Asco, “Walking Mural,” 1972, performance / photograph printed 2011.

Asco, the Spanish word for nausea, was also the name of a performance/conceptual art group, whose members lived in and performed in East Los Angeles from 1972 to 1987. Asco also connotes the revulsion felt by the four principles, Gronk, Willie F. Herron III, Harry Gamboa, Jr. and Patssi Valdez (the only female) for the condition of the Mexican American community and for political events, including the Vietnam War and the disproportionate number of Mexican Americans who were drafted and shipped to Southeast Asia. They (and many other performers, most of whom just dropped in and out) expressed their art in still photography, video, painting, sculpture and numerous street performances, many with elaborate plans and costumes. “Asco: Elite of the Obscure” was a resourceful, proactive group that often dressed up glamorously; yet with scant funds, they created costumes from thrift shop finds and throwaway materials. Because of the group’s lack of engagement with the larger L.A. arts community, they worked in relative obscurity, achieving only sporadic recognition at the time (much of that recognition was international). The current exhibition provides a much deserved correction. The past lack of recognition by the L.A. art community was in part due to disengagement (through their refusal to compromise) with the emerging Chicano art movement. That status quo often worked in their favor as Asco’s escapades became increasingly unpredictable. Lack of funds prevented professional photographic documentation of their activities. But available photos (many of them out of focus) and videos in this fascinating exhibition present a group with seemingly nonstop and relentless creativity. Performances included: Day of the Dead Celebrations; Instant Murals, created by live performers; and their signature performance, “No Movies,” still photography of glamorous and dramatic characters, seemingly from actual movies. But, of course, there were no movie producers behind these photos (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).
Liz Goldner



Jesse Valadez, Sr. (1946-2011), “The Gypsy Rose,” lowrider automobile.

Everyone knows that California was a Mexican territory long before it became a state. In fact, Los Angeles is often referred to as Mexico's second largest city. Although Chicano art, Mexican art, and indigenous folk art are widely recognized today, the art world has overlooked the important role that Mexican culture historically played in California Modernism. The work of the legendary Mexican muralists (Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, and David Siquieros) is always acknowledged of course; but they are referred to as Mexican artists, and set apart from the California art scene. (So were the intellectual writings ofOctavio Paz and Jose Vasconcelos.) "Mex/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985," is an attempt to set the record straight. The purpose of this exhibit is not cultural affirmation or historical revision, but to demonstrate how internationalism is a modern construct that is fundamental to Mexican/American/Chicano art - that it is, and always has been, an integral part of life in Southern California.

"Mex/LA" is huge, with examples of work by a cross-section of artists who have been influenced by Mexican culture throughout the state.  Some of the names are familiar (i.e., Carlos Almaraz, John Valadez, Graciela Iturbide, Guillermo Gomez-Pena); others will be quite surprising (Walt Disney Studio artists, Charles and Ray Eames, David Levine, Julius Shulman, Edward Weston, Millard Sheets). From 1945-1985, popular Mexican culture pervaded contemporary California culture everywhere one turned: from murals, painting, photography, and film; to animation, cars, fashion and food; to theater, music, and dance. And the beat goes on (The Museum of Latin American Art [MoLAA], Long Beach).
Shirle Gottlieb


Gajin Fujita, “High Voltage,” 2011, white gold and gold leaf, spray paint and paint marker on five wood panels, 48 x 80”.

Gajin Fujita, a local Boyle Heights hero, has finally returned with a show in L.A. after a five-year absence. He continues to dazzle with his contemporary-classical hybrids, in which graffiti tagging – by him and his crew – along with gold and silver-leaf, serve as uniquely lush backgrounds to traditional Japanese ukiyo-e characters of geishas, samurais, and koi fish. That Fujita is able to integrate raw and street-prone tagging into his work so naturally, even organically, remains an achievement that sets him and his work apart from virtually every graffiti-based contemporary peer. The graphic and stenciling mastery (custom stencils are made for each painting) have for this body been joined by painterly drippings that have been revved up significantly, though still remaining flat enough to remain fully inclusive elements within Fujita’s oeuvre. Otherwise, the artist’s work hasn’t changed much since five years ago. His mastery appears to have reached even greater heights, allowing viewers to stand mesmerized for long periods before the larger works. One wonders if Fujita is stifling instincts for evolution, as in a more pointed degree of change, or if instead it’s perfectly legit that he maintain the status quo, which he delivers in these superbly-crafted, spray-painted masterpieces (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).
Michael Shaw


Benjamin Lowy, “Iraq” from the “Storylines” series, 2008, archival inkjet print.

