Charles Gaines, “Librettos:  Manuel de Falla / Stokely Carmichael” installation view, 2015, currently at Art + Practice.



Art + Practice's inaugural exhibition is presented in conjunction with a companion show at the Hammer Museum features Charles Gaines. Gaines' older work of “Gridwork" (from 1974-1998), on exhibit at the Hammer is a stunning survey. "Librettos: Manuel de Falla / Stokely Carmichael,” a new installation at Art + Practice, encircles the walls like a freize. This multi-panel work juxtaposes the score of a 1904 opera with a 1967 speech by Black Panther member Stokely Carmichael. Gaines is interested in how new meaning can be created through the layering of disparate elements. Similarly, the work at the Hammer juxtaposes complex numbering and archiving systems with photographic and drawn imagery. In much of Gaines' work visual forms (trees, dancers, portraits) are transposed and recorded as numbers logged into graph paper. This mapping is both a visual and intellectual pursuit and the resulting works are complex documents that record how things change over time. Gaines' work has never been a quick read, but has always been and remains worth the time and effort (Art + Practice, South Los Angeles; and the Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Jody Zellen





Catherine Howe, “Carborumdum and Silver Paintings (Cat and Mouse),” 2014, acrylic, encaustic, metal leaf, carborundum grit and gesso on canvas, 66 x 60”, is currently on view at Von Lintel.



Painter Catherine Howe's new work experiments with different methods and materials, all of which are a testament to her unbridled enthusiasm for the medium. Two of the seven works exhibited, almost all of which are indebted to both the imagery and quiet mournfulness of Dutch still-life painting, are "Reverse Paintings," where swirling brushstrokes of blooms and vases in acrylic, marble dust, and oil-based ink are painted on the reverse side of polyester sheeting. The effect is soft and almost ghostly, more of a memory of a painting than a living, breathing one. Similarly, "Mica Painting (Geisha)" utilizes mica pigment suspended in acrylic resin to create a shimmering and pale surface upon which gesso floral forms droop and dance. Finally, there are three "Carborundum and Silver" paintings, created by scattering sparkling carborundum dust on undulating, mostly abstract shapes that Howe painted in a clear gel. Working with this essentially blind process, our heightened awareness of the elements of intuition, memory and automatism (one of the works ended up revealing cat and mouse forms, which she references in its title) lend gravitas to the eye-catching works (Von Lintel Gallery, Culver City).

Kristen Osborne-Bartucca




Kenny Scharf, installation view of “Born Again,” 2015, is currently on view at Honor Fraser.



Kenny Scharf is best known for playful and exuberant work that exudes a veneer of fun. While the artist made a name for himself in the East Village during the 1980s, he was actually born and raised in Los Angeles. The youngest of three boys, his childhood was a typical middle class upbringing and the young Scharf found an outlet through television and art making. Scharf’s early artwork reacted against the humdrum aesthetics and abundance of brown and orange that started to take over design in everything from home goods to automobiles in the 1970s. For “Born Again” Scharf amassed a huge number of amateur artworks from friends and thrift stores. The poorly painted, odd subjects, and muted colors have each been reinvented. Much like Scharf’s original inspiration to make a new and more exciting world as a young man, he does it again as a much more mature artist. As each image is filtered through his unique lens, multiple universes are referenced from prior phases of his career. The reinvented paintings are now full of characters that climb, crawl, and make a mockery of these once sincere paintings. The final installation is hung salon style and is as overwhelming as one of Scharf's blob-like characters that oozes off the canvas and into our world (Honor Fraser, Culver City).

G. James Daichendt


Daniel Lefcourt, “Cast” 2014, PDk31(Perylene Green-Black) pigment and urethane binder on canvas, 112 x 76”, is currently on view at Blum & Poe.



