Oct 112019
 

Francisco Rodriguez “Aridity”, 2019

Francisco Rodriguez “In the Garden”, 2019

Currently at Steve Turner gallery in Hollywood are three excellent painting exhibitions. The first, pictured above, is Francisco Rodriguez’s Midday Demon.

From the press release

Steve Turner is pleased to present Midday Demon, a solo exhibition of new paintings by London-based Francisco Rodriguez, most of which feature an isolated male figure within a desolate urban landscape. In some, the figure is upright and smoking a cigarette. In others, he appears to have passed out. The artist describes the bleak setting as one that fosters exhaustion, listlessness, sadness, dejection, restlessness, anxiety and depression. Rodriguez observed the phenomena of the “midday demon” while growing up in Santiago, one of the largest cities in South America; again in London where he has lived for the last five years; and also during a recent residencies in Poland and Ukraine. He ponders the effects of the oppressive midday sun and wonders if such “spirits” actually do appear at that hour. Are his figures victims of some  “midday demon”; or are they the demons themselves?

In the second gallery are Rebecca Shippee’s paintings for The Creators, featuring four portraits that are scaled to life and painted from observation.

From the press release

Her subjects are queer, their bodies altered medically or through wardrobe choices. One figure bears top-surgery scars and whimsical tattoos, while another wears emerald green silk pajamas and a nameplate reading Boyland. The show’s title refers to self-fashioning, the art of inventing oneself, a pursuit particularly vital to queer life as well as to the fact that all the sitters are cultural creators–artists, writers and activists. In choosing to portray individuals with whom she has close personal relationships, Shippee rejects the traditional notions of “active artist” and “passive muse.” Instead, she portrays the sitters as creators of their own images.

Rebecca Shippee “Noah”, 2019.

 

In the third gallery are Jon Key’s paintings for Violet Alabama, a solo exhibition “inspired by the artist’s personal history and memories of growing up in rural Seale, Alabama”.

From the press release

Through self-portraiture, Key explores the lineage and history of his identity through four themes–southern-ness, blackness, queerness, and family–each of which he represents chromatically with green, black, violet and red. He will also exhibit portraits of his father and grandfather to highlight the friction between the generations and the challenges of being a queer Black man in the Deep South.

Jon Key “The Man (No. 4)” and “The Man (No. 3)”, 2019

Jon Key “Family Portrait (No. 1)”, 2019 (front) and “Man in Red Room 1”, 2019

All three of these exhibitions close 10/12/19.

Oct 102019
 

From the press release-

Klowden Mann is proud to present San-Diego-based artist Andrea Chung’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, … Only to meet nothing that wants you. The exhibition features large-scale cyanotype works depicting under-sea images of coral that have then been bleached with sugar crystals—a material woven throughout Chung’s practice for over a decade in reference to its relationship to colonialism in the Caribbean. The cyanotypes are placed in context with a brass chandelier that recalls designs from the 19th century; where crystals would hang, Chung has hung glass vials filled with sugar in various shades.

Chung’s practice often utilizes perishable and precious materials with strong underlying histories, forming relationships to pre-emancipation images of the Caribbean, touristic misrepresentations of people and place, the export or import of goods and materials, and the labor of the human body. Completing the quote by Nayyirah Waheed that Chung used as the title of her first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2017, “You broke the ocean in half to be here,” the title of the exhibition at Klowden Mann answers with the second half of the phrase, “…Only to meet nothing that wants you.”

In the cyanotype works, coral bleaching becomes a metaphor for colonialism, and the expanding of the philosophy and impact of imperialism on colonial populations and cultures. The addition of sugar crystals to the already highly sensitive cyanotypes underlines Chung’s interest in creating work that defies the notion of artworks as static objects that are meant to remain unchanging and unyielding in the face of shifting environments and time; in a way that also reflects the constant uncontrolled and irresponsible effects of human actions on the environment, and on vulnerable populations. The works are intended to shift and change over the course of the exhibition, as the sugar embeds further in the cyanotype, falls, and expands. The works are linked to the environment in which they are placed in a way that Chung cannot predict and control—and along with the chandelier, ask the audience to consider who pays for the superficial opulence and beauty to which so many have become accustomed.

The work in this exhibition is really stunning, and the fact that it is work that is changing with time, makes seeing it feel even more special. Like so much of the beauty in the world, and especially in nature, you appreciate it, while wondering how long it will still be around to be seen.

This exhibition closes 10/12/19.

Oct 082019
 

The Museum of Broken Windows is a free pop-up experience in New York City, a project by the NYCLU currently located Cooper Union.

From the Museum of Broken Windows/ NYCLU websites-

The broken windows theory is an academic theory proposed by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982. The academic theory, which first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, states that signs of disorder in a neighborhood, like a broken window, encourages petty crimes and leads to more serious crimes. This postulation was adopted by the New York City Police Department and has led to the criminalization of poverty and the over-policing of Black and Brown communities at disproportionate rates. The theory has never been proven to be effective at reducing crime.

