CONTINUED AND RECOMMENDED, OCTOBER 2015

 

Michael Waugh, “Les régles de l’art,” 2015, ink on mylar, 4 panels, each 102 x 42", is currently on view at Von Lintel.

 

 

Michael Waugh's obsessively intricate drawings on mylar have a noble and ever-poignant central core  — the troubling intersections of politics, wealth and power. Using micrography, transforming written text into representational imagery, he presents scenes both urban and semi-rural, as well as detailed portraits of horses, in a graphic aesthetic consistent with their late 19th/early 20th-century settings. Using texts from capitalist theory among other similar sources, Waugh's newsprint-like imagery is so finely rendered that it only breaks down into text under careful inspection. These are not mere formal exercises.  The horses and human figures alike are depicted with an innocent charm that belie the ominous forebodings made apparent in titles such as "Crisis on the Horizon," or the spot-on word-to-text interplay of "Before Our Very Eyes." "Les règles de l’art," at 102 x 168 inches on four panels, is by far the largest piece, and also the most spectacular: a city street of perhaps a century ago stretches from a corner off towards a distant bend. The fourth building down from the corner is in mid-implosion, as if detonated from within, but only the horse-and-carriage faltering just beneath its collapse appears to register the dire circumstance; others just mill about. The work is too stylized to suit the literal content of Pierre Bourdieu’s book Les règles de l’art, (“The Rules of Art”) which explores the connection between art and the social structures within society by which art is produced and received. But Waugh's message and method execute a perfect tip-toe of a sneak attack.

 

 

 

Also on view are selections of Izima Kaoru’s large-scale, highly saturated color photographs from the series "Landscape with A Corpse." The photographer depicts moments of death as imagined by his super-star models. In each staging the model is dressed in high fashion, albeit sometimes covered in blood. The magnificence and power of the industrial and natural landscape depicted in the photographs, in many cases, dwarfs the figure whose dramatically staged death is thus insignificant in relationship to the architecture (Von Lintel Gallery, Culver City).

Michael Shaw / Jody Zellen

 

 

 

Sarah Perry, “Where There’s Smoke,” 2015, handmade bees, outlet, smoke, sealants and mixed media, 5 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 3/4", is currently on view at Koplin Del Rio.

 

 

"Within the Walls" is a Sarah Perry tour de force of using materials found in or inspired by nature, and reworking them into assemblage art pieces both hauntingly beautiful and unsettlingly surreal. One series is made up of humble electrical wall outlets — the kind you plug your devices into — which are shown at eye level. Only these have bees and spiders crawling in and out of the openings, and the tiny creatures fabricated by Perry with adept verisimilitude. In some, the outlets have burned out, with smoky patches above the openings. Others ooze a thick, translucent liquid, suggesting honey. The mind begins to conjure a background story, about how bees managed to get inside your walls and have now built honeycombs inside them. The outdoors has invaded your precious home, and it makes you queasy. Other works which echo this idea are “Wigglesworth: Phase One” and “Wigglesworth: Phase Two.” Here, millipedes, reworked from actual husks of millipedes, crawl in and out of old books. In a humorously self-referential touch, one is entitled “The Physiology of Insect Metamorphosis.”

 

There is much that is humorous, and also unnerving, in Perry’s juxtapositions of nature and human. In “Times Up” a dozen brass instruments riotously shoot out from a wall-mounted base. It seems very joyous until you approach and see that each opening is occupied with the snarling head of a cat, rodent, or other creature. Probably the most astonishing piece is “Take Me Home,” a birdhouse like no other. The “house” is made from an old metal can, with a circle cut from the side – the doorway perhaps. That entrance is made up of thousands of small bones arranged in a vortex. Perry gets these bones from owl pellets, pellets made up of things that owls eat but cannot digest, and is thus regurgitated. The pellets are made of the fur and bones of small birds and creatures. She carefully extracts the small bones and bleaches them, before using them in her work (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City).

Scarlet Cheng

 

 

 

Mark Hagen, “To Be Titled (Additive and Subtractive Sculpture, Titanium Screen #2, Panels 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E),” 2015, titanium sheeting anodized with Diet Coke on aluminum honeycomb panel, with Papercrete (Savage backdrop paper and cement) on aluminum and stainless steel space frame, 104 x 26 1/2 x 38 1/2”, is currently on view at China Art Objects.

