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CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN

ISSUE 25


CONTRIBUTORS MASTHEAD

MICHELE ANTENORCRUZ grew up on the banks of the Los Angeles river and then migrated to the hills, where she practices meditation while tending to her garden, family, poetry and art. Betwixt the river and hills, she lived on a few other continents, did human rights work, taught, and studied nonviolence.

Publisher Chris Davies Associate Editor Peter Frank

ARTRA CURATORIAL is a volunteer organization for the implementation of new modes of exhibition, locally, nationally and internationally, that feature artist-led emerging platforms and opportunity based interactions and community building via social practice type events. Founded by Max Presneill, Colton Stenke and Kio Griffith in 2009, the group has instigated large scale art events and exchanges, as well as the alternative art fair Co/Lab, throughout Los Angeles and has new projects being presented in China, France and UK in 2014, as well as the continuation of their MAS ATTACK series of events both in LA and other US cities.

Managing Editor Aparna Bakhle-Ellis Creative Director Chris Davies Art Direction & Design Chris Davies and Paul Soady Contributing Writers Michele Antenorcruz ARTRA Curatorial Peter Frank Simone Kussatz Lanee Lee David Vega Dale Youngman

PETER FRANK is art critic for the Huffington Post and Associate Editor for Fabrik magazine. He is former critic for Angeleno magazine and the L.A. Weekly, served as Editor for THE magazine Los Angeles and Visions Art Quarterly, and contributes articles to publications around the world. Frank was born in 1950 in New York, where he was art critic for The Village Voice and The SoHo Weekly News, and moved to Los Angeles in 1988. Frank, who recently served as Senior Curator at the Riverside Art Museum, has organized numerous theme and survey shows for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and other venues. McPherson & Co. ‑Documentext published his Something Else Press: An Annotated Bibliography in 1983. A cycle of poems, The Travelogues, was issued by Sun & Moon Press in 1982. Abbeville Press released New, Used & Improved, an overview of the New York art scene co-written with Michael McKenzie, in 1987.

EDITORIAL & ADVERTISING Editorial editorial@fabrikmedia.com Advertising Chris Davies: chris@fabrikmedia.com Contact 269 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 1234 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 http://www.fabrik.la

INFORMATION Fabrik is published by Fabrik Media Group, Inc., 269 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 1234, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Contents cannot be reproduced in part or in full without the written permission of the copyright holder. The opinions expressed are those of the artists and writers themselves and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Fabrik or Fabrik Media Group. Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES

ON THE COVER CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN

Ace Hotel, Los Angeles © Commune Design Photo: Spencer Lowell

ISSUE 25

SIMONE KUSSATZ is a regular contributor to ART Ltd, based in Los Angeles. She has published numerous articles in international and other national publications, ranging from the Icelandic Review to the Beijing Review, Jüdische Allgemeine, Whitehotmagazine, to the Los Angeles Times. She is the author of the book “Women and Art: Their Passions and Journeys”. Apart from that, she has co-produced a German documentary film and produced and hosted three TV-shows. She's originally from Southern Germany and came to the United States at age 20 to pursue her dreams. She also lived in China and the UK, where she worked as a journalist and language teacher and traveled the world from the Amazon rainforest to Morocco to the Gili islands in Indonesia. LANEE LEE is a Los Angeles-based writer who uses her craft to pursue her passions: travel, culture, cuisine, and discovering artisans from around the globe. You can follow her latest quest at www.laneelee.com and @wanderlushdiary. DAVID VEGA is an L.A. based writer with so many interests he might need three lifetimes to fully explore them. When not collecting chairs, building bikes, making wine, shucking oysters, climbing Machu Picchu, or learning how to build houses from hay, he can be found on his laptop at a cafe near you. DALE YOUNGMAN is an art entrepreneur working to facilitate the flow of art in Southern California. She is the Gallery Director and Curator for BOA Gallery in Los Angeles, and also produces independent curatorial projects, charity fundraisers, and special art events. She writes about art for multiple publications, but especially loves FABRIK Magazine!


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CONTENTS 6

Iconoclast: Mike Kelley at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary

20 Profile: Rachel Sussman: Deep Time Design 38 Profile: A Dialogue with Artist David Bondi on the Art of Dying 50 Spotlight: Designing Non-Conformity: Commune Design and the Revitalization of an Old Broadway Gem 60 Fresh Faces in Art: Emergent Presence: Eight LA Artists You Should Know 76 Spotlight: Dwell on Design 2014 82 Spotlight: A Historic Reunion: Estaño and Siqueiros 88 Coming Out, Going In: Christopher Grimes Gallery: Coming Out: Sharon Ellis Going In: Salomón Huerta 92 Art About Town: Peter Frank’s Museum Views


THE GAME CHANGER: MIKE KELLEY AT MOCA'S GEFFEN CONTEMPORARY MARCH 31-JULY 28, 2014

— WORDS SIMONE KUSSATZ IMAGES COURTESY OF MOCA

JOHN GLENN MEMORIAL DETROIT RIVER RECLAMATION PROJECT (INCLUDING THE LOCAL CULTURE PICTORIAL GUIDE, 1968-1972, WAYNE WESTLAND EAGLE), 2001, INSTALLATION VIEW, 136 1/2 X 216 1/4 X 249 IN. (345.5 X 548.7X 632.5 CM), RENNIE COLLECTION, VANCOUVER, PHOTO: FREDRIK NILSEN, COURTESY MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


ICONOCLAST

THE MIKE KELLEY retrospective opened at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum at

the end of the same year Kelley (1954-2012) committed suicide. The exhibition, now at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in downtown Los Angeles, has changed considerably from when it was shown in Europe at the Stedelijk and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, before traveling further to the PS1 space of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson has added about 20 drawings to the retrospective, plus Kelley’s sculptural object Silverball (1994). The survey now holds about 250 works, made by Kelley over nearly four decades. Also, as Kelley spent almost his entire artistic life in Los Angeles and as MOCA has been one of his biggest collectors, several highlights were integrated, which makes the Los Angeles exhibition particularly special. The first highlight is the display of Kelley’s huge installation Framed and Frame (1999) that had been shown in Europe and at Metro Pictures Gallery in New York. It comes in two parts, separated by a wall. There is the ‘Framed’ part, a replica of a wishing well on Gin Ling Way in LA’s Chinatown, and the ‘Frame’ part, an enclosure made of a Chinese gate, barbed wire, and chain-link fencing, suggesting a confinement or imprisonment of some kind. The wishing well, a symbol of hope and fluidity, contains a surprise for the viewer. On its back, there is a small cave with a mattress, a candle, and contraceptives. Hence, this complex piece suggests a wide range of references, from America’s broken immigration system to the Chinese-American dream, or China’s overpopulation issues to its lack of social freedom, or issues of the unconscious. Thus the cave evokes the place defined, as Freud claimed, by “repressed” sexual impulses that fuel our dreams. In Freudian terms, it also symbolizes the female genitalia. This psychologically, sexually and politically packed piece is typical for Mike Kelley. It wasn’t his first time tackling the phenomenon of “repression.” Repression was also a theme in his earlier projects From My Institution to Yours (1987) and Educational Complex (1995), both presented in the retrospective. The latter work is an architectural model of every educational institution Kelley attended. Its sublevel references the California Institute of the Arts, from which he received his Master of Fine Arts degree, located on the underside of the model’s base. Some parts of the architectural models are left blank, implying the “repressed” (referring to Freud’s concept of repressed memory, a term that became controversial in the 1990s in relation to scandals involving alleged child abuse). Educational Complex also appears to be Kelley’s little revenge on Cal Arts, which advertised itself as a cross-genre school but wouldn’t allow him to take music courses because of his lack of classical musical training. In order to see the sublevel, one most crawl under-

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CATHOLIC BIRDHOUSE, 1978 PAINTED WOOD AND COMPOSITE SHINGLES, 22 X 18 1/2 X 18 1/2 IN. (55.9 X 47 X 47 CM), PRIVATE COLLECTION, NEW YORK, PHOTO: COURTESY MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


SWITCHING MARYS, 2004-2005 MIXED MEDIA WITH VIDEO PROJECTIONS, 74 X 166 X 40 IN. (188 X 421.6 X 101.6 CM), STEDELIJK MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM, PHOTO: FREDRIK NILSEN, COURTESY MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


