Dennis Hopper, “Double Standard,” 1961, gelatin silver print.
Image courtesy the artist and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York.
Dennis Hopper was an amazing actor; his presence penetrated the screen. He was an outsized personality who moved in and out of various creative disciplines beyond his central skill. He was accepted as an artist in art circles, having had numerous gallery exhibitions over a period of half a century. His presence here, however, is somewhat of a surprise. Although the exhibition was organized before his death, it functions more as a personal tribute than as a celebration of his oeuvre. The black and white photographs are the pinnacle of the exhibition. He focused his camera on artists and celebrities, catching them unaware rather than posed, allowing the intimacy of the moment or situation to reign. Many of these modest photographs have been enlarged to billboard scale, thus serving as a reminder that bigger is not always better. This uneven exhibition nonetheless allows access to Hopper as a complete artist. It was curated by Juilan Schnabel; another artist well known for his booming presence and large scale works. Featured in addition to the photographs are numerous sculptures, paintings, assemblages and an excerpt that juxtaposes scenes from many of his films. While "Double Standard" takes advantage of all senses of those words, its still an exhibition worth viewing (MOCA, Geffen Contemporary, Downtown).
- Jody Zellen
Stephen G. Rhodes, “Receding Mind: Circle of Shit,” 2010, production still, courtesy of the artist and Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles.
Like a three dimensional, media enhanced take-off of the game of “Telephone,” Stephen G. Rhodes’ untitled installation overfills its host gallery, leaving barely enough room for visitors peering into his dramatically lit, cluttered construction to walk around and contemplate the chaotic set from a variety of vantage points. Rhodes suggests that history is bound to be re-written, looking and sounding like a re-invention every time it is told. This presentation is inspired by Steve Allen’s award winning television show, “Meeting of the Minds,” a late 70’s PBS production in which actors, appropriately made up and costumed, played roles of various famed figures from history, sitting down to exchange points of view. Rhodes’ installation suggests the disheveled remains of the set where Allen might have invited his wife Jayne Meadows to act the part of Catherine the Great or Florence Nightingale in conversation with someone like Attila the Hun. Rhodes’ film plays into the space, which resembles the remains of an abandoned movie set, trashed after a wild party. It is impossible to construct any one “true’ interpretation of what happened here. We are left on our own to piece together a narrative, based on the clues Rhodes has artfully strewn about (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).
- Diane Calder
Megan Geckler, “Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take,” 2010, study for installation.
Megan Geckler's site specific installation “Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take” is a perfect complement to the concurrent “California Design Biennial 2010.” Geckler uses flagging tape, and plastic ribbon which comes in varying colors and thicknesses to create a room within a room. The visually compelling and colorful installation uses the architecture of the space as a point of departure. Geckler wraps lengths of the tape from floor to ceiling, thus creating a crisscross of color that echoes the design of the space. The “California Design Biennial 2010” is a thoughtful and insightful presentation of issues artists and designers working in California are engaged with, ranging from sustainability to current events. Divided by discipline, each section was individually curated: Rose Apodaca (Fashion), Stewart Reed (Transportation Design), Louise Sandhaus (Graphic Design), Alissa Walker (Product Design) and Frances Anderton (Architecture). Works from the five disciplines are juxtaposed, making for interesting relationships between ideas and media. The varied list of artists ranges from re
cent graduates to the well established. Entitled "Action/Reaction," the exhibition illuminates how designers fuse formal aesthetics with social/political concerns (Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena).
