CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 31
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April 29-May 1, 2016 Raleigh Studios, Hollywood photoindependent.com
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
FABRIK ISSUE 31 Even if you have only a peripheral interest in contemporary art, it’s almost impossible not to be swept up in the excitement of the burgeoning LA art scene. In recent months, we’ve enjoyed the opening of a new museum, as well as two major international European art galleries, at least one of which is museum scale, with a world class curator and museum caliber programs to match. In this issue of Fabrik we look at some of these developments, and the phenomenal growth and change happening here now. There is major change here at Fabrik too. Aparna Bakhle, our original managing editor, has stepped down to explore other opportunities. Aparna helped shape the magazine since the beginning and has been integral in determining what the magazine is today. We are deeply grateful to her for her guidance and support in the past eight years. Stepping into the managing editor role is writer/artist/art critic, Megan Abrahams. A contributing writer for four art magazines, Megan is the former editor of a weekly newspaper in British Columbia. She attended art school in Canada and France and has a Master’s in journalism. We’re delighted to welcome her aboard. This issue coincides with Fabrik’s Photo Independent Art Fair, and the Month of Photography LA. The photography theme crops up in our coverage of the dual Mapplethorpe exhibits at LACMA and The Getty and our writeup of the new LA outpost of Sprüth Magers, where John Baldessari’s inaugural show featured a series of cleverly manipulated photos with unexpected twists. This issue is dedicated to the memory of Marilyn Nix, a dear friend and major figure in – and behind – the LA art scene for almost half a century. Chris Davies Publisher Peter Frank Associate Editor Megan Abrahams Managing Editor
MEGAN ABRAHAMS is managing editor of Fabrik. A Los Angeles-based writer and artist, she is also a contributing art critic for Art Ltd., ArtPulse and WhiteHot magazines. For links and more info, visit her sporadically updated blog, at: onbeyondwordsandpictures.com
Publisher Chris Davies Associate Editor Peter Frank
MICHELE ANTENORCRUZ grew up on the banks of the Los Angeles River. She later migrated to the hills where she practices meditation while tending to her garden, family, poetry and art.
Managing Editor Megan Abrahams
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.
Creative Director Chris Davies Art Direction & Design Chris Davies and Paul Soady Contributing Writers Megan Abrahams Michele Antenorcruz Jacki Apple Shana Nys Dambrot Peter Frank Kio Griffith Simone Kussatz Kristen Osborne-Bartucca Max Presneill Phil Tarley Kathleen Whitney
SHANA NYS DAMBROT is an art critic, curator, and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for Whitehot Magazine, Arts Editor for Vs. Magazine, Contributing Editor to artltd., and a contributor to Flaunt, Huffington Post, Montage, Desert Magazine, Porter & Sail and KCET’s Artbound. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes loads of essays for art books and exhibition catalogs, curates and/or juries a few exhibitions each year, and speaks in public every chance she gets.
CONTACT Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: email@example.com Web: fabrikmagazine.com Mailing Address 269 S. Beverly Drive, # 1234 Beverly Hills, CA 90212
INFORMATION Fabrik Magazine is published by Fabrik Media, 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, Inc. Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES
ON THE COVER Robert Mapplethorpe Lucinda’s Hand, 1985 Gelatin silver print
READ MORE ON PAGE 10
SIMONE KUSSATZ is a cultural journalist and American Studies Specialist (M.A.). Born and raised in Germany, she studied in the US and Berlin. She’s been a regular contributor to Art Ltd. and ArtScene. KRISTEN OSBORNE-BARTUCCA is a Los Angeles-based freelance arts writer and educator. She is the host of the Contemporary Art Podcast. MAX PRESNEILL AND KIO GRIFFITH FROM ARTRA CURATORIAL, 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 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. PHIL TARLEY is a Fellow of the American Film Institute and an artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association. An art and pop culture critic, he posts stories on the WOW Report, ArtWeek LA and writes about contemporary art and photography for Fabrik. The Critical Eye, his art blog, is featured on Fabrik’s website. Tarley’s writing and photography has appeared in the LA Times, the LA Weekly, Adventure Journal, The Advocate and Adult Video News. He curates photography for the Artists Corner Gallery in Los Angeles.
CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 31
Image: 48.74 x 38.74 cm (19 3/16 x 15 1/4 in.); Frame: 72.39 x 59.69 cm (28 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
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.
KATHLEEN WHITNEY is a writer and sculptor living in Los Angeles.
CONTENTS 10 Spotlight: Seeing Double: Robert Mapplethorpe in Sexual Situ 28 Spotlight: J. Paul Getty Museum Curator Paul Martineau on Robert Mapplethorpe 36 Spotlight: Hauser Wirth & Schimmel Sets a Course 50 Spotlight: Spr端th Magers Debuts in LA 60 Profile: Interview with Artist Marwa Abdul-Rahman 68 Profile: Leimert Park: Looking Back and Forward 74 Fresh Faces in Art: Emergent Presence: Artists You Should Know 84 Art About Town: Gallery Reviews 92 Art About Town: Museum Views 98 Art About Town: Performance Reviews 102 In Appreciation: Marilyn Nix
WORDS PHIL TARLEY
Robert Mapplethorpe Self-portrait, circa 1970 Paint, canvas, and stickers on fiber-based gelatin silver print Image: 6 5/16 x 9 1/4 in. (16 x 23.5 cm); Sheet: 7 15/16 x 9 7/8 in. (20.1 x 25.1 cm) Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE FOUNDATION, J. PAUL GETTY TRUST AND THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
SEEING DOUBLE: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE IN SEXUAL SITU
The dual exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum graphically evoke the life work of a prodigious voluptuary. The accompanying collection of Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpeâ€™s lover and benefactor, contextualizes the photographer in the sizzling sexual Zeitgeist of his epoch, the downtown New York art and gay sex scenes of the 1970s and â€™80s. The artist had gigantic appetites and pleasured himself with many of those he photographed, engaging them carnally on as well as off camera. 12
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Self-Portrait, 1980 Gelatin silver print Image: 35.6 x 35.6 cm (14 x 14 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.9.21 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Phillip Prioleau, 1982 Gelatin silver print Image: 38.8 x 38.8 cm (15 1/4 x 15 1/4 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.88.678 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Patti Smith, 1978 Gelatin silver print Image: 35.24 x 34.93 cm (13 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.); Frame: 64.14 x 61.6 cm (25 1/4 x 24 1/4 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Partial gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation. ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Leatherman #1, 1970 Mixed media Image: 23.97 x 17.15 cm (9 7/16 x 6 3/4 in.); Frame: 37.94 x 47.94 x 2.54 cm (14 15/16 x 18 7/8 x 1 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Partial gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation. ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Sam Wagstaff, 1977 Gelatin silver print Image: 35.2 x 35.3 cm (13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.88.80 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984 Platinum print Image: 49.4 x 50.2 cm (19 7/16 x 19 3/4 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.23 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Joe, N.Y.C., 1978 from The X Portfolio Selenium toned gelatin silver print mounted on black board Image: 19.5 x 19.5 cm (7 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.9.41.6 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Larry and Bobby Kissing, 1979 Gelatin silver print Image: 45.24 x 34.77 cm (17 13/16 x 13 11/16 in.); Frame: 72.39 x 59.69 cm (28 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Calla Lily, 1986 Gelatin silver print Image: 48.6 x 48.6 cm (19 1/8 x 19 1/8 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.89.598 ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Poppy, 1988 Dye imbibition print Image: 50.32 x 47.47 cm (19 13/16 x 18 11/16 in.); Frame: 72.39 x 85.09 cm (28 1/2 x 33 1/2 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Partial gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation. ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) Untitled (Robert Mapplethorpe), 1979 Photograph, 10 x 8 in. © 1979 Tom of Finland Foundation Currently on view at The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in ‘Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium’