Benjamin Lowy is best known as a photojournalist who has worked for both Corbis and Getty Images. Having covered numerous wars and traveled worldwide covering conflict with his digital camera, he began using toy cameras, such as a Diana or Holga, in 2004 that allowed for an overlapping of images. Originally intended to save film, these overlapping images became the project "Storyline" which, according to Lowy became a panoramic image representing an idea or space that he could not illustrate with his digital cameras. Lowy's images present narratives unfolding over time. The black and white as well as color images are montages of multiple square frames presented in an extended horizontal format. The images from Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, rather than capture a decisive moment or image of action, imply a storyline and the sense of simultaneity. The photographs gain a cubistic aura. The topic and location are still specific to the ongoing conflicts worldwide, but Lowy's presentation in these works is humanistic and narrative. For example, in "Afghanistan 02, 2007" Lowry could combine two views of a crowded outdoor scene showing people moving in and out of the frame as the street recedes in two opposite directions, thus creating a powerful compositional component (dnj Gallery, Santa Monica).
Jody Zellen


Jocelyn Lee, “Untitled (the whisper),” 2007, chromogenic print.

"Nowhere but Here" is an exhibition of color works by East Coast-based photographer Jocelyn Lee. Lee sequences modest images of the natural landscape with images of women in various states of undress. The artist and her subjects - all women - are at ease with one another such that the images display a vulnerability and an intimacy that is only earned with trust. Posed indoors as well as outside, the women look toward as well as way from the camera. Each subject, whether thin or fat, clothed or unclothed feels at home in their skin. The images are seductive without being sexual. Lee has remarked that she is "interested in finding the physical and psychological beauty in things that are frequently overlooked: the quality of a middle-aged woman’s naked body, alone in a motel room; the way lingerie is filled with hope and expectation for physical intimacy; or the quality of light on a person’s skin as they sit on their bed before a day of activity." Lee treats the natural landscape in much the same way she photographs a person - examining the details of what might not usually be noticed (Rose Gallery, Santa Monica).


Fay Ray, “Voyeur,” 2011, archival inkjet print, 11 x 14”.

Fay Ray’s
photographed collages come across as femme fatale objects: beautiful, seductive, and dangerous. That’s impressive for a series of black-and-white archival inkjet prints lined up across a wall. For instance, take “Sandy, 2011;” the precisely clipped bits of polka-dotted fabric folds demurely lay along lengths of spiky studs which surround the layers of sandy flesh of the center. It is today’s two-dimensional, cosmopolitan version of the vagina dentata. With images culled from glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines, the bits of hairless, but sandy, inner calf and thigh speak of sexuality, but in a strangely distant way. It is a relief to come across a novel use of the objectified human body, and these go beyond of the all-too-ubiquitous porn references (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).
Jeannie R. Lee


Steve McCurry, “Boy in Mid-Flight, Jodipur, India,” 2007, C-type print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper.

Steve McCurry
is a photojournalist who has been associated with Magnum since 1986. He has covered numerous wars and his work has been featured in magazines including National Geographic. This selection of works, entitled "The Iconic Photographs," is confrontational and intense. They depict a cohesion of elements best described as that moment when actions align and McCurry is there to capture them. Memorable is the intense stare of a young Pakistani girl, or a boy in mid-flight running down an alleyway whose walls are marked with bloody handprints. The images span the globe and present a compassionate view of the world's inhabitants. McCurry has a talent for making images where color opposites enhance the images as in "Holi festival, Rajasthan, India” (1996), in which a man covered with bright green make-up lies in the arms of a crown of red- and orange-turbaned men. This selection constitutes the highlights of a long career and many miles traveled (Peter Fetterman Photographic Works of Art, Santa Monica).


William Daniels, “Untitled,” 2011, oil on wood panel, 14 x 12 1/4”.