Daniel Lefcourt's large-scale paintings bear a powerful and mysterious presence, conjuring an aura of the archaeological with specters of a digital footprint. Employing the same viridian-green pigment throughout (referred to in the titles as 'Perylene Green-Black'), they're made by taking a 3-D image model, carving those images into low-relief foam molds into which paint is poured, dried, and then transferred onto canvas. Prickly relief passages from the urethane molds are visible upon close inspection, and clearly impact the subtle three-dimensionality in the overall effect. This in turn somehow manifests associations with both satellite and microscopic imagery. Inspired by his stumbling upon an online database that included, among others things, 'the history of photogrammetry' and video stills of satellite images that may or may not have been simulations, Lefcourt successfully engages much of that ambiguity. Smaller works in the adjacent space include graphite, resin and machined fiberboard panels, which share some of the same imagery as the paintings. These solid works are minimal in their structure yet full of information. But they feel formalist and capture far less of their source of inspiration than the paintings (Blum & Poe Gallery, Culver City).

Michael Shaw




Blake Little, “Angelina and Paul,” 2014, color photograph, 48 x 36”, is currently on view at Kopeikin.



Blake Little's multiple-edition photographs of models glistening with, what ... resin? No, honey, it turns out ... are sensationally intriguing, nearly to a fault. First they raise the obvious questions: What? How? As the models are virtually submerged in this at-first-indeterminate substance, one will likely question whether they're in fact living, breathing individuals. Perhaps these are people who have been cast, sculpted into highly realistic, Ron Mueck-like objects; subsequently covered in cascades of resin; and then photographed while still wet? Rather, these are indeed real models, of all shapes and sizes, who have been covered in honey. The glistening quotient is extreme, the highlights nearly profound. In some cases, long, thin strands of the viscous sweet stuff sprout out from eyes or a chin in long, extremely thin strands. In others the honey gyrates like a jump rope in response to an apparent twist or shaking movement by the model. All that said, there's a shadow side to these images: through the course of the models' respective sittings/performances, a certain degree of sacrifice was endured, in a process similar to when one is cast in plaster. Then there's also the matter of the honey. Context isn't just necessary when addressing Little's project, but urgent. Here then are a few key points, as reported in Slate: During the shoots, Little used 1,000 pounds of honey per week; he recruited his models both through agencies and Craigslist; and in terms of endurance, according to the artist, "some people were able to stay in the moment for more than an hour, while others clearly wanted the process to be sped up." That sounds like an understatement. And a still unanswered question remains: what about the cleanup? (Kopeikin Gallery, Culver City)





Jason Bail Losh, “Postal Work,” 2015, akashi, maple, ceramic, birch plywood, 42 x 10x 10”, is currently on view at Anat Ebgi.



Jason Bailer Losh's new sculptures unite whimsy and utilitarianism in an amalgamation of strange secondhand objects of brass, bronze, and birch plywood. Losh is interested in the idea that the objects have a lived experience — many are cracked, scuffed or faded — but can be combined with each other to create something new and compelling. There is a whiff of Americana and mid-century modernism in the smooth, abstracted objects affixed to their pedestals. "Postal Work" appears to be the top of a crutch resting atop two stacked maple bowls, while "Notes Toward a Conditional Dead Language" features more unidentifiable objects — three small wood cones standing next to a larger bifurcated conical shape, all topped with steel balls. This piece and others are sweetly anthropomorphic, reaffirming the objects' emotional life within their formalist context. Losh also includes several wall pieces that look like modernist paintings from a distance but are actually slabs of Ultracal cement with slim, swirling lines of color etched into the surface. The juxtaposition of the industrial, hard material with the delicate, painted lines is similar to the sculptures' assertion that there can be something very alluring in even the most unlikely objects and materials (Anat Ebgi, Culver City).





John Currin, “Nude in a Convex Mirror,” 2015, oil on canvas, 42 x 42”, is currently on view at Gagosian.



It is impossible not to stop and gape at John Currin's latest paintings, especially the circular canvases like "Nude in a Convex Mirror" and "Bust in a Convex Mirror" that present the nude female figure as if seen through an extremely wide angle lens. Currin exults in this distortion and indulges in depicting the female form out of proportion. The works feel more silly than offensive, as Currin has a tongue in cheek attitude toward his depictions. Taking imagery from B movies, pornography and Old Master paintings Currin collages these myriad styles to create the finished work. A skilled draftsman and painter, the artist creates layers of opaque and transparent paint seamlessly fused to depict the foreground and background in these different styles. Often a quasi-monochromatic sex scene lifted from pornography serves as the background for a more realistically rendered portrait of a scantily clad woman. Frequently criticized for his depiction of women as being sexist and misogynistic, Currin's works celebrate the female body in a Baroque-cartoonish manner. While it is tempting to dismiss his work, it’s cunning and his skill cannot be denied (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).





