|CONTINUING AND RECOMMENDED, OCTOBER 2012|
Erin Cosgrove, "What Manner of Person Art Thou?" (detail), 2012, installation view at Mount St. Mary's College.
Concurrent shows from Erin Cosgrove and Cris Costache are particularly timely. The two veteran artists give a simultaneous test of Biblical and political knowledge and demand that the viewer grant time and attention to their unusually complex art. Both artists meditate upon the state of the world with the sardonic despair of disappointed idealists. Cosgrove, a gifted animator and conceptual artist, presents "What Manner of Person Art Thou?" featuring the (mis)adventures of “Elijah Yoder and Enoch Troyer,” Amish-types who wander through Biblical terrains. Cosgrove tells the tale of this pair of Zeligs in two ways. She visually quotes the Bayeaux Tapestry, as the ground for her version of Genesis. These first books of the Bible are invaded by the time travelers who participate in a continuous narrative on a long stretch of linen depicting the Fall of Man. Cosgrove’s second version of Genesis, an animated tale of America as the Garden of Eden despoiled, shows our heroes and their foes acting out the Fall of America.
A modern day Giotto, Costache also takes up this theme of America gone awry with his version of "The Life of Christ." This artist reminds us that human history began in the Middle East. A long series of single framed illustrations, each shaped like an iPad screen, presents his version of history since 9/11 with Bush administration figures playing the parts of the hallowed figures of the New Testament. Imagine Colin Powell as the Angel Gabriel who announces to the Virgin Mary, played by Condelezza Rice, that she is with child. And then imagine George W. Bush as Christ or “Susej.” To see Martha Stewart as Mary Magdalene and add players in the misbegotten Bush Administration gamboling throughout Mesopotamia, meeting up with Yasser Arafat, Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein is to know that in the end, once again, the promise of a modern day Eden (America) will be betrayed. Costache, a self-described Luddite, “prints” with found newspaper images xeroxed on colored papers, juxtaposed with his own expressive drawings of the chosen actors. The result of this painstaking collage process is a clash of civilizations of a different kind - the iPhone generation meets the Xerox generation - and a sardonic reminder that these stories of conflict in the Middle East are still with us today (Mount St. Mary's College, José Druis-Biada Gallery, West Los Angeles).
Erin Cosgrove, "Urfather Jefferson," 2012, polychrome basswood, 72 1/2 x 46 x 3".
Those familiar with Erin Cosgrove's elaborate-and-homemade animations may be surprised to encounter the carved and painted basswood pieces at the center of this concurrent gallery exhibition. Functioning as "low-reliefs," which is to say that they're free-standing, with fully carved and painted fronts and backs but not quite in the round, the five figures portrayed in the central gallery are the "Urfathers," among them Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson. These deified portraits mix Japanese Yokai with a little bit of folk art and the sureness of the artist's drawing style, as previously mastered in Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. Cosgrove's multi-hybrid iconography – which includes "Urfather Jefferson's" take on tea-bagging, in which his near body-sized scrotum is slung over his should to become a travel sac/burden/mortal force – is rooted in her quasi-biblical videos, going back particularly to the epic 2004-08 piece, "What Manner Person Art Thou?" In addition to the low-relief "Urfathers," the show includes drawings and two videos, including the 13-minute "In Defense of Ghosts" which gives the show its title. "In Defense of Ghosts" pits a purposefully didactic, live-action lecture with seductive animated offerings projected as if to accompany the speaker's presentation in a darkened lecture hall. It's a novel dynamic that builds steadily to a perfect opportunity for chaos, once those space-holder demarcations are dutifully broken down and the apotheosis of Cosgrove's magic unfolds (Angles Gallery, Culver City).
Michael Queenland, "Rudy's Ramp of Remainders" (detail), 2012, plasticized balloon, Kix cereal, newspapers.
Michael Queenland is a photographer turned sculptor who studied at UCLA and now teaches at Yale. He fills the cavernous museum space with what appears to be fabricated detritus. Entitled "Rudy's Ramp of Remainders" the installation repurposes objects first seen in a German discount store. Among the objects scattered through the gallery are cereal boxes and balloons as well as Afghan war carpets rugs, foam and PVC pipe. The elements are presented on the floor, on industrial shelves. atop plastic and a page from the New York Times. The scattering of the props (called ramps but in reality piles) permits viewers to walk through the space and even sit down on a large expanse of black foam. The installation is obtuse, but makes one question the relationship between found and fabricated (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).
