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CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN

ISSUE 26


8    /  " - Ê Ê U Ê Ê -   Ê Ê U Ê Ê  ,  /  " Ê Ê U Ê Ê  - /   /  "  ,     Ê Ê U Ê Ê Ê , /   Ê Ê U Ê Ê Ê - / " ,   Ê Ê Ê U Ê Ê / ,  - * " , //  " -    Ê Ê Ê U Ê Ê Ê * ,  /   Ê Ê U Ê Ê *  " / " Ê " - , 6/  "

"   /  " Ê      / Ê Ê U Ê Ê Ê * 1   /  " C U R AT O R I A L . O R G

113 EAST UNION STREET

PA S A D E N A C A L I F O R N I A 9 1 1 0 3 6 2 6 5 7 7 9 6 9 6


CURATORIAL ASSISTANCE EXHIBITIONS & ART SERVICES


CONTRIBUTORS MASTHEAD Publisher Chris Davies Associate Editor Peter Frank Managing Editor Aparna Bakhle-Ellis Creative Director Chris Davies Art Direction & Design Chris Davies and Paul Soady Contributing Writers Jacki Apple ARTRA Curatorial Peter Frank Roshan McArthur Kristen Osborne-Bartucca Phil Tarley

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, 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. Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES

ON THE COVER JESS Sent On The VIIth Wave, 1979 Collage and mixed media. 39 x 33 inches. The Buck Collection, Laguna Beach, CA. Photo Courtesy Pasadena Museum of California Art.

JACKI APPLE is a Los Angeles-based visual, performance, and media artist, designer, writer, composer, and producer whose work has been presented internationally. Her writings have been featured in numerous publications including THE Magazine LA, The Drama Review, Art Journal, and High Performance. She is a professor at Art Center College of Design. 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. 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. British freelance journalist ROSHAN McARTHUR is based in Los Angeles. Over the last two decades, she has written for a variety of publications from Marie Claire to New Scientist. She enjoys nothing more than meeting a new person and finding out what their passion is - whether it's running a multinational company, burlesque dancing, collecting Disney memorabilia, or forging Picasso's masterpieces. When she's not writing, you'll find her teaching the students at her daughter's elementary school how to unearth a good story. KRISTEN OSBORNE-BARTUCCA is a freelance arts writer and educator based out of Los Angeles. She is the host of The Contemporary Art Podcast. PHIL TARLEY is a Fellow of The American Film Institute and an artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association. As an art and pop culture critic: he regularly posts stories on The WOW Report; he writes about art and photography for Fabrik Magazine; and he is a juror on the Lark International Art Competition. Tarley is currently working on a book of narrative non-fiction travel stories and on a variety of photographic art projects. He has recently been appointed to a City of West Hollywood task force on Public Art Installation. Phil Tarley now curates for Artist’s Corner, Hollywood’s newest fine art photography gallery.


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CONTENTS 8

Profile: Rashid Johnson at David Kordansky Gallery

24 Profile: 35 Years at the Robert Berman Gallery 38 Profile: Zeal Harris: Tell Me Something Good 50 Fresh Faces in Art: Emergent Presence: Eight LA Artists You Should Know 68 Review: Dance Camera West: Dancing on History’s Grave 78 Review: Art and Craft: A Curious Deception 86 Art About Town: Peter Frank’s Museum Views


RASHID JOHNSON, “ISLANDS,” INSTALLATION VIEW AT DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY


RASHID JOHNSON, “ISLANDS” DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY SEPTEMBER 13-OCTOBER 29, 2014

— WORDS KRISTEN OSBORNE-BARTUCCA IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY


PROFILE

RASHID JOHNSON LOOKED relaxed and contented as he chatted with guests at the opening of his newest exhibition of works, “Islands,” at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles. This display of amiability and ease comes as no surprise, as Johnson is one of the most esteemed young artists working today. It is his third show at David Kordansky, and one that comes not long after the well-received midcareer survey of his sculptures, paintings, videos, and photographs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The works featured in "Islands" incorporate many of the same aesthetic motifs and themes he has explored for the last decade, but demonstrate a greater degree of confidence and commitment to his singular, Afrofuturist vision. Johnson is often discussed in terms of the label “post-black,” which signifies that while his work may engage with notions of blackness and identity, he prefers not to be labeled a “black” artist. The label was bestowed by the curator Thelma Golden, who organized the Studio Museum’s “Freestyle” exhibition in 2001, a show considered Johnson's breakthrough. The artist contributed pictures of homeless men in Chicago, characterized by dignity and stoicism rather than abjectness. Johnson’s relationship with that term is rather fraught, as he has at times distanced himself, and at times embraced it. His work pays deep homage to the titans of minimalism and abstract expressionism, such as Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, and Franz Kline, but it is also unabashedly rooted in black experience and identity. Earlier this year, he told an interviewer at Colorado Public Radio that he thought the phrase was used to “draw a distinction between black artists whose work is focused on the history of slavery and oppression of black people in America and those black artists whose work is about their own identity as black people but not so much focused on that same history, at least not in the same way” and that his work “has lots of reference points for me: my history, art history, black history.”i As he explained, his engagement with the history of blackness is intertwined with his own personal history. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Johnson grew up with a mother who was highly educated and academically motivated, and a father who was fascinated by electronics, particularly CB radios. Although the two split up not long after his birth, he cultivated meaningful relationships with both and benefited tremendously from their intellectual curiosity and Afrocentrist lifestyle. He remembers his parents wearing dashikis and celebrating Kwanzaa, and was disconcerted when they abandoned that culture and moved into a solidly middle-class lifestyle.ii His art incorporates objects that pulsate with personal meaning for him, such as mounds of shea butter, CB radios, copies of books by black authors, records

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RASHID JOHNSON IN HIS STUDIO


RASHID JOHNSON PLATEAUS, 2014 STEEL, SPRAY ENAMEL, PLANTS, CERAMIC, CONCRETE, PLASTIC, BRASS, BURNED WOOD, GROW LAMPS, CB RADIOS, SHEA BUTTER, RUGS, BOOKS 228 X 180 X 180 INCHES (579.1 X 457.2 X 457.2CM) PHOTOGRAPHY: FREDRIK NILSEN


PROFILE

by legends like Miles Davis and Sun Ra, black soap, and mirrors. His famous assemblages, known as the shelves (“something to put something on,” as Johnson is wont to call them)iii, are pieces of wood hung on the wall and affixed with shelves upon which the aforementioned objects are perched. One work from “Islands,” Swimming, incorporates shea butter, wax, vinyl, and books, while The Long Dream adds a mirrored planter and several plants. The tendency toward domesticity is clear, especially in the show's most impressive piece, Plateaus. Johnson unites the spare artistic vocabulary of Sol LeWitt’s open cube structure with dozens of bright green houseplants, rolledup Persian rugs, thin florescent light tubes (another nod to minimalism), books, shea butter, and CB radios. The massive piece, which is almost twenty feet tall, resembles a greenhouse whose plants have taken over the structure that is supposed to keep them in order. Five untitled sculptures in “Islands” resemble tables; they are low, flat irregular black shapes filled with shea butter and covered in glass. Johnson’s objects are not simply rooted in an individual history, however; they are also evocative of a more general African American culture, and are often joined with more inscrutable objects and signs to conjure meanings outside the scope of the personal. The symbol of the crosshairs, made famous by Public Enemy, is ubiquitous in his work, and is either reassuring or terrifying, depending on one’s sense of where they stand. Stones are spray painted gold and are deemed “space rocks,” and reverberate with a mystical, alchemical power. The African black soap is often melted down and combined with black wax, covering canvases in pieces Johnson refers to as his “Cosmic Slop” paintings. The black canvases in this series are opaque, inscrutable, and covered with splatters and etchings and scratches that allude not just to mark-making in art history, but mark-making on black bodies in history. The use of the word “cosmic,” although officially deriving from the Funkadelic song of the same name, has connotations of limitless, unknowable space and, when coupled with the word “slop,” suggests dark matter. Johnson has also constructed an imagined group of black intellectuals, somewhat akin to the members of the Harlem Renaissance, in his series of photographs, "The New Negro Escapist and Social Club." Inspired by a famous photograph of Frederick Douglass and the works of Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee, Johnson features black men photographed from the chest up, staring directly into the camera or featured in profile. Rendered in gradations of black and white, occasionally doubled, and photographed against a black background with moody smoke swirling around them, the men are portraits in dignity and erudition. In 2002, Johnson dealt more explicitly with the history of African Americans with his “Manumission” series, featuring abstract photographs of feet URBAN FIGURES NUMBER L1066518, 2011, PHOTOGRAPHIC MIXED MEDIA

