Andrea Zittel, “Aggregated Stacks and the Collection of Palm Springs Art Museum,” 2015, installation, is currently on view at Palm Springs Museum.


If you haven’t had a chance to see the Museum’s new Architecture and Design Center, Andrea Zittel's "Aggregated Stacks and the Collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum" provides an excellent reason to go. The  "Aggregated Stacks" are simple, stacked cubicles which sit on the floor or hang on the walls, filling the majority of the main gallery. They are made from the many cardboard shipping boxes that arrived at Zittel’s Joshua Tree  studio. Being an eco-minded artist, she came up with a way to re-use them.


The “Stacks” are displayed alongside Native American and modern textiles from the museum's permanent collection, and it’s quite a brilliant way of making us think about how the grid structures our life. Traditional rugs and fabrics are woven on a grid with warp and weft. Zittel’s stacks form grids, which can help organize one’s possessions or display keepsakes. It’s well worth going downstairs at the museum to watch a short “Art21" video made about Zittel and these boxes. In it you can see how they are assembled — wet-taped together, the way body casts are made, then painted an off-white so that they look like one unit. They really are meant to be used, and Zittel herself uses them in her studio. And of course, the museum containing this exhibition is itself grid. It's a beautiful example of midcentury commercial building, formerly a bank designed by E. Stewart William. You walk through very clearly defined rectilinear shapes and spaces.


For Zittel the grid structures our life physically, but also has a psychic dimension. “It goes back to the grid,” she says in the video, “and I think that the grid is representative of human aspirations ...” She makes clear, however, that she’s not interested in perfection — the slightly lumpy, very handmade nature of the stacks attest to this. This quiet, focused exhibition, co-curated by Daniell Cornell and Sidney Williams, is one of the most well considered and thought-provoking I’ve visited this season (Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs).

Scarlet Cheng





Kim Stringfellow, “Wormus Homestead, U.S. Patent No. 1216418,” photograph, is currently on view at Autry National Center.


For those who have enjoyed Kim Stringfellow’s book “Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008,” this exhibition is a gratifying visual and audio supplement. For those who haven’t read the book, it is a small exhibition packed with fascinating histories. The introduction is to the left as you enter, where a vitrine displays homebuilder's flyers and magazines open to appropriate pages. There you can read some terrific first-hand accounts of homesteaders from the 1950s, although enlargements of these pages would have made for easier reading.


U.S. homesteading goes back to the 19th century, but in the Morongo Basin it was launched through the Small Tract Act of 1938. Tracts of land, five acres a piece, were offered by the government — you applied, paid a small fee. Landholders were required to build a small structure on the property. The flyers show homebuilders offering to throw up a small cabin for just over a thousand dollars. Not bad. Many from the L.A. area claimed their “jackrabbit homestead,” but then found it unsuitable for long term or even weekend habitation. Thus today the area around Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and Wonder Valley is dotted with abandoned shacks. However, a few stayed, and in the last couple decades a number of artists, musicians, and other creative types who like and need space moved in.


One wall in the exhibition is covered with color portraits of those people — Andrea Zittel, of course, plus some you may not have heard of, including Diane Best, Chris Carraher and Perry Hoffman with his husband Doug Smith. Another wall is dedicated to photographs of abandoned jackrabbit homes, each accompanied by a framed copy of the original deed, written in very formal and lofty language which far outstrips the humble property. Finally, don’t miss the excellent oral histories available through the headphones. Stringfellow has added some evocative music and sound effects to their stories (Autry National Center, Glendale).






Victor Landweber, “Auduboniana: Passenger Pigeon, Federal Building,” 1998, is currently on view at Norton Simon Museum.


“Human/ Nature: Photographers Constructing the Natural World” turns its back on the aesthetic premise that nature’s beauty is enhanced by the absence of human presence. Members of this assembly of ten photographers purposely feature a wide range of signs of humanity as essential elements in their vision of nature. Robert Von Sternberg humorously makes an orange plastic parking cone the central element in “Columbia Ice Field, Canada.” Lewis Baltz emphasizes the contrast in line and form between a bleak suburban home and the trees visible behind it. In his digital print, “Auduboniana: Passenger Pigeon, Federal Building," Victor Landweber extracts elements of famed ornithologist John James Audubon’s painting of a pair of passenger pigeons in their natural environment, superimposing them over an image of a government building. The original painting by Audubon is dated 1824, when Ectopistes migratorius was the most abundant bird in North America. That was nearly a century before the last known passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. The photographers here rely on a variety of techniques to best offer up their diverse views on the theme of the show, inviting critical dialogue about the impact of our own growing population on what remains of the undeveloped natural world (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).

Diane Calder





Clarissa Tossin, “When Two Places Look Alike,” 2012, digital chromogenic print, 40 x 27”, is currently on view at Samuel Freeman.