ICONOCLAST

neath the table and lie on a white mattress. From that position, one has the sensation of looking up a skirt. Therefore, the viewer has two perspectives, a birds-eye view, looking down on the architectural model, and the “pervert’s” view, hinting toward perversion in or one’s deception by academia. Due to the Geffen’s architecture and Simpson’s curatorial expertise, the retrospective has also received an acoustic and visual makeover. In contrast to MOMA/ PS1, a building on three levels with mostly small rooms, the Geffen is able to display all of the items in the show (except for some paintings that are shown in MOCA’s main building) more or less on one level and in a more coherent way. This installation stresses an interdisciplinary and anti-hierarchical presentation, which seems much more in line with Kelley’s interests and personality. The sounds bouncing off Kelley’s monumental project Day is Done (2005), located in the main hall, close to Kelley’s Kandor Project (2007-2011), combine with the sounds of his animated floor piece Mechanical Toy Guts (1991/2002) on the other side, resulting in a noisy exhibition. This is perfect for a Kelley retrospective, as Kelley started out as a noise musician back in the days when he played with the concept bands “Destroy All Monsters” and “The Poetics.” The Geffen has put up two listening stations with tracks from both bands, further stressing that biographical aspect. As well, the exhibition highlights Kelley’s video work and his background as a performance artist. One room is dedicated to The Sublime (1983-1984) and Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile (1985-1986) and two corners to The Little’s Girl’s Room (1980) and Monkey Island (1981-1983). Kelley never wanted to have his performances taped and performed live less and less after the mid-1980s. And although his later projects, such as Day is Done, still involve aspects of performance, they were used in a completely different way. Despite the fact that the Kelley retrospective neither conforms to chronological order nor moves from one stage of Kelley’s artistic development to another but follows a post-modern non-linearity, it shows consistent faith to an idea visible throughout. Kelley’s works are all marks left by an insurrectionist. This becomes apparent in early craft works such as The Birdhouses (1978-1979), in which he comments on class status, clichés of maleness, and gender as a construct, as well as in later works, some of his best known, with sewed objects and stuffed animals. The exhibition displays More Love Hours Than Can Ever be Repaid and the Wages of Sin (1987), part of his sprawling project “Half a Man” (1987-1993) in which he jokes about gender identification and expands on the discourse of commodification in the art world. Yet another highlight of the exhibition is Kelley’s installation Pay for your Pleasure (1988), made of portraits of some of the most important writers, poets and URBAN FIGURES NUMBER L1066518, 2011, PHOTOGRAPHIC MIXED MEDIA

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PAY FOR YOUR PLEASURE, 1988 INSTALLATION VIEW, DIMENSIONS VARIABLE, THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES; GIFT OF TIMOTHY P. AND SUZETTE L. FLOOD, PHOTO: BRIAN FORREST, COURTESY THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES AND MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


ANIMAL SELF AND FRIEND OF THE ANIMALS, 1987 GLUED FELT, 2 PARTS, 96 X 72 IN. (243.8 X 182.9 CM); 94.75 X 67.75 IN (240.7 X 172.1 CM), THE SCHYL COLLECTION, MALMÖ KONTSHALL, PHOTO: HELENE TORESDOTTER, COURTESY MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


FROM MY INSTITUTION TO YOURS, 1987/2003. INSTALLATION VIEW, 194 X 186 3/8 X 123 1/2 IN. (492.8 X 473.4 X 313.7 CM), COLLECTION ERIC DECELLE, BRUSSELS, PHOTO: COURTESY MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS

SILVER BALL, 1994. ALUMINUM FOIL, POLYURETHANE FOAM, WOOD, CHICKEN WIRE, SPEAKERS, FOUR BOOMBOXES, THREE BASKETS, AND ARTIFICIAL FRUIT, BALL: 57 7/8 X 57 7/8 X 53 1/8 IN. (147 X 147 X 135 CM), BLANKET AREA: 13 X 46 7/8 X 81 7/8 IN. (33 X 119 X 208 CM), THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES, PARTIAL AND PROMISED GIFT OF BLAKE BYRNE, PHOTO: BRIAN FORREST, COURTESY THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES AND MIKE KELLEY FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


ICONOCLAST

philosophers accompanied by a quote about their relationship to criminality. At the end of the installation, one finds a painting made by a criminal from the city in which the installation is being shown. At the front there is a donation box, inviting the viewers to pay for their voyeuristic pleasures. The proceeds all go to a local charity that helps victims of violence. The installation is therefore a statement about criminality and convention and asks us to consider our current moral code. What do we consider criminal action? Is it just the act of murder, for instance, or can it also be understood as the theft of another person’s intellectual property, or perhaps society’s dealing with art as a business? And still, throughout the exhibition, one wonders: why did Mike Kelley commit suicide on the height of his career? Was it his further reaction to how messed up the world is, which no art work could have demonstrated any better than his taking his own life? One looks for signs and views his works again and again and reflects on his play with color versus non-color and asymptotes. Could his suicide have been foreseen in a comparison of his mosaic sculpture of astronaut John Glenn, part of his project “Black Out” (2001), with his sculpture Odalisque (2001), one colorful and erect, the other pitch black and lying down? Who knows... What we do know is that Mike Kelley was an influential artist and a caring human being who helped create a major aesthetic shift in the art world. He was also a loyal friend and a collaborator who worked on numerous projects with many friends and colleagues. He was versatile, well read, a gifted writer, and highly prolific. The exhibition’s 400-page catalogue, with texts written by Ann Goldstein, Eva Meyer-Hermann, George Baker, John C. Welchman, and Branden W. Joseph, lists all the galleries, museums, and institutions in which Kelley had shown his art nationally and internationally. That Kelley’s spirit survives becomes obvious through all the related special events taking place over the course of the Los Angeles exhibition, but also through another exhibition highlight, the arrival May 24th of Kelley’s public art work Mobile Homestead (2005-2013) for the Skid Row Parade before moving to the Geffen the following week (and there until June 29). The installation is a replica of Kelley’s childhood home in Detroit composed of two parts, one a permanent installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and a removable clapboard façade that hosts social services and community gatherings. This is its first time displayed outside Detroit, moving from the city of his birth to that of his apotheosis – no better way of showing Kelley’s life has come full circle.

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DEEP TIME DESIGN ONE ARTIST’S PURSUIT OF REALLY OLD THINGS

— WORDS LANEE LEE IMAGES COURTESY & ©RACHEL SUSSMAN

SPRUCE GRAN PICEA #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 YEARS OLD; FULUFJÄLLET, SWEDEN) THIS 9,950-YEAR-OLD TREE IS LIKE A PORTRAIT OF CLIMATE CHANGE. THE MASS OF BRANCHES NEAR THE GROUND GREW THE SAME WAY FOR ROUGHLY 9,500 YEARS, BUT THE NEW, SPINDLY TRUNK IN THE CENTER IS ONLY 50 OR SO YEARS OLD, CAUSED BY WARMING AT THE TOP OF THIS MOUNTAIN PLATEAU IN WESTERN SWEDEN. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN


PROFILE

HUMONGOUS FUNGUS. WELWITCHSIA. Lletra. Cryptomeria. What do

these strange monikers have to do with design? Over the past decade, Rachel Sussman has been on a pilgrimage around the world in search of nature’s most enduring designs. From the outback in Australia to the islands of Antarctica, she sought out continuously living organisms 2,000 years and older with biologists as her guide. Released in May, The Oldest Living Things in the World book documents this epic journey with an interweaving of hauntingly, beautiful photography and personal stories. As an amalgamation of science, environmentalism and art, Sussman’s project of 30 species — from 2,000-year-old stromatolites to 400,000-year-old bacteria — garnered a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship. We caught up with her at the Maker City LA book launch last month to find out more about the work she describes as ‘a celebration of our past, a call to action in the present and a barometer of our future.’ On your website (rachelsussman.com), you mention “the missing science of biological longevity.” What does this mean? That was something interesting I stumbled upon pretty early on in the project. There isn't an area in the sciences that deals with longevity across the species. What I was proposing by looking at everything that surpassed the 2,000-year mark (that was my own number in terms of setting perimeters) was essentially like stumbling upon an area of research that doesn't actually exist. Inspiration behind the project? It’s at least two fold — part literal journey and part intellectual and creative journey. The actual trip I took that inspired the project was to the remote island of Yakushima, Japan in 2004 where there was this 6,000-year-old tree. But it wasn’t until a year later when I was talking to my friends about the experience that I had my light bulb moment. All of a sudden, scattered ideas percolating for a long time about art + science, philosophy, environmental issues and travel, interconnected. The right neurons fired, the idea was born and I've been working on it ever since. Is the project complete or are there still places you’d like to explore? I won't continue in the same way. But, I feel like this project could last my whole life. I hope to visit the most challenging locations with undersea animals like a deep-water coral in Hawaii that’s 4,800 years old and the barrel sponge in Antarctica that's 15,000 years old.