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RASHID JOHNSON THE LONG DREAM, 2014 BURNED RED OAK FLOORING, BLACK SOAP, WAX, SPRAY ENAMEL, VINYL, STEEL, BAMBOO, SHEA BUTTER, BOOKS, PLANTS, MIRRORED PLANTER 133 7/8 X 140 1/4 X 16 1/4 INCHES (340 X 356.2 X 41.3 CM) PHOTOGRAPHY: MARTIN PARSEK


RASHID JOHNSON SWIMMING, 2014 BURNED RED OAK FLOORING, BLACK SOAP, WAX, SPRAY ENAMEL, VINYL, BRASS, SHEA BUTTER, BOOKS 86 X 112 X 13 3/4 INCHES (218.4 X 284.5 X 34.9 CM) PHOTOGRAPHY: MARTIN PARSEK


PROFILE

and hands. One of the works in the series features two rows of five sets of feet, ghostly white set against a black background, as in a photographic negative. Other works attempt to question the assumptions of contemporary viewers in regards to race; a nude self-portrait skirts the line between assertive and menacing, a text painting proclaims, “I Talk White,” and a video, Sweet Sweet Runner, features a black man running through New York’s Central Park, but he is only jogging, not eluding police. Johnson’s engagement with race, then, is not a single narrative –it is a multiplicity of stories, signifiers, and sentiments, oftentimes conceived through the lens of personal experience. His references to black musicians, writers, sports figures, and politicians from different eras in American history also point to the inherent complexities and contradictions in trying to define a singular African American narrative. For Johnson, art is an arena in which to explore the past, the present, and possible futures. The works featured in “Islands,” as with many of the works in his oeuvre, speak to his compelling unification of the individual and the collective, the mundane and the spiritual, and the physical and the cerebral. i Woods, Ange-Aimée. (2014, February 24). Five Questions: Brooklyn-based visual artist Rashid Johnson. Retrived from www.cpr.org. ii Stackhouse, Christopher. (2012, April 4). Rashid Johnson. Retrived from www.artinamerica.com. iii Goldstein, Andrew M. (2013, December 31). Rashid Johnson on Making Art “About the Bigger Issues in Life.” Retrieved from www.artspace.com.

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PROFILE

RASHID JOHNSON UNTITLED, 2014 SAPELE MAHOGANY, SHEA BUTTER, GLASS 18 X 52 1/2 X 33 INCHES (45.7 X 133.4 X 83.8 CM) UNIQUE PHOTOGRAPHY: FREDRIK NILSEN

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PHOTO BY CAROLE B.

Against All Odds

35 YEARS AT THE ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY

— WORDS PHIL TARLEY IMAGES COURTESY ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY


PROFILE

reselling modern art, with stints in France, England, and San Francisco, California, Robert Berman opened his first Santa Monica gallery off Main Street, in 1979. Although selling contemporary art was not on the dealer’s mind, his small gallery was so inundated with working artists that Berman quickly caught the contemporary calling. This fall marks his 35th year in Santa Monica, with Robert Berman Gallery at Bergamot Station since its opening in 1994. Berman also curates private collections, visiting clients in New York, Paris and Tokyo. His dealings in the secondary market, selling sculptures by Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain and Henry Moore, have earned him a good income and a reputation for fair and honest trading. His show of Man Ray’s mixed-media work included the much-publicized oil painting Le Beau Temps, which Man Ray hid from the Nazis when he fled Paris in 1939. Years after the war, the work was found in his paint vendor’s basement. Berman is proudest of the sale of Le Beau Temps to the Philadelphia Museum for a cool $1.825 million, effectively keeping the painting from leaving the United States. Interviewing Robert Berman is like trying to ask questions of a force of nature. The gallerist’s words come tumbling out faster than I can keep up. I let him take the lead. He organizes our meeting visually, flipping through the photographs in his countless show catalogs and stopping on an image to tell me an artist’s story. Then Berman clicks a video link and reincarnates William Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg, and Dennis Hopper all lassoed together in an unholy troika of Arts-andLetters-all-American all-stars. Robert had assembled the three men for the opening of the writers 1996 exhibition. Alluring and abhorrent at the same time, Burroughs’ sculptural paintings originated from his acquittal of wife-killing, when the writer tried to shoot an apple off his spouse’s head and missed. It’s a publicist’s dream: three beat-culture, anti-heroes who changed the way America wrote, made movies, and created art; videotaped for posterity, in Berman’s gallery. As the black and white clip revivifies the trio, a young Robert Berman spins into the camera and lays down a riveting, contextual critique of his show. When the video ends, Robert takes out the Concrete and Buckshot exhibition catalog to show me a text by Timothy Leary, that the 60s guru dictated from his sick bed for his good friend William Burroughs. ,It was the last thing Leary wrote before he passed away, Berman tells me. Robert Berman is the consummate art impresario and no stranger to the production of headline-grabbing exhibitions. “I show art that moves me…art AFTER YEARS OF

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RAYMOND PETTIBON, FROM THE DEAREST READER EXHIBITION


SHEPARD FAIREY, JUST OCCUPY


JOHN ALTOON, LOST AND FOUND

LEO LIMON, SPIRIT OF THE EAGLE, 1990


JOHN VALADEZ, FROM THE CHICANO GROUP SHOW

ALEXANDER CALDER


MAN RAY, FROM THE MAN RAY: PARIS–LA EXHIBITION


RONNIE CUTRONE, FROM THE ART OF THE 80s EXHIBITION


PROFILE

that I love…and basically, I show it my way.” Though his modesty is admirable, the gallerist expertly marshals all the power of celebrity, press and promotion to augment his own internal, highly prescient compass; guiding him to stage his most important exhibitions. In 1983, Berman put up The Chicano Group Show. Then in 1986, Keith Haring, Andy (Warhol) Mouse; and in 1987, The Art of the 80s show. Four years later, Berman mounted the Raymond Pettibon exhibition, Dearest Reader, which ran in tandem with MOCA’S Helter Skelter in 1991. In conjunction with Track 16, Berman produced two shows in 1996; William Burrough’s Concrete and Buckshot; and his seminal Man Ray presentation, Man Ray: Paris–LA. In the new millennium, the gallerist has staged three major art events; Change America, in 2008; Lost & Found Abstracting Los Angeles, in conjunction with the Getty’s, Pacific Standard Time in 2011; and JUST OCCUPY, a 2012 exhibition which also featured Shepard Fairey. Art that resounds with an epic thematic quest, modern classicism, sex and sensuality, political protest and pop iconography, all these fuse together in Robert Berman’s conceptual world of what art is and what he wants to exhibit. We sat down for a three-hour interview the day before Berman flew to Basel, Switzerland for the fair and a month-long working holiday in France. It’s important to remember that Robert spent his formative art years in the galleries and art auction houses of Paris, a business model he likes to revisit. “It’s hard to make money in the primary market. But I can make a living and do well in the secondary.” To illustrate his point, he tells me, “Man Ray sold next to nothing when he was alive.” To hedge his bets, the dealer uses his Santa Monica Auctions to underwrite the cost of the riskier Robert Berman Gallery exhibitions. Time spent in Parisian art auctions has left an avant cultural imprint on Berman, who still rides his motorcycle, wears a beret, and sports a goatee to complement the worn leather jacket that casts him out of a French New Wave film. Replete with a certain, unfathomable visceral quality about him, Robert Berman imbues the art he shows with an informed sense of dignity and importance. The gallerist’s foremost exhibitions are intelligent, conceptual, complex and evocative - and command attendance. The 35 Year Anniversary Show: A Rotating Exhibition of Works from 1979-2014 opens September 13 and will run until December 20, 2014 at The Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station.

