Matt Johnson, installation view, 2011
With Matt Johnson’s sculptures, one can reliably anticipate an experience that’s as devoted to concept as to object. With this current batch of work, an installation even more spare than in his last solo with the gallery, he tugs frequently at one’s internally-raised eyebrow. When arriving at each piece, one experiences several moments of wonder: wondering how (did he do this)?, wondering where (is the evidence of its making)?, and wondering what (am I missing, if anything)? Take “Touch the Void,” a granite boulder of medium size and great heft; is it simply a readymade hijacked from nature? In the context of the boulder which Johnson included in his last solo at the gallery, the text, “4eva,” which was scrawled across one side, was so loose and organic that the piece hovered precariously in the gap between found and made. “Touch the Void” is not as ambiguous, but its gesture, a smoothly-carved imprint of the artist’s hand, can be easy to miss if you’re not looking hard enough. “Hiroshima Buddha” is a large bronze statue in a typical cross-legged pose, but its front torso bears a traumatic puncture, and it tilts back noticeably, at an angle less than restful. There’s at least a moment here in which one wonders if this is an actual Hiroshima relic, as opposed to a fabrication - which it of course is. Johnson makes us as mindful of the process of his making just as we become mindful of the process of our own seeing, and that level of consciousness – mindfulness in full stereo – is quite Zen-like, if one allows it. It’s an experience that the Buddha himself would quite likely get down with (Blum & Poe, Culver City).
Patrick Wilson, "Bus Stop", 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 66" x 57".
Patrick Wilson continues to mine nuanced, hard-edged abstraction with steadily evolving complexity. The color combinations here are more varied than previously, with a greater density of squares and rectangles edging up against each other, along with very thin bands that both echo in and out of the shapes as well as tracing squares and rectangles of their own that appear and disappear in front of and behind their counterparts. In addition to mostly breaking away from his traditional straight square and straight rectangular shapes, and taking on far more irregular landscape and portrait canvas formats, Wilson has taken to more aggressively troweling his interior forms, building up precisely-sectioned, acrylic-poured shapes up to a good ¼” inch thick. This body of work, dubbed “Good Barbecue,” reads much more sculpturally than in the past. Color fades at the edges of many of the inner-sections, meanwhile, adding a satisfying level of atmospherics to this new work as well. The way in which one of the thin bands makes a 90-degree turn out from the top of one of the larger rectangles does bring to mind the cell conduits of Peter Halley, but mercifully Wilson has never pretentiously implies that his abstractions are simulacra-filled metaphors. He does, however, possess a good ear for titles, such as “Wake Up,” “Orange Blossom,” and “Sparrow.” “Good Barbecue” itself is a clunky reference to the old “sauce” slang, but this sauce is flavorful (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City).
Joel Kyack, “Pine Woods Municipal Band Tryouts,” 2011, corner diptych.
“Escape to Shit Mountain” is a crowded installation of four sculptures which bear an irreverent aura made even more effective by their dominance within the gallery’s high-ceilinged, but relatively small main space. The show is anchored at each end by “Pine Woods Municipal Band Tryouts” - which Joel Kyack apparently originally intended as a corner diptych. But no matter; a pair of leaning wood mini-dioramas feature dueling trumpets, one being played by a tree stump, the other by a bent-over man’s ass. This sets the stage for the viewer to be charmed or dismissive; if charmed, “Good Things Come (To Those Who Wait?)” beckons, another would-be corner diptych diorama featuring a pair of tombstones crowning astroturfed golf holes. The tombstones are engraved “Me” and “You,” respectively, with each sporting its own tin can telephone line at either end. The other notable here is “Incident at Stoney Lake,” in which two gorilla-mask figures, their bodies made up of simple wooden, stick figure outlines, crouch above a plastic kiddie pool, one of them urinating into it with its banana penis, the other holding its non-penis banana into the cut-out hole in a painting, that of the grizzled, bearded, poster-man of the show. If all this sounds like a convergence of Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, on paper it is – especially vis-à-vis the scatological references seen in the well-crafted marker and colored pencil drawings. But in actuality, Kyack’s shtick is every bit his own, infused as it is with its own drunk mascot and its own sophisticated, if not entirely un-sophomoric inner language. Besides, how can one possibly not love the man behind “Superclogger,” Kyack’s back-of-a-truck, rush hour freeway traffic show from 2010? (Francios Ghebaly Gallery, Culver City).
