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June, 2006

Dennis Hopper, while best known as an actor, has been active as a painter and photographer throughout his career.  This survey exhibition presents Hopper’s black and white photographs, his color urban scenes, as well as his recent large scale paintings.  The early photographs are in the documentary tradition--Hopper focused on details like abstractions on walls, as well as on candid portraits of his artist and Hollywood friends.  The color photographs from the 1990’s are more about abstraction and formal qualities of painting and photography, as Hopper focuses on the paint and signage attached to walls.  The most recent work consists of billboard sized paintings, painted according to Hopper’s specification by hired hands, that are based on the photographs from the 1960s.  The images have an overpowering presence due to their size and scale (Ace Gallery Los Angeles, West Hollywood).

Dennis Hopper, "Florence (Yellow Square),"
1996, Ilfocolor, 14 x 9" & 75 x 50".

Jack Butler, “Michelle & Verne” 2005, ed.5,
piezo pigment print, 27.5” x3 2.5”.
With his C.O.L.A. award two years back, artist Jack Butler made a pinhole camera and set out to capture the hot rod car culture.  A car aficionado himself, he shows us a world typically associated with mid-western teenagers and good 'ole boys (why that association exists is a bit of a mystery--these hot rods can cost in the tens and thousands, and are objects of luxury if ever there were any).  Because of the physics of the pinhole the resultant photos have this slight skewing of perspective that augments and compliments, to lovely effect, the general eccentricity of his subject.  To finish off the project, Butler uses the best of up-town technology to transfer the pinholes into huge digital prints.
Young men and their hot rod "mammas," dressed in the clothes of the city slicker and the suburb biker pose and preen before their rides--the cars subtexted, and the people front and center more often than not.  This last clever twist of composition shows us that the cars are not collected strictly for themselves, but as extensions of the self, as stand ins for status and their riders' identity (Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica).

Ed Moses is a local staple and an unflinchingly committed painter through the vagaries of taste and concept-based art.  Much less familiar are the tapestries that Moses makes out of lush cotton and metallic fibers that are worked to look like splotches of gilded paint, dashes of black pigment.  That is not to say we like this work because it reminds us of the artist’s expansive canvases; we are amazed because this artist is versatile and believable in so many media (Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica).

Ed Moses, "CremaDeLa," 2006, women
tapestry--cotton, metallic and vixcose
fiber, 102 x 78 1/2 inches.

Olivier Culmann, photograph.

Eva Castringius, photograph.

In Imaging LA: International Photographers on the Great Western Metropolis five international photographers picture the town in works as diverse as their countries of origin.  Mare Milin from Croatia portrays four generations of the branch of her family that settled here.  Old world signifiers, like needlework and religious icons, melt away along with wrinkled skin, as we descend down the line from proud matriarch Luca to the youngest Milin boys, who are slumped in front of a TV set.  Scores more L.A. residents watching television are captured by French photographer Oliver Culmann in his examination of the place we give to TV.  Eva Castringius, from Munich, documents her enhancement, with plastic pine trees, of the blue ribbon of water that brings life to the Southland; while Londoner Heidi Wood contrives a witty ad program that looks a good deal sunnier than John Mullin’s behind the scenes, eerie, but captivating night photos of Venice Beach alleyways (18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica).

Ivan Abreu, Atilio Pernisco, installation view of "Buenos Aires - Havana."

"Buenos Aires - Havana" exhibits the work of two South American painters who work within distant traditions.  Ivan Abreu's symbolic abstraction draws upon the flat picture plane and abbreviated mark making of modernism.  Most effective are the works in which small figurative traces abound, such as the tree-lined lake of Horizonte (Horizon).  Atilio Pernisco's symbolist figuration is meticulous and dreamy.  Dipping into the rich tradition of South American narration, he fashions surreal portraits of rooms and worlds behind the eyes and within heads of his imagined subjects.  Of particular note is the large scale,"Mariano' Purgatory" with its elaborately decorated helmet (ANDLAB, Downtown).

Gustav Klimt, "Beech Woods (Birch Woods),"
1903, oil on canvas, 43 1/4 x 43 1/4 inches.
Estate of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.
Photo © 2006 Museum Associates/LACMA.
A small group of five paintings by Gustav Klimt pack an enormous visual punch that is backed not only by their status as prime works by the leading figure of the Vienna Secession of a century ago.  These were confiscated by the Nazis from the family of the now ninety-year-old Maria Altmann, and are on exhibit immediately following their restitution following a long legal proceeding that is a tale unto itself.  Of the two portraits here of Mrs. Altmann’s aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, the 1907 work is a landmark of early modernism.  The slightly earlier “Beechwood” landscape is a stunning visual feast that vibrates negative with positive space, and decorative flatness with depth of space like few images you will ever see (LAMCA, West Hollywood).

