Jun 132019
 

It’s not often an art show comes along where you wish there were more people in the gallery, but going to see Urs Fischer: PLAY at Jeffrey Deitch in Los Angeles was one of them. When you first walk into the large space filled only with office chairs, you notice them moving but in ways you might not expect- if you expect office chairs to be moving on their own in the first place.

The chairs are controlled by artificial intelligence that determines and learns from each encounter. Even alone in the gallery, it was delightful to watch the chairs interact with each other and then myself as I walked around. They come close to you and each other. They spin and travel together or seem to interact one by one. When others entered the gallery they change their movement again, seemingly without any set pattern. At one point I watched one of the chairs move all the way to the desk by the entrance, a space that seemed like it would be out of bounds.

Urs Fischer is quoted in the press release saying- “despite the complexity of the parts, the exhibition as a whole is pretty simple. It’s about what you, the viewer, project onto it. It’s not about chairs, it’s about humans.” This is what makes the show so fascinating, it is almost impossible not to anthropomorphize the chairs and their interactions.

PLAY, conceived of by Urs Fischer with choreography by Madeline Hollander, runs through June 15th.

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.

Jun 062019
 

This is the last weekend to see the excellent exhibition Charles White: A Retrospective at LACMA.

From the press release-

Jun 062019
 

Taking up an entire level of the BCAM Building at LACMA, Robert Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece, is a wonderful testament to the artist’s work and creativity. It is also the first time it has ever been shown in its entirety.

There is so much variety in the materials, subjects, colors, and styles, that as you wander from section to section, it’s easy to notice new things the longer you look. Despite the differences among the different sections, they are bound together by a creative exuberance. LACMA recommends an hour to wander the 1/4 mile of work, but you may want to spend longer.

This exhibition will close on 6/9/19.

May 302019
 

George Condo’s current exhibition at Sprüth Magers, What’s The Point?, is asking the question many of us are asking more and more these days. There’s a controlled chaos to many of these compelling large paintings, much like the world we often find ourselves in.

From the press release

What’s the Point of consistency in art?

Every time I put a brushstroke down on a canvas I ask myself, “What’s the Point?”

What’s the Point of each and every mark going onto the painting? It is important for an artist to ask themselves that question. I am intentional with every move I make as a painter. Even if it appears to be random or an accident, or just a part of a painting that seems less important than another, it is not and cannot ever be. The choice of color has a point. It may be to balance an area of a painting in coordination with another part or to equalize the fine line between perception and reality within the abstract perception of a formal set of guidelines (that never apply to anything other than the singular experience invested in each artwork). There is no guideline to the unknown. It is a path cut out in the wild with a machete looking for a clearing and hoping to arrive at a destination. That, I believe, is the point, in fact: to arrive at your destination. It may be on the other end of an illogical equation which finally makes sense only some number of years later, or finally does not make sense in the end but remains the ultimate ending: the finished painting.

One can see the entire world through this lens, to ask What’s the Point of meaningless intangibles and vacant thoughts, blank space or overpopulated ruminations. The degree to which the mind can play games with itself or the degree to which it can be misled with false, if not real, information. Real information can in fact be false today. We are living in a time when what is presented to us in the news cycle is real—there is no doubt that it is in fact what is being presented. However, What’s the Point in believing in the material content when it could be a truth constructed to make you believe something for the purpose of political manipulation?

What’s the Point of being consistent? In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
—George Condo

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are pleased to present What’s the Point?, an exhibition of new paintings by George Condo at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. One of the most significant artists of the last several decades, Condo creates works that dramatically bridge an array of painterly approaches, moods, and influences from diverse fields such as art history, music, philosophy, and popular culture. The artist’s compositions often begin with the human figure, rendered variously in fluid networks of black lines and interlacing planes of bold color that move seamlessly between controlled precision and unabashed exuberance. His canvases tap into the extremes of human emotion and, at a moment of crisis in American and global politics, a sense of mania and disorder that nonetheless holds out hope for progress and resolution. The paintings in What’s the Point? demonstrate the breadth of Condo’s artistic references, for example, from seventeenth-century portraiture of beggars and thieves found in the work of Dutch and Italian masters, to his own compendium of painterly gestures, which together form a trenchant picture of contemporary human consciousness.

Upstairs the gallery is showing the work of Thea Djordjadze which “combines a variety of artistic, industrial, and unconventional materials to produce works full of contrasts and complexity, which she puts into conversation with the architecture and atmosphere of her exhibition spaces through intimate, considered arrangements.”

Both of these exhibitions close 6/1/19.

May 242019
 

Wendy White’s exhibition Racetrack Playa, at Shulamit Nazarian, is a very American show. Her collages of old car ads ,and their often blatant sexism, combined with the use of denim as a sculptural medium, play with the iconography of America’s past to force us to think about America today. How do you reconcile a love of the open road and exploring natural landscapes with the environmental destruction caused by using cars fueled with oil to get there? How much of the past perception of women as objects still informs thinking today? Will America get out of its wood paneled basement to move into a better place- or will its longing for the past continue to slow its progress?