Mapplethorpe was totally out. He made outsider art and had outrageous sex in a time when being out was to be an outlaw. He used photography as a force, enticing society to confront beauty; utilizing the medium in formalist ways; and often employing dark and pendulous hooded phalli as tropes. “Robert Mapplethorpe led an authentic life at a time when such honesty and transparency was rare. Having a patron or sugar daddy was a shameful thing. Robert had no qualms admitting that Sam Wagstaff’s money was “a part of the package” without which there might not have been a relationship,” said Fenton Bailey, who along with his partner Randy Barbato, produced and directed Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures, the just released HBO feature documentary. Mapplethorpe took photographs at a time when few considered photography a fine art. The things he took photographs of – male nudes and homosexual practices – were considered unworthy of artistic representation. Among the photos of Mapplethorpe featured in the LACMA exhibit is one by Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland. The Nordic artist encouraged the young artist from the United States “to free himself from the puritanical standards that still weighted down American culture,” Durk Denner, director of the Tom of Finland Foundation said. Los Angeles gallerist, Edward Cella, observed, “Mapplethorpe’s portraits of men in leather gear decoded the forbidden. His camera penetrated his subjects with a bold branding of sadomasochism as artistic, evocative, pictorial and sublime.” A consummate narcissist, Mapplethorpe anticipated today’s all-encompassing self-fascination. He was his own work of art. He shared an obsessive devotion to the perpetuation of personal fame with many brilliant and driven homosexual artists of his day – Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, David LaChapelle – all visual artists we remember in part because of their self aggrandizement. The incendiary photographs Mapplethorpe produced ignited a cultural war as they scandalized the social order. His flower photos may be pretty, his celebrity portraits evocative, but it is his breakthrough images of male genitalia and homosexual proclivities that changed the art world. The countless obscenity charges and lawsuits brought against universities and museums that exhibited his work speak to Mapplethorpe’s ability to force a sex-phobic society to face up to its prejudices, prejudices that still torment and conflict Western culture today.
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J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM CURATOR PAUL MARTINEAU ON ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE: THE PERFECT MEDIUM â€”
WORDS SIMONE KUSSATZ IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE FOUNDATION, J. PAUL GETTY TRUST AND THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
In his role as Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this is the second time since 2003 Paul Martineau has curated an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989), one of the most influential artists of the later 20th Century. As this is a major retrospective, co-curated with Britt Salvesen of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fabrik Magazine was curious to learn how Martineau went about putting the exhibition together. This interview was conducted in early March before the exhibit opened. 28
Paul Martineau, Associate Curator Department of Photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum
Fabrik: Generally speaking, by which criteria do you decide whether you’re going to exhibit the work of an artist? Paul Martineau (PM): I am intrigued by artists who have expanded notions of what is possible in art. I begin all my monographic exhibitions by reviewing the artist’s past exhibition history and catalogues. Then I ask myself, “What does this artist need for me to do for him/her today?” The answer to that question, in Mapplethorpe’s case, was to help the general public to understand who Mapplethorpe was as an artist and a person. Fabrik: Why did the Getty and LACMA decide to do a Mapplethorpe retrospective at this point in time, other than making use of the gift by the Mapplethorpe Foundation? Was there any political motive behind that? PM: The acquisition provided us with an excellent opportunity to study Mapplethorpe’s work and life in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Mapplethorpe has not had a major retrospective exhibition in this country since The Perfect Moment in 1988/89. That exhibition was mired in controversy, making the need for a timely reevaluation of his work all the more necessary. Fabrik: It’s the first time that LACMA and the Getty Museum have made a joint acquisition and are collaborating on such a level. What do you think this may lead to in the future? PM: The joint acquisition that the Getty made with LACMA in 2011 will serve, I think, as a model for future high profile collaborations. Fabrik: As the retrospective is a collaboration between LACMA and the Getty, how did you go about deciding who is going to exhibit what? The press release says that the Getty will concentrate on Mapplethorpe’s studio practice, his controversial work and his enduring legacy while LACMA rather highlights the artist’s relationship to New York’s sexual and artistic undergrounds. Were these only practical decisions, based on which foundation gave what to which museum, or was there another idea behind it?
Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946â€“1989 Lydia Cheng, 1987 Gelatin silver print Image: 59 x 49.1 cm (23 1/4 x 19 5/16 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.89.644. ÂŠ Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
PM: All the editioned prints (more than 1,900 of them) are co-owned by the Getty and LACMA. Britt Salvesen and I spent a day reviewing them and narrowed down the rough cut to about 400 photographs. We were very happy about that until it dawned on us that we would have to divide that pile in two. We realized that we needed a conceptual framework to help us do that work, so we had a brainstorming meeting. We decided to celebrate the dualities in Mapplethorpe’s personality and work – good boy/ bad boy, uptown/downtown, rebel/aesthete, etc. The Getty would cover the artist’s interest in the fine photographic print, art history, the classical body, and his ability to run a studio as a successful business – all Apollonian qualities – while LACMA would focus on the Dionysian. One of my primary goals was to insure that people would want to see both presentations, and I think this framework will do the trick. Fabrik: During a docent tour in this year’s Photo LA, you mentioned that although Joel-Peter Witkin is an important photographer, known for his often shocking and bizarre subject matters, you would only put three of his photographs in a group show not to overwhelm the viewer and because you wouldn’t want to have a room filled with Witkin’s photographs. In this regard, how did you go about organizing the Mapplethorpe exhibit and what did you keep in mind? PM: The photographs are arranged thematically and in loose chronological fashion throughout the exhibition. An important exception is the X Portfolio, which, rather than being in the first gallery in frames on the wall, is displayed (a bit more discreetly) in a case in the final gallery. It is included in a section of the show that addresses the controversy surrounding the 1988/89 exhibition, The Perfect Moment. The X Portfolio is Mapplethorpe’s most challenging work, so I wanted to place it within that historical context. It is my hope that by the time our visitors arrive at the end of the exhibition, they will have developed a greater appreciation for Mapplethorpe as an artist and a man, so they will be in a better position to understand what Mapplethorpe was trying to do with his sex pictures. Fabrik: What particularly appeals to you about Mapplethorpe? What is your favorite work of his and why?
PM: Mapplethorpe’s work is so highly controlled that there is an inherent tension between order and the underlying threat of chaos in much of it. One of my favorite photographs is of the body builder Lydia Cheng, from 1985. For this shoot, a make-up artist was brought in to apply various shades of eye make-up to Cheng’s body. No matter what they tried, Mapplethorpe was not satisfied, so he began to blend the colors together on her body. The result was a beautiful bronze color that made her skin shimmer under the lights. Mapplethorpe found a way to turn a failed experiment into a success. Fabrik: In the Getty’s In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, you showed some of his mixed-media objects and Polaroid instant prints, which weren’t well known by the public. What kind of surprises are we going to see in this retrospective? PM: I selected several seascapes that are not well known by the public for inclusion in the exhibition. Mapplethorpe was meticulous about print quality and experimented with a variety of processes. To underscore that idea, I placed a gelatin silver print and a platinum print of the same image (The Coral Sea) side by side, so our visitors can compare them. — The dual Mapplethorpe retrospectives at LACMA and the Getty both close on July 31, 2016. The Getty exhibit will travel to Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Canada, a venue in Asia, and finally to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney Australia.