 

 

Mark Hagen continues to be a great maker of objects, both painting and sculpture. His work is bisected by a rather pared-down, even minimal sensibility on one side (the paintings), and a more maximal one (the sculptures) on the other. For “Schmanthropocene” the artist has softly fused the two dichotomies by framing his burlap paintings in colorfully anodized aluminum, with more pared-down versions of patterns which reach their full velocity in freestanding aluminum honeycomb panel monoliths, which, as with the frames, are anodized with Diet Coke. And speaking of a sense of humor, one of Hagen's large vertical paintings — which are variations on a black-white-black repeating gradient pattern, or on a trellis pattern — breaks out of the mold with a graphic, maze-like pattern laid over a softer, gradated background that's dubbed "Lost in My Mansion." The freestanding sculptures, meanwhile, have an intense, computer-generated color scheme that gives them a very futuristic vibe, which is integral to Hagen's oeuvre (indeed, all the works, implying a future moment, are titled "To Be Titled," with additional didactics). It's not quite clear whether Hagen is milking a minimalist painting aesthetic with subtle touches, or if he’s attempting to reignite minimal-esque painting by introducing complex installation frameworks. "Ramada China Art Objects," a cast aluminum "thatch" running wall to wall, does just that. Perhaps it's all of the above, and then some (China Art Objects, Culver City).

MS

 

 

 

Joel Otterson, “Flesh Cup #2,” 2015, enamel on hand blown glass, 11 1/8 x 5 1/4", is currently on view at Maloney.

 

 

Joel Otterson’s decorative works are a blend of high and low art. Otterson is well known for using materials associated with craft: thread, beads, glass and colored cloth, integrating them into colorful abstract compositions or sculptures that defy the original object's function. For example a chandelier is made from glass goblets. In this current exhibition, “Needleworks," Otterson titillates with two new series of works: beaded paintings and flesh cups. "Flesh Cups" are hand blown glass cups painted with narratives taken from Russian criminal tattoos. The needlework of the exhibition's title refers both to the tattooing needle as well as to the needle used in sewing. Otterson engages spaces in which masculine and feminine meet as well as in the fusion of art and craft (Maloney Fine Art, Culver City).

JZ

 

 

 

Howardena Pindell, “Untitled 6F,” 2008-09, mixed media on paper collage, 6 x 11", is currently on view at Honor Fraser.

 

 

It’s surprising that Howardena Pindell, who has enjoyed a long and celebrated career, has had little to no exposure in Los Angeles until now. This well conceived exhibition showcases the different facets of her creative output. Pindell's work, while rooted in abstraction, is enriched with conceptual and process art components and identity and social politics. The abstractions and video drawings on view are connected through Pindell's mark-making techniques. In the video drawings images grabbed from television are overlaid with arrows and numbers then re-photographed to arrive at the final work. These pieces investigate the depiction of violence — be it war or sport — as seen on T.V. A similar obsessiveness is employed in collaging bits of colored paper made with a hole-punch creating all-over decorative patterns. The eye traverses these pieces taking in the texture, pattern and fragmented texts. They display Pindell's uncanny ability to fuse the geometric, the organic and the gestural (Honor Fraser, Culver City).

JZ

 

 

 

Okay Mountain, “Meditations #6,” 2015, digital C-print, 32 x 32", is currently on view at Mark Moore.

 

 

“Staycation" is the buzz-wordy title for this suite of eight digital c-prints by Texas-based collective Okay Mountain (the installation also includes a sound collage, but that's easy enough to ignore, depending on your preference). Taking the Zen Garden as their iconographic arena, the group imports well-established Western cultural ephemera onto these carefully raked sand mini-scapes. Shot from above, they're still lifes and portraits simultaneously. "Meditations #5" features several pieces of chewed gum in varied hues, each surrounded by its own four-ring concentric takings. "Meditations #3" has only a generic take-out coffee cup, an arcing swirl artfully outlining its resting place. "Meditations #9" goes all-in with a party-like yet thoughtfully organized smorgasbord: banana slices on the outer periphery, gummy worms, tortilla chips and sections of fast-food hamburger in the middle area, and a glazed chocolate donut as the god's-eye center. “Staycation” is susceptible to overly simplistic visual one-liners, but the sheer charm of the work outweighs this limitation. Besides, isn't a Zen Garden supposed to be simple? (Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City)

MS

 

 

 

Kazunori Hamana, Yuji Ueda and Otani Workshop, installation view, 2015, is currently on view at Blum & Poe.

