Dong Qichang, “Landscape in the style of Mi Youren's [1074–1151] Mist and Rain on Summer Mountains,” from the album Landscapes and Calligraphies (detail), c. 1620s–early 1630s, is currently on view at LACMA. Courtesy the Tsao Family Collection.

In 17th century China, the Ming dynasty fell to the Qing, a Manchurian tribe. That time of turmoil and transition produced some great Chinese artists, artists now considered masters of the brush. In the early 20th century one Bay area dealer, Jung Yin Tsao (1923-2011), was able to put together a collection that included representative selections by most of these leading artists, and his collection forms the bulk of a truly stellar Chinese painting show, “Alternative Dreams: 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection.”

The 120 works on view are split into nine sections, with the first given over to Dong Qichang and some of his followers. Others are given to regions, such as Suzhou and Hangzhou, and one even to Buddhist monks. Dong was both versatile and prolific. On the left as you enter the exhibition you can see small album-sized paintings, while further on you can see a series of his tidy but expressive calligraphies. Like many painters, he looked to the past, and his “Landscape in the Style of Wang Meng” shows a surrealistic, knobby mountain rising vertically from the landscape, done in the style of a predecessor. His work was widely admired, and so was his philosophy of art.

Bada Shanren's bird in the exceptional “Rock and Bird” looks up rather suspiciously at an overhanging rock. In Gong Xian’s epic “Landscape,” four tall hanging scrolls provide a panorama of stately mountains punctuated by clouds and waterfalls. It is quite awe-inspiring, consonant with the Taoist spirit which infuses much great Chinese landscape painting.

“Alternative Dreams” is an elegantly designed show, with plenty of space and most of the vertical and horizontal scrolls displayed in their own vitrines. There are bits of color in these works — such as pale greens, blues, and reds — but most of these paintings are done in a soot-based ink wash, which was to the taste of the literati. This is the finest show of Chinese paintings I’ve seen here in a the last dozen years, and kudos should be given to Stephen Little, the museum’s curator of Chinese art, for bringing this show here and for introducing thoughtful scholarship to its presentation (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).#mce_temp_url#

Scarlet Cheng


Ben Sakoguchi, “Chorizeros Brand,” 2008, acrylic on canvas, is currently on view at the Skirball.

As a child Ben Sakoguchi had no access to art. He never went to a museum nor looked at art, yet, he used to ride through San Bernadino’s orange groves and was exposed to the multi-colored and imaginative labels on the orange wooden crates behind his parents’ grocery store. Beyond that, he was inspired by his father’s pursuit of the American Dream and his love for baseball. These childhood impressions gave rise to Sakoguchi’s orange crate label paintings in 1974, which gradually developed into “The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 100-Odd Paintings: The Art of Ben Sakoguchi,” currently presented along with the major exhibition “Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American.” Love certainly informs Sakoguchi’s work — the love for oranges, his father, for enterprise, but especially baseball.

Divided in sections with subject matter ranging from “Los Chorizeros” to “Sectarian Baseball,” from “Able-Bodied” to “Misses,” they share three common elements. In all of them appears a name brand, the word orange and an image of the juicy fruit. Baseball, which writer Jacques Barzun once described as “an American cultural declaration of independence,” is not just glorified in Sakoguchi’s paintings. The images point out important issues in the history of baseball, in which individuals and groups of people were marginalized for decades. For example, in “Miss Fire Brand,” portraying “cold” pitcher Alta Weiss and “hot” shortstop Dottie Schroeder, one can see how the dress code for female baseball players changed from bloomers to mini-skirts, and how two distinguished athletes, who inspired future generations of female baseball players in a “man’s game,” were judged based not so much for their athleticism as how much skin they exposed and how sexually attractive they were (Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles).#mce_temp_url#

Simone Kussatz


Julie Blackmon, “Laying Out,” 2015, archival pigment print, is currently on view at Fahey/Klein.

Missouri-based photographer Julie Blackmon creates hyper-realistic fairy tales that focus on modern life. Combining a rich and nuanced color palette and highly imaginative story telling, Blackmon draws the viewer into carefully detailed scenes that mesmerize with their complexity. Both humorous and dark, these scenarios send a shiver down the our spine even as they charm us, no simple feat. Her amused and subversive take on family life and the larger social scheme is what leads to a compelling story with both a strong political and cultural through-line. The artist has described herself as influenced by 17th century Dutch painter Jan Steen. But the dramedy of everyday life is her true inspiration, and it’s a deeply satisfying source.

