|CONTINUING AND RECOMMENDED, JULY/AUGUST 2014|
Andrew Cannon, “Imperial Griddle,” 2014, PVA, automotive paint, spray paint, adhesive size, metallic foil, and pigment foil on panel, 24 x 20”. Photo by and Courtesy of the Artist.
“Chemical Computer” is the clunky title of Andrew Cannon’s modestly sized though physically ornate suite of abstractions. Employing ambitious quantities of high-tech and sculptural materials, among them PVA, pigment foil, lenticular print and holographic foil, Cannon dips into the classic SoCal Finish Fetish tradition without making the fetish element an end to his means. In other words, a little funkiness, as apotheosized in “Imperial Griddle,” is never shied away from. Rather, Cannon’s kitchen sink wholesale use of media re-infuses abstraction by meeting it halfway between modernist ideals and esoteric quirkiness. The works do love the context of the museum — one wonders if a few of them, on their own, would fit a little too well into a corporate setting. Two of them, however, manage to hold their weight on the painting (and all 2D work) — unfriendly grey brick wall, so perhaps weighing in with the devil’s advocate is wholly unnecessary (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).
Robert Weingarten, “Pentimento Series: Havana,” (1955) 2013, archival pigment print, 55 x 44”, is currently on view at Craig Krull.
Robert Weingarten’s luminous 2003 photographs of the sea, captured religiously every morning at 6:30 am from the exact same viewpoint overlooking Malibu Bay, celebrated nature’s ability to render singular moments dramatic. With his more recent series, titled “Pentimeto,” Weingarten doubles the density and complexity of his work in an examination of photography’s connections to memory. Using a process he calls “translucent composite,” Weingarten overlays vintage photographs of historic sites with his own more colorful recent retakes of the same territory. “Pentimeto Series: London (1940-1941)” (2012) is a montage featuring ghost-like images of Londoners running from desecrations they experienced during the blitz, superimposed by Weingarten’s retake of the same area of their bustling city more than half a century later. Life goes on with few reminders of the terrors of the past. In “Pentimento Series Da Nang (1956)" (2014) Weingarten weaves a grey column of soldiers through a sunny beach sheltered by bright red umbrellas. Evoking the memory of Martha Rosler’s determination to connect two sides of life that had been artificially disjoined in her landmark work, “Bringing the War Home,” Weinberg marches the evils of war right through an overlay of what is now a recreational haven (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).
Jo Ann Callis, “Untitled,” 1976-77, color photograph, is currently on view at Rose Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery.
In conjunction with the publication of "Other Rooms" (Aperture), a monograph featuring work from the 1970s by noted Los Angeles based photographer Jo Ann Callis, this exhibition presents a selection of the sensuous images from this period. The modestly sized images in both black and white and color explore the female form as a sculptural element set against myriad props, draped in fabric or exposed to shards of light. Unafraid to draw on and position her subjects in order to maximize formal relationships, Callis plays with foreground against background, presence and absent as well as other dichotomies specific to photography's ability to flatten the picture plane. Callis is a subtle colorist who explores the human body as a site of sexuality while playfully juxtaposing gestures and body parts to maximize their poetics (Rose Gallery, Santa Monica).
Aim Duelle Luski, "The Tel Aviv Museum Square,” 2011, Ektachrome print, unique, 27 1/2 x 40” framed, is currently on view at Shulamit.