 

 

Curated by Takashi Murakami, the installation of ceramics by Kazunori Haman, Yuji Ueda, Otani Workshop in the upper floors of the gallery is not to be missed. The works are installed in an inventive and playful matter that includes displays of utilitarian objects and figurines in custom curio cabinets as well as floor-based installations of large-scale ceramic sculptures, many in human or animal form. The exhibition fuses traditional methods used in creating Japanese ceramics with the wit and charm of the younger generation's comic sensibilities. The art of display, in Murakami's hands, is both a minimalist nod to the precision of form and over the top in terms of the art of kitschy presentation (Blum & Poe, Culver City).

JZ

 

 

 

Gustavo Acosta, painting from “Timeline," is currently on view at Latin American Masters.

 

 

Gustavo Acosta, a Cuban artist (b. 1958) who currently resides in Miami, primary focuses his attention on architecture through both paintings and drawings. His latest works, a series entitled “Timeline," depict a densely cluttered, seemingly abandoned urban space. Painted in muted colors, buildings become a formal composition of rectangles that moves the viewer's eye actively through the composition. Acosta carefully paints the details of the facades of the buildings that populate this imagined city as they recede in space, yet the locations remain haunting rather than inviting. "Timeline” visually suggests the myriad ways buildings and a city decline over time (Latin American Masters, Santa Monica).

JZ

 

 

 

Natasa Prosenc Stearns, “Night Spring 1,” 2015, inkjet print, 19 x 36”, is currently on view at Ruth Bachofner.

 

 

Natasa Prosenc Stearns' current installation, "Night Spring," originally created for the group exhibition "We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles," curated by Elizabeta Betinski and presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia at the 56th Venice Biennale this year, has been adapted for this venue. The video projection and accompanying prints depicts an eroding geyser that can no longer withstand the elements of nature, wind rain, etc. — eventually morphing into the form of a human body. The sequence ends with a close-up image of water flowing in or out of a woman's mouth. The tensions created by watching this powerful flow of water bubble up from or down into suggestive orifices continues Stearns fascination with the relationship between nature and the body. The evocative soundtrack enhances the disconnects between what is real and what is imagined (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).

JZ

 

 

 

Hiro, “David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York,” 1963, dye imbibition print, 19 3/4 x 15 3/8", is currently on view at J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

 

In 1872 Eadweard Muybridge rigged up twelve separate cameras to successfully capture the sequence of images of a galloping horse that provided proof that the animal bred for speed actually became airborne at one point in its running cycle. Muybridge's experimental motion study, displayed in a cabinet alongside a stereoscopic camera, is just one of 35 works in the exhibition “In Focus: Animalia,” an acknowledgment of the roles advances in photo-technology play in the examination of human interaction with animals. Upon entering the gallery, visitors are confronted with Taryn Simon’s image of “Kenny,” a caged, blue eyed, white tiger. Mentally retarded and physically limited due to selective inbreeding, Kenny suffers from the mistakes and failures of human intervention into a territory governed by natural selection. Nearby is Thomas James Dixon’s “Lion at Zoo,” a late nineteenth century photograph of a handsome caged beast that calls to mind the beloved “Cecil,” recently hunted and killed by a Minnesota dentist. On the lighter side are works like a 1845 daguerrotype of a young girl with a deer, William Wegman’s obedient Weimaraner in and out of the box, Sandy Skoglund’s colorful fantasy “Revenge of the Goldfish,” and Hiro’s whimsical interpretation for Harper’s Bazaar of a predator owl with his foot on a bejeweled frog. The prize for most beautiful photograph goes to Daniel Naudé's close-up of a wild dog backed by a dramatically clouded sky, reminiscent of the 17th century equestrian portrait tradition (J. Paul Getty Museum, West Los Angeles).

