Apr 122019
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Apr 052019
 

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

From the press release

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

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

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

This exhibition closes 4/7/19.

Apr 042019
 

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

From the press release-

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

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

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

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

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

Karon Davis, “Nobody”, 2019

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

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

This exhibition closes 4/6/19.

 

 

Mar 292019
 

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

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

This exhibition closes 4/12/19.

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

From the press release-

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

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

This exhibition closes 3/31/19.

 

Souther Salazar, “The Universe is in Us”

One of Saiman Chow’s video installations

Paintings by Seonna Hong

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

From the press release for Serene for the Moment

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

From the press release for Mi Casa Es Su Casa

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

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

Paintings and film by Sara Kathryn Arledge

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

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

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

Painting by Vivian F. Stringfield circa 1919

 

Mar 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
 

Emma Webster “Actaeon,” 2018

Emma Webster “Still Life” 2018

For Emma Webster’s current exhibition Arcadia at Diane Rosenstein, she created dioramas based on historic paintings, lit them in a theatrical manner, and then reproduced them as oil paintings . The results are dramatic worlds where a sense of foreboding weighs on the scenes. This is not the fictional Arcadia of pastoral harmony, which the title of the exhibition references, but something more.

From the press release-

The show’s title Arcadia alludes to recycled and reassembled notions of nature and art passed down from antiquity. These fake bucolics, where each tree is as much a reflection of its maker’s hands as it is a symbol, point to the ways humanity manipulates nature, seeing nature only as it relates to mankind itself. As in garden design, man contrives his own aesthetic of “natural” beauty despite the existence of another untamed and unpredictable reality. Considering climate change and deforestation, Emma Webster’s landscape as still life rings a warning.

In the paintings with complex scenes, like Still Life, there is more of a feeling of collage than painting. A figure appears to be falling from the sky at the top of the canvas, day and night blend, and a tiny American flag is seen among the figures of animals and people. There is too much going on for the scene to be peaceful.

In Actaeon, the imagery is simpler. Referencing the myth of the hunter turned to a stag by Artemis and devoured by his own hunting dogs, the painting depicts the stag against the backdrop of a rising or setting sun. The figure is imposing, but at the same time it is also evident that it is a painting of a figure originally made in clay.

Webster’s paintings keep the viewer guessing at the layers of meaning behind the worlds she created, both simple and complex. They are also beautiful, skillful works that reveal more the longer you look at them.

This exhibition closes 3/23/19.

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.

 

 

Mar 022019
 

What are the webs within our own lives? How are we connected to others? What is seen and not seen in our world? How do we function within our environment? What is created without our even noticing?

Tomás Saraceno’s current exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Hollywood, his first ever solo exhibition in Los Angeles, explores these ideas through the intersection of science and art. In one room, balloons drag pens to create drawings from the air and movements of those who wander through. Spider webs (displayed without the spiders) play an important part in weaving together the themes of the exhibition. Made by different species of spider and dyed with carbon ink, they are in frames against the wall. Presented in another part of the gallery, in a dark room, they are spot lit creating beautiful three dimensional sculptures. In another room, in full darkness, they are lit by a slowly moving laser which highlights in red various sections of the webs as others fade away.

In the front room of the gallery is a sculpture that continues the artist’s Cloud Cities body of work (pictured below). Cloud Cities was shown on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2012.

 

From the press release-

… Conceived and inspired by the geometries of soap bubbles, the cluster-like artworks are composed of a number of interconnected modules, some with web-like structures set within them, which form geometric constellations inspired by the Weaire-Phelan structure. The Cloud Cities project is intimately tied to and embodied in the Aerocene Foundation, a community that proposes an epoch free from fossil fuel emissions, which challenges socio-political atmospheres by trespassing and weaving new, much needed, aerographies.

