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.

 

 

 

Jun 292019
 

“Graduation”, (1949) © Estate of Roy DeCarava

We look at so many images today that often the value of individual photos decreases with the abundance of them. That’s why it is such a pleasure to spend time with Roy DeCarava’s black and white photographs at The Underground Museum. His images have a meditative beauty to them. They catch your eye and hold it. There is a richness to his compositions, his use of textures and light.

While at The Underground Museum, also take a moment to look through a copy of De Carava’s book collaboration with writer Langston Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life in the book store.  The images in it influenced artist Kahlil Joseph’s film Flypaper (2017), which was recently shown at MOCA.  Kahlil Joseph’s brother, artist Noah Davis, who sadly passed away in 2015, founded The Underground Museum with his wife, artist Karon Davis, in 2012.

Roy DeCarava: The Work of Art closes 6/29/19.

 

“Bill and son”(1962) © Estate of Roy DeCarava

 

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 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.

 

Apr 192019
 

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico, 1979

Señor de los Pájaros, Nayarit, Mexico, 1984 (image courtesy of Rose Gallery)

Currently at Rose Gallery is Graciela Iturbide: Hay Tiempo, an exhibition of beautiful photographs by the Mexican photographer.

From the press release

Graciela Iturbide, celebrated as one of Mexico’s most prolific and distinguished photographers, observes with patience and exhibits her world with beauty, serenity and dignity. Born into a conservative family in Mexico City, Iturbide decided to create her own path, leaving a traditional domestic life to pursue the arts. During her studies in cinematography at the Universidad Nacional Autonama de Mexico, she became the achichinle (the assistant) to Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the distinguished Mexican photographer who later became a lifelong mentor to Iturbide. In their time together, Álvarez Bravo constantly reminded Iturbide to pause and observe, asserting Hay Tiempo (There is Time). This patience to allow the moment to unravel and reveal itself echoed the notion of a Mexican poetic tempo, which is present throughout Mexican art, literature and life. Iturbide came to understand and employ her mentor’s slow, observational process as she photographed many cultures and spheres.

Although Iturbide has photographed all over the world, she is widely known for the photographs she has taken in her native Mexico. While many twentieth-century photographers had documented Mexico through an outsider’s lens, shining light on poverty and politics in a neocolonial gesture, Iturbide reached beyond the document, photographing the poetic essence embedded in each moment. With Hay Tiempo in mind, she evokes a lyricism in her careful observations. In the late 1970s under an assignment for the INI (Instituto Nacional Indigenista), Iturbide photographed the Seri tribe, focusing her lens on Mexico’s indigenous population which was often overlooked and marginalized. In these portraits, the deep cultural and spiritual history of indigenous peoples exists alongside the influences of colonialism and an encroaching globalism. Then, in 1979, the celebrated Mexican artist Francisco Toledo invited Iturbide to photograph his native city Juchitan in the southern state of Oaxaca, where she encountered the strength and independence of the Zapotec women. In this indigenous, matriarchal community, the women live economically and socially independent lives in a stark contrast to the customs of westernized Mexico that Iturbide grew up within. Iturbide’s photographs, equally grounded and imaginative, portray the power and spirit of each individual. Their direct presence in the image exhibits the persevering dignity of the indigenous people in a post-colonial world. Iturbide’s photographs of Mexico show not only the diverse and rich cultural history of her nation, but also the resonance of Iturbide’s own artistic community, which invited and encouraged the photographer to explore her own nation in its multiplicities of experience.

This exhibition closes 4/20/19.

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
 

For his current exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Todd Gray:Plurality of Being, Gray combines images that could initially be seen as incongruous to add layers of meaning and complexity to issues of identity.

Using his own previous photographic explorations from different parts of the world, he then places the images together within frames he’s found or was given. Through this process the history of his own journey combines with that of those he’s photographed. In some works the roots of trees reach out between images pulling them together or imitate the stretching out of arms. The blue and white of a bandanna finds its place within the colors of the universe in another. The viewer can put together their own meanings from these juxtapositions or just enjoy the beauty of the sculptural collages.

From the press release-

Using pictures made when he was Michael Jackson’s personal photographer in the 1980s, along with those of verdant flora, local friends, and galactic imagery, Todd Gray’s wall collages portray the multiplicity of experience and memory across space and time.

Mixing archival images of Jackson on tour in the United States with lush landscapes from Italy to South Africa, Gray’s photographic sculptures reframe and reveal an intimate yet collective post-colonial, transatlantic memory. By layering images, bodies and faces become fragmented, drawing into question the role photography plays in the transmission of history and cultural identity.

This is the first U.S. presentation of work made during Gray’s 2017 residency at NIROX in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This exhibition closes 4/7/19.

 

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
 

Chris Engman, “Containment” Installation, 2019

Chris Engman “Bookshelves”, 2019

Taking and viewing photos has increasingly become an important part of people’s lives, especially with the introduction of Instagram and the ability to use your phone as a camera. We are looking at more and more images than ever before. But when you are looking at a photo, how much of what you are seeing is real?

Chris Engman’s show Refraction at Luis de Jesus Gallery challenges these perceptions through his creation of photographic environments. When you enter the gallery you walk into the site-specific work Containment, which took over 300 individual prints to create. It’s an immersive piece that gives the viewer the chance to see how Engman’s final images are created.

The second room of the gallery houses several photos of different recreated natural environments, including sand dunes and a cloudy sky. On one wall there is a book shelf (pictured above) where the center is a photograph of a bookshelf and to the left and right are actual objects, furthering the challenge to question everything you are looking at. Looking at a photo of books on a shelf, next to real books on a shelf, what makes more of an impression to your eye? What is the difference between looking at a photo of the sky and a photo of a construction made of photos of the sky?

From the press release

Refraction explores the relationship between illusion and reality by exposing the deceit inherent in photographic image-making while engaging in philosophical and material play around slips in translation. Refraction refers to the change in matter or information as it passes through one medium to another. Refraction occurs when our experience of the world is mediated through photographic images. Engman states: “We see more than we would have, and there is value in that. But the thing, person, or place that is imaged is also irrevocably changed. Photographs resemble and seem somehow in proximity to places and moments we cannot access in ways we wish we could. This produces a continuous and oblique kind of yearning for what we wish could be present or more fully understood,” resulting in a mental projection through which we fill in the gaps, adding detail or meaning.

This exhibition closes 3/23/19.

 

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.