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October, 2006

Chris Jordan's stunning color photographs depict both the beauty and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina's wake.  Jordan focuses his camera on the details and the harsh color relationships between the human elements left behind contrasted with the detritus of the flood.  For example "Toy Car" depicts a child's toys abandoned in a field of twigs and wood, which relates the scope of the devastation on a personal level.  The images, while not sensationalist, focus on the details and the chance juxtapositions that comes from careful observation.  Jordan's images are devoid of people, but it is clear that the hurricane impacted lives as well as property.

Chris Jordan, "9th Ward 360,"
2005, color photograph, 20 x 24".
We are voyeurs and tourists passing through real and ruined lives just to have a look.  That said, all proceeds from the show go to victims, and images on view are supremely respectful and more than rigorous aesthetically (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Tony Smith, "Wall" and "The Key to. Given!"
installation view, 1965, both steel sculpture.

Two huge black Tony Smith sculptures fill the vast space here.  One is a large rectangular monolith entitled "Wall."  This work, from an edition of three, was originally created in 1964 and becomes a barrier/blockade in whatever space it is presented.  Shown alongside "The key to. Given!" (1965), the two pieces begin to talk to each other.  One is solid and static, the other comprised of three L-shaped pieces that, while still solid, also have a sense of movement despite the heaviness of its materials. Both pieces are steel and weigh tons.  The works resonate and become signifiers for the depth and force of minimalism (Griffin, Santa Monica).

Andy Moses, "The Long Kiss Goodnight,"
2006, acrylic on concave canvas, 54 x 114".

Here is a pairing that we cannot resist.  First and always stunning are 20 years of drawings for plans of his last eight major museum projects by Frank Gehry.  Unlike most architectural drawings that are precise and mechanical, Gehry's drawings have a free handed sense of "discovering the form" that is more common to non-functional mark-making.  The really amazing part is that after inventing these often surreal shapes in pencil and paper—akin to the ones which undulate like rolling hills imagined in metal at Bilbao--Gehry actually builds them!

Frank Gehry, "Puente de Vida: Panama
Museum of Biodiversity", drawing.

In addition to Bilbao, you will see whimsical and stunning prep drawings and conceptions for the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, the Samsung Museum of Modern Art in Seoul, plus never before displayed sketchbooks from the 1970s and ‘80s.  This is rounded off by two huge shaped canvases painted in iridescent hues by Andy Moses (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Merion Estes, "Toxic Depths," 2004,
fabric, oil, acrylic on panel, 80 x 60".

Ken Gonzalez-Day, "Nightfall," 2006,
chromogenic print, 60 x 75".

Two views of nature, one abstract, amoebic and painted by Merion Estes, the other more literal, figurative and photographed by Ken Gonzales-Day are a great pairing. A mini-retrospective of Estes' work from 1971 to 2006 shows her to be a painter possessed of an amateur’s fascination for science: think Terry Winters’ work from the late 1980s.  Concentric, nucleus-like circles and transparent bubble-like clusters that remind one of developing cell masses float on a black ground.  Gonzales-Day captures isolated bits of the environment.  Old, blanched trees set in a dark, lightless space are shot from a very close range just at the roots or stems to look rather like an enlarged and colorless vascular system.  This is a very juicy, lush show (Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont).

Giorgio de Chirico, "The Invincible Cohort,"
1973, oil on canvas, 47 1/4 x 32 1/4".

Philip Guston, "Ramp," 1979,
oil on canvas, 60 x 48".

Who would have known that the teenage Philip Guston had his “aha” moment of inspiration right here in L. A. when he was introduced to works by Giorgio de Chirico in Louise and Walter Arensberg’s living room?  Applaud at “chance” meeting and be prepared to be knocked out by the punches delivered to any suspicion that the dark Italian artist with uneasy ties to Surrealism had little in common with the sometimes brutish American renowned for breaking from Abstract Expressionism to address topics as troubling as hooded Ku Klux clan members.  This carefully orchestrated, side-by-side presentation of twenty-six paintings by the two esteemed artists offers evidence that Guston looked carefully at de Chirico’s work.  Affinities beyond melancholia are revealed, such as the use of compositional elements and motifs that include mannequins, frames, stretcher bars and timepieces (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

Kim Schoen, "Untitled 10", potassium chlorate,
aniline dye, 2005, Light-jet print, 48 x 59 1/2".