From the press release-

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to announce representation of New York-based artist Wendy White. The artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Racetrack Playa, will feature new paintings, sculptures, pigment prints, and a site-specific installation.

The exhibition takes its name from a three-mile dry lakebed in Death Valley National Park where sliding rocks or “sailing stones” have inscribed mysterious linear imprints on the landscape. Using this scarred landscape as a metaphor for our current times, the works in Racetrack Playa explore power, entitlement, and imperialism via the aesthetics and evolution of American car culture.

In pieces that function as both homage and critique, White collapses signs of racing and car culture with references to 20th-century American painting. Multiple-canvas works such as Posi Track and Burnout (both 2019) take cues from James Rosenquist’s famous Vietnam War-era painting F-111 (1964–65). In White’s versions, images of mangled engines, worn tire treads, and damaged landscapes suggest a trampling of both philosophical ideals and the natural environment. In addition, the works make reference to Andy Warhol’s Death and Disasters series and Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.

The exhibition also includes new works from the artist’s ongoing Jeans series. These pieces make use of worn denim, a quintessentially American fabric associated with labor and a sense of rugged individualism. Co-opting the material and its cultural connotations as a substrate for painting, White makes marks with dripped and splattered bleach before garnishing each piece with flat cut-out rainbows, beer bottles, and energy drinks.

A site-specific installation complete with wood paneled walls, carpet, and one of White’s signature denim sofas creates a quasi-automotive shop backdrop for a new suite of unique pigment prints. Carving directly into the paneling, White references the DIY aesthetic of the 70s muscle car era by way of hand-drawn symbols, slogans and logos.

Taken together, the works in Racetrack Playa riff on the visual cues of car culture, the resilient materiality of denim, and the sexiness of commercial graphics to examine a society long drawn to speed and dominance. Reexamining this typically male-dominated arena, White pushes back on advertising’s false promise that perhaps all of your desires are for the taking, if you just smoke the right cigarettes and drive the right car.

This exhibition closes 5/25/19.

May 232019
 

This is the last weekend (5/25/19) to see Vanessa German’s excellent sculpture exhibition, $LANG: Short Language in Soul, at Gavlak Los Angeles.

From the press release-

$LANG is German’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, the artist’s native city, and her first with Gavlak. The exhibition features a body of work created by German during her recent month long residency at Aguacate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Though assembled in Mexico, many of the found objects incorporated in the sculptures were sourced from the artist’s current neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – the historic black neighborhood whose residents are often faced with systemic, institutionalized racism, and violence in their daily lives.

A self-trained “citizen artist,” German explores the power of art and love as a transformative force in the dynamic cultural ecosystem of communities and neighborhoods. As the founder of the ARThouse, a community arts initiative in her own neighborhood ravaged by gun violence, German’s art extends to helping local children heal through art  making. Recently recognized as the 2018 recipient of the Don Tyson Prize, the majority of German’s $200,000 grant is going toward opening a Museum of Resilience to honor the neighborhood’s large population of black single mothers. Her spoken-word performance art, influenced heavily by hip-hop, opera and the long tradition of Negro spirituals, calls attention to the epidemic of racially charged violence and advocates for compassion and empathy in daily  life. Similarly, German’s sculptural work blends spirituality, beauty, and femininity to focus  on empowering black women and girls. In a transformative way, the artist hopes that her work gives a space for positive and inclusive manifestations of love and awareness.

Born in Wisconsin, German moved to Mid-City Los Angeles at seven months old along with her five siblings and mother, Sandra German, a fiber artist and quilter. “We were makers as a way of life. We were raised by making something,” German explains about her formative years. The multi-media works assembled for $LANG explore her lived experience growing up black in Los  Angeles and how the power of art kept her alive. German writes:

As a strange, dirty, round, nappy black girl in Los Angeles, never really smelling good, or looking hair-combed & pressed, i was always inventing things that i deeply, profoundly believed had power. People made fun of me for this. i wrote poems to cure cancer. i drew and drew and drew and drew and refused to pick my pencil up from the paper until i’d driven any thought of disbelief from my mind. i was furious with these thoughts of creativity and power; that i was alive and could make *things that had the power to do *something. i believed this like a deep, deep fire. It kept me alive.

On view in the gallery are a series of 15 mixed-media assemblage sculptures using vintage tennis rackets, titled from the specific branding text on each. German’s use of rackets stems from Intermediate axis theorem, or tennis racket theorem, an effect in classical mechanics defining the  movement of a rigid body with three distinct principal moments of inertia. German explains: “Here in this work is the rigid body (black femaleness) reckoning with three distinct principal moments of inertia: Americanness; the aesthetics  of femininity (body and sex and identity), Blackness and the value in the striations of the known and unknown, and Love & Creative Power.” German utilizes historically black found objects such as hair weave and cowrie shells to adorn her hand painted portraits of black women, creating majestic and empowered presentations of a community so commonly subjected to violence and oppression in American society.

Also on view are five of German’s signature sculptures of which she refers to as “power figures,” or “tar babies.” Created by sculpting and hand painting large figures, adding a wide range of materials from feathers, glitter, seashells, plastic toys, bottle caps, vintage products, and fabric found from both Homewood and her travels. These female figures are based on traditional Congolese Nkisi Power Figure sculptures, which create protection, fend off evil spirits, and punish wrongdoers. German’s rococo meets folk power figures confront the violence of white supremacy and racism. German describes her process of assembling these sculptures as wholly spiritual.

May 162019
 

Blum & Poe is currently showing  Parergon: Japanese Art of the 1980s and 1990s Part II, the gallery’s second installment of their survey.

From the press release-

Part II of Parergon expands on the thematic territories explored in Part I, with seminal installations and sculptures from the era and performances by renowned figures of noise, sound, and electro-acoustic music genres. Kenji Yanobe’s Tanking Machine (Rebirth) (2019) is a darkly humorous, interactive, sci-fi sculpture first presented in 1989 that addresses the ever-present reality of nuclear crisis through a retro-futurist narrative. Influential multimedia artist, Kodai Nakahara’s bizarre installations of figurine-like marble stones and brightly, suspended spheres reflect a humorous take on sculpture’s “post-medium” condition.  As an intellectual and artist, Kenjiro Okazaki’s practice engages with theories of perception through interdisciplinary genres spanning architecture, literary theory, painting, reliefs, sculpture, robotics, and dance. Trained in both Japan and the U.S., Yukinori Yanagi’s large-scale and site-specific installations interrogate the politics of institutional borders and boundaries often drawing from semiotic systems of symbolic imagery. Psychedelic ’60s graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo revisits strategies of historical pastiche with his figurative noir paintings that hang alongside his cut-canvas portraits of Dada figures, as well as ceramic depictions of spiritual mediums. Finally, a dedicated Japanese noise archive of photography, journals, and vinyl records from Tokyo’s experimental underground will also be featured on the second floor giving historical context to the live performances.

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.

This exhibition closes 5/18/19.

 

May 132019
 

ONE Gallery in West Hollywood is currently showing The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s photographs by Greg Day. The artist died in his late 30s and would have remained virtually unknown if not for curator David Getsy researching, collecting, and documenting everything he could find on Varble.

His performance pieces were often both audacious and humorous and the exhibition details several of them. Varble popped open blood filled condom breasts in protest at a bank (proceeding to use the blood to sign a check for “zero million dollars”), crashed the Met Gala and the premiere of Tommy, and gave “costume tours” of big name art galleries in Soho, challenging the status quo. In our current world of corporate bailouts, rampant capitalism, and celebration of the rich, its fun to imagine what kind of work Varble might have created today in response.

From the press release-

In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (1946–1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art.” With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (b. 1944) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble builds upon the 2018 retrospective exhibition of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019.  The new ONE Gallery exhibition, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

This exhibition closes 5/17/19.

*For an additional perspective on the artist- Stephen Varble was friends with a 14-year old girl in NYC named Fernanda Eberstadt who kept diaries detailing her time with him. She wrote an interesting piece for Granta about him, reproduced here.

May 102019
 

Hammer Museum’s current exhibition Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968-2018 is a fascinating and fun look at the work of the Conceptual artist. Walking through the show, the variety of the work and the artist’s sense of humor keep the exhibition engaging from start to finish.

Much of Ruppersberg’s work created in Los Angeles is specific to the city, especially how it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The contrast between the urban city life and the natural surroundings of mountains, desert and beach can be seen in several of his pieces including the “Location Pieces”. For “Al’s Cafe”, he created a restaurant in downtown LA where everything from the menus, receipts, and tongue-in-cheek dishes, was a work of art. Examples of the “meals” include “Rock Varieties Smothered in Pine Needles” and the “Patti Melt”, a studio photo covered in toasted marshmallows. He later went on to create “Al’s Grand Hotel” which consisted of several rooms of various themes, run by the artist. For a little over a month of weekends, guests came to stay overnight. Like his restaurant, the hotel became a meeting place for the Los Angeles arts community.

Language and the printed word play a very important in Rupperberg’s work. He rewrote Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray on several large canvases that take up an entire room in the show. For a series of paintings he recreated newspaper articles of strange crimes and then wrote comments on the canvas “translating” them.

Driving around Los Angeles he noticed the ubiquitous DayGlo posters made by Colby Printing and used them to print The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg (Parts I-III). For this work the poem is recreated phonetically in a series of these posters, along with some commercial advertising posters, and placed together to form a large mural.

Ruppersberg is still creating, collecting, and exploring the world around him. This show celebrates his unique perspective while also presenting a glimpse of what it was like to be an artist in Los Angeles at the time he was making this work.

This exhibition closes 5/12/19.