Blackmon presents a mysterious, often satiric view on modern life, mixing together elements of an idealized past that never was and a chaotic present in search of safe haven. With a touch of the surreal and a nod toward iconic artworks, Blackmon invites us into a destabilized world with children her primary subjects. The result: a series of photographs that serve as blueprints for the chaos, the conformity, and the self-centeredness of suburban culture as filtered through a familiar yet fascinating surrealist prism (Fahey/Klein Gallery, Miracle Mile).#mce_temp_url#

Genie Davis


Benjamin Lowder, “Eros,” 2016, mixed media on wood, is currently on view at Open Mind.

"Word," a solo exhibition by Illinois-based Benjamin Lowder, is a stunning presentation of mixed media works made from reclaimed lumber and vintage signs. Lowder is a master craftsman who creates evocative wall-based works by fusing basic shapes like triangles into complex two-dimensional structures. He is interested in the metaphysical, the spiritual, as well as natural phenomena that he approaches with a critical eye. Coming from an advertising background, he knows the power of words, but in his artworks he uses word-fragments as compositional and formal elements that lead the eye through the composition. His elegant and beautifully composed works investigate the ways that natural forms can be used as building blocks to create complex geometries that are indebted to Buckminister Fuller. When these forms are juxtaposed with man-made elements there is often a conceptual and formal give and take that provides new ways to think about both natural and fabricated sources (Open Mind Art Space, West Los Angeles).#mce_temp_url#

Jody Zellen


Cave 320 (detail) among the Cave Temples of Dunhuang replicas, High Tang period, ca. 705-781 AD, is currently on view at  Getty Center.


From the 4th century until their abandonment in the 14th and subsequent 20th century revitalization, a string of Buddhist cave temples on the edge of the desolate Gobi dessert, near the oasis of Dunhuang, served as a social, cultural, commercial and religious crossroads. It linked East with West on China’s Silk Road. Hand carved into the cliff face of alluvial conglomerate rock that runs along the Daquan river, the walls of the caves were plastered in a mixture of clay, sand and plant fiber as a ground for colorful, ornate paintings created primarily as forms of Buddhist devotion leading towards promises of a better after-life. The original caves currently attract more visitors than they can safely accommodate without deterioration.

In an effort towards conservation and site stabilization, the Getty has worked in partnership with the Dunhuang Academy on the "Cave Temples of Dunhuang" with tactics that include the erection of carefully crafted duplicates the public can visit off site. As a result, local audiences can now step into any of three exact, full scale replica caves that have been erected on the plaza of the Villa. In addition, the research gallery exhibits over 40 objects discovered in the so called “Library” cave. The world’s oldest dated complete painted book, a sacred Buddhist text, titled the “Diamond Sutra” is on display. Visitors can use 3-D glasses to experience stereoscopic images of Cave 45 along with its seven figure sculpture group. Cave 320’s colorful central peony motif ceiling and collection of small Buddhas is another highlight (Getty Research Institute at Getty Center, West Los Angeles).#mce_temp_url#

Diane Calder


Curtis Ripley, “August Morning,” 2016, oil on canvas, 60 x 48”, is currently on view at William Turner.

If you wish to be carried away from reality for a while, go and see Koji Takei’s “Idiosyncrasy” and Curtis Ripley’s “A Poem About Breathing”. Your mind may get tickled here and there or be reminded of the beauty and lightness to be found by surrendering to the moment. Both artists have a fondness for music. The Japanese-born Takei used to study music at CalArts. His new body of sculpture is comprised of amusing looking objects, some reminiscent of musical instruments. “Irreconciliation”, made of wood, stone and feather, suggests a French horn. “A Thousand Strokes” is built of a traditional bow that’s twisted into a spiral. The latter work was inspired after Takei was watching the movements of a violinist performing at a concert.