“Centrifuge” displays the works of six artists, including Roee Rosen, Anisa Ashkar, Ido Michaeli, Inbal Abergil, Aim Duelle Luski and Luciana Kaplun. It is an eye-opener for those who are interested in contemporary Israeli society and culture. Would you have expected that Latin Americans immigrated there and, in addition, face some of the same assimilation problems as in America? Or that there is a group of Russian artists called “The Buried Alive,” who refuse to integrate into Israeli culture? Not only that, one also learns through the show that a face can be used as a canvas in order to hold onto one’s cultural roots. One of the highlights here is a wine barrel camera made by Luski, which allowed one piece of horizontally placed Ektachrome film to be exposed to 16 pinholes simultaneously. Hence, the camera photographed the large pedestrian square outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, capturing the municipal library, the central Court of Justice and the Kirya, the central administrative military base in Israel. It appears as an abstracted image with light shining from different directions, creating the dichotomy of a center and an edge. This can be understood as a metaphor for Israel’s fragmented society, in which some communities are pushed on the periphery or the edge. Overall, the exhibit confirms that the idea of a cultural ‘melting pot,’ as beautiful as it seems, is an illusion. And that the illusion applies to Israel much as it does for America (Shulamit Gallery, Venice).
John Mills, “Dome,” 2014, oil and graphite on canvas, 78 x 78”, is currently on view at Rosamund Felsen.
John Mills’ abstractions are light on density; there’s typically more white or off-white background space than foreground imagery. But what initially what may come off as faint and/or ineffectual quickly becomes experientially complex. Thin lines of boldly drawn paint subtly activate the overall space within which loose brushy shapes are filled in here and there; some earth tones, others brighter colors, though always toned down, and always part of a larger field. The drawing style is reminiscent of Miro, but the work never goes near becoming so graphic. Your eyes are always moving around — balance and counterbalance, but the logic is deeper, it’s internalized. Mills never panders. There are no easy gets here; the work unfolds slowly and reveals itself over multiple viewings. You’re either on board or you’re not (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).
John Altoon, “Untitled,” 1964, from the “Hyperion Series,” pastel and ink on illustration board, 56 × 40”, is currently on view at LACMA. Dr. David and Arline Edelbaum. © 2014 Estate of John Altoon, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA.
John Altoon, deceased more than 40 years, is having a resurrection with a few recent appearances of his work in SoCal exhibitions now topped with this major retrospective of 70 paintings. For those familiar with his “Ocean Park Series,” this exhibition looks back at 18 of these works — with their white backgrounds, spontaneous abstract expressionism and a distinctly California 1960s look. The show also contains several less familiar works, displaying Altoon's figure drawing training, commercial illustration background, as well as concern with the social/political themes of the mid-20th century. “Jazz Players” (1950), a close-up of a pair of saxophone players, one black, one white, is an earnest 25-year-old’s carefully drawn and composed portrayal of the nightclub scene. “Untitled (F-8)” (1962-63) is a suited and hatted couple; the woman, nude from the waist down, expresses that era’s new sexual liberation. “Untitled (F-24), lettering by Ed Ruscha” (1962-63) is an ink and watercolor drawing of a man and woman boldly facing each other, that also contains a tube of Colgate toothpaste and the advertising rhetoric, “Who Won, when clinical testing compared Colgate Dental Cream with the most widely accepted fluoride toothpaste?” The artist’s “Untitled, 1964, lettering by Ed Ruscha” is a lifelike drawing of a rifle brandishing Lee Harvey Oswald, alongside a defiant Tarzan, the latter wearing the drooping mustache favored by the artist. The upper right corner features the “Life” magazine logo, while the lower left reads, “Tarzan and I watering the lawn the day it happened.” For those who recall Altoon as an eccentric abstract artist who died prematurely, this exhibition provides a broader perspective of his skills and political persuasions (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).
“Surface to Air” installation view, 2014 at Kayne Griffin Corcoran.
“Surface to Air: Los Angeles Artists of the Sixties and the Materials That They Used” may be the first show to contextualize art born out of the air and space industry, not only simply by intimating its more mainstream cultural counterparts but by actually including seminal examples of them — a vintage Hobie surfboard, made by Hobie Alter himself, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s “Orbitron” custom car each stand amidst Larry Bell’s glass and mirrored boxes, Billy Al Bengston’s lacquered chevrons and of course John McCracken’s leaning fiberglass planks, the latter still resonating as the epitome of “fetish finish.” While the juxtaposition of these respective wider and narrower cultures (‘high’ and ‘low’ doesn’t apply here — too discrediting) more fully fleshes out the greater gist of the zeitgeist, the presence of the car and surfboard, mint as they are, does inevitably lend an air of datedness, even though new works mix seamlessly with vintage pieces. Still, Robert Dean’s curation and the show’s appropriately smooth title are smart and museum quality. And the rare opportunity to catch classic Ron Davis, Craig Kauffman and Robert Irwin in concert — that’s no mean feat (Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Miracle Mile).