You can't tell exactly what you are looking at when you first look at the light jet prints by Kim Schoen, but you can tell it is indeed sublime--that combination of wonder and complete befuddlement that makes a Turner seascape or his London fire scenes so appealing.  You may not know exactly what you are looking at but you will know the unique feel of these prints have something to do with the very complicated materials with which they are printed: strontium carbonate, potassium perchlorate, regdum, charcoal and more.  These arcane substances render deep, deep blue expanses in which a pinpoint of distant exhaust appears to explode and then evaporate in mid air.  These images call to mind that infamous photograph from the Challenger disaster, recording how in an instant massive matter turned to distant puffs of smoke.  Other images call up little tendrily, incandescent ribbons of light, or exploding fireworks viewed from very far away (Bank, Downtown).

As life becomes more fragmented, it seems artists are more and more interested in our experiences of vast urban spaces.  Tackling the tension between the intimate and the public that is part of our 21st century subjective reality, Susan Logoreci makes birds-eye view drawings in rich, deep pigments of infinitely expanding, detailed clutters of dwellings--malls, civic centers, suburban backyards.  These are all massed together in an urban plan that is an imagined combination of LA, NY and SF civic identities.  These crowded fictional spaces are captured from way above, so that buildings swarm and mass.  

Susan Logoreci, "Civic Centers,"
2006, colored pencil and paper, 8 x 14".

Yet they are painted so that even from this distance we are privy to minute details such as office windows, stairs and intimate white picket gates.  The competition for our attention between macro and micro views that demands our scrutiny becomes a nice physical and formal analogy for the way we live our lives.  We want closeness, but pull back from it, and then draw in again when the field gets so vast as to be overwhelming (Cirrus Gallery, Downtown).

Sandra Yagi, "Theseus and
Minotaur," 2006, oil on panel, 16 x 20".

Can something be so bad it comes around eventually and gets good?  That is what one feels while taking a close, long look at this three-person show of artists who are without a doubt good painters and good draftsman (see especially the preparatory drawings by Yagi).  They each have such an overwrought take on their subject you are left a little amazed.  Sandra Yagi takes on myths--Biblical and classical--try so very hard to bring a sense of the bizarre that she can lose her way.  A moment of brilliance is a scene of Theseus squatting over the dying Minotaur--both figures are rendered as detailed muscle studies, the accuracy of which rivals an anatomy text.  
Then there's a Mary and Joseph looking down on a baby that is really conjoined twins fused at the crotch.  Leda is paired with the clearly amorous swan, who is rendered as a perfect museum skeleton.  Jen Heaslip makes dark, sooty paintings titled “Night 1,” “Night 2,” “Night 3,” etc.  Each depicts frontally nude men, some buff, some soft, arms held behind them, genitals prominent, all looking out at us most blankly.  A few wear crowns or masks.  This is like Brad Pitt reversed, as their blanched skin, oddly hairless bodies and vulnerable demeanors cancel out anything as robust as arousal (hetero or homo).  They manage instead to strike a tone that's quite detached.  Randall Cabe rounds out the trio with wonderful painting technique put to dubious ends: images of women, alone and in groups, in the process of removing g-strings, exposing white buttocks and removing their jeans.  The bodies are round and real enough, and the women are most comfortable and electing to be seen.  But this ends up as the oddest mix between good technique and trailer park porn (Bert Green Fine Art, Downtown).