Heatherwick Studio, "Learning Hub, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore,” 2011-14, is currently on view at the Hammer Museum.



“Can a building help change the way we learn?” “What might a twenty-first century mosque be like?” “Can a rotationally symmetrical form make a comfortable chair?” These questions and more propel Britain's Heatherwick Architecture and Design Studio to explore novel engineering solutions through inventive approaches to problem solving. Tear off your own four-foot long information strip, made available to all visitors to this thought-provoking exhibition. Keep it handy while making your way through the galleries, viewing models, photographs and design projects in various stages of solution to the problems presented to them. The two-sided information strip provides a list of questions posed to Heatherwick as well as illustrated descriptions of selected projects in the UK and in international locales ranging from South Africa to Singapore and China. The interlinked cluster of towers that make up the “Learning Hub” in Singapore enhances learning by encouraging student interactivity. A model of the yet-to-be-built mosque offers up the possibility of a striking combination of traditional and futuristic elements. Not only can you see plans and models of the rotational chair, but you can also “test drive” one yourself on the plaza level.


By chance or choice, the process referred to as frontage — the capturing of a copy of a textured object by rubbing the surface of a sheet of paper placed over it with a marking implement — has been practiced for centuries. Opening with a detailed rubbing of a sandstone representation of a scene from the Hindu epic the Ramayana"Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now" examines the art of frottage created by artists with diverse agendas. Dada pioneer Max Ernst, also a practitioner of Andre Breton’s theories of Surrealism, repurposed the teeth of a comb to simulate the ribs of an animal in a 1925 rubbing on view here. Roy Lichtenstein employed the frottage technique to increase contrasts between background and body parts in his decidedly Pop “Foot Medication,” a work that could be appropriated to suggest the primary definition of frottage in the fourth edition of Webster’s Dictionary, “sexual gratification from rubbing against the body.” In a section of the gallery dedicated to memory and mortality, Jennifer Bornstein remembers her father with a rubbing of clothes he once wore. Alighiero Boetti evokes a sense of absence with a ghostly frottage of an empty wicker chair. But it’s Morgan Fisher’s dark series of barely legible titles and dates on eleven graphite rubbings of covers from “British Photography” annuals between 1950 and 1960, a deft reference to the dying days of traditional salon photography, that is among the most laudable use of frottage in the exhibition (The Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Diane Calder




Brian Weil, “Transvestite Safe-Sex Outreach Worker, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic,” 1987, gelatin silver print, is currently on view at Santa Monica Museum.  Courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona and Kenneth C. Weil.



Brian Weil (1954-1996) was an artist and activist whose career was cut short, at the age of forty-one, by a heroine overdose. "Being in the World,” put together by Stamatina Gregory for the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, is an overdue retrospective that places Weil among a group reserved for the likes of Nan Goldin and David Wojnarowicz. Hung chronologically, the exhibition illustrates the trajectory of Weil's pursuits and his commitment to representing marginal communities. Among Weil's subjects are Hasidic Jews, boxers and body builders, people with AIDS/HIV, crime scenes and victims as well as practitioners of S&M and bestiality. Weil was known for immersing himself in the communities he documented. His collective body of work reifies these subcultures without condoning or celebrating what they represent. He understandably struggled to gain public validation for his images, but Weil fearlessly pushed the limits of photographic subject matter throughout his short career in a way that time has now caught up with (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).





Astrid Preston, “Mirroring,” 2014, oil on canvas, 57 x 78”, is currently on view at Craig Krull.