Diane Calder

 

 

 

Fereydoun Ave, installation view, 2015, is currently on view at Shulamit.

 

 

When entering the gallery one instantly sees that masculinity plays a key part in Fereydoun Ave’s art. There is his mixed media work “Shah-Abbas and His Page Boy,” apparently inspired by Reza Abassi’s painting at the Louvre, carrying a similar title. It refers to Shah-Abbas (1571-1629), a ruler of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, especially remembered for the building of Isfahan, his memorable harem and a fondness of young boys. This abstract piece is partly a patchwork made of subtle monochromatic and fine-patterned fabrics, hand-sewn together, onto which paint is randomly smeared on. It has a companion by the same title, which is almost twice as large and richer in contrast. Ave’s series “Postcards from Iranestan, Postcard Sculpture” is inspired by two strong male figures – one is Rostam in the “Shahnameh," or Book of Kings, the other a muscular wrestler from a sports magazine. In these 3-D prints an image of a man in tight boxer shorts appears again and again in a superimposed position with his arms apart, creating the idea of a man with multiple arms that is reminiscent of Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” and Indian arm dancers. In each image, a huge cloud crowns the man’s head, suggesting the threat that the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons would pose to the world. In addition, the show has four mixed media works titled “Tehran,” “Isfahan,” “Shirs” and “Kalije Fars.” These display the same image of the man with the cloud on top of his head, each time embedded in a slightly different frame (Shulamit Nazarian, Venice).

Simone Kussatz

 

 

 

Matthew Barney, “Water Castings:  Fourteen Pieces,” installation view, 2015, cast bronze, is currently on view at Regen.

 

 

Film can arguably be regarded as Matthew Barney's most significant — certainly his most ambitious — medium (his “River of Fundament" is running currently at MOCA through January 18), so the sculptures he produces tend to feel like companion set pieces, like relics from the film(s), even if they're entirely separate endeavors. Perhaps that criticism is unfair, but that's how ambitious the films are. "Water Castings: Fourteen Pieces" is the latest companion side-shoot, and it features large cast bronze sculptures and engraved wall works. The sculptures, titled "Water Cast" (followed by their respective numbers), delicately propped on pieces of wood (in one case on top of a dredge), are created by pouring molten bronze into a bentonite clay silt, and subsequently, abstract forms develop from the displacement of the metal and the water. Looking a bit like pale, bronzed versions of Christmas trees cast off onto sidewalks, their process, though entrancingly dramatic-sounding, is ultimately not unlike that of process-based abstract painting, a genre that has come under great scrutiny in recent years. Barney’s five "River of Fundament" wall pieces, meanwhile, really hit their mark. Each features an engraved bronze with gold plating, giving sort of a double-gold effect that manages to evade any trace of tackiness. The engravings are very finely drawn scenes, either nautical or aerial, based on Barney's detailed mythological narratives; they pull you in for close viewing with a mastery that is above and beyond the rest of his object-based work. Does "Fourteen Pieces" earn the level of adulation/canonization that Barney's most ambitious work constantly receives? No. Does it make for a complex and sophisticated viewing experience? Absolutely (Regen Projects, Hollywood).

MS

 

 

 

Carlos Martiel, still from “Sujeto,” 2012, digital video, duration 1 minute: 26 seconds, is currently on view at Steve Turner.

 

 

Unless you're engaged in the international art circuit, particularly the Havana Biennial, the only internationally recognized Cuban artists you may be familiar with are Kcho and Tania Bruguera. Carlos Martiel is a young artist from Havana, and, like Bruguera, his medium is performance (indeed, his CV includes a project that Bruguera directed). “Aislado" ("Isolated") includes videos of three site-based performances from 2010, '11 and '12. Two live performances abetted the performance video documentation (Ciudad on Sept. 12, and Trophy on Sept. 26). The most attention-grabbing of the three is “Sujeto" ("Subject"), only a minute-and-a-half in length. Martiel lies partially curled up in a tide pool, a faint mass of white lines emanating from the right shoulder, arm and leg of the artist's body and cutting off toward the corner of the screen. The lines turn out to be fishing lines dug into his skin. This hooked proposition can be seen as the artist being both caught and therefore trapped in a state of stranded isolation. It's tempting to lay on metaphors of Cuban isolation even as the embargo has begun to be lifted, especially in using the shoreline tide pools as his performance venue ("Lazos de Sangre" ("Blood Ties,” 2010) appears to take place in nearly the same spot). I'm curious to learn to what extent Martiel's relationship with performance art has included a survey of Western influences such as Ron Athey, or if those points of reference are coincidental. Meanwhile, it's clear that he is thoroughly dedicated to his form. It will be interesting to see how his work evolves as the embargo becomes less and less of a factor, assuming it was one at all (Steve Turner Contemporary, Hollywood).

