Mark Flores, installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2010/11. Photo: Brian Forrest.
It’s hard to imagine a more effective transition towards the Hammer’s exhibition galleries from the museum’s parking garage or the cacophony of sights and sounds on Wilshire Boulevard than Mark Flores’ innovative lobby installation, “See This Through.” The hundreds of photos Flores shot on walks along Sunset Boulevard, between the ocean and Los Feliz, have become the source material for his personal “love letter” to the city. Flores’ unique arrangement of ninety-nine paintings that interpret selected imagery of sunlit trees, sidewalks, building interiors, etc. captured in his photographs compels visitors to decipher information in diverse ways, pausing and engaging themselves in the space as they move up or down the stairwell. He utilizes a variety of painting styles, bringing viewers in close to examine intricate details on a surveillance camera, or compelling them to back away from colorful abstractions, seeking just the right vantage point to connect the dots, making sense of imagery unreadable at arm’s length. Flores incorporates principles employed by skilled photographers to empower his paintings. Framing, focus, point of view, enlargement and depth of field serve him well in piecing together this dynamic, personal chronicle of our city.
Roberto Cuoghi, “Self Portrait,” 2010, mixed media on paper and acetate, 17.1 x 12.8 x 2.4”.
Photo courtesy the artist and Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan.
If Italian Roberto Cuoghi's installation in the Hammer's Vault Gallery is disorienting, it should be. Each of the works – drawings, mixed media, paintings of enlarged cigar-box like objects, and a bronze – are obsessively-crafted, yet also mysterious, and have a deeply-invested presence that simultaneously distances them from each other, and yet also connects them. It turns out they're all imagined permutations of the artist himself - young and old, thin and heavy, bearded or goateed. The hyper-realist drawings go well beyond the craft, into an introspective meditation that carry the weight of an earlier project, when the artist transformed himself – literally - from a young, pierced punk to a man not unlike his decades-older father, with the added weight and related physical changes of aging all thrown in. Other explorations of his re-imagined selves go back in time, rather than forward: one of a slightly possessed, long-haired, bearded man with a haunted visage, and several others more formally-styled variations on a man who appears to be some sort of official, or perhaps, in the context of the cigar boxes, a plantation owner. Cuoghi's artistic and self-sacrificing commitment is undeniable; it's impossible to imagine one pulling off such an enigmatically-charged mood with the pen alone, not without the deep-seated performative foundation that he's built beneath it (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).
Diane Calder/Michael Shaw
Thomas Houseago, “Rattlesnake figure (carving),” 2010, redwood, graphite and charcoal, 144 x 30 x 30”.
The large scale sculptures of Thomas Houseago are equally at home both inside and out. He explores the human figure in aggressive, expressive and brutish representations carved from wood or cast in rebar, hemp and plaster. The works have a sketchy and unfinished aura, and Houseago purposely leaves traces that allude to his process. The figurative subject ranges from mask-like faces to disembodied full figures to abstraction composites that suggest robotic giants. Neither beautiful nor erotic, these figures are assertive and commanding. They proclaim a grandeur by combining large size with the heft of the materials he favors (L&M Arts, Venice).
Kerry Tribe, “Milton Torres Sees a Ghost” (detail of installation), 2011, mixed media, dimensions vary.
“Milton Sees a Ghost” employs a minimal set of found objects to tell the story of retired American fighter pilot Milton Torres. In it Kerry Tribe constructs an imagined scenario based on a 1957 reported UFO sighting. Copies of classified documents addressed to the military from July 21, 1988 are framed individually along a bare wall. The name is purposefully crossed out to protect the identity of the witness who has testified about a “bogus” radar blip that he encountered while in flight. A reel-to-reel tape deck positioned on a large wooden counter across from the classified documents hisses as it churns out tape. The tape has been pulled from the machine and runs along the wall to the adjacent gallery, while the tape from another reel-to-reel runs from the back gallery to the front. The result is two audio stations linked by tape measuring 150 feet running along the walls from gallery to gallery. Audio waves can be read from the tape as it travels back and forth between the corresponding tape decks. Positioned next to the tape deck is an oscilloscope that visualizes waveforms. In the first gallery a slow moving series of lines tracks an object which then quickly disappears. This would be the radar “blip” discussed in the documents. The second oscilloscope plays Torres’ testimony, which explains that the “blip” looked like an aircraft carrier or UFO burning a hole in the radar, quickly disappearing and going off the radar. The evidence for Torres’ account seems substantial. We can see the activity from the reel-to-reel players, visualize the soundtrack of his story and even see the radar screen. The “blip” that occurs, however, is the lag between beginning and end of Torres’ story as the space between is characterized by the churning of machines and a flat line on the oscilloscope (LAXART, Culver City).