Paul P is a Toronto-based painter whose small oil paintings take their point of departure from James NcNeill Whistler.  The artist paints portraits of males and females whose self conscious posing seems to come from fashion.  The source for Paul P's imagery is gay soft core porn, specifically magazines published between 1960 and the early 1980's.  Each painting depicts the head or face of the subject in naturalistic detail against a muted yellow background.  The background as well as the title for the show comes from Whistler's painting of the same title.  Paul P fuses disparate sources in his work, referencing a specific time as well as a specific style, albeit with a edge favoring the present moment rather than simple nostalgia (Marc Selwyn Gallery, West Hollywood).

Paul P, "Untitled," 2006,
oil on canvas, 24 x 18".

Patrick Nickell, "Modern Spaces," 2005/06, paint
on plywood and cardboard, 109 x 1 1/2 x 84 1/2".

Patrick Nickell is a stickler for the details of form and space; he teaches it, and its careful calibrations constitute the basis for precise work that is all about simple materials, simple colors, the weight and balance of edges and planes as they carve out volumes of air.  Here he shows six very handsome pencil drawings that use line to explore what this visual "first cause" in art is all about.  Anyone who has taken an introductory studio art or design course will recall how you were forced to make 75 lines of differing quality, and to distinguish each from the other.  These drawings will prove to anyone why you do such seeming busywork:  To understand the full nuance of the formal "stuff" of art--edge, rhythm, density, plane and space between marks.  Whatever we are looking at--conceptual or realistic, hardboiled or evocative--form in space is the language by which art communicates.  Nickell gets this idea profoundly.  
Shown with the drawings are plywood sculptures that are painted in soft, quiet colors so as not to distract you from shape.  These carry the argument into 3D, as they project from walls and give physicality to those ideas of support and extension, opposition and force that are alluded to in the drawings (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).

Should we ever think that classicism no longer holds interest, either as a subject or a style of precise idealized realism, David Ligare is back to prove us dead wrong.  In that acutely detailed manner of his that we cannot call photo realism because the artist's effort to recall things Greco-Roman is so heavy handed, Ligare offers up profiles of girls with high straight bridges just like those in Greek vases, only transported from the ancient world to the present.  There are many more paintings, equally virtuoso if not very emotive, that depict symbolic fruit (like the fig) and other still life in vestibules staged to show the sea—in spirit the Aegean--just beyond (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City).

David Ligare, "Ideal Head (Reason),"
2006, oil on canvas, 80 x 66".

Aimee Garcia, "Enigma," 2004,
dye transfer print, 27 1/4 x 20 1/2".
Cuban artist Aimee Garcia’s Vermeer-influenced images of Latin American female faces often display surreal countenances that imply biblical or mythological ideas.  Recent works treat themes along the lines of female hiding.  "The Veil" is a detailed, Northern Renaissance styled face painted on canvas, which she then shrouded in real wire.  Here the style and themes continue in a show called "Role Play," where works still feature isolated, realist figures in sonorous backgrounds painted with a Dutch master feel (if not quite a Dutch master mastery) to suggest iconic gender and cultural roles.  She also adds photography to her range of media (Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood).

Mark Laita, "Polygamist with Wives/Pimp with
Prostitutes," 2003/04, archival print, 20 x 32 1/2" dipt;ych.

Mark Laita is familiar for some of the images of consumer products (flat screens, cars, other gadgets we love to buy) that are seen everywhere around us in top notch print ads.  He works for some of the largest corporations because he is not short on skill.  That incisive, crisp style and eye for the visually fetching are present in a series of photos called "Created Equal."  The show samples the vast array of Americans from all walks, colors and classes, who as we see may not have equal access to the shiny products his commercial work sells.  But here they are given equal focus and equal attention by this artist's democratic and artful lens.  Yes, he is a commercial artist, but there is some poetry in him (Fahey/Klein Gallery, West Hollywood).

Hernan Bas, painting from "The
Great Barrier Wreath" series.
In this new large scale suite "The Great Barrier Wreath," Hernan Bas crafts paintings filled with evocative  adolescent boys, posing and preening, discovering themselves somehow under the cover of dusk in cluttered, circus-like spaces.  As a window into the natural balance between the androgyny and sexuality of youth, his paintings possess a Bosch-like atmosphere that evokes the forbidden in our gender orientation at the cusp of adulthood, these paintings pull you in.  As eroticized and predatory manipulations of a very real world of very real feelings, they make you draw away (Sandroni.Rey, Culver City).