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PROFILE

KEITH HARING, ANDY (WARHOL) MOUSE

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Zeal Harris: Tell Me Something Good

THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF NARRATIVE

— WORDS PHIL TARLEY IMAGES COURTESY ZEAL HARRIS AND WALLSPACE


PROFILE

I F I R ST C A M E across Zeal Harris’s work while surfing through the offerings

of an obscure gallery that I later found out was the Inglewood Public Library. The library was exhibiting cartoon-like paintings of the Obama family with a red rug drawn at the bottom of each panel, pulling the viewer along from segment to segment; telling a story about the Obama ascension in Washington, and at the same time narrating a distinct black experience of America. It was deep, and at the same time, very funny. Those images came tumbling back into my consciousness when I visited Valda Lake’s Wallspace Gallery on La Brea, where Zeal Harris’s screamingly mad cartoon paintings, mounted on stretchers, were hanging on the gallery’s wall. Harris has an eclectic background. She grew up in folksy, countrycoastal Virginia, then lived in Washington, D.C., where she had a Fellowship in Dramaturgy at the Arena Stage Theater. After stints in television with a job for the producer of the Tavis Smiley show, a time at BET and film school at UCLA, Harris took an MFA from Otis Parson’s College of Art And Design, where she discovered an authentic voice for narrative painting. Here are some of her musings. I find it extremely difficult to separate my life from my art. In fact, my life is my art. I’m making playful, ironic, vivid, narrative, representational, mixedmedia paintings on a variety of surfaces such as panels, paper, and canvas. I use vernacular, popular, and folk art forms. I’m attracted to this kind of visual language because it allows me to communicate stories to a broad audience. I paint personal experience narratives. These are anecdotal, testimonials that I encounter while Signifyin' in my daily life. By Signifyin’, I mean the ways of discovering, showing, and creating meaning that are distinctively AfricanAmerican (while not necessarily being exclusive to African-Americans). By Signifyin’, I mean that I listen to people, watch them, hear their songs, read books, watch the news, and experience life. The narratives that I find most fascinating may be any combination of funny, tragic, and poignant, while they simultaneously contain layered themes on topics such as race, prejudice, gender, sexuality, culture, and class. Usually, it is within these "small" daily life conversations that I find unique, compelling, sophisticated ideas. I pick the tales that I turn into paintings based on my perception of the rarity or importance of the information, and it’s potential to stimulate multiple entrance points for discussion of issues. This I perceive as the narrative’s Signifyin’ power. For me, they are most powerful when they are at once, personal AND political. Web fabrik.la

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MIJO NEGRITO

PLEASANT BREEZE IN THE GARDEN


I SAID SAMICH


ASCENSION PANELS 3 & 4

ASCENSION PANELS 1 & 2


PROFILE

I like to make art that tells stories with grand, counter-narrative characteristics. By counter-narrative, I mean tales that counter one-dimensional stereotypes, and offer an "alternative" view about people who have been traditionally marginalized by American popular culture. I “collect” these tales in my mental story bank, and relive them by performing them orally and visually. In this way, I see myself as an oral historian, an urban folklorist, a documentarian, an interviewer, all at once. Zora Neale Hurston, Anna Deveare Smith, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, and Carrie Mae Weems, are artists whom I admire for how they have collected folklore and placed it at the center of their intellectual, spiritual, and creative concerns. I aspire to do this — to reach deep into folklore, and pull out invaluable cultural material that says something ecstatic about this experience of being human. I ask Zeal Harris what her paintings have to say to both black and white America. She bursts into a deep, warm and seductive laugh and simply responds: “Look what you’ve been missing!” There are lots of different kinds of black and white audiences. My work appeals to any kind of people who like narratives. I make it in the form of popular art and I infuse my work with jokes and a quirky take on critical socio-political themes. I make my art work so that a wide variety of people can access and experience it. Zeal Harris’s richly detailed narrative paintings are featured in a solo show called “Not Where They’re Supposed To Be,” which runs November 8 to December 1, 2014 at Wallspace Art Gallery at 607 N. La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. Artist Reception November 8 from 6-9 pm.

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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)

NICK BROWN Occasionally the fragments of the tapestry from which paint strewn foliage wrapped thick, would slide and fall to the floor. The natural sensitivity of space and work, meant to go on forever, would move farther into the distance. For Nick Brown’s ability to imbue actions with gravity, the insight of something truly ghostly elegant, enables carving out brushed paths through the snow laden forest. In the depths of the deconstructed landscapes, congruent modernist idealism and the infectious expressionistic gestures superimpose one on the other transparently flirting with the impalpable, the dim in the gathering darkness, melted together into a parabolic world setting foot in its birth and decay. (KG). http://nickbrownart.net

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(ABOVE) GLOAMING, 2014. WATERCOLOUR ON PAPER, 10.5" X 8.25" (LEFT) DEFIANT, 2012. OIL ON CANVAS, 96” X 112½” X 22”


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

TOM DUNN Using the tropes of film, both comedy and tragedy, Dunn creates visual 'scandals' that cause problematic responses to the grotesque. Any boundaries between the playing out of fictional or real lives are lost within a carnival of excess, participation, role-playing and desire. The sources from tabloid journalism, reality TV, morning talk shows, celebrity gossip and office small-talk all set a theatrical stage for Dunn to enact his own form of Brechtian lunacy and Lynchian ‘Fear & Loathing.’ While they critique celebrity culture, Dunn’s scandals go further than that to implicate all of us in a subconscious drive towards Bahktin's theories on degredation. Exploring these themes through sculpture, drawing & painting and video, Dunn presents the hybridity and metamorphosis inherent in the viewer's subjective imposition upon the subject to form moments that flicker from base desire to Schadenfreude. Elements of Boschian absurdity and psycho channel surfing bring a manic quality of dystopian humor to the mirror Dunn places in front of us. (MP). http://www.tomdunn.com.au

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(ABOVE) DIRTY PANTIES TORNADO SCULPTURE, 2011. 16' X 5'. USED PANTIES, METAL, BAMBOO, PLASTIC TUBING, WIRE, MOTOR, SMOKE MACHINE AND STROBE LIGHT. (LEFT) SPLENDOR: 'WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THAT BOAT?' FEATURING ROBERT WAGNER, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN & NATALIE WOOD, 2012, INFLATABLE BOAT, INFLATABLE WOMAN, WIG, PAINT, PADDLES, MOET CHANDON, PHOTOGRAPHS, CARDBOARD, FOAM AND PERSPEX. 36" X 36".