MS

 

 

 

Jack Goldstein, “Burning Window,” 1977, installation, is currently on view at 1301PE.

 

 

One going to see Jack Goldstein's revivalist offerings expecting to see paintings, either of the spectacularly ominous skyscape or the heat-sensing-X-ray abstraction variety, might be disappointed upon arrival. The ground floor galleries include examples of his “Aphorisms,” those wall texts in vinyl on the wall which came out of his earlier text work. It serves as a reminder that writing co-existed alongside his object-making throughout his career, the end of which included only writing, and lots of it. The “Aphorisms" here are bland and uninspiring, but upstairs in the main gallery, "Burning Window” (1977) more than covers the gap. It's an installation consisting simply of a thick wall with a frosted four-pane window at its center, with a red light flickering periodically from the artificial 'room' within. It's lo-fi but highly effective, becoming a vacillation between a Malevich-meets-Turrell kinetic abstraction and a simulacra-like stand-in for fire, the latter falling in line with both early Conceptual Art and French post-Structuralist dialogue. Goldstein's early work should be aligned with the Conceptual school rather than the Pictures school that he became most associated with. But, either way, his ability to work successfully across genres anticipated the crossover tendencies that have become common practice (1301PE, Miracle Mile).

MS

 

 

 

Mustafa Hulusi from “Recollections of Underdeveopment,” 2015, photograph, is currently on view at Meliksetian | Briggs.

 

 

"Recollections of Underdevelopment" is the clunky title given to Mustafa Hulusi's series of large-scale photographs taken on the island of Cyprus, the source of Hulusi's nationality (though he's a London-based artist). The photos employ an oddly disorienting spectrum of gradations — as in contact tests to determine proper exposure — further distorted in one case by a landscape hung in vertical portrait format. The photos are mildly beautiful, and a little banal, but dig into the context, both historically and via geographic locale (Cyprus is as close to Syria as it is to Turkey). You should begin to feel some of the darker subtexts at play. An otherwise benign expanse of Cyprus's lovely rocky coastal waters may summon thoughts of the recent, often-tragic boat migrations. In addition to the photographs lining the walls, Hulusi has attempted an installation environment, taking his poster-printed photos of dried-out pomegranates and plastering the windows of the storefront gallery, as well as distributing a few, including a couple of crumpled up versions, across the floor. Though the intention is honest, the quasi-installation gesture tries too hard; it may be ambitious but the result is contrived. The disorientation coming from the photos alone would have been enough (Meliksetian | Briggs, West Hollywood).

MS

 

 

 

Dan Bayles, “Forward, March” from “The Apotheosis of Washington,” 2015, is currently on view at Francois Ghebaly.

 

 

The dome of the U.S. Capitol building may be a surprising subject for a contemporary artist, but Dan Bayles’ new paintings ably unsettle our complacent acceptance of the dome as a symbol of democracy by suggesting new ways of approaching our history. Bayles starts with an image of Constantino Brumidi’s 1865 "Apotheosis of Washington," the famed fresco in the dome — a structure built by slaves. The image, with its heroic and whitewashed celebration of the founding fathers, is then subject to Bayles’s scrutiny and deconstruction. His paintings, varying in size from small to monumental, take a segment of the fresco and interpret it in new ways. Colors and soft organic shapes are emphasized rather than figures. Baroque styling gives way before color field stains, impressionist daubs of paint and tiny, tight brushstrokes in the vein of Lee Mullican. The titles of Bayles’ works — e.g., “Mechanics, Commerce, Marine” and “Landscape with Reaper” — suggest the precision of categories and metanarratives that construct our history, but his style effectively renders them hazy, fragmented, and shifting. They refuse to cohere. Thus, the interstices and margins of the fresco and of history prove more compelling than the official narrative (Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Downtown).

