Feb 132020
 

Part of what makes Andy Warhol such an incredible artist is the variety and volume of work he created in his lifetime. Currently in both of Jack Shainman Gallery‘s locations are a selection of Warhol’s photographs that are not often seen. Photo collages, “stitched photos”, nudes, and, of course, photos of celebrities, come together to give new perspective on Warhol’s work within the medium of photography.

From the press release-

Warhol’s photographic oeuvre remains one of the most central and enduring aspects of his creative process. Initially inspired by commercially available press photos of celebrities, such as iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Marlon Brando, as well as newspaper photographs of death and disasters, Warhol incorporated photographs as source material for the creation of his silk-screened paintings and prints. With the creation of a singular visual vocabulary, Warhol articulated his sensibilities while conveying his detached, observing eye through the use of a dispassionate machine: the camera.  Photography spanned the entirety of Warhol’s career as he fused numerous genres of photo-making.

By the mid-1960s, Warhol’s eye turned to the moving image as he began making 16mm black and white short films, dubbed Screen Tests, which featured his “Superstar” Factory crew. Several Screen Tests are on view in this exhibition, including films that highlight Factory life, some very early notions of performance art, and the raw visual materials for Lou Reed’s The Velvet Underground EP. These films catalyzed into Warhol’s revolutionary conceptual feature-length films, including Sleep, Empire, and Heat.

Concurrent with his exploration of film, Warhol utilized photobooths in Times Square to create serial images of art dealers, collectors, and bright young creatives who frequented the Factory. These strips became source material for some of Warhol’s most iconic early portraiture, including paintings of art dealer, Holly Solomon, collectors, Judith Green and Edith Skull, and Warhol Superstars, such as Jane Holzer and Edie Sedgwick. Towards the end of the 1960s, Warhol began carrying with him a Polaroid camera used largely to document friends in his inner circle, including Mick Jagger, Diana Vreeland, Lee Radziwill, and Nan Kempner. Warhol referred to the Polaroid camera as “his date” – always with him, a tool for both engaging with his subjects, as well as a distancing mechanism.

In 1977, Warhol’s Swiss dealer, Thomas Ammann, presented him with the gift of a 35mm Minox camera, which became the artist’s primary photo-making instrument until the time of his death in 1987. The resulting unique silver gelatin prints, which were produced during the final decade of Warhol’s life, illuminate most comprehensively the artist’s personal and artistic sphere. Warhol’s final and most obscure body of work, a series of “stitched photos,” was created by sewing together these silver gelatin prints in serial panels of four, six, or nine identical images.  Nearly five-hundred stitched photo works were created in all, most of which are now in the permanent collections of global institutions.

This exhibition brings together one of the largest selections of Warhol’s stitched photos, created within the culminating moment of Warhol’s photographic oeuvre and, indeed, his entire career.  In January 1987, Robert Miller Gallery opened the sole photography show ever presented during the artist’s life, as Warhol intended to make an incredible push for photography as a medium to be appreciated as a central part of his narrative and art-making processes. Six weeks later, Warhol died unexpectedly.

This exhibition closes 2/15/20.

 

Jan 242020
 

Sadie Barnette’s recreation of her father Rodney Barnette’s bar, Eagle Creek Saloon for The New Eagle Creek Saloon at ICA LA is not only beautiful, but it also celebrates an important piece of history.

From the museum’s website-

For her first solo museum presentation in Los Angeles, Oakland-based artist Sadie Barnette (b. 1984) will reimagine the Eagle Creek Saloon, the first black-owned gay bar in San Francisco, established by the artist’s father Rodney Barnette, founder of the Compton, CA chapter of the Black Panther Party. From 1990–93 Barnette’s father operated the bar and offered a safe space for the multiracial LGBTQ community who were marginalized at other social spaces throughout the city at that time.

Barnette engages the aesthetics of Minimalism and Conceptualism through an idiosyncratic use of text, decoration, photographs, and found objects that approach the speculative and otherworldly. Barnette’s recent drawings, sculptures, and installations have incorporated the 500-page FBI surveillance file kept on her father and references to West Coast funk and hip-hop culture to consider the historical and present-day dynamics of race, gender, and politics in the United States. Using materials such as spray paint, crystals, and glitter, she transforms the bureaucratic remnants from a dark chapter in American history into vibrant celebrations of personal, familial, and cultural histories and visual acts of resistance. The New Eagle Creek Saloon is a glittering bar installation that exists somewhere between a monument and an altar, at once archiving the past and providing space for potential actions.

The museum is also showing No Wrong Holes: Thirty Years of Nayland Blake (pictured below).

From the museum’s website-

For over 30 years, artist, educator, and curator Nayland Blake (b. 1960) has been a critical figure in American art, working between sculpture, drawing, performance, and video. No Wrong Holes marks the most comprehensive survey of Blake’s work to date and their first solo institutional presentation in Los Angeles.