Moby, “Memory Gospel,” color photograph, 60 x 36”.
I generally prefer that rock stars not burden us with their exploits in the realm of visual art. They make much better collectors. But there is the occasional exception. Alt rocker Moby has been shooting photographs for decades now, which alone is unremarkable. But if ever there were a poster-boy for the “un-rock star” rock star, Moby is it: he’s self-deprecating, introspective and soft-spoken in a way that many visual artists would appreciate. More to the point here, Moby has access to a very specific visual perspective, one to which you and I don’t, that being the view from center stage, floating above packed arena venues. “Destroyed” is a suite of roughly 25 small-to-large scale digital C Prints recorded from said perch, images featuring a multitude of his adoring fans, particularly from the first few rows, who are clearly visible as they smile at him (and, by association, us) with such intense passion, and such love, that just viewing the documentation of these events becomes a surreal experience. Upon closer viewing, meanwhile, it turns out they’re not all smiling and/or shining their love upon the performer. Some fans hold cameras and shoot back at us; others have mouths open wide in half-sincere, half-ironic rebel yells; and still others simply stare, or even glare, back at us, at the audacity we have – of rather, that Moby has – of photographing them. These images wind up working on far more levels that you might first suspect, but of all of them, the audacity of the author, as returned in the faces of his fans, is the most brilliant revelation (Kopeikin Gallery, Culver City).
Ali Kheradyar, “Dye,” 2011, color photograph.
In her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles Ali Kheradyar presents a body of new photographs playfully entitled “Dye.” In these images Kyeradyar uses herself as a model as well as a prop and experiments with "Betty Hair Dye," a product meant to be safe for pubic hair that was developed so women could match the color of their pubic hair to the color of the hair on their head. Kheradyar was amazed to find not only the traditional browns, blonde and black coloration as a possibility, but that the product was also available in pinks, blues and greens. Naturally, this led her to use her own body as a site for sculpture creating a perfectly formed color triangle in myriad of colors as the centerpiece of the photographs. Kheradyar's images are bold and brave, and make for a strong debut for this emerging artist (Western Project, Culver City).
Sebastiaan Bremer, “Schoener Goetterfunken VIIIB, 'Above The Starry Canopy' (Droben Ueber'm Sternenzelf),” 2010, acrylic and inks on chromogenic print, unique, 10 x 10”.
This gallery’s “Ultrasonic” series of exhibitions has become a welcome annual event that exposes a mix of emerging and established artists, whom in either case tend to be underexposed locally. Case in point is Sebastiaan Bremer, a well-established, Dutch-born New York artist who’s shown extensively in New York and Europe but has received minimal local exposure. His trademark unique, hand-painted photographs here include a trio of heavy depth-of-field portraits of hikers in the Alps, the Matterhorn visible in two of them, infused with an array of colored bubbles that cleverly enhance the bright, nature-reflecting scenes, while simultaneously extending their fictions. An additional black and white photo is even more typical of Bremer’s uniquely-niched photographic oeuvre. The light in an otherwise rather dark image is provided primarily, if not exclusively by the dense white swirls and dots he creates from photographic ink, a vocabulary that Bremer alone has mastered. Other highlights from the show include Mark Mulroney’s charming, Looney Tunes-meets-John Wesley cartoon-like canvases. Theodora Allen’s deceptively simple poetic meditations include a cropped view of cowboy boots atop a reflective (possibly dance) floor, dubbed “Live At The Tennessee State Prison” (Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City).
Adam Berg, “Accelerated Accelerator, #1,” 2009, oil on Canvas, 65 x 65”.
