Marcia Hafif,  (left) “From the Inventory:  Shade Paintings:  Group 6:  Scarlet Lake, Schevenengen Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Emerald Green, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxizine Purple,” oil on canvas, 18 x 18" each. (right) "From the Inventory: Shade Paintings: Group 5: Neutral Mix, Indian Yellow-Green, Permanent Magenta, Davy’s Grey,” oil on canvas, 22 x 22" each. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Brian Forrest.



"Made in L.A." is the Hammer Museum's biennial nod to what is hot, new, trendy and not to be missed in Los Angeles. Curated by Michael Ned Holte and the Hammer’s Connie Butler, the exhibition is not medium nor age specific though there are more younger than older artists included. Each of the 35 artists is given ample space, so this is not a sampler show by numerous artists. Viewers can get a sense of what most of the artists are about. Media range freely from sculptures to video installations and from projections to paintings. There, by intent, is no overall theme or subject that binds these artists together, other than they are dedicated to their ouevres and have created a body of work that is of the moment.





The curators have acknowledged their having noticed and gravitated towards a collaborative element, most explicitly represented by Alice Könitz' Los Angeles Museum of Art’s funky architectural display of god knows how many individual artists’ works.  Marcia Hafif is this edition’s elder stateswoman (see: Channa Horwitz, 2012) with her room-filling installation of monochrome “Shade Paintings."  These date back to 1972, when she began these as a way to analyze art media in a little series that is not so little and still going strong. Channing Hansen’s hand-knitted wall works are an exceptionally engaging meeting of drunken lyricism informed by a meticulous system of both execution and mathematical structuring. Strong threads of personal flaw and vulnerability inform the often obsessive work of a number of the artists present. Jennifer Moon’s mix of unabashed reflections on her personal life and acerbic, even silly political riffs best exemplifies both the exhilaration and pitfalls of the self revealing, self critical approach. That Moon draws on a period of incarceration may draw viewers to compare what they see here to the recent book and Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Resistance is useless (The Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).


Jody Zellen/Bill Lasarow




Ruth Bernhard, “Perspective,” 1967, selenium toned gelatine silver print.



How two artists, one male the other female, depict the body, and the environment around them poses compelling questions as to whether one can really distinguish between a male or female point of view. The photographers in question are Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006) and Robert Silvers (b.1953), who are exhibited simultaneously here. Bernhard’s classic formalist images occupy the front space and are categorized by subject; nudes, still lifes, which are more environments than table top compositions. Consider where she wants our mind to wander when she titles a reclining female nude “Perspective” rather than, say, “Odalisque." Her photographs of the female form depict the body as a sculptural object that she sensitively bathed in light in order to present it as sensual and evocative. Robert Stivers' images depict the body in motion. He uses his camera as a frame through which he captures his subject, often using soft focus evocative of the Pictorialist movement from a century ago. Stivers willfully allows the image to dissolve into the surface of the paper. It is clear that he, like Bernhard is enamored by the body, but his depictions eschew the sculptural and embrace the mysterious. Bernhard, were she still with us, no doubt would be horrified (Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica).





Ezra Jack Keats, “After breakfast he put on his snowsuit and ran outside.” Final illustration for The Snowy Day, 1962. Collage and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.  Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.



During the height of the civil rights movement, Brooklyn born writer and children’s book illustrator Ezra Jack Keats produced a groundbreaking Caldecott book award winner entitled “The Snowy Day.” That story, which vividly captures the real-life wonders of a child’s life in the city with charming simplicity, was the first full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist. It is the central feature of a traveling exhibition of over eighty original works by Keats, ranging from preliminary sketches to beautifully rendered full-page book illustrations and personal papers which delve into Keats’s background, beliefs, inventiveness and influence. All are packed into a child-friendly exhibition organized by Skirball’s curator Erin Clancey to foster the active participation of viewers. Visitors can experience gazing at the world through lens-free goggles and making tracks on a special “snow” feature. In an adjacent room, which serves as a haven for activities, including collage making, story writing and reading, participants can chase their own shadows or those of characters from Keats' stories. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a central theme in Keats’ work. He believed that, “If we could all really see (‘see’ as in perceive, understand, discover) each other as exactly as the other is, this would be a different world” (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).

Diane Calder




Alan Sekula, “Ship Lesson (Durban),” 1999/2010, c-print, 40 x 59”.



