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April, 2004

Jasper Johns, "Figure 8," 1959,
encaustic and collage on canvas.
© Jasper Johns/VAGA, NY.
Photo courtesy Sonnabend Gallery.
Since the 1950s Jasper Johns has made paintings of numbers. Separate as well as together, drawn as well as painted, these stenciled numbers have been a constant theme in Johns’ work. Part of his reductive strategy and also his desire to make work counter to the abstract expressionist work then prevalent, Johns turned to making works about or that used everyday objects like maps, numbers and the alphabet. This exhibition presents thirty works that trace Johns’ use of numbers throughout his career. While focusing on a single element it is an angle that also points to and provides perspective to the bigger picture of Johns’ aesthetic thinking at a given time. The number works were seminal in that they challenged then given notion of appropriate subject matter for art as well as strategies of artmaking. Johns was interested in perception, repetition, and the nature of representation .
As the works here demonstrate, by reducing his subject to letters and numbers he was that much freer to explore the possibilities of mark making as well as how ordinary signifiers could be recast as rich aesthetic objects (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], West Hollywood).

In conjunction with an exhibition of over 150 multiples and documentary objects on the life and times of Joseph Beuys, fifteen performances of an original stage work, Show Your Wound: the Death and Times of Joseph Beuys, conceived and directed by the ever self inventing Tom Patchett, are being staged here. Works encompass conceptual objects, historical videos, film footage and photographs, original and existing writings that along with the a multimedia, actor-studded performance promise to bring this provocative innovator into clearer relief (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Joseph Beuys in performance.

Zhi Lin, "Color Study for Five Capital
Executions in China: Starvation," 1997,
watercolor on paper, 20" x 16 1/4".
Aside from the immediate “wow” factor of a beautifully executed crowd scene, such painting allows the eye to indulge in the ceaseless search for telling details. Zhi Lin’s series of Five Capital Executions in China (shown alongside smaller studies) clearly indicts the Cultural Revolution as nearly forty years on it recedes into history. More interestingly these paintings gather together perpetrators, victims, and witnesses so that we may consider their relative roles in a simultaneous moment. Formally organized, yet distinct and diverse as individuals as well as groups, they turn the debunked former monopoly of Socialist Realism of his native country exactly on its head (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, West Hollywood).

A thicket of strokes buzz at you, yielding an image that gradually gains resolution. Color jumps the line breaks like a brush fire out of control, but it all maintains the precarious integrity of exposed nerves. It isn’t hard to believe that sanity is what is at stake for Arnaldo Roche here, though the specific link it has via his brother, a schizophrenic who shot their sister dead and later died as he wandered lost in the countryside, can only be read outside the work. The homage to Van Gogh is quite visible and is, for a change, appropriate and convincing (Latin American Masters, Beverly Hills).

Arnaldo Roche, "Unwanted
Inheritance," 2003, o/c, 48 x 48".

Andrew Moore, "Baby Bear, Russia,"
2003, chromogenic print, 40 x 30".

Nancy Monk, "Template," 2001-
04, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48".
The looming curves of Andrew Moore’s huge red Ice Breaker are so powerful that they resist containment within the photograph’s frame. Bumps from past encounters with immovable objects are visible on the mighty vessel’s hull, but the force that holds the ship upright in its dry dock berth is not readily apparent. As he did in a recent series on Cuba, Moore again examines existence and memory in a society (Russian) weathering change. This remarkably sensitive collection of eleven large chromogenic prints made in Russia includes a Yalta update, an image with a Ruscha-like ray of light penetrating a ruined worker’s theater, and the scene of a model posing in a destitute art academy that ties into issues that go back at least as far as those raised in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

For Nancy Monk the photographic image is not sacred, but rather a surface to draw and paint on. She obsessively covers her images (printed on canvas) with decorative elements that cover the entire composition. In her current exhibition, appropriately entitled Baroque, numerous small works cover the gallery walls. Most of the imagery begins as a portrait, yet the sitters’ features quickly become obliterated by Monk’s overlay of a patterned motif. The works are brightly colored and highly detailed. Sometimes her embellishments follow contours or features of the faces in the photos, while at other times they act more like tattoos or the patterns found in Australian Aboriginal art (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Chris Burden, "Indo-China Bridge," 2003, stainless steel erector parts, 15 x 44 3/4 x 8 1/2".

