Aug 232019
 

CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, Annenberg Space for Photography‘s latest exhibition, includes an excellent selection of photos from the beginning of hip-hop until now. Over 75 original and unedited contact sheets are also being shown. These are a great addition to the exhibition and give the viewer added insight into the thought process that went into the final work.

In the center of the gallery, there is an exclusive new documentary short film featuring several of the photographers from the show at work and in conversation. There is also a pop-up record shop featuring rare hip-hop on vinyl.

This exhibition closes 8/25/19.

Aug 092019
 

 

When trying to talk about the David Hammon’s exhibition at Hauser and Wirth Los Angeles, his first in Los Angeles in 45 years, it’s hard to know where to start. There are no titles or descriptions of any of the works in the show, although there is writing on the walls in certain places. The press release, shown below, is a mass of lines and a dedication to jazz musician Ornette Coleman.

Before you enter either of the two massive galleries housing the exhibition you encounter a courtyard filled with tents, some with “this could be u and u” stenciled on them. Tents also line the corridor under Martin Creed’s neon piece, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, with a rack of fancy vintage coats nearby. Once predominantly in Skid Row, Los Angeles’ tent cities have been growing rapidly on street corners and under bridges and highways all over the city, but they often just blend into the background for people walking and driving past. What does a fake tent city in the courtyard of a high end gallery in a newly gentrified neighborhood mean? Is its fake version more affecting than the real one to gallery and restaurant patrons wandering by?

The work in the show feels at times random, clever, humorous, and confounding, but also impressive, thought provoking, and most importantly never dull. There are stacks of art history books sitting on scales. A water filled bowl that contains what once was a snowball Hammons had sold on the street at one point in his career, sits on a wooden shelf. A room with empty glass cubes on wood columns requires you to bend down to see the feet underneath. A book titled A History of Harlem is filled with empty black pages.

In the room pictured below is a three legged chair next to a wall of photos of women sitting in it. Nearby, one of Ornette Coleman’s suits is surrounded by glass.

Another room is filled with paint splattered and damaged fur coats, one facing an antique mirror that is covered. The symbolism feels a bit heavy handed, like the tents, but it works in that there are still several ways to interpret what Hammons might be saying.

Throughout the exhibition paintings are covered in various ways. One in paper, ripped with a bit of the painting visible. Others are partially hidden with tarps, plastic, different fabrics, even an antique rug (shown below). Once again, you can interpret the meaning of this in several ways. With the rug, for example, it’s turned so that only a bit of its design is visible in front of a painting that is not completely visible. These rugs are often associated with old money and sometimes are hung on walls themselves as artwork. Or is it just another assemblage, a visual combination to be taken at face value.

Ultimately the interpretation of all of the work is up to the viewer. There is something freeing in that, not being given answers. Sure, it’s nice to have an explanation of an artist’s intentions sometimes, but you often add your own ideas anyway. Art should make you think, question things, look at the world from a new perspective- this exhibition does all of that and more.

David Hammons at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles closed 8/11/19.

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 

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

Kim Fisher- Los Angeles Hedge, 2019

Kim Fisher, Woman Behind Rocks, 2019

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cinema Sanctuary, 2019

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cinema Sanctuary (close-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This exhibition closes 7/14/19.

 

 

Jun 072019
 

This is the last weekend to see Nick Doyle’s show The Great Escape at Steve Turner in Hollywood.

From the press release

Steve Turner is pleased to present The Great Escape, a solo exhibition by New York-based Nick Doyle, that features sculptural works depicting everyday objects including an oversized bottle of Advil; losing lottery tickets; a pressed dress shirt; a pair of Converse shoes; a miniature Chevron sign; a crushed Newport cigarette box; and two air fresheners. Inspired by the idea of the American road trip, Doyle meticulously assembled these works from a multitude of materials–steel, plywood, brass, paper, sandpaper, canvas, chain, tin foil, light bulbs, electrical wire, concrete, and most importantly, denim. Worn by miners, cowboys, hippies, bikers, punks and bad boys, denim represents westward expansion, rugged individualism and a kind of masculinity that Doyle questions with these works. Doyle also created three small kinetic “Executive Toys” in which he examines the underlying pressure and violence of corporate culture. Finally, there is a three-minute music video that combines puppetry and found footage. The main character is a spork dressed in a suit and tie who is on the road singing a song of lament. It ends with some Saguaro cacti singing Amazing Grace against a desert backdrop.

There is also the group show Power of Ten, in the smaller galleries, which has some great pieces by Maccabee Shelley, Hannah Epstein, Paige Jiyoung Moon and others.

Apr 242019
 

TOTAL youth, 2019

TOTAL youth (side view), 2019

Sea Within A Sea, 2019

Sea Within A Sea, 2019 (side view)

“…We are constantly changing and rearranging our point of view. Tomorrow we will remember yesterday. The abstraction is real, more real than nature…” (punctuation mine)- text from Willie Stewart’s video Love Song (2019)

Nostalgia is something we all live with to a greater or lesser extent. The past informs our present and how we perceive things. Why do we see things the way we do? How do we frame the things we see and put them together?

For Willie Stewart’s exhibition In Between Days at Morán Morán gallery, he recreated VHS tapes, album covers, 1970s wood paneling, flowers, paintings of flowers, and more, through layers of detailed painting combined with sculpture. Their titles reference songs from bands like Depeche Mode, Germs, The Horrors, and The Cure and add additional meaning to the content of the work. Within the text of the video in the exhibition. they change their context once again.

