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
 

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.

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.

 

Mar 212019
 

Noboru Tsubaki “Fresh Gasoline”, 1989

Yukinori Yanagi “Ground Transposition”, 1987/2019 (balloons) and Shinro Ohtake “Retina (Night Fever 1)”, 1990 (left on wall) and “Retina (DNA Shadow III)” (right on wall), 1990

Shinro Ohtake “Retina (DNA Shadow III)”, 1990

 

Blum & Poe’s current exhibition Parergon: Japanese Art of the 1980s and 1990s, is a selected survey exhibition of Japanese art of the 1980s and ‘90s, curated by Mika Yoshitake. It includes the work of over twenty-five visual artists in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, video, and photography.

From the press release

The exhibition title makes reference to the gallery in Tokyo (Gallery Parergon, 1981-1987) that introduced many artists associated with the New Wave phenomenon, its name attributed to Jacques Derrida’s essay from 1978 which questioned the “framework” of art, influential to artists and critics during the period. Parergon brings together some of the most enigmatic works that were first generated during a rich two-decade period that are pivotal to the way we perceive and understand contemporary Japanese art today. In the aftermath of the conceptual reconsideration of the object and relationality spearheaded by Mono-ha in the 1970s, this era opened up new critical engagements with language and medium where artists explored expansions in installation, performance, and experimental multi-genre practices.

When the U.S. and Europe were witnessing a return to Expressionism alongside a postmodern aesthetic of simulacra and deconstruction characterized by the Pictures generation, this zeitgeist of cultural capitalism was instead manifest under Japan’s unique social and geo-political conditions resulting from the rise and burst of the bubble economy. Artists began to explore subversive artistic languages and integrate underground subcultures into their practice using a variety of media, ranging from experimentations in electro-acoustic music, geopolitical and conceptual photography, and appropriations of advertisement culture. Others addressed the internalization of historical avant-garde and modernist aesthetics that were filtered through a new poetics of form, space, and language.

In the post-1989 Hirohito era, politics of gender, nuclear crisis, and critique of nationalism are especially poignant among artists from the Kansai region. This period also witnesses the rise of art collectives in the mid-90s and their darkly humorous performances and conceptual practices that reevaluated the history of Japan’s postwar avant-garde. These events reflect on a subculture generated out of a profoundly unique “infantile capitalism,” anticipating the explosive rise of the Neo-Pop generation.

This exhibition is presented on the occasion of Blum & Poe’s 25-year anniversary. Parergon commemorates a special facet of the gallery’s history rooted in this very timeframe in Japan—with Tim Blum’s early years as an art dealer and curator spent in Tokyo in the early ‘90s—and charts a bridge between the Japanese art historical territories the gallery has long championed. Parergon pursues the creative significance of the years between the milestones of Mono-ha and the Neo-Pop generation now synonymous with Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara.

This exhibition closes 3/23/19. Part II will open 4/6/19.

 

Mar 062019
 

Currently at The Rendon Gallery, at a pop-up space on Palmetto Street, is Los Angeles based South African artist Ralph Ziman’s exhibition, The Casspir Project. The Casspir is a massive military vehicle that was used to terrorize the civilian population in South Africa during the apartheid-era. Sadly, they are still used by police forces in certain parts of the world, including in the United States. Ziman, with a team of artists from Zimbabwe and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, have covered the Casspir in brightly colored beads in traditional patterns, making something beautiful out of what was once a symbol of horror.

Although the vehicle is the centerpiece, the exhibition also focuses on the arms trade and includes photos, a video, and additional beaded work. From the press release-

For this iteration of The Casspir Project, Ziman has designed the massive gallery space with a “macro and micro” experience in mind. Each room within the gallery space brings context to the next, informing the project as whole. The exhibition starts with an installation of brightly colored AK-47s leading into a room with large photographs taken in Soweto. For the photos, Ziman recreated scenes from newspapers during the apartheid, incorporating many of the elements found within the exhibition such as the beaded guns and SPOEK 1. A screening room shows a 20 minute documentary by Ziman which tells the history of the Casspir, from its design and conception to people’s personal experiences with it in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It chronicles Ziman’s reclaiming of the Casspir, detailing how he transformed and Africanized it. The exhibition culminates with the dramatic presentation of SPOEK 1, lit only by a spotlight in a dark room.

Opening a dialogue between those who remember and those too young to know, The Casspir Project is a profound attempt to reconcile history. Ziman has reclaimed the savagely violent brute—embellished and bedazzled, the Casspir has been made less threatening, its power and authority subverted.

This exhibition has been extended through 3/10/19 and this weekend Ziman will be live painting at the gallery with artist Keya Tama.