Jedediah Caesar, “Untitled,” 2010, mixed media and resin, 119 3/4 x 119 3/4”. Courtesy Brand New Gallery.
Jedediah Caesar's installation entitled "Mango Obstruction" fills the gallery's floors and walls with an assortment of handmade bricks and flat wall works created by submerging found materials in resin. Resin blocks in a myriad of sizes are scattered on the gallery floor. Some are stacked, others are placed edge to edge and spread out from the center to the edges of the space. Similar panels are hung on the wall creating patterns within patterns. Looking into Caesar's works is like diving for buried treasure or being on an archaeological dig where surprises are found in the muck. Caesar makes beauty from that which was discarded and infuses his work with a sense of discovery. In addition to the floor and wall works, Caesar also presents an artist's book made from xeroxes of maps and discarded papers as well as a video that cycles through a diptych of his compositions one after another, at a rapid pace in which one work morphs into another (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects,, Culver City).
Anna Ayeroff, “Clarion Calls,” 2011, multi media installation.
The first of a series of ten curatorial projects, “100/10 (100 spaces/10 visions)” begins with the work of Los Angeles based multi-media artist Anna Ayeroff curated by Alex Harvey. Culling images from a treasure trove of her family’s history, Ayeroff creates a slideshow documenting her great grandfather’s immigration to a farm colony in Central Utah called Clarion. Founded by a group of Socialist Jews, Clarion was seen as a Utopia separated from the city, free of the indecency of the Jewish ghetto and a site to raise children, harvest food, and live harmoniously. Failure was not an option for the founders of Clarion, and while their soil was barren and only one season of crops survived, after seven years the colony was a site of dreams. Ayeroff followed in her great grandfather’s footsteps and started to consider her own Utopia, which is by definition a place and non-place. Video footage of her road trip to Clarion in 2008 shot in Super 8 film plays simultaneously with the slideshow. In this footage, the Clarion Ayeroff encounters is an abandoned piece of land in the middle of nowhere with little to suggest that anyone ever settled there. “If I could live here, I would” is a sewn Mylar sculpture situated in the upper corner of the gallery. Created in a rock formation the form is based on the Cosmic Dust Particle, a perfect form for Ayeroff. Along the wall are three large-scale color C-prints that have been cut and infused with meticulous Mylar shapes. The photographs are of a bare stone platform in Clarion seen in the Super 8 video that Ayeroff had ascended upon with a flag. Photographed in an exacting manner, employing the fractal particle formula, three perspectives of the platform in varying angles are presented. Each C-print is cut according to the Mylar shapes inserted within the picture - a rectangle, a square, and a triangle. Nathan Ayeroff is cited in the slide as indicating that “Clarion was an impossible dream,” and while the soil may not have been fruitful and the colony has long since ceased to exist, it still provides fertile aesthetic ground (Institute of Cultural Inquiry, West Los Angeles).
Howard Hodgkin, “Home Home on the Range,” 2001-07, oil on wood.
Although over two hundred years separate the work of British artists Thomas Gainsborough and Howard Hodgkin, they share one characteristic — the supreme importance of the brushstroke. Hodgkin uses it to suggest rather than to depict — a leaf, a cloud, or another element of the landscape. By extending the paint beyond the panel or canvas and onto the frame, he implies that his representation extends into and blends with the real world. Because his work is abstract, interpretation is more open, more dependent on the viewer’s perspective. Consequently, at this point in time, “In Egypt” (2007-8) becomes a reflection of contemporary events. Whereas the swirls in the center of the canvas elicit clouds, the scores of black splotches spread across the canvas conjure up images of crowds of protesters, rather than elements of the landscape. For Gainsborough, each brushstroke represents a button, beads on a dress, or a part of something specific. The sensuous silvery dress in the portrait of “Ann Ford” (1760), the voluminous, flowing gold dress in “Mrs. Grace Dalrymple Elliot” (1778), the tilt of the head, and every surrounding detail, contribute to the sense that these are images of self-assured women. The eleven portraits in this exhibit highlight the symbiotic relationship between Gainsborough’s artistic ambitions and the subjects’ desires to attain celebrity status. They represent a transition to modernism not only in terms of painting and portraiture, but also in terms of the lifestyle of the women being portrayed (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).
