Apr 192019
 

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico, 1979

Señor de los Pájaros, Nayarit, Mexico, 1984 (image courtesy of Rose Gallery)

Currently at Rose Gallery is Graciela Iturbide: Hay Tiempo, an exhibition of beautiful photographs by the Mexican photographer.

From the press release

Graciela Iturbide, celebrated as one of Mexico’s most prolific and distinguished photographers, observes with patience and exhibits her world with beauty, serenity and dignity. Born into a conservative family in Mexico City, Iturbide decided to create her own path, leaving a traditional domestic life to pursue the arts. During her studies in cinematography at the Universidad Nacional Autonama de Mexico, she became the achichinle (the assistant) to Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the distinguished Mexican photographer who later became a lifelong mentor to Iturbide. In their time together, Álvarez Bravo constantly reminded Iturbide to pause and observe, asserting Hay Tiempo (There is Time). This patience to allow the moment to unravel and reveal itself echoed the notion of a Mexican poetic tempo, which is present throughout Mexican art, literature and life. Iturbide came to understand and employ her mentor’s slow, observational process as she photographed many cultures and spheres.

Although Iturbide has photographed all over the world, she is widely known for the photographs she has taken in her native Mexico. While many twentieth-century photographers had documented Mexico through an outsider’s lens, shining light on poverty and politics in a neocolonial gesture, Iturbide reached beyond the document, photographing the poetic essence embedded in each moment. With Hay Tiempo in mind, she evokes a lyricism in her careful observations. In the late 1970s under an assignment for the INI (Instituto Nacional Indigenista), Iturbide photographed the Seri tribe, focusing her lens on Mexico’s indigenous population which was often overlooked and marginalized. In these portraits, the deep cultural and spiritual history of indigenous peoples exists alongside the influences of colonialism and an encroaching globalism. Then, in 1979, the celebrated Mexican artist Francisco Toledo invited Iturbide to photograph his native city Juchitan in the southern state of Oaxaca, where she encountered the strength and independence of the Zapotec women. In this indigenous, matriarchal community, the women live economically and socially independent lives in a stark contrast to the customs of westernized Mexico that Iturbide grew up within. Iturbide’s photographs, equally grounded and imaginative, portray the power and spirit of each individual. Their direct presence in the image exhibits the persevering dignity of the indigenous people in a post-colonial world. Iturbide’s photographs of Mexico show not only the diverse and rich cultural history of her nation, but also the resonance of Iturbide’s own artistic community, which invited and encouraged the photographer to explore her own nation in its multiplicities of experience.

This exhibition closes 4/20/19.

 

 

 

Apr 122019
 

Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years, 1970 – 1983: Archive Project No. 1 at Hauser and Wirth Los Angeles, is an engrossing look into the beginnings of a photographer who is now one of the most famous in the world. The exhibition, curated by Leibovitz herself, features more than 4,000 photographs. Despite that large number, the layout keeps it from feeling overwhelming. Photographs are put together on the walls by theme and time period. As you wander from room to room looking at the often recognizable faces, Leibovitz’s distinct style emerges.

The early sections of the show give the viewer a chance to see Annie Leibovitz as a young artist just starting out and developing her way of looking at the world through a camera. On one wall is a collage of photos creating a panorama of the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. She took it when she realized she was standing where Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the photographers she most admired, had once stood to photograph that same bridge. The sense of excitement she felt at that moment informs the image she would later take of Cartier-Bresson himself. That portrait is included on another wall with images of other photographers and artists she admired.

Walking from room to room, the famous faces blend together with the history of the time period. Political protests, music festivals and tours, presidential campaigns, Nixon’s resignation, Warhol’s factory- she was there documenting what was happening, often in unique ways. Her ability to observe and capture moments without intruding in her subject’s personal space remains present whether it is a rock star, politician, or a member of her own family.

As the show moves through Leibovitz’s timeline, her increased focus on the portraiture that would make her famous emerges. Her staged photographs from the 1980s of celebrities including Keith Haring, Whoopi Goldberg, and Meryl Streep appear. The transition makes logistical sense as this progression of her career is made clear by all the work that came before. Her portraits are the works that stand out the most, even at the beginning.

The exhibition captures an incredible period of time in both the artist’s work and the history of America. Make sure to leave a lot of time to see it before it closes on 4/14/19.

