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April, 2006

Larry Bell showed his glass cubes in the movement-defining “Primary Structures” show at the Jewish Museum in New York City way back in 1966 with other mega-minimalists such as Eva Hesse and Don Judd. He has also been associated with the “Finish Fetish” school and the Light and Space movement that grew out of L.A.’s unique relationship to aerospace and our special kind of light. All those strains are brought together in a new series of glass cubes, whose intense focus on process can be appreciated by even the uninitiated who know zip about Stella. These glistening, equilateral, super slick and mirrored cubes shown on pedestals reflect the gallery space, each other and the viewer. They revive all the syntax of Minimalism, from that style’s insistence that the viewer’s perception interact with and complete the gestalt, to its almost reactionary call for order in a politically unraveling world--certainly the case today as it was in ‘66 (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Larry Bell, “Cube #20,” 2006,
coated glass, 20 x 20 x 20”.

Robert Zakanitch, "Butterfly Frog," 2001,
acrylic on canvas, 54" x 69 1/4".
Robert Zakanitch, a New York based painter long associated with the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970’s, created his series of Lace paintings in 2001 as a response to 9/11. Zakanitch used lace as a metaphor--relating it to ideas of comfort and femininity often associated with decorative motifs. The work on view here includes works on canvas from the 2001 series along with works on paper covering the last five years. Each piece incorporates an intricate pattern painted in white that fills the majority of the canvas. These fanciful lines stand out from the darkly painted backgrounds.
Zakanitch juxtaposes the patterns with symbols and figures including birds, flowers and hands. Using the pattern to house these other motifs, he surrounds them in a maze of interlacing lines that create zig-zags across paper or canvas. Zakanitch’s depictions of lace, however, are not airy and light. They have a looming presence, perhaps because the decorative motif is painted against a dark ground, or perhaps because of when they were made (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Mark Stockton makes small pencil drawings centered on large pieces of white paper. His contact sheet sized works depict images appropriated from the mass media. Whether drawing individuals—OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, the Unabomber--or situations—the street intersection where the L.A. Riots began, the white bronco that Simpson infamously drove--he picks images that are familiar and recognizable. By using people and events culled from the media as his source Stockton offers a filtered view of what is memorable and therefore important in today’s society. The small scale makes the works precious and, because he is a skilled draftsman, the works project more than their size would have you believe. In addition to the numerous small drawings, Stockton also presents a selection of enlargements. The large pieces, for example a portrait of Jonbenet Ramsey, are more aggressively drawn and confrontational as the subjects become larger than life. Stockton is a talented artist with a specific goal. He is definitely someone to watch (Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Downtown).

Mark Stockton, "Michael with Baby," 2006,
graphite on BFK Rives paper, 1 x 1 1/3".

Gina Han, "Blue/Blue III,"
2003, acrylic on canvas, 46"X46".

Stevie Love, "Idyllwild12," 2004, acrylic
paint on Fabriano paper, 14" x 18".

The new work by Gina Han and Stevie Love, here titled “Sequence,” updates us on the state of their research into the plasticity and elasticity of acrylic colors. Laying up relatively thick pools of congealed and congealing paint respectively on canvas and paper, these two painters build up subtle oscillations of tone and hue. In “Blue/Blue III” Han sets up a pattern of small cloud-like shapes, each accented by a similar smaller shape of a different color or hue. This acts a little like an optical illusion without breaking into actual afterimages. In “Idyllwild 12” Love dots thick paint across the surface of the paper, and then subtly draws other paint into combined patterns that look like the pixelated traces of liquids merging. Both bodies of work share a similar gentleness, and a playful quality which makes their pairing a pleasure to engage (ANDLAB, Downtown).

Karl Haendel is a young Los Angeles-based artist who is as well versed in theory as he is in recent art history. For this, his first museum show, he has created a structure in which to view his drawings that juxtaposes elements of his studio environment with the more traditional display space of a gallery or museum. These are drawings as mediated experience; mediated because they are based on advertisements, newspaper clippings, family photographs, money and even other drawings. These realistic drawings were created with the aid of an overhead projector. Haendel’s drawings are large, beautifully and skillfully executed works on paper made with pencil. His subject matter ranges from a penny, to a new Cadillac SUV, to fragments from other works of art, as well as scribbles and even his own thumb print.

