CONTINUED AND RECOMMENDED, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015

 

Mark Dion, “Cabinet of Marine Debris,” mixed media, is currently on view at USC.  Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

 

 

The timely and disturbing “Gyre:  The Plastic Ocean” has traveled from the Anchorage Museum with an art warning about something called a “gyre.” Although the mind immediately leaps to “Turning and turning in the widening gyre,” the message in this case is not from Yeats but from the sea. The Pacific Ocean churns between the Asian coast and the American coast in what is termed the North Pacific Gyre and here, in the heart of the ocean, the Great Garbage Patch is swirling endlessly. For years, artists have been attracted to this growing ecological disaster of waste and abandonment, an unintended consequence of a consumer culture. Presenting an assemblage of shopping bags, Dianna Cohen sums up the source of the garbage problem—I shop, I throw away.

 

 

The next stage of the process of acquisition and discard is taken up by Edward Burtynsky, who photographed the vast vista of a Chinese dumpsite of apparently sorted items waiting for recycling. Four of the artists in the exhibition — Mark Dion, Pam Longobardi, Andy Hughes and Karen Larsen — joined the project in order to personally view the vast wasteland and collect evidence of cultural misdemeanors. Dion, who is well known for his "Cabinets of Curiosities," put together a depressing display of ordinary household cleansing containers and other quotidian objects that are, in fact, destroying our ocean and threatening all who depend upon its health. Larsen placed large mason jars on a set of bleached wooden shelves in what appears to be a decorator’s solution to a blank wall. But these aqua tinged jars contain whitened bits and pieces of plastic, the size that kills fish and chokes seabirds. Although there is an educational tone to the exhibit of work by socially active artists, the exhibition should be thought of as evidence of suicide: we are killing ourselves (USC Fisher Museum of Art, Downtown).

Jeanne Willette

 

 

 

Lawren Harris, “Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains,” 1930, oil on canvas, 42 x 50”, is currently on view at the Hammer Museum. © Family of Lawren S. Harris.

 

Every so often the Hammer Museum introduces us to an artist of such powerful expression and individual vision that we are surprised we haven’t heard of them before. In the example of Lawren Harris, showcased in "The Idea of North,” we are reminded that we don’t pay enough attention to the culture of our neighbors up north. Harris (1885-1970) was a Canadian, and in his paintings of the northern reaches of Lake Superior, of the Rockies and of the Atlantic coast, he sought to find a Canadian identity through art. With some 30 masterful paintings assembled for this show, this is the first major exhibition of his works in this country, and a splendid one it is. In Canada Harris is considered a key pioneering modernist, and this show features his landscapes from the 1920s and early 1930s, his defining period. He has a kinship to George O’Keeffe in the way he abstracts, stylizes and honors mountains, icebergs and bare stretches of land.  “Isolation Peak” (1929) is one of his most iconic works — a peak with a pyramidal top that is brownish as the snow cap is melting away, with a blanket of a snow still cloaking the rest of the mountain. In the foreground are the contours of furrowed land, some sections brown, some sections already green. In “Ellesmere Island” (1930) ice floes drift before low mountains which look to be warming under the streaming sunlight from above. Though none of the works here are owned by Steve Martin, but actor and art collector has adeptly curated a handsome show.  Martin discovered and began collecting Harris work two decades ago (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Scarlet Cheng

 

 

 

Alexander Yulish, “I Appear Missing,” 2015, acrylic on canvas, 62 x 48”, is currently on view at ACE.

 

Visiting Alexander Yulish’s show “Immovable Thoughts” can be an overwhelming experience, but in a positive sense. People’s inner lives as revealed in a public space is all too frequently trivial in focus or expression. The New York-born artist says, “Art is about intimacy. I use the brush like a blowtorch to melt away the surface and express what lies below,” and he backs it up. Inspired by people and events from the artist’s life in the past year, his contorted subjects with their twisted features, which at times recall the works of Picasso and Francis Bacon, tell us about their worries, habits, sexuality, solitude, isolation and, yes, their pets, always presented inside their homes, implying confinement. The artist carries this out in exuberant colors and a combination of fine lines and thick black brushstrokes that are loosely rendered. In “I Appear Missing,” a man sits on a chair with folded legs. His wrists are touching with his hands positioned in opposite directions. The man’s eyes are painted on different levels. His mouth is off center. The asymmetry creates a sense of chaos and disharmony. On the upper right the painted letters "ACE Gallery 2015” appear, signed by Yulish underneath it. This is probably the most biographical painting in the show and could be interpreted as expressing the painter’s stress or distress about the show's opening (ACE Gallery, Beverly Hills).