The Museum showcases the ineffectiveness of broken windows policing, which criminalizes our most vulnerable communities. The strategy of broken windows policing is outdated and has never been proven to be effective at reducing crime. For decades, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by broken windows policing.

It is time for a change. New Yorkers are coming together for important conversations on policing and what it means to feel and be safe. Using art and creativity, the Museum of Broken Windows will provide a powerful and emotional experience that critically looks at the system of policing in New York.


Pictured above are “…and counting” by Ann Lewis (each tag is filled out with the name of a person killed by police) and one of the group of portraits by Tracy Hetzel of women who have lost loved ones because of broken window policing. The one pictured is of Gwen Carr who is holding a picture of her son Eric Garner.

This show ends on 10/8/19.

Oct 032019
 

“Lake Annecy”, 2019 and “Sailboat”, 2019

Lake Annecy, 2019 detail

Currently at Miles McEnery’s gallery locations in Chelsea are two engaging painting exhibitions.

Guy Yanai’s paintings, at the 21st Street location, are created with strips of oil paint and are fascinating to walk up close to, observing the details, and then to pull back from to see as a whole. He also chose a bright yellow for the walls of the gallery to be painted, which brings out the colors of the paintings even further.

From the press release

Guy Yanai strips his subjects down to geometric necessity and builds them back up again in oil paint, establishing a tension on his canvases between the spatially flat and the physically multidimensional. A combination of diagrammatic delineation of form and vivid color, Yanai’s paintings are an optical delight.

Yanai accomplishes this willful distillation of his subjects by painting obsessively in tight chromatic strips. While from afar the individual brushstrokes fade into the larger landscape, up close one can notice the stops and starts of each metered stroke. This synthesis speaks to Yanai’s desire for his works “to have such tension that if you take out one brushstroke, the painting will collapse.” The smoothness and uniformity of his taut oil bands offer a linear precision that can only be accomplished by the most disciplined draftsman.

While Yanai harkens back to modernist masters such as Matisse and Cézanne, his compositions are pixelated in a manner that is fundamentally contemporary. The collection of short and disconnected brushstrokes merge in the viewer’s eye to create a fully realized image. Yanai’s paintings experiment with the digital in contemporary art. “As beholden to the virtual imagery of the internet as to the history of modernism,” Ara H. Merjian writes in his essay, Élan Vital, “Yanai’s work proves beguilingly complex despite – or rather, precisely in – its congenial simplicity.”

Often revisiting the same subject, he paints from memory – of a place, of a moment, of a feeling. Just as recollections brighten and fade in the mind over time, Yanai recalls his own inspirations and recreates them in different ways as they evolve. What results is a proliferation of works that demonstrate Yanai’s rich meditation on his experiences. Whether an open window or an ocean view, Yanai’s nostalgic passion has a lasting impact on its viewer.

At their 22nd Street location are Brian Alfred’s colorful graphic paintings of places in New York City.

“W. 4th St.”, 2018-2019

“Central Park at Dusk”, 2019

From the press release-

Alfred navigates these complex themes using an approach characterized by sharp lines and blocked colors. Tightly-cropped compositions manipulate the viewer’s perception of space, conflating overlapping buildings, signage, and other urban elements. These vibrant, city-shaped configurations capture ephemeral moments: the view through the gap between two skyscrapers, the contour of a passing storefront from a car window, and a downward glance into a subway entrance. While they might not last long, these unique fields of vision are fundamental parts of the experience of the city.

Both of these exhibitions close 10/5/19.

Oct 032019
 

Jim Krewson’s “tribute to a vanishing subculture”, A Requiem for Paul Lynde, currently in the Viewing Room in the back of Marlborough Gallery’s downtown location, “questions the loss and amnesia of marginal identity in a new age of equality, instant access, Instagram influencers and celebrity, from homosexuality to homogenization in 20 short years.”

The airbrushed wedding dress spins with images that include Lynde himself, as well as Lady Elaine Fairchild from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the Madame puppet, a Wayland Flowers creation. Flowers’ puppet had her own sitcom in 1982 and also took over Paul Lynde’s center square on Hollywood Squares. Sadly Flowers, an openly gay entertainer, passed away in 1988 at the age of 48 from AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma.

If you love of a certain time period of pop culture and Paul Lynde than it will be hard not to embrace this project. But it’s also interesting as a meditation on the state of gay pop culture in the past, the place it is in today, and the question of where it may go in the future now that it is has such a strong, but less subversive place, within mainstream media.

In the main viewing space of Marlborough Gallery is Joe Zucker’s multi-panel 100-Foot-Long-Piece created from 1968 to 1969.

