|CONTINUING & RECCOMMENDED, FEBRUARY 2013|
Walter de Maria, "The 2000 Sculpture," 1992, plaster rods.
Walter de Maria is best known for site-specific works such as "The Lightning Field" and "The Broken Kilometer." "The 2000 Sculpture" fills the open space of the Resnick Pavilion, measuring approximately 10 x 50 meters. The 2000 white plaster rods of the title are placed on the floor in a herringbone pattern. Each rod is a polygon with a different number of sides. If laid out in a line they would be one kilometer long. The installation reduces space by dissecting a conceptual whole into individual fragments that can only be combined in the viewer's imagination (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).
Robert Mapplethorpe published his notorious "X,Y,Z" portfolios in 1978, 1978 and 1981. When they were first exhibited they were deemed pornographic and offensive. Mapplethorpe conceived of the work as a triptych that included still lives of flowers, S&M images and photographs of African American men. Each black and white photograph of vastly different content was shot as a compositionally elegant square. Here they are installed as Mapplethorpe intended, in three rows that are offset in order to allow the viewer to make both vertical and horizontal relationships between images. The images are both haunting and beautiful. Knowing the sensation they caused when they were first made, one views them with that filter and therefore must raise the questions: Are these images really offensive? What was Mapplethorpe's purpose in making them? What can we learn from the controversy they caused? (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile)
Cathy Daley, "Untitled," 2012, oil pastel on vellum, 36 x 86".
Toronto based artist Cathy Daley has a knack for grabbing our attention with the powerful nature of her monochromatic black oil pastel drawings on vellum. We are absorbed by her female figurative works, however what takes center stage is not the figure itself, which most often only suggests the legs while leaving out any details or reference to the head and torso. Central to her work is the expression of the gesture embodied in the billowy marks created to explore and suggest layers of seemingly lightweight fabrics as they move through space to music. Her images are of dancers but also address femininity, fashion and culture. At their core, the drawings radiate a sense of freedom and abandon with only the solidity of the feminine form to give them grounding. Two long, narrow drawings (both "Untitled") most clearly express the general feeling of all of the drawings with their spontaneous, transparent marks and line-work, creating the soft and fluid feel of dresses. Daley’s drawings are pleasurable to view in part by virtue of their basic compositions. Because of their simplicity, the overall power of the images is strengthened (Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Miracle Mile).
Patrick Nickell, "Everlasting Journey," 2012, acrylic on plaster, burlap, metal screen and wire on painted table, 36" x 30" 27" table 32 3/8" x 26 5/8" x 27 1/2".
Patrick Nickell's new sculptures are colorful tubular shapes that cascade off white tables that are scattered throughout the gallery. These new works are his most playful to date and the first to transition from pure abstraction to shapes that resemble human forms. Entitled "Letting Go," these works make reference to human struggles. The works juxtapose smooth areas of painted plaster with areas covered with rough burlap. A piece entitled, "Do You Ever Wonder What's Inside Their Heads?" appears to fuse a dog's head with a disembodied torso; one that is more human than animal. In many of these enigmatic sculptures, body parts jut in and out of curvilinear shapes. In "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" what looks like a long tongue protrudes from intertwined tentacle-like forms. These new works have a sci-fi aura but are more directed to distorting the human body than to creating aliens. The combined effect shows the artist's capacity for humor, yet works are somewhat disturbing as well. Nickell's new forms toy with the uncanny and are his first to inject human content into what in the past has primarily been a more formal study of abstraction (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).
Jeff Koons, "Coloring Book," 1997-2005, high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating, 222 x 131 1/4 x 13 1/4".