William Daniels’ small, oil on wood paintings belong to the ‘jewel-like’ school of art but are never precious. The seven works here, averaging roughly 14 x 12 inches, give or take, play with highly reflective surfaces in a way that’s visceral rather than slick. If he’s working from models, then they’re likely clumps of silver mylar that Daniels has crimped, folded and sculpted into various forms, often arcs. They poetically play with the properties of paint dragged on a hard background, resulting in imagery that vacillates from representation to painterliness, and from tightness to looseness (though one recognizes these works as being painstaking). Sections of the background bear sections of silvery reflection as well, causing the foreground object to be less defined. The relatively bright colors infused into the reflective joints (these works are particularly color-heavy relative to the muted browns, grays and blacks Daniels has favored in prior bodies of work) at times defy the realistic source from which they reflect, just as the represented objects defy being fetishized due to their lack of smoothness. All that said, somehow Daniels manages to keep the viewer attuned to what’s before him more than being mindful of its source, a modest coup that give these paintings a subtle tension, and one that leads them to evade a state of simple covetousness (Marc Foxx Gallery, Miracle Mile).


How and Nosm, “Caged Birds Don‘t Sing,” 2011, oil on canvas.

How and Nosm are identical twin brothers well known for their large-scale graffiti-based murals. A few massive examples of their work were facilitated in the Los Angeles Arts District as part of the mural project hosted by LA FreeWalls. The brothers, raised in Germany, are now based in the U.S. and have co-opted a recognizable red, black, and white design scheme initially sought for practicality. However, their exhibition entitled ”Achtung!” (attention) provides rewards for prolonged looking based upon the intimate installation. Sweeping contour lines outline their canvases and order up a mass of confusion. Initially these compositions look abstract, a conglomerate of geometric patterns, symbol-based characters. Color is enough to overwhelm the most patient viewer. Especially outside, the sheer magnitude and dimensions are impressive, but inside, the scenarios within each work unfold like a detective story.

In “Caged Birds Don’t Sing,” multiple narratives arise between the stylized figures and their surroundings. A noticeably large figure is sucking a liquid from a globe like a thirsty child. Inside his head, another series of figures perform acts of control and brutality as their bodies cross over into each other amongst cigarettes and bottles of alcohol. Working in tandem, the brothers paint much like their social exchanges. Finishing one-another’s thoughts, the crossover in their imagery compliments this process. Despite the engaging detail, the themes are not pleasant. Images of abuse, power, and control are consistent and the interlocking aesthetic, which presents a world beyond redeeming (Known Gallery, West Hollywood).
G. James Daichendt


Nevan Lahart, installation view at Steve Turner Contemporary, October, 2011.

Through a little bit of luck and a lot of zeitgeist, Dublin-based Nevan Lahart’s “HD Softcore” fits in very nicely with the current spirit of Occupy Wall Street (as well as with our own locally vibrant Occupy L.A.). The gallery’s street-facing wall features several acrylic-on-board Hollywood sign-based send-ups, with the sign reconfigured to read “Hollywood Remake” in one, and “HOLYWAR” (with the ‘R’ squared off as in “Rated R”) in another. Within the gallery proper, one finds two large recycled cardboard installations bookending several toy trucks on the floor,  all representing the “Guggenheim Globetrotters” and ferrying such objects as tiny versions of a Richard Serra steel arc or a Jeff Koons balloon dog. The more ambitious of the two cardboard installations is dubbed “Mount Nicaragua On The Shady side of Mount Rushmore,” and features an almost-completed mountain sculpture (from the same recycled cardboard) of Ronald Reagan, accompanied by Hollywood sign-like three-dimensional text reading “North American Scum,” which may or may not be a reference to the LCD Soundsystem song. Either way removes a bit of the piss from the impact of the overall gesture. A partially bombed out, government-style building made of drywall let’s the title do the talking: “The Nato Retrofit of the Libyan National Down Syndrome Center, Crippled Womens Foundation, The Crippled Children’s Center and the National Diabetic Research Center.” Lahart’s whimsically impish sensibility may come off as nothing more than sophomoric to some, but in reality offers necessary amounts of spunk and irreverence that are always needed – especially now – and without which our art world feels complacent and disconnected (Steve Turner Contemporary, Miracle Mile).


Gegam Kacherian, “Fire Fight, Greeen Desert,” 2011, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24”.