From the press release

This masterwork, exhibited here with a large body of related archival material, comprises a blueprint for Zucker’s long and diverse practice. It plants a flag for the artist’s ongoing inventiveness, irony, and eclecticism.

With the creation of this work, Zucker presents the viewer with a puzzle-like, encyclopedic visual vocabulary, anticipating subsequent pictorial and conceptual approaches such as New Image, Neo-Expressionism, Appropriation, Neo Geo, as well as more recent process- based abstraction, with a self-referential, wry regard for the embedded, associative meaning of his imagery and materials.

100-Foot-Long Piece is a linear aggregate in which gestural abstraction rubs elbows with hard edged grids, silk-screened passages, sculptural reliefs, and a host of other styles and forms. One is mindful of both physical and critical tropes of progressive art history from the physicality of the frieze to a qualitative timeline tracing the contributions of Modernism.

Both shows close 10/5/19.

Sep 202019
 

Jeffrey Gibson, “PEOPLE LIKE US”, 2019

Jeffrey Gibson

2019’s Whitney Biennial presents an interesting selection of work, by a mostly young and diverse group of artists. The works included in the show are consistently good, and often intriguing, but this time around nothing is particularly outrageous or polarizing- a contrast to many of the previous iterations.

Not that there wasn’t any drama surrounding the show. This time around, however, the controversy was not with an artwork but with former Whitney executive board member Warren B. Kanders and his ownership of Safariland, a tear-gas canister maker. He has since resigned after protests and threats of withdrawal from several of the artists included in the show. Artist collective Forensic Architecture’s film, Triple Chaser, on view in the exhibition, investigates Safariland and Kanders.

Below are a few highlights from the exhibition.

Janiva Ellis ” Uh Oh, Look Who Got Wet”, 2019

Daniel Lind-Ramos, “Centinelas (Sentinels)”, 2013

Section of Nicole Eisenman’s, “Procession”, 2019

This exhibition closes 9/22/19.

 

Aug 302019
 

This is the last weekend (closing 9/1) to see Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite at Skirball Cultural Center.

From the center’s website-

See the iconic images that amplified one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1960s: “Black Is Beautiful.” Featuring over forty photographs of black women and men with natural hair and clothes that reclaimed their African roots, Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, is the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

Inspired by the writings of activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite (b. 1938) combined his political vision with the medium of photography to effect social change. Along with his brother Elombe Brath (1936–2014), Brathwaite founded two organizations that were instrumental in realizing his vision: African Jazz-Art Society and Studios, a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers, in 1956; and Grandassa Models, a modeling group for black women, in 1962. Working with AJASS and Grandassa Models, Brathwaite organized fashion shows featuring clothing designed by the models themselves, created stunning portraits of jazz luminaries, and captured behind-the-scenes photographs of the black arts community.

During an era when segregation still prevailed across the United States, Brathwaite’s work challenged mainstream beauty standards that excluded women of color. His photographs celebrated black beauty and instilled a sense of pride throughout the community. Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite demonstrates how the medium of photography is an essential cultural tool in the dissemination of new visual paradigms and political ideas.

Aug 232019
 

CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, Annenberg Space for Photography‘s latest exhibition, includes an excellent selection of photos from the beginning of hip-hop until now. Over 75 original and unedited contact sheets are also being shown. These are a great addition to the exhibition and give the viewer added insight into the thought process that went into the final work.

In the center of the gallery, there is an exclusive new documentary short film featuring several of the photographers from the show at work and in conversation. There is also a pop-up record shop featuring rare hip-hop on vinyl.

This exhibition closes 8/25/19.

Aug 222019
 

A Universe of One, 2018

A Universe of One, 2018 (detail)

The Dream of Flight, 2019

The Dream of Flight, 2019 (detail)

Currently at Kohn Gallery is New York-based artist María Berrío’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

From the press release-

Inspired by her youth in the countryside of Bogotá, Colombia, Berrío’s paintings explore the experience of immigrant identity, intercultural connectivity and the beauty that is found in the diversity of cultures and countries. Berrío depicts her figures with richly detailed and patterned backgrounds of exteriors and interiors. The large, detailed mixed media canvases employ lush, carefully crafted, multilayered Japanese papers and paint, resulting in scenes replete with pensive yet confident figures amid a scene of visual exuberance.

Berrío’s work often places female figures at the center of her intricately woven landscapes. Painted with watercolor details, her figures stare out of the composition determined to confront the viewer from their own surreal surroundings. Her work is evocative of predecessors such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, both known for their exceptional degree of emotional directness and figural distortion in the place of conventional beauty. Berrío’s works float seamlessly between historical and contemporary artistic styles as they employ a wide visual vernacular ranging from expressionism to graphic, abstract marks.