Nancy Rubins, “Work for New Space, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I,” 2010, stainless steel, stainless steel wire, aluminum, 23'4" x 37' x 43'; and “Work for New Space, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome II,” 2010, stainless steel, stainless steel wire, aluminum, 18'8" x 34' x 35"9'. Photo by Erich Koyama
If there is no surprise in the pair of massive sculpture assemblages Nancy Rubins presents, they exhude overwhelming presence together with endlessly satisfying incidents. Constructed entirely of bare steel and aluminum canoes and kayaks, they rise weightless above you, encircling like a still tornado. Frozen by wire and a single muscular, angled base, one’s gaze is directed upward to discern linear elements formed by the swirling pods and wires, and negative spaces between them that shift fluidly as you move. It’s not unlike being among a flock of large birds just taking flight. Rarely have objects of this weight and scale conveyed such lightness. It must be noted that with time our instinctive trust in the stability of Rubins’ structures has fundamentally changed the way those familiar with her work approach it. The initial charge of being at the physical mercy of such a mass that might fatally collapse upon you at any moment has long since given way to a trustful assumption in their stability. It is important and admirable that the aesthetic qualities here push decisively beyond this; it shows that Rubins has gotten beyond the spectacle (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).
- Bill Lasarow
Graciela Iturbide, Untitled from the “Asor” series, black and white photograph, no date.
Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide has been making exquisite black and white images since the 1970's. In the exhibition which accompanies her book "Asor" Iturbide presents images culled from her personal archives, may of which have not been exhibited before. Her square formatted images are sequenced to not only celebrate the works’ formal qualities, but also the narrative in and across many pieces. Iturbide's subjects include people as well as the built and natural landscape. Her keen eye isolates forms and gestures that have a dream-like quality as well as political and social commentary. The book, printed on uncoated paper, frames each image in black. Such a solid border grounds them in a tradition of street photography rather than high art. (The book is accompanied by a CD with musical compositions by the artist’s son.) While the gallery experience is silent, the book is meant to be looked at and listened to simultaneously, reinforcing the overall dream state Iturbide wishes her viewers to journey to (Rose Gallery, Santa Monica).
“Shalom,” The Barry Sisters, Roulette, 1962, at the Skirball Cultural Center. Courtesy of Josh Kun and Roger Bennett.
While listening to LP selections in “Jews on Vinyl” I thought about the exhibition, “Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting,” at New York’s Jewish Museum back in 2003. While the latter was more comprehensive in scope, media and time span (most of the 20th century), both shows express the pervasive effect Jewish culture has had on the larger stage of popular culture. This show is set in a 1950s living room, with expected classic songs from the 1940s to the 1980s by Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and the like. Yet, spending time with these showbiz giants and you’ll hear them spread their artistry worldwide, while staying close in spirit and intonation to their Jewish roots. Conversely, this mostly audio exhibition (there is one wall of album covers) includes recordings by non-Jewish artists singing traditional Jewish selections: Johnny Mathis does “Kol Nidre” and Chubby Checker sings “Hava Nagilah Twist.” There are hilarious selections by Yiddish accented singer Mickey Katz belting out songs that revere and make fun of traditional Jewish foods such as gefilte fish. There are spoken word selections by famous Jewish comedians, and others by Israeli leaders Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion. This often amusing and occasionally thought-provoking show subtly points out how Jewish performers and their niche forms of entertainment have both given to and been influenced by the larger worldwide culture (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).
- Liz Goldner
David Lozano, "Act in Blue," 2010, acrylic, oil, resin, and sequins on canvas, 60 x 60 x 2”.
When Kerry James Marshall was invited to curate this Summer exhibition he chose to bring together artists who did not know each other and who had never shown together. Entitled to emphasize informality and chance, “Hangin’ Together” features two artists who are recent graduates, Suné Woods and Stacy Mohammed; two who are emerging, David Lozano and Robert Pruitt; and two others who are established veterans: Louis Serrano and Candida Alvarez. The idea was to make a show of works that would go well together in the gallery, and indeed they do. The works range from painting and drawing to photography, and range from the abstract to the representational. Because each artist is represented by a selection of works it is possible to get a sense of what their work is about and Marshall’s rationale for bringing them together. Each artist has their own distinct style. Rather than retreating to their respective aesthetic corners, the dialogue here enhances the integrity of all the works (6">
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“International Mail Art Exhibition” is perhaps a lofty title for a show limited to two of mail art’s major components: time (the deadline did not allow for projects sustained over time) and recipient (pretty much everything is addressed to Armory director Jay Belloli, in reference to Judith Hoffberg). That said, the show is an endearing and fitting eulogy to Hoffberg, an art librarian and curator, editor and publisher of “Umbrella,” and enthusiastic art supporter, who died of lymphoma earlier last year. Trail along the walls where hundreds of letters and images dedicated to a single dead woman are pinned in a stream of gratitude, recognition, and playful contemporary visual meandering – one can imagine Hoffberg smiling in appreciation (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).