Alan Sekula, in addition to being a visual artist who worked in photography and film, was also an influential teacher, theorist, and photo historian. He taught at Cal Arts for many years and had a lasting effect on those who learned from him. He had the rare ability to make heady as well as visual works that never followed any trend, yet in the end were trend setting. The images from "Ship of Fools," the last series before his death in 2013, anchor his achievements as a visual thinker. Sekula's work often delved into maritime themes that stemmed from his interest in issues of labor, transport and globalization. The images on view include photographs of dockworkers and chip's crew, night time views of docked ships, as well as a photograph of the churning water from a boat's engine. The works play off each other and while they are compelling as visual images, its only through Sekula's texts do their intentions become clear (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).





Greg Miller, “Coral Reef,” 2014, acryic, collage, resin on panel, 72 x 60”.



In his  current body of work, painter Greg Miller uses film noir as a point of departure. The large scale paintings are densely layered explorations of the female form, gesture, attitude and gaze as culled from the role of women in film noir. Miller's images are shrouded in the "what if" associated with the mysteries of that style. The works have a comic book/movie poster allure as Miller juxtaposes images and text to create densely packed compositions. There are a number of paintings of women swimming in pools whose blue tones stand out from the otherwise black and white tonalities. Miller is an accomplished painter and these intriguing works are firmly rooted in contemporary culture (William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica).





“In-Situ,” 2014, installation view at Shoshana Wayne Gallery.



"In-Situ" is a stunning exhibition featuring work by five emerging Los Angeles based artists: Renae Barnard, Vera Bauluz, Tofer Chin, Abdul Mazid and Patch Wright. The works feel right at home in this cavernous space. While not made to be shown together they create a dialogue across the walls and into the space of the gallery. Barnard twists and folds tracing paper into large sculptural forms that cascade from the walls. Bauluz presents gold leaf mops. Chin's geometric forms — on the wall and floor, titled "White Stalagmites” — draw from minimalism. Mazid makes sculptures from myriad materials that are about cultural identity and place. Wright's work includes coils, crushed glass, duct tape and surreal extended ears of corn. It is evident from the works here that these artists will have promising futures (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).





F. Scott Hess, painting from “The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation.”



Sometimes an artist's concept is more exciting than the final product, but the reverse is often true as well. The latter can occur when the creative process opens the door to more challenging paths than the artist dreamed were possible. We'll never know for sure (and F. Scott Hess' lips are sealed), but we suspect that might have happened when this dare-devil artist became curious about his family lineage. What may have started as a simple task to check his ancestry evolved into the gigantic, multifaceted project we see here. Ten-years after the task was begun, this brilliant departure is presented to the public as "The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation."


There are over 100 paintings, prints, and objects, presented together as historic artifacts — all of them supported by documentation and other historical ephemera. Each item bears the name of an artist, together with labels that detail where it came from, plus dates that place it in time. The kicker is that everything on view — all of the paintings, art objects, photographs, historical information, furniture, clothing, printed literature, even a video: everything! — was invented and created by Hess, to be part of this mind-boggling exhibit. (Or so we're told by reliable sources; Hess is neither admitting nor denying anything.) I don’t recall anything remotely like it (Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach).

Shirle Gottlieb




John Van Hamersveld, “Pipeline (for Billabong),” digital print from drawing.



Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, is the home of the Surfers’ Hall of Fame and of course host to the U.S. Open of Surfing each year. So it is only appropriate that the Huntington Beach Art Center organized “The Art and Soul of Surfing,” a fun installation that celebrates the relationship between the artist/surfer and the ocean. As is typical of surf themed art, magical vistas like Bill Ogden’s “Little Drakes,” or awe inspiring waves such as those found in Lori Gilberts’ “The Wedge” are featured quite prominently. While these subjects generally grow tiresome, the inclusion of surf artifacts, video, and a wide range of media, provokes the viewer into the quirky mentality of the surfer.


Ken Auster’s painterly piece entitled “The Tribe” provides a romantic peek into of this subculture. The painting features several groups of surfers sitting idly on the backs of pickups and vans while boards rest in the sand. The close-knit culture of the beach crew is inviting and all too familiar. Across the exhibit, a huge banner by John Van Hamersveld titled “Pipeline Banner” simplifies the historic break into a dynamic pattern of primary colors. And it’s Kevin Ancell’s “Media Miracle” that places the role of the surfer in an imagined moment before surfing became commercial. The Renaissance-inspired composition is comical yet has a wonderfully serious tone. The cumulative result of the exhibit is a refreshing effort that pushes surf art past the generic and stereotypical imagery we too often see in commercial spaces (Huntington Beach Art Center, Orange County).

G. James Daichendt




John Cosby, “Morning Shadows,” oil on canvas, 30 x 40”.