Jacci Den Hartog, "I' Not a Greedy Girl," 2011, acrylic on paper and hydrocal with steel mesh, on powder coated aluminum table, 32 1/2 x 26 x 20".
"Come and Show Me The Way" is an exhibition of new and old sculptures by Los Angeles based artist Jacci Den Hartog that allows viewers to trace the lineage between past and present. The new works are striking and mesmerizing. Landscapes have always figured prominently in Den Hartog's works. In her last exhibition these landscapes became three-dimensional sculptures reminiscent of flowing water. Currently she presents the landscape as abstract and patterned mounds that reference mountains. Titles are taken from Dusty Springfield songs and point the reading of the work in the direction of memory and loss, both physically and spiritually. One visually traverses the landscapes depicted in the works, hypothetically traveling along a striation of color - a line that first moves along a horizontal plane before ascending a sculpted mountain only to descend on the other side. The works are about journeys through the language of painting as much as across a landscape (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).
Margaret Griffith, "Coringa," 2012, hand cut paper.
Margaret Griffith began an exploration of aspects of impermanence, permeability, confinement, protection, fear and isolation by photographing gates in her Highland Park neighborhood and questioning property owners about the history and meaning of those hard metal guardians of their urban homes. You can listen to recordings of these interviews while viewing the decidedly more fragile, pliable, hand cut paper replicas of the fences Griffith has transformed into her sculptural installation. By rolling, folding, stacking, twisting and suspending her work from ceiling to floor, Griffith has converted her grey, black and delicately pastel colored cut paper representations of fences into fascinating two and three-dimensional artifacts. The patterns they form, enhanced by the stark whiteness of the gallery walls, are striking. In a full range of sizes, they become subject to multiple interpretations, both visually and symbolically. The cut paper image that most clearly reads as a segment of chain link fence is fittingly displayed flattened against the wall in an area that separates Griffith’s work from the section of the gallery where Richard Gate’s colorful printed and painted new imagery on paper is displayed. Interspersed with ancient astronomical and anthropological symbols, Gates’ images of fish, hawks and other free ranging wildlife, normally at home in open spaces, compellingly contributes to boundary issues examined by Griffith (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).
Christopher Michlig, "Kiosk (subtraction)," 2009, wood, laminate, 18 x 48 x 108".
Christopher Michlig has been making collages from found Colby posters – those ubiquitous neon sign posters mainly seen attached to chain link fences – for several years now, and this latest iteration suggests that the final destination of this inquiry may be 'pure' abstraction. The imagery that previously existed included letters and character symbols, which have been used both in a textual minimalism as well as in arrangements of throbbing interplay. They've all been cast aside here, leaving the objects themselves, which had already been quite visceral, boiled down to simply poster board and glue. It's a crafty direction for sure, but throughout Michlig's ongoing investigation the posters' potential, there's always been an inherent interest in the ontology of design. The artificiality of the given neon palette – green, yellow, pink, and orange - is a bold proposition aesthetically, especially when used in iris-popping combination. Here, the strongest works are full-on brightness barrages, as in the largest work, a succession of layered and overlapping rectangles and cut-out sections. Among the smaller works, which are about 8 1/2 x 11 inches, when the slimmest edges of color glow thru the margins of otherwise white bands of poster, they achieve a state of post-belief system bliss crossed with textiles crossed with a high-art level of design. It will be interesting to see if the artist manages to continue maneuvering and in turn evolving through the self-imposed limitations of Colby-land, or if instead he's reached an endgame (Marine Projects, Venice).
Peter Wegner, "Buildings Made of Sky," 2004-07, inkjet prints.
In "Buildings Made of Sky" Peter Wegner exhibits only photographic works. Better know for his painting, sculpture and installations, these photographs are assembled into grids as well as linear narratives. Wegner has a keen eye and is drawn to presenting the obvious in new and unusual ways. The series entitled "Buildings Made of Sky" consists of photographs of skyscrapers that focus on the blue sky between the buildings. He rotates the images 180 degrees and presents them upside down so the negative space of the sky echoes the shape of the builds. In his own words: “Walking down the street in New York one day, I glanced up and saw an invisible building suspended between the others. It was upside down, the color of air. A few steps later, it disappeared. Then, around the next corner, I saw another building like the first. I felt that I had stumbled upon a secret city, luminous and strange …” As day shifts to night the color of the sky changes. When presented in large grids the color shifts in the sky stand out. What initially seems like a dumb one liner becomes an evocative and meditative abstraction.