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

DAVID FRENCH The sculptures of neo-anthropomorphic objects that reflect upon both the body and the notion of luxury place our current celebrity obsessed culture at the center of a critique of both this strange attention to nothing as well as our complicity in making it so. French's slick and glamorous forms both attract and repel. Their flowery beauty contains barbs. The use of industrial materials accentuates their artificiality while mocking the appearance of a mutated form of fauna. They suggest sophistication but hint at baser industrial methods of construction and feed the pretense towards something more than excess and consumption. (MP). http://www.davidfrenchsculptor.com

(ABOVE) CAIN AND ABEL 2008. STYROFOAM, FIBERGLASS, AUTO PAINT.  17” X 13” X 19” (RIGHT) ETHER 2013. CARDBOARD BOX, FIBERGLASS, AUTO FILLER. 40” X 11” X 16”

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

REMA GHULOUM Gleaning information as a sojourner of metapolitan aesthetics, Rema Ghuloum transcribes f leeting visual messages to produce anamorphic objects of curiosities. Instructions are gathered and processed from peripheral physiological measures into raw materials that are colors, shapes and amplitudes of light. Activated still lifes are connected in pairs of sculptures and paintings like prepositions or conjunctions, sometimes punctuated with neutralities of purples sustaining an existential human note. Signaling to both the natural past and the artificial future, the walk in between the subject and observer string together in the rhythmic concision of the anamnestic architecture. (KG). http://www.remaghuloum.com

(ABOVE) BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS (A WORK IN PROGRESS), 2014. GESSO AND OIL ON FOAM. DIMENSIONS VARIABLE (BETWEEN 3 X 2 X 2 INCHES & 5 X 3.5 X 3 INCHES)

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(ABOVE) IN THE SHADE, 2014. OIL ON CANVAS. 70 X 54 INCHES


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

JOSHUA HAGLER Hagler situates his paintings in a metaphorical relationship that pits the tropes of the Western film genre as a choreography of individualized potential violence at the liminal point where civilization is newly forming, the Frontier. The Other to that being the Wilderness, where a crescendo towards the showdown is staged — a climactic moment of theatrical judgement of ourselves and our beliefs and mores, particularly that of the white male, complete with guilt and the possibility of redemption, the self-realization of identities and the glimmer of hope within us. (MP). http://joshuahagler.com

(ABOVE) ET IN ARCADIA EGO, 2014. OIL ON WOOD PANEL. 51 X 61 INCHES

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(ABOVE) STILL BOAT, 2014. "AND THEN LATER THAT NIGHT YOU WERE LYING, LOOKING UP AT THE CEILING AND THE WATER IN YOUR HEAD WAS NOT DISSIMILAR FROM THE LANDSCAPE, AND YOU THINK TO YOURSELF, 'WHY IS IT THAT THE LANDSCAPE IS MOVING BUT THE BOAT IS STILL?'" OIL ON CANVAS. 48 X 36 INCHES


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

KOKI TANAKA Nothing if anything, yet everything happens in Koki Tanaka’s compelling phenomena of the mundane. Setting public daily rearrangements of objects and actions, the diverse situational contexts are played out and documented meticulously into chapters of videos, photography, interventional performances and site-specific installations composed out into an intentional disarray of everyday items and behaviors. Random thoughts direct his experiments of connecting realities through collaborative events such as a haircut given by nine hair stylists, a piano played by five pianists simultaneously or five Japanese poets attempting to compose a single poem. Ordinary life performed, nothing less of its paradoxical nature, can shift the everyday allegory. (KG). http://www.kktnk.com

(RIGHT TOP) TITLE OF THE INSTALLATION: A WHOLE MUSEUM COULD BE USED AT ONCE YEAR: 2011 VENUE: YOKOHAMA MUSEUM OF ART, YOKOHAMA TRIENNALE 2011, OUR MAGIC HOUR, JAPAN MATERIAL: 5 VIDEO WORKS, 18 B&W PRINT ON TRACING PAPER, MUSEUM’S FURNITURE AND ITS LEFTOVER. (RIGHT BOTTOM) PROJECT TITLE: A PIANO PLAYED BY 5 PIANISTS AT ONCE (FIRST ATTEMPT) YEAR: 2012 FORMAT: COLLABORATION, VIDEO DOCUMENTATION (57 MIN) LOCATION: THE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERIES, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE CURATOR: JULI CARSON COMMISSIONED BY THE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERIES, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE PARTICIPANTS: ADRIAN FOY, KELLY MORAN, DEVIN NORRIS, BEN PAPENDREA, DESMOND SHEEHAN PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS, VITAMIN CREATIVE SPACE, GUANGZHOU AND AOYAMA MEGURO, TOKYO

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FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

MARIE THIBEAULT Engaging in stigma generated from found disaster sites, weather lacerated trees, and abandoned amusement parks, Marie Thibeault transposes kinetic structures into measures of impulses, brushed scaffoldings that are manifested into synapses of distributed sign-systems, reverberating hues of oil cross pollinating over entropies shifting the polarities of figure and ground control. In the negotiation of history, space and time, technological landmines allude to a dichotomy of progressive and destructive systems. Inspired by an uncelebrated Ukrainian heliostation built in 1967 that continues to explore the possibilities of solar energy, her current series “Kingdom of Mirrors,� investigates the simple methods that evoke the incredibility we may have lost along the way. (KG). http://www.mariethibeault.com

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(ABOVE) SEMAPHORE, 2011. 90"X74". OIL ON CANVAS (LEFT) HELIOSTATION, 2014. 72"X66". OIL ON CANVAS


FRESH FACES IN ART: EIGHT LA ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

CHRIS TRUEMAN The crossroads for historical modes of abstraction is where Chris Trueman's paintings play their games. Approaching their lineage via a new hybridity or mutation, collage-like in their appearance, with a genre mixology that uses a formally complex geometrical layering to address both personal and art historical structures of Modernist thought which engage with the possibilities contained in the history of abstract painting. This philosophical set of contradictions, point and counter point between abstract painting narratives of utopianism, existentialism and individualism, deconstruct their latent imperatives by way of ambivalent meanings generated by the contradictions of intent. (MP). http://www.christrueman.com

(ABOVE) XC, 78" X 66", ACRYLIC & ACRYLIC SPRAY PAINT ON CANVAS, 2014

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(ABOVE) AB, 40" X 30", ACRYLIC & ACRYLIC SPRAY PAINT ON CANVAS, 2014


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DANCING ON HISTORY’S GRAVE — WORDS JACKI APPLE

I N T H I S AG E of instant culture consumed in the immediate present, quickly

digested, and easily forgotten with the next image, history is yesterday’s news. History is last year, or even, last century. Subjected to the ravages of time and the vagaries of memory, history disappears behind the white noise of the present. Yet history, as our shadow, is ever present, even when we fail to look back, or cannot see it. And when we do, how do we read it? Recently, a new generation of artists and choreographers have discovered the legacy of the early 20th century avant-garde, and sought to acknowledge, critique and re-contextualize their predecessors’ groundbreaking work. How these new works are seen and interpreted by those who are familiar with the historical sources, and those who have no other point of reference but what is front of them, vastly differs. If cumulative experience brings a discerning eye and critical expectations, first encounters offer the possibility of discovery. This year’s Dance Camera West weekend of films and live performances resonated with historical significance, highlighted by the outdoor site-specific performance of L.A. Contemporary Dance Company (LACDC)’s Prite Oef Stringh, an ode to Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring), the “ballet” that shocked 1913 Parisian audiences. LACDC’s Prite Oef Stringh was not in any way an attempt to restage Nijinsky’s original, nor should it have been. The 1913 Le Sacre, which only had four performances, was superbly restored and restaged by Robert Joffrey and his collaborators - art historians Millicent Hobson and Kenneth Archer, and has been performed by the Joffrey Ballet Company many times since its premier in 1987. Nor was Prite Oef Stringh a deconstructive critique in the mode of Yvonne Rainer’s 2007 RoS Indexical, which was stripped down to four female dancers on a bare stage with Nijinsky’s choreography condensed to its primal and 68