Canadian artists Allyson Mitchell and Andrew Harwood have created an endearing event entitled “Defend the Sugarbush” that is so wildly uncool it is cool.  The two artists' inspired approach puts the gallery (housed in an old dentist's office still wearing its former tenant's interior design), to expert use.  The artists assert a political position, incorporating femininity, naturalism, and/or queerness with crafty installations that are exuberant and sexy.  Mitchell's fun-fur forest of female animals gleefully and defiantly returns a gaze; while Harwood's sequined images evoke teens hugging album covers and swooning along to the minor key (Harvey Levine Gallery, Culver City).

Allyson Mitchell, "The Sugarbush", 2006, mixed media
including found shag, fun fur, glass, plastic, styro, wood,
wire, taxidermy parts various sizes, aprox. 12"x4"x2".

Marcel Duchamp, "Box in a Valise," original 1935-41.
A feast for the eyes is "I’d Love to Turn  You On: Works from the 60s and 70s" curated by collector-dealer, Steven  Leiber.  The show presents multiples and unique works selected to characterize two decades in which such artists as Ray Johnson, Marcel Duchamp, William Wegman, Claes Oldenberg, and  John Wesley were producing ingenious works ranging from conceptual to pop,  political and artistic nonconformity, and moving art into fresh new  directions.  These works in portfolios, artist books, prints and multiples presage almost five decades of influence on artists, today long since established, and on the burgeoning current of then emerging artists: Eleanor Antin to Dan Graham, Dick Higgins to Allan Kaprow, Roy Lichtenstein to Ed Ruscha, Yoko Ono to Andy  Warhol.  
These and many more are all here to serve as mentors for those just  getting their MFAs in the adjacent galleries.  What an education--and they look so fresh!  (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Joao Louro is a Portuguese artist who has been working and exhibiting in Europe for many years.  His work comes out of the conceptual art movement, and displays a primary interest in juxtaposing images and texts.  These new works are from Louro's “History of Crime” series in which he carefully reproduces captions from famous crime photographs.  They are presented below blank or black non-images, allowing viewers to invent or rely on memory to fill in the missing image.  “The Blind Image” series similarly presents nothing--either a glossy red or black expanse--below which he presents a text.  One reads in part: "ABOVE: STILL FROM A FILM: There, snugly wrapped in a white woolen scarf. . . ."

Joao Louro, "1 second in the Story of Crime," 2006,
acrylic on canvas, enamel under plexiglas, 24
units, 25 1/2 x 21 1/4" each, 91 x 163 1/2" installed.
Louro's work is hardly unfamiliar, but is nonetheless convincing.  The works are slick and seductive, yet they also have a depth to their content that resonates particularly well in the context of Los Angeles' media inspired culture (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Frederick Hudson, “Untitled,” c. 1870s.

“Immaterial World” tracks the relationship of photography---that medium touted at its inception to capture the "real"--to spiritualist movements of the early- to mid-1900s.  This included most notably American theosophical societies and also interfaced with Surrealism.  The idea that the mind could tap the unseen and that photographs could capture it provided rich ground for early photo experimenter/rogues like William Mumler, the American who capitalized on early dual exposures to "show" Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln "in the presence of" her dead husband.  The show references the earliest "spirit catcher" and "seance" photos, experiments by the Russian Kirlian (who said he could capture the "aura" of plants), as well as later incarnations of these ideas by eccentric Surrealists like Edmund Teske.  More recent photographers who also deal with the idea of capturing the supernatural through the camera's "truthful" lens are Adam Fuss and Christopher Bucklow. (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

Mike Brodie is a young photographer who travels America and shoots the people he meets--not just any people: the desperate, the homeless, the runaways.  A majority of these photos were taken between June 2005 and January 2006 while Brodie traveled by train between places like Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, California, etc.  What unifies these diverse locales is that Brodie is attracted to and ferrets out the dark side.  You will see druggies, desperate and too young mothers whose tatooed limbs hold children you can't help but feel pain for.  It is a depressing view he gives us, but the framing, the acute focus and color, the trust these types clearly feel around the artist, and therefore the intimate connection he can transmit--all this is utterly seductive.  An image of what looks to be an American Indian runaway--her lip pierced, her hair bleached--fondles a fragile bird.  It strikes a chord that is poignant and oddly angelic (MB Fine Art, West Hollywood).