 

Apr 052019
 

Currently at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles location is Piero Manzoni. Materials of His Time.

From the press release

Piero Manzoni. Materials of His Time is the first exhibition with the gallery and the first in Los Angeles in over 20 years devoted to the seminal figure of postwar Italian Art and progenitor of Conceptualism. Curated by Rosalia Pasqualino di Marineo, director of the Piero Manzoni Foundation in Milan, this exhibition focuses on Manzoni’s revolutionary approach to unconventional materials through the exploration of what he dubbed ‘Achromes’ – paintings without color. Over 70 ‘Achromes’ will be on view, comprised of such materials as sewn cloth, cotton balls, fiberglass, synthetic and natural fur, straw, cobalt chloride, polystyrene, stones, and more. The exhibition situates Manzoni as a peer of such artists as Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein, whose experiments continue to influence contemporary art-making today. ‘Materials of His Time’ will also present, for the first time, the items on a wish list Manzoni outlined in a 1961 letter to his friend Henk Peeters: a room all in white fur, and another coated in fluorescent paint, totally immersing the visitor in white light.

The “Achromes” are simple but pleasing in their graphic simplicity. Lacking in color, they stand out against the soothing muted colors of the walls.

Heading upstairs, there’s something so delightful about stepping into the white fur room that fulfills Manzoni’s dream. The room itself has a white felt floor and fake fur lines the walls, ceiling and door. It may not be as thrilling now that installation art is more common in museums and galleries, but after reading the artist’s quote, knowing he got his wish makes it much more special. The artist died in 1963 at the young age of 29, too soon to see how much would change in the art world. Also, after seeing an exhibition that focuses on objects with so many different textures, having a chance to touch the furry walls is oddly satisfying.

This exhibition closes 4/7/19.

Apr 052019
 

For his current exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Todd Gray:Plurality of Being, Gray combines images that could initially be seen as incongruous to add layers of meaning and complexity to issues of identity.

Using his own previous photographic explorations from different parts of the world, he then places the images together within frames he’s found or was given. Through this process the history of his own journey combines with that of those he’s photographed. In some works the roots of trees reach out between images pulling them together or imitate the stretching out of arms. The blue and white of a bandanna finds its place within the colors of the universe in another. The viewer can put together their own meanings from these juxtapositions or just enjoy the beauty of the sculptural collages.

From the press release-

Using pictures made when he was Michael Jackson’s personal photographer in the 1980s, along with those of verdant flora, local friends, and galactic imagery, Todd Gray’s wall collages portray the multiplicity of experience and memory across space and time.

Mixing archival images of Jackson on tour in the United States with lush landscapes from Italy to South Africa, Gray’s photographic sculptures reframe and reveal an intimate yet collective post-colonial, transatlantic memory. By layering images, bodies and faces become fragmented, drawing into question the role photography plays in the transmission of history and cultural identity.

This is the first U.S. presentation of work made during Gray’s 2017 residency at NIROX in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This exhibition closes 4/7/19.

 

Apr 052019
 

Faces Places– Official Trailer

Agnés Varda passed away last Friday (3/29) at the age of 90. The French film director, photographer, and artist was known for her work in the French New Wave film movement as well as her unique documentaries.

If you have a Los Angeles library card (or are a member of another library- many cities are included) you can stream several of her films using Kanopy including-

Cleo From 5 to 7, a fictional real-time portrait of a singer in Paris in the sixties who is waiting on the results of her cancer biopsy.

Jane B. Par Agnés V., an “imaginary bio-pic” of  real life actress, fashion icon, and muse, Jane Birkin

Kung-Fu Master!, Jane Birkin plays a woman in her 40s who falls in love with a 14 year old boy (played by Varda’s son Mathieu Demy)

The Beaches of Agnés, a cinematic self portrait and a great introduction to the artist and her work

Cinevardaphoto, is composed of three short films exploring the photographic medium- one is a portrait of woman who collects teddy bear photos and the exhibition she creates from them; in the second Varda revisits a photograph she made on the beach of a man, a child and a dead goat- it includes a discussion of the work with the participants, including the boy from the photo who is now a man; the third is comprised of pictures and footage from a trip to Cuba made during the revolution’s early days

Daguerreotypes,  a documentary about the shops and shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre, where Varda has resided for more than fifty years

Faces Places, which she co-directed with the artist JR, was her second to last film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The charming film follows Varda and JR as they travel throughout France in his truck, photographing people and creating murals along the way. This film can also be seen on Netflix.