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PROFILE

STROMATOLITES #1211-0512 (2,000 - 3,000 YEARS OLD; CARBLA STATION, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) STRADDLING THE BIOLOGIC AND THE GEOLOGIC, STROMATOLITES ARE ORGANISMS THAT ARE TIED TO THE OXYGENATION OF THE PLANET 3.5 BILLION YEARS AGO, AND THE BEGINNINGS OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN

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ANTARCTIC MOSS #0212-7B33 (5,500 YEARS OLD; ELEPHANT ISLAND, ANTARCTICA) THIS 5,500-YEAR-OLD MOSS BANK LIVES RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM WHERE THE SHACKLETON EXPEDITION WAS MAROONED 100 YEARS AGO ON ELEPHANT ISLAND, ANTARCTICA. IT WAS A VICTORY SIMPLY BEING ABLE TO LOCATE IT. THESE DAYS IT'S EASIER TO GET TO ANTARCTICA FROM SPACE. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN


DEAD HUON PINE ADJACENT TO LIVING POPULATION SEGMENT #1211-3609 (10,500 YEARS OLD, MOUNT READ, TASMANIA FIRE DESTROYED MUCH OF THIS CLONAL COLONY OF HUON PINES (AS SEEN IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH) ON MOUNT READ, TASMANIA, BUT A SUBSTANTIAL PORTION OF IT SURVIVED. THE AGE OF THE COLONY WAS DISCOVERED BY CARBON DATING ANCIENT POLLEN FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF A NEARBY LAKEBED, WHICH WAS GENETICALLY MATCHED TO THE LIVING COLONY. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN


LA LLARETA #0308-2B31 (2,000+ YEARS OLD; ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE) WHAT LOOKS LIKE MOSS COVERING ROCKS IS ACTUALLY A VERY DENSE, FLOWERING SHRUB THAT HAPPENS TO BE A RELATIVE OF PARSLEY, LIVING IN THE EXTREMELY HIGH ELEVATIONS OF THE ATACAMA DESERT. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN


RARE EUCALYPTUS (SPECIES REDACTED FOR PROTECTION) #1211-2233 (13,000 YEARS OLD; NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA) THIS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED EUCALYPTUS IS AROUND 13,000 YEARS OLD, AND ONE OF FEWER THAN FIVE INDIVIDUALS OF ITS KIND LEFT ON THE PLANET. THE SPECIES NAME MIGHT HINT TO HEAVILY AT ITS LOCATION, SO IT HAS BEEN REDACTED. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN


PROFILE

Speaking of travel, what are your most inspirational places you’ve been? The places that inspire me the most are those windows back in time that really open up perspective. For me, that was Greenland and Antarctica’s South Georgia Island. Also, Namibia – with its striking landscape - where you could read the geology like a story. I felt completely transported by these places. Not just to another part of the world, but really transported in time. Do you consider yourself a nostalgic with your desire to travel back in time? (laughs) Funny, no one's asked me that one before. It plays a role. With nostalgia, there's sort of a discomfort and pain, yet familiarity. Especially when imagining what the planet used to be like before it was overrun with humans and getting little glimpses of what that was like. Yet, with the sadness of what used to be, it presents itself as an opportunity. I hope this comes through in the work. It's not too late. We can turn back the tides to preserve the planet. Do you feel more like an artist, archivist, environmentalist or scientist? That's a good question. Artist is the best fitting hat. It gives me the freedom to be all of those things. Being an artist, it allows me to create the perimeters in which I want to work - that includes science, environmental aspects, philosophy and anything else I choose to weave in. You’ve also incorporated writing into the project as well. Can you talk about that? I had a blog for a while. But after I spoke at TED Talks, I realized I had written myself out of the project. I was falling into the trap of the sciences and compartmentalizing it. The book really forced me to synthesis all these years of work and seemingly disparate components. Otherwise, I could have been 'in process' for another ten years, even my entire life. Using photography as your primary medium, do you prefer analog or digital? I prefer film. The "Oldest Living" series was shot on a Mamiya 72. I don't have a problem with digital but that decision was due to quality as I make 44” x 55” exhibition prints. I’m not a purist; it's just about getting the best results.

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PROFILE

What photographers inspire you? Robert Frank. Hiroshi Sugimoto. I relate to the way Taryn Simon explores topics most people don’t know about and how she weaves in writing. Trevor Paglen's “Last Pictures" project, where he projects photos in outer space, is really inspiring to me. Achieving a career as an artist is a nebulous thing. Was there a turning point that you felt like things were clicking? It was during my artist residency at MacDowell Colony in 2005. (Just to be clear, I didn't have an enormous resume at this time.) It was the first time I felt nurtured, like what I was doing was important. It definitely gave me a boost to my confidence. A nurturing force is really essential in the life of an artist. Do you have any advice for beginning or emerging artists in establishing a career? There's no magic solution. There are magic moments, but no magic tricks in building a career. The single most important quality is perseverance. It's a choice you have to keep making day after day. On the topic of perseverance, as a Guggenheim Fellow 2014, what's the process like? I’ve applied for the Guggenheim eight times. I’m more than happy to share that because there's a real misconception about how art gets done and how awards are awarded. I have this spreadsheet that I started a decade ago where I list everything I'm applying to. I call it ‘grant season’ where I dedicate serious time to applying to grants and scholarships. My rate of return is 10 to 20 percent on a really good year — which equates to a lot of rejection. You have to be ready for that. What's next on the horizon for you? I'll be a part of LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab in June. I proposed a project dealing with deep time and space and spending time at SpaceX and Nasa’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) in attempts of creating something that deals with human conceptions and misconceptions about time and space. Very likely, I'll be experimenting with light.

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PROFILE

POSIDONIA OCEANIA SEA GRASS #0910-0753 (100,000 YEARS OLD, BALEARIC ISLANDS, SPAIN) AT 100,000 YEARS OLD, THE POSIDONIA SEA GRASS MEADOW WAS FIRST TAKING ROOT AT THE SAME TIME SOME OF OUR EARLIEST ANCESTORS WERE CREATING THE FIRST KNOWN “ART STUDIO” IN SOUTH AFRICA. IT LIVES IN THE UNESCO-PROTECTED WATERWAY BETWEEN THE ISLANDS OF IBIZA AND FORMENTERA. ©RACHEL SUSSMAN

The Oldest Living Things in the World, published by University of Chicago Press, is available on Amazon.com. Also, pre-orders for the Collectors Edition — a signed, limited edition book that includes an archival print and custom box — are available at www.rachelsussman.com

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PROFILE

Rachel Sussman Answers the Proust Questionnaire An artist with a bent for archival science, environmental activism and extreme adventure, Rachel Sussman has traveled the globe in search of the world’s oldest species. This ambitious, ten-year journey is documented in her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World, of photographs and personal essays. Here, we get a small glimpse of what makes Sussman tick: What is your idea of perfect happiness? Room to think. Greatest fear? Not connecting. Trait you most deplore in yourself? Caring what others think. Trait you most deplore in others? Insincerity. Living person do you most admire? David Lynch Greatest extravagance? Very old Scotch. What is your current state of mind? Jetlagged. Most underrated virtue? Punctuality. On what occasion do you lie? To protect someone’s feelings. Quality you most like in a man? Humor. Quality you most like in a woman? Same as a man. Your hero? The women of art and science that history overlooked or forgot! Words or phrases do you most overuse? Actually. Greatest love of your life? TBA. Where were you happiest? Hercules Bay, South Bay Georgia Which talent would you most like to have? Wish I could have stuck to the trapeze. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’m good. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Completing the ‘Oldest Living Things’ project. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Any other human. Where would you most like to live? I’m happy in Brooklyn. Most treasured possession? Hat collection. What is your best characteristic? Perseverance. What do you most value in your friends? Openness. Who are your favorite writers? David Foster Wallace. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Ernest Shackleton. What is your greatest regret? That you don’t know when you’re young what you do then affects your whole life. How would you like to die? Don’t know, but I want to be buried in one of those biodegradable mushrooms suits. What is your motto? Cautious optimism.

