What's on Los Angeles | Index

Pick of the Week

by Jody Zellen

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

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


July 17, 2018

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

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


Installation view, Walter Maciel Gallery

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

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

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

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

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


July 12, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


July 5, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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