The other work in the show, a single piece made up of a horizontal sequence of sixty-nine 9" x 12" color prints called "O/N/E/T/H/I/N/G/L/E/A/D/S/T/O/A/N/O/T/H/E/R/," is more complex, even at times opaque in terms of its logic, but at least as rewarding as "Buildings." A chosen physical conceit, starting with holes, such as "Hole in Rock Wall," gives way to another via some sort of segue, whether apparent or cryptic. Whether it's a "Recently Hosed Sidewalk" that's followed by a "Puddle, Gas Station," or "Run-Over Carrots" that gives way to "Car Hoods," one proceeds through the sequence with alternating degrees of confidence and clarity. One moment you're following a still version of a Fischli & Weiss video, the next you're stumbling to reconcile a perplexing leap from one photo to the next. All the while though, you're seduced by beautiful photographs of found objects from man in concert with nature, recognizing that a visual logic by no means needs to equate with a literal one (Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Santa Monica).
Devin Troy Strother, "A Black Chris Burden in, 'Shoot me in the arm nigga'," 2012, acrylic, gouache and paper collage on panel, 8 x 10".
Devin Troy Strother is a prolific young artist. "Front, Back, Side to Side" continues where the previous exhibition (2010) left off; filling the gallery with quirky works inhabited by black paper cut-out female figures. Strother draws from art and music sources to create whimsical works that conflate high- and low-tech, craft and culture. He paints, draws, and assembles found and crafted elements making his own kind of cabinets of wonder. His works examine racial stereotypes in a playful and open manner. He also presents his first large scale aluminum sculpture, "Thats my gurrrl Quiesha," a larger than life-size cut-out of his signature reclining nude woman with a huge afro. Among the most interesting pieces are a series of works depicting artists John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Josef Beuys and Marina Abramovic as black. He has crudely drawn and painted an image from one of their works, changing the skin tone of the white artist to black. Strother pushes the boundaries of media and subject matter with real determination (Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica).
Daniel Joseph Martinez, "A Story for Tomorrow in 4 Chapters, Dostoevsky Loved the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Muhammad Ali and Dandelions, Lick my hunch!," 2010-2012, archival pigment print with UV finishing coating, 74 x 60".
Daniel Joseph Martinez has always created confrontational works that shed light on the current political climate. Often using himself as subject, he has created life-sized replicas as well as employed make-up artists to augment and distort his body, which is then photographed. The current exhibition is succinctly entitled, "I am a verb. I traded the future of humans for a caramel Frappuccino, there will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined," and consists of four large scale photographs as well as neon and sculptural objects. In the photographs his back appears to have an unsettling hunchback. Martinez seizes on power relationships and in each of the four photographs he references spiritual as well as political leaders. He suggests that however distorted the artist/creator may be, he still is in a position of power. Other works include a replica of the Statue of Liberty that intersects two gallery walls - another clear reference to the diluted power of symbols. Martinez is at once a jester and a story teller. His work is often confrontational and ironic, yet there is always meaning behind the madness. He asks viewers not only to look, but to read and to listen, first to what he says and presents, and more importantly to how that resonates outside the gallery in the space of the world (Roberts & Tilton Gallery, Culver City).
Andrea Bowers, "A Menace to Liberty," 2012, marker on found cardboard, 160 x 110".
Political art is frequently a tricky proposition, primarily since the context is the art world and the message within is mainly preaching to the choir, or just preachy period. Andrea Bowers has nonetheless long engaged in politically tinged issues, and this latest offering, "Help the Work Along," is as message-oriented as ever, with particular focus on immigrant and labor rights vis-à-vis the Dream Act and the Occupy movement. Here there's even a series of folding tables covered with political flyers representing several labor rights organizations, from hotel workers to food servers. Bowers couldn't pull it off without serving it up with generous amounts of charm, which come in both modest and very large packages. Three 13-foot high works in black marker on found cardboard celebrate the vitality of May Day and unions using early 20th century illustrations from Walter Crane's "The Comrade" and Emma Goldman's "Mother Earth." Rather than coming off as crafty and/or eco-conscious, Bowers transforms the multiple cardboard sections, from food palettes and the like, into gold. These larger works exist alongside modestly scaled pieces that are vintage Bowers: photo realistic drawings of protesters on a tiny scale, set amid large expanses of white paper. These are reliquaries to familiar ideologies, and without Bowers' thoughtful canonizations they would be quickly forgettable (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City).