Kristen Osborne-Bartucca

 

 

 

Yuh-Shioh Wong, “They told me to go to the desert,” 2015, acrylic and aqua-oil on canvas, 64 x 54", is currently on view at Night Gallery.

 

 

Yuh-Shioh Wong presents viewers with her own garden of earthly delights, conjuring up an ethereal and primordial world through lightly stained canvases, gauzy colors, spectral animals, and gently undulating shapes that often have yet to materialize into recognizable images. No humans muck up her world; rather, it is inhabited by a slender llama, ponies, a curving pink serpent, sleek black cats looking at their reflection in a pond, birds and all manner of flora and fauna. To drive the point home, a real plant sits on the gallery floor, surrounded by a handful of rocks. Wong’s vision is singular, but she pays homage to artistic forbearers. There are hints of Cezanne in her color palette, and a nod to the Arcadia-by-way-of-color-and-shape that is Matisse’s "Joy of Life." A mountain comes to life through a few simple swathes of gray paint, as in Chinese ink wash paintings. More contemporary references include Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, whose large canvases awash with veils of color immediately come to mind. Despite their seemingly whimsical nature, Wong’s immensely appealing paintings find gravitas in their meditative, spiritual essence (Night Gallery, Downtown).

KOB

 

 

 

Christian Louboutin, “Metropolis,” 2010-11, calfskin and silver spikes, is currently on view at Palm Springs Museum.  Photo:  Jay Zukerkorn

 

 

The "Killer Heels" have marched across the country from the Brooklyn Museum and arrived, exhausted and footsore in Palm Springs. The gorgeous “Killer Heels:  The Art of the High-Heeled Show” presents hundreds of shoes, accompanied by a luxurious catalogue that is worthy of its subjects, that celebrate an historical oxymoron, one of the most dysfunctional objets d’art ever devised by devious men. An attractive device essentially dedicated to the torture of women, the high-heeled shoe was once the prerogative of the royal male of the French court. Louis XV was known to mince about in his silk covered “Louis heels,” point his sharp toes and lean back on the slightly splayed heels, while regarding his groveling courtiers. Meanwhile high-born Chinese ladies of the Manchu dynasty were cramming their crushed toes and humped feet into tiny silken receptacles resting on a pedestal, also called a “shoe.” As with the Chinese ladies who were forced to live with broken bones their entire lives, to endure the torment of high heel shoes was a privilege, expressing not just the absence of the need to labor but also the ability to walk. By the late-eighteenth century, European men abandoned the high heel as they abandoned monarchy, and for a brief period of time it seemed that sanity had returned and heels became practical. However — and history does not recognize coincidences — the more independent women became of men, the higher the heels of their shoes became.

 

Today, as women around the world gradually fight their way into the military and the board rooms, they are also encouraged to flaunt their privilege by purchasing Killer Heels. In their mildest forms, killer shoes can be reasonably benign: a nice Christian Louboutin shoe with a velvety and suggestive red underside would suffice in its modest simplicity and haute height. If one were cold or otherwise employed on the streets, a pair of crotch high red leather high-heeled riveted boots named “Metropolis” would inspire any number of fantasies. But if one wants to walk (or not) dangerously, a needle-heeled creation by Chau Har Lee can double as a weapon of choice, should one be threatened while standing still. My favorite designer in the exhibition, Iris van Herpen, works with United Nude. Her Beyond Wilderness is a slowly moving bramble bush of twisted vines, the result of 3D printing. While there is no doubt that some brave sole has worn the Prada Wedge Scandal, it is clear to those of us who prefer to remain on the ground that the Killer Heels are fetish objects of desire. As the Museum insists, these shoes are cultural signifiers, but of what? While perusing Roger Vivier and Alexander McQueen, the viewer can contemplate shoes as objects of affluence, as instigators of male fantasies or as signs of the dehumanization of women. Or one can just give in to the indulgence of art as a sublime fantasy of pointlessness and succumb to delicious scopophilic joy (Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs).