The perception of the viewer adds yet another layer when they make their own connections based on personal associations with the objects in the work. In that way, the meaning often becomes less about the work at face value, and more about the meaning you bring to it. For some it may be no more than just an admiration of the beauty and skill of the work. Maybe it won’t resonate to some at all. But for others who remember VHS tapes more vividly or know the bands referenced, the nostalgia adds an extra appreciation.

This exhibition closes 4/27/19.

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 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Feb 162019
 

This month there are a lot of excellent exhibitions on view in Chelsea.

At David Zwirner is God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, a group show curated by writer Hilton Als. The works are varied and include portraits by Richard Avedon (shown above), a friend of Baldwin’s who also attended De Witt Clinton High School with him, as well work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (seen below), Kara Walker, James Welling, Beuford Delaney, Glenn Ligon and many more.

Nyado: The Thing Around Her Neck, 2011 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

At Marianne Boesky Gallery is Pure, Very, New, Paul Stephen Benjamin’s first solo exhibition in New York. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs, sculpture, and single and multi-channel video installations, as well as a new site-specific black light installation in the internal passageway between the two spaces.

From the press release

Benjamin’s practice is rooted in a vigorous meditation on blackness, considering: “What is the color black?” “What does black sound like?” “Is it an adjective, a verb, an essence, or all of these components mixed to create a nuanced whole?” For his large-scale monochromatic paintings, Benjamin thickly coats the canvas in varying shades of black, producing a sensation of boundless depth. This is further accentuated by Benjamin’s application of the particular tonality’s name within the field of color—the words appearing to float and dissipate within the richness of the paint itself. The development of these paintings followed an ordinary visit to a hardware store, where Benjamin was confronted with the many permutations of commercial black paint. Shades of black came with emotive titles like “Totally Black,” “New Black,” and “Pure Black,” among numerous others. For Benjamin, this sparked a multi-layered investigation of the color and whether it could be distilled or understood differently within the context of a painting or the color itself.

 … Benjamin’s practice also extends into a conceptual investigation of sound, and how “black” can be conveyed and experienced aurally. In these works, he often uses single and multi-channel video installations to loop portions of particular historic and cultural footage to isolate fragments of collective memories or internalized narratives. With Black is the Color (2015), which will be included in the exhibition, Benjamin arranges a towering cluster of antiquated televisions, forming a glowing grid that endlessly repeats a segment of Nina Simone’s 1959 performance of “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Here, Benjamin appropriates only the words “Black is the Color,” creating an abstraction of the song that reveals the contradictions and parallels between the notion of black being the color and it being a color. Moving fluidly from sound installation to painting to photography and sculpture, Benjamin’s practice is driven by the idea that blackness, whether explored as a matter of conceptual inquiry or identity, cannot be captured in a single action, emotion, or language.

Black Is The Color 2015 by Paul Stephen Benjamin

At Yancey Richardson is Blue Sweep, an exhibition of Andrew Moore’s beautiful photographs, taken in Alabama and Mississippi over the course of three years.

Carmen, Saunders Hall, AL 2015 by Andrew Moore

At Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is Oliver Jeffers’ charming painting exhibition For All We Know. If his work looks familiar it may be because Jeffers is also the author of several critically acclaimed picture books.

From the press release

This series of paintings illuminate a dream-like nocturnal world populated by astronauts, deep-sea divers, sinking ships, floating pianos, and burning matches. Omnipresent throughout are the night sky and the ocean – the two great and unknown frontiers – glittered with the imaginary lines that create constellations, serving in this case as a mysterious key to unlock our world.

Expanding on years of observation, from the history of his upbringing in Belfast, to contemporary New York City, Jeffers’ evokes the precarious state of our home and its inhabitants. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s seminal book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, he presents pianos as dubious flotation devices and our planet presented as a cumbersome motor vehicle, overheating as we argue over what to play on the radio. From researching astronaut’s descriptions of looking at Earth from the distance of the Moon, Jeffers noticed certain recognizable patterns to the way in which he discussed the politics of his hometown from a vantage point of across the Atlantic Ocean. In finding that few people outside of Northern Ireland knew or cared of the intricate conflict there, a great waste of time was revealed: a divided population identical to each other in every way save for the flags they flew and the stories they told. Tragically, each side’s identity are still firmly rooted to the existence of the other, and therefore locked into a spiral of repeated patterns.

 

At both of Jack Shainman’s locations are a series of impressive paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Black Allegiance to the Cunning, 2018 by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

 

For a new kind of exhibition experience, Asad Raza has organized the group show Life to Come, at Metro Pictures which “brings together works that meditate on the creation of new worlds and new models for living.” There are no labels or listings for the works included in the show. Instead there is a guided tour by hosts who take you around the various works to help you draw connections between the objects. Adding to the uniqueness of the experience, at one point the host pauses while talking and partially in motion, recreating a work by artist Tino Sehgal, and at another they show you that they have changed their eye color, a work by Rirkrit Tiravanija.

From the press release

Experiencing these works together incites intellectual, physical, and spiritual understandings of what it means to make an entirely new world, one in which reality is made from fiction. Raza asserts that “by re-immersing ourselves in the strangeness and fecundity of attempts to create worlds that have gone before, our imagination of a world beyond the present may be renewed.” The uncertainty about what new paradigm awaits us is unsettling in the wake of the modernist 20th century, but it links us to previous generations who experienced radical reinventions of biological and social life.

Philippe Parreno, La pierre qui parle (The Speaking Stone), 2018.

 

Selection of work by Camille Henrot (floral arrangements inspired by books)

All of these exhibitions close 2/16/19.