Masami Teraoka, "The Cloisters Last Supper/Giant Squid Hunters," 2012, oil, gold leaf on panels, 3120 x 3045 x 45 cm.
The priests are getting skewered in Masami Teraoka’s latest lavish and gold-gilded panels in "The Last Supper Series." Or perhaps it is those gray-faced men of the robe who are doing the skewering - as the tabletops are not so much for eating the last supper as for providing a stage for women in various degrees of undress. None of the women were wearing much to begin with, just thongs, thigh-high hose, and sharp stilettos. One cardinal reveals similar attire when his robe blows open. While the degree of lechery and debauchery is self-evident, the level of monstrosity increases with the looking; slices of breast, human breast, slither off the platter and babies hang by their umbilical cords by the sainted whores. It is a shuddering paroxysm; the Church is having a guilty nightmare. Luckily, there is respite nearby in the form of Teraoka’s large watercolors on unstretched canvas in the adjacent room. The subject matter may be as dismal (AIDS), but the cool blue reserve and beauty of his watercolors offer relief to the eyes. It must all be seen, but know that it is a grand, but unfunny lampoon (Samuel Freeman, Culver City).
Jeannie R. Lee
Wes Hempel, "Gravedigger," 2012, oil on canvas, 32 x 24".
As a general rule, society dictates not only who is represented in art, but how. Consequently, vast segments left out of the equation lead to either incomplete or misleading histories. With changing contemporary mores, oversights are ripe for amendment. Wes Hempel steps into this breach, using neoclassical history painting and Dutch landscapes to re-envision depictions of masculinity in the context of contemporary art. By replacing female figures with homosexual males, he seeks to provide them with the caché of art history. Though depicted in historical settings, figures dressed in blue jeans place them solidly in the present. Hempel implies that if women in historical paintings were objects of desire, he would like his males to be to seen in a similar vein. By assigning buff young male figures, perhaps inadvertently, a similar role, does not Hempel simply repeat the sin? For the most part, though, his men to play an active role in either conquering or burying the past. In “Gravedigger,” based on works by 18th century artist Lambert-Sigisbert Adam, two men stand ready to bury the head of a classical sculpture. The nude figure in “Triumph Over Empire,” though dwarfed between the legs of a colossal sculpture, is also ready to triumph over the past. Further referencing the past is “Walking out of the Past,” based on Robert Zund’s 19th century pastoral settings. Here the figure walks through the clouds above the landscape, heading presumably, into an atmosphere where these depictions are no longer considered radical. Hempel’s paintings, albeit didactic, offer provocative narratives between contemporary and historical representations (George Billis Gallery, Culver City).
Andy Freeberg, "Sean Kelly: Art Basel Miami 2010," 2010, photograph.
The concept of the art world may well be an easy target for satire, for skewering, or just for downright ridicule, but to engage in such a practice is an art in itself. With "Art Fare," Andy Freeberg takes on – or might "showcases" be the better verb? – the art world. He delivers it at its most loaded and condensed in the form of the the art fair, including simply product, seller, and booth. While there is a good amount of idleness captured in the form of the ubiquitous gazing at smart phones, it’s the various moments of the mundane, the inconsequential, the absurd and the ridiculous that Freeberg mines to softly hilarious effects, giving the work charm rather than bite. Making interesting work that includes other artworks contained within it is a tricky proposition, but using the dealers as subjects, the artworks, no matter how big, are left to provide context, in addition to becoming relegated to highly mediated experiences within the dynamic. "Sean Kelly: Art Basel Miami 2010," depicting the weary dealer sitting at a table with his head in his hands in front of an immense Kehinde Wiley reclining rapper-turned-saint painting, seems an instant classic. Another crowd pleaser features a trio of preparators, each playing his part in holding up various works to gauge optimal hanging heights for an off-camera director — they, too, have been sucked in to the vortex, which we in turn, as viewers, get to appreciate, perhaps completing the full circle (Kopeikin Gallery, Culver City).
Motoi Yamamoto, "Floating Garden," 2012, installation, day one at the Laband Gallery.
Salt is a humble material, plentiful and ubiquitous. In Japan it has been used in funeral rites and at the start of a sumo match, where it is thrown into the ring as an act of purification. In 1994 Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto began to work with salt, grains of salt, in installations, as a tribute to his sister, who died of brain cancer at age 24. It is a painstaking and loving labor. In previous projects he has poured salt into mountain shapes or formed it into steps. Here he creates a landscape called “Floating Garden,” executed directly onto the floor. He works from a sketch, marking the floor in a grid and then extruding lines of salt from a long nozzle attached to a plastic bottle. He forms small loops into a netlike pattern, working one small section at a time.