Varda gave a Tedx Talk last year on “how three ideas central to the life of an artist – inspiration, creation, and sharing – have shaped her career over seven decades of filmmaking.” It’s a great example of how inspiring she herself was, as an artist and as a person.

Apr 042019
 

People, the current sculpture exhibition at Jeffrey Deitch’s Los Angeles gallery in Hollywood, fills the large room with work in a variety of media but all representing human beings in some way.

From the press release-

More than fifty standing, sitting and hanging figurative sculptures will fill Jeffrey Deitch’s new Los Angeles gallery. The artists in the show span several generations from the 1980s to the present, with an emphasis on emerging talent.

All of the works in the exhibition reflect a contemporary approach to sculpture inspired by the innovations of Dada, Surrealism, Assemblage and by the influence of non- or meta- art sources like department store mannequins.

Only one work in the show is carved or modeled in the traditional way. Some are made from body casts, others are constructed with found objects and only a few use conventional sculptural materials like bronze.

The works in the exhibition reflect the diversity of the artists who created them and the diversity of the people who the sculptures represent. The styles range from hyperrealism to allegory. The subjects range from ordinary individuals to creatures of fantasy. The works explore the uncanny confrontation of the artificial and the real while simultaneously responding to the multiple approaches to human identity in the contemporary world.

One of the sculptures, Totem, by Narcissister even incorporates live women. This adds to the unsettling feeling that some of the other sculptures, like Nobody, by Karon Davis (who founded The Underground Museum with her late husband Noah Davis), might have included real people as well (they don’t).

Karon Davis, “Nobody”, 2019

One of the strongest pieces in the exhibition is David Altmejd’s Pyramid in which a human/dog hybrid figure sits smoking while its back opens to expose insides composed of quartz, a hand, and several ears protrude from its sides. The little details are fascinating. He’s even painted one of the figure’s fingers purple, perhaps a reference to Human, the Ibizan hound with one purple leg that was included in Pierre Huyghe’s exhibition at LACMA.

People was inspired by Mike Kelley’s exhibition and book project The Uncanny, from 1993, and that’s definitely an accurate description of how it feels to wander around in this particular room of sculptures.

This exhibition closes 4/6/19.

 

 

Mar 292019
 

Pasadena currently has a lot of great art shows going on.

Depending on your susceptibility to coulrophobia, Marnie Weber’s exhibition (pictured above) at Pasadena City College is a fun and slightly unsettling collection of sculptures and images depicting a variety of odd characters.

This exhibition closes 4/12/19.

sp[a]ce at Ayzenberg’s exhibition (shown below), The Universe is in Us, curated by Mark Todd, includes a selection of artists working in different media including painting, sculpture, collage and video.

From the press release-

For The Universe is in Us, Todd has assembled a diverse array of artists who honor the vastness of the universe around us through the raw material of our physical biology, our spirit, our emotion, and just everyday life on planet earth in contemporary society.

“What are we made of?” Todd asks in his curator statement. “Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen. The universe is inside of us all. Incredible as it is, we are literally made of stars. But what of our thoughts, dreams, hopes, worries? This too is inside. The eight artists in this exhibition expose these complexities that make us who we are and reveal them to us through a hodgepodge of collage, pencil, inks, oils and acrylics. Portraits of strangers stare back at us. Familiar but dreamlike landscapes swirl. Other worlds and oversized figures are on display. Playful and poetic, the work in this show is honest and sincere. At times, powerfully obsessive, at other times quiet and austere. The connection that ties them is what is inside each and every one of us.”

This exhibition closes 3/31/19.

 

Souther Salazar, “The Universe is in Us”

One of Saiman Chow’s video installations

Paintings by Seonna Hong

At the Armory Center for the Arts, there are two exhibitions (shown below)- Sara Kathryn Arledge: Serene for the Moment and Sandra de la Loza’s Mi Casa Es Su Casa.