- Jeannie R. Lee
Lynn Aldrich, “Three Founts,” site-specific work in the courtyard @ One Colorado, 2010, mixed media. Photo: Gene Ogami.
“Three Founts” is a refreshing site-specific installation by Lynn Aldrich in downtown Pasadena at One Colorado. Situated in the place of a historic fountain, the location is a symbol of wholesomeness and comfort. The Salvation Army held its first meeting there in 1888 and it’s also the site of a former water source for the community. Aldrich reframes this history with her signature language of blue and green hoses that grow out of three pots set at differing heights. The hoses and pots together resemble plants that, it that was what they were, would require water. Instead these plastic creations return this essential resource to the community. Each drop sounds like a gift as the water trickles out slowly from the individual hoses. Yet the installation provides water generously when the hoses are considered as a whole. The cascading drips and drops are refreshing amidst the heat and humidity of summer as well as representing an ever-present wellspring of sculptural form (Armory Center for the Arts [One Colorado is an offsite location], Pasadena).
- G. James Daichendt
Harold Fox, “Going Home,” 2007, 16 x 20”.
Harold Fox has been making dark, witty paintings of urban angst for at least 40 years, but he’d never had a gallery show until his son started shopping the work around and putting the images on the net. That’s part of their pleasure here, this sense that the artist has labored for decades on a kind of art-island in Long Beach, entirely for his own pleasure and edification. The results are a quirky vision so consistently smart, cynically pointed and beautifully painted that you can’t believe these paintings haven’t always been a part of the underground contemporary art scene or ever been shown alongside artists like Robert Williams and Todd Schorr. Like those artists Fox is a prodigious surrealist pictorial storyteller who melds together elements of Pop culture with his own affection for film noir staging, sexy pin ups, Renaissance glazing techniques in rich color and Germanic mythology. His oil on scrap panel paintings, mounted in perfectly chosen thrift store frames are luminous and insightful personal rumination’s on the state of the world, the U.S. in particular. They bite with a disappointment bred in the aftermath of the Second World War but seem fresh and perhaps even more true in the tattered military/economic landscape of the present one (SCA Project Gallery, Pomona).
- Suvan Geer
Cara Cole, “Daydream,” 2010, archival digital print, 34 x 36”.
The muted outline of a young, sensual, female body. A close-up of a female face, red lips parted in rapture, eyes washed in blue pigment, closed tenderly. A furry, red-tinted mass resembling pubic hair. Red flowers awash in a green field. These are some of the dozen square images, photographs actually, that are intentionally rendered out of focus and barely Photoshopped by Canadian artist Cara Cole. Titled “An Immortality of Bliss,” she began creating these highly sensual, erotic and often stunning images three years ago after her life partner suggested, “I’d like to see what kind of images you would make about sex.” Cole immediately began photographing “sex” that, as she explains, turned out to be “desire.” Each new work caused her to reflect on the first time she fell in love, a personal act that she calls “an explosion of life.” In time, Cole fell in love with these photographs, giving her the impetus to continue to explore this theme. “Part of what is sexy is what you don’t see,” she says. “Part of sex is what is in your mind,” she adds. These images do that without spelling it out (Arin Contemporary Art, Orange County).
James Verbicky, “Random Signal VIII,” mixed media, 45 x 65”.