The variety of media and techniques found in María Berrío’s practice emphasizes the interwoven cultural breadth of the world in which we live, where globalization and injustice touch the lives of everyone. Each character Berrío paints is a symbol of this new reality and the strength that can issue from it. For the artist, a female soldier on the front lines is as brave and mighty as the mother who protects her children from the perils of war. These depictions of women are seen as guiding spirits who are strong, vulnerable, compassionate, courageous and in harmony with Nature and themselves. With these combinations of human traits and emotions, Berrío fortifies her belief that with womanhood every action is considered beautiful and strong, no matter how small or large.

For her current show, A Cloud’s Roots, Berrío focuses especially on place and migration. The individuals are seen in preparation for their travels, in moments of transition, and in various states of uncertainty. Berrío states, “the ambiguity is intentional; although I may have a specific idea in mind when making the work, the actual piece lacks cultural specificity to allow for all symbolic possibilities.” Berrío therefore gravitates towards symbols with global cultural significance, such as braids, birds, and flowers, with the hope that they allow diverse audiences to bring their own understanding to the work.

In her recent work, A Cloud’s Roots (2018), Berrío creates a fictional species of tree based on the dragon’s blood tree, found exclusively on an island off the coast of Yemen. The dragon’s blood tree has adapted perfectly to the island’s desert-like climate and rocky soil, inhospitable to most other plant life. It is a powerful symbol of survival and resilience, able to thrive even in the most unlikely conditions. The figures in the piece are compelled to leave their home but they carry with them the knowledge that they too have the power to put down roots wherever they go.

By reflecting on the beauty of our immigrant nation, Berrío’s new body of work aims to rewrite the narrative of American history to include the stories of people who have long been excluded. It makes space for those who were not born in this country, but come here full of hope and desire to make it their home. As the art canon expands its scope and redefines its boundaries, Berrío imagines a future in which people with diverse perspectives can walk into an institution and see themselves reflected back. Berrío states, “so many immigrants, myself included, are stuck in the inbetween, not quite from here, and no longer from there. I create work that bears witness to this liminal state of being and acknowledges it as an essential part of being American. I wish to convey that which can never be conveyed: the sheer joy of being, of creation, and the undiscoverable mystery of being alive.”

This exhibition closes 8/24/19.

Also, if you are in New York City, she recently created several glass and ceramic mosaics that can be seen in the Fort Hamilton Pkwy Station.

 

Aug 092019
 

 

When trying to talk about the David Hammon’s exhibition at Hauser and Wirth Los Angeles, his first in Los Angeles in 45 years, it’s hard to know where to start. There are no titles or descriptions of any of the works in the show, although there is writing on the walls in certain places. The press release, shown below, is a mass of lines and a dedication to jazz musician Ornette Coleman.

Before you enter either of the two massive galleries housing the exhibition you encounter a courtyard filled with tents, some with “this could be u and u” stenciled on them. Tents also line the corridor under Martin Creed’s neon piece, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, with a rack of fancy vintage coats nearby. Once predominantly in Skid Row, Los Angeles’ tent cities have been growing rapidly on street corners and under bridges and highways all over the city, but they often just blend into the background for people walking and driving past. What does a fake tent city in the courtyard of a high end gallery in a newly gentrified neighborhood mean? Is its fake version more affecting than the real one to gallery and restaurant patrons wandering by?

The work in the show feels at times random, clever, humorous, and confounding, but also impressive, thought provoking, and most importantly never dull. There are stacks of art history books sitting on scales. A water filled bowl that contains what once was a snowball Hammons had sold on the street at one point in his career, sits on a wooden shelf. A room with empty glass cubes on wood columns requires you to bend down to see the feet underneath. A book titled A History of Harlem is filled with empty black pages.

In the room pictured below is a three legged chair next to a wall of photos of women sitting in it. Nearby, one of Ornette Coleman’s suits is surrounded by glass.

Another room is filled with paint splattered and damaged fur coats, one facing an antique mirror that is covered. The symbolism feels a bit heavy handed, like the tents, but it works in that there are still several ways to interpret what Hammons might be saying.

Throughout the exhibition paintings are covered in various ways. One in paper, ripped with a bit of the painting visible. Others are partially hidden with tarps, plastic, different fabrics, even an antique rug (shown below). Once again, you can interpret the meaning of this in several ways. With the rug, for example, it’s turned so that only a bit of its design is visible in front of a painting that is not completely visible. These rugs are often associated with old money and sometimes are hung on walls themselves as artwork. Or is it just another assemblage, a visual combination to be taken at face value.

Ultimately the interpretation of all of the work is up to the viewer. There is something freeing in that, not being given answers. Sure, it’s nice to have an explanation of an artist’s intentions sometimes, but you often add your own ideas anyway. Art should make you think, question things, look at the world from a new perspective- this exhibition does all of that and more.

David Hammons at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles closed 8/11/19.