Clarissa Tossin's intriguing exhibition, "How does it travel?" turns the entire gallery space into a container for her conceptually rich work. The baseboards are painted green to match the trim of many of the houses in the photographs that dot the gallery walls. A rubber cast of an old VW, “Transplanted (VW Brasilia)," graces the floor inside, while the model for this cast — the actual car — is parked outside the gallery. The show is about displacement and the myriad ways objects and places can be juxtaposed to point out similarities and differences. For example, Tossin traveled back and forth from Alberta, Michigan to Belterra, Brazil because each location was a Ford Motor company town going back to the 1930s. One operated a saw mill the other a rubber plantation. The artist photographed the cabins alone in both locations, then photographed a reproduction of the cabin juxtaposed in front of the actual cabin in both locations. The images effectively paired the two. Artworks about rubber in the form of a tree on loan from The Huntington Gardens, the deflated VW and seeds from Ford's Amazon rubber towns propel the content of the work beyond its formal properties to topical issues of globalization and trade. Tossin's work is engaging on both visual and conceptual levels as she seamlessly weaves together aesthetics and content (Samuel Freeman, Culver City).

Jody Zellen





Augustine Kofie, "Incised Series No. 35," 2014, acrylic, screen print, spray paint and incising on masonite panel, 19 x 19”, is currently on view at Couturier.


Los Angeles has overcome a significant number of hurdles in recent years in overturning a mural moratorium and rebuilding trust between artists and city officials. The southland has a rich history of outdoor art that stretches back decades, a fact celebrated in a 1990 exhibit here featuring the studio work of five L.A. muralists. Twenty-Five years later, the same gallery welcomes a new generation of artists that identify themselves as muralists in a second rendition of this show, “L.A. Muralists: In Their Studios II.” A mix of the old and new, the roster is an impressive grouping whose aesthetic ranges from mural to non-mural work, from portraiture to graffiti and street art.


Kent Twitchell’s name is synonymous with public art in Los Angeles. His commanding and highly detailed images have defined neighborhoods and left a lasting impression on the city. A painting of Nelson Mandela by Twitchell adorns a fragment of the Berlin Wall on Wilshire Boulevard, and a much more graceful portrait of the revolutionary politician is included in the gallery. Whether it’s Richard Wyatt, John Valadez, David Botello, Judithe Hernández or Wayne Healy, these historically important artists form the foundation for the exhibition. Their studio work feels intimate and approachable, a departure from the commanding proportions of their public art. In contrast to this aesthetic and history are Alex “Defer” Kizu and Augustine Kofie, artists aligned with graffiti and street art. Their abstract imagery is packed with an energy and vitality that jumps off the canvases. Existing somewhere in the middle, Pablo Cristi, Lydia Emily, and Angelina Christina combine the worlds of realism and abstraction in their work and offer a bridge between the past and present that balances the exhibition and creates an accurate spectrum of what we celebrate in and outside the gallery (Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood).


G. James Daichendt





Rachel Harrison, “Open Mic,” 2015, wood, polystyrene, cement, acrylic, pedestal, selfie stick and display phone, 107 1/2 x 41 x 57”, is currently on view at Regen.


Although she is one of the most lauded sculptors working today, this isn't Rachel Harrison at the top of her game. But even less than top form for her is still formidable. "Exhibition Framing Device," which features cell-like enclosures combining drywalls and aluminum 2 by 4 inch armatures that frame off several works as well as the larger space as a whole is a new ripple, one that takes a Robert Irwin-esque approach to viewing and perception. Viewers are permitted to move through the gaps in the 2 by 4s to see the interior works and gain multiple views of the gallery through its frames. The sculptures themselves include several painted 2 by 4 inch totems in wood and polystyrene, dubbed 'studs’ — "Blue Stud," "Brown Stud," etc. — as well as a series of more vintage Harrison agit-prop pieces featuring selfie sticks, the metal wands used by self-obsessed social media junkies who feel the need to take selfies without the aid of others. Indeed, these sculptures hold the selfie sticks to themselves, with smart phones (one with a fully charged battery image, another with a cell carrier start-up screen) clasped at the ready. As sculptures, they're not without wit, and obviously hyper-symbolic of our time, but they are a tad too obvious, careening a little too close to gimmickry. Her photographs, meanwhile, continue to deliver. Employing another contemporary meme for a series of inkjet prints taken with an iPhone, FOMO (which stands for 'fear of missing out') includes artful shots of footprints in snow and slush in various states of melt. This allegory for a contemporary disposition hits the nail on the head, with just the right mix of melancholy, longing and humor (Regen Projects, Hollywood).

Michael Shaw





Andrew Brischler, “Celebrity,” 2015, colored pencil, oil stick, acrylic on wood panel, is currently on view at Gavlak.


