|"MADE IN L.A. 2012"|
Ry Rocklen, "Painting Tiles"
by Elenore Welles
On the heels of Pacific Standard Time, which paid homage to L.A. artists from the recent historical past, "Made in L.A. 2012" simultaneously occupying three venues, features sixty contemporary emerging and mid career artists who may help write the history of the next generation.
Ry Rocklen, "Painting Tiles," 2011, paintings, concrete, wood, spray paint, dimensions variable.
Artists who are situated within the vast physical space that is L.A. often feel the need to create individual identity. Consequently, the pressures of entrenched concepts are discarded in favor of creating unique personal spaces. Many of the distinctive perspectives here derive from the city’s diverse and complex multicultural population. That it is a terrain of contradictions works in their favor. Giving equal credence to crafts, for instance, expands horizons and viewers are invited to contemplate disparate materials, subjects and objects in new ways. The exhibits include an eclectic array of paintings, sculpture, photography, installations and video. Site-specific works and a series of performances, improvisations and public programs are represented as well.
As much as there are references to shifting experiences, L.A.’s art historical past also plays an integral part. Reveling in the beauty of mundane materials continues to remain a constant, and the incorporation of elements from pop art, fetish finish, assemblage, conceptualism, multi-media and minimalism abound. At the Hammer Museum they can be found, among others, in the minimalist paintings of Brian Sharp, in Liz Glynn’s innovative constructions from trash, in the fetish finish obsidian pieces of Mark Hagen and in the funky pop collages of Ray Dowell. Feminist issues also remain current in Kate Costello’s photographs of objectified women.
Representing minimalism are the works of Chana Horwitz. Hardly an early or midcareer artist, she is a 40 year veteran of the L.A. art world who lacked quite the recognition of the PST artists. Using plaka on Mylar, the rhythm, pattern and repetition of her designs are based on a predetermined geometric system that is geared toward capturing time and motion. The system generated end results are patterns of intricate beauty; their aesthetic quality outweighs the logic of the designs.
Thee artist as storyteller is also conveyed through a variety styles and materials. Patricia Fernandez, for example, uses buttons on fabric to communicate stories of families, as do the quilts and assemblages of Joel Otterson. Particularly poignant is Meleko Mokgosi’s wall paintings. She skillfully draws the viewer into the politics of postcolonial Africa, revealing the life of ordinary citizens who are forced to live within a warlike society.
Materials used in unexpected ways can also be found at the Barnsdall exhibit, such as in Ry Rocklen’s floor tiles cut from old paintings found at flea markets. However, the predominant mode of expression at this venue is video, film and installations. The focus, for the most part, is on current social and political concerns. Vincent Ramos’s installation, for example, addresses the racism encountered by his Mexican-American grandfather. Nery Gabriel Lemus’ wall of graphic, cartoon-like drawings illuminate the trials of domestic violence.
The Propeller Group, an art collective based in Saigon and Los Angeles, exposes how politics is served up with pop culture through the connections between TV, film, video and the Internet to marketing and advertising. In a series of videos, they promote their ideas on re-branding Communist ideologies. Michele O’Marah brings the world of fashion into the mix with a video based on the ideals of style and beauty. Given that the film industry plays a prominent role in L.A., Nicole Miller’s documentary style video tells us about the little known first black Hollywood actor. And Miljohn Ruperto refashions a Hitchcock film that questions the nature of private and political cover-ups.
LAXART presents a 10-year survey of Slanguage, a group of artists who use gallery installations, site-specific murals, billboards and performances to publicize the social norms of marginalized cultures.
For the most part, as has been historically thus, the artists rely on art’s transformative premises as they navigate the relationship between art and the ambiguities of life. Yes, the wheel continues to get reinvented, but when redefined from the vantage point of a new era, it can lead to continued relevancy.
As with any sizeable group show, the sheer volume of themes and materials can result in a mixed bag. However, the premise here of presenting the contributions of young artists from a particular region brings a positive light to both the city and its artists.