Jul 302020
 

Happy Birthday to Betye Saar who turned 94 today! This work Still Ticking, (2005), was part of LACMA’s exhibition Betye Saar: Call and Response which opened at the museum in September of 2019.

From the wall description of the work-

Made shortly before Saar’s seventy-eighth birthday, the assemblage includes years and astrological glyphs on the inner left side that correlate to various important dates in her life. The work’s title wittily refers both to the timepieces in the sculpture- which, of course, are not ticking; indeed they are either frozen in time or missing their hands- and to the artist herself, who is alive and well, still ticking, now at age ninety-three.

Jul 062020
 

Today, July 6th, is the four year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Castile was shot five times while his girlfriend and her four year old daughter were in the car.

Mark Bradford’s 150 Portrait Tone, 2017, currently at LACMA, is a devastating large scale work that uses excerpts from Philando Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds’s dialogue from the video she live streamed on Facebook from the incident.

From LACMA’s wall description of the work-

Bradford notes that he was moved by the multiple subjects Reynolds simultaneously addressed and the different spaces they occupied: her boyfriend, Castile, next to her (“stay with me”); the officer outside the car (“please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this”); God (“Lord, please Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone”); as well as the unknown receiver on the other side of her lifestream (“please don’t tell me he just went like that”).

Like many of Bradford’s works, the mural-size composition contains elements of both abstraction and realism. In places, layers of manipulated paint render the text almost illegible. The dark form in the background, however, evokes all-too-real associations with the horrific shooting, such as Castile’s twisted arm and the dark-red bloodstain spread across his white shirt, both visible in the live stream feed.

The title, “150 Portrait Tone”, refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting (most conspicuous in a large patch at the work’s bottom edge). Like the now-obsolete “flesh” crayon in the Crayola 64 box (the color was renamed “peach” in 1962), the color “portrait tone” carries inherent assumptions about who, exactly, is being depicted. In the context of Bradford’s painting, the title presents a sobering commentary on power and representation.

Jun 052020
 

For more of Brooklyn artist David Barthold’s work, check out his website and Instagram

Mar 112020
 

This mural, Untitled (Questions) (1990/2018), by artist Barbara Kruger, is on the wall of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles until November 2020. The work was originally commissioned by MOCA in 1989 for the exhibition A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation, and was last installed in 1990 on the south wall of MOCA’s building (now The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA).

 

 

Nov 202019
 

Murals of La Jolla is a project started in 2010 by The Athenaeum and the La Jolla Community Foundation. It commissions artists to create work to be displayed on buildings around La Jolla. The works are on view for a minimum of two years (a map of current work here)

The above work, Tear Stains Be Gone, was created by Jean Lowe in 2015 and is still on view as of this writing in 2019 at 7661 Girard Avenue.

 

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.

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 242018
 

Gordon Parks, “Untitled”, Alabama (1956)

Gordon Parks was an incredible photographer whose influence continues to be felt in photography today. He had a long creative career that also expanded beyond photography to include writing several books, composing music, and directing films- the most famous being Shaft.

The Gordon Parks Foundation recently hosted the exhibition ELEMENT, which focused on several of the photographs that inspired Kendrick Lamar’s video from his album DAMN, seen below. The photo pictured above can be seen as part of the exhibition of Gordon Parks’ work I Am You Part 2 at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. It is from his series Segregation Story for Life magazine which focused on the daily lives of three black families in Alabama in 1956.

The photo below is a still from Kendrick Lamar’s Element. The video was directed by Jonas Lindstroem and The Little Homies (Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free).

 

To see more of Parks’ work and the work he has influenced, The Gordon Parks Foundation’s website is a good resource for upcoming exhibitions around the world.

Dec 102016
 

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Carrie Mae Weems currently has two exhibitions in Chelsea at Jack Shainman Gallery’s spaces. Included in the work at the 24th Street space is All the Boys (2016), in which slightly blurred images of young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts are placed next to text panels that include information, some of it redacted, about the black victims of police violence. While those images are more subtle, the most affecting piece in the exhibition is the video All The Boys: Video in Three Parts. It includes some of the cell phone footage from several of the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police, including Eric Garner and Philando Castile, and is incredibly difficult to watch. This is interspersed with funeral scenes, the dreamlike image of a man running on a treadmill with a clock in the background, and Weems’ calm voice speaking over the scenes.

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In the 20th Street space are images that will be more familiar to those aware of Weems’ previous work Roaming and Museums and is an interesting contrast to the work in the other gallery. In Scenes & Take (2016), she places herself, with her back to the viewer, on the sets of various successful television shows created by and starring black people, including Empire and Scandal. She then includes commentary in text on the side of the images.

In a recent interview with the New York Times she mentions the reasoning behind this focus on Hollywood-

I decided to go and stand in spaces where I think significant transformations are taking place in television as a way of pointing, trying to understand the role of black actors. Directors like Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes are laying the foundation for what can be imagined within the context of American culture. Most people go for their programming to paid television, so there’s an economic shift. Network television has been left to poor people.

Both these exhibitions close Saturday 12/10/16.