Andrew Brischler's pop designs of spirals, splotches and text tend to run thin but are amply well-crafted in their objecthood to be satisfying nonetheless. The show's strongest piece features the word "Celebrity" on a diagonal in a crisply designed 70s-era font, with black lines over a taxi-cab yellow background that emanates outward in pseudo-Op Art fashion. The cleverly titled "Going Clear" alludes to the book and recent HBO documentary on Scientology, it perfectly blends design and content, form and conceptual function, in its visual complexity. As opposed to painting specifically, Brischler produces his pieces primarily with colored pencil and graphite, adding a little bit of acrylic when necessary (mainly for the text) on the wood panels. The result is a soft, perceptually pliable image, as opposed to a hard-edged one. The work thus occupies its own material/process niche. Elsewhere there are spirals, both generic and the one straight from Hitchcock's “Vertigo," large-scale stylized blotches, and various text designs that owe much to Ed Ruscha, but are far more fetishistic in their embrace of album-cover culture ("Punk & Faggotry" is the title of a suite of 20-odd colored pencil and graphite works on paper). The result is a pleasure to behold, but its conceptual residue quickly vaporizes (Gavlak Gallery, Hollywood).






“Xochipala Baby,” middle pre-classic period, 1150 to 550 B.C., 20” high, is currently on view at Latin American Masters.


If for no other reason, go and see “Sculpture of Ancient Mexico” because this subject is no longer just part of Mexican ancient history, but is now also considered as part of an American cultural movement that more and more embraces the contributions of Latin America. This exhibition, which has a museum feel to it, includes twenty-four Pre-Columbian terracotta figures from the cultures of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Veracruz and the Yukatan. There are some extraordinary individual pieces among them. One is a sculpture dating from between 1150 and 550 B.C. titled “Xochipala Baby,” which shows a young child with one hand grabbing its ear, the other touching its mouth. It seems to be discovering the world for the first time from a standing position. Its face and features give the sculpture a mysterious and unsettling quality. The show also features a large Veracruz “Figure of a Priest,” dating from between 450 and 650 A.D., in a ceremonial dress that leaves his body rather bare. His belt is made of round shells. He’s wearing earrings, a necklace and a nose ring. Instead of looking blessed and sweet-natured, he has a pent-up expression: his eyes are wide open, his lips are pressed tight together and his left hand is poised in mid-motion (Latin American Masters Gallery, Santa Monica).

Simone Kussatz





Ana Prvački, “Debussy p. 156,” 2014, is currently on view at 1301PE.


While shock value has for the most part run its course in contemporary art, there can still be the occasional encounter with work that is sufficiently irreverent and unexpected that it can provoke a shock-like equivalent. Ana Prvački achieves this by feigning cultural politeness. After watching a few moments of a video of a tent in which some form of sexual performance — or perhaps just a monkey festival — is taking place (various shapes bulge out from the tent's interior), one ascends the stairs to find in the main gallery several framed sheets of musical scores, along with a rather suggestively designed musical stand. The framed scores at first blush seem to be as bland as a Hannah Darboven exercise, but look closer and you find very artfully drawn phalluses and labia smoothly integrated into the patterns of the tremolos, trills and glissandos. The scores include several pages of Debussy, a sequence from Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," and Pierre Degeyter's “Internationale," this one dedicated to Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychoanalyst known for dubbing the term "orgone," or cosmic energy as derived from the orgasm. And hence the legitimate connection between these classical music movements and sexual release — this isn't just dick and vagina graffiti. As calculated and enmeshed as these purposefully designed incursions are, the frisson of the two markings feels dirty in a very fresh way. And the video, it turns out, is titled "Quartet, Bows and Elbows," suggesting a frenzy of parts both human and musical (1301PE, Miracle Mile).






Wallace Berman, “Bouquet,” 1964, photograph and verifax collage, is currently on view at LACMA.


The rich history of drawing, specifically with respect to Los Angeles, is explored in two overlapping and interrelated exhibitions: Ed Moses, "Drawings from the 1960s and 70s" and "Drawing in L.A.:  The 1960s and 70s.” "Drawing in L.A." features works by over 50 artists whose approach to drawing range from the conceptual to the representational to the abstract. The exhibition surveys the range of drawing techniques, styles and methodologies that many artists began in the two decades during which the city first emerged as a key contributor to the international art world. That this show includes such a wide and varied range of male and female artists who worked in Los Angles during these years, including Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman, John Altoon, Charles Gaines, Channa Horowitz and Eleanor Antin once upon a time would have come as a surprise, but no longer.


"Drawing in L.A." is a nice complement to the Moses' retrospective of works on paper from the same time. Moses has been exhibiting since the 1950s, so this exhibition traces how his ideas developed during his early prime, and reveal the degree to which the work of this period remains at the root of his current endeavors. Moses' interest in pattern and grids as well as his ability to reduce the observable to the abstract are showcased in the more than 90 works on view (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).