Gegam Kacherian's acrylic on canvas paintings spread across the gallery like the many facets of a dream. Each painting presents a fantasy world where architecture, the natural landscape and costumed humans interact with the animal kingdom. The works convey a "goth" aesthetic fused to a Surrealist temperment. The dreams are simultaneously bad and good as images of desire and fear merge on the exquisitely painted surface. Kacherian can render the abstract and the representational with exacting skill, and can also combine various styles to not only create movement across a panel, but also imply movement in time. The action unfolds atop atmospheric gradients into which mountains, oceans, owls, and futuristic cities emerge. The human element - usually beautiful young men and women – are cast as the heroes of these fantasy worlds (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).


Charles Gaines, “Skybox I,” 2011, acrylic, digital print, polyester film and LED lights, 3 boxes, 84 x 48 x 5” each.

Charles Gaines
is interested in where art and politics collide, the aesthetic intersection of cultural/socio-political exploration. Associated with artists making conceptual and system-based works in the 1970's Gaines has continued along that path - looking at how following a specific rule set can construct a work of art. But Gaines has deepened his scope of inquiry, as with this new body of work. Texts by Georges Bataille and other cultural/political theorists provide the source material for his manipulations. Using Bataille’s seminal essays, "Eroticism" and "General Economy" as sources, the artist has devised specific rules by which he rewrites Bataille, enlarging the new sequence of words to fill large sheets of drawing paper. While framed works on paper coupled with texts is what Gaines is best known for, he is not married to a single medium. Thus, the centerpiece here is "SkyBox," simultaneously a light box and a text display. This three-panel piece continually cycles from dark to light. When the lights are on the words are readable. Gaines presents excerpts from texts about social justice by Gerard Winstanley (1649), Leopold Sedar Senghor (1970), Frantz Fanon (1961) and Ho Chi Minh (1945). As the text fades the room goes dark and the night sky appears. To fully take in an exhibit by Gaines one makes a commitment to read. However the act of reading, with Gaines, is always an aesthetic experience (Susanne Vielmetter, Culver City).


Guillermo Gómez-Pena, “The Loneliness of the Immigrant,” 1979/2011, color photograph, 11 x 14”.

It’s not even the slightest stretch to suggest that “Under The Big Black Sun” is MoCA’s best group show in years, among the best in its history. If you thought the only interesting and internationally relevant art activity in the early days of the L.A. art scene (in this case 1974-’81 specifically) was the light-and-space movement and, more insightfully, the early evolution of CalArts, you’ll be delighted to learn how much more was in fact going on. That Angeleno artists were able to experiment in a supportive and/or competitive environment free of any movements, dogmas, or market-based constraints or pressures all contributed to a climate in which pluralism flourished wildly. Be sure to allow a solid couple of hours minimum for your visit or, better yet, return once or twice to give everything to be seen its fair weight. Among the highlights too numerous to mention are Jim Goldberg’s photo series “Rich & Poor,” which are portraits accompanied by quotes from representatives of each, and paired in the same space with Bill Owens’ “Working” series (which features a similar format). Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan’s esoteric black & white photo series “Evidence” was at least 20 years ahead of its time of 1977. In Howard Fried’s video, “The Burghers of Forth Worth,” the grungy-groomed artist is filmed taking lessons from and golfing with four golf pros, whom he hired for the event. Richard Jackson’s “Big Ideas — 1,000 Pictures,” was originally shown at Rosamund Felsen in 1980 and has been re-created by Jackson here: 1,000 hand-made stretched canvases which were slathered with gelled acrylic paint and stacked on top of each other virtually to the ceiling, a mammoth painting “sandwich.” The late Jack Goldstein’s classic film short, “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,” an early version of the MGM lion who’s been edited to roar repeatedly, is a major early work that Goldstein made prior to launching his painting career proper. It’s not consistent throughout – how could it be, partially due to the inherent distractions of the less-than-ideal Geffen space, and partially due to not wanting to leave anything out. But “Under the Big Black Sun” remains an epic show that is Pacific Standard Time at its best (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Geffen Contemporary, Downtown).


“Doin’ It in Public,” 2011, installation view.