At a time in which video, installation and cutting-edge media and technology-based art is ascendant, it becomes refreshing to view art that still depends completely on the application of brush to canvas. Astrid Preston is one of these pure painters. Her oeuvre, inspired by the ponds at Descansco Gardens in Southern California and Monet’s garden at Giverny, does not take nature as it is, but rather through a widening consciousness, sort of like the freed prisoner in the Plato cave allegory who comes to realize that the shadows and sound coming from the wall weren’t the true reality, but a very limited one. Viewing Preston’s images has a liberating effect because they remind us that the world is not necessarily the way we think it is, but a social construction of reality. No lazy seeing permitted with this work.  In “On Reflection” and “Mirroring” we see nature on two distinct levels: first as a reflection on the water, then as if we were looking through a camera lens zooming in on certain elements of nature. Hence, reefs or leaves appear crisp and sharp as in contrast to the trees and thicket that appear rather blurred and are rendered in an impressionistic manner.  Overall, Preston’s paintings succeed not so much through this philosophical idea as the authority of execution and their visual poetry (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Simone Kussatz




Sabrina Gschwandtner, “Spindle Log Cabin Square,” 2014, 16mm polyester film, polyester thread, 15 3/4 by 15 3/4 by 3 1/16", is currently on view at Shoshana Wayne.



It’s impossible to look at Sabrina Gschwandtner's “Film Quilts” without thinking of the work of Carter Potter, a local artist widely exhibited in the 80s and 90s who also worked with woven filmstrips. Gschwandtner works from a specific source — a collection of 16 mm educational documentaries de-accessioned by the Fashion Institute of Technology — given to her by the Anthology Film Archives. After watching the films Gschwandtner bleaches, scratches and paints on their surfaces, cuts them up and sews them together following popular American quilt motifs. While much of the original film and its context have been stripped away, select words and images remain so as to connect the abstract composition to its original content. Displayed in custom light boxes, the works become glowing patterns of celluloid fashioned into abstract patterns. It adds up to a curious combination of high and low tech (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).





Mirella Bentivoglio with Francesco Balladore, “Egemonia of (Hegemony Op)” (left panel), 1977, two panels of photomechanical prints, 26 x 36” each, is currently on view at Pomona College Museum.



Italian poet and artist Mirella Bentivoglio’s images and objects use words in quietly challenging ways. In this retrospective she often toys with the Italian letters ‘E' and ‘O' that stand respectively for the English words "and" and “or." Using their imbedded meanings of inclusion and otherness as a jumping off point for images, she repeatedly pushes the letter forms into big three-dimensional graphic shapes or into small unexpected fluxus-bred objects. They intrigue most when she reaches for the experience of words as an ongoing poetry of unfolding meanings that plays off the stuff of the real world. To do that she makes books out of everything from polished marble to dirt or flattened tin cans and collaged or photographic images that richly allude to everything from myth to history, commerce and oppression (Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont).

Suvan Geer




Young-Il Ahn, “At the Beach 12,” 2012, oil on canvas, 48 x 60”, is currently on view at the Long Beach Museum.



Although he grew up in Korea, Young-Il Ahn has lived in the United States for the past twenty years with his wife, Soraya. For the past two years, she has done all the talking for her husband, who lost control of his voice due to a stroke. Soraya thinks her husband's room-sized "water paintings" are his best yet. His fascination with the appearance of water started in 1983 when the artist was lost at sea. The fog rolled in and all he could see was the current of water moving imperceptibly under next to no light. However, a faint horizon line, high up in the far distance, gave him hope. Since then, Young-Il Ahn has meticulously produced many painted renditions of water by emulating what he saw, heard, felt and/or perceived during that fearful time when he was lost. Living in Santa Monica, so close to the water, keeps him inspired. On view in galleries on a bluff overlooking the ocean are 30 from his "Memoir of Water” series. Each is composed of tiny squares of bright oil pigment juxtaposed against its analogous opposite (i.e. green on red, blue on yellow, orange on purple). Of special interest are his abstract paintings, which follow an entirely different construct: "At the Beach in California" (1993), "String Quartet" (1995), and "L.A. Harbor" (1985) are all composed from colorful fragments of geometric shapes that are painted spontaneously in rhythmic patterns (Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach).

Shirle Gottlieb




Guillermo “Willie” Gonzalez, is currently on view at MoLAA.  Photo:  Mick Victor/COTU MEDIA.