Julian Hoeber, “Execution Changes 7 (VS Q1 CJ DC Q2 BCJ DC),” 2010, acrylic on panel, 62 1/2 x 44 1/2”.
Julian Hoeber's new paintings are variations on a conceptual theme indebted to the work of Sol LeWitt, where written rules form the process of the creation of an artwork. Hoeber limits his palette to tones of gray and paints geometric shapes that diminish in size as they move from dark to light or light to dark tones. Stylistically they resemble the early works of Frank Stella, who experimented with repeated shapes. The paintings "The Execution Changes" is presented along side "Endless Chair," a functional sculpture in the form of an elongated bench painted as a gradient that moves from white to gray. "His and Hers" are adult sized cradles, based on Shaker furniture design, that have been fitted with colored pillows and quilts - colorful complements to the paintings (Blum & Poe Gallery, Culver City).
Michael Gallagher, “Push Pull”.
In “Push Pull,” Michael Gallagher’s mixed media, collage and multi-dimensional abstract illusionist works evoke a number of artists, in particular Joseph Cornell, Joan Miro and Sam Francis. The Cornell-inspired “boxes” are hands-down the most intriguing works in the show. Each starts with an abstract acrylic painting on paper to which is affixed several inch long nylon fasteners. The fasteners are topped by painted or airbrushed plastic or metal in a variety of abstract and geometric shapes. The results are fantasy-abstract worlds, each with several smaller elements seeming to float just under the Plexiglas. These boxes draw the viewer in, in part to examine the technique of creation, and in part to become part of this three-dimensional abstract world. The Miro-inspired pieces, using primary colors and shapes evocative of musical notes, are called “Lithographic Monotype Collages,” meaning they are one-of-a-kind prints, which are then hand painted and pasted. A series of flatter paintings are done with large swaths of pastel paint, a few others with the infusion of primary colors, these evocative of the style of San Francis (Brett Rubbico, Orange County).
Bart Exposito, “Untitled,” 2010, acrylic and pastel on paper, 30 x 22”.
“Paper Primitives” is almost exclusively a works-on-paper show, and considering Bart Exposito's reputation for taking a very hands-on approach to his paintings – that is to say, refraining from working and re-working them in Illustrator or the like – this particular investigation comes not a moment too soon. The pencil on paper studies, each no larger than 10 ½ x 8 ½ inches, are masterful architectural abstractions that provide a closer look at Exposito's deft touch and highly-developed personal language, one that evolved from a vocabulary of graphic imagery subtly reminiscent of skater graphics, into an oeuvre far less reducible. They're busier, these graphite drawings, than his "more ambitious" works - whether the larger acrylic and pastel on paper works that make up much of the rest of the show, or the much larger still acrylic and pastel paintings seen here last spring. The viewer is left to consider whether these "studies" are edited down before being rendered large, or if instead Exposito is simply working out some ideas … or a little of both. Based on the larger pieces here, presumptions are inconclusive; either way, the sureness of hand in evidence is of a level that's not to be taken for granted. Two darker drawings here are particularly seductive, and the one painting, with a capital "P," a 58" square canvas containing a very dark inner oval, broken up by an arrangement of Exposito's signature slim curving arcs, is an intriguing development (Thomas Solomon Gallery, Chinatown).
Al Taylor, Untitled (Wire Instrument: Hot Tub), 1989-90, Wood, latex paint, pencil, wood putty, and wire, 36 x 50 1/2 x 26 1/4 inches, Collection of Debbie Taylor, New York.
As with the recent exhibition of Italian artist Alberto Burri, the current show of Al Taylor (1948-1999) calls our attention to a lesser known figure deserving of wider consideration. Taylor worked for many years as a studio assistant to Robert Rauschenberg and was acquainted with numerous painters working in New York during the 1970s and 1980s. Taylor presented numerous exhibitions during his career, cut short by cancer, but he never became widely recognized in his own right. His work is best characterized by his use of found and inexpensive materials like wire, broomsticks in his sculptures and by his transformation of dribbles and drops into abstract drawings. Two distinct and complementary bodies of work are brought together in the galleries and the show’s title: “Wire Instruments and Pet Stains.” The “Wire Instruments” address formal concerns with seeing and how objects intersect space. These often graceful works include small scale wall as well as larger floor-based sculptures in which repeated forms change the way one perceives and experiences space. In the “Pet Stains” Taylor became interested in preserving the abstract drips of random stains or puddles caused by animals, using these shapes and textures as his primary point of departure (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).
