists associated with Transavanguardia included Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Nino Longobardi and Mimmo Paladino.

It is noteworthy that the Vito Schnabel Gallery's recently opened outpost at the Old Post Office in downtown Santa Monica hosts the exhibition. In the spacious galleries of the newly renovated Art Deco style building (a cultural landmark built during the Depression in 1938) are more than twenty large scale, as well as modest sized Clemente paintings completed between 1998 and 2021. The works have been installed on both new white walls and on the original concrete structure, between large windows with bright views to the outside. The high ceilings and refinished wooden floors create a warm viewing environment. Some will recall waiting in line to buy stamps in the entry space, though most will appreciate the tasteful and subtle renovation that allows the architecture and artworks to co-exist.

While self-portraits like "Summer Self IV" and "Summer Self V" (2011) and the 1998 portraits of "Fran Lebowitz" and "Toni Morrison" are examples of Clemente's skill in capturing the personality and likeness of his subject, recent large-scale (60 by 80 inches) watercolors on paper like "Rising," "Victory" and "Harlequin in Love" (all 2021) illustrate the quirkiness and depth of his imagination.

In "Harlequin in Love," a childlike rendition of a choo-choo train with black, red, green, blue and yellow cars traverses the bottom of the composition, while a black engine blows a billowing cloud of gray smoke across the middle. A masked harlequin with outstretched arms hangs from five ropes that extend down from the top of the painting, as if being lowered onto the train. In this dreamlike image, Clemente captures the comic / tragic dualities inherent in the harlequin subject. "Victory" centers attention on a galloping racehorse with five legs darting across the bottom half of the paper beneath a light pink feather-shaped cloud. As in so many of Clemente's other works, this is a fantastical image of an exaggerated reality.

Clemente is a facile painter who infuses his works with a poetic, sensual and melancholic aura. The works are representational in a loose, childlike way, which is what makes them so seductive. The compositions are usually sparse, their negative spaces often filled with layers of textured brushstrokes. The paintings conjure ambiguous, personal narratives that feel spiritual or mystical. Clemente uses common symbols like clouds, flowers and skulls to speak about universal themes of life, death, war, peace and the passage of time. In "White Flags 1" (2015), a flock of black birds swirl around the shape of a heart that is positioned between two plants on a shoreline. The birds peck at and fly away with small pieces of the heart, which has been pierced by a white flag, a symbol of surrender. From what, or to whom is left up to the viewer.

A pair of paintings created during the pandemic, titled by their dates "5-11 2020" and "5-14 2020," allude to specific moments, as well as the passage of time. "5-14 2020" depicts the trope of sand moving through an hourglass. The gigantic timepiece filling the composition is placed in the center of a black background, light brown sand flowing through its reflective surface. The date is painted on pink/orange rectangles that appear on either side of the hourglass. In "5-11 2020," red roses are contained within the shape of a light blue heart and surrounded by gold-toned bricks. A sign lettered with the date is nested among the flowers.

A 2001 fresco, "Two Trees," is divided into three sections. This evocative and mural scaled 118 by 236 inch work depicts two moments in time, clearly a before and after. On the left side of the yellow background is a lush fruit-bearing tree with an array of white rectangles suspended from its branches with the presence of a spiritual offering. On the right panel, the tree has been cut, its crown crumbled to the ground, the white papers whisked away by a great wind.

Clemente is attuned to what is happening around him. He draws from the landscape as well as from history to create narratives that are personal, but which resonate with universality. The beauty of the landmark architecture works well with the tastefulness of the installation to mark Clemente's return to Los Angeles after an absence of over 20 years as a cultural event.

Note: This review was previously published in the Nov 20, 2021 VAS eNewsletter.

here for Francesco Clemente on its own page.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 wi