Even though Ripley’s paintings do not have the sense of humor of Taikei’s sculptures, they are by no means any less intriguing. The Texan-born artist sometimes refers to them as “Sonnets” and “Sonatas,” for they were inspired by the structure of poetry and music and poetry, both of forms of which aim to express experience as directly as possible through the formal means of meter and rhyme. In “August Morning”, the most vibrant painting in the show, different shades of yellow and orange dominate. There is a single row of seven multi-hued splashes, including blue, purple, orange, white, ochre, black and maroon. They are positioned in the upper center of the painting, evoking the title of a poem by virtue of the placement. In the middle there’s a dense entanglement of miscellaneous lines and splatters, interspersed with musical notes and what appears to be inverted bass clefs. This painting, along with others, has a dreamlike and hazy feel to it (William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica).#mce_temp_url#



Trenton Doyle Hancock, “The Referee,” 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 66 x 108”, is currently on view at Shulamit Nazarian.  Courtesy of Hales Gallery, London.

“Phantom Limb” features the work of five artists — Scott Anderson, Wendell Gladstone, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Maja Ruznic, and May Wilson — who, through a variety of approaches, examine the idea of corporeal form. Hancock’s “The Referee” uses patterns to express the elements that are missing or “phantom” in this piece, in which body parts and faces both human and simian form a quilt-like design. Mythology is a key component of Hancock’s vivid works, which have a pop art quality, the brightness of which serves as a cross reference to more subversive underpinnings.

Gladstone’s “Lovers,” offers a partially kneeling nude female entangled in the outlines or webs of other forms. There are plenty of strings attached to her phantom lover. A bright and vivid palette belies darker meaning. Ruznic evokes the womb in “Shelter” and “Bird Song.” Her work has overtones of Chagall in its depictions of mutable, somewhat magical shapes. Similarly, Wilson’s sculptures evoke morphing body parts crafted of soft vinyl, felt, and strapping; in “Hung” she focuses on a flower-like depiction of male genitalia. Anderson’s “Room for Voodoo” uses geometric forms and late Picasso-like shapes to create dystopian dream scenarios in oil and oil crayon (Shulamit Nazarian, Venice).#mce_temp_url#



David Hockney, “Yosemite III, October 5th, 2011,” 2011, iPad drawing printed on four sheets of paper, mounted on four sheets of Dibond, each panel 46 1/2 x 35”, overall 93 x 70”, is currently on view at L.A. Louver.

The portrayal of America’s national parks, whether by means of photography, film or painting can deliver political messages. Photographer Ansel Adams used his images of Yosemite National Park to help protect and preserve the environment and wildlife. Screenwriter Callie Khouri ("Thelma and Louise") used scenes of Grand Canyon National Park as a symbol of freedom. David Hockney’s “Yosemite Suite” iPad drawings, however, appear to be rather a form of self-expression, stressing the invigorating and joyful experience of being in that most iconic of America’s natural environments. Thus, Hockney’s juxtaposition of luminous yellows, turquoise and cobalt blues, or creation of contrasts through purples, pinks and bright reds, turn one of America’s most famous national parks into a symphony of vibrant hues.

His iPad drawings are rendered skillfully, his digital mastery conveying a sense of the texture of the plants, rocks and trees and the various perspectives from which Yosemite is observed. In “Yosemite III, October 5th, 2011” we’re looking at a path that leads into the shadowy woods. The grey sky and nebulous forest imbue the image with a feeling of mystery. “Yosemite 1, October 16th, 2011“ is a view of Sequoia trees from the top of a cliff, the artist recording how they reach into the sky, competing with the height of surrounding mountains. Apart from the brilliant colors, it’s the balanced compositions that makes “Yosemite Suite" aesthetically pleasing. In many of these images one will find symmetry, sometimes created by a tree trunk positioned in the center of the painting, at other times by outlines of hills or other objects meeting in the middle. Furthermore, they reflect Hockney’s love for literature, in particular Walt Whitman, who once said, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem” (L.A. Louver, Venice).#mce_temp_url#



Ed Ruscha, Parking Lots (Dodgers Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave.), 1967/1999, one of thirty gelatin silver prints, archival artist's crate, image: 15 1/2 × 15 1/2", is currently on view at Gagosian. © Ed Ruscha