Simone Kussatz

 

 

 

Richard Renaldi, “Shalom and Jeff, Brooklyn, New York,” 2013, archival pigment print, is currently on view at Loyola Marymount University.

 

Richard Renaldi’s "Touching Strangers" project has a high 'stunt' quotient, but there are plenty of riches to absorb when said stunt doesn't overwhelm its context. The ‘stunt’ in question is his strategically random pairing of two strangers (sometimes three) plucked from urban settings, and whom the artist succeeds not only in getting them to pose, but in having them touch each other in varying degrees of intimacy. They're at their best when there's an ambiguity in the subjects’ connection, as in, for example, "Ekeabong and Andrew, Venice, California, 2013," an African-American woman and man who could conceivably be a couple; or "Josette and Juan, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2012," another possible couple. But wait … doesn't she have too many tattoos, while he looks a tad too conservative to be with her? He holds his right hand around her waist, and with his left gingerly clasps her hand. The stiffness eventually overshadows the ambiguity, a rich process of seeing first with curiosity, then wonder and finally clarity. There are many instances of contrast in race and/or religion. "Jeromy and Matthew, Columbus, Ohio, 2011,” in which a thin and intellectual-looking African-American barely grazes his hand over the shoulder of a white, cowboy-hatted and boot-wearing lad, gets a ’t' for tension. A clear favorite, arguably the best of the bunch, involves the teen pairing of "Alex and Maria, Washington, D.C., 2013." He is a backward-baseball-cap-wearing, thin white boy sans t-shirt, with boxers well exposed a few inches above his belted jeans. She a pretty Latina, perhaps a popular girl, who appears very unlikely to be intimate with his type — possibly a skater, but the shy, reticent kind. Their expressions, subtle though they are, say it all: she's assuredly confident in the moment, while, he, with just the slightest whiff of mischief, seems grateful for her partial embrace. This is where the layers go deep and get interesting (Loyola Marymount University, Laband Gallery, West Side).

Michael Shaw

 

 

 

Charles Garabedian, “Sacrifice for the Fleet,” 2014, acrylic on paper, 47 3/4 x 68 1/2”, is currently on view at L.A. Louver.

 

Nonagenarian Charles Garabedian’s work created in the last two years, titled “Sacrifice for the Fleet,” is a stunning renovation of Greek plays, Biblical texts and Armenian manuscripts in 18 large scale paintings and drawings on paper. Having decades ago boycotted the idolization of imagery in which each dimension of every part of the nude human body is tediously perfect, Garabedian’s  hero’s and victims become method actors, skilled in striking poses that will amplify their emotional states. The elongated arms and legs wrapping the downed figure in “Study for the Furies” resemble a serpent’s nest. The shallow background in “The suffering of Orestes” lends the painting a stage-like appearance. Where figures in this series appear clothed, as in “The Good Thief” or “Clytemnestra and Iphigenia,” it often seems that Garabedian, in the role of costume designer, is purposely attempting to lure viewers to the realization that the emotions displayed by the principals in his work are timeless. Every painting in the show grew out of a drawing. A powerful vibrancy is activated in Garabedian’s charcoal studies that, as his concepts grew, become translated into the colorful paintings (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

 

As Iranian artists often use the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) as their muse, which is considered a masterpiece in Iranian culture, Tom Wudl, also uses a long ancient text for inspiration: the “Avatamsaka Sutra” (The Flower Ornament Scripture). This Mahayana Buddhist scripture. This epic piece of writing (the English translation is over 1600 pages long), composed by multiple authors over a number of years, reveals how reality appears to an enlightened being. Completed in the 4th Century CE, it also describes the ten stages of development of a bodhisattva. One of its most well-known metaphors is that of the Indra’s net, which stands for the inter-connectedness of the universe. In Wudl’s “Radiance of Sublime Reality Filling the Cosmos without End,” one of his largest works, a radiant blossom hovers against a black background on which delicate golden leaves and other organisms loosely float around its edges. The inside of the blossom’s leaves give the impression of tiny multi-colored jewels captured in a net. “One Hundred Trillion Concentrations” displays a pink flower bud with an interior that is fragmented. In each corner of the painting is a square with a round shape in its center, suggesting the planets, which are all strung together through fine lines and interspersed with tiny pink dots that stretch over the painting’s light-blue background leading to the blossom. Although the Bolivian-born painter’s works are inspired by Buddhist teachings, they are not meant to be sacred icons, but to be enjoyed for their artistry and decorative appeal (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Diane Calder/SK

