LOS ANGELES Nigel Cooke Blum & Poe Los Angeles [through Feb 12]
Nigel Cooke, Washed Up Thinker, 2010, Oil on linen backed with sailcloth, 87” x 77”.
Sol LeWitt LA Louver Venice [through Feb 26]
Sol LeWitt: (top) Structure with Three Towers, 1986, wood painted white, 48.75”x121.5”x 48.5”; (bot) Pyramid #10, 1985, wood painted white, 79.87”x 47”x 37.5”. Courtesy of LA Louver.
30 A|C|A January 2011
Nigel Cooke's paintings — "hybrid theatrical spaces" as he has called them — often depict fantastic graffiti-strewn architecture and supernatural landscapes. Rendered in a naturalistic style that bounces back and forth between affirmation and complication of the canvas surface, Cooke's paintings hover in the vicinity of landscape, still life, portraiture, and narrative tableau without ever touching down. His current paintings similarly flirt with and confound another painting tradition, the "figure in the landscape as allegory." Departure, Cooke's three-panel centerpiece is a self-aware take on the German artist Max Beckmann's 1933-1935 triptych of the same title. In Beckmann's painting, images of torture and brutality bookend a central panel in which a dignified family sails to salvation. In contrast, Cooke's figures hang in the end panels pathetic, comedic, and tragic all at once, while in the central panel they writhe and wretch in a boat, tossed about on a dark ethereal sea. Whether abused by nature's
whim or their own bacchanalian excesses, for them there is no escape. Cooke describes his reworking as a vision of "provincial philosophy lecturers sailing to Ibiza for a rave," yet falling prey to a disastrous reckoning en route in which only one "thinker" makes it to land. Cooke imagines this avatar of hubris washed up in more ways than one, dragging himself and his wreckage onto strange shores to begin the process of rebuilding and reflecting. The other paintings in the exhibition continue to present scenes of thickly bearded "Master chefs", sailors, artists, and philosophers as they navigate the dystopian environment in which they find themselves. This psychic landscape is peopled by dredged-up corpses, ancient philosophers and burnt-out fry cooks, all overshadowed by the decaying specter of factory buildings that echo modernist geometric painting. These haunting portraits model failure, but also artistic production in the face of peril and creativity on the verge of existential self-immolation.
Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), a pioneer of minimal and conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s, achieved a major breakthrough in his work in 1968, when he began employing predetermined line-making procedures and materials usually associated with drawing or commercial art techniques. He used this method to execute large-scale drawings directly on the wall. In 1980, a variety of geometric shapes emerged as autonomous subjects, which in turn led LeWitt to isometric projections in 1982. By dividing the sides of the basic cube into halves, thirds and quarters, and connecting the resulting dividing points with lines, LeWitt transformed planar figures into three-dimensional forms. This exhibition, Sol LeWitt: Structures, Works on Paper, Wall Drawings 1971-2005, will address the artist’s investigation of the cube – the basic modular unit of inquiry throughout his art practice – with a focus on triangulation. Four of the artist’s wall drawings will be presented in a dedicated gallery on the
first floor. Dated October 1989, the drawings are from the artist’s 620 series, with forms derived from cubic rectangles and superimposed color ink washes. These were installed in the Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, Spain in October 1989, and have not been exhibited since that time. The wall drawings were over three weeks, employing four L.A.-based artists, working with, and directed by, Gabriel Hurier from the Sol LeWitt Estate. LeWitt’s renowned modular structures originate from his exploration of the cube, which was the form that inspired him throughout his career. Works in the exhibition range from seminal squares from the ‘70s and ‘80s to the artist’s division of the cube through triangulation. It will be rounded out by large-scale works on paper, executed in gouache. Comparing the gouaches to his wall drawings, LeWitt stated that only he could make the gouaches, which “followed their own logic,” whereas the wall drawings “have ideas that can be transmitted to others to realize.”
An issue of American Contemporary Art magazine, published in January 2011.