OK, don’t expect to walk into a gallery hung with one or two works each by a disparate group of artists and count on some grand theme to emerge to connect every work or even reveal any particular direction the gallery to mark its 25th Anniversary. Oh, there are some works that seem so right for the era, even prophetic, such Alan Sekula’s somberly beautiful photographs with words like’“Abandonded” or “After Closing” in their overly long titles. There are works by Paul McCarthy that have become iconic in style and subject matter. And there are some historic treasures, such as David Ireland’s 500 Capp Street with Dimensions, which includes measurements of the San Francisco site inked over a photograph of its façade. Perhaps best of all there are the crazy intergenerational conversations, like Chris Burden’s Indo-China Bridge spanning a chasm just across the room from Tony Tasset. Via DVD loop Tasset stands with his back against a wall, gets shot and suddenly slumps to the ground. Over and over. Leaving a huge blood stain on the wall, in continuous homage (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

White on White is a large group exhibition of twenty two artists each of whom has contributed a work that is mostly, well, white. Although the works for the most part are monochromatic, they jump off the wall (or the floor in certain cases, like David McDonald's wonderful sculpture) because of the richness of their surfaces. The majority of the works are paintings that layer or juxtapose shades of the non-color of choice here. Each artist making abstract works has their own methodology, and the juxtaposition of similar works throws sparks (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Jacob Hashimoto, "Untitled Kites,"
2003-04, wood/silk/nylon and acrylic, 107 x 15".

Bruce Yonemoto, "Sealed,"
2004, mixed media installation.
The work in Syzygy: The Human Remix, the fifth annual Art in Motion exhibition sponsored by USC, was selected through an open call as well as by invitation. This year’s exhibition is beautifully installed. The new installations by Lev Manovich, Bruce Yonemoto, Lew Baldwin, Bryan Jackson and Marisa Alexander-Clarke are given ample space to engage each on their own terms. Each of these artists’ work pushes the limit of the technology with which they work. While a few of the juried works are wall mounted, the majority are presented on computer monitors or as single channel video. It is too bad these works could not be given the same space as the others as their presentation seems secondary. Nevertheless this show strikes plenty of high notes (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

That wing of feminist art that placed the accent over women’s materials and work survives and thrives in Carolyn Applegate’s stuffed stocking works. Candy colors and rounded forms are alternately suggestive or blunt, sensual or dumpy. For all the whimsy that immediately grabs at your attention, there is a quality of pathos that will strike a chord with anyone who has spiffed up only to see through to a self image that seems hopelessly flawed. Italian cheese labels are the constant in J.J. L’Heureux’ collages, and we quickly learn that humble source is rich in visual and graphic variables. There is a formal rhythm that is clearly structured, often symmetrically, and often broken up by favored graphic images or torn bits of strategically placed label (Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale).

J.J. L'Heureux, "Etichette #64,"
2003, collage with thread, 39 x 69".

Carolyn Applegate, "Carnival Time," 2000,
resin chair/stockings/polyfill, 42 x 44 x 30"

Sandow Birk, "Trouble Ahead
(Caltrans)," acrylic on velvet, 12 x 12".
We associate black velvet paintings with Elvis, flea markets and kitsch (well, perhaps Peter Alexander too). Among the artists in Contemporary Velvet Painting, curated by Christina Ochoa, Sandow Birk makes odd, effective almost nostalgic street scenes with paint on that selfsame black velvet. They are moody and dark by virtue of their material; they are silly and banal by virtue of the same thing. The artists here simultaneously check our prejudices about high art, while embracing and elevating folk and Chicano notions of art making (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

New York-based William Anastasi’s works defy categorization. Active since the mid-1960s, his work has appeared in survey exhibitions of Minimal and Conceptual art, but not on its own. It is fitting that this show coincides with the opening of MOCA’s A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968, as so many of Anastasi’s works can be seen in relation to the strategies examined in their developmental stages downtown. The work here spans the artist’s 30-year career, and demonstrates shared affinities with the work of John Cage in its reliance on chance. Other themes in the work on view include studies of sound, movement, measurement and time (SolwayJones, West Hollywood).

William Anastasi, "Untitled,"
1967/2003, black and white
Polaroid photographs, 11 x 11".