With only two objects on display, we have come to expect more flash from an artist that Jerry Saltz calls the "… emblematic artist of the decade." The glitz, sex, and showmanship of Jeff Koons are unmistakable and even admirable at times. It’s a level of art stardom that few will ever reach and subsequently raises a host of issues that often outshine the artist's work. Yet two works did afford more time for contemplation and reflection. The largest piece is entitled "Coloring Book" (1997-2005). It’s a twenty-foot tall stainless steel sculpture that resembles a large metallic mirror. It changes colors with large sweeping curves that resemble swift and bold gestures made by a crayon without the outlines of the original subject. It’s actually quite expressive for this artist when compared to his previous stainless steel creations. The new work entitled "Gorilla" (2009-2012) is exactly what the title describes. The black granite figure holds its hands to its chest and stands on a base made of the same material. It's an item typically made of plastic and created through injection molds commonly purchased from the gift shops at zoos and theme parks. The sculpture is even given the same rough, store kitsch finish with bits of extra material left around the edges. The replica of a children’s toy has little expression or movement compared to the free flowing lines in "Coloring Book." The level of professionalism nuanced through material and scale is impressive in both pieces, but they feel like contrasting ideals of childhood masked behind the now familiar Koons’ aesthetic (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).
G. James Daichendt
Eben Goff and Rowan Wood, "Apples," 2013, installation view at Steve Turner Contemporary.
Jon Farman, "New Age Demanded (Grated Delaunay)," 2012, archival pigment print, 58 x 42".
Eben Goff and Rowan Wood’s sculpture exhibition, “Apples”, is the culmination of a year-long collaboration centered around the practice of printmaking. Their interests were twofold: how the action of the etching press creates a transformation from the artist’s original gesture to what is eventually transferred to paper through the printing process, and an investigation of chance processes that occur during printing. The central series, “Apples,” consists of five monochromatic wall pieces, each 70 x 40 inches. They are aluminum plate monoprint etchings on paper, that are framed in various dimensions and sizes, then set in individually welded brass frames that follow the contour of each etching. While the “Apple” series was an orchestrated set of chance processes, another group of works used paper, glass, ink or paint and wood, began with completed picture frames that housed blank sheets of paper under glass. Using heat, pressure and pigment absorption, gestures seep into the blank paper through the glass. The third group of works eliminated the pigment, using only the structure of the frame and glass. Using heat and other processes, these works produce images in light and shadow based upon the increasing distance between glass and the paper inside. The creative process of Goff and Wood’s collaboration is in plain view as you move through the exhibition and it is clear that this was no haphazard process but a well honed plan from start to finish – with plenty of experimentation and exploration in between.
The title of “1:1” is meant to convey each participating artist’s re-creation of their respective digital sources into three-dimensional objects reflecting closely their appearance on the computer monitors where the images were executed; the larger underlying theme suggests that these digital prints carry the same visceral heft as their original technological sources. Kate Steciw’s digitally-collaged c-print with a few miscellaneous attached items pushes and pulls the image/object distinction about as hard as imaginable, while Travess Smalley and Jon Rafman both transform two- and three-dimensions, though in opposite ways. Smalley scans sculptures of clay into flat photographic abstractions, while Rafman projects 3D-modeled images onto a bust, which is then photographed in a still life-lit environment. Theo Michael’s group of dingy newsprint-like image collections are digital prints that are so saturated onto their drywall surface that they conjure the label of digital 'fresco.' By rendering his image taxonomies with all the cracks and gouges that the drywall foundation contributes, Michael’s angle on the repurposing of the digital makes for a solid anchoring of an intriguing gathering (Steve Turner Contemporary, Miracle Mile).
Hugh Scott-Douglas, "Untitled," 2012, cyanotype on linen, road case, 43 1/4 x 63 1/4 x 9 1/4".
A Canadian who has shown previously in San Francisco though never in L.A., Hugh Scott-Douglas makes a formidable debut with "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari." Robert Wiene's 1920 silent film is a source of inspiration that provides the work here with a scholarly spine, but one that viewers could be oblivious of and not suffer any aesthetic consequences. The central gesture in the main gallery combines painting, sculpture, and installation in equal measure: one first walks through a deep channel erected from the borders of a floor-to-ceiling wall of cyanotype-produced paintings on one side, and the back of a 14-foot-high road case (picture a generic suitcase that musicians use for their equipment) on the other. The front side of the road case reveals a façade of white linen that's been laser cut throughout with petal shapes, exposing the case's empty interiors underneath. On the far side of the room, a series of three additional, progressively smaller road cases map out the rest of the space. Just as the laser cuts reveal the cases' interiors, so the cases themselves block much of the view of the full-wall painting installation. The cyanotype paintings, made from film transparencies and generated via algorithm-based designs, are murky, moody hybrids of minimalism and factory-style production. The installation is rounded out with a wall of slide projections in the third gallery, whose addition adds a layer to the proceedings, albeit a superfluous one. Nonetheless, Scott-Douglas makes an undeniable case for wunderkind-dom, venturing forth a devastatingly ambitious high bar in his introduction to L.A. and beyond (Blum & Poe, Culver City).