Karl Haendel, "$56,055, 2005," pencil on paper, 93 x 130".
This work is about juxtapositions in which disparate elements play off one another. The multiple references that Haendel imposes makes the work both original as well as infuriatingly academic (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

Roy Dowell, "Untitled (#889)," 2003,
acrylic and burlap on canvas, 52 x 40".
A mini retrospective of the work of Roy Dowell includes forty paintings, collage and works on paper dating from 1981 to 2005. As has been his way, Dowell includes bold colored passages of abstract form that may be lushly painted in places or collaged from bright pre-printed materials in others. He toys with the recessive properties of space, line and color to subvert aesthetic and common sense expectations we have about dimensionality: painted flat forms move toward us, clearly collaged elements seem to sit back away from the decorative surfaces. Dowell’s rich play on patterning and pictorial space defies both the modernist grid and the logical space we physically occupy; this is its cerebral side. As an added bonus, over the 20-year arc sampled, the work has also consistently been just plain lovely to look at (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

An excellent and consciousness raising show reminds us that for a very long time and in many eras, art was the voice of opposition. The Artist as Social Critic includes 150 paintings made by artists who have addressed issues of society and injustice from the 1800s to the present. There are some wonderful individual works by museum level socialists we know and love, such as Honoré Daumier and José Clemente Orozco. They are accompanied by contemporary local luminaries who have made social and racial issues their main subjects: Betye Saar, George Herms and a host of others too numerous to detail. (Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood).

James Gill, "The Demagogue", c. 1964, varnished
charcoal on heavy paper, 24 3/4 x 32 3/4".

Fikret Atay, still from "Tinica," 2004
(detail), video with sound. 7:32 min.

Miranda Lichtenstein, “Untitled #2
(fruit), “ 2002-2005, Polaroid.

A residency at Monet’s Giverny gardens was the source of Miranda Lichtenstein’s work here. Consisting of a large set of diminutive Polaroid photographs and three larger black-on-black C-prints, Lichtenstein deals with the idea of transient beauty, suffusing her images with the atmosphere of the sumptuous still life painting that is associated with 18th century painters like Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin. The miniature size of the Polaroids, the high gloss finish of the prints, and the delicate beauty that the isolated forms and saturated colors deliver add up to hedonistic visual delights. In the video room next door, Fikret Atay has loops of three works being projected: “Rebels of the Dance”, “Tinica” and “Bang!Bang!”. Working in his native Turkey, the artist makes videos that offer short, almost photo-journalistic sketches of life around him. Using a portable consumer camera and existing lighting, Atay films locals as they conduct mostly everyday activities: they perform in dance, they beat on makeshift drums, and they run around playing war games while making all the war sounds boys make. His work is interesting for the slice of life it offers in a very unadorned manner. It pits the ordinary against the not so ordinary simply by creating work in a place where those parameters seem hard to measure--a Kurdish city near the border of Turkey and Iraq (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Anthony Hernandez has been making photographs documenting his surroundings since the 1970’s. His current works--large scale color photographs made with large and medium format cameras--focus on details and places. Two early series, one from 1984 entitled “Beverly Hills,” and another from the 1970’s depicting downtown Los Angeles, contrast two different L.A. locations.

Anthony Hernandez, "Beverly Hills #19," 1984, cibachrome print, 27 x 27".
The photographs in “Bev-erly Hills” are 35mm color shots, many depicting people of, or visiting the posh streets of Beverly Hills, dressed to kill-- as if they belong. The images are both a cutting and humorous look at the stereotypes and clichés that have given Beverly Hills its reputation. In contrast the earlier black and white images shot downtown focus more on the gritty aesthetic of street photography. These images depict people in motion hurrying from here to there along busy sunlit streets. Hernandez’ black and white photography is reminiscent of the works of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander whose keen instinct and casual shooting style have become synonymous with this type of shooting. Hernandez’ pictures, while not as well known, are a welcome addition to this important genre of photographic picture making (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Yoshio Ikezaki, "The Earth Breathes--
Hikkaku," 2006, mixed media.
Trained in sumi ink techniques and ancient paper making rituals, Art Center teacher Yoshio Ikezaki shows delicate, unbearably fragile lined images and collages that invoke evocative Asian landscape traditions. The quiet elegance of nature is more intoned than depicted, and in keeping with his origins, the making of these marks takes on the unplanned creative discovery we find in a koan. His sculptures, made also from layer upon layer of handmade sumi pulp, actually include passages from the Buddhist sutra. The whole show feels like a contemplation of the spiritual as well as formal implications of space and void, line and field, the finite mark and the infinite action of intuition (LMan Gallery, Downtown).