A selection of prints and photographs by Ed Ruscha spans forty years, ranging from the familiar word play to the depiction of specific places or types of architecture in Los Angeles. What makes this exhibition exceptional is the inclusion of "Ed Ruscha Books & Co.,” a selection of artists' books by both Ruscha and those who have been inspired by him. Organized by the gallery's director, Bob Monk this evocative and hands on exhibition presents books hanging from strings around the perimeter of the gallery. These volumes can be held and flipped through at your leisure. While pristine copies with labels are on display in closed vitrines, it is more enjoyable to move from book to book and get a sense of the range of influence Ruscha has had on so many artists. Those among Ruscha's own books on display include such familiar titles as "Twentysix Gas Stations," "Various Small Fires," "Every Building on the Sunset Strip," "Thirtyfour Parking Lots," "Real Estate Opportunities" and "A Few Palm Trees" (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).#mce_temp_url#



Ken Price, “Semi-Geometric Cup,” 1974, gouache on board, 11 x 9”, is currently on view at Matthew Marks.

Ken Price (1935-2012) is best known for his abstract sculptures made from sanding through layers of glazed ceramics to create delicately speckled surfaces. Price was also an avid draftsman and the quirky, colorful drawings surveyed here not only contextualize the sculptures but are a delight in their own right. Spanning from the 1960s to 2011, we can observe both the artist’s development and the nuances of his vision. While some are purely abstract, others are delicate landscapes and cityscapes whose textures are akin to the surfaces in his sculptures. Though not large, each drawing is polished, a finished work rather than a study for something else. As such they are fantastical images illustrating the inner workings of Price's mind (Matthew Marks, West Hollywood).#mce_temp_url#



Peter Alexander, installation view currently at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, 2016.

Peter Alexander’s vivid sculptures are lyrical and oblique, their planes and edges as compelling as their colors, as they reflect and transmit light. Presented not in chronological order but rather in stunning visual groupings, the works range from his older, more translucent polyester resin to his newer, more opaque urethane pieces.

Alexander became physically ill working with resin years ago, and it was not until an exhibition at Paris’ Pompidou Center damaged an older work that he returned from painting back to sculpture to replace it. In so doing he utilized the new urethane medium. According to gallery director Chris Heijnen, “It’s not just a reboot, it’s an investigation of color. Urethane highlights and enriches color, while resin yellows.”

Whether cubic or wedge-like, pyramid or square, the shapes create a rainbow of colors that radiate vibrations of light. The qualities of light and color together shimmer, dazzle and seduce viewers to observe each piece from all angles to absorb both their simplicity and complexity (Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, Downtown).#mce_temp_url#



Sterling Ruby, “BUS,” 2010, bus, steel, spray paint, stainless steel spheres, speakers, sub-woofers, tires, foam, vinyl, T5 fluorescent light fixtures, T5 bulbs and electrical conduit, 112 x 491 x 96”, is currently on view at Venus Over Los Angeles.

“Piston Head II” is a group exhibition that's custom-made for Los Angeles, presenting the automobile as fodder for art. Using the cars themselves as sculptural forms, the widely varied vehicles each tell their own story, some whimsical, some dark. Gallery director Belen Pieiro notes that the exhibition takes as its starting point the gallery’s 2013 “Piston Head” exhibition in Miami. “Here we have the space to include many cars in an exhibition that is suited to the history and identity of Los Angeles,” she says. “Some cars were newly commissioned for this exhibition, others already were an inherent part of the artist’s practice.”

Kenny Sharf’s “Daisymobile” has a flower and fish motif, right down to daisies on the hubcaps. The delightful, pastel redesign of a 1975 Pontiac Gran Ville includes Swarovski crystals and diamond dust. Sterling Ruby’s “Bus” is a behemoth, dark and ominous with its caged interior seating and massive sub-woofers and speakers lit by florescent light. Will Boone’s “Car” is a custom Chevy Blazer, whose cargo bay has been transformed into a red lit bedroom that adds a new dimension to the Los Angeles stereotype of living in one’s car. Milan-based design shop Garage Italia Customs is represented by several customized creations prepared specifically for this show.

In “Piston Head II” we see the personality and sensuality in cars, the possibility of sculptural form with a fashion sense added to their functionality. These cars form their own metallic canvas, one which reflects and embodies the identity and desires of each driver/artist (Venus Over Los Angeles, Downtown).#mce_temp_url#



Bob Law, “Castle CCCXXXV 07.05.01,” 2001, oil on canvas, 29 x 40 3/4”, is currently on view at Marc Selwyn.

