Jan 162020
 

Drink More, 1964 by Ushio Shinohara (left piece) and Untitled, 1980s by Nobuaki Kojima (sculpture on right)

Souvenir, 1964, by Jasper Johns

Shadow of a Hanger, 1971 by Jiro Takamatsu

Japan is America at Fergus McCaffrey gallery in Chelsea “explores the complex artistic networks that informed avant-garde art in Japan and America between 1952 and 1985. Starting with the well-documented emergence of “American-Style Painting” that ran parallel to the Americanization of Japan in the 1950s, Japan Is America endeavors to illustrate the path and conditions from Japanese surrender in 1945 to that country’s putative cultural take-over of the United States some forty years later”.

Artists in the show include: Yuji Agematsu, Ruth Asawa, James Lee Byars, John Cage, Joe Goode, Sam Francis, Marcia Hafif, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Tatsuo Ikeda, Shigeo Ishii, Ishiuchi Miyako, Jasper Johns, Alison Knowles, Nobuaki Kojima, Tomio Miki, Sadamasa Motonaga, Hiroshi Nakamura, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, Senga Nengudi, Yoko Ono, Ken Price, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Ushio Shinohara, Fujiko Shiraga, Kazuo Shiraga, Jiro Takamatsu, Anne Truitt, and Toshio Yoshida.

This exhibition closes 1/18/20.

Jan 162020
 

Sexy Robot_Floating, 2019 by Hajime Sorayama

Tokyo Pop Underground curated by Tokyo gallerist Shinji Nanzuka and currently at Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Los Angeles “explores the complex history of Japanese contemporary art from the 1960s to the present through the works of seventeen artists who emerged from pop and underground culture”.

From the press release-

Shinji Nanzuka explains that “originally in Japan, most of what is referred to as art are practical items, developed together and in integration with popular culture.” He cites examples from calligraphy to folding screens, paintings on sliding paper doors, lacquerware, netsuke, and the Ukiyo-e prints that served as posters and commercial portraits. He also mentions art historian Naoyuki Kinoshita’s study of intricately realistic handicrafts such as iki-ningyou, life-like dolls that were made for exhibitory performances. Nanzuka’s mission in this exhibition is to present contemporary artistic commentaries on this Japanese artistic heritage.

Deviating from the mainstream current of “art for art’s sake” when he opened his Tokyo gallery in 2005, Nanzuka decided to focus on artists whose works at the time were not considered to be art. Artists like Keiichi Tanaami, Harumi Yamaguchi, and Hajime Sorayama, whose works are now celebrated in the international art world, were looked down upon as producers of commercial and popular art. Nanzuka saw them as prime exponents of the idiosyncratic nature of Japan’s culture and history.

Another reason that Tanaami, Yamaguchi, Sorayama, and Toshio Saeki did not receive recognition until recently is the radical intensity of their practice. The expressions of sex and violence in their work are statements of anti-authority and anti-uniformity. The aggressive portraits of women painted by Harumi Yamaguchi show her engagement with the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Sorayama’s sexualized robots predict a dystopian future.

There are strong links between the underground Japanese culture from which many of these artists emerged and the American graffiti and skateboard subcultures that were embraced by Japanese youth. Haroshi, one of the younger artists in the show, constructs his works entirely from wood sliced from skateboards donated by friends and professional skateboarders to compose a collective portrait of his enlarged, international community.

The artists in Tokyo Pop Underground reflect the strains in contemporary Japanese culture as it rebuilt itself after the ruins of war and confronts numerous natural disasters. Their work reflects what Nanzuka describes as “the crazy cross-cultural exchange” between the West, the East, and the Far East, shaping a new international artistic language.

This exhibition closes 1/18/20.

Jan 092020
 

Blum & Poe in Los Angeles is currently showing two very different exhibitions. In the main gallery is a selected survey of work by Harvey Quaytman spanning three decades.

From the press release-

Harvey Quaytman (b. 1937, Rockaway, NY; d. 2002, New York, NY) came of age in the downtown art scene of 1960s New York, living and working in SoHo studios first on Grand Street and later at 231 Bowery, where he would remain through the late ’90s. Long considered an artist’s artist, the painter enjoyed a close-knit and vibrant artistic and social milieu, over the years sharing studio addresses with Brice Marden, Ron Gorchov, and James Rosenquist, among others. Quaytman’s emerging career as a young painter began in the heyday of Ab Ex with a marked allegiance to Gorky and de Kooning. This approach was slowly shed as the decade unfolded, as his work began to lean towards sculpture—compositions with curvilinear shaped canvases and rectilinear U-shaped bases that inhabited a newfound objecthood. This was followed by a forty-year engagement with geometric abstraction, his approach to painting in contradistinction to the prevailing trends of the era—first with Pop Art and later Neo Expressionism. Despite painting being declared “dead” by Minimalist and Conceptual artists of the time, Quaytman maintained a commitment to the medium and to his vision throughout, helping to shape an alternate trajectory for American painting.