Ellen De Meutter, "Secrets and Lies,” 2007, oil painting, is currently on view at SDMoCA.
"Secrets and Lies" is an exhibition drawn from the museum’s collection, including several new acquisitions. Centered around concepts of disguise, ruse and revelations, the show includes painting, photography, sculpture and installation. The title is taken from Belgian painter Ellen De Meutter’s painting of the same name. Her painting of two gossiping figures hints at the questions of what is public or private, and what is fact or fiction. Yasumasa Morimura’s “An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo” (2001), is one of a series that took the artist ten years to create. A self-portrait that is digitally manipulated, the photo appears like a painting. Morimura reconstructs Kahlo’s image with costumes and props, and questions gender, cultural and racial conventions. Ai Wei Wei’s “Marble Chair” (2010) is a sculptural installation carved from a single piece of striated white marble. It is sculpted into the design of two traditional yoke-backed Ming and Qing Dynasty chairs. Ai examines China’s loss of culture as it attempts to modernize itself.
Cindy Sherman’s photograph, “Untitled” (2000), transforms her own image into a typecast Southern California young woman: tanned, blond, outfitted in sporty clothing and sporting a jeweled tiara referencing the “impossible ideal” found in airbrushed figures in magazines. Kim Dingle’s painting “Untitled (Prisspaper with Blue Hair)” (1998) is an oil on wallpaper on wood, depicting toddlers running amok in the nursery, examining stereotypes of childhood and innocence. Tina Barney’s “Jill and Polly in the Bathroom” (1987), an Ektacolor Plus print, recalls Dutch genre painting while it is depicting the domestic habits of upper middle class women, while questioning whether they are posing or acting.
Larry Sultan’s Chronogenic print “Tasha’s Third Film” (2002), is part of a series Sultan did relating to the culture surrounding the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley. A porn star assumes an ordinary pose, sitting around in curlers, hanging out in the living room presumably waiting to perform. The ‘white cube’ in the center of the gallery features works by the late Allan Sekula, photographer, filmmaker and critic whose work focused on social and political realities of labor, protest movements, and global trade. Sekula’s “Untitled Slide Sequence” (1972) is a reveals series of 25 photographs of workers leaving the General Dynamics Convair Division Aerospace Factory in San Diego at the end of a day. These photographs incorporate a sense of the culture and historical moment of the military-industrial complex (San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla).
Dario Escobar, “Broken Circle XI,” 2014, bicycle reflectors, is currently on view at Craft & Folk Museum.
Walnut. Maple. Oak. Stoney Lamar has developed a long-term relationship with all of these woods and more. His skill with multi-axial lathes and chain saws coaxes the natural personality (cool or warm, smooth or rough, curved or angular) from each individual piece of wood that makes its way through his North Carolina studio. Textures are effectively highlighted with layers of milk paint or set off against contrasting smooth metal elements. Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, Lamar has incorporated his body’s lack of stability into his work. Roughly sawn edges add an element of dynamism to more than one of his newer sculptures. “Flamenco” was inspired by Lamar’s awareness of his body’s tendency to deviate from an upright state and the effort it takes for him to move bilaterally towards straighter alignment. In spite of the restrictions he faces, Lamar is producing some of the strongest, most dramatic work of his career.
Two chrome sculptures, assembled from the remains of mangled car bumpers, face off in the gallery devoted to Guatemalan artist Darío Escobar’s installation. Titled “Crash No. XVI,” and “Crash No. XVII,” their battered forms add the element of immanent danger to the graceful undulating curvilinear lines on surrounding walls, drawn with 1,000 re-purposed red bicycle safety reflectors that twinkle when activated by any movement of viewers through the space.