Martin Durazo, "Points of Entry," 2013, mixed media installation at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.
Acting like a siren’s call, a mix of punk, new age, heavy metal and disco house music lures visitors past Martin Durazo’s gaudy paintings, and towards his intimate, back-room installation, “Point of Entry.” Stepping through its portal, hung with two sheets of black plastic backing bead strung curtains, viewers find themselves in a darkened club–like space where it would not seem out of line to either meditate or give in to self destructive urges. There’s a comfy sofa. Mirrored infinity portholes, suggesting mini-Kusama installations, compete with drug and drinking related paraphernalia activated by the dancing rhythms of lights blinking through the darkness. Durazo’s improbable dichotomy of the meditative and pernicious carries over to the disjointed reality of the time-consuming work and thoughtful design invested in his seemingly impromptu paintings. Layered with gaudy splashes of fluorescent color, at first glance these towering works suggest an off-the-cuff facility and casual crudeness. The impetus for this latest series of paintings can be found in the earliest work from the series, “SOMA,” a small collage on reflective silver ground. Positioned between “Point of Entry” and the paintings in the front gallery, this piece is a sort of link as it exhibits the distressed surfaces that will gain favor in “Looker,” “Filter” and other increasingly over-sized works. Durazo’s process reflects his admiration for the skill and dedication of Japanese priests who rake designs into the sands of sacred rock gardens. In an updated version of the Zen masters’ process, Durazo pulls carefully chosen applications of paint across horizontally positioned canvases with an industrial sized squeegee. Dichotomy rules in the imperfectly erased underlying layers of color that penetrate and interact with areas of paint applied over them, rewarding viewers who earnestly contemplate (Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Culver City).
Brad Howe, "Juice," 2012, stainless steel, aluminum, polyurethane, 23 x 21 x 7 1/2".
Brad Howe is known for his energetic sculptures and kinetic mobiles that evoke both the Modernist legacy of Alexander Calder and the frenetic energy of Joan Miró. This new series collectively demonstrates the artist’s ability to achieve balance through a series of oppositions. The title of the exhibition, "Deprivato," immediately suggests associations of 'lack,' and while Howe may have left behind the bold color palette found in much of his previous work, there is no sense of deprivation in the current offering. Throughout the exhibition, the cool presence of stainless steel is countered by playful tints of color or intimate formal relationships. Against the back wall of the gallery, three small works are lined up on shelf-like pedestals: "Frock," "Juice" and "Nudge." The works combine Howe's familiar kinetic forms with brushed stainless steel walls, or cave-like shields, which seem to shelter the more kinetic, delicate forms — the fragility of the moving elements is set against the stationary totemic forms. Across the gallery, another grouping includes "Inference," "Blush" and "Proximity," all of which achieve balance through the interaction that occurs between the formal elements. In each, monochromatic geometric shapes (blue, pink and yellow, respectively) engage with their metallic counterparts in various manners — piercing, stabilizing and finally reflecting. A sense of intimacy is created in the elegant "Sorrow." The work is pared down to the essentials of two curving forms that seem to embrace one another, with reflective silver exteriors protecting their soft pink interiors. With no individualizing features, the two parts form a symbiotic unison through which Howe in a different way achieves a sense of harmonic balance (Katherine Cone Gallery, Culver City).
Donald Martiny, "Pigeon Lake," 2012, polymer and dispersed pigment, 83 x 45".