“Floating Garden” is evocative of a pond covered with foam or of an elaborate piece of lace. Its power is in its combination of delicacy and ephemerality, both connecting with Yamamoto’s themes – the beauty of life and also its fleeting nature. It’s a meditative work, and visitors are welcome to walk around it, with a special scaffolding built along the far wall of the gallery for viewing from above. On the side walls are a number of his works on paper – drawings and photographs linked to his installation work. Yamamoto has elegantly thought through this work of art, from its material, to its making, to its how it is shared with others, and all the way to its final disposal. On December 8, the last day of the exhibition, visitors are welcome to come by and help gather up the salt – for return to the Pacific Ocean (Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, West Side).
Mariah Robertson, "110," 2012, unique color print on metallic paper, 72 x 66".
This sharp and vibrant gathering of five women artists loyally adheres to its title, "Photography Sculpture Figure," by proffering photographs and sculptures, and/or sculptural photographs, from each. All New York-based, their work embodies an aggressively modern, hybrid sensibility that gives current photography a fresh shot of adrenaline. Daphne Fitzpatrick, in addition to showing freestanding sculptures, makes oversized slides in which the mounts become frames, and turns a found poster and a found magazine into objects that flirt with the painterly, with a dirty, pop cultural bent. Mariah Robertson, who was a standout in "Someone Put a Pineapple Together," last winter's group show at Acme, makes unique color prints with innovative expressionistic gestures, replete with drips, splotches and searing dodges; they rest as objects within frames, with the exception of her installation-based inclusion, a 164-foot scroll that hangs on and from the ceiling and unrolls across the floor, a full-court press of the photo-as-sculpture thesis. Even Sara Vanderbeek's black-and-white photos, accompanied by somewhat reductive sculptures, feel a little mischievous in this context. All the works manage to reconcile serious ambition with playfulness and wit (M+B Fine Art, West Hollywood).
Angela Kallus, "Fault Line," 2012, acrylic on canvas over panel, 53 x 53".
Angela Kallus’ paintings are a series of tondos on 53 inch canvases over panels. The show is comprised of six exceptionally well crafted works that speak to sculpture as much as they do painting. Five out of the six are fashioned out of large amounts of acrylic paint that have been carefully coaxed into troweled concentric circles on each of the canvases in varying patterns. Each of these pop art-like works have a slightly different color palette - variations of primary colors and sometimes green. “Hudson” and “Roy G. Biv” have a fine mist of yellow, orange or purple color sprayed around the circular edges of the images that lends them a soft, spiritual quality. The otherwise strong symbolic circular shapes resemble old school LP records. There is also a deliberately visible mark that has been left where the trowel that Kallus used can be seen, showing the hand of the artist and breaking the formal purist of the image. The most compelling piece, titled “Fault Line,” is a myriad of individually painted bright red roses in varying sizes. Each rose is a sculptural form unto itself. There is also a curious blue circle that has been very lightly sprayed and superimposed onto the sumptuous surface of the roses (Peter Mendenhall Gallery, Miracle Mile).
Rafaël Rozendaal, "Falling Falling," 2012, installation.
Dutch artist Rafaël Rozendaal's "Everything Always Everywhere" consists of two installations, one quite successful and the other a dud. Across the main gallery's long wall hang a succession of 14 mirrors, escalating in size from the screen size of a cell to that of a large-screen TV. If you work hard enough you may get a handle on various deconstructed viewings of the gallery's features, while contemplating our inseparable framing devices for the world, but your best bet is passing through installation one, "Popular Screen Sizes," and on to the back room. "Falling Falling" consists of a three-wall animated projection of abstract shapes descending in a constant cascade towards the floor, which in turn is covered in shards of broken glass, softly reflecting the perpetual sink along with attention-getting highlights. A third and crucial element of the installation is a soundtrack, an descending version of what's called a Shepard tone, a somber affair which you can think of as the audio equivalent of a barber's pole, albeit far less chipper; that the tone is built on sine waves mirrors the descending shapes. "Falling Falling's" greatest coups are that it manages to constantly keep your gaze moving – there's no single point to possibly settle on - and, miraculously, this becomes something akin to a meditative experience, as opposed to the more torturous one that it may conjure (Steve Turner Contemporary, Miracle Mile).