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SAMSARA ©DAVID BONDI

THE SPIDER MAN’S MEDITATION


A DIALOGUE WITH ARTIST DAVID BONDI ON THE ART OF DYING WORDS MICHELE ANTENORCRUZ // IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST


PROFILE

AMONG THE FANCY 3D printer, 3D scanner, computers, projectors and vinyl

toy prototypes, dozens of black widow spiders have made their home in David Bondi’s Highland Park art studio, and now they inhabit his art. In addition to being a technophile, Bondi is a master of resin. He makes three dimensional sculpture paintings that have shown in top galleries. He also creates vinyl toys, but the lost witticism of his morphed mustachioed McDonald, Mickey Mouse, Mario Brothers collectibles has jaded Bondi to where he sees these toys at the shallow nexus where “art becomes marketing and marketing becomes an art.” So when the black widows began to colonize, Bondi morphed: he stalked them, played with them, got to know their personalities and then, yes, killed them in his art. The black widow death-struggle unfolds in brilliant hues of a resin casket that document their Via Dolorosa. Project what you will upon this in-your-face representation. Bondi, who dabbles in Buddhist practice, is ultimately Zen about it. Perhaps you believe Bondi crossed the line. It’s one thing to squish a deadly spider and bring it to a quick but arguably necessary death, and another to create and then capitalize on a prolonged death struggle. What is this, a koan? Be Zen about manufacturing suffering for art’s sake? I mean, I know this guy pretty well: we have barbecues together, go on hikes, our kids are friends, his wife makes a great artichoke dip. What say you, Bondi? DB: That is problematic when you think about it. As an artist, there’s this desire to be an individual, to not be a product of a bunch of other people’s notions of reality – what is ethical, unethical, appropriate, inappropriate. Striving to be rebellious and a skeptic, to resist dogma, to resist systems of behavior or thought. I'm not trying to put down Buddhism. I'm a big advocate of the practice and I think that if more people were to adopt the techniques that are taught, humanity as a whole would make great progress in solving the big problems that we are facing together. The current mode of general unawareness or deliberate unconsciousness has been failing in dramatic fashion and we need a change. But keeping a critical watch over how these practices are employed and the dangers of dogmatism is also extremely important. For example, the term "mindfulness" is being thrown around now quite arbitrarily. It isn't unusual these days to hear about seminars that teach mindfulness practice as a means to achieve "success." A high percentage of executives for tech companies now meditate and claim to engage in some sort of practice and yet they constantly have to bend to the will of the bottom line or the invisible hand of the market economy. This is taken to 40

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LAMP ©DAVID BONDI


PROFILE

the extreme in the example of soldiers we send to war under the premise that they are fighting to "liberate" or "bring democracy" to suffering people. Consequently, when the war weary return to society disillusioned and depressed, the best therapy we offer (if any) is a blend of cognitive therapy and mindfulness as a coping strategy. The cynical manipulation of ordinary people is to some extent rooted in this psychological realm. MA: But isn’t a basic tenet of Buddhism to be open-minded and not dogmatic? DB: So it’s all well and good to say that the first rule of all of our rules is to say that there’s no rule, but that doesn’t mean that’s what’s actually going on. Buddhism is dogmatic because it’s a practice and inherently has a structure – a series of steps that you go through. You can say the same thing about art: there are a series of steps you have to go through in order to be an effective artist. Or even philosophy: but every philosopher gets to the point where they become an anti-philosopher; where they have to disown what came before and reinvent it all for themselves, and yet it is always rooted in this super-intense historical context. That’s the dilemma. The great aspiration of Buddhism not to be dogmatic is what attracts me to it. It is critical and contemplative. At the same time, the Buddhist practice is contradictory. I am trying to challenge the self-proclaimed

ENTANGLEMENT ©DAVID BONDI


PROFILE

openness or open mindedness or anti-fanaticism of Buddhism by creating suffering and beauty in the same motion. I’ve always made artwork that is interesting for myself in the hope that others will find something in it. During the creative process, I think it is cutting edge, but when I look back I see that it is not. (Laughter) MA: And then what? DB: I credit my dad with this mode of thinking. My dad was good at the psychological aspect of playing sports. He was able to make the free throw and focus in on what had to be done and to put aside everything and let what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls "system one" take over. Then you don’t allow yourself to be judged until afterwards. It’s kind of like a warrior spirit. The ‘spiders’ thing is like pushing myself outside of my comfort zone because people will react and maybe not in the most positive way. It is common for folks to take an egoistic approach by projecting their life experiences, opinions, and values upon art. They may see the work as cruel and unnecessary and for the sake of art. It will be interesting to see how people somehow think it is about them. They put their ego into it. Like the guy who poured molten aluminum into an ant hill and people were fuming mad at him. To me that is such


FROM THE ARS MORIENDI SERIES ©DAVID BONDI


FROM THE XATALINA SERIES ©DAVID BONDI


PROFILE

an extreme egoistical approach to analysis. There’s so much of that nowadays. People bring their own shit all the time. MA: How do you approach art? DB: I offer a deep respect for the process of creating and living and really try to figure stuff out without becoming defensive. If we come to the table with enough faith in one another and an understanding that we are all trying to do the right thing, then we can approach art or life with an open mind and progress. Pulmonary fibrosis is how my dad died – it’s like drowning, but you do it over weeks and months. It’s scary and an incredible way to suffer. I’m recreating that process. I was with him about a week before he died. This formerly very athletic man had dwindled and was hooked up to monitors. So I always pour the resin and watch to see what happens with the spiders. I don’t turn away because I think I need to honor the suffering or maybe it’s a macabre fascination with death or both. Some of the spiders really fight hard and you’ll think they are all done for and then they will try again and pull a few more centimeters and then try again. I have never thought of pulling the spider out to end its suffering. I have thought about my dad when watching the spiders struggle. In his last week, he was trying to be really strong and not show his suffering, although what he had, pulmonary fibrosis, is like a prolonged drowning. I’m not afraid to die but it’s the suffering I don’t like. That suffering has got to be really tough. Someone on the deathbed, why lie? There’s purity. There’s no future, only the present. My grandmother died of the same thing, so it’s hereditary. MA: What would you do if you developed pulmonary fibrosis? DB: I’d want to have a plan in place for assisted suicide. So in relation to the spider art, if I wanted to be egoistic, I’d much rather be squashed than be put in a vat of liquid. MA: But you’re not egoistic? DB: A lot of philosophers like Schopenhauer talk about the "will to live," the notion that the force that drives us to continue to live and procreate is a fundamental foundation of reality. Materialists posit that’s all that consciousness is and I think it’s a cynical analysis of human activity. The result can be pure nihilism. But even Nietzsche, who struggled with this notion, believed that art could transcend meaninglessness through some form of dialectical synthesis. For me, 46

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FROM THE ARS MORIENDI SERIES ŠDAVID BONDI

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PROFILE

watching the spiders in their struggle is a literal witnessing of the manifestation of "the will." I'm not playing with conventional notions of morality or ethics. I feel that it’s not my responsibility to tell anyone what to do. I’m here to bear witness. To bear witness is the ultimate responsibility of the philosopher and the guru. Alain Badiou was asked, “What is the role of philosopher?” and he said "First and foremost, you have to be optimistic about the future, the nature of your practice, because if you are not, the current situation will suffice." There is no philosophy with pessimism. You have to be optimistic. So the spiders are testifying for me, for my benefit, so that I can remind myself that there’s something here worth fighting for. I have to bear witness and the spiders may be my own personal gurus, but saying that may be an excuse for my own ghoulish behavior. Maybe it’s both. It’s definitely both. MA: Huh, the art of dying? DB: Well, yes, “Ars Moriendi1.” When I moved to Highland Park a couple of years ago, I was a little tired of my process and stuck with a lack of inspiration. When the summer came, I found the first black widow hanging out in my studio. It was a no brainer — I wasn't going to let this thing set up shop underneath my stool — so I pulled out the resin and cast it. I thought that would be the end of it because in all the time I've lived in L.A. I had only run into a couple of black widows lurking in places that were potentially bad. So when the next one showed up a day or two later, I thought it was a little weird. When more and more kept coming, the heaviness of killing them started to sink in and I began to feel a deep connection to the contradictions embodied in the work. I almost felt as though they were being sent to me from somewhere to shock me out of ambivalence. So back before the spiders came, a mere two months after moving into my new home, the news came down that the great Mike Kelly had killed himself. I was pretty saddened by the whole thing because he was probably in the top five greatest artistic inspirations for me. In addition, he had been living and working in Highland Park for many years and while house hunting I had entertained the notion that I might run into him at Von's buying groceries or something ridiculous. Many articles and tributes were being published about him while the spiders encroached and one of the articles mentioned his studio on Figueroa Avenue, which is a very long street that runs all the way into downtown L.A. A little more online research and I found out that his studio was located on Fig and Annan Way, which is my street.