Donald Martiny’s recent paintings are monochromatic works whose medium is a mixture of polymer and dispersed pigment. Though he calls them paintings, they appear much like sculptures, as each one is a three dimensional, very physical representation of a brushstroke. Here, painting is both the subject and content of the work, examining and exploring the anatomy of the size, dimensions, and contours of an individual stroke of the brush. Each work depicts a particular motion of the brush, giving each gesture an individual character, shape and identity. Martiny’s color palette is limited to the use of primary red, yellow, green or blue. The sole variation on the theme of the brush stroke is size. The works are either very large (83” x 45”) or much smaller. A large work like “Pigeon Lakes” not only occupies much more space, but is more effective in portraying the visual detail, marks, and nuances that a brushstroke creates. The sum of the parts here is greater than the whole – echoing the manner in which each brushstroke has key significance in the development of a painting. And every painting is created with intention, one stroke at a time (George Lawson Gallery, Culver City).
Arne Svenson, "The Neighbors #14," 2012, photograph.
"The Neighbors" is a photography series that Arne Svenson shot of high-rise condo units across from his New York studio. Organically composed with the assistance of right-angled steel windowpane frames, and using a telephoto lens inherited from a deceased bird watching friend, Svenson has captured private domestic moments that are classical in their grandness yet contemporary in their voyeuristic details. A woman wearing a towel wrap in place of a headscarf ("#14") instantly recalls Vermeer, while in other instances (such as "#13") it's a far subtler continuum — fingers just visible between a young man's legs are diffused in a soft saturation of natural light. The more formal images, though less revealing of their inadvertent protagonists (at the risk of sounding overly sentimental) possess a certain tenderness, as in the gentle emergence of the arm of a woman's striped shirt peaking through a billow of white curtains. The surveillance here is so well managed that we're given private moments without sacrificing any of the subjects' privacy (Western Project, Culver City).
Kim Fisher, "Magazine Painting (Polka Dot)," 2012, oil and silkscreen and aluminum on dyed linen, 39 x 38".
Kim Fisher's oeuvre addresses the painting as object; one particularly memorable flourish from past work entailed allowing excess canvas to bunch up at the corners, as if wrapping it around and stapling it down would be too confining. This latest grouping – a series of just over 3-foot square painting constructions, all given the primary title of "Magazine Painting" – appear to be torn fragments from something like CMYK-type magazine pages that are reproduced in airbrush gradations and mounted onto frames stretched with black-dyed linen. The mounted wedges - often abstractions born out of design layouts on a magazine page — but also image-based passages ranging from polka dot patterns to landscapes to snippets of text — become taxidermied digital ephemera; we follow their journey from digital production to printed layout to the artist's own digital editing and finally to the resultant painted swatch. The multi-media vibe is further enhanced by cut printed paper segments that are installed amidst the paintings, highlighting the micro-macro focus both of sourcing and of image generations. Though less explosive than past work, the series, titled "Angus," is a thoughtful and stylish liaison with the analog page (International Art Objects, Culver City).
Kathryn Andrews, "Tot Finder (Fall Varietal)," 2012, stainless steel, Plexiglas and archival pigment print, 52 x 46 x 3".
Following just a few recent local appearances – as part of a group show here two years ago titled "Xenophilia" at MOCA (2011), then in last summer's contemporary blockbuster a the Hammer "Made in L.A." – it's difficult to recall a more anticipated solo debut than Kathryn Andrews'. With this exhibition, "D.O.A/D.O.B" [dead on arrival / date of birth], she delivers. Using what's become her stock in trade — stainless steel combined with props — "D.O.A/D.O.B" projects an ice-cold demeanor that cloaks dark interior lives, though it's more complex than that. Standing in the midst of that much stainless steel, particularly the 7-foot-high cylindrical monoliths whose reflections easily provoke disorientation, is physically unsettling. Stainless steel Levolor blinds cover framed panels with even more stainless steel beneath. These wall works, called "Tot Finders," are set off by label-sized cut-out prints of rather sinister clowns, another Andrews signature, here repurposed from a safety context as children's signifiers.
