Return to Articles


July 18-August 18, 2001 Absolut-L.A. International at about seventy venues throughout Los Angeles

by Bill Lasarow and Marlena Donohue

Editor’s Note--Galleries participating in the 2001 L.A. International receive the following notation throughout the Gallery Listings: Participating gallery, Absolut-L.A. International, 5th Biennial Art Invitational.

This is the fifth time out for what began as a way for the Santa Monica/Venice Art Dealers Association (now defunct) to develop greater ties to the international art scene. Member gallery owners Robert Berman and William Turner have carried on in an effort to transform the event into an original alternative to the conventional international art festival.

To be sure we are a long way from the Absolut-L.A. International being thought of alongside the Venice Biennale or Dokumenta. But the appealingly decentralized, unwieldy, and momentary coalition of galleries located all over L.A. does transform the Summer scene here significantly without settling an atmosphere of pretentiousness over the proceedings. This may be both blessing and curse. No one would suggest that the fortunes of L.A.’s scene rises or falls with the L.A. International, but the opportunity to check out artists from South Africa, Germany, Israel, and other foreign locales is a breath of fresh air that can’t help but make us think in more global and comparative terms. And the handful of major figures--the late Fluxus master Joseph Beuys (Griffin, Venice--see article), longtime British Pop icon Richard Hamilton (Gallery 2211, Downtown), Marino Marini, represented mainly by works on paper that are impressive nonetheless (at Leslie Sacks, West Los Angeles) for example--on view during July and August provide important highlights, while making us think about what our museums might be doing.

The effort to give us a global view is commendable--there’s French contemporary art (at half a dozen rose, Venice), a group of three key Czech early modernists, Frank Kupka, Emil Filla, and Alfons Mucha (at Herbert Palmer, West Hollywood), and a nice look at the Chinese contemporary avant garde (at frumkin/duval, Santa Monica) to name a few. Yet the quality of offerings feels uneven, unhewn in spots; curatorial decisions are often hurried, less than deliberated.

Marino Marini
is on view at Leslie Sacks Fine Art

Richard Hamilton, "A Mirrorical
Return," Iris digital print. Image
created on a, Quantel Paintbox and
output to disc, image size:
53 x 66 cm, paper size:
73x 89 cm, 1998, is on
view at Gallery 2211.

Aernout Overbeeke, "Barstow, California", 1997,
is on view at Stephen Cohen Gallery.

Gao Brothers, "Sense of Space:
Anxiety," photograph of perfor-
mance, 80 x 100cm, ed. 10, 2000.
is on view at frumkin/duval.

Lin Tianmiao, "Tumor," bicycle
wrapped in cotton thread, 1998,
is on view at frumkin/duval.
Generic drawbacks notwithstanding, there are exhibits that really do stand out, Aernout Overbeeke photographs (at Stephen Cohen, West Hollywood) for example. Dutch by origin, with a base camp in New York, Overbeeke’s show is of landscapes of his homeland--castles, rolling hills, water inlets, low, low lying horizon lines all swathed in that nearly mystic quality of light, air and color that inspired kinsmen Ruisdael and later Van Gogh. Romantic and with a clear rev-erence for the Big Plan of Nature, this can be sappy (which he avoids for the most part). A great curatorial decision (an example of what serious deliberation on the part of L.A. International galleries could accomplish) pits the artist's moody Holland views against panoramic vistas of Americana, of life along our rivers, and of Nature as she scrambles to survive in the U.S.

Frumkin/duval welcomes Chinese conceptual artists in a series of group and individual shows for the International. Some of the artists may be known 'round these parts because they have lived and worked in New York. Lin Tianmiao maintained a studio in New York, shuttled from the U.S. to her home in Beijing, but now is a full time resident of her native China. She methodically wraps common objects large and small--woks, chairs, beds--in endless, evocative skeins of cotton thread. This obscures function, culture of origin, and calls attention to issues of gender, commerce, and other hierarchic implications that we miss as we speed through daily life and programmed consumption. The Gao Brothers use their bodies in performance-based art that considers how power, race, and commerce inevitably construct the successive simulations we call reality. There's the careful craft and the intellectual precision of Eastern aesthetics here. These and other artists included here indicate that Chinese conceptual art has discovered deconstructive post-structuralism with a disciplined vengeance. When brought to bear on the West's open ended conceptual models, the results can be satisfying.

So, as Judith Hoffberg suggests in her column, trust your curiosity, your mind, and your eyes to take advantage of the wealth of viewing pleasures that will be available in the City this Summer. You can stay home and see the world.