Penelope Gottlieb, "Potentilia multijuja," 2012, acrylic and ink on panel, 78 x 84".
Sad but true, much wildlife is becoming extinct. But when Penelope Gottlieb learned that plants also are disappearing at a rapid rate, she decided to take on the subject of Extinct Botanicals. Gottlieb set out to do whatever she could to preserve such plant life. In her pursuit, she discovered that many plants were never drawn or photographed and, at best, their names are now mere footnotes. While she researched, contacted botanists, traveled, and read whatever she could, the most effective channel for her turned out to be through paint. This show is comprised of vibrant, dynamic, abstract, and dramatic depictions of plants, not in the disinterested manner of the scientist, but emotional renderings that capture the wonder of botanical structures, shapes, and designs. Using saturated reds, oranges, and other brilliant colors, each plant shouts to make us look at it - and to mourn its loss. Bold leaves, stems, petals, and roots fly, explode, and burst with and energy that embraces the viewer. It also helps that the work is often six feet high and five feet wide. Gottlieb’s paintings capture the elegance and details of plants; yet, in some cases, she relied on verbal descriptions rather than on an unavailable image. Gottlieb crosses such a line, favoring to create stirring compositions and dramatic arrangements of colors, textures, shapes, and space. While we relish the beauty of each painting, we never lose sight of Gottlieb’s mission.
Ruth Pastine’s latest series, "Counterpoint," is a luscious group of pastel on paper pieces. Like its musical name, "Counterpoint" is a unique relationship between different voices, independent and separate. But when each voice shares the same ground, unexpected possibilities emerge. In "Counterpoint #24" reds, oranges, and pinks dialogue, each to its own rhythm. They amplify each other as their colorful tones sing out in harmony and in contradiction. Pastine is a colorist whose reputation as a painter has been built on the beauty of her rigorous search to push new color and perceptual possibilities. Her gradient and enigmatic worlds of pastels play off each other; a play of color against color, color supporting color, and color for the sheer delight of brilliant light that only color can emit. Her contrapuntal drawings are deceptively simple as complex rhythms, layers, and contours awaken the senses to experience the emergence of fresh spatial relationships. Going beyond her previous series, these works on paper reveal the "edge" rather than the seamless (Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Miracle Mile).
Tim Braden, "Agence de Voyage," 2012, installation, is current on view at Ambach & Rice.
Tim Braden's paintings and works on paper mine personal travel photos – some his, others those of friends – to an effect that is emotionally aloof yet somehow painterly and intimate. Accompanied by vintage hanging letters compiled in the form of the show's title and Arabic sign text that's faithfully reproduced, the proceedings strongly intone the found. Each image strives to be as true as possible to its snapshot source, which here means varying degrees of having been weathered and washed-out, especially the oil on canvas works, which have sanded down layers that make them glow on a larger scale. In lavishing such devotion to each faded photo, the London-based Braden eliminates any residue of the sentimental in deference to the tactility, the object-hood of the image. That we don't know nor care about any of these people, or even places, is a conceit that Braden embraces, and in doing so the works become nostalgia-free journeys into a universal traveling past (Ambach & Rice, Miracle Mile).
Retna, "Serenity of Mind States," 2011, enamel, acrylic and crystalina on canvas, 97 x 103”.
The wave of graffiti and street artists making their way into the white cube continues with one of its heroes, Marquis Lewis or better known as Retna. The artist is recognized for his stylized lettering that adorns everything from walls to clothing. One of his most visible projects is on the side of the recently opened West Hollywood Library that reaches several stories in height. The blue tinted calligraphy inspired letters draw from many cultural influences to form an inspired alphabet. While writing letters places Retna in the tradition of graffiti, the abstract nature of the symbols mixed with the painterly process makes them much more decorative and dangerously close to becoming wallpaper. Yet the graphic quality is difficult not to appreciate when transferred to paper and canvas. The sprawling letters work best in high contrast with the background. The quality of the line work and order is commendable, and each new combination of colors and scale opens things up a bit more. However, one must wonder how far Retna can take this? Graffiti writers who simply write their names over and over become tiresome. There are examples of Retna pushing his vocabulary by adding crystalline to his letters, but this doesn’t amount to more than a high-end bedazzler. The old school graph paintings that mix a three dimensional aspect are refreshing in comparison with the line work on the paper based works (Michael Kohn Gallery, West Hollywood).
G. James Daichendt
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, "L'Oiseau dans l'espace," 2012, installation view, is current at Christopher Grimes.