Thomas Müller, “Majestic,” diptych, 2010, unfired clay, porcelain, tomato, photo, wood, Plexiglas, 10 x 10 x 10”. Photo: Allen King.
Under the whimsical title, “Making Fun,” “67th Scripps College Ceramic Annual” curator Tim Berg has culled together a host of amusing and unusual ceramic creations that are both heartwarming and flat out humorous. Peter Morgan’s array of larger-than-life fast-food treats merged with cultural references won’t ignite conversations of childhood obesity. Seeing the Titanic slipping perilously into the top of a Slurpee the size of a tweenager (after running into a pesky ice cream sandwich-berg) inspires nothing more serious than pure delight. The same can be said for his cheesy, jalapeño-y, “The Nacho-mess Monster,” which takes a delicious bite out of Scottish folklore. Pattie Chalmers embraces childhood memories as well. Her “Brownie Meets Mudman,” in which a pre-Girl Scout meets a drippy faceless friend around a campfire cookout, stands out among the other funky remembrances. Ayumi Horie and Sara Varon’s series of jars and plates decorated with bathing bunnies, boxing monkeys and vampire dogs, rabbits and chimps pursuing terrified chickens are fiercely funny. Oceanic fantasies of mermaids and other types of fish-morphing ladies come lavishly to life in Gerit Grimm’s “Souvenir Booth.” The real clincher for any sentimentalist, however, is Barnaby Barford’s stop-animation short, “Damaged Goods,” in which two 18th century porcelain figurines attempt to bridge the gap between their class and, literally, their shelves apart distance, all in the name of love. Filled with a darling troupe of carnies and creatures that help the young lovers along, this one will melt even the most cynical of hearts (Scripps College, Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Claremont).
“Suggestivism,” 2011, installation view.
“Suggestivism,” curated by 30-something artist Nathan Spoor, is a potpourri of paintings by more than 50 contemporary artists, nearly all of whom have worked assiduously at figurative painting. Along with a few abstract pieces, these address lowbrow, surreal, otherworldly, fantasy and sci fi themes. These works by Sandow Birk, Ron English, Bob Dob, Nathan Spoor and many more are intensely attractive given the predominance of bright colors, jarring juxtaposition of themes and outrageous subject matter. Included are “Anapeallegry” by Todd Schorr, a Gorilla in a pink bunny suit, hawking Easter baskets; Nicoletta Ceccoli’s “Casting Pearls,” a delicate girl doll walking a clothed pig; “Deer,” a fantasy two-headed deer by Liz McGrath; and “Suddenly,” by Spoor, a detailed town infused with light, shadows, water, symbolism and connectivity, the latter subject to interpretation by the viewer. The best piece in the show, the huge acrylic and collage “Almost Complete Manifest” by Brendan Monroe, is of a human figure perhaps being formed out of mud. Spoor writes about “Suggestivism, “Through the mere power of suggestion, the magic is transferred from one to another, engaging the world at large from the most vivid and evocative of visual realms.” The magic and movement among the realms, along with the careful craft in individual works, results in a lowbrow-art inspired show that engages, amuses and occasionally shocks the viewer (CSUF Grand Central Art Center, Orange County).
Larry Fink, “Oscar Party, Los Angeles, March 2002,” archival pigment print, 20 x 16”.
Larry Fink’s collection of silver gelatin and archival pigment print photographs titled “The Vanities” investigates the private moments of public personas of the film and fashion world. They project nether worldly beauty, decadence, and by implication lead a life that walks the tightrope of fantasy on earth. In Fink’s lucid photographs, women don elegant silk ball gowns, sip champagne in large flutes, and clutch Academy Awards in the crook of their elbows like playthings. “The Vanities” series is an assemblage of Vanity Fair Oscar Parties where young and old Hollywood collides, as seen when Meryl Streep whispers into the ear of Natalie Portman. The young actress closes her eyes as if to concentrate on each word of this exchange. Fink’s ability to candidly capture the humanity behind celebrity is what sets him apart. “Oscar Party, March 2000” captures the moment when the party has begun to wind down and a couple embraces beside a young woman who is fast asleep on a straw chair. “Oscar Party, LA, March 2002” is shot from behind an actress who opens her arms to the mob of paparazzi, allowing us to assume her point of view. But this show moves beyond the glitter; Fink also focuses on the lives of modest individuals who will never know the glare of the spotlight. “Social Graces” follows a lower middle class family in a rural suburb that celebrates birthdays with homemade cakes, and toasts a recent graduate with cans of Budweiser (Fahey/Klein Gallery, Miracle Mile).