Founding member of the interactive circus Lucent Dossier Experience, Brent Spears, also known as Shrine, is acknowledged in music and art festival circles for building site-specific temples from trash. Here he arranges a colorful assembly of bottle tops, found fabrics, cardboard and other discarded materials into the exotic “Empire of Love Shack.” Visible from the street, the exotic construction lures passers by into the museum (Craft & Folk Art Museum, Miracle Mile).
Pahko’ola mask (ceremonial), from the collection of Carlos Castaneda, is currently on view at Fowler Museum.
Two distinct but equally intriguing exhibitions are "The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda” and "Rigo 23: From the Heart of Santa Madera." Perhaps the name in the first one rings a bell, since Castaneda is the anthropologist and author of the famous and controversial book “The Teachings of Don Juan — A Yaqui way of Knowledge”. It displays his collection of painted wooden pahko’ola masks made by the Yaqui people of Northern Mexico. Their representations of animals and people are sometimes humorous, at other times haunting due to the long beards gushing from their chins and hair falling over their eyes. There is also a video and photographs of the pahko’ola rituals carried out by the Yaqui people during major celebrations, including birthdays, weddings, death ceremonies and religious holidays in which they wear these masks. The other exhibit, by Portuguese artist Rigo 23, consists of eight wall-sized canvases displayed in the hallway surrounding the courtyard, which address the struggles of Native Americans in the U.S. This mixed-media installation integrates elements of the film “The Exiles,” which chronicles one night in the lives of three young Native American men living in the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles; the Indian Island of Eureka Bay, where the Wiyot massacre of 1860 took place; the continued imprisonment of Lakota tribes persons; and other references to the injustices done against American Indians. These compositions are backed up with quotes by philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon (Fowler Museum, West Los Angeles).
Jack Laycox, “Chinese New Year,” 1960, watercolor, is currently on view at Bowers Museum Courtesy of the Hilbert Collection.
“The Lure of Chinatown: Painting California’s Chinese Communities” includes a compelling mix of styles, including impressionism, American Scene Painting and even Chinese landscape painting. Featuring watercolors and oils from San Francisco and Los Angeles Chinatowns, 1885 to 2007, the exhibition has a glamorous aura imparted by the subject matter, both real and imagined, of ethnic Chinese settings and maidens in traditional clothing. These include “San Francisco Chinese Maiden” by Theodore Wores depicting a young girl in flowing Chinese attire, and “Chinese New Year Celebratory Revelry, San Francisco” by Henry Nappenbach. A few works reveal an ethnic history and a show more complex than a cursory look reveals. The Chinese in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were cloistered, exploited for their labor and subjected to harsh political sentiment. Several works, particularly of Los Angeles Chinatown in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reveal the grim quality of life of the immigrants. These paintings include “Calle de Los Negros (Chinatown, Los Angeles)”, by Alexander Francis Harmer, “In Chinatown, L.A.” and “Morning in the Alley,” the latter two by Martin Jacob Jackson. Of special interest is “Forbidden City Night Club, San Francisco,” 1938, by Jade Fon Woo, of a nude UC Berkeley student doing a fan dance for male Caucasian admirers. For the historically minded, the show provides an engaging, illustrated timeline from 1787 to 1975. In addition to details about the artists in the show, and the places depicted in the paintings, there is historical/political information balancing this primarily exotic-appearing exhibition. One panel in the timeline reads: “1882: After years of increasing racial tensions, the Chinese Exclusion Act is pushed through Congress. The act prevents Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. to seek work and denies Chinese the opportunity for naturalization. Initially meant to stay in place for ten years, the act is later renewed indefinitely” (Bowers Museum, Orange County).