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle's works are richly layered, multi-media investigations into multiple subjects and their associations. Each exhibition could contain its own flow chart of references. In his current exhibition "L'Oiseau dans l'espace" the initial reference is to Constantin Brancusi's sculpture, "Bird in Space." Manglano-Ovalle created a replication of this work and subjected it to a Mach-14 wind tunnel, photographically documenting the effects of the force on the sculpture. In these abstracted photographs what appears to be fabric is actually the force field. Flight is the underlying theme of the exhibition. "Apophis Orbit Drawing" tracks the project path of the Apophis asteroid that is predicted to hit earth in 2029. A model of the asteroid sits atop of one of 42 Langstroth moveable beehives fabricated specifically for the exhibition. These carefully crafted boxes appear as a grid of sculptures in the gallery. Each element in Manglano-Ovalle's work informs the other, but the whole never becomes overly didactic. His visual sense is acute as is his attention to detail. These projects are conceptually rooted and research driven, but there is always an aesthetically engaging element (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).
Samella Lewis, "Masquerade," 1994, ink and oil stick on paper.
"African American Visions: Selections from the Samella Lewis Contemporary Art Collection" reflects the passions of the Scripps College professor emeritus, who gathered significant art that tells part of the history of African Americans and their artists. Enriching the stories are Lewis’ personal visions, her own paintings and printmaking. The exhibition pays homage to the sensitivity of the multifaceted Lewis, but the true focus is on a determined people who contribute much to the building of America and its culture. From lesser known artists (Ron Adams) to those who are internationally established (Carrie Mae Weems), the exhibition projects the transformation that took place at the starting point of Lewis' collecting activity to the present. Moving chronologically through drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures, early work tells the story of survivors, hard workers, and preservers who were trapped in a social situation that seemed irreversible. There is Elizabeth Catlett’s woodcut, "Survivor," a woman poised from a hard day’s labor in a field; or Catlett’s lithograph of "Margaret Walker," who is trapped in the despair and violence of racial history. Less political, but powerful is the silver gelatin print taken by Robert Hale of John Outterbridge posed near one of his sculptures. Among the most daring work is that of Alison Saar, who is a product of the Civil Rights generation. She looks at the status of her people, particularly women, with piercing eyes. In "Mirror, Mirror," a face of dark skinned women is overlaid by and becomes one with a bronze skillet. The round pan and its handle resembles a mirror reminiscent of the one used in the film "Snow White," endowing the form with another level of meaning. For Saar, the skillet is a backdrop that suggests that black women were identified with menial labor, unlike the princess and the queen in the film (Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont).
David Michael Lee, "Herb 51," acrylic on hemp over board, 11 x 14".
Hard-edge paintings, popularized in 1960s Southern California, are given new life and dimensions by David Michael Lee. The seventeen works here adhere to the hard-edge principles of clean-edged geometric forms with intense primary colors. But he takes artistic liberty with this 50-year-old style in two significant ways. While his forms are precisely and geometrically drawn, his canvas is different from those of hard-edge pioneers Benjamin, McLaughlin, Hammersley and Feitelson. Using hemp over board, Lee gives his works an organic textural look that complements while diverging from that of the older artists work. Lee’s overall effect is softer, more open than traditional hard-edge, approaching a meditative quality. He explains, “Here forms are situated in space, in an openness crafted to explain a vast expanse and how I understand everything moving through time.” Lee, also influenced by his 16-year stint as studio assistant to octogenarian artist Tony DeLap, does not paint on mere canvas; he creates what the older artist refers to as “shaped paintings” or “hyperbolic paraboloids" — artworks that are hybrid paintings and sculpture that stand out from the wall and that seem to change shape as the viewer moves around them. These works, composed of square, rectangular and diamond shapes, all in primary colors, on black or deep blue backgrounds, and they appear to be hovering off the wall of the all-white gallery. They remind us of the pure beauty and artistic significance of basic shapes and colors (Brett Rubbico Gallery, Newport Beach).
Lisa Schulte, "A Conversation," 2012, neon, 20 x 8 feet.