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LEFT: JOFFREY BALLET 1987 RECONSTRUCTION THE OF THE ORIGINAL NIJINSKY LE SACRE DU PRINTEMPS 1913

RIGHT: LOS ANGLES CONTEMPORARY DANCE COMPANY (LACDC)' PRITE OEF STRINGH, 2014, AN ODE TO IGOR STRAVINSKY AND VASLAV NIJINSKY’

very recognizable gestures — the turned-in feet, hunched shoulders, sharply angled arms, the leaping, stomping, pawing, and falling in circular formations. Rainer did not recapitulate the theme of virgin sacrifice, and the so-called “savagery” that so scandalized the original Paris audience. Instead she injected her own choreographic and cinematic interventions, thus re-framing the performance as a critique on the controversy the ballet created, and a commentary on its iconic role in twentieth-century avant-gardism. LACDC choreographer Kate Hutter took a different approach to the underlying themes of the original rite. Focusing on “the sacrifice of the individual to the group mentality,” she transposed that concept into a 21st century cultural context. Rather than the enactment of a sacred tribal ritual with its strict gender roles and primal eroticism, everyone in Hutter’s world is subsumed into a uniform crowd in which the hierarchies of power and gender have been literally whitewashed into one mass body in which no one group has dominance over another. There is no holy patriarchal elder to whom homage is paid. Now that corporations have achieved “personhood,” the individual physical embodiment of all authority has been replaced by an abstraction in the form of the all-powerful, all-knowing faceless institution. Web fabrik.la

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Thus, Hutter’s army of twenty-five dancers, dressed in basic white underwear – the women in shorts, the men in leggings, both in T-shirt tops – took over the outdoor spaces of Grand Park as a well-programmed anonymous army of digital age “workers,” or if you prefer, consumers. No one stood out. In various pas de deux, sometimes the women dominated, sometimes the men. Their roles became interchangeable. There was no ultimate chosen one who is sacrificed, no final resolution. For the knowing eye familiar with Nijinsky’s choreography, there were flashes of recognition of a few of the iconic gestures and group movements, however these were fleeting moments. Most of Hutter’s interpretation merely referenced the original choreography. In fact, it was far more balletic in its style and vocabulary and most probably would not have shocked the 1913 audience, let alone one in 2014. Instead, LACDC’s Prite Oef Stringh’s imagery, with its suggestion of “group-think,” magnified by the scale of the space and the way the corps of dancers filled it, was familiarly Orwellian, reminding us that what is now an historical vision of the future is already here. In Prite Oef Stringh, the Chosen One, rather than victim, is a defiant rebel who must be brought back into the fold and made to conform. Likewise, the music that accompanied the dance was not Stravinsky’s. Composed by Austin Wintory, this soundtrack was divided into three sections that corresponded to the dramatic staging in two locations– the first and last in the fountain area, the middle in front of the building. Wintory, best known for his soundtracks for video games, scored the first and last acts as a very contemporary wall of sound, an electric assault, sometimes giving way to the piercing intensity of Holly Sedillos’s extended tonal vocals. Stravinsky’s revolutionary music, that set the course for 20th century music and still inspires film composers decades later, only emerged in the second act when the recognizable themes bled through. It was most fully realized in the section of the choreography that came closest to approximating the final sacrificial ritual of Nijinsky’s Le Sacre. Prite Oef Stringh’s third act finale returned to Wintory’s aggressive pounding rhythms coming full circle to where it began. Lionel Popkin took a very different approach to historical precedent in Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, his “tribute” to Ruth St. Denis, an American dance pioneer of the early 20th century. Popkin’s historical excursion into the life and work of this controversial and tremendously influential figure in modern dance was much more than homage. Rather it was an energetic, humorous, and often ironic investigation into complex questions of cultural appropriation, and the representations that result. How do we read history, and what revisions occur in hindsight that are equally colored by our own cultural attitudes and politics in the present. Popkin specifically addresses St Denis’s engagement with South Asian Indian culture, and 70

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in doing so opens up a larger discussion about the many sides of this issue in a 21st century global world. Ruth St. Denis, who was a contemporary of Isadora Duncan, revolutionized the dance world in 1906, when she premiered Radha, a Hindu ballet, along with two solo works The Incense and The Cobras at the Hudson Theater in New York City. The success of this concert led to a three year tour of Europe, followed by subsequent performance tours throughout the United States, with new dances added to her Indian Suite program. At the same time, orientalism was all the rage in Paris, from Paul Poiret’s fashion designs to Diaghilev and Nijinsky’s Ballet Russes productions of Firebird, Scheherezade, L’apres midi d'un Faune (Afternoon of the Faun) and ultimately Le Sacre du Printemps. Miss Ruth (as she is subsequently referred to) met and married Ted Shawn in 1914. They founded the Denishawn School and company, performing and teaching together until 1932. Among her students were some of the great leaders of American modern dance—Martha Graham, Doris Humphey, and Charles Weidman. In Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Popkin’s own cultural identity comes into play and facilitates a dialectic between himself and St. Denis that is both a critique and an inquiry into the legitimacy of Miss Ruth’s usage of cultural material from a tradition other than her own. At the same time, he reveals his ambivalence about using his own heritage and its representation in the context of current identity politics. To be or not to be! Popkin’s mother is Indian, his father is Jewish, and St. Denis becomes the perfect historical vehicle through which to examine this. Popkin delves into Miss Ruth’s archives as a point of departure for his own performance, and discovers that elaborate costumes were a primary source of inspiration and a starting point for her. He builds on this idea and makes it central to his own commentary, strewing great piles of extravagant colorful fabrics, including his mother’s saris, out of an old trunk, contrasting them with the iconic American T-shirt, and an assortment of socks. Popkin, Carolyn Hall and Emily Beattie excavate, manipulate, transform, and do battle with all this material, frequently changing clothes. Metaphors abound in the way we deal with the past, be it our own or a larger historical one, and how we tell that story in the present. Objects and materials tell their own tales as well. The opening image of Popkin, wielding a big leaf blower around the stage and blowing back the hair of one of the dancers, foregrounds an action that reappears several more times, vacillating between irony and aggression. Adept at mixing stylistic devices and metaphors, Popkin plays contrasting actions against verbal narratives with humor and mockery as he walks about with a microphone, straightforwardly addressing the audience. He projects videos of Miss Ruth’s Web fabrik.la

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strict choreographic rules and instructions and engages in vigorous high energy dancing with Carolyn Hall and Emily Beattie that defies those very same guidelines, thus asserting his independence and individuality as a contemporary American choreographer. “Never lie down in dance,” Miss Ruth declared, yet Popkin’s piece contains a lot of down on the floor movement! The contradictions slam into each other. There is a section where Popkin, wrapped in one of those saris, dances eloquently. And another when an eerie ghostlike video of Carmen De Lavallade dancing St. Denis’s 1906 piece Incense plays behind Carolyn Hall and Emily Beattie like a guiding spirit. They glide and twirl gracefully through the space, with serpentine arms sheathed in long satin gloves of red and green. Popkin appears in blue ones. Then there is the music, a rousing energetic Klezmer score. Popkin referencing his father’s side, perhaps? Certainly not something St. Denis would have ever performed to! It was composed by avantgarde, genre-bending accordionist and improviser Guy Klucevsek, well-known for 72