“Some City Angels” features a combination of artists that represent a slice of Los Angeles, a city that is currently undergoing a well-researched and celebrated reflection on its own cultural history. Featuring a mix of visual declarations about thought and creative trajectory, curator Marlena Doktorczyk-Donohue is interested in where L.A. art is today. Eight artists are represented and it’s through juxtaposition that they are best understood. The work of Deborah Aschheim and her mind map inspired drawings like “Clinic” is a welcome contrast to the theatrical photography of Elana Mann. Aschhiem shares a symbolic visual network (circles and lines) that displays abstract relationships, while Mann utilizes a net full of black balloons that become an extension of her body. These forceful images create a space for Kate Harding, whose simple media (paper, pencil, and tape) in “Study #2” has a delicate appearance that nonetheless raise large questions about the finality of artwork. Adam Berg captures a creative spark in “Accelerated Accelerator, #1” with its exhilarating spectrum of color. Berg’s work functions as a creative nexus poised to throw out these forms and colors onto the surrounding walls of the gallery. Collectively, there is no single issue represented, but a sense is conveyed of the potential future for art in L.A. (Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Miracle Mile)
G. James Daichendt
Alon Levin, “Conclusion to the Big Ideas,” installation view, 2011.
Photo: Charles Kitchings
Densely packed, “Conclusion to the Big Ideas” is comprised of a number of sculptures made from banal materials like wood, cardboard, plaster and styrofoam. The clean aesthetic makes no attempt to disguise the materiality of the media but instead harkens an intellectualism similar to a Socratic question and response. Alon Levin is interested in exploring aspects of modernism and sets the stage with constructions that beg for human interaction. While the basic materials are impersonal, the formal qualities of the work are striking and provide a sense of order. Much the way a messy closet becomes attractive after a hanging system is installed, the implied organizational method displayed in works like “Untitled, ‘The Everything of an Almost Future I-V’” invites the viewer to take a closer look. What we see is a series of black and white reproductions of Russian Constructivist paintings. One features Kazimir Malevich’s “Dynamic Suprematism” from 1916, evidence of Levin’s interest in historical inquiry. Overall, the support structure, an implied architectural design, and philosophical musings are tied to Levin’s writing, which exist separately but can be considered a companion to the exhibit. A copy of his new text supports the base of the sculpture “Prospects of Validation IV” and is a great visual reminder of the intellectual triumph this work represents (Ambach & Rice, Miracle Mile).
Anton Henning, “Interieur No. 496,” 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 84”.
Anton Henning often makes changes to a gallery in which he hangs paintings, and integrates the formal effects into his works. For his current exhibition he has painted portions of the wall a deep brown, offsetting the paintings and giving the space a regal aura. The effect is to isolate the paintings, allowing them to pop from the dark colored walls. Each brightly colored painting is a tightly composed still life image that draws on a Cubist trope, where multiple angles and aspects of the space are visible simultaneously (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).
Lisa Adams, 2011, gouache on paper.
Lisa Adams’ astonishing series of small gouache-on-paper paintings merges hyperrealistic depictions of birds and flowers with surreal forms surrounded by shimmering atmospheres of layered color. In one, a hot pink Gerbera daisy, captured in a milky oval pod, hovers next to a quirky black abstraction that sheds thick tears of smoky gray. Between them hangs a tenuous curtain of passion fruit vines. And behind them cascade thin veils of pale blue sky. In another, two nut-brown pods float across a translucent sea, with miniature defoliated - and very precisely rendered - trees tottering on their surfaces. Under the water is a grove of finger-like growths sprouting crisp triangular leaves. In another of Adams’ gouaches, a tiny finch rests on the ragged branch of a denuded tree. Its gnarly trunk is bound by knotted ropes: a troubling human intrusion. The naturalistic representations are so precise as to recall watercolors by Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) or John James Audubon (1785-1851). Adams contrasts the naturalism with alien plant growths and artistic tropes from splashes and washes to drips and splatters. Her juxtapositions create an evocative dialogue between nature and culture. This dialogue is poetic and evocative — it is the very essence of aesthetic production (Offramp Gallery, Pasadena).
Betty Ann Brown
Amy Yoes, “Light Lab_0023,” 2011, silver gelatin print, 4 x 5 1/3”.
Amy Yoes’ and black and white constructed installation fills the front room of the gallery like a haughty, well-bred aunt, who might prefer that you not mention the faint similarity to the mash-up of architectural ornament that is the Disneyland ride, “It’s a Small World.” Indeed, the sculpture is elegant and speaks of a modernist connection with clean lines and geometric shapes, despite the ornamental trim. Hidden alcoves and nooks are well lit and encourage the eye to explore, even to the floor and all the way up to the lofty ceiling. The hand-painted surface adds visual pleasure and intrigue to the looking; and despite an initial sense of sterile angularity, every surface has been touched: sometimes the black is intentionally abraded to resemble newsprint, and there are areas of gradient shades gray. Yoes’ black-and-white silver gelatin prints in the front room add more “spatial conundrum” to the show, while Hilde Overbergh’s oil paintings on linen in the west gallery continue the conversation of interior abstracts in color (CB1 Gallery, Downtown).