No two viewers seem to follow the same path as they investigate Manfred Pernice’s landscape of ruins, a sculptural installation entitled “exscape.”  The German artist scatters lures as diverse as plastic badminton rackets, ceramic fragments, faded images scavenged from art magazines and snippets of text in German and English, overexposed surfaces of the painted box-like forms that work as rough architectural models and/or pedestals positioned about the room.  There are a couple of lengths of tape that could be read as directional signals affixed to the walls. Allowing the elements Pernice has integrated into the space to invoke variable, unexpected readings and associations is closer to the artist’s intent than ascribing a single master plan to the work (Regen Projects, West Hollywood).

Manfred Pernice, 2002 installation.

Victor Cartagena
, “Untitled, Red
Noses”, 2005, mixed media.
Internationally known Salvadoran artist Victor Cartagena is familiar mostly as a fine printmaker.  His work has always been highly political, taking on issues like immigration, homelessness, exile, identity, and the use and abuse of  power.  Usually more direct and heavy handed in his political polemics, Cartagena's take is a bit different here.  The show is called "Anatomy of La Mentira: Red Noses."  "Mentira" in Spanish means "lie."  Cartagena sketches profiles of men with red noses placed over their real ones. The simplicity of the drafting, the obviousness of the metaphor make for an engaging take on the subject of honesty (or lack thereof)--personal, collective, political.  It is not a huge leap to realize that with his sketched profiles of men with red, bulbous noses, Cartagena is actually referencing the whole spirit of dissembling, spying, double speak and spin that has our globe at the brink and our children more concerned with surface than substance.  
But done this way, you come to the moral of the story through the back door.  It all seems less preachy and more powerful.  These works gain from open ended if still serious wit; while you are bemused, you are also really troubled (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

Bernard Yenelouis' "Shelter," comprised of new photographic works, are a secret tour to the history of Los Angeles modernist architecture from within the perspective of how these places turn up in media.  Shooting in Polaroid film, which is then re-photographed and printed on photo paper, gives the images a distinctive grainy colored quality very unlike the effects of digital.  This off-center map to L.A. is at first glance just a study in atmosphere and light, but upon closer inspection becomes an archeology of the places that define the "familiar" worlds we know from cinema and television (Kristi Engle Gallery, Downtown).

Bernard Yenelouis, photography
from "Shelter".

Sean Scully, "Wall of Light Summer",
2005, oil on linen, 83 7/8 x 71 5/8 inches.
Sean Scully’s large scale abstract images juxtapose horizontal and vertical bands of subdued colors that produce a kind of brick-like matrix, less true to a recognizable motif and more akin to a wall made from swaths of thickly applied siennas,  browns, whites, rich barely visible background blues. His paintings are created by layering colors of paint building up specific areas. The brushstrokes and underpaintings shine through, creating both a transparency and a depth to the surface of the work. The resulting "structure" appears to be so solid, it might stand on its own without the linen that holds it.  The titles of one of the series here, “Wall of Light,” followed by a location or a color or a season, locates the works in the landscape.  Scully’s large scale paintings usually fill one’s field of view, and are seductive and beautiful objects to behold (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Beverly Semmes’ new work is centered around the figure of Annie Oakley--the star attraction of the Wild West Show during the late 1800’s. Best know for her shooting ability, Oakley was a prominent figure in cowboy/girl culture. In Semmes’ exhibition, entitled “Blood Shot Pot” she pays tribute to Oakley by creating oversized dresses and glass pots that transition between abstraction and the blast of a bullet moving through air. The central piece of the show is an oversized dress that moves off the wall into a huge pool of florescent orange fabric on the floor. The exhibition continues with four other ‘dresses’ that sport either exaggerated or missing parts. Semmes has been making works that explore the dress form and its relation to the body for years, and this exhibition continues these investigations with its particular nod to Oakley, herself an historical anomaly (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).

Beverly Semmes, "Bubble Pot on Fur with Pink,"
2005, crystal/fur/silk, 27 1/2 x 21 x 8 inches.

Tyler Stallings, who both curates and paints, shows another in his series of lush floral paintings.  Some are intimate (10" x10"), and all of them continue his ability to get the most moist results out of the typically dull acrylic medium.  Orange flower petals almost feel wet and fecund they are so well conceived (Newspace Gallery, Hollywood).

Tyler Stallings, "Backglow," 2005, acrylic,
oil and alkyd on canvas, 24 x 22".

Eric Wesley was one of four emerging Los Angeles artists to be granted a solo exhibition at MOCA as part of the MOCA Focus series.  Best known for his witty and cutting sculptural works that investigate social, political, and racial issues, this installation is something of a departure.  The work uses the space as a whole, transforming it into an inaccessible stage on which nothing occurs and onto which viewers have no access.  There is a raised platform painted gray.  A white column appears at its far end.  A single object--an empty frame that references Duchamp’s large glass--sits at the near end.  While other items may be part of the installation, they are not readily visible.  The exhibition seems more academic than aesthetic, but there is enough interest, particularly for fans of conceptual art, to be rewarding (MOCA Gallery at Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood).

Eric Wesley, "Thirty Three Point Three Three Three,"
2006, constructed floor, replica of a column, museum
dead space, and various objects, dimensions vary.