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IMAGES: FROM LIONEL POPKIN’S RUTH DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE PHOTOS: STEVEN GUNTHER

mining cultures high and low, east, west, north and south, and combining them like fusion cuisine ingredients into something with its own identity. Performed live with violinist Sara Parkins, the music, which included a “tango” in one section, added another voice to the debate about who “owns” what, and how it is used. By ignoring St. Denis’s notes, Popkin implies she “ignored his culture by appropriating it.” But is that entirely accurate? It is not uncommon to idealize what comes from another culture or tradition when seeking some kind of greater meaning and connection. And St. Denis was deeply and genuinely involved in an eastern spiritual practice that was an intimate part of her art. In fact, she considered dance to be the embodiment of spiritual expression. When the Beatles went to India to study with Ravi Shankar, no one suggested they were either stealing or misusing Indian music. Likewise when the rest of the world appropriates and imitates American popular culture. Korean hip hop artists on YouTube, anyone? This brings us back to the dilemma in post-modern culture — the memory gap between then and now, and the Web fabrik.la

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problems of intent and context. Popkin’s self-questioning ends on just the right note as he reminds us that “The thing about talking to dead people is that sometimes they talk back”. Sometimes, due to factors that have nothing to do with their art, the dead disappear,. While their work may have lived on in the people they influenced in the past, their names are often forgotten and they fall into obscurity in the present. Such is the case of Michio Ito, the Japanese American choreographer and teacher who played a crucial role in establishing modern dance in Los Angeles in the 1930s. So it is especially gratifying that Ito, the forgotten American dance pioneer whom history has sadly overlooked, has finally received long overdue recognition. Michio Ito Pioneering Dancer-Choreographer, Bonnie Oda Homsey’s documentary film, has brought Ito’s extraordinarily prolific career back to life through the voices of his granddaughter Michelle, former dance company member Barbara Perry, as well as other artists and scholars. The film follows his journey from his 1912 departure from Tokyo, to Paris where he was exposed to the work of Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky, then to Germany where he studied Eurhythmics at the Delacroze Institute, to London in 1914 where he collaborated with William Butler Yeats, and onward to New York in 1916, where he established his first company and a school. In 1927, his solo dance Tango made history, with its synthesis of cross-cultural forms. However, it was his move to Los Angeles in 1929 that brought to fruition his vision as a choreographer. Throughout the 1930s, he created hundreds of productions for stage and screen at prestigious venues including the Hollywood Bowl. Ito’s erasure was not the result of a decline in his work, loss of popularity, or influence on the next generation. Both Lester Horton and Bella Lewitsky were among his students. Instead, his art fell victim to politics and prejudice with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. After his arrest, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, and internment in New Mexico until 1943, Ito chose to repatriate to Japan. Following the war, he established a dance school in Tokyo and continued to make new work until his sudden death in 1961. Homsey provides some moving insight into the last years of Ito’s life and a new understanding of his contribution. However, the film does not explore his impact or legacy in Japan, where no doubt he also inspired the emerging post-war modern dance community, including Kazuo Ohno, a founder of Japan’s Butoh movement in the year of Ito’s death. Although their esthetic is very different, there are certain parallels between Ito and Ohno. Both were profoundly affected by the war, and like Ito, Ohno was influenced by early 20th century European modern dance, particularly Mary Wigman, a German contemporary of Ito’s. Much later in the 1990s, I had 74

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the privilege of seeing Ohno perform his famous 1977 solo La Argentina Sho (Admiring La Argentina), dedicated to the famed feminist Spanish dancer Antonia Mercé (known as “La Argentina”) and am reminded now of Ito’s famous Tango solo fifty years earlier. In a contemporary context, we would have described Ito’s work as postmodern, drawing on all of his life influences from ballet to Noh theater, Eurhythmics to jazz, modern, Latin, even acrobatics, and making them his own. From the beginning, he spoke of his style as a bringing together of East and West, and it culminated in a distinctly American dance vocabulary. His work set many unacknowledged precedents. Consider last year’s collaboration between Michael Sakamoto and Rennie Harris in which Butoh met Hip Hop. Even Popkin’s own mining of his multicultural heritage and the remix that resulted owes something to Ito. Quite aside from Popkin’s critical inquiry, it is worth noting that while it is intellectually fashionable to find fault today with Ruth St. Denis for her performance of Radha and mock her spiritual search through South Indian dance and culture, both Ito and Ohno have been applauded for their interpretations of western forms in Tango and La Argentina Sho. At the same time, Ito was paradoxically excised from the pages of American dance history as the result of being Japanese. Perhaps in this century, it is time to transcend this particular kind of ethnocentrism and its double standard, and judge a work on its ability to open the minds and hearts of its audience in its expression of the human condition. Homsey is to be applauded for bringing this extraordinary artist back into the discourse on American dance, and raising questions about how history gets written, and why. Aside from other worthy films in the Dance Camera West Festival, the other work of note was a live site-specific collaboration between sculptor Gustavo Godoy, visiting choreographer Victor Quijada and L.A. based dance company Body Traffic. Commissioned for the Music Center Plaza around the festival theme Restructure, Godoy’s 30-foot long, 18-foot deep and 20-foot tall architectural structure became the platform or stage for Body Traffic’s performance. A 1000-pound assemblage of neon bright citrus yellow beams bolted together in angles going in all directions resembled a construction site gone awry. Architecture deconstructed and reassembled, like a Russian Constructivist portable stage. This was Minimalist sculpture maximized. A parody of corporate public plaza art, it gleamed in the sunlight like a giant jungle gym, waiting to be scaled by those who dared. It looked precarious, as if it might collapse like a pile of pick-up sticks. It wouldn’t have, of course, having been designed specifically for the six dancers who took on the challenge, one much more difficult than you might think. Web fabrik.la

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GODOY/QUIJADA/BODY TRAFFIC  PERFORMANCE/INSTALLATION

At a first glance, you might mistakenly imagine that the dancers moving in and on the structure were engaged in a form of contact improvisation in situ. However, Victor Quijada was well aware of the pitfalls of that approach. Instead, he choreographed every encounter, creating precisely designed spatial patterns and rhythms. Constantly changing, but exactly timed groupings, pairings and regroupings resulted in a dynamic dialog between the black and blue-clad performers and the yellow architecture. Controlled athleticism met seemingly chaotic but unyielding materiality, filling the empty spaces with kinetic forms that appeared and disap76

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peared, and reappeared anew, here, there and everywhere. Nothing was random, yet nothing appeared contrived. Quijada’s meticulous framing of images and timing are not the result of raw talent alone. Well-grounded in several dance traditions, he has studied with some of the best. Quijada came into Rudy Perez’s class at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a break-dancing teen from the streets of East L.A. Perez recognized his potential, made him classroom assistant and subsequently became his mentor. Under Perez’s rigorous tutelage, Quijada eventually performed Perez’s iconic very minimalist 1964 solo Countdown, and bringing an intensity and internally focused energy to the performance that only Perez had achieved thus far. Quijada went on to dance with Twyla Tharp’s touring company. After further ballet studies in New York, a stint with Elliot Feld, he finally landed in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal. After having studied and worked with such history-making innovators, the Montreal-based Quijada founded his own company, RUBBERBANDance Group, in 2002. He has since distinguished himself as a choreographer, performer and teacher who has developed his own distinctive vocabulary, combining classical discipline with rigorous contemporary movement, and urban street daring. History, made by those who, knowing where they have come from, move beyond the past to create the future, demands singular artists rise from the crowd to garner influence and impact 21st century dance, in ways not unlike Duncan, St. Denis and Graham, Nijinsky and Wigman, Ito and Ohno, Ailey, Cunningham, Perez and so many other rule-breaking modern pioneers have. A difficult challenge for today’s young artists! Both Quijada and Popkin have interesting histories. Let’s see where their future developments take them.