Jeannie R. Lee
John Pearson, “Continnum (Regeneration) Series: SLG #2,” 2011, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 32 1/2 x 3”.
71-year-old John Pearson’s sinuously curved, striped paintings explore color and abstraction with a fresh face. Often in a muted palette, narrow bands of color run the length of six-foot canvases in repeating patterns. The outlines of a pair geometric shapes float in the foreground, providing a hazy window to the stripes behind. As repetitive as the formula sounds, each painting has a very different feel, which attests to Pearson’s maturity as a painter; he has set up parameters of inquiry, but his investigation of color relationships and compositional tension is rigorous and calm (Sam Lee Gallery, Chinatown).
Victor Hugo Zayas, “LA River,” 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 72”.
Victor Hugo Zayas’ paintings, drawings and sculpture are so varied in execution and media that this exhibition initially appears to be a group show. A closer look reveals cohesion in simplicity, self-confidence and purpose, along with intention to connect the viewer to the works. His line drawings of voluptuous nudes, in charcoal on canvas and oil on board, are unadorned figurative works, created with a sure hand and elegance of line. His three sculptures of spare, painted metal rods are geometric, presumably inspired by forms connecting constellations; the execution is bold intersections of parts, the complete works emphasizing harmony and grace. More complex are oil on canvas and paper works ranging from small square works to large scale ones. Included are a series of rocks in various sizes; three-dimensional rocks against plain backgrounds are rendered with such thickly applied paint, in several layers, that each rock takes on a life of its own, with the feeling of a living being. Three oils of the Los Angeles river basin have similarly applied paint. These most complex works in the show are intimate scenes of the raw, natural river basin; each piece, combining expressionism and impressionism with a bit of abstraction in muted, yet natural colors, draws a sharp contrast to the overbuilt City surrounding the scene (Salt Fine Art, Orange County).
David Lopez, “Blue 5,” 2011, mixed media, 24 x 24”.
“Relevancy Refined,” the title of this exceptional group exhibition, barely describes the content of the show. With works by five artists from various countries, paintings, mixed media and assemblage pieces represent a panoply of media, but the show is cohesive. Ben von Mahler, Christian Lopez, David Lopez (no relation to Christian), Claudia Meyer and Ingrid Dee Magidson work in numerous layers. Much of the work here alludes to Old Masters, architecture and literary sources. Von Mahler combines photography with acrylics and pastels, often on hand-made paper, melding a woman’s face or hair to a classic architectural door or ceiling. Christian Lopez’ assemblage boxes contain classic images such as Mona Lisa’s face within, with each face a shimmering jewel-like fragment, glowing against a black background. His paintings on metal look back to Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Caravaggio. David Lopez, working with paint, encaustic and graphite, paints portraits and scenes that evoke those of Vermeer or Manet. Meyer’s large panels of paint and collage elements on wood feature flowing figures. The most complex work here is Magidson’s, at first a classic painting of a woman. Behind this is layer upon layer of paint, fabric, torn bits of sheet music, creating a dream-like work of a figure from the past (Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Orange County).
Rubén Ortiz-Torres, “Retrato de pasaporte,” 1999, oil and tempera on wood.
The underlying concept in the painting “Passport Photo” (1991) is simple, but effective. Done shortly after Rubin Ortiz Torres’ arrival in Los Angeles from Mexico, the artist divided the image of the face into dark and light vertical stripes, as if he were testing different identities. This piece is part of a diverse group of paintings, drawings, photographs, and videos from the nineteen eighties and early nineties. Much of the work focuses on the punk scene in Mexico City, including the black and white gelatin silver prints in the “Mexipunz” series. “(A)” (2011, negative ca. 1984) displays layer upon layer of graffiti. Each layer of scratching into the surface covers and obliterates what is underneath. Only an “A” in a circle is legible. Ortiz-Torres’ photograph captures the resulting abstract work of art and its balanced composition (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).