Neon, that bane of post-industrial America, that tool for giant billboards that blight our cities and highways, takes on surprising, even spectacular significance in the works of Lisa Schulte. This filmmaker/artist, who understands the effects of sets and lighting, has crystallized this unusual medium, bending it, shaping it, manipulating it to create works that are like gems that delight and even startle the viewer. Displayed as they are here in the front gallery, the neon sculpture titled “Conversation” is made up of 18 small square blue, red and green neon jewels that lights up the wall, floors and ceiling and even glows onto North Coast Highway outside. Another piece, “Lucky” is one long, abstract strand of gray material that curves in and upon itself, as an elegant brooch might, and is lit with a continuous line of small blue neon circles. “Bella,” a subtler four-part work of light gray squares, each with one long curving, abstract while neon line, has a skywriting, otherworldly aspect. The artist says, “[Neon] is light extracted from air – and manifested into form. One could say that working in neon is akin to bringing sky to touch ground – harnessing the spiritual to the earth.” Mission accomplished (JoAnne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach).
Linda Day, "Pulse," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 60 1/2 x 60 1/2". Courtesy of David Scardino
Viewers of this double-header will immediately be struck by how complimentary the works of Linda Day and Patrick Wilson are to one another. Though both solo shows consist of colorful, abstract paintings, the vision of each artist is unique and unmistakable. Day describes her process as losing herself while "Swimming in Paint." Put another way: Day's colorful abstractions act as a "Pulse," to draw on the title of one work. While painting, she surrenders her entire body (pulse, heartbeat, and breath) to whatever experience or emotion she's feeling. By contrast, Wilson creates geometric abstractions using a technique he calls a "Pull." He paints vibrant rectangles that often jump off the wall as optical illusions. Through his process of "pulling," he "builds" his compositions by intellectually layering one shape, one color, and one line at a time. Agreeing with Henri Bergson that individuals need to analyze each life experience, Wilson fervently wishes that viewers would slow down and take the time to fully experience his work. The paintings by both artists are in fact extremely visceral - not merely intellectual. Whether encountering one of Day's "Ou-Boum" paintings (inspired by haunting, reverberating cave sounds on a trip to India), or entering the center of one of Wilson's hypnotic frame compositions, let the experience of the work wash over you. We're all familiar with tromp l'oeil and we've all experienced optical illusions. Therefore be prepared. Some of Wilson's paintings jump off the wall while your eye marches right through the negative space in the middle of his framed rectangles (CSU Long Beach, University Art Museum, Long Beach).
Tim Craighead, "Dos Mundos," 2005-09, oil, alkyd and casein on linen, 72 x 60".
Tim Craighead presents a group of thirteen works, nine on paintings on linen and four framed works on paper. Craighead applies a combination of oil, alkyd, casein, ink and graphite to images that sit somewhere within the spectrum of both abstraction and representation. The color palette is decidedly organic and derived from the natural environment. He has a painterly style that also strongly references drawing and mark-making, with special attention paid to the background surfaces. Their quality reveals the artist’s love of painting and the exploration of glazing and layering with an array of color values and tones. Within each work may be seen what appear to be small areas of energy patterns created with brush and line, as well as geometric structural shapes and realistically rendered drawings of plant-like forms. It is the relationship among these elements that provides the artist with ample room to explore (R.B. Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla).
Tom McMillan, "Mitosis 3 Series," 2012, lustered glazed ceramic.
Artist families were common in the past. In the European Middle Ages, male children often apprenticed with artist-fathers and inherited the workshop. If there were no adult males available, the master artist’s wife might take over. But in the Modern Era, with its hyperbolic individualism, the tradition of artist families became rare. Today, it’s unusual to see art produced by three family members — but that is precisely what is on view in “Brilliance.” The exhibition begins with spectacular ceramic vessels by Tom (husband and father) McMillin. Tom’s clay work has been enhanced by research he did for the Beatrice Wood Center, recreating the formulas of Wood’s famed glazes. The pearlescence of Tom’s vessels is echoed in the jewel-like wall pieces from his "Mitosis Series," with faceted wedges curling like enlarged cellular chromosomes. Lustrous surfaces also sheathe the "Spectrum Series" by Russell (Tom’s son) McMillin. Life-sized torsos, bound by ornate armor, stand as Janus soldiers in seductive but disturbing representations of warfare. They’re gorgeous and powerful — but they are militants, so they threaten as well. Gerri (Tom’s wife) McMillin uses fiber optics wire to create a new species: fantastical basket-woven jellyfish. Gerri’s jellies hover and sway in dark interiors, luminous and haunting like their poisonous organic counterparts. The title of the exhibition works on two levels. The McMillin artworks shine with truly scintillating surfaces. They are conceptually brilliant as well, mixing their adamant visual appeal with notional questions and contradictions (Beatrice Wood Center, Ventura County).
Betty Ann Brown