Raffi Kalenderian, "Al (Bushwick)." 2014, oil on canvas, 98 x 70 1/4”, is currently on view at Susanne Vielmetter. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
Raffi Kalenderian’s portraits of young artsy types — artists, writers, musicians — bring an ‘80s East Village sensibility to the 2010s. The subjects sit fully reposed in their bedrooms or living rooms, alone, their personal effects further illuminating their profiles to greater or lesser extents. Behind the bedroom door in “Alison” hangs a red zip-up jacket with ‘Evil’ emblazoned on both of its breast pockets; a stack of VHS videotapes and punk-feminist iconography line the wall on either side. “Shanti Smoking” takes the more maximalist approach, with dense patterning on the rug, in the floor, on the chair and in the exposed brick wall; the thickly painted curtains blowing in the window fight against that painterly tendency toward stasis. It’s impossible not to use the word ‘grungy’ in describing the interiors, their raw unfinished-ness, as well as the modeling of the figures and their clothes. Style is ultimately the sensibility that prevails over the more implicit psychological overtones, but Kalenderian’s painting style, at its best evident in “Al (Bushwick)," is viscerally convincing (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City).
Matthew Rolston, installation view, 2014 at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.
On display in Matthew Rolston's exhibition, entitled "Talking Heads,” are large-scale color photographs of ventriloquist's dummies. Rolston had access to the Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky's collection of over 700 dolls, dummies and masks. With dates ranging from 1820-1980 the array of characters becomes a compelling catalog of not only doll making but the ventriloquists' sense of self. Each doll or dummy was photographed against a white background and is printed to a larger than life-size square. The details of the painted forms resonate emotionally as we encounter the differences in the expressions and the materials used for eyes. A quintessential ventriloquist's dummy is a cliché — they are always more than just a doll with exaggerated features. Rolston's images depict a range of figures with an attitude of compassion. Some are women, some are more animal-like, some have painted eyes while others are frighteningly human. The dolls’ vacant states are uncanny, holding your gaze but offering nothing in return (Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Hollywood).
Annetta Kapon, “The Line Between Beverly Hills an Los Angeles,” 2013, still from video, is currently on view at Otis College.
“Freeway Studies #2: Inside the Quad” is the second part of Meg Linton and Jessica Dawson's curatorial look at contemporary art in Los Angeles. Dividing the city into geographical quadrants, the two have organized an ambitious series of exhibitions not curated around a theme but rather selecting artists who live in different parts of town. The first show presented works by artists who lived west of the 405 freeway. The current exhibition features artists who live and or work between the 405, 110, 10 and 105 freeways — thus designated "Inside the Quad." The 31 artists in the exhibition work in a wide variety of media and range in age from those who have recently graduated to established veterans. As in any group show, there are hits and misses. Overall however, the work is beautifully installed to allow relationships to form within the space among artists who otherwise have never met or shown together (Otis College, Ben Maltz Gallery, West Side).
Jim Darling, "Pacific I" from the "Airplane Window" series, 2014, paint on wood bas relief, is currently on view at C.A.V.E.
The politically charged work of Vinz shares the gallery walls with the subdued yet fresh paintings of Jim Darling. There is a spirit of freedom within each body of work but that’s where the similarities end and their differing views become apparent. Vinz, a Spanish born urban artist, captures viewers’ attention with black and white photography juxtaposed with colorfully painted animal heads. Entitled the “Feel Free” project, the hybrid images of police and businessmen are transformed through reptilian heads to represent symbols of oppression, control, and violence. In contrast, the oppressed figures are carefully posed nudes sprouting the heads of birds. The nude figures appear calm and free even when staged to engage the oppressors. It’s a representation that conveys their inherent beauty and freedom.
Darling’s airplane inspired paintings replicate the casing and oval shape of windows that are familiar on the inside of aircrafts. The shade of each of these pseudo-windows is lifted; what we see in place of an actual landscape are Darling’s abstracted views. The rich colors depict warm rays of sun, cooler evenings, and even the wing of the plane jutting out over the green landscape. The minimal casings that frame each painting are then hung in a row, neatly replicating the inside of a plane. While Vinz captures and comments upon a changing and harsh political landscape, a rallying cry for the oppressed to adapt and change, Darling shifts our view aloft to oversee the landscape, where he composes a romantic view of the earth. Hung alongside one another, one offers a view from below while the other is a view from above (C.A.V.E. Gallery, Venice).