The artist’s work in the ‘70s developed into shield-like forms that balance on curved platforms, conjuring a motion that would result in a critic calling them “rocking rectangles”—the body of work later known simply as “rocker” paintings. These eccentrically shaped works were hand-crafted (he would steam and bend the wooden stretchers himself), and inherently related to movement—inspired by Islamic calligraphy, rocking chairs, and the flight patterns of airplanes and birds. His experiments with shape continued in the late ‘70s, and through the manipulation of geometric intersections and overlapping forms that all the while imply motion, a unique group of paintings resembling anchors or pendulums emerged. In the 1980s, Quaytman began his cruciform paintings, investigations of the cross shape not as emblem but as two meeting vectors; Constructivist, perpendicular geometric compositions that focused on the reduced palette of black, white, red, rusted iron, and metallic gold. While these paintings represented a stark departure from his previous work, Quaytman continued to pursue visual movement as he conjured an interplay of symmetry and asymmetry.

Many of the works become even more intriguing up close.  His use of different materials to achieve varying tones and textures makes them come alive.

The press release discusses a bit about his process in creating them-

As his paintings evolved in form and shape, variously touching upon Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Process Art, and Constructivism, Quaytman simultaneously developed a rigorous practice of experimentation with pigment. He was interested in the history, alchemy, and chromatic effects of color, seeking out unique tonalities at specialty stores at home and abroad, becoming a master of color and texture. He skillfully poured paint, spreading Rhoplex over canvas with broad wallpaper brushes after dusting it with pure pigment that settled in thick, unpredictable strata. He later flecked canvas with glass or iron filings and used additives such as marble dust in paint he always mixed himself. On this subject, he said: “It is very important to me to be reminded that I am not an alchemist but a man engaged in coded, layered conversation with my fellow man on what I hope to be (on another) level than words or music.”

On the second floor are Matt Johnson’s delightful sculptures whose familiar materials seem to defy gravity as they balance on each other in the compositions.

From the press release

In an ever-expanding practice in search of the peculiar and the sublime, Johnson elevates the mundane to the exceptional. With a new body of work in carved and polychromed wood sculpture, Johnson depicts configurations of raw industrial materials from cinder block, brick, rebar, to traffic cones—permutations of information composed according to gravity, balance, and primitive instinct. A crude horse, a procession of block figures, cantilevered props, and fragile towers make reference to the concept of knowledge with small gestures—a lighter, a match book, a lightbulb, an atlas, and a monograph on Matisse. The doweled joints of glue and/or epoxy between bricks, blocks, and bars exist here not to defy gravity but to freeze balance and preserve delicate moments of experimental groupings. Like a still life, these works are organized information, like subatomic particles, atoms and elements, molecules and compounds, glued by gravity, and magnetic polarity, surfing in a sea of electrical conductivity.

Both of these exhibitions close 1/11/20.

 

 

Jan 042020
 

A Chinese Dream by Wang Jin

First Class by Xu Bing

First Class (detail)

Closing 1/5/20 is The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at LACMA.

From their website-

Since the 1980s, Chinese contemporary artists have cultivated intimate relationships with their materials, establishing a framework of interpretation revolving around materiality. Their media range from the commonplace to the unconventional, the natural to the synthetic, the elemental to the composite: from plastic, water, and wood, to hair, tobacco, and Coca-Cola. Artists continue to explore and develop this creative mode, with some devoting decades of their practice to experiments with a single material. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China brings together works from the past four decades in which conscious material choice has become a symbol of the artists’ expression, representing this unique trend throughout recent history. Some of the most influential Chinese contemporary artists today are featured in this exhibition, including Xu Bing, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, and Ai Weiwei.

There are a lot of impressive pieces in the show, including Xu Bing’s First Class, pictured above. Inspired by a photograph of a tiger-skin rug in a colonial home in Shanghai, it was created using cigarettes, also considered a luxury item by many. 

Also pictured are Wang Jin’s imperial robes/theatrical costumes that were created using PVC and fishing wire- replacing the traditional silk material. According to the wall description, the title Chinese Dream “alludes to the commercialization of tradition”. Held up by thick metal chains, they are also much heavier than the originals they copy.

Jan 032020
 

Closing 1/5/20  at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles location is Charles Gaines’ exhibition Palm Trees and Other Works. This exhibition will debut new works from his signature Gridworks series.

