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.

 

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.

 

 

Feb 232019
 

Artist Pierre Daquin’s tapestry “La Vue” courtesy of Galerie Chevalier as part of The 13th Floor project

Several art fairs took over Los Angeles last weekend, two of which used hotels to create temporary galleries and installations.

At the The Hollywood Roosevelt was the first edition of Felix, a free art fair co-founded by Dean Valentine along with brothers Al Morán and Mills Morán (of LA gallery Morán Morán). Galleries took over rooms along the pool, on the 11th floor, and the penthouse.  Starting at the penthouse was The 13th Floor (pictured above), a collection of work by French artists curated by writer Andrew Berardini and presented by The French Committee of Art Galleries and the Cultural Services of the French embassy.

Kenny Schachter had some fun pieces in his room on the 11th Floor including Ilona Rich’s sculptures, one of which was in the bathroom shower (pictured above), and a framed collection of artist Chris Burden’s cancelled checks.

Bodega gallery, from New York’s Lower East Side, had a selection of interesting work including paintings by Alexandra Noel.

Alexandra Noel, “And then the air was filled with 10,000 things (or when a minor piece of wood becomes a missile)”

Grice Bench’s selections included a collection of lovely watercolors by Roger White and a painting placed above the bed by Lara Schnitger.

Work by Lara Schnitger and Roger White

On the ground floor Marc Selwyn Fine Art presented Jennifer Aniston’s Used Book Sale, artist Kristen Morgin’s incredibly realistic ceramic replicas of books she imagines might make up the actress’ collection (the VHS tape is real).

Kristen Morgin’s ceramic books

At a hotel in a completely different part of town was the stARTup Art Fair, taking place at The Kinney in Venice. Here, instead of galleries representing the artists, it’s the artists that set up their rooms and sell their art.  It made for a great experience as the artists were all very friendly and eager to discuss their work. Below are a few highlights from the fair.

Lisa Kairos and Melissa Mohammadi’s work

“Leaf Insects Turn Into Butterflies” by Melissa Mohammadi

San Francisco artists Lisa Kairos and Melissa Mohammadi’s room was filled with really beautiful work. Kairos makes dreamy multilayered paintings based on natural landscapes. She then cuts patterns into the images which adds yet another dimension to the paintings. Mohammadi’s work incorporates botanical and marine life into a meditative world where bright pastels stand out among subdued watercolor backgrounds; highly detailed sections mix with the more abstract. The end result for both artists is work you want to spend time looking at.

Work by Annie Galvin of 3 Fish Studios

Work by Eric Rewitzer of 3 Fish Studios

Husband and wife artists Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin of 3 Fish Studios in San Francisco had lots of great, affordable prints. They also teach printmaking and collage classes in their studio.

One of Camilla Magrane’s artworks

Artist Camila Magrane had several pieces in her darkened hotel room that use augmented reality technology to make the works animated and three dimensional when looked at through her Virtual Mutations app. The video above illustrates the effect.

Jeff Horton uses his architecture background to create paintings of urban structures (often larger than what’s pictured above), some of which incorporate wax with oil paint for an added layer.

Other artists work not shown but worth checking out- Margaret Hyde makes ethereal still life photographs of natural objects she finds and combines with water, and Kyong Ae Kim showed a variety of impressive work including her animal skulls cut from multiple layers of drafting film and acrylic paintings combined with hand cut elements.