One of the monoliths, titled "Lethal Weapon," features a large peep hole that, once your eye adjusts to the darkness within, reveals a mounted gun pointing at you. The weapon, it turns out, is a rented prop from the titular movie. The effect, unfortunately, isn't nearly as ominous as it sounds. Perhaps darkest of all is the floor-standing piece titled "W.G. Heirens (November 15, 1928—March 5, 2012)," a prison-style bed frame, also, needless to say, in stainless steel, with the head-end slightly inclined, the partially open built-in drawer at the foot revealing a birthday card that Heirens has apparently mailed to an inmate. Though likely a fiction, the effect echoes the subtly haunting tone of the show as a whole (David Kordansky Gallery, Culver City).
J.C. Leyendecker, "Woman Kissing Cupid," 1923, oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 22 1/4".
Once upon a time illustration was the prime example of American art, but today these artists are mostly forgotten, marginalized by mainstream art history. In his catalogue essay to "Illustrating Modern Life: The Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection" Michael Zakian argues that artists such as James Montgomery Flagg and J. C. Leyendecker, created a national image of America at the beginning of a century characterized by technological invention and social innovation. The original paintings by American illustrators are surprisingly painterly, often executed in a brushy Impressionist style, but these artists were acutely aware that, in the end, the image would appear on the cover of a magazine. While Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth obeyed the law of the painting as a “window to the world,” the younger generation, such as Cole Phillips, designed striking graphic images, isolated on a white ground and meant to be read at a glance and from a distance. But beyond the theme of the coming of modernity during this Golden Age of Illustration (1890-1930), we discern a unique American style developed locally and combining the ideals of male and female beauty invented by Charles Dana Gibson. This converges with the flair for the dramatic moment exploited by Howard Pyle to great effect. For the most part the American artists ignored concurrent and recent European precedents, from the Pre-Raphaelites to Art Deco, and adapted a mainstream realism married to cinematic storytelling. The most individualistic artist in the exhibition, Maxfield Parrish, developed his images, not out of fine art practices, but out of photography, which was then overlaid with fantasies of classical mythology. When writing of the paintings of Harvey T. Dunn, Zakian pointed out that these illustrators had to explain an America that had progressed from prairies filled with buffalo to kitchens filled with Frigidaire appliances. Mead Schaeffer’s "Hide the Body" (1933) anticipates film noir and McClelland Barclay’s "Holeproof Hosiery" (1923) uses the image of a lovely woman in a pretty dress to sell a product. Meanwhile Howard Pyle and his pirates along with N. C. Wyeth and his knights smoothed the path of the modern with nostalgic visions that would lay the foundations for innumerable Hollywood films (Pepperdine University, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, West Side).
Judy Chan, "Big Guns, Little Balls, No Brains," 1998, monotype with toy cannons, 51 1/2 x 22".
As we enter the year 2013, it will be interesting to see if artists continue to create work that falls within the post-Modern definition; or if they create "art" that is completely different and beyond it. Perhaps the subject itself is moot; since it's not the artists, but scholars and art historians who designate art categories in the first place. Consider the current exhibit, "Judy Chan, Depth in Bee's Wax," for example. By her own definition, Chan is a "mixed-media, work-on-paper artist" who begins each piece "with graphite, oil, or prints on rag paper." In this thought-provoking show, the work on display follows her creative vision for 15-years as it evolves through three distinct periods.
In 1998, Chan was curious about what would happen if she attached three-dimensional found objects to her two-dimensional flat backgrounds. Several canvases on display illustrate the results of that inquiry. "Big Guns, Little Balls, No Brains" combines old gun parts to rust colored monotype media. "Transitory Existence" combines broken clock mechanisms with her printed background. In "A Mother's Child far from Home" Chad added a frayed Chinese bullet belt to her flat painting. "False Pride" features a bunch of tiny plastic lions cascading across a bright orange canvas. After that, Chan began an experiment with large charcoal drawings in which she tried to create depth on two-dimensional paper. Although she applied her black charcoal at will - with no thought or imagery in mind - the eight drawings on view have a fresh, organic look about them. Recognizing that they evoke wind blowing through forested areas, or trees bowing under rain in a storm, Chan has given them names that reflect what she inadvertently created: "Attaching to the Earth," "Embedded," "Root, Emotional Attachment," and "Entanglement."