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Amazed, I walked out of my studio and looked across the back yard toward Figueroa, and there it was, not 100 yards from my house. I was dumbfounded -imagining little black widows crawling down the sidewalk to come and torment me. Of course, the story is a little silly and ultimately pure coincidence, but it makes "Ars Moriendi" more metaphorical and meaningful to me. MA: Does art have to be anything in particular to you? DB: I’m seeing nowadays that art has to be political. It’s probably really important to separate my own personal methodologies and rationale to what I think art in general ought to be. There’s a close relationship between art and politics and that’s my observation. One of the big problems with me and art is that art is difficult, because, on the one hand, you want it to resonate with others. There’s an intangible element that you want it to express and at the same time you have to negate others’ judgment to make your own process pure. It’s contradictory. Art is an expression of the intangible beyond language and maybe beyond some other thing, too. Even language is artistic separate from the words itself. So let’s loop it back to the bugs because I would have killed them anyway. There may be evidence that people have a biological aversion to spiders; it is a primal instinct. Some reactions we don’t have control over and then again they are these super little beautiful things. When I capture them, I notice their behavior. If I just killed one by stepping on it, I’d never learn anything about it. But when I start to stalk them and hunt them, I see how they try to free themselves and how they play dead and then they switch from totally passive to totally aggressive and they raise their legs in a really threatening way and it’s game on. But I’d never notice these behaviors if I wasn’t hunting them. There’s something compelling but it is hard to articulate. I really, really like art I’ve created if it is interesting. That’s where feedback turns into a dialogue.

—— 1The Ars Moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) are two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to "die well" according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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ACE LOS ANGELES, THEATRE. PHOTO: SPENCER LOWELL


DESIGNING NONCONFORMITY COMMUNE DESIGN AND THE REVITALIZATION OF AN OLD BROADWAY GEM

— WORDS DAVID VEGA IMAGES COURTESY OF COMMUNE DESIGN


ACE LOS ANGELES, LOBBY. PHOTO: SPENCER LOWELL


SPOTLIGHT

THE LUNATICS HAVE FINALLY “TAKEN OVER THE ASYLUM. ” —RICHARD A. ROLAND, HEAD EXECUTIVE OF METRO STUDIOS, ON FIRST HEARING OF THE FOUNDING OF THE UNITED ARTISTS FILM STUDIO IN 1919

This walk has changed. Dramatically. As I make my way south down the eight and nine hundred blocks of Broadway in Downtown L.A., I can’t help but marvel at the transformation to my left and right. On the west side, Swedish clothier Acne Studios and adjoining coffee shop Il Caffe now sit at the ground level of the Eastern Columbia Building. Across the street, an Urban Outfitters now calls the old Rialto Theater its home. There’s Umamicatessen, which opened three years ago. Coming up on my right, an old familiar landmark — the Tacos Mexico outpost. (If memory serves me, it has incredibly delicious lengua.) As I look forward, I catch sight of those markers for which I’m searching — an outdoor café setting with European bistro chairs, motorcycle jacket-clad girls and bespectacled young men sitting at patio tables, a giant marquee above, and a simple billboard greeting: “Hello, L.A.” I’ve arrived at the Ace Hotel, one hellava hip, sophisticated draw for Los Angeles. The latest addition to the growing chain, made possible by late hotel visionary Alex Calderwood and design firm Commune, is now in its fifth month since opening its doors in January and has become a symbol of a revival that is winding its way through the streets of downtown. Located in the Broadway Theater District, a stretch of blocks from Third to Tenth Streets, the twelve story,182 room hotel once housed the West Coast offices of Texaco, while the adjoining space was home to the flagship United Artists Theater. Conceived by Hollywood luminaries Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith, UA had a vision to regain control over their work from a studio system that had become too rigid. Web fabrik.la

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ACE LOS ANGELES, JESUS SAVES. PHOTO: SPENCER LOWELL


ACE LOS ANGELES, LA CHAPTER RESTAURANT. PHOTO: SPENCER LOWELL


SPOTLIGHT

The building was erected in 1927, joining a premier line with names like The Los Angeles, Orpheum, Rialto, Roxie, Cameo Nickelodeon, Million Dollar, and Arcade Theater. Each glittering neon house drew crowds from across the city, transporting moviegoers from their Depression woes. After World War II, however, when they moved west to Hollywood to see their favorite stars on the silver screen; the rise of Spanish language films kept the theaters from being abandoned for a time. In the 1980s, though, as the district suffered economic challenges, many of the great Broadway palaces became staging grounds for evangelical sermonizing and swap meet goods, while others fell into complete decay. Last year, the combined energies of GREC Architects, Ace Atelier, and Commune Design came together to revitalize one in particular. The result: a revamping of the UA landmark that is as faithful to its original historic details as it is to a modern directive. So far, the neighborhood has responded in kind. “It’s [a] sustainable revitalization of the area, so it’s not this unmanageable explosion and the neighborhood loses itself,” says Roman Alonso, one of the principals of Commune. This is not their first job of this kind, however; Alonso, along with fellow founders Steven Johanknecht and Pam and Ramin Shamshiri, have been called on repeatedly in recent years to collaborate with a cadre of artists and designers and reimagine old spaces. The firm has now worked on several hotels for the Ace Group as well as a growing number of other clients across the country. At the Ace’s downtown L.A. location, they’ve playfully recreated a record of the Hollywood entertainment industry when it was still in its formative years. The interior of the hotel references the iconic images of 1920s glamour and the 80s punk scene, reminding one of the pioneering spirit of Los Angeles during its most remarkable eras. These references can literally be found on the walls of the building itself. L.A. specific references are also in the faded palm trees painted on panels salvaged from the 13th floor, or on the walls covered with Hass Brothers sketches of L.A. iconic royalty: Magic Johnson, Michael Jackson, and even Angelyne, lounging lazily on a Sunset Boulevard billboard. Then there are the layered textures of leather, wood, and metal, of hand woven textiles, and the tensions between past and present, the local and the exotic. Commune seems to soften these tensions, however; the geometric Bauhaus era patterns created by Exquisite Surfaces’ tiles are almost echoed in the rooftop’s own organic geometries, where Navajo-themed awnings and Turkish Kilim pil-

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ACE LOS ANGELES, UPSTAIRS POOL AREA. PHOTO: SPENCER LOWELL


SPOTLIGHT

lows are strewn across its benches. The sum of its parts gives the space a California-Moroccan-take-a-load-off-your-feet feel. It all seems to gracefully accent the existing Spanish Gothic latticework of the building façade itself. Rather than having intricate patterning become too repetitive, however, there’s a return to minimalism in certain corners. There are clean brass accents. European industrial lamps softened by wooden stump tables. Art Deco color contrasts. It’s L.A., a harmonic bohemian mishmash of cultural and historical references, with just the right amount of noise thrown in. Everything Commune has introduced here has a handcrafted vibe, causing one to think that revitalization of spaces such as these should always be a human endeavor involving objects built by hand. The Gothic plaster work of the next door theater, commissioned by Mary Pickford some 90 some years ago, was this kind of artisanship: it involved the painstaking process of carving curves and geometric shapes on wooden molds and then casting these lines in plaster. The work of Californian artists Alma Allen and Tanya Aguiñiga, veterans frequently commissioned by Commune, shows a similar reverence for this type of handiwork. Commune’s effort to collaborate with people like these is what sets them apart from the rest. The mixture of the modern and the nostalgic seems to be what Commune does best in its work. Perhaps this fact made it an obvious choice for the Ace Hotel and for the interior restoration of this beautiful space. With luck, other design firms, architects, and art collaborations will be equally up to the challenge of bringing a bit of drama and glamour back to the Broadway Theater District and other historic areas in days to come.

Commune, its work for the Ace Hotel, and the downtown revival will be discussed at this year’s Dwell on Design show in downtown L.A. on Friday, June 20 through Sunday, June 22. For more information, please visit http://dwellondesign.com

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

EMERGENT PRESENCE BY ARTRA CURATORIAL | ARTRA Curatorial is comprised of Max Presneill (MP), Kio Griffith (KG) & Colton Stenke (CS)

CARMEN ARGOTE Residents' lives are hardly measured by the distance traveled and time spent within their living quarters. By framing the perimeters of the houses and every room once lived in, Carmen Argote reexamines family history, interior shapes of spaces, and the psychological transference of migrating singularly, dually or as a family unit. During revisitation to these sites, Argote conducts field work by documenting furniture rubbings, outlining portraiture of rooms, and inviting transient guests to a collaborative performance, playfully yearning to reenact the unknown past, places and family events known only through the phantoms in old photographs and relics. (KG). http://www.carmenargote.com

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(ABOVE: TOP) 2014, INSTALLATION OF MANTAS IN SITU: MY BEDROOM; PHOTOGRAPH (ABOVE: BOTTOM) 2014, INSTALLATION OF MANTAS IN SITU: ORANGE MANTA; PHOTOGRAPH (LEFT) 2014, MANTAS DIVIDING THE COURTYARD: MANSION MAGNOLIA; PHOTOGRAPH


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

KENTURAH DAVIS Davis' work features portraiture through the lens of both design and semiotics to explore identity, language and the body, as the means by which we understand each other and ourselves. Â Using hand written text to build the figurative elements, on an often ambitious large scale, her facial portraits carry a poetic intensity and the layering of their own history. The relationship of the repeated text and the elements of drawing build to a point of stability in an elegant structure, both visual and conceptual, which acts as drawing, performative action and documentarian recording of historic memory. (MP). http://www.kenturah.com