Dance Camera West Dance Media Festival June 6-8, 2014 Performances at Grand Park, and The Music Center Plaza, downtown Los Angeles Film screenings at MOCA, REDCAT, The Music Center, and Grand Park. www.dancecamerawest.org Lionel Popkin, Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, June 12-14, 2014 REDCAT, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater 631 West 2nd Street, Downtown Los Angeles 213-237-2800 | www.redcat.org Web fabrik.la

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A Curious Deception

— WORDS ROSHAN McARTHUR


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most elaborate cons in the history of American art baffles curators and investigators alike. A new documentary explores what motivated forger extraordinaire Mark Landis. At first glance, Art and Craft is a curious crime caper, a game of catand-mouse through the glamorous world of American art museums. It is the story of Mark Landis, a prolific forger whose intricately woven fraud went undetected for three decades, and his nemesis Mark Leininger, a former registrar at Cincinnati Art Museum, who finally joined the dots on over 100 “philanthropic donations” to 46 museums in 20 states. According to Leininger, Landis messed with the wrong registrar. Or did he? That would depend on what he was trying to achieve. This story is very far from what it initially seems. In reality, it’s a tale of obsession ‒ exploring Landis’s motivation for this complex deception, as well as Leininger’s reasons for pursuing him. Jennifer Grausman, who directed the documentary with Sam Cullman and Mark Becker, admits it became an obsession for the filmmakers too. When she stumbled upon the story of Mark Landis in a New York Times article in January 2011, she tore the article out, put it to one side, but kept returning to it. By May, they contacted Landis at his home in Laurel, Mississippi. They discovered an unlikely character, stooped and socially awkward. A middle-aged man keen to share his story and let them watch him at work. “A lot of people find art crime and forgery to be completely fascinating,” says Grausman. “That was our way in, but once we met Mark, it became clear that the story was really much more. It was this human story, and he was such an amazing character. That’s what ended up holding our interest. “Mark Becker, who edited the film and was obsessively looking at footage, said he started to become Landis,” laughs Grausman. “Everyone who gets a little taste starts to get deeper into the story. The theme of obsession runs across the board for everyone involved in this film.” “I like to copy things because it’s reassuring,” explains Landis. As a child, he would sit pouring over museum catalogs in European hotel rooms, while his parents went out on the town. He became highly proficient at mimicking a variety of styles. After his father died in 1972, the 17-year-old Landis had a nervous breakdown and was checked into a mental institution. He was labeled “paranoid ONE OF THE

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schizophrenic” with, he says, a tendency towards “pathologically inappropriate suspiciousness”. After a couple of years, he checked himself out, deciding he didn’t want to be a “mental patient” for his entire life. In 1985, the “philanthropic binges” started, with Landis driving to museums around the country in his mother’s red Cadillac, offering up works by Pablo Picasso, Louis Valtat, Paul Signac, and Honoré Daumier. He posed as the executor of wealthy relatives’ wills, and even, at times, a priest, drawing inspiration from Father Brown, one of the many TV shows and movies he watched while he worked. When Landis visited Cincinnati, he met with registrar Matthew Leininger, and the deception started to unravel. Leininger, who himself confesses to having either OCD or ADHD, became consumed with exposing Landis to the point where he was eventually asked to leave his job at the museum. The dynamic between these two men forms the narrative of the movie. As the story unfolds, it is hard not to be drawn into Landis’s strange world and become rather attached to him. The most compelling detail of the story is that he never asked for a penny for these forgeries. If he wasn’t in it for the money, what elaborate fraud was he concocting? The reality, explains Grausman, was far more interesting than anything she as a filmmaker could have dreamed up. Over the course of two years filming him, she realized that Landis was far from being a criminal mastermind. He didn’t even fit the profile of a forger, who typically focuses on one artist or style. He created art in his recently deceased mother’s small, cluttered apartment. He shopped for supplies at art and craft chain Hobby Lobby, and ate TV dinners in front of old Charlie Chan movies. His psychological problems had forced him into social isolation, and this was his way out of it. The fraud had been successful, and he became addicted. “It seemed like he could be this nefarious figure out to get the art world,” says Grausman. “Then we met him, and he wasn’t doing anything malicious. It’s a bit mischievous, of course, but he didn’t really have an axe to grind. He really was looking for human connection, and he figured out a way in that worked for him in this amazing way that changed his life.” The film begs the question: why do artists create art? Grausman explains Landis’s take on that. “One of the things Mark said was, ‘I could do all 80

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MARK LANDIS


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MARK LANDIS, AMERICAN (B.1955) 'UNTITLED,' IN THE STYLE OF PAUL SIGNAC, DATE UNKNOWN. WATERCOLOR ON PAPER. PROPERTY OF THE OKLAHOMA CITY MUSEUM OF ART. PHOTOGRAPH BY SHANNON KOLVITZ.

these paintings, but if they just sat in my closet, what good would that be?’ He needed to share them with people and he did it in this mysterious and slightly offkilter way. But I’m sure that it’s the same for artists that are making original work as well – wanting them to be out in the world in some way.” In recent years, thanks to an increasing number of articles written about him, Landis has become something of a cause celebre in the art world. So much so that it’s unlikely he’ll be going on any more philanthropic binges. Instead of ending up in jail (his donations couldn’t technically be prosecuted), he’s gone relatively straight and is accepting commissions for original artworks, most often of grandchildren and pets. He’s traveling the country doing interviews and telling his life story. He’s been featured in art shows about forgers. He even has his own website. The art community has responded in a range of ways to Landis’s story. “Some curators are furious,” says Grausman. “Others found the movie fascinating and wanted to have special screenings at their museums. Some of the museums 82

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MARK LANDIS, AMERICAN (B.1955) 'FRENCH ACADEMIC NUDE,' DATE UNKNOWN. CHARCOAL ON PAPER. PROPERTY OF THE OKLAHOMA CITY MUSEUM OF ART. PHOTOGRAPH BY SHANNON KOLVITZ.


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MARK LANDIS 'WOMEN SEATED ON LAWN,' IN THE STYLE OF CHARLES COURTNEY CURRAN, C.2000. OIL ON PRESSED BOARD. COURTESY OF HILLIARD UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM

use the fakes as teaching tools and have exhibitions about forgery and authenticity. So I think Mark’s story, because it’s not strictly criminal and it’s not about money, is a nice way to get into all of these questions and spark discussions.” Clips of Landis’s favorite TV shows pepper Art and Craft, and he quotes from them liberally, adding to the sense that his role was more actor than criminal. “That’s how he relates to the world,” says Grausman. “He’s a quoter. He remembers everything.” The film starts with Landis’s take on Ecclesiastes 1:9. “Nothing’s original under the sun,” he remarks. “Everything goes back to something.” And in Landis’s case, where it leads us is unexpected and utterly compelling. Art and Craft opened at the end of September in Los Angeles and New York, followed with a national rollout. The exhibition ‘Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World’ is on display at the Canton Museum of Art in Ohio until October 26th and travels to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in February 2015 and Reading Public Museum in Pennsylvania in June 2015 (www.intenttodeceive.org). 84

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MIRZA DAVITAIA Fine Art www.mirza-art.com

From November 15 at M.D. Art Gallery 7952 W. 3rd Street, LA 90048 www.mdartstudio.com


ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

Peter Frank’s

MUSEUM VIEWS LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913-1915 THROUGH NOVEMBER 30 The paths to modernism on these shores were kinked and manifold from its beginnings, not least because the public response to modernism in America was one of simultaneous enthusiasm and confusion, but also because the European models on which American artists drew were themselves fractured and contradictory. Each idiom, emanating from Paris, Munich, Milan, Vienna, London, or wherever, suggested different (if overlapping) ways of “being modern.” Even Americans abroad found themselves torn between competing movements. Marsden Hartley went to Paris in 1912, fell in not only with other Americans but with several Germans, and began his “love affair” with Berlin the next year. As a result, the most experimental paintings Hartley ever did were done more under the sway of German abstraction than of French – and the results, collected into a visually as well as historically brilliant show, were like nothing else being produced at the time. Hartley’s arcane spiritual leanings, as well as his homosexuality, figured significantly in the radicality of the work he produced during his years in (and out of) Berlin. His mysticism came out of his New England roots as well as a restless intellect, and embraced everything from Transcendentalism to Theosophy to Eastern religions. In this, Hartley was hardly alone among his peers, but the abstractions he realized in (and shortly after) his mid-1910s Berlin years fairly burst with signs and symbols, not incidentally suggestive of traditional and new religious practices, piled on one another and looming like hallucinations. Although Hartley’s compositions owe a lot to cubism, in no way do they analytically distort the world of mundane objects. Rather, every form in a Hartley painting of this vintage is taken quite deliberately from a specific source and put to symbolic use. This is true of the Native American references comprising the “Amerika” series; inspired by North American artifacts he saw in French and German ethnographic museums, Hartley painted some of his most American-themed works overseas. But it is even truer of the “Prussian Officer” paintings, which fairly explode with orbs and crosses and checkerboards and numbers and letters and pennant-like stripes of color. These canvases may have acknowledged

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

MARSDEN HARTLEY. INDIAN FANTASY, 1914. OIL ON CANVAS. 46 11/16 X 39 5/16 INCHES. NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART, RALEIGH, PURCHASED WITH FUNDS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

Picasso and Braque’s evocation of bottle labels and newspaper banners, as well as to the urban cacophonies of Italian Futurism, but they took off even more from the luminous abstractions and near-abstractions of the Blaue Reiter, especially those of Kandinsky (whose spiritually driven writing Hartley read extensively, and whom he

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

INSTALLATION VIEW. MARSDEN HARTLEY: THE GERMAN PAINTINGS 1913-1915 AUGUST 3-NOVEMBER 30, 2014. LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART (LACMA). PHOTO ©2014 MUSEUM ASSOCIATES/LACMA

went to visit). Indeed, they anticipate Kandinsky’s later geometric paintings even as they emulate the Russian’s early abstractions; they also influenced the cipher-laden Precisionist paintings of Hartley’s friend Charles Demuth, and were later regarded as precursors of Pop Art. The personal impetus for Hartley’s fixation on German military insignias – and, indeed, for his gravitation to Germany in general – was his infatuation with a young Prussian officer he met in Paris and followed to Berlin. It is not clear whether Hartley’s obsession with Carl von Freyburg stemmed from or provoked a parallel obsession with soldier uniforms, but both turned Berlin into a hotbed of erotic tantalization for the American even before war broke out in the summer of 1914. So did Berlin’s large and vibrant gay society, prominent even before the Weimar years; but it was his preoccupation with military ephemera that, clearly, drove Hartley’s best known and most innovative body of work. Freyburg was an early casualty of the War, and the bulk of Hartley’s Officer paintings are in effect eulogies to his fallen hero, a sense brought forth by the black grounds on which all other forms rest. The cascades of ribbons and numbers and elements of costumery and pageantry, however, brim with color and passion, conflating fond memory with almost fetishistic association. For more information, please visit http://www.lacma.org

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

PASADENA MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA ART An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle THROUGH JANUARY 11 Forty years after Hartley’s heart was broken, Jess (né Collins) won Robert Duncan’s heart. Together the erudite poet and the nuclear-physicist-turned-painter formed another heart, their lives and living space becoming the core of a circle of artists and writers and playwrights and filmmakers in postwar San Francisco. This cluster of elective affinities was only one of several dynamic art circles pursuing and concocting avant garde practices in the Bay Area; the painters at the California School of Fine Arts, the Beat poets bustling in and out of the city, the composers at the San Francisco Tape Center, and many other groups made mid-century San Francisco a compartmentalized beehive of activity almost on a par with New York. But Jess and Duncan’s network overlapped with most of the others, sharing ideas and energy with each and creating bridges amongst notably disparate talents. Many of Duncan and Jess’s connections were outside the Bay Area; Duncan had knocked around the Northeast before returning to his native California, they taught some courses at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and they maintained strong lifelong ties with friends in New York and Los Angeles. But, in providing a salon-like atmosphere, Jess and Duncan galvanized a scene as rooted in its place as it was free-flowing, mirroring but not emulating the restlessness of postwar American art. Indeed, they seemed to cultivate a tone of genteel domesticity in their own art and many of their friends’ – only to sabotage and upend it at every possible occasion with extravagant archaisms, surrealist experiments, expressionist gestures, erudite citations, and casual but knowing references to the occult. Jess’s own mature work is collage in spirit even when not in material, pulling from 19th century children’s books, newspaper clippings, physique magazines, turn-of-the-century photogravure, and all manner of sources, improbable and otherwise. Jess’s was a sensibility as literary as it was visual. Duncan’s, by turn, was hardly less visual than it was literary. Indeed, certain of his works in this show make him out to be something of a Cocteau By The Bay. Duncan and Jess similarly encouraged their friends to think outside the box, whether in terms of medium, motive, or style. Poets could paint – or make mad collages – and painters could write, and above all, they could collaborate on illustrated books or quasi-animated films or plays which required sets and costumes and posters and incidental music. “An Opening of the Field” thus features collages by writer Helen Adam, naïve cityscape paintings by poet Madeleine Gleason, rather sophisticated abstractions

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

JESS. SENT ON THE VIITH WAVE, 1979. COLLAGE AND MIXED MEDIA. 39 X 33 IN. THE BUCK COLLECTION, LAGUNA BEACH, CA.

by poet Jack Spicer, films by poet (or, if you would, poems by filmmaker) James Broughton, a collage-film by Lawrence Jordan with Jess’s collaged intertitles (and soundtrack), and so forth. To be sure, this survey of the Jess-Duncan circle places the pair as primus inter pares (and reveals a kind of in-house style whereby many of their friends emulated Jess’s dense, scissor-dependent collage approach). But it features many of their 90

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ART ABOUT TOWN WITH PETER FRANK

JESS. THE ENAMORD MAGE: TRANSLATION #6, 1965. OIL ON CANVAS OVER WOOD. 24½ X 30 INCHES. COLLECTION OF THE M.H. DE YOUNG MEMORIAL MUSEUM, FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO

friends prominently, distinguishing them by their prominence not in current art history but in the circle itself. Wallace Berman’s presence is thus overwhelmed by the similarly vital but vastly less known works of painter-collagist Ernesto Edwards, and the numinous paintings of leading abstract expressionist Edward Corbett are counterbalanced with the similarly persuasive abstractions of Corbett’s student William Roeber. “An Opening of the Field” in fact brings a number of stunning artists, living and dead, back to serious national attention, notable among them Lilly Fenichel, Paul Alexander, Eloise Turner Mixon, Tom Field, Victoria Admiral, and Harry Jacobus. The exhibition, a tour de force of research and scholarship that stresses personality hardly less than output, goes to great lengths to map the relationship of each artist to Duncan and Jess – and to map the relationship of the two men to each other. Like “Marsden Hartley,” “An Opening of the Field” traces the fruits of gay love. Here, though, those fruits were produced over decades, fell far from the tree, and populated a whole orchard. For more information, please visit http://www.pmcaonline.org Web fabrik.la

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Fabrik Issue 26