Sturtevant, “Johns Target with Four Faces (study),” 1986, encaustic collage on canvas with objects, 33 1/4 x 26 1/8 x 2 5/8”, is currently on view at MOCA.


This extensive survey of Sturtevant, given the facile title “Double Trouble,” traces the ouevre of a driven and conceptually savvy artist who only recently passed away in 2014. In the 1960s Elaine Sturtevant used the works of her contemporaries as a point of departure for her own explorations of what are appropriate subjects for art and what makes a successful work of art. Interested in appropriation before it was a popular art movement and art school discussion topic, she carefully crafted replicas of iconic works by contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Jasper Johns. The "style of others" became her medium. Throughout her career she mimicked popular works reproducing not only the appearance but the use of media employed in the original. Being such carefully wrought handmade reproductions, she struck a noteworthy balance between mechanical reproduction and imbuing her own experience of each work over the visual reference. Gender tropes abound: the woman behind, but invisible beside powerful men; female versus male originality and credit; women as nurturers. As interested in installation as she was in creating discreet objects, the scope and sensibility of her work is best understood by seeing the works in relation to one another, which is what is delivered here. We can see the visual logical of why she'd juxtapose the works of Frank Stella and Felix Gonzales Torres, or remake wallpaper by Robert Gober and Andy Warhol. That her work is also more fully recognized now as a key to the narrative history of simulation and appropriation is especially relevant in the digital age because the entire impulse is now cast in the light of a technology that did not yet exist during her heyday (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).






Joel Tauber, “Attempting to Restore Happyville,” still from “The Sharing Project,” 2015, video, is currently on view at CSU Long Beach.


Note the number of times the word “MINE,” (a form of the possessive case of “I”) is brandished by children testing the boundaries of ownership, and you begin to get some idea of how challenging was artist and filmmaker Joel Tauber’s project to teach the value of sharing to his preschool aged son Zeke. Complicated when Zeke’s younger brother Ozzie arrives on the scene, Tauber’s examination of the history, philosophy and psychology of sharing, in a society where “socialism” is considered to be a dirty word and the attitude that “he who dies with the most toys wins,” is unduly promoted, leads him to examine, with Zeke, the remains of “Happyville,” an early twentieth century Jewish commune of 50 pioneers in South Carolina. There, determined to uncover the mysteries of sharing and to “fix,” metaphysically and poetically, whatever caused this utopian community to disintegrate, Zeke and his dad get to work with Zeke’s "special tools,” that is toy hammer, pliers and shovel. Together they probe and dig, then “repair” an ancient tractor and decaying building. Supporting that feature video, “The Sharing Project," are numerous short films focusing on Zeke and his dad grappling with the challenges of sharing, as well as tablets involving 21 experts in different fields offering their thoughts on the subject. In addition, Tauber invites members of the viewing audience to contribute toys and position them with others in a growing gallery sculpture of sharing that will be dispersed among the community as each contributor is encouraged to select one toy to take away at the end of the show (CSU Long Beach, Long Beach).






Anthony Friedkin, “Silver Curl, Hermosa Beach, CA,” 2005, gelatin silver print, is currently on view at Joseph Bellows.


It is a particular sensitivity that unites the work of Anthony Friedkin, Steve Kahn and Grant Mudford in their current show, “Drawn to Light." The images of these Los Angeles-based photographers elicit an emotional response whether it be the Pacific Ocean waves in Friedkin’s images, the long dark shadowy corridors of old apartment buildings in Kahn’s work or the stark sharpness and contrasts in the urban landscapes of Mudford. Friedkin’s wave images tend towards abstractions that speak to their structure and texture so as to convey their power and force as they move toward shore. There is an intimacy, and a personal knowledge present in these images that only someone who spends a lot of time in the ocean could capture. The beauty of the waves is further enhanced by these images being in black and white, allowing the light to glisten and create form as the waves take center stage. The subject matter of Kahn’s images — the dark corridors in an old building — wouldn’t normally grab anybody's attention, but Kahn has built a quiet mysterious beauty into his photographs. Viewers are drawn to his sense of deep space using only one-point perspective, as well as his keen familiarity and personal connection to these hallways. Studying the light, focusing on the textures of the walls, ceiling lights, doorways, carpets and floor patterns adds to the subtlety of the images. In the "Corridor Series" Kahn sets up a compositional formula strictly adhered to in all the images. Formalism is also evident in the work of Grant Mudford. His black and white urban landscapes of buildings find identity and personal meaning by drawing attention to a connection of patterns to architectural forms, adjacent greenery, and sometimes names or words on buildings. "Drawn to Light" brings together three photographers who investigate the psychology of place and our relationship to it (Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla).

Cathy Breslaw