Heavily inspired by feminist and queer liberation movements, and subcultures ranging from punk to kink, Blake’s multidisciplinary practice considers the complexities of representation, particularly racial and gender identity; play and eroticism; and the subjective experience of desire, loss, and power. The artist’s sustained meditation on “passing” and duality as a queer, biracial (African American and white) person is grounded in post-minimalist and conceptual approaches made personal through an idiosyncratic array of materials (such as leather, medical equipment, and food) and the tropes of fairy tales and fantasy. Particular focus will be paid to work produced while Blake lived on the West Coast, first in the greater Los Angeles area as a graduate student at CalArts, followed by a decade in San Francisco—years bookended by the advancement of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the “culture wars” of the 1990s.

Feeder 2, 1998

The gingerbread house, pictured above, is one of Blake’s best known works and was created using actual gingerbread. It references the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel as it recreates the house used to lure the children to their potential doom.

From the wall description-

Fairy tale and fantasy are themes to which the artist often returns as a mirror onto society and culture. Further, duality and the act of revealing are critical to Blake’s practice: as a biracial, white-passing, queer, gender non-binary person, Blake’s identity is one that is not obvious and is predicated on existing in two spaces at once. Though initially captivating through its inviting sight and scent, over time, the once-pleasant sensorial experience of Feeder 2, with its cold, empty interior, becomes overwhelming, even nauseating, as it challenges the truth of perception and association.

Both of these exhibitions close 1/26/20.

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 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.

 

Dec 122019
 

Petzel Gallery is currently showing Walead Beshty’s solo show “Abstract of A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench”. The sheer volume of work covering the walls is overwhelming and impressive in its assembly.

From the press release-

The work A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench, was originally commissioned by the Barbican Centre, London. The London-born, Los Angeles-based artist first exhibited the work there in 2014, covering the 273 ft long Curve gallery from floor to ceiling in cyanotype prints. The prints were produced over the duration of a year (October 9, 2013–October 8, 2014) and are chronologically installed in proportion to the exhibition space. For its New York première at Petzel, approximately 5,120 cyanotypes (38% of the total 15,616 sq. ft work) will be presented.

In A Partial Disassembling of an Invention … , each cyanotype (a 19th Century photographic process using ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferro-cyanide) was produced by placing tools and other objects used in the production process of the studio on cellulose waste material generated by that same process (such as wood, cardboard, or paper) that was coated with UV-sensitive cyanotype material. After being exposed to sunlight and washed in water, the object’s silhouette appears in reverse against a cyan-blue background.

In using everyday objects, such as receipts, prescriptions, invoices, financial statements, legal documents, letters, gallery invitations, etc. from the working life of the studio, an inherent transparency is embedded in the work, demystifying the artwork and exposing its process of coming to be. Representative of the lives of those who made it, the cyanotypes expose both aspects of identity and circumstance, situating the work within political, social, and economic exchange without being representational or depictive in the conventional sense. While both the Barbican and Petzel iterations deal with debris, this new display has a more overtly American immediacy to it. Considering the resurgent discourse on the politics of representation, there is a new urgency to exhibiting the work for the questions it evokes about the modes and uses of representation, such as how art can accurately display real world conditions of labor, production and power, and whether a truly accurate and transparent form of representation is possible.

Beshty will also show Prologue to A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench, which are the cyanotypes that were produced in anticipation of the Barbican work from August 1, 2013–October 8, 2013, along with seven volumes of the 59-volume archive of the work. The books—in their Prologue and Opus volumes—comprise bound pages printed recto and verso of the entire work reproduced at 1:2 scale. The volumes create both an archival record of Beshty’s workspace as well as an index of all the tools and artefacts used for the work’s own making.

The title of the project is a reference to Hollis Frampton’s hypothetical lecture he muses about in a talk delivered at the Whitney Museum of American Art, but never actually gives. The title of this phantom lecture alludes to the origins of the medium, and its inevitable obsolescence. It also calls forward the question of the role objects play when they have ceased being useful. Wrenched by time from their intended use, the objects become purely aesthetic, becoming the focus of contemplation in both historical and poetic terms.

This exhibition closes 12/14/19.

Dec 062019
 

Currently at Brooklyn Museum is Garry Winogrand: Color, the first exhibition dedicated to Winogrand’s color photographs.

From Brooklyn Museum’s website-

While almost exclusively known for his black-and-white images that pioneered a “snapshot aesthetic” in contemporary art, Winogrand produced more than 45,000 color slides between the early 1950s and late 1960s.

Coming from a working-class background in the Bronx and practicing at the time when photographs had little market value, Winogrand did not have the resources to produce costly and time consuming prints of his color slides during his lifetime. Yet, he remained dedicated to the medium for nearly twenty years.