A key event at the start of the modern feminist movement was the naming of two women’s programs at Fresno State College (1970) and the following year at CalArts. They were known as the Feminist Art Program, and were largely spearheaded by artist and teacher Judy Chicago. In 1973, Chicago, along with Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, and Arlene Raven, opened the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles as a physical manifestation of an autonomous space that was run, directed, and supported for and by women – to specifically break with the structures of the patriarchal tradition. The exhibition “Doin’ It In Public” reaches deep into the archives of this history to pull together a cogent and well-researched show that gives as good as it gets. Not only are there well-edited selections of video and ephemera from that time, but the exhibition includes a website (for which herstories are still being solicited); screenings, readings, and performances; a two-volume publication; and a two-day symposium/convening/reunion, which functioned as its own collaborative art event of sorts. Celebrating and remembering two decades of feminist art as gathered around the Woman’s Building, this show will be remembered as one of PST’s successes (Otis College of Art and Design, Ben Maltz Gallery, West Side).


Ray and Charles Eames with ampersand and exclamation point, 1962. © Eames Office, LLC, 2011.

The installation “Eames Words” offers a buffet of wonderful insights. Instead of highlighting the influential American designers Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" Eames and their iconic contributions to modern architecture and furniture, this exhibit is a conceptual nod to their thinking and the little known aspects of their lives and interests in photography, textiles, and useful tools. A series of inspiring quotes and in-depth textual explanations adorn the museum walls where they are complimented by visual didactics. Most impressive is a series of vintage skateboards, push toys, and games. These items are complimented by text stating that, “Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas.” Frustrated by the lack of Eames’ designed objects (although there are a number of chairs within the screening room), the exhibit makes up for this loss in its ingenuity and originality (A + D Museum, Miracle Mile).


Sam Maloof (1916 – 2009), “Double Music Stand,” 1969, and “Chair,” 1972, Brazilian Rosewood; Stand: 44 1/2 x 51 x 30 1/2”; chair: 29 x 24 x 18 3/4”.

The earliest examples of self taught, designer/craftsman Sam Maloof’s woodworking skills in this astute, chronologically installed exhibition, “Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985” are two carved frames backing watercolors that he painted in the late 1940’s while touring in Mexico with Millard Sheets. The framed paintings serve as an introduction to the broad range of interests Maloof explored early on, underscoring his interactions with members of a cohesive network of artists and artisans, concentrated, post-World War II, around the Claremont Colleges. The exhibition includes over thirty works that Maloof designed explicitly to meet the needs of individual clients he came to consider friends, including a music stand, walnut cradle, desks, sofas and several versions of stable and rocking chairs. All are situated amongst a supporting cast of eighty paintings, sculptures and ceramics, enamel- and fiberware created by Pomona valley artists dedicated to hand workmanship. An adjoining education room offers taped interviews with six members of the Pomona art community, a display of templates marked with the names of Maloof’s clients and photographs personalizing this amazing era. Viewers are invited to sit in a mid-80’s, spindle shaped Maloof rocker. Warning: it’s so graceful and comfortable that you may never again be content to settle into any other chair (The Huntington Library, Pasadena).
Diane Calder


Arie Galles, “Heartland II, Metronome,” 2011, florescent paint on aluminum extrusionspaint, 54 x 92”.

Arie Galles is the creator of “Reflected Light Paintings.”  They reveal him to be part artist, part inventor and part alchemist. Galles goes through a complex, time-consuming process to “paint” with reflected light by applying fluorescent color onto the sides of many vertical extruded aluminum rods that he then precisely affixes to each painting. The primary colored paint on the inverted trapezoidal rods - red, blue, yellow, magenta, green, orange and variations of these - is then reflected onto the blank white spaces between the rods, via carefully focused lighting on both sides of each artwork. When questioned about his method, which includes meticulously mapping and applying the paint for each rod, he says that he invented this process. The themes of these 24 reflected light works (plus 18 preparatory drawings) is the heartland, aerial views of farmland as seen from a plane. But their appearance is more like pointillist paintings of brightly colored, slightly abstract playgrounds, several with twisting, serpentine paths. This pointillist effect is even more striking when artworks are viewed from the sides. Stand alongside an artwork; the tremendous effort involved is apparent. The colors from this angle are almost blindingly bright. Move slowly to the front of the artwork and the effect gradually changes to a more subdued palette. In fact, each “Reflected Light” work takes on a sculptural effect as it beckons the viewer to look at it from multiple angles (Soka University of America, Orange County).