Employing acrylics, oils, occasionally plaster for texture, scratched words on the canvas, with a luminous overlay of resin, James Verbicky’s large, square works on canvas and wood employ purely abstract elements, with no figurative aspects in sight. They are color-themed — primarily red or blue, or a combination of harmonious colors such as yellows and blues — and possess a meditative beauty that invites the viewer to stare, be absorbed in and ponder the nature of what art is, what abstract art says to us and to spend time reflecting on life’s meanings. A considered look at Verbicky’s paintings reveals influences of color field art or large swathes of color applied across the canvas, culminating in unbroken, flat surfaces. Color often seems to be the subject of his pieces given the large painterly expanses. It is interesting to note that. these paintings are reminiscent of those of another influential Orange County painter, Andy Wing, who passed away in 2004 (JoAnne Artman Gallery, Orange County).
Leonard Myszynski, "Modjeska Peak at Dawn," 2009, chromogenic print, 24 x 36".
“Orange County Textures: In the Footsteps of Madame Modjeska” is photographic artist Leonard Myszynski’s vision of what Orange County looked like 100 years ago. The photographer’s premise was to shoot locales that Polish born actress and émigré to Orange County, Helena Modjeska visited during her 30 plus years here, from 1876 to 1909. Myszynski shot these images during the past six years, while filming a documentary about Modjeska’s life, “Modjeska — Woman Triumphant.” Yet the 21 images in the show — of well-preserved locales such as Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, the Back Bay and other sites — stand by themselves as artworks, independent of the movie images. Still the film (currently on local PBS stations and soon at Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum) is the presumed hook to entice viewers to see the images. The photographer’s vision is to capture a more bucolic, less inhabited Orange County. These 21 contemporary images have depth, character and an often-precise definition that offers the viewer a clear window into an older Orange County that is refreshingly different from that of William Wendt and Anna Hills (Soka University, Founder’s Hall Art Gallery, Orange County).
Anders Aldrin, “Alameda Block,” 1940, oil on canvas, 14 x 18”.
Anders Aldrin (1889-1970), “Coloring outside the Lines,” is an energizing display of American fauvist mentality set in Southern California. Aldrin, a Swedish immigrant was a true early modernist who let his brush strokes and color choice fuel his subject matter. The exhibition of work offers a painterly flashback of Aldrin's shifting subjects and style that range from city streets to horses. The differing layers of paint and impasto fill the canvases with an energy and enthusiasm for his subject. An anonymous portrait is particularly arresting, as his painterly brush becomes more daring and confident. Aldrin’s shifting language from painting to painting makes it difficult to place him historically. However, this individuality is part of the charm and is evidence of an artist exploring his potential and limits. Reflectively it is easy see why Aldrin's style was a favorite amongst his peers; he was clearly an artist who very much enjoyed the medium (Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara).
Wit and wisdom top the bill in “Viva La Revolución.” Of the twenty artists from eight countries included, French photographer JR prevails in the wisdom category; Italian artist Blu triumphs in the wit category. Blu uses stop motion technology to create “Big Bang Big Boom,” a can’t-stop-watching, animated film. Graffitti figures squeeze through pipes, emerge at the other end, climb water towers and circle buildings, continually morphing into the next form. The planning and execution in this exploration of evolution is flawless. Taking a step back — thinking about the process and the response of the occasional passerby included in the footage — reveals the full impact of the product and its making. On a more serious note, but equally engaging, JR gives a face to the faceless in “Women Are Heroes.” Watching this project unfold in Rio de Janeiro’s Morro da Providencia, the oldest and most perilous favela in Rio, is spell-binding. Monochrome images of women’s eyes, built of thousands of 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper, cover walls, shacks, and finally the whole hillside facing downtown Rio. A feat that could not be accomplished without the involvement of the residents, this project represents the archetypal dialogue with an urban landscape. More than offer an answer, “Viva La Revolución” raises the question about what, exactly, constitutes such a dialogue (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown).
- Judith Christensen