Donald Miralle, untitled photograph.
Photographer Gina Genis has curated a helluva exhibition of photojournalism. The photographers in ”Wide Angle View” may not be as well known as Margaret Bourke-White or Robert Capa, but the work is equally powerful. Included are international winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Emmys, and other important awards. Behind their wide-angled lens, photojournalists are consummate photographers who will risk their lives, go anywhere for that special shot, and have given the world some of its most memorable images. The work in this show is largely humanistic, concerned with justice in the face of injustice. We get a whole range of black and white and color pictures that are stirring, special, and at times excruciatingly painful. But there are also lovely, every day images of people in distant cultures. The title of the show encompasses not just a type of lens, but the broader vision the photojournalist tends to have. Genis further widens the angle by including personal photographs to blend “Superman with Clark Kent, giving us a sense of the human behind the lens.” Among the sixteen photojournalists, Carolyn Cole captures the painting out of a mural of Saddam Hussein; Deanne Fitzmaurice records the lives of injured children in war-torn Iraq; while David Bathgate conveys the hell of war in Afghanistan. Then there are images that chill - pelicans in the oil slick off Louisiana; or a shack made from buckets filled with sand piled one-on-top of another. The exhibition reveals how photography can be a weapon widening our field of vision, enabling us to see what we would have have otherwise missed (Orange County Center for Contemporary Art [OCCCA], Orange County).
Ernest Withers, “NAACP Protest, Main St., Memphis, TN,” early 1960’s
©Ernest C. Withers Trust. Courtesy Decaneas Archive, Boston, Massachusetts.
Robert Frank’s 1959 classic of street photography, “The Americans,” recorded the undercurrent of a country on the cusp of a decade of turmoil and cultural upheaval. Frank, as well as the FSA photographers that came before him, provided his contemporaries and the next generation of photographers with an aesthetic perspective through which to view and understand what people who lived through this transition were feeling. “Streetwise: Masters of 60’s Photography” surveys the work of nine of these photographers, most familiarly Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand, during this tumultuous period. Particularly poignant are Danny Lyon’s images from Ferguson in Huntsville, Texas, at a prison for men aged 17-21. The incarcerated black youths work the fields. The symmetry of their bent backs in “Cotton Pickers” and the pattern of their straight bodies, each lifting a hoe, in “The Line” reveal a sensitivity that stems from Lyon’s own personal involvement and dedication to the subject — he spent fourteen months at six prisons. That encapsulates the legacy of these photographers — although the images feel informal, there is a very deliberate attempt to reveal a highly engaged and personal point of view in their documentation of the fabric of society (Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego).
Yan Shiguo, untitled photograph.
“Land - Era - People of Lishui” is a photographic portrayal of a tightly knit community living, working and socializing in the mountainous Lishui City in China’s Zhejiang Province. We see a city functioning in an archaic manner, working with old tools, decrepit homes with no modern appliances, its inhabitants traversing stairways, walkways and bridges that would be condemned elsewhere. Yet, there is poignancy and even romanticism to people living close to the earth and to each other, sharing common bonds and a long regional history. Another level to this show is what is not shown; the contrasting slick technology of China’s rapidly growing cities; the reality that the way of life in Lishui is vanishing, to be swallowed up by urbanization. Six photographers, all living in that region, have photographed their home, knowing that this way of life will soon enough be a memory recalled, perhaps, only through these photographs. The show is divided into six parts. “Portraits” is individual, family and group shots of people of all ages; a few in garb that appears to be hundreds of years old. “Villages” portrays landscapes, including long outdoor stairways and bridges. “Various Crafts” shows people toiling at old crafts such as blacksmithing, making herbal medicines, repairing watches and clocks. “Living” is of people preparing food, eating with large families, socializing and dancing. “Corridor Bridges” depicts decaying bridges, and the people who live and work near them. “Usage of Tools” is intricate portraits of very old tools, including threshing machines and other farm implements (Orange Coast College, Orange County).