What's on Los Angeles | Index

Pick of the Week

by Jody Zellen

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

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

Click on the dates below to read my weekly picks.

November 15, 2018


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


Meleko Mokgosi installation view

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Meleko Mokgosi review on its own page.







November 8, 2018


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


B. Wurtz, installation views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Novmber 1, 2018


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


Soo Kim, installation views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Soo Kim review on its own page.







October 25, 2018


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


Karon Davis, installation view

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Karon Davis review on its own page.







October 18, 2018


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


Sol LeWitt, installation view, LAX Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Sol LeWitt review on its own page.

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





October 11, 2018


Channa Horwitz
Structures
Ghebaly Gallery
September 15 - October 20, 2018


Channa Horwitz, installation view

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

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

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

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

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

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



Click here for Channa Horwitz review on its own page.



October 4, 2018


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


Paco Pomet, Llagas / Dusk Attack, (2018)

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

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

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

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

Click here for Paco Pomet review on its own page.



September 27, 2018


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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





September 20, 2018


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


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

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

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

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

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

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





September 13, 2018


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


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

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

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

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





September 6, 2018


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


Andrea Bowers, Tauba Auerbach, Johanna Drucker

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

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

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

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

There are:

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

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





August 30, 2018


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


Vincent Fecteau installation view

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

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

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

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

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





August 23, 2018


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


Danica Phelps installation views

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

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

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

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

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





August 16, 2018


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


Alison O'Daneil installation view

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

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

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

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





August 9, 2018


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


Robert Levine installation view and XXV, 2018

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

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

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

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

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





August 2, 2018


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


Stephen Berens installation view

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

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

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

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

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





July 26, 2018


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


Left: Trisha Baga, Right: Peggy Weil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





July 17, 2018


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

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


Installation view, Walter Maciel Gallery

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

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

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

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

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





July 12, 2018


Young Joo Lee
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.