Cloud Cities are fictional urban and socioscapes in such imagined post-Anthropocenic future. These sculptural assemblages whose interplay between being tethered to the Earth whilst inviting our gaze to the sky, are devoted to reimagining life in tune and in collaboration with the atmosphere. Indeed, with 102,465 planes and about 8.3 million people traversing the atmosphere every day, swarms of particulate matter crossing borders and billions of pounds of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel aerial transportation, there is an entire metropolis up in the air already, coming with a huge cost and carbon print. The elemental imaginaries of Cloud Cities and Aerocene epoch call to open up the boundaries of the Earth toward a new interplanetary ecology of practice. We can reconnect with elemental sources of energy and form a new set of values that would overcome the extractive economies of the fossil fuel regime – a new stratigraphy of the future.

This exhibition closes 3/2/19.

 

 

Mar 022019
 

Derek Fordjour, Two Party System, 2019

 

JRRNNYS, Derek Fordjour’s solo exhibition at Night Gallery, includes new paintings and sculptures that “advance explorations of earlier works, returning to the subjects of crowds and athletic competitions to illustrate the entrenchment of power relations, capital flows, and racial inequality within the economic and social systems of the United States”. The paintings are made of multiple layers of painted cardboard and newspaper that are then scored and sections are removed.

This interview with the artist from artnet goes into more detail on his fascinating process and the reasons behind it.

Signing Day, 2019

Signing Day detail

 

The centerpiece of the exhibition is the installation STOCKROOM Ezekiel.

From the press release

…The work takes its name from the 1884 letters of Ezekiel Archey, an 25-year-old unjustly held as a prisoner sent to labor at the Pratt Coal Mines in Birmingham. Archey’s letters, sent to the Alabama inspector of prisons, are among the most prominent primary-source documentation of the ravages of the convict leasing system, acknowledging the stark preponderance of black prisoners and the gruesome treatment of the laborers by their supervisors. Fordjour’s installation responds to Archey’s letters by creating a walled-in structure comprised of over 1,000 individually constructed compartments – cells, as the artist calls them – painstakingly organized with a variety of found and handmade objects, though by a logic that is never explicated to the viewer. Lights in individual cells blink on and off variously, while small speakers let forth bursts of music by the dictates of a rigid but similarly inscrutable pattern, luring the viewer in the eye-popping manner of the carnival game or game board. The intermittent sounds of music range from the early field recordings of 20th century ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax to 80s- and 90s-era drug dealer anthems to modern day Trap music, a largely Southern genre of hip-hop inspired by the illegal drug trade. The viewer has entered a gamelike arena whose rules remain obscure. With time, the objects that populate the shelves come into focus. Some cells contain familiar items – balls extracted from various sporting contests, the lottery and billiards, cameras, hood ornaments from luxury sports cars, decommissioned prison uniforms, and hundreds of hand blown glass balloons, among others. Others are closed off with metal grating, while still more are lined with the ubiquitous fabrics of luxury designers, invoking the aspirational quests of poverty-stricken urban communities. Finally, many cells contain small busts of the same expressionless figure, molded from resin, copper, metal, plaster, dirt, and salt – materials which stand in for the most prominent products from the era of convict leasing, including the coal mines and steel plants of of Alabama and the molasses distilleries of Florida. Taken individually, the contents of these cells suggest luxury and labor, surveillance and displacement, strategy and competition; as a whole, the work suggests the laws of chance taking place within the confines of a framework that is as unknowable as it is oppressive. From the era of Pig Laws to our current three-strikes mandatory sentencing, educational lotteries to modern day sporting empires, Fordjour’s installation points to the tragic persistence of unjust structures that define American life, employing contemporary commodities while invoking history. At once mournful and flickering with possibility, the installation conjures notions of personal loss and gain within the macro-scale context of the inscrutable systems that have determined the fates of black and brown people through the nation’s history.

Derek Fordjour, STOCKROOM Ezekiel, 2019 image via Night Gallery

This exhibition closes 3/2/19.

If you are in NYC you can see one of Fordjour’s new works, Half Mast, as a public art installation for the Whitney Museum. The large vinyl reproduction of his painting can be seen at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, directly across from the Whitney and the High Line.

Derek Fordjour, Half Mast. Image via Whitney Museum

Feb 252019
 

 

Currently outside of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building is one of artist Sam Durant’s “electric signs”. It takes its text from a photo taken at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.