From the press release for Serene for the Moment

In this exhibition, abstraction is an entry point to consider daily encounters marked by abundance, loss, transcendence, and a dream-like passage of time. An under-recognized painter and innovator of mid-20th century experimental cinema, Sara Kathryn Arledge (1911-1998) was a prolific artist who emphasized the eerie in the mundane and the disorienting in the beautiful. Arledge worked at the margins of art history, shaping her practice with idiosyncratic personal myth. She is considered a pioneer of ciné-dance (dance made uniquely by and for the medium of film) and was one of the first to film dance movement to “extend the nature of painting to include time.” The exhibition includes over 60 of Arledge’s vivid works on paper, seven short films, and a selection of hand-painted glass transparencies. The work quietly suggests that subjective, “alternative” normals are equally legitimate.

From the press release for Mi Casa Es Su Casa

In Mi Casa Es Su Casa, Sandra de la Loza interrogates historic photographs of her own Mexican American family to address issues of power, memory, and history through the concept of home. By obscuring, blurring, and replacing the bodies and faces in the photographs, she points to the codes that comprise the family photo—the landscape, architecture, pose, and fashion to investigate the uneasy and slippery terrain of representation itself. With this immersive installation, which simultaneously searches for shifting, non-reductive portrayals as it deconstructs hegemonic myths, de la Loza highlights a central paradox of our contemporary moment, where an increased social desire for fluid notions of identity coincides with a heightened demand to dismantle historic and current economic, political, and cultural violences.

Both of these exhibitions are on view until 5/12/19.

Paintings and film by Sara Kathryn Arledge

At the Pasadena Museum of History is Something Revealed; California Women Artists Emerge, 1860-1960, which includes over 300 artworks in various media including oil paintings, works on paper, ceramics, metalcraft, textiles and sculpture. It’s a chance to see work from artists who were skilled in their craft but often overlooked because of their gender.

One of the standouts from the exhibition is the work of Vivian F. Stringfield (pictured below), whose work was influenced by Japanese woodblock prints which were collected in Europe and the U.S. during the early 20th century. She also partnered with fellow artists Fannie Kerns and Marjorie Hodges to produce greeting cards in the late 1910s, some of which are also on view in the exhibition.

This show has been extended through 4/13/19.

Painting by Vivian F. Stringfield circa 1919

 

Mar 292019
 

The Whitney Museum’s exhibition, Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again is a great representation of the artist’s body of work. Despite the fact that so much of it has been seen before, the curation makes so much of it feel fresh.

Andy Warhol’s artistic legacy is vast. He created a prolific amount of work throughout his career and the exhibition covers a lot of it. From his early commercial illustrations to his more abstract pieces, his collaborations with Basquiat, his silk screen portraits, his videos, films, and books, there is a lot to see. Below are a few highlights.

Warhol’s fascination with death is seen in numerous works in the exhibition. In 129 Die In Jet, 1962 (pictured above), he recreated the newspaper cover by hand and even used a sponge-blotting technique to reproduce the look of the halftone image. It’s interesting to see how this work foreshadowed his move to the screen printing process. This technique combined with his interest in the subject of death can be seen in his car crash paintings made the following year.

There’s a room dedicated to reproducing Warhol’s Cow Wallpaper, which he used to fill a room in the Castelli Gallery as part of a 1966 installation where he “retired from painting”. He used it again in 1971 for a retrospective at the Whitney, where he directed that all the works be hung on it for the exhibition. It’s a creative way to tie in that history and to present the various colored flower paintings.

Some of Warhol’s portrait series, Ladies and Gentlemen, 1975, which focused on members of New York’s queer community, is included in the show. It’s a nice contrast to his portraits that more commonly feature socialites and Hollywood celebrities.

His giant portrait of Mao is impressive, and takes up a wall in one of the galleries. It’s a reproduction of a painting by Zhang Zhenshi, which was at the time thought to be the most widely reproduced artwork in the world. Warhol created the work in response to reading about then President Nixon’s trip to meet with the Chinese leader, while China was still considered an enemy of the United States.

On a separate floor are several monitors playing Warhol’s video work and work related to the artist. Included is one of him eating a Burger King burger, shot by Danish documentarian Jørgen Leth, that the fast food chain used as part of their ad in this year’s Superbowl.

Warhol was a constantly evolving artist who worked in many mediums, in effective ways. The exhibition is a testament to Warhol’s unique perspective and how his work continues to resonate in a time period where so much of what he was commenting on has even more relevance.

Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again, closes 3/31/19 and is free Friday from 7-10pm.

Mar 222019
 

 

Currently at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA are Laura Owens mid-career survey and Zoe Leonard: Survey. Two very different exhibitions, each exceptional in their own way.

Laura Owens’ exhibition (pictured above), captures the exuberance of her work throughout her career from the mid-1990s until today. Looking at the colorful paintings, it’s the details you don’t notice at first that give them added depth and life. Textured paint seems to float above the canvas and in some of the work sculptural pieces extend beyond the frame. Traveling from room to room you can see her style grow and change while still keeping elements from the previous work.

Zoe Leonard’s exhibition (seen below) is a thought provoking collection of the artist’s work that varies between the political and the personal and sometimes a blending of the two.

A tree sliced apart and bolted back together is suspended in a room that also contains contact sheets of birds in flight. In another, there’s a line of suitcases, one for every year of the artist’s life. There are photos taken of the sun and a table with stacks of postcards of various views of Niagara Falls.  Black and white photos of animals who have been killed and dismembered confront you in another section of the gallery. Nature, death, and the passing of time are common themes present in Leonard’s work and in our own lives. The effect is meditative.

There are also the more overtly political works. For Tipping Point (pictured below) which she created in 2016, she created a tower of 53 copies of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, one for each year since the book was published. On one wall a typed copy on onionskin of her famous work I want a president, that she wrote when poet Eileen Myles ran for president, hangs between two pieces of glass. (This work was also printed as a large mural for The Highline in New York in 2016)

From MOCA’s website-

New York–based artist Zoe Leonard (b. 1961) is among the most critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Over the past three decades, she has produced work in photography and sculpture that has been celebrated for its lyrical observations of daily life coupled with a rigorous, questioning attention to the politics and conditions of image making and display.

Zoe Leonard: Survey is the first large-scale overview of the artist’s work in an American museum. The exhibition looks across Leonard’s career to highlight her engagement with a range of themes, including gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape. More than it focuses on any particular subject, however, Leonard’s work slowly and reflectively calibrates vision and form. Using repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard draws viewers into an awareness of the meanings behind otherwise familiar images or objects. A counter-example to the speed and disposability of image culture today, Leonard’s photographs, sculptures, and installations ask the viewer to reengage with how we see.

On Sunday, 3/24, MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson will lead a final walkthrough of both of these exhibitions before they close on Monday 3/25/19.  Admission is free to the museum and this event this weekend.

Mar 212019
 

Chris Engman, “Containment” Installation, 2019

Chris Engman “Bookshelves”, 2019

Taking and viewing photos has increasingly become an important part of people’s lives, especially with the introduction of Instagram and the ability to use your phone as a camera. We are looking at more and more images than ever before. But when you are looking at a photo, how much of what you are seeing is real?

Chris Engman’s show Refraction at Luis de Jesus Gallery challenges these perceptions through his creation of photographic environments. When you enter the gallery you walk into the site-specific work Containment, which took over 300 individual prints to create. It’s an immersive piece that gives the viewer the chance to see how Engman’s final images are created.

The second room of the gallery houses several photos of different recreated natural environments, including sand dunes and a cloudy sky. On one wall there is a book shelf (pictured above) where the center is a photograph of a bookshelf and to the left and right are actual objects, furthering the challenge to question everything you are looking at. Looking at a photo of books on a shelf, next to real books on a shelf, what makes more of an impression to your eye? What is the difference between looking at a photo of the sky and a photo of a construction made of photos of the sky?

From the press release

Refraction explores the relationship between illusion and reality by exposing the deceit inherent in photographic image-making while engaging in philosophical and material play around slips in translation. Refraction refers to the change in matter or information as it passes through one medium to another. Refraction occurs when our experience of the world is mediated through photographic images. Engman states: “We see more than we would have, and there is value in that. But the thing, person, or place that is imaged is also irrevocably changed. Photographs resemble and seem somehow in proximity to places and moments we cannot access in ways we wish we could. This produces a continuous and oblique kind of yearning for what we wish could be present or more fully understood,” resulting in a mental projection through which we fill in the gaps, adding detail or meaning.

This exhibition closes 3/23/19.