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.

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 

Juan Capistrán, Psychogeography of Rage (sending up searchlights in the form of flames) Western, 2019

Kim Fisher- Los Angeles Hedge, 2019

Kim Fisher, Woman Behind Rocks, 2019

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cinema Sanctuary, 2019

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cinema Sanctuary (close-up)

Enrique Castrejon, You, me, and all of us are in this together/Reach out to those that don’t know their status, 2019

Enrique Castrejon, You, me, and all of us are in this together/Reach out to those that don’t know their status, 2019 close-up

Every year The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) awards grants to the city’s best mid-career artists. The work created with these grants is then shown in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) in Barnsdall Park for the C.O.L.A.(City of Los Angeles) exhibitions.

COLA 2019 is made up of 11 artists working in various mediums. Two of the artists, Juan Capistrán and Kim Fisher were also shown together as part of Hammer Museum’s biennial exhibition, Made in L.A. 2014. For this show, Capistrán created large brick sculptures that he placed in sites in South Los Angeles that haven’t been rebuilt since the 1992 LA Riots. In his section of work in the gallery, he includes photos of these temporary site specific installations as well as some of the brick sculptures- two of which have balloons tied to them spelling GRATIS. The bricks can be seen as objects of destruction or building blocks, and the dual meanings work well in the context of the work.

Kim Fisher’s large collages capture another side of Los Angeles. From the hedge she used for the largest piece, to the ocean, swimming pools, and car culture, included in her others, the graphics and color come together in a way that feels very much like the traditional ideas associated with the city.  The different sections, created to look as if they were torn or cut from magazines, form collages that feel like scattered memories that have somehow arranged themselves cohesively.

Sabrina Gschwandtner took forgotten films made by female directors and stitched them together to form patterns drawn from the history of quilt-making. The use of a craft that is traditionally associated with women and tying it an artistic pursuit that women are only more recently being acknowledged for is an interesting juxtaposition. The resulting work is stunning graphically and reminiscent of Agnés Varda’s colorful house of film reels created for LACMA’s Agnés Varda in Californialand from 2014.

Enrique Castrejon created sculptures that stem from his work in an LGBTQ center in Los Angeles. His sculptures of fragmented bodies are surrounded by strips of paper with HIV infection rates. The humanity of the figures contrasts with the overwhelming strips of typed documentation that swarms all around them.

All of the work created for this exhibition is incredibly strong and these annual exhibitions are a great way to see some of the best work being created by Los Angeles artists today. If you can’t make it to the exhibition there is a video on the site that takes you on a walk through with one of the curators. Also make sure to catch Stephanie Taylor’s Municipal Art Song, which plays at the entrance to the exhibition. She created song lyrics based on text from LAMAG and DCA’s websites and catalogs, and used them to create sheet music using Schoolhouse Rock! as an inspiration. The result is really funny, especially if you read a lot of press releases.

This exhibition closes 7/14/19.

 

 

Jun 202019
 

Regen Projects is currently showing Elliot Hundley’s Clearing (pictured above) and Liz Larner’s As Below, So Above (shown below). Hundley’s exhibition includes five panel works as well as three benches with accompanying sculptures. The panel works are incredible, with dizzying amounts of detail and texture. Tiny images, pieces of fabric, tags, and even one flip flop, mix with paint and ink to form the final works. The best way to appreciate the work is by moving close to look at small sections at a time and then pulling back to see it as a whole.

In the video below, that was made for the exhibition at MOCA that Hundley recently curated, he talks a bit about his process. Especially interesting is when he says he tries to leave his creations “in an open ended form so that people who look at them can also imagine making them or interacting with them or destroying them or rearranging them”.

For Liz Larner’s exhibition she has created several new works that “demonstrate her ongoing examination into sculpture, painting, drawing, and ceramics. The environment – the personal and the entrenched – are set together in these artworks that reach for an understanding of vulnerability through what is and has been considered low and directed, made capital of, and endangered.”

Both of these exhibition will close on 6/22/19.

Jun 132019
 

It’s not often an art show comes along where you wish there were more people in the gallery, but going to see Urs Fischer: PLAY at Jeffrey Deitch in Los Angeles was one of them. When you first walk into the large space filled only with office chairs, you notice them moving but in ways you might not expect- if you expect office chairs to be moving on their own in the first place.

The chairs are controlled by artificial intelligence that determines and learns from each encounter. Even alone in the gallery, it was delightful to watch the chairs interact with each other and then myself as I walked around. They come close to you and each other. They spin and travel together or seem to interact one by one. When others entered the gallery they change their movement again, seemingly without any set pattern. At one point I watched one of the chairs move all the way to the desk by the entrance, a space that seemed like it would be out of bounds.

Urs Fischer is quoted in the press release saying- “despite the complexity of the parts, the exhibition as a whole is pretty simple. It’s about what you, the viewer, project onto it. It’s not about chairs, it’s about humans.” This is what makes the show so fascinating, it is almost impossible not to anthropomorphize the chairs and their interactions.

PLAY, conceived of by Urs Fischer with choreography by Madeline Hollander, runs through June 15th.

May 102019
 

Hammer Museum’s current exhibition Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968-2018 is a fascinating and fun look at the work of the Conceptual artist. Walking through the show, the variety of the work and the artist’s sense of humor keep the exhibition engaging from start to finish.

Much of Ruppersberg’s work created in Los Angeles is specific to the city, especially how it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The contrast between the urban city life and the natural surroundings of mountains, desert and beach can be seen in several of his pieces including the “Location Pieces”. For “Al’s Cafe”, he created a restaurant in downtown LA where everything from the menus, receipts, and tongue-in-cheek dishes, was a work of art. Examples of the “meals” include “Rock Varieties Smothered in Pine Needles” and the “Patti Melt”, a studio photo covered in toasted marshmallows. He later went on to create “Al’s Grand Hotel” which consisted of several rooms of various themes, run by the artist. For a little over a month of weekends, guests came to stay overnight. Like his restaurant, the hotel became a meeting place for the Los Angeles arts community.

Language and the printed word play a very important in Rupperberg’s work. He rewrote Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray on several large canvases that take up an entire room in the show. For a series of paintings he recreated newspaper articles of strange crimes and then wrote comments on the canvas “translating” them.

Driving around Los Angeles he noticed the ubiquitous DayGlo posters made by Colby Printing and used them to print The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg (Parts I-III). For this work the poem is recreated phonetically in a series of these posters, along with some commercial advertising posters, and placed together to form a large mural.

Ruppersberg is still creating, collecting, and exploring the world around him. This show celebrates his unique perspective while also presenting a glimpse of what it was like to be an artist in Los Angeles at the time he was making this work.

This exhibition closes 5/12/19.