The exhibition presents an enveloping installation of large-scale projections comprising more than 400 rarely or never-before seen color photographs that capture the social and physical landscape of New York City and the United States. On his numerous journeys through Midtown Manhattan and across the country, Winogrand explored the raw visual poetics of public life—on streets and highways, in suburbs, at motels, theaters, fairgrounds, and amusement parks. For him, the industrially manufactured color film, which was used by commercial and amateur photographers, perfectly reproduced the industrially manufactured colors of consumer goods in postwar America. By presenting this group of largely unknown color work, Garry Winogrand: Color sheds new light on the career of this pivotal artist as well as the development of color photography before 1970.

Winogrand’s photos are always captivating, both in his style and subject matter, and now there is the addition of time, which adds nostalgia to their allure.

The exhibition begins with a slide projector showing single slides, most of which aren’t on view in the main room (shown below).

The main room (shown below) has slides rotating on the walls along both sides of the large room with seats in the center for viewing. The pairings often accentuate each others colors, with the smaller slide of each pair staying up longer. It is definitely worth making the time to see them all.

Also included in the exhibition are a room of Winogrand’s black and white photographs and a video of him discussing his work.

This exhibition closes 12/8/19.

Oct 252019
 

Paris-based Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Pour une poignée de Dollars (For A Fistful of Dollars), at Blum & Poe, combines film, sculpture, drawing and photography to expand on his project Horse Day, also on view at the gallery.

From the press release-

Initially driven to capture his own community and generation of immigrant youth living in the outskirts of Paris, in recent years Bourouissa’s focus has expanded to the US, the UAE, and beyond. In 2014 the artist spent nearly a year in North Philadelphia, PA living among the young men of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, a non-profit established over 100 years ago by African American cowboys. This area increasingly struggles with unemployment and drug abuse, economic and social conditions from which the center attempts to provide a refuge—rescuing horses and mentoring boys who may otherwise find support hard to come by. Bourouissa instigated a collaboration with the community of riders and local artists—a riding competition and pageant called “Horse Day” in which equestrian participants arrived clad in decadent regalia, costumes including linked blank CDs, streamers, fake flowers, or fabric Pegasus wings. Using the cowboy as an emblem of a narrative of domination, the critical documents Bourouissa and the Fletcher Street community produced—sculptures, costumes, drawings, photography, and a video mixing tropes of westerns, documentaries and hip-hop—explore social injustice as it relates to geographical space, spotlight contemporary America’s culture of segregation, and intend to forge a new creative space for marginalized groups. Within a new body of sculptural work, the artist integrates images of riders and/or horses into the body parts of automobiles, as curator Okwui Enwezor once put it: “Bringing together two myths, the cowboy and the urban lowrider with his customized car, a sort of collision of the frontier and Compton.” This 3-D montage connects representations of domination and power, as well as industries and communities facing crisis.

Bourouissa’s work focuses on rituals of friendship, an exploration of alterity and the role images play in channels of distribution, investigations into the politics of representation and subjectivity. Seeking to humanize his community as social subjects, Bourouissa engages all sorts of imagery, initiating agency where is it often deprived. Bourouissa’s work is a hybrid of documentation and formal composition, collaborative choreographed representations of reality on the margins, channeling a wide range of historical precedents from Caravaggio and Delacroix to Fanon, rap music, and the Harlem Renaissance.

In a separate space behind the main gallery is Anya Gallaccio’s Stroke (pictured below), a room where the walls are painted with dark chocolate.  The work was originally created in September of 1994, for Blum & Poe’s inaugural exhibition at their original location in Santa Monica. Twenty-five years later, it has been recreated in an exhibition space the exact dimensions of the original gallery.

It’s worth checking out for the smell alone. It’s overpowering.

From the press release-

Stroke plays with perceptions of desire and their disconnection from reality. In this chocolate-covered room, an idea pulled from a childlike fantasy comes to life and goads the viewer’s appetite for pleasure. The whimsical notion of an edible room is contrasted with the strikingly rich, dark color of the walls and their heavy, sometimes putrid, smell. Of this disconnect, Gallaccio states, “the idea of a chocolate room is one thing, and the reality of a chocolate room is very much something else.” Created by thousands of small, repeated brush strokes for which the installation is named, prolonged looking is rewarded when one sees new colors, textures, and patterns appearing out of the darkness.

Rooted in the formal language of Minimalism, Gallaccio’s practice uses organic materials to subvert and reframe that male-dominated moment in art history. Trees, flowers, fruit, and ice are investigated for their fluidity and impermanence, and decay becomes a part of the installation to be embraced. The unpredictability of these ephemeral materials yields a freeing inability to control the final product, from which unexpected results emerge. These materials, pulled from a feminine, domestic space, challenge a masculine past and reclaim a place in history. As noted in the original press release from 1994: “Feminist in material, natural in its decay, subversively Freudian, Stroke is an enigmatic and challenging work.”