(ABOVE) SONDER, 2013. 3-PANEL, RUBBER STAMP DRAWINGS ON TRANSLUCENT COTTON, SUSPENDED FROM CEILING (RIGHT) 1952, 2013. GRAPHITE PENCIL ON WALL-MOUNTED MUSLIN

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

KIEL JOHNSON Swirly patterns wrap around cylindrical and hexagonal structures inlaid with hive like cavities to house any imaginary city that may happen in Kiel Johnson’s vast mind of hypnagogic reveries. The arbitrary lines drawn score out simulacral sites and viral spaces from which propagate diverse species of animated creatures and objects. Johnson’s studio is a draft punk’s utopia that is continuously filling in with noise and images, distraction at volume eleven levels yet perfectly in control at the pilot’s seat observing the micro universes. He may be better known as the cardboard construct virtuoso, but any material that he manipulates is an extension of the precision of the pencil lead. (KG). http://www.kieljohnson.com

(ABOVE) GROW ROOM, 2014. 48” X 60”, GRAPHITE ON PAPER (RIGHT) GONNA BE A LITTLE LATE, 2011. 96” X 96”, INK AND GESSO ON PANEL

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

CHRISTOPHER MERCIER With a practice that crosses borders between sculpture and architecture while retaining a core, primary identity as painting, Mercier's objects reinforce the materiality of painting while investigating how the object projects itself into our space as opposed to the more traditional notion of a window onto a imagined area or the flat plane of abstract painting. Â The material itself becomes architectural by being cast and used in the construction of his formally organized building-like frameworks that act as both the support and the enclave wherein relationships of shape and connectivity combine for a visually unique signature. (MP). For more information, search for Christopher Mercier at ArtSlant.com

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(ABOVE) INSTALLATION DETAIL, COLLECTION OF VARIOUS WORKS (LEFT) AMBIDEXTROUS AMBIGUITY. 52” X 48” X 13”, OIL, INK, LATEX, ENAMEL ON WOOD, PANEL CONSTRUCTION, ANGLE VIEW


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

ESMERALDA MONTES The moment when character transfiguration outgrows its status as a curiosity, Esmeralda Montes’ “Ekaterina” steps through the chimerical paintpools, possessing the cult interests of believer and non-comformist, armless and freed from mimesis reduced to the most basic neglected elements. Montes’ paintings are ‘figurescapes’ shaking up theories of mythical superstitions, in which ersatz demigods and occasional hermaphrodites are thrown into the muddle while they await their christening. Once named, nothing really happens in this accidental narrative. Iconic in their own right, the statuettes have been provided room in this agitated space except they know of how to live in it. (KG). http://esmeraldamontes.com

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(ABOVE) EKATERINA, 2014. ACRYLIC ON CANVAS. 88½” X 80½” (LEFT) LEO, 2012. OIL ON CANVAS. 36” X 36”


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

CLAUDIA PARDUCCI Foreboding looms over Parducci's luscious paintings. Grim warnings set in lively painterly surfaces that seduce us with their materiality and inject their cries of fear from oblique angles via morse code or skywritten notes that fade from view. Their message of hope, obscured by the methodology of their transmitted warning but containing the ability to do so and belief in the value of it regardless — its humanity in trying to help - is reassuring but the vacant but intensely beautiful painted landscapes do not bode well for the future, as human kind is never directly present. Apocalyptic intent has never been so sexy. (MP). http://www.claudiaparducci.com

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(ABOVE) TELL ME HOW TO DISAPPEAR WITHOUT A TRACE, 2012. ACRYLIC, OIL, SILVER FOIL ON CANVAS, 70” X 78” (LEFT) FUCKED, 2012. ACRYLIC, OIL ON CANVAS, 70” X 78”


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

JASON RAMOS The liminal space between recognition and disappearance haunts Ramos' spectral paintings of sentimental subjects that flicker towards and away from us. Their humane and autobiographical qualities leave enough room for our own projections but retain an hermetic aspect which makes a mystery of the relationships described in them. They have an interpretive openness though, which vies with his personal histories, imbedded within his subjectivity as they are, that plays with our attention. Transient and elusive, they remain in the mind like dreams, intimate but fleeting, memory playing tricks with the facts. (MP). http://thejasonramos.tumblr.com

(ABOVE) RED STATE/BLUE STATE, 2013. OIL ON CANVAS DIPTYCH, 12 X 32 INCHES (RIGHT) PICTURE OF MY FATHER MODELING JACKETS NO. 4, 2013. OIL ON CANVAS, 48 X 36 INCHES

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

AILI SCHMELTZ Aili Schmeltz’s hybrid image/objects reside in dualities of time and space between analog-digital strategies, nostalgia-futuristic realms, and social protocols. Her research calls upon responses drawn from actual and possible events of middle class suburbia. In her current body of work “Psionic Generators,” she combines interests of utopic architecture and philosophy by using blueprints of physical theories  found in a 1970s book of parapsychological studies of ESP activation. Transmutations are  generated  that allow tactics to overwrite material history, bringing to the surface questions of function. (KG). http://www.ailischmeltz.com

(ABOVE) FRAME PROBLEM, 2013. RECYCLED WOODEN FRAMES, LATEX PAINT, AND GLUE, 15′ X 12′ X 10′ (RIGHT) SPECIMEN, 2011. MIXED MEDIA, 67″ X 22″ X 19″

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SPOTLIGHT

DWELL ON DESIGN L.A.: WHAT’S NEW IN 2014

— WORDS LANEE LEE IMAGES COURTESY OF DWELL ON DESIGN

THREE DAYS. 300,000 SQUARE FEET. 400+ exhibitors. 30,000+ attendees.

Dwell on Design LA -- America’s largest event dedicated to the art of modern living -- returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center June 20-22, 2014. Whether on the hunt for cool new gadgets or fab furnishings for your home or an industry professional seeking creative inspiration, there are plenty of thought-provoking exhibits, talks, tours and events for all levels of interest. In partnership with American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), here are our picks for some of the best highlights of DOD 2014: Stephen Burks, Readymade Projects Known for utilizing global artisans, Burks has developed products for brands like Dedon, Estée Lauder, and Missoni. For example, highly skilled weavers from the Philippines created his DALA line of outdoor furniture for Dedon. As keynote speaker, Burks will discuss the challenges and rewards of melding ancient craft with modern design. June 20, 6- 7 PM Young Guns: Emerging Designers This year’s Young Guns program focuses on three new trailblazers: industrial designer and curator Jonathan Olivares, furniture maker Al Que Quiere and designer Brandan Ravenhill. Also taking the stage will be Alvin Huang - lead designer of Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA) in Los Angeles to dis-cuss the use of new materials. Pop-Up Dwell Store Launched online last fall, this is the first physical realization of the Dwell Store. Fifty products sourced from around the globe, including exclusive-to76

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©LAURA DOSS


SPOTLIGHT

Dwell jewelry by Montreal designer Zoë Mowatand, are on hand for a little retail therapy. Plus, some of the goods’ designers will available for impromptu meetand-greets. Themed Pavilions Curated by Dwell magazine editors, five thematic pavilions – from smart homes to Scandinavian concepts – are new to this year’s show. Themes include: Design for Humankind (includes smart carpeting); Energy 360 (environmental technology); Scandinavian (celebrating modern designs of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark); Modern Family (innovative designs transforming a house to a home); and Design for Tomorrow (students’ showcase from a myriad of L.A. colleges and art schools). Design Los Angeles Prolific local design firms, such as Commune and Rios Clementi Hale, will discuss their projects – from the new Ace Hotel to the Grand Park – and how it relates to the revitalization of Los Angeles. Addressing another pressing issue for Angelenos, Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin will explore the future of drought-ravaged L.A. Paper Punk Each year at DOD, an innovative artist or designer installation is featured. This year, you can help create a massive paper metropolis that will evolve and grow throughout the weekend. Grace Hawthorne, Stanford d.School associate professor, ReadyMade founder, and Paper Punk inventor, will host a handson workshop using pieces from her Urban Fold kit, which consists of foldable paper buildings and colorful stickers. Dwell on Design 2014 LA Convention Center June 20-23, 2014 Trade Day: Friday, June 20 Schedule/Tickets: www.dwellondesign.com

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700 PALMS — ERHARD PFEIFFER


SPOTLIGHT

A HISTORIC REUNION: ESTAÑO AND SIQUEIROS

— WORDS DALE YOUNGMAN IMAGES COURTESY OF ART MEETS ARCHITECTURE

PHILIP STEIN (AKA ESTAÑO), born in Newark New Jersey in 1919, was a

Renaissance man with a conscience. A devoted husband and father, he was also a soldier, a serious jazz aficionado, a scenic painter, and a muralist. However, he considered himself an activist first and foremost. Until his death in 2009, he still