G. James Daichendt
Ansel Adams, “The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming,” negative 1942; print 1980, gelatin silver print, is currently on view at J. Paul Getty Museum. The J. Paul Getty Museum, gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin in memory of Marjorie and Leonard Vernon. © 2014 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.
Over the years, the gulf has widened between photographers like Ansel Adams and hordes of people who now keep their portable camera devices set on “automatic” and race to download every image they produce to social media. Adams (1902 – 1984) engaged in endless labor in his quest to capture and print remarkable photographs, primarily of the natural environment. He meticulously measured the quality and intensity of light emanating from his subjects. Shooting perfectly composed and focused images with his heavy camera gear was just the start. He sometimes worked over a period of years developing various prints to capture the mood he was after while maintaining sharp focus within a full tonal range from sunlight to shadow. “In Focus: Ansel Adams” offers the public a chance to study two dozen gelatin silver prints, including several iconic photographs picturing the artist’s beloved Yosemite. Two versions of “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” are on view. The first was printed in 1948 and the second in 1984 when Adams sought out sharper contrasts and deeper black tones. Judge for yourself which you prefer. “Mt. Williamson, Sierra Nevada from Manzanar” is exhibited printed in two sizes. In the case of that rock-strewn landscape, it’s no contest. Bigger is better (J. Paul Getty Museum, West Los Angeles).
June Wayne, "Cryptic Creatures," 1948, oil on canvas, 36 x 30”, is currently on view at Pasadena Museum.
June Wayne had a very long and productive career, spanning over six decades, and most of us have seen only a fraction of what she made. This wonderful survey of her work has been thoughtfully curated by Betty Ann Brown and Jay Belloli to display the great range of her work and vision. Of course, we tend to associate Wayne with lithography, for she not only produced well-known lithography series, she was famously instrumental in reviving that medium in the United States. With a grant from the Ford Foundation, she established the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1960, and ran it for a decade. There artists were able to work with master printers to create fine art prints.
Her own first lithograph at the workshop, “Dorothy, the Last Day,” was the beginning of one of the artist’s best-known series, “The Dorothy Series.” While that print depicted Wayne’s mother on her deathbed, the artist eventually reclaimed Dorothy’s vibrant life by going back to the beginning, incorporating old photographs, posters, newspaper clips, and other ephemera. Half a dozen or so from the series are included here, including an old photo of the girl Dorothy, shown in the negative, when she arrives in the U. S. in 1907 with members of her family. The series traces her two marriages, two divorces, and a 25-year career employed by a corset firm.
My own personal favorites are at the early part of her career, when she was painting, and towards the end, when she was applying patterns of styrene shapes to wooden boards and painting them in metallic tones. The first gallery includes “Cryptic Creatures” (1948) and “The Chase” (1949) from the Kafka series, in which vaguely anthropomorphic creatures dance and pirouette their way up and down or across a striped canvas. There's something delightfully carnivalesque about these. In the early 1950s she became fascinated by geometric patterns, as reflected in “The Dreamers” (1952) and “Final Jury” (1954). The styrene works from the late 1980s are made from what appears to be packing material, and evoke explosions and cosmic swirls. These also reflect Wayne's fascination with pattern, as well as her continuing courage to use new media (Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena).
Hung Liu, “In the Garden 1,” 2005, oil on canvas, is currently on view at USC Pacific Asia Museum. Courtesy of the artist and Walter Maciel Gallery.