 

 

 

James Gallagher, “Nictoine F,” 2012, unique photo collage, 12 x 9”, is currently on view at Rose.

 

The physical space of the gallery undergoes quite a change for its current show “Her First Meteorite” that features seven artists, including Carolle Benitah, James Gallagher, Melinda Gibson, Ken Graves, Stephanie Solinas, Annegret Soltau and Grete Stern. The gallery space has been intelligently reconfigured for the viewing of these intimate works via the suspension of hanging shad-like panels that create a narrow corridor through which the viewer traverses. The panels have strategically placed holes, like those found on construction sites, making it possible to see across and into the middle of the space. The works hung on the wall or placed on a shelf demand to be carefully scrutinized.

 

If one walks around the white roller blades installed in the middle, one discovers the works of Moroccan artist Benitah, who deals with her semi-forgotten past and the traditional role that was expected of her, which she rebelled against. Her collages are series of black and white snapshots of her family and childhood, taken about 40 years ago, which she has embroidered with a vibrant red thread. In “Le deguisement” a group of pupils are posing in a classroom in front of a blackboard on which something is written in Arabic script. From the pupils’ embroidered faces, long red threads intertwine to a bundle. The image suggests the student’s tension and fear that by receiving education they will forsake there traditions or identity. Soltau, like Benitah, introduces a linear element to her photographic collages. Using black thread she combines fragments from official documents — identity as well as credit cards — onto her own head shots to explore the relationship between bureaucratic and personal identity. Another great image is by German born, Argentina based photographer Grete Stern, titled “Dream 15,” in which a woman dressed in secretary attire is in the act of pulling a huge rock up a hill. Hers was a formal and proto-feminist sensibility akin to avant-garde contemporaries such at Hannah Hock. Also noteworthy is the bizarre body of work by Spanish artist Stefanie Solinas, which show the mysterious connections between twins (Rose Gallery, Santa Monica).

Jody Zellen/SK

 

 

 

Greg Miller, “Good Look,” 2015, acrylic, collage paper on panel, 98 x 127 1/2”, is currently on view at William Turner.

 

"J street," a street in Greg Miller's hometown of Sacramento, is the title of his compelling exhibition of new paintings. In these works Miller looks to the past — both personal and societal — drawing from mass media and popular culture to make densely layered works that are about history and memory. These large, mixed media works combine painting and collage, their surfaces covered with logos, newspaper clippings and images of assorted iconic objects including money, typewriters, alcohol bottles as well as images of women, over which are Jackson Pollock-like skeins of paint. Miller imposes a Pop Art sensibility over the proceedings. The logos of LIFE and LOOK magazines as well as fragments from myriad comic strips and isolated texts culled from other publications and newspapers are juxtaposed with hand painted elements, the text weaving a narrative  through the works. Read from painting to painting, the story is not to be found in the text, it is about Miller's fascination with the media, his obsession with images of women as objects of desire and sex symbols, and his coming to terms with and making sense of this bombardment of imagery by somehow bringing it all together into a cohesive whole. The works resemble billboards covered with layers of imagery that has been repeatedly torn off and then covered again. I moment at which it is finally varnished represents a continuum of time. While they do not feel nostalgic, Miller acknowledges cultural memory as the present moment having been shaped and informed by the past (William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica).

JZ

 

 

 

Jim Jenkins, “A World Around,” globe, Plexiglas, stainless steel, aluminum and timed LEDs, 84 x 38 x 38”, is currently on view at Lois Lambert.