Using photographs of native trees from Palm Canyon near Palm Springs, Gaines selectively layers paint on acrylic sheets atop black and white photographs of corresponding landscapes with trees. Following this process, each tree is assigned a distinctive color and a numbered grid that reflects the positive space of the tree in the original photographic image.

The exhibition also includes new watercolor work and Manifesto 3– which takes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech given at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967) and James Baldwin’s essay Princes and Powers (1957) and using a rule-based system to convert letters from the text into their equivalent musical notes creating a musical score.

From Hauser & Wirth’s website-

Reflecting on his personal history, Gaines observed that ‘one thing that made me different from other conceptual artists is that I was not shying away from language or meaning or content’ – a truth perhaps best exemplified by ‘Manifestos 3’ (2018). This work functions as a systematic transliteration of revolutionary manifestos into musical notation. The installation is comprised of two parts: a single channel video monitor that scrolls the manifesto texts, and two large graphite drawings of the music scores that were produced by the translation. Each text scrolls in succession on a monitor while a recording of the music produced by Gaines’s system plays. Created by way of a rule-based system, Gaines transcribes letters ‘A – H’ from the text into their equivalent musical notes. The use of the letter ‘H’ represents the code used in early Baroque tradition for B-flat. All other letters and spaces between words are noted as rests or silent beats. While the resulting composition does sound intentional, it is controlled only by the preconceived notation system that follows the compositional structure of language. This produces the fluidity that the audience hears.

The two political texts transcribed in ‘Manifestos 3’ are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech given at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967), wherein King nominates racism, poverty, and war as the three most urgent problems of the contemporary world, and James Baldwin’s essay ‘Princes and Powers’ (1957) which describes the dominating power of cultural control. These two manifestos are systematically translated into the above described musical notations as written and arranged for piano by Gaines and edited by John Eagle.

This series not only takes social justice and politics on as its subject, but also as it may critique our understanding of the relationship of the practice of art and politics. By converting these powerful and poignant texts into music, Gaines unites the rational, mathematical, and lyrical structures of music with the irrationality of violence, racial tensions, and social injustice. The predetermined process developed by Gaines widens the distance between concepts and their interpretation, effectively removing the artist’s subjectivity while empowering the viewer’s. The combination of the elegiac music with the stirring words of the scrolling manifestos creates an unexpected conflict for the viewer; it is within this dissonance that the indelible truths of Gaines’s work are revealed.

 

Jan 032020
 

Black Girls Window, 1969

Mystic Window for Leo, 1966

As part of MoMA’s Opening Season, they are showing Betye Saar’s 1969 work, Black Girl’s Window, along with several of her works on paper.

The exhibition “explores the relation between her experimental print practice and the new artistic language debuted in that famous work, tracing themes of family, history, and mysticism, which have been at the core of Saar’s work from its earliest days.”

This exhibition closes 1/4/20.

Dec 282019
 

The images above are from Michelle Handelman’s film Irma Vep, The Last Breath, starring Zackary Drucker and the late Flawless Sabrina.

The video installation is based on Musidora, the French silent film actress, and the character she is best known for Irma Vep from the 1915 film Les Vampires directed by Louis Feuillade.

From the exhibition’s caption-

It’s a piece about living in the shadows, criminal anxiety, and the relationship between the artist and her creation, both fictional and real.

Irma Vep and Musidora are played by Zackary Drucker (Transparent) and the late Flawless Sabrina (The Queen), two artists whose identities transgress the border of art and life. Together, they developed a relationship that documents a cultural evolution of gender.

Musidora was an early 20th century feminist who took control of her career, not only acting, but also producing/directing films and theater. She was an artistic force of her time, producing several works by her lover Colette and having many documented affairs with both men and women. After financing dried up for her projects, she lived in relative obscurity until her death in Paris, 1957. In her later years, she worked the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise, where few people ever knew that the woman selling them their movie tickets was France’s beloved vamp of the silver screen.

Irma Vep, The Last Breath takes up motifs from the silent movie such as gazes, affected body language and the figure of the masked woman. It’s shot on a starkly illuminated set that makes space for anxious projections of desire on the void that is Irma Vep- a space between genders, between vamps of the silent era and the contemporary queer- smashing the shiny veneer to reveal dark, subconscious layers of fluid identity.

The film is part of the larger exhibition Idol Worship, a group show curated by Emily Colucci, at Smack Mellon which “celebrates the ongoing cultural, social and political significance of role model adoration as an essential survival strategy”.

The exhibition closes 12/29/19.

Dec 272019
 

Volcanic Eruption At The Junk Yard, 2019

Standoff at the Bedrock Bunny Club, 2019

After The Rapture (Border Town), 2019

Rosson Crow’s paintings for her exhibition Trust Fall at The Hole are bright, chaotic, and very reflective of the times we are living in.