Mike Brodie, "The Cat Woman / Berkeley, California,"
2006, polaroid photograph, 3 1/2 x 4 1/4".

Tony Oursler, "Spaced," 2006, fiberglass sculpture,
DVD, DVD player, and digital projector, 60 x 67 x 26".
A striking and thoughtful video and sound installation by Tony Oursler tracks both symbolically and kinesthetically the complicated nature of space--what it means to us physically, emotionally, and philosophically.  The work combines audio texts of poems, shaped objects and "music.  “  It’s called music by the artist, but is actually very haunting and  clearly organized sound gleaned by NASA from deepest space.  The arrangement of objects, language and pure sound, the way you are alternately invited to wander and then stopped from moving, has the effect of subtly tweaking your spatial and gravitational expectations--you feel tethered to the ground of the gallery, but equally prone to float off (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

The fabled Ferrus Gallery is celebrated in a three-person show featuring star alumni, Ed Moses, Craig Kauffman and Larry Bell.  Each is shown here experimenting with slight variations on themes that we have  come to expect of them.  There is just enough of a twist on the predictable to call and hold our attention.  In the case of Bell, best known for his reductive plexiglas cube sculptures, it's pleasing to see the work here in two dimensions, which is uncharacteristically free and whimsical.  Sticking with his beloved platonic shapes, he shows densely packed geometric arrangements in which mesh-like collaged and rendered patterns press and collide in square formats.  The more signature look would have kept it all pristine.  The result is a more human vibe.

Craig Kauffman, "Hollywood Walk #2,"
2006, ink and glitter on paper, 23 x 30 1/2".
Moses shows fairly large paintings in which metallic looking pigment is applied thick and pudgy (imagine spilled mercury).  It coalesces into loose, complex evocations of the Minimalist grid.  Most charming by far are Kauffman’s drawings, in fine inked lines mixed with glitter, showing high heeled platform shoes and strange little still lifes (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Peter Alexander, "Culebra," 2006, oil,metal flake and
urethane on aluminum, 60 x 120" (triptych, 60 x 40" each).

Sampling the textbook stuff along with the more current, Peter Alexander shows one classic work from the Light and Space period--a pale pink/coral resin piece--and two very large-scaled recent paintings which fill two galleries.  These continue ideas he began in the 48 foot mural “Blue” that is installed at Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Like that work, these mural sized works are inspired by the Pacific Ocean, but instead of the more facile effects that Alexander has been drawn to in the past, these new works deal with layers of thinned blue oil paint pooling and puddling on smooth sheets of highly polished aluminum to capture or imagine light and color with a greater sense of depth (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Tigers and Jaguars taps work coming out of two strong ethnic communities.  Tigers refers to the influence of Asia and Jaguars to the Latino.   It all speaks to where LA's identity as a cultural melting pot finds a point of fusion.  Though the combination might seem like a stretch, it is actually quite logical and magical at once.  Both cultures share a sense of ritual and mysticism, of a stoic relationship to death, and both display a deep respect for the ancestral and their position as "other" within mainstream society.  You find all these ideas mixed up sometimes in humor, sometimes more seriously.  There is a "cherried out" low rider rickshaw, Zen/Virgin of Guadalupe altar installations, and most beautifully, the paintings of Bari Kumar who fuses Hindu icons—many-armed torsos--with allusions to Christian suffering and saints in beatitude (Craft & Folk Art Museum, West Hollywood).