In her third period Chan decided to go a step farther. What would happen if she worked smaller and added an encaustic? Since she loved dealing with beeswax, and knew the charcoal would smear or bleed through the wax when it was applied to her drawings, Chan added a layer of it to a series of eighteen works. Experimenting even further, she embedded five of them with abstract knots of black wire. Although all of them are named "Depth in Bee's Wax," each drawing resembles a different pattern in nature; and each of the patterns seeps through in different shades of yellow, brown, and mauve. (In addition, the gallery smells delicious.) (Stone Rose Gallery, Long Beach)
Scott Yeskel, "Vacation Home," oil on wood panel, 24 x 24".
"American Icons" elevates commonplace mid-century objects to sublime states of humor and grace. This group show of seven artists, featuring monopoly pieces, old cars and telephones, glass sculptures of shoes, lifesavers and more, is comfortably cohesive; pieces dialogue with each other, while returning us to a presumably "simpler and happier time" (as some present day media mythologically refers to this era). Robert La Duke’s cars (“Sedans”), woodies, surfboards, boats and airplanes, based on toys he played with as a child, have a pop art look with precise cartoonish shapes and bright colors. Nearby are paintings of cars, lunch trucks and a shiny airstream (“Vacation Home”) trailer by Scott Yeskell. While similar in theme to La Duke’s, these are different in execution with more realistic shapes and colors abetted by expressive brushwork, the total effect evoking nostalgia. A counterpoint, but still conveying a faded past and childhood themes, are 2 x 2 inch blocks of wood with tiny paintings of monopoly pieces. Michael Chapman’s “Oh What Pleasant Lives We Live,” of a beach playground with slide, jungle gym, dog and bright billboard featuring “Orange Crush,” presents an expansive view of idyllic scenes from our collective memories. Glenn Ness’s colorful close-ups of diners, two featuring bright red stools adjacent to a shiny counter, the sun pouring in to enhance the shadows, and somehow invite viewers to come in, sit down and enjoy a rich cup of coffee. Contrasting this homespun warmth, but of the same era are large glass mosaic sculptures by Jean Wells, including “Ruby Lip Stick,” “Red High Heel” (evocative of the “Wizard of Oz’s" ruby slippers), a roll of lifesavers, and three Hershey’s kisses. These exquisite works poke fun at our mid-century reverence for glitz and glamour. More mundane, but equally iconic are three oils of old dial telephones by TR Colletta, one a large vertical payphone, all reminding us of an era that, though recent, is long gone. The most traditional works in this seamlessly curated exhibition are urbanscapes by Francis Livingston, expressively painted and harkening back to the time when the iconic symbols inspiring this show influenced our daily lives (Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach).
Tom Dowling, Positano," 2008, acrylic, charcoal and graphite on canvas, 59 x 69" (not in this exhibition).
In "Insider Information," Tom Dowling exhibits two-dozen recently created (since 2010) hybrid, modernist inspired works. In addition, three larger pieces, complementing the smaller ones on tan or black paper, each containing a small elegantly rendered geometric drawing in a large field, are all titled “Sacred Geometry.” The individual small square and rectangular pieces on wood (no more than 20 inches long) bearing names like “Solstice,” “Night Sky,” “GoldenPath,” and “Giancolo,” comprise a visual world unto themselves. Each is a three-dimensional box, containing a combined abstract and geometric painting, some deeply colored, but most in simple white or tan with stripes of bright primary colors and additional flourishes, such as a stick (for which the artist borrows Barnett Newman's term, “Zip”), reposing on the side of the frame. A few contain a piece of molding that dialogues with the drawing within. These evoke, according to the artist, his recollection of the architecture places he has visited, most often in Europe. He regards these smaller works as maquettes to one day use as models for larger pieces. Made from acrylic paint, often with the original pencil lines exposed, these works flow from one to the next, each paring down the previous to express “reductive formalism,” as the artist explains. He often refers in writing to his work as a “conversation … with art and artists, places, monuments, and literature. These discussions connect me to the ideas and issues of the past and cultures other than my own.” Dowling offers an unusual bridging of modernism with contemporary constructions and conceptualism, all mixed with the artist's own exquisite sense of spatial relationships. The longer we stick around with these seemingly simple artworks the more complex and fascinating they become (Brett Rubbico Gallery, Newport Beach).