THE WORLD STAGE

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SPOTLIGHT

attended vigils for peace at the World Trade Center twice weekly. His steadfast commitment to “Justice for All” is evident in the empowering narrative of his work, and the focus of a historical exhibit this July at the Pico House at El Pueblo in downtown Los Angeles, where one of the most famous yet controversial murals by the renowned Siqueiros is located. This is the first time that the work of the two friends and master painters will be on view together at the same location. Stein’s fame as a painter came after the war, although he had been painting since his teenage years. His move to Mexico to study art on the GI Educational Bill led to a fortuitous encounter with one of the top muralists in the world at that time, the legendary David Alfaro Siqueiros. Stein attended classes at the School of Fine Arts in San Miguel de Allende and the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, where he discovered the Mexican Mural School of New Realism. A fateful meeting with Siqueiros, a visiting instructor, led to their 10-year part-

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SPOTLIGHT

SIQUEIROS AND STEIN

nership and life-long friendship. From 1948 to1958, Stein, (who was nicknamed Estaùo by Siqueiros) was the main assistant on ten of the most acclaimed Siqueiros murals in Mexico City. Siqueiros also prompted Stein to create work on his own, which led to his first solo exhibit in Mexico City in 1953. Stein’s experience as a sought-after scenic painter for the theater and film studios had prepared him well for the arduous task of outdoor mural painting. Both artists were driven by passion, sharing an ideology, and a drive to create social change, depicting topics that were at times controversial and confrontational. They were outspoken and visible activists, making bold political statements against social injustice though majestic large scale art installations. Considered one of the three main muralists of his time, the famed Siqueiros

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SPOTLIGHT

THE MOLOCH

brought attention to the plight of the Mexican people. Stein’s own personal works regarding civil rights, women’s rights, and care of the environment were soon recognized and widely exhibited internationally, in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Mexico City and northern Spain. The famous Siqueiros mural “America Tropical,” was a politically and emotionally–charged masterpiece created by Siqueiros in August 1932 as a public art commission by the Plaza Art Center, (today known as El Pueblo, the historical site of the birthplace of Los Angeles.) The mural, measuring approximately 98 feet wide by 20 feet high, depicted the lush tropical setting requested by the site owner at the time, Mrs. Cristine Sterling, but was overshadowed by the

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SPOTLIGHT

artist’s personal voice that included symbols of oppression, guerilla fighters emerging from the jungle, and an Indian victim nailed to a cross, upon which perched an American Eagle. The political statement and controversy was too much for city officials, who soon deemed it inappropriate, and ordered it whitewashed over within a few years. A recent reconstruction thanks to a grant by the Getty Foundation have brought the heart of the mural back to the public, on view now at the America Tropical Interpretive Center at El Pueblo. The friendship of the two painters was steadfast, and Stein was given the honor by the Siqueiros family of being the one who would write the biography of the esteemed artist. His book “Siqueiros- His Life and Works” is available at the Interpretive Center. Stein also wrote a book “The Mexican Murals” as a guide to the most significant murals throughout Mexico, created by the masters of the genre - Orozco, Diego Rivera, Tamayo, and Sigueiros. Stein’s extraordinary exhibit at the historic Pico House will include paintings and drawings created in the last 50 years of the artist’s life, and will be on view throughout the month of July. A reception is planned for July 12th, when Anne Stein, the daughter of the artist, will be on hand for conversation about the work. The exhibit will be open daily Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am-3pm. Additional tours and events may be scheduled through the curator of the exhibit, Lisa Ames, of Art Meets Architecture. Details and schedule are available through her at lisa@artmeetsarchitecture.com or on artmeetsarchitecture.com. All events are free and open to the public. The Stein retrospective is looking for a permanent home where it can be on view to the public on a full time basis. The Pico House and the America Tropical Interpretive Center are part of the El Pueblo complex of museums located at 125 Paseo de La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90112. For more information please visit http://www.elpueblo.lacity.org/SightsSounds/HistoricStructures/PicoHouse/index.htm

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COMING OUT, GOING IN

CHRISTOPHER GRIMES GALLERY 916 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica WORDS PETER FRANK

COMING OUT: Sharon Ellis (March 15-May 3)

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Over the past decade, Sharon Ellis has evolved away from the abstracted and overtly decorative compositions with which she emerged. That evolution has been deliberately cautious, even incomplete. Ellis clearly wants to retain the decorousness that powered her earlier work, exploiting in particular her original luminosity; she still favors an almost psychedelic palette and a compositional symmetry at once graceful and rigid. She has abandoned none of this basic approach but has enlivened it with more traditionally descriptive factors that mark her current work as landscape painting – of a sort. There is now a greater tension between what Ellis inscribes on the surface and what she describes pictorially. Despite her day-glo colors, she goes to some length to convey a sense of recessional space. She plays with the idea of place, using specific (if not often easily identifiable) kinds of trees and flowers and clouds and other natural phenomena to formulate landscape imagery, often in silhouette. The arrangements can be so symmetric as to appear mirror-imaged. American modernists Agnes Pelton and Charles Burchfield have been identified as models for Ellis’ method, and she certainly extends their investigation of natural phenomena as manifestation of an intangible force or spirit into the less credulous discourse of our time. But Ellis’s artistic heritage extends further. In an odd way, she has determined a midpoint between Caspar David Friedrich and Georgia O’Keeffe, two painters between whom a midpoint would be hard to imagine; but she shares his romantic emptiness and her hallucinatory fecundity, collapsing these arguably opposed conditions into a unity whose very unease is crucial to its appeal. More than ever, Ellis’s work bounces off the eye at first glance. It seems too lovely, too glowing and too poised, to offer substantive engagement. But in this respect, she is posing the same challenge O’Keeffe, Pelton, and the Pattern Painters of the 1970s posed: decorative color and structure, they and Ellis demonstrate, need not be substitutes for intellectual and psychological depth but means towards it. The surface to Ellis is only the first step to potential infinitudes.

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COMING OUT, GOING IN

SHARON ELLIS • EVENING APPARITION, 2012 ALKYD ON CANVAS, 32 X 28 INCHES, 81.3 X 71.1 CM

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COMING OUT, GOING IN

GOING IN: Salomón Huerta (May 10-June 28) Salomón Huerta came to attention with small, exactingly and emphatically rendered images of the backs of people’s heads. The near-monomaniacal focus of this approach took on added frisson when viewers recognized the almost-shaven heads as those of young Chicano men. Huerta was not making (much less trying to exploit) any class or racial issue, and, indeed, was able to aestheticize these portraits-in-reverse through almost serial repetition. Whatever their context, however, they were clearly the products of a painter’s hand, interested in recording the textures and shapes the eye beholds. Huerta has broadened the reach of that hand considerably, and his latest show wanders fairly far afield from his “signature” work – without surrendering any of his technical and perceptive gifts. The female rather than male presence predominates here, body as well as head, painted in a manner at once lushly sensuous and lucidly precise. Certain of these figures – monumental in presence but relatively small in actual size – may recall Alex Katz’s paintings of women’s features. But Huerta’s approach has less to do with Pop art and more to do with European easel painting, especially of the interwar neo-classic/new objectivity era that gave us Morandi, Balthus, and Christian Schad. The male figure returns, as it were, in several paintings of boxers and two less straightforward depictions of an antique sculpture, a headless, armless, all but sexless figure seated in a modified lotus pose. (The missing features suggest Greco-Roman statuary, but the position of the figure would indicate it is a Hindu figurine.) One landscape – flatly painted like Huerta’s previous landscape works – and two still lifes round out the show. The identities of the still life objects, however, recapitulate the yin/yang dialectic that has prompted Huerta to hang menacing fighters with various studies of a single beautiful woman next to one another: one painting is of flowers, the other is of a gun.