 

"iMove" is a playful and thoughtful exhibition devoted to kinetic works of art. Kinetic art can be put in motion in some way, and the four artists in the exhibition — Chris Eckert, Jim Jenkins, Dave Quick and Russell Smith  — invite the viewer to interact with their work by either pushing a button, turning a crank or just watching the sculpture self perpetuate. Eckert makes intimate machines driven by an all seeing eye. His small scale works are mysterious, mechanical and utterly engaging. Jenkins' works are humorous floor- and wall-based assemblages that offer uncanny relationships between common object and words. Quick engages with while simultaneously questioning technology and our dependence on it. His works activate found objects, putting them into unusual contexts and relationships to one another. Smith is a self-taught metalsmith who works with wind up motors, transforming cranks, levers and wheels into dynamic sculptures. These artists respect technology and use rather than abuse what it has to offer (Lois Lambert Gallery, Santa Monica).

JZ

 

 

 

UCLA Adjacent Student and Faculty Housing, LOHA, is currently on view at A+D Museum.  Courtesy of Iwan Baan.

 

For "Shelter:  Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles” curators Sam Lubell and Danielle Rago commissioned six of the city's leading architectural firms to produce concept designs, sketches, and models for how they would remake residential housing in their choice of location. The firms are Bureau Spectacular, LA Más, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA), MAD Architects, PAR, and wHY. Interestingly enough, three of them had their eye on a parcel on Wilshire Boulevard across from LACMA, which is the staging area for the building of a new Metro stop and location of the A +D Museum’s former home; a knowing coincidence perhaps. The selected architects projected what could be there once the Metro is completed, and all came up with high-rise apartment complexes. Given the cost of land and the prestige of the site, this is probably inevitable. The design by wHY has the most pleasing shape, the starkness of high-rise structure softened by some curves, but the three-dimensional models clearly show how out of scale these buildings would be in the landscape — shooting up what looks like 25-plus stories. The other three firms chose different sites or themes. Especially timely and worth further exploration are designs by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, which decided to examine how water conservation can be achieved through architecture. "The Watertower House" connects existing roof drainage systems so as to help collect and store rainfall for later use — perhaps a community well, explains the wall label. The exhibition is rounded off by photographs of residential developments (completed and in progress) by Bestor Architecture, Johnston Marklee, Michael Maltzan Architecture and others (A+D Museum, Downtown).

SC

 

 

 

“Post-Abstraction from Houston” installation, 2015, is currently on view at Wilding Cran.

 

Is Houston, as opposed to New York, Los Angeles' true sister city, at least when it comes to abstraction? That's one possible takeaway from “Post-Abstraction from Houston," also titled “... a pointy toe boot up the backside.” It's an ambitious claim for this gathering, curated by the venerable abstractionist Christian Eckhart, best known for his frame-based and sometimes gilded abstractions of the late '80s. Aaron Parazette, the veteran of the group, makes hard-edged, pattern-rich paintings of three different veins here, one of which is highly comparable to the work of L.A.'s Bart Exposito. Susie Rosmarin's grids bring to mind Linda Bessemer. And David Aylsworth … how about Richard Diebenkorn? If there's a sister city sensibility, it's more coincidental than dialectical. The most intriguing discoveries, as far as introductions to L.A., are Sharon Engelstein, who contributes three uniquely visceral ceramic and wax sculptures, along with a marker on inkjet print drawing; Tad Griffin's obsessive, behemoth building facades alternating as abstract grids; and Joe Mancuso's latex collage paintings, which bring a mysteriousness surprisingly rarely seen in abstract painting of late. This cross-section of the Houston abstraction scene is very solid, if a bit too conservative to amount to a very pointy-toed boot kick. Nor, honestly, does the 'Post' prefix really apply (Wilding Cran Gallery, Downtown).

MS

 

 

 

Leslie Kenneth Price, “Respiration,” 2014, acrylic on panel, 48 x 44”, is currently on view at Soka University.