From the press release-

Rosson Crow is in one sense an American History Painter—capitalized—who has made paintings across a range of subjects, foreign and domestic, but always meditating on the American story and her place in it. Since her debut show at Canada Gallery in 2004 while still an undergrad, Crow has established herself as a big, brainy, macho painter who nonetheless maintains a performative seduction with color and content.

This new exhibition features ten immersive panorama paintings that meditate on our 2019 moment in America. In what is her most urgent and timely work to date, she grapples with the erosion of American institutions and even of reality and truth itself. “Chaos autopsies” she calls them, each taking on specific aspects of her thinking—or dreaming—about current issues. KonMari is about the latest trend of disciplinary minimalism but depicts a giant landfill of “fast fashion”; After the Rapture in a Border Town shows a human-free street at the Mexican border; Volcanic Eruption at the Junk Yard is a fierce, fiery pit of melting old cars, while Ocean Front Property in Arizona is pretty self explanatory. No humans are present in any of the works, unless a cardboard cutout or statue; in this trust fall there is no one to catch us.

Using luminous oil paint, spray paint and thrown enamel, Crow builds up the surfaces of her works as she layers their content; bleeding into one another, the paintings feel like a tinted vintage post card, hi-contrast outlines whose colors have melted with time. Using moments of photo transfer for snippets of text, bumper stickers or beer cans, the repeating transfers confer a sense of glitching in the painted image, heightening their theatrical illusionism while questioning their reality; has this image been photoshopped? Has this video been edited? How much can we trust our own eyes?

The paintings are topical but not didactic. Ignorance, absurdity and swirling misinformation make the current political landscape untraversable; to a civilian psyche it makes analysis and action extremely difficult.  The exhaustion that comes from this onslaught must make artmaking even harder; most retreat, make head-in-the-sand works that don’t attempt any sociopolitical issues. Crow has always made works that highlight the staged nature of space, that look at fake or contrived scenes, like the painting above; in this Garden of Eden recreation from a religious-themed creationism park, the plants look like they are from Home Depot not an actual tropical jungle. Looking “behind the curtain” at manipulated reality is a non-partisan issue that speaks to both sides of the cultural divide, as everyone is stuck in this morass together; everyone wants to unravel the myriad ways we are secretly controlled and how power is written into our lived and virtual environment.

This exhibition closes 12.29.19.

Dec 192019
 

For Peter Halley’s Heterotopia II, at Greene Naftali’s ground floor gallery in Chelsea, he has created a delightful, brightly colored maze-like installation.

From the press release

In Des Espaces Autres (1984), Michel Foucault defines heterotopia in opposition to utopia. While utopias are unrealized representations of a perfected society, heterotopias exist within all societies as realms differentiated from everyday life. Examples include ceremonial, sacred, and institutional spaces such as chapels, cemeteries, libraries, and prisons. They are spaces designated for special activities – creating their own sense of time and operating according to their own standards.

Through a range of media – painting, architectural installation, digital prints, and critical writing – Peter Halley’s work has illuminated the structures of social space and communication that shape our experience of contemporary life. For his second solo exhibition at Greene Naftali, Halley presents Heterotopia II, the latest in a series of large-scale installations exploring the relationship between painting and architectural space. Halley has created a multi-colored, labyrinthine structure in the ground floor gallery housing eight new shaped-canvas paintings, titled after imaginary planets from Isaac Asimov’s science-fictional universe.

The installation is enclosed by tall neon yellow walls coated in Roll-a-Tex, with only a narrow slot in the front wall offering the viewer a preemptive glimpse inside. The interior space is organized around a glowing yellow core – an inaccessible inner sanctum whose light is solely visible through three distinctive apertures. Around the core are arrayed eight interconnected rooms rendered in vivid colors, each defined by architectural elements, including staircases, keyhole windows, beams, and columns. The arrangement of these elements playfully nods to motifs in the work of architects Peter Eisenmann, Hans Hollein, Luis Barragán, and Louis Kahn, as well as to Halley’s own oeuvre. Halley’s installation, with its candy colored surfaces, is a postmodern reverie on neoplasticism and modernist geometry, founded on a tension between rationalist geometry and lyrical color.

Visitors circulating through the maze-like installation encounter Halley’s shaped-canvas paintings one-by-one, as the interactions between two-dimensional image and three-dimensional architecture unfolds. Composed of multiple interlocking prisons and cells, the paintings create ambiguous figure-ground relationships, while echoing the geometric plan of their three-dimensional setting.

This exhibition closes 12/20/19.