 

Both of these exhibitions close 10/26/19.

Oct 222019
 

Alex Prager’s exhibition at Lehmann Maupin’s 22nd Street location combines sculpture and still photography with her new film Play The Wind. The photographs in the show recreate scenes from the film, but are not from the film itself.  There are also photos of scenes that could have been from the film, but are not. These allow the viewer to consider alternate narratives to the story they have just seen. The photos also offer an opportunity to see many of the details from the film seen only briefly while watching.

Running for eight minutes, Play the Wind is a journey into a bizarre version of Los Angeles. It’s seen mainly through the window of a car, the way many Los Angeles residents often see it. Places seem familiar, as do many of the large cast of extras who inhabit this world, even if you are not personally familiar with the city.

The cab driver, played by Dimitri Chamblas (dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts), drives through situations that seem both surreal and possible at the same time, like many things that happen in LA. At one point the cab driver, drives past an accident on the highway and sees a car vertical between two other cars with children in a school bus leaning out of the windows to observe. He passes alongside and moves on. It’s just another moment in a chaotic Los Angeles day. When he locks eyes with a woman played by actress Riley Keough, the film changes to her perspective and it all becomes even more dreamlike.

From the press release

…She anchors her characteristically elaborate fictional scenes within the real Los Angeles, shooting for the first time in many years primarily on location rather than in the studio—a decision that harkens back to when Prager began her career over a decade ago. Though the images contain large constructed set pieces and are populated with carefully cast extras (numbering up to 300), the presence of the Los Angeles streets infuses an element of urban lifeblood that is palpable in the work. Prager’s perception of Los Angeles is one of the artifice and drama befitting Hollywood, with real world chaos that overflows into sci-fi dystopia and post-apocalyptic dread. She toys with these visions of the city disseminated on film, TV, and within the popular imagination, which inform our characterization of a place as much as our own memories.

Technically important to the making of this film was Prager’s collaboration with a team to produce set designs and props that would add a layer of artifice and duplicity to her real-world locations. The interference of these traditional illusionary effects upon the actual Los Angeles streets and locations Prager shot on creates an unnerving sensation, hinting at the reality that might exist just outside of our perception. All of these elements are recast in the series of photographs, which appear in different configurations or on various scales that further destabilize any linear narrative. Drawing on the concept of a distorted memory, Prager has found ways to incorporate objects seen in the photographs and film into the gallery as sculpture, with the intent to further dislodge our understanding of place and time and bring us deeper into her highly constructed world.

Connoisseurs of Prager’s work will likely spot the references to her past series, such as the noir themed Compulsion (2012), or the archetypical ingénue of The Big Valley (2008). This self-referencing becomes yet another layering device, mixing Prager’s career-spanning themes and the greater art historical genres from which they are drawn to create work both entirely new, yet seemingly familiar. Prager’s incorporation of her past into her present work serves as a reminder that while the past may not be returned to, it does remain with us, appearing in surprising, sometimes unsettling ways.

This exhibition closes 10/26/19.

Oct 182019
 

“Crescent (Timekeeper)”

“Crescent (Timekeeper)”

“Crescent (Timekeeper)” Detail

Sarah Sze’s exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar’s gallery in New York is stunning. There is so much to look at, to appreciate. There are so many pieces to all of the work, and yet it never feels overwhelming. It makes you want to keep looking.

It’s also immersive. The windows on the outside of the gallery are covered in her work, as is the staircase alcove. The video projections in the main room travel all around the room, surrounding you with visuals and sound. Upstairs the floors of the gallery have paint splattered on them, accompanying the works on the walls.

Detail of the above work

In a room on the first floor is a “studio space” where you can gain insight into Sze’s process and how she makes these elaborate works.

From the press release-

Sze’s latest body of work frays “the seam between the real and the image” (Smith). Through complex constellations of objects and a proliferation of images, Sze expands upon the never- ending stream of visual narratives that we negotiate daily, from magazines and newspapers, television and iPhones, to cyberspace and outer space. The works evoke the generative and recursive process of image-making in a world where consumption and production are more interdependent, where the beginning of one idea is the ending of another—and where sculpture gives rise to images, and images to sculpture.

In this new exhibition, Sze expands her work by embedding her nuanced sculptural language into the material surfaces of painting and into the digital realm through the interplay of cloth, ink, wood, paper, metal, paint, found objects, light, sound and structural supports—collapsing distinctions between two, three and four dimensions. This body of work fundamentally alters our sense of time, place, and memory by transforming our experiences of the physical world around us. Both objects and images, Sze says, are “ultimately reminders of our own ephemerality”.

This exhibition closes 10/19/19.