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.

 

 

 

Aug 082019
 

In addition to the murals created for POW! WOW! Antelope Valley 2018, artist Dan Witz also created a few small pieces like the one shown above. For more of his work, check out his website and Instagram.

Aug 082019
 

In addition to the murals created for POW! WOW! Antelope Valley 2018, there were also several smaller works including several of Spenser Little’s wire sculptures. For more of his work, check out his Instagram.

Jul 192019
 

Woven Stories, at the Museum of Art and History (MOAH) in Lancaster, is a collection of narrative fiber artworks as well as five solo exhibitions and five site specific installations. There are so many great pieces in the show it was hard to narrow down which artists to include, but below are a few that stood out.

Victor Wilde, Momma Bears, 2019

Vojislav Radovanovic, TWO SIDES OF A LUCID DREAM, 2018

Vojislav Radovanovic, TWO SIDES OF A LUCID DREAM, 2018

Orly Cogan, Confections

Orly Cogan, Sugar ‘n Spice ‘n Everything Nice

Upstairs, the solo exhibitions are equally impressive. Several of these artists utilize nontraditional materials to create their unique work.

Nicola Vruwink uses the film from cassette tapes instead of traditional yarn to create her pieces.

For her large sculptures, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, uses materials from second hand shops. The pieces of broken furniture and scraps of fabric form animal figures caught in awkward poses.

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Blamethirst

Peter Hiers’ sculptures are made from found scraps of tires. Using this discarded material, he gives new life to what would ordinarily be littering the sides of highways.

Peter Hiers, Circular Logic, 2010

This exhibition closes 7/21/19.

While in Lancaster, make sure to also check out MOAH Cedar nearby, which is showing Collateral Damage, an immersive installation by Snezana Saraswati Petrovic.

 

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
 

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.