Though the late Bob Law's work is not widely known in the United States, the British artist’s minimal/conceptual blend has a certain stylistic familiarity. Theses non-objective works take their point of departure from the landscape and the natural world. Specifically his youthful "Field Drawings" from the late 1950s crudely depict the sun, trees and earth using simple pencil lines on paper. Soon all reference to the landscape disappeared, leaving an empty field that signed for the landscape. Law was a precise and contemplative artist whose quiet works follow the aesthetic arc of the 1960 and 70s (Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Beverly Hills).#mce_temp_url#



Alex Da Corte, still from “The Impossible,” 2012, standard digital video, is currently on view at Art + Practice.

Alex Da Corte turns rooms into stage sets that bombard the viewer with visual and sonic elements. "A Season in He’ll" is inspired by Arthur Rimbaud's poem "A Season in Hell" with the added influence of Disney animations such as "Fantasia" and "Beauty and the Beast.” Beyond Disney, De Corte draws on a myriad of pop culture sources. These works are three-dimensional assemblage/environments with brightly painted walls, tiled and carpeted floors and a mix of appropriated images and objects. The works are purposely indulgent and over the top, demanding viewers to sit, read, listen and watch in order to get a feeling for how the disparate elements add up to a coherent whole — of course, what that whole may be is up to you (Art + Practice, South Los Angeles).#mce_temp_url#



Carrie Yury, “Untitled (Odalisque)” from the “Room” series, 2009, color photographic diptych, is currently on view at Brand Library.

Curated by Shannon Currie Holmes, "Naked Underneath” features the work of five artists, each of whom powerfully explores the shared human struggle with identity. Cathy Akers, Tim Doyle, Colleen Kelly, Alison Kuo, Jane Szabo and Carrie Yury vibrantly express the poignant revelation of true self in a variety of media.

Szabo offers two separate exhibitions, her "Sense of Self," a grid of 15 images, reads as a sequential set of actions. Moving through space, she symbolically explores the need for a sense of control and the failure of desire for perfection. In the series "Reconstructing Self," dresses made from personal or familiar objects suggest a persona that serves as a stand-in for the artist. The site specific installation "La Boheme" is particularly affecting, incorporating aural elements with the visual.

Akers’ photographic collages yoke ghostly historical images of communes combined with an edge of surrealism in her own photographs of present day landscapes. She also exhibits porcelain works that are equally ephemeral. Doyle shows bold sculptural forms that are both sensual and abstract. Kelly’s “Naked Under Her Clothes” dresses nude figures using chine-colle, a delicate printmaking technique in which paper of contrasting color or texture is bonded to another surface, creating a stunning embossed look. Kuo’s watercolors are deliberately opaque, allowing her subjects to be open to our interpretation. Yury’s photographic diptychs reveal the domestic environment in which her subjects dwell, as well as the bodies of her subjects themselves (Brand Library Art Center, Glendale).#mce_temp_url#



Kiel Johnson, “Hold Fast,” 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable, is currently on view at the Long Beach Museum.  Photo: Birdman.

"Vitality and Verve in the Third Dimension" consists of works by over 30 artists, both local and international, included in the museum’s second "V&V” exhibit, presented in collaboration with POW! WOW!, an international mural event. This iteration challenges the creative limits of last year's theme, "Expanding the Urban Landscape." Large-scale murals by Andrew Hem and Mark Dean Veca are painted directly on the museum walls. Veca’s wild, loose all-over pattern immersively covers all four walls of one of the galleries.  Kiel Johnson’s “Hold Fast” is a spectacular cardboard construction of Long Beach, building-by-building set beneath bucolic clouds casting shadows against the gallery wall.

Media is widely and inventively varied. Luke O’Sullivan fashions reclaimed wood into the shape of two old Baroque mansions, “Layer Lair” and “Treasure Trail." There are ceramic installations and others constructed out of fiber, paint, acrylic resins, mixed-media, and industrial materials. Wandering through each gallery, viewing work from all over the planet, makes it clear how much contemporary life is influenced by film and television — even cartoons and anime. “V&V3D” argues persuasively that advertising and consumerism have invaded creativity world-wide. Even so, many of the works here speak with an authority that connects to a broader truth about the global materialism of contemporary life (Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach).#mce_temp_url#

Shirle Gottlieb