It is unusual for a museum to hang 100-year-old paintings alongside nearly new ones, with all works done in the same or similar style. But this regional museum, dedicated to traditional California impressionist art, has done just that. Once the surprise of the presentation of “Then and Now: 100 Years of Plein Air Painting” passes, we are left with a genuinely intriguing display of 52 works. Perusing a William Wendt painting alongside John Cosby’s contemporary one reveals how the latter work is true to the older style. Were these paintings not labeled, it would be difficult to determine when the individual works were completed. Which brings up the question — do contemporary California Impressionist paintings have intrinsic value, or are they merely derivative of the classic works? Perhaps the answer lies in the tendency for artists over the centuries to backtrack in style, whether to raise fresh issues via previously exhausted styles or as a matter of mere redundancy. Most of the contemporary paintings in this exhibition, all undated but painted in the last 10 years, are true to the classic style in composition, setting, intent and carefully rendered brushstrokes. Cosby’s “Morning Shadows” is a bucolic rural scene with gentle blue stream meandering among rocks, grass and trees beyond, and sky and canyons in the background. Anna Hills’ (1882-1930) “Summer in the Canyon” is a similar scene, yet the prevalence of brown and sand indicate the dryer summer season. The contemporary “Little Treasure Cove” by Jesse Powell, with rocks jutting out into stormy blue and white water, echoes yet is not derivative of Frederick DuMond’s (1867-1927) “Laguna Beach” with its rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. While this exhibition raises questions about the significance of creative originality, the paintings and their juxtapositions to each other create a little treasure of a show (Irvine Museum, Orange County).

Liz Goldner




Julie Orser, “Not Yet Tomorrow,” video and multi-color plastic VHS cassette boxes.




Now in its fifth iteration, “Analog/Digital” is a celebration of current artistic photographic practices. Curator Matt May has assembled a range of superb imagery starting with Mark Chamberlain’s classic display of masterful Cibachrome prints that reveal his sensitive methodology in rendering traditional photographic techniques. With artistic eyes, using saturated colors and subtle lighting, Chamberlain transforms everyday scenes into historic documents. George Katzenberger works with mid-70s computers to produce shapes and shading from dot matrix grids and assorted keyboard characters. They form soulful scenes that manage not to appear outdated. Ashley Chen uses painterly photography. to render serene colored landscapes that use Photoshop techniques of pairing right and left sides seamlessly into each captivating setting.


Among the most playful works are Carl Berg’s and Cecilia Miniucchi’s humorous iPhone film, made in Holland, entitled “Bells du jour.” A hand rings one bell at a time attached to the many bikes, baby carriages, and assorted vehicles that fill Dutch cities. The bark of Annie Buckley’s elegant trees culminates in human legs and shoes. Expertly crafted photo-collage, done piece-by-piece, these perfectly rendered metaphors are among the visual hits of the show. Julie Orser conceives of an inventive architectural installation placed on two high, right-angled windows from pink, yellow, and blue transparent video cases. Light shines through, creating a stained glass curtain effect, while two inserted screens play two different films of people singing a capella. Orser embellishes the gallery with a captivating glow and a funky atmosphere.


From classical methods using traditional cameras and darkroom developing, to imagery from early computer technology, to current cinematic digital-based installations, iPhones and cameras, these wide ranging works reveal the ambiguous possibilities photography offers today. But most of all, each image confirms that it is not the tools of the photographer, but the artist’s unique vision that determines art’s quality (Irvine Fine Arts Center, Orange County).

Roberta Carasso




Victor Landweber, “Hopalong Cassidy,” 1983, Cibachrome print, 20 x 16”.



Victor Landweber is a conceptual artist who uses the medium of photography to create his art. "American Cameras" is an exhibition of fifteen 16” x 20” Cibachrome prints whose subject matter is vintage cameras of the 1940’s and 50’s. These color images are portraits, each work having a single frontal view of one camera that is centrally placed onto a black background. Landweber has carefully traced a white outline around each camera, like a ‘glowing halo’, emphasizing its shape and elevating the unique qualities of each one. This series highlights the distinctive designs and commercial viability of these retro cameras, showcasing them as objects of beauty. Each camera had a unique name such as Imperial Debonair, Bear Photo Special, Hopalong Cassidy, Brownie Starlet and Lady Carefree. Their ability to create images takes a back-seat to their object-hood. Landweber’s photographs essentially transform commercial photographic illustrations in art by focusing our attention on this point. This photographic series, created in the early 1980’s, on another level documents the early years for the development and use of the camera even as he invents a relationship to making art (Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla).


Cathy Breslaw