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COMING OUT, GOING IN

SALOMÓN HUERTA • PURPLE, BROWN WITH GREEN, 2013 OIL ON CANVAS, 48 X 33 INCHES, 122 X 84 CM

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

Peter Frank’s

MUSEUM VIEWS PASADENA MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA ART June Wayne: Paintings, Prints, and Tapestries THROUGH AUGUST 31

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June Wayne’s importance to the art world – at least since she settled in Los Angeles in 1939 – has always obscured her importance to art itself. A leader in artistdriven political causes, a galvanizing figure in artistic feminism, and founder of America’s first modern graphics atelier, Wayne had a profound effect on the way Americans think about, look at, and make art. But she thought of herself first and foremost as an artist, as well she should have – and this exhibition demonstrates that her art itself staked out plenty of new territory. It is the very individualism of Wayne’s art that make it rather less historically important than her art-world activity. It added to artistic discourse but did not change its course, as did her organizational efforts. The best known of her works, such as the color-litho sequence documenting her mother’s life, serve more to underscore her extra-artistic contributions than break new ground of their own. (The “Dorothy” series may be a virtuoso demonstration of assembled imagery as color lithography, but, by 1976, its Pop-feminist nostalgia was common currency.) Conversely, the most significant works in Wayne’s oeuvre, as displayed in this carefully balanced survey, either brilliantly summarize broader tendencies or exemplify an inimitable aesthetic individualism. Her Kafka series from 1948, for instance – arrays of peculiar, bug-like figures cavorting against flat backgrounds – reinterprets the impact of Europe’s two defining prewar movements, Surrealism and Cubism, on mid-century American art. By contrast, her tapestries, grandly blanketing the walls, translate her already distinctive lithographic images to a whole other medium, and other scale, employing a rarefied process most other artists could not be so fortunate to exploit. Finally, though – as the retrospective reminds us – we should admire artists first and foremost for their art, and the show makes its case for Wayne as an artist even more than it does for her as a historical figure. Wayne worked in distinct series, and the survey concentrates on those, whether paintings (e.g. the Kafka series), prints (the Dorothy series, among others), tapestries (probably her most glorious creations, here embracing the show’s large back gallery), and her in-between explorations, notably the stony, textured monochrome abstract bas reliefs she built out of styrene 92

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

WAITING FOR NEWSPAPERS, 1936. OIL ON CANVAS, 25 X 22 INCHES. ©THE JUNE WAYNE COLLECTION, COURTESY LOUIS STERN FINE ARTS.

during her later years. One moves from grouping to grouping, increasingly impressed with Wayne’s consistent ability to coax unanticipated shapes and effects from her materials. A survey spanning 75 years (!) is not – and should not be – an exercise in uniformity, and this one certainly isn’t. But it does reveal continuity in Wayne’s sensibility, showing her to be a dedicated experimenter; a big fan of scientific inquiry (which she saw as parallel to artistic inquiry, and sought to portray in a non-illustraWeb fabrik.la

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

DOROTHY, THE LAST DAY, 1960. COLOR LITHOGRAPH PRINTED BY GARO ANTREASIAN AND PUBLISHED BY TAMARIND. LITHOGRAPHY WORKSHOP. IMAGE: 22 1/4 X 30 INCHES. ©THE JUNE WAYNE COLLECTION, COURTESY LOUIS STERN FINE ARTS

tive manner); and dependent throughout her career on texture, even grain. She could be an inspired colorist (especially in her lithographs), and her line was always deft, but what holds Wayne’s whole show together is the optical, and sometimes actual, sensuousness of her surfaces, built out of myriad granules that give so much of her work a coarse effervescence. Of course, the nature of that texture changes, drastically, from medium to medium; the styrene bas reliefs buzz in a very different way than do, say, her early lithos based on John Donne poems. But touch is implicated throughout, and occasionally texture carries over between series and substances. (The tapestries, for instance, perfectly capture the grain of the source lithos by translating it into weave.) Betty Ann Brown, co-curator of the show with Jay Belloli, published a book of discussions with June Wayne shortly after Wayne’s 2011 passing. Afternoons with June, put out by Midmarch Arts Press, makes a great companion read to the show. But the retrospective’s own catalog is where you’re going to find reproductions of most of the items currently on display. For more information, please visit http://www.pmcaonline.org

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

ORANGE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART Sarkisian & Sarkisian THROUGH JULY 27 Bathed as we are in technology, so much of which entertains or evens informs through optical illusion and deception, it seems naïve to expect “mere” artwork – even that artwork that itself exploits such technology – to fool the eye nearly as well. Hasn’t the eye developed its own skepticism? Skillful magic, however, remains skillful magic, and the video-object work of New Mexico-based artist Peter Sarkisian demonstrates such finesse, and such narrative grace as well as formal cleverness, as to overcome viewer reticence. The same elegance, craft, and wit has informed the painting of Sarkisian’s father Paul for over a half century, so a two-person exhibition surveying father and son proves a lot more than a sentimental journey: it is a revelation of aesthetic DNA. Paul Sarkisian moved wife and son from Pasadena to rural Albuquerque in 1972, at the height of the painter’s career – essentially stanching that career. The retrospective thus re-introduces a once-prominent figure back to the southern California scene that had lionized him decades earlier, catching us up with what he has been doing in the interim. It recontextualizes Sarkisian’s photo-realist work in light of the almost-abstract still lifes and entirely abstract (but still eye-fooling) large color lithographs he produced in his first years in New Mexico as well as more recent patterned painting-collages and polyurethane-painted non-objective panels. Interestingly, these panels connect Sarkisian to Finish/Fetish, a California tendency in which he never participated while here. But visually unstable aspects of these objects reveal the trompe-l’oeil spirit of Finish/Fetish itself. The arch of Sarkisian’s career is thus one of gradually disappearing reference to the outside world, in a continual context of optical subversion. His portion of this two-man survey is anchored by the magnum opus of his photo-realist years, Untitled (El Paso), a fourteen-foot-high canvas that replicates to scale a weathered storefront in the west Texas city. It hangs low, inviting us to gaze in its dusty windows and enter its battered doors with their weathered screens. But, a muted silver-gray, it is devoid of natural color; it asks us to walk not into a place, but a photograph of a place. The mind, not the eye, is fooled. Peter Sarkisian’s video projections similarly play with scale, but usually in the opposite direction. Sarkisian junior is a miniaturist. Relatively few of his installations are even that big – and those that are (a blue wall seemingly being punched from behind, for instance, or the artist’s naked wife and toddler son “trapped” and

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

DUSTED, 1998. PETER SARKISIAN. PAINTED WOOD CUBE, VIDEO PROJECTION, AUDIO. 33 X 33 X 29.5 INCHES. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND I-20 GALLERY, NEW YORK. PHOTO COURTESY OF SARKISIAN STUDIO.

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

UNTITLED (#11), 1978. PAUL SARKISIAN. ACRYLIC ON CANVAS. 71 ½ X 71 ½ INCHES. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST. PHOTO COURTESY OF SARKISIAN STUDIO.

scrambling around in a box) gain a power, even ferocity, from their confrontation with our own sense of proportion. Sarkisian fils also realizes more charming and intimate Lilliputian fantasies, in which tiny people fall into coffee cups or crawl around on dictionary pages making their own annotations, and similarly domestic circumstances which animate otherwise un-living things. Yet more animation-oriented is a series of projections onto extruded surfaces that turn those surfaces into colorful, comical, improbable machines. Trained in photography and film, Peter Sarkisian stretches concepts and uses of both media well beyond their commercial application. His video object-installations resemble Tony Oursler’s in their basic technical premise, but avoid the ick factor running through Oursler’s aggressively creepy head-assemblages. Sarkisian’s surrealism is far more circumspect, infused with a seductively quotidian charm that unfolds the process of discovery and surprise. Rarely if ever does Sarkisian get “cute” or try to entertain, and he similarly avoids formula. In that respect, among quite a few others, he’s a chip off the old block. For more information, please visit http://www.ocma.net

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ARTIST MARKET

Sally Edelstein |

COLLAGE ARTIST

Sally Edelstein is an award winning, NY collage artist whose work has focused on examining social fictions of mid-century American culture. Nationally exhibited, her colorful, densely rich collages are a visual smorgasbord of pop culture stereotypes from post war America, offered by a media consumed with clichés and fictions. Composed of hundreds of appropriated vintage images from sources as varied as advertising, illustration, pulp fiction, schoolbooks, comics  etc, they offer a glimpse into American consumer culture that helped define the fairy tale American dream and the possibility of its attainment. These images offer a mirror to that dream as presented by a media calculated to sell the American dream to the world. Defrosting the cold war world of her childhood these collages re-envision the Atomic Age of   nuclear families and nuclear bombs,  mad men and happy housewives that littered a pop culture landscape run rampant with mass media myths.

Website: www.sallyedelsteincollage.com • Email: sallyedelstein@yahoo.com


PHILIP STEIN AT THE

PICO HOUSE 424 N MAIN ST, LOS ANGELES, CA 90012

THE WORLD STAGE

PRESENTED BY ART meets ARCHITECTURE

The Salon Where people meet, view art, listen to music, socialize and discuss culture in an intimate setting.

FOR PRIVATE VIEWING, CONTACT LISA AMES 805-217-2186 WWW.ARTMEETSARCHITECTURE.COM


Fabrik 25  

Fabrik's 25th issue celebrates the Mike Kelley Retrospective at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary.  Curated by Bennett Simpson, the wide-ranging su...

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