Even before entering the current exhibition in this back gallery, a sweet vanilla scent beckons from beyond the adjoining galleries. Upon arrival the source is clear: a large installation consisting of hundreds of fortune cookies that are piled in the form of a miniature peaked mountain, through which train tracks disappear into and emerge from on the other side. The work, titled "Jiu Jin Shan (Old Gold Mountain)” by Chinese-American artist Hung Liu, is a central component of the thought provoking exhibition "The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America.” "Jiu Jin Shan’" overtly references the hard labor of the Chinese immigrants on the transcontinental railroad during the later 19th century. The hundreds of nearly identical crescent-shaped treats suggest the massive numbers of workers employed, as well as their relative anonymity. Three portraits of historic women from this period counteract the notion of lost individuality, each with a unique color palette, floral motifs and symbols associated with their Chinese heritage. Opposite these gestural portraits, Zhi Lin’s large-scale abstract paintings heighten the sense of rhythmic momentum associated with the locomotive through vertical patterns repeated across the paper’s surface. In the adjacent gallery the topic shifts from a focus on the occupation of immigrants to the border itself, this time looking south to the Mexican/American border. Three artists — Andrea Bowers, Margarita Cabrera and Tony de los Reyes — tackle the subject in terms ranging from conceptual to aesthetic. Diverse in their approach, the artists are united in their determination to underscore the complexity of the past and current state of affairs (USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena).
John Paul Jones, “Everywoman,” 1968, oil on canvas, 13 x 11", is currently on view at Brett Rubbico.
“Under the Influence” is a conceptually oriented title — rather than a thematic one — for this four-person exhibition. The thread connecting their pieces is labor intensive, groundbreaking work; the canvasses here incorporate different styles, while engaging the viewer with soulful and personal aspects. Chris Gwaltney’s oils, combining realism with abstraction and gestural brushwork, are richly colorful compositions, all with human figures, albeit, shadowy, sometimes clumsy ones that are barely engaged with life. In the blue “Water Slows Us Down” and pink “Slow Down,” figures stand waist deep in water, trying to escape, yet are hindered by their immersion. These deeply personal paintings express a transitional period. Eight works by the late John Paul Jones include charcoals, one etching, one lithograph and an oil, each exemplifying the artist’s mastery of the figure and attention to detail. “Everywoman” presents a mid-20th century modern woman, staring out into space boldly, yet with a vacant look on her face. His “Near Green” depicts a male figure possessed by the artist’s characteristic ambiguity.
Mieke Gelley, a Dutch-born woman, has created an impressive body of work over four decades. Her small acrylic on wood paintings, all “Untitled,” are each composed of multiple layers of thin paint that combines abstraction with minimalism. While evoking Agnes Martin, the deeply layered aspects are like the artist’s personal Rorschach tests, inviting the viewer to look into her soul. The most accessible paintings among this group are eight oils of old bottles by Bradford J. Salamon. Titles such as “Gordon’s Gin,” “Listerine,” “Baby Oil, “Bombay Gin” reflect the finely wrought subject matter, created with labor intensive brush and palette work and with deliberate incisions. The technique often becomes the subject matter (Brett Rubbico Gallery, Orange County).
Jan Maarten Voskull, 2009, is currently on view at Peter Blake.
Dutch artist Jan Maarten Voskuil shows abstract configurations of form, space and structure, where each rigorously plays on the other in counterpoint. Two and three dimensions exchange roles so as to produce an energetic visual dynamism. Unlike Voskuil’s previous series, much of this work hangs on the wall. The front gallery is alive with massive rounded dots that generate opposing forces. Each has a different central color, broken into varying planes that jut out, curve in, shift, or recede in unexpected configurations. Seen together, the pieces seem to dialogue with each other in their own artistic language. Initially their similarities appear repetitious, but no two are alike. Voskuil’s mathematical and artistic skills endow each with varying points of reference (“Improved Pointlessness”), as he transitions points of the planes seamlessly. The artist achieves this conceptual approach through intricate constructions, hand-made stretcher bars that bend and curve pliably in multiple directions and meet at critical points in each structure. From the side, the wooden bones and acrylic linen skin are visible, revealing the artistic anatomy that makes each frontal illusion real.