Jeanne Willette

 

 

 

Fred Tomaselli, “Box for Your Head,” 1990-96, leaves, acrylic, fabric, fluorescent light tubes, resin on wood, 29 x 25 3/4 x 20", is currently on view at CSU Fullerton.

 

 

This is your brain on flowers. Known for his celebration of drugs, actual drugs, actual pills implanted in his luxurious gardens of dreams masquerading as the slick surfaces of his canvases, Fred Tomaselli grew up next door to Disneyland. Too young for the sixties, he nevertheless partook of the local stoner culture, such as it was, in Fullerton. Those memories of the weed, combined with living adjacent to a surreal world of saccharine fantasy, wafted into his adult ventures into Fantasyland. Serious works of craft and time-consuming acts of dedication, these paintings are exquisite and breathtaking in their swirling beauty. To visually step into a Tomasellii painting is to lose oneself in a world created by a mad Arcimboldo, where one chases after tiny leaves and elusive capsules. While not a child of the sixties, Tomaselli inherited the psychedelic tradition of the Bay Area poster artists, Stanley Mouse and Victor Moscoso. With his hard black backgrounds, shiny like patent leather, Tomaselli gives the viewer an ocular break from the famous horror vacui of an Alton Kelley.

 

Curator, Mike McGee has included some installation works that are less familiar, the amused contemplations by a young artist on the art that he was absorbing during his maturation. There is a Donald Judd-like box mounted on the gallery wall with a large inviting hole through which to put one to put one’s head. Even the title is permissive, "Box for Your Head" (1991). The inspiration is pure Bruce Nauman, except that Nauman would never collage the box with Ailanthus leaves. While Tomaselli admired the biting sarcasm of Nauman, he is a gentler soul and merely asks the viewer to do something that makes him or her look stupid. The other lovely surprise is "The City” (1988), a fantasy of ungainly translucent model skyscrapers, lit from their interiors. Trailing wires like tails, this city predates Chris Burden’s “Metropolis" and, again, seems like something Nauman could have maee to appraise the Light and Space movement. All of these disparate offering are linked by the artist’s individual mindscape, which combined a California Reaganesque escapism with a longing for what he called the “organic sublime,” such as that found in the Hudson River School of painting. This need for beauty and his acceptance of the obsessive attention he paid to the paintings’ surfaces also owes a great deal to the presence of Judy Chicago and the feminist culture at Fullerton. Being in “the transport business,” Tomaselli delivers viewers to a world beyond care to a heedless/headless happiness (CSU Fullerton, Begovich Gallery, Orange County).

JW

 

 

 

Jorg Dubin, “Red Hat,” 2015, acrylic on canvas on panel, 36 x 24", is currently on view at Q Art Salon.

 

 

Jorg Dubin is known for detailed realistic figurative paintings, often depicting sexy and sometimes sadistic nudes. Here he changes his visual tune a bit, with new paintings that are more seductive than previously. By deconstructing his canvas, fuzzying the paint to make the image slightly impressionistic, the viewer might spend more time eyeballing these pieces, examining the technique and even looking at the facial and body language. Or as the artist puts it, “These paintings are less confrontational and not as overtly threatening.” “Motorola,” inspired by an old fifties photo, shows a sexy woman from that era, clad in black bra, garter belt stockings and high-heeled shows, leaning against a TV. Her come-hither look and aggressive pose are compelling, while the slightly dissolving appearance does hold your eye. In “Ponder,” a scantily attired contemporary woman gains from its impressionistic method by casting this hesitant person in a seemingly nebulous space. Two other pieces, “Pontiff,” depicting Pope Francis, and “Joker,” an image of a Cardinal, emphasize more expressionistic brushwork. The results are paintings that trivialize these supposedly majestic figures, which is apparently how the artist regards them. Two “dot” paintings, with laboriously applied dots of acrylic paint, “Red Hat,” of a nude female, and “White,” of a nude male torso, are a yet more robust departure. The images might appear abstract at a cursory look. But spend a few minutes and the aesthetic aspects of the images become apparent — perhaps even more so than in his previous work (Q Art Salon, Orange County).

Liz Goldner