When curator Carlos Ortega asked five local artists to select work from the museum's permanent collection that best exemplify their emotional state before and after some personal, life-changing event, he could never have dreamt what a dramatic effect it would have! Actually, over 50 artists replied to his request; then MoLAA's curatorial staff whittled it down to five — each of whom was limited to 10 works that are included with a short video in “Transformations." In the video, each artist describes the transforming event in his/her own words; then explains why the visual imagery he/she chose defines and enhances what happened. The five artists are Racio Villalobos, Juan Gonzalez, Lorena Mercado, Felicia Revero and Guillermo ("Willie") Quinones. Their stories involve shootings, gang activity, abandonment, homelessness, breast cancer, and the desire to escape barrio life. In Racio's case, she grew up in El Salvador and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. But at age 8 she was shot in the crossfire of gang warfare. In spite of multiple surgeries, she was left paralyzed for life. Juan became involved with gangs along the border, was sentenced to prison, and consequently missed ten years of family life. His art expresses the anger and sadness he experienced during that time. In 2013, Lorena was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 6 surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, she draws on those experiences to represent her struggles with the side-effects of treatments. Felicia was abandoned by her mother as a teenager, which forced her into homelessness. As a result, she was exposed to poverty, drugs, sexual abuse and violence. As for "Willie," he tried to escape barrio life by running away from home and joining the Navy. As the song goes, "Join the Navy and see the world;" but at age 72 he's still trying to figure out "how to fit in." True to its purpose, "Transformations" is heavy stuff indeed. It not only depicts the life-changing events of the five artists in the exhibit (and gives the permanent collection another chance to be seen); it also transforms the lives of many of the visitors who see it (Museum of Latin American Art [MoLAA], Long Beach).





Jeff Irwin, “Dogwood Teapot,” earthenware, glaze, 13 x 14 x 8”, is currently on view at R.B. Stevenson.



It is frequently said that “context is everything.” In the case of sculptor Jeff Irwin’s current exhibition, “The Nature of Trophies," this is most certainly the case. Irwin’s earthenware works are entirely white with a luminescent white glaze, and all the surfaces in the gallery are white including floors, walls, ceiling and display structures. In addition, climbing the stairs leading up to the gallery adds to the feel of arriving in a hazy, ghost-like, even heavenly space that feels spiritual. Entering the gallery, “Jumping Deer” greets you. A deer in active motion is cut in two segments so that the head and front two legs face you. A peek around to other side of the wall reveals the other ‘half’ of it’s body. An adjacent piece, titled “Striving,” depicts a pig head holding up a tree branch with its snout, and a cone-like form hanging from it. This speaks to one of Irwin’s underlying conceptual ideas. Curiously, though the works are made from clay materials, they are intentionally fashioned to look like wood, with all the nubbiness one sees on tree limbs. Many different animal images emerge: a pig, dog, woodpecker, antelope, etc. Though some animal heads hang from the wall like trophies, others appear to speak mostly to environmental concerns. One wall features three horses named “Win” “Place”“Show” — only the heads and front legs are visible, as if the horses are actively running through the wall to meet the viewer. There is a certain humbleness in the nature of the material and content of Irwin’s work that is complemented by his clarity of purpose. The hybridization of trees and animals integrated into mostly animal forms reminds us of the connections among all living things and nature (R.B. Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla).

Cathy Breslaw




Hendrik Kerstens, “Bag,” 2007, pigment print, is currently on view at MoPA.  Courtesy of the artist and Danziger Gallery.



Since 1995 Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens has been shooting his daughter, Paula, who serves as the “Model and Muse” of the exhibition’s title. Kerstens’s approach is a mix of painting and photography, referencing OldMaster dark backgrounds and poses. His careful handling of light and the subtle treatment of skin evokes the delicate and focused mentality of 17th-century Dutch portraiture. He blends this together with 99¢ Store accessories such as a bubble wrap headdress, a plastic shopping bag cap, cloth napkin and towel hats. There is an ever so carefully arranged aluminum foil head-cover. A collection of doilies are stacked around Paula’s neck so as to mimic ruffs of that time, so there can be no mistaking the reference. Photographs they may be, but this work is painterly in its sensibility. There is a playful air of humor in the costume-like combinations of hats and caps he creates for each pose. Bordering on the ridiculous at times, we don’t immediately see them in good part due to the deadpan expression on Paula’s face. Once you pick up on the joke, of course, you can’t miss it. These images are also the serious effort of a parent's desire to document his child’s growth over time. They are at once classically beautiful, misleadingly conventional and hilariously absurd (Museum of Photographic Arts [MoPA], San Diego).