 

The 35 acrylic on panel paintings by Leslie Kenneth Price here were influenced in part by his mentor of 50 years ago. Price explains that his college art teacher, abstract painter James Gahagan — who in turn had studied with Hans Hoffman — inspired him to explore the abstract style. And he has pursued abstraction’s variations throughout his career as an artist and art teacher, working first in oils and later in acrylics. Another influence is his daily forays into his garden, which is adjacent to his Northern California home. “I use the observable world, my garden, as a reference and anchor to generate my paintings,” he says. “My intent is to engage with what seems to have a separate existence but is part of a larger dynamic.” Five diptychs stand out for their bright colors and intersections of various nature-inspired shapes. The artist began creating these pieces a few years ago, at first randomly but soon after intentionally. “I noticed two paintings on the studio wall next to each other, and I loved the visual interplay between them,” he says. “Recognizing that they are stronger together than separate, I work back and forth between each panel.” The diptychs are all painted in 20 or more layers, creating a luminous effect. “Bird on the Shoulder,” “Respiration,” “Sliver” and “Sunygrove” are titles that follow after a painting’s completion, and are related to the shapes within. The paintings are packed with forms reminiscent of flowers, plants, birds, bees and tree branches — all having emerged intuitively, rather than intentionally, but very much inspired by the artist’s long hours in his garden (Soka University, Founders Hall Art Gallery, Orange County).

Liz Goldner

 

 

 

Rafael Canogar, “Los prisioneros,” 1969, color lithograph, 30 x 22”, is currently on view at MCASD. © Rafael Canogar

 

The intense graphic work of Spanish masters Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and Rafael Canogar (b. 1935) collectively provoke feelings of loss, despair, and grief through depictions of past conflicts and wars in “One Cannot Look:  Graphic Wars." Goya’s iconic “Disasters of War” series was published long after his death, but its staying power since has diminished none of its impact. The confrontational works illustrate the consequences of bloodshed between Spain and Napoleon’s France during the Peninsular War of 1808-14. These pieces show human limbs that are hung from trees and acts of violence so egregious it will cause the viewer to flinch. In contrast, the somber nature of Canogar’s work is quieting. In “Los prisioneros” intense sadness is activated by the image of a group of prisoners whose identities are obfuscated by darkness. They are only visible through their highlighted hands that shield their own heads in terror. A lone arm in the foreground reaches outward in what seems like a desperate plea for help. An equally solemn image by Canogar titled "El muerto” (The Dead One) features a deceased individual on their back. The foreshortened and motionless body’s feet protrude toward the viewer with his hands carefully placed on his chest. A powerful and emotionally charged set of prints, the two artists' outrage over war and violence is only contrasted by their uniquely articulated voices of dread, concern, and protest (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego [MCASD], La Jolla).

G. James Daichendt

 

 

 

Participating sculptors at the 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium: (l. to r.) Joop Baljon, Robert Murray, Kiotr Kowalski, Gabriel Kohn, Kengiro Azuma, Kosso Eloul.  Courtesy University Archives, Cal State Long Beach.

 

Exactly fifty years ago the first international sculpture symposium in the country was held on the campus of CSU Long Beach. It was also the first-ever exhibition to partner large-scale industry with artists in order to explore the use of new materials in their work. (This symposium preceded LACMA's exhibits on the subject of "Art & Technology,” which were presented in 1966, 1967, and 1971.) “Far-Sited:  California Internation Sculpture Symposium, 1965/2015” is an archival exhibit that documents and pays tribute to the ten artists and project organizer, art professor Ken Glenn. It required three years of research, that included preliminary sketches, photographs, newspaper clips and personal correspondence that culminated in the resulting public sculptures. Concurrent related publications highlight the dynamics involved and the amount of effort it took to make this ambitious project viable.

 

It all began when Glenn travelled to Israel and met Kosso Eloul in the early sixties. Together they forged a plan for the California International Sculpture Symposium, which faced a multitude of challenges to be realized. Ultimately ten artists were selected: Kengiro Azuma (Japan), J.J. Beljon (Holland). Andre Bloc (France), Kosso Eloul, in collaboration with Rita Letoudre (Israel), Claire Falkenstein (U.S.), Gabriel Kohn (U.S.), Piotr Kowalski (France/Poland), and Robert Murray (Canada). Their sculptures captured the attention of the national and international art world, which led to a lively debate on the subject of public art. Articles in the N.Y. Times, L.A. Magazine, Sunset, Art in America, Fortune Magazine, Westways, Arts & Architecture, and the French press (to name a few). Three television documentaries flooded the media. But wait, the story continues! Since 1965 the CSULB campus has added 26 new works to its public art collection, including sculpture by Robert Irwin, Bryan Hunt and Terry Schoohoven (CSU Long Beach, University Art Museum, Long Beach).

Shirle Gottlieb