”Squeezing Twice” and “Untitled” show another, more playful side. The former was created in Holland to precisely fit in a section of the host gallery. Its two rectangular forms seem to freely grip a three-sided alcove as if suspended in space. The second is a rectangular white with black painted wooden board erect in a corner. Its trompe l'oeil effect changes spatially before our eyes, as the front view becomes the side (Peter Blake Gallery, Orange County).
Brian Wills, “Untitled (Black, white, red wedge),” 2014, oil, single strand rayon thread, basswood on wood, 24 1/4 x 35 3/4 x 16 1/4”, is currently on view at Quint.
“Seemingly” is an exhibition of abstract works that refer both to painting and sculpture. To extend the duality, Brian Wills creates work that is simultaneously simple and complex. Using multicolored rayon thread in mostly linear patterns, his abstractions explore color, reflective light and shadow. Viewing Wills’ work is enhanced by moving around it in the space. Thus you see colors change, deepen and retract. It appears that the artist's process is a repetitive act of wrapping threads around strips of wood creating a particular rhythm. In some works the threads are encased in paint, while in others threads are simply wrapped around a wooden frame. The oil and polyurethane paintings vibrate with color, while other works share a quiet subtlety. There are three cube-like wooden sculptures that jut out from the wall, where multi-colored thread covered forms creates geometric patterns that oscillate as they are viewed from differing vantage points. Wills’ minimalist structures share an affinity with Robert Irwin’s scrims, revealing both the illusiveness and translucency of light and space (Quint Contemporary Art, La Jolla).
Josef Hoflenhner, “Jet Airliner #4,” 2009, archival pigment print, edition 8/15, 22 x 22”, is currently on view at Joseph Bellows.
Images of white sandy beaches, palm trees and sunbathers conjure up thoughts of a peaceful, quiet vacation. But Austrian photographer Josef Hoflehner had something else in mind in his series “Jet Airliner,” which examines beach life at Maho Beach on the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin in the Caribbean Sea. This beach is uniquely positioned directly adjacent to Princess Juliana Airport, where Boeing 747s land through the course of an ordinary day. Working with two classic Hasselblad wide-angle cameras, Hoflehner set up shop on the beach during four trips to the island everyday during a two week period between 2009 and 2011. Waiting sometimes hours between plane landings, Hoflehner had only a split second to take each shot. The result is a series of black and white archival pigment prints, 22 x 22 inches. The image of the jets in each photograph feels like a superimposed image in an otherwise seemingly pristine-looking tourist brochure for St. Martin.
The photographs are in fact not composites and the situations with the people on the beach were not pre-set or posed in any manner. Some of the folks on the beach are sunbathing, seemingly oblivious to the planes flying overhead; others are ready with their own cameras; still others are plainly annoyed by this disruption. The close juxtaposition of the planes (sometimes flying as low as 13 feet from the ground) and vacationers putting up with these kerosene-smelling, noise-roaring monsters that interrupt the tranquility simply gets in your head (Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla).
Beatrice Wood, “You look like a goddess on a hairpin,” from the series "Touching Certain Things,” 1932, pencil and watercolor on paper, is currently on view at Santa Barbara Museum.
“Never do the commonplace. Rules are fatal to the progress of art.” That was Marcel Duchamp’s advice to Beatrice Wood, who was already acting with the Comédie Française and studying drawing at the Académie Julian in Paris as a teenager. Early on, Wood turned to the habit of drawing every day as a means of examining and documenting whatever concerned her. The majority of the fifty works in this very intimate exhibition are selections from a collection of those drawings, accompanied by books she authored and a few ceramic figures and tiles that are extensions of Wood’s draftsmanship. Among the most compelling is “Female Figure” (ca. 1945), a glazed earthenware tile, signed “Beato” (as the artist was known to friends), featuring a topless woman whose nipples and folded arms are begging to morph into a man’s face. The drawings commemorate everything from evenings spent in the company of New York art collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, to explorations of personal and socially taboo subject manner the likes of “Nun’s Dream.” Having the opportunity to examine this work feels comparable to being privy to a peek over Beato’s shoulder as she makes entries into her diary (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara).