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.

May 192018
 

This weekend head to Hauser & Wirth to check out artist Mark Bradford’s exhibition New Works. His first gallery exhibition in Los Angeles in over fifteen years, the paintings included continue to explore societal issues through his dramatic use of color, and his unique technique- which involves combining layers of printed paper with paint and then cutting into these layers to create intricate patterns and shapes. They are incredible to see in person.

From the press release-

Bradford employs the ‘tools of civilization’ – billboards, merchant posters, newsprint, comics, magazines, and endpapers – to conflate cultural and political forces, and create layers of social commentary in paintings that evoke deep feeling. ‘How we build and destroy ourself are the materials that I’m really interested in,’ the artist once stated, ‘and paper is one of the main ways in which information is displayed.’ Through his rigorous physical approach to the material presence of painting, Bradford has addressed powerful issues of our time, including the AIDS epidemic, the misrepresentation and fear of queer identity, and systemic racism in America. His recent work engages in a broader excavation of American history to raise questions about the preservation of the past and the transference of power.

In the new works on view at Hauser & Wirth, Bradford probes stories found in comic books to question the archetype of the antihero and the influence of the media on contemporary society, while also revisiting misconceptions of black identity and gender as seen in previous works. ‘New Works’ presents paintings that extend the artist’s examination of homophobia and racism in American society, continuing themes explored in Bradford’s multimedia installation ‘Spiderman’ (2015), which was shown at the Hammer Museum in LA in 2015.

Also at the Hauser & Wirth space are two other exhibitions worth checking out- Louise Bourgeois: The Red Sky and Romanian artist Geta Brătescu’s The Leaps of Aesop. All of these shows close 5/20/18.

If you go on 5/19, at 2pm artist Matthew Day Jackson will be discussing his work with curator Hamza Walker, Executive Director of LAXART.