In a show that argues Gustav Courbet’s amazing landscapes influenced the Impressionists, source documents would suggest that the Barbizon master found this group of scruffy newcomers confusing at best. And frankly, as is plain here, Courbet in no way depends on fame by association. He is generally regarded as the great granddaddy of Realism, and a nonconformist who offended every chance he got, most famously when he set up his renegade show in front of the 1849 Salon that had snubbed him. Some of his ac-complished landscapes are on view. What you realize in the viewing is that the perfect order of nature suggested by Poussin and the perfect entropy of nature suggested by Turner all pale by comparison to Courbet’s watchful and accurate recording of what trees actually look like. There is beauty, he convinces you, in the common (Getty Center, West Los Angeles).

Since the 1960s, Joel Shapiro has been among an elite cadre of sculptors who work with basic geometries in steel, installed publicly and in huge commissions. These floor-bound and gallery scaled works are more intimate and therefore softer and more accessible. The long and lean white bronze shafts criss and cross, and lean precariously in relationships of push and pull, ascent and tension. In this more human scale, their visceral and kinesthetic impact is much more engaging. Also on view are newer works (all untitled) in this sort of signature format. Made from raw wood contrasted against sharply-colored casein, they display the complex and lyrical matrices that are a particular strength of the artist (LA Louver Gallery, Venice).

Joel Shapiro, "Untitled," 2004-2005
wood and casein, 58 1/2 x 109 x 104 1/2".

Robert Motherwell, "Africa Suite #10," 1970.
ink, acrylic and paper collage on artist’s mount,
41 x 28"© Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA, NY.
Galleries tend to show minor prints by huge names in the hopes that the star factor will draw you in. In this case we are fortunate to see major, museum quality ink drawings by one of the foremost abstractionists of the New York School. The drawings that make up Robert Motherwell’s stunning “Africa Suite” run about four feet in the large direction. These evocative, perfectly calibrated areas of black amoeba-like shapes against the white ground reach and spread, crescendo at this odd splatter of ink and then descend into stillness again. If abstract expression is intended to move us without the benefit of narrative, this is a prime example of exactly that (Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica).

A wonderful Isamu Noguchi show features his stunning lamps, furniture designs and collaborative set designs done in the 1940s for dance works by the great dancer Martha Graham. The show also features archival materials on Noguchi’s Zen-inspired landscape designs, which are situated all over the globe. This illegitimate son of racially mixed parents took the best of his American and Japanese heritages to craft some of the finest objects in the history of design. Spare and clean like Asian screened architecture, the works transparently offer up--like maps of process extolling the virtue of detail--delicate doweling, folding or other markers of his serene and steady hand (Japanese American National Museum, Downtown).

Isamu Noguchi, "Lyre," set
element from Orpheus, 1948.

Jim Hart, “Woman in the Moon”, pendant.  
Photo:  Kiyoshi Togashi
In the gorgeous Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest functional and ritual objects go beyond the decorative and anthropological. Authentic tribal antiques are shown alongside hybrid objects made quite recently as Native Americans reconfigure their identities. All of it possesses a level of detail, craft and sophisticated symbolism related to humanity’s necessary connection with nature--an old idea that is sorely needed today. Such symbols shockingly link all cultures to certain archetypal ideas, just as Carl Jung told us. A stunning Zuni inlaid pendant from the 1950s coils a helix of turquoise around other inlay to suggest, as does the disc in Buddhism, the cycles and endless circles of creation (Autry Center, Museum of the American West, Northeast Los Angeles).