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HAUSER WIRTH & SCHIMMEL SETS A COURSE
REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING: ABSTRACT SCULPTURE BY WOMEN 1947–2016 —
WORDS KAY WHITNEY IMAGES COURTESY HAUSER & WIRTH
Magdalena Abakanowicz Wheel with Rope, 1973 Wood, burlap, hemp, metal line 2 wheels, diameter each: 7 ft 8 1/8 in / 2.34 m 2 ropes, each approx: 190 ft / 58 m National Museum in Wrocław, Poland © Magdalena Abakanowicz Courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York
Of the more than 50 contemporary art galleries that have opened in Los Angeles during the past two years, none has presented as ambitious and iconoclastic a program as the newly arrived, Swiss-based Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. As Iwan Wirth, HWS’s co-president said, “The gallery is particularly interested in developing new models for what an art gallery can be and do.” Its groundbreaking inaugural show, Revolution In The Making: Abstract Sculpture By Women 1947–2016, is the first of many exhibitions to run for extended periods of time and, extraordinarily for an institution otherwise known for high-end sales, include objects on loan from museums and collectors. 38
(Top) Hauser & Wirth partners (left to right) Paul Schimmel, Marc Payot, Manuela Wirth, Iwan Wirth Photo: Scott Rudd (Bottom) Jenni Sorkin, Art historian, critic, and Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Photo: Leo Cabal Photography
Installation view, â€˜Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016â€™ Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016 Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Brian Forrest
Exhibitions that solely feature art made by women are rare; exhibitions featuring women sculptors are almost non-existent. Revolution in the Making makes concrete the gallery’s unusual level of commitment to women artists; of the 60 artists HWS represent, 23 are women. As Wirth said, “Women have made extraordinary work, and we want to show that”.” The show, assembled by curators Paul Schimmel (previously chief curator at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art) and Jenni Sorkin (art historian, critic, and Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of California Santa Barbara), brings together 100 pieces of abstract art by 34 sculptors, most but not all on loan from museums and private collections (about 20 percent of the work is available for purchase). The exhibition emphasizes the impact and importance of work made by women during the course of the past 80 years, its scope ranging from Modernist to Contemporary. The gallery’s redesigned industrial architecture underscores the significance of the individual works. The roster of artists reads like a Who’s Who across three generations, including such recent and current icons as Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Lee Bontecou, Ruth Asawa, Claire Falkenstein and Isa Genzken. The selections underscore the centrality of object-making for these women, bringing to the fore the ways they have merged sculpture’s physical demands with profound and often groundbreaking concepts. For those unfamiliar with the work, it should be noted that the selections are not truly representative of work produced by women during this time, nor entirely representative of the bodies of work these particular women have produced. There is an overall curatorial tendency to group like with like, based on the use of similar materials in an understandable but somewhat limiting attempt to bring aesthetic order to this unruly group. Regardless, the assembled work is almost overwhelming in its diversity, profound originality and beauty. The inaugural exhibit also represents the gallery’s future intentions.; Clearly, its overarching goal is to alter radically the way the public relates to works of art. As Schimmel, a partner and vice president in the firm, has said, the model the gallery has in mind is “in some way the Kunsthalle — the non-collecting art museum.” He also likened the gallery’s role to that of foundations which are “commissioning works, creating group shows, doing education work.” Thus, HWS plans to continue presenting thematic, group, and historical exhibitions. An education lab, programmed by former MOCA education program manager
Louise Bourgeois Untitled (The Wedges), 1950 Wood, painted, and stainless steel 63 x 13 1/2 x 12 in 160 x 34.3 x 30.5 cm
ÂŠ The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, New York Photo: Christopher Burke
Art © The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY Installation view, ‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016’ Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016 Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Brian Forrest
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Wheel with Rope, 1973 National Museum in Wroclaw (Poland) Installation view, â€˜Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016â€™ Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016 Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Brian Forrest
(Wall) Eva Hesse, Aught, 1968 University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Gift of Mrs. Helen Charash (Floor) Eva Hesse, Augment, 1968 Private Collection, Germany Installation view, â€˜Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016â€™ Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016 Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Brian Forrest
Jackie Winsor, 30 to 1 Bound Trees, 1971–1972 / 2016 © Jackie Winsor. Courtesy Paul Cooper Gallery, New York and Hauser & Wirth Installation view, ‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016’ Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016; Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth; Photo: Brian Forrest
Exterior view, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 2016 Courtesy Hauser & Wirth; Photo: Joshua Targownik/targophoto.com
Andrea Stang, will feature lectures, concerts and events for children. Wirth said he and his partners intend to create an environment that goes beyond hanging up pictures and handing out price lists. “It is not just having this storefront,” the gallery’s co-founder said. “There so much more that I’m interested in doing.” Schimmel added, “If we wanted to make a machine that sells, we’d make a nice white cube and put it up in Beverly Hills and put in things that easily fit in people’s homes.” Central to this venture is the fact that the gallery is not the stereotypical white cube. The physical site, the gallery’s sixth location worldwide, is an integral part of the enterprise; Located downtown at 901 E. Third St., in the former Globe Mills warehouses,. the site, transformed by the firm Creative Space, repurposes a 116,000-square-foot complex that contains seven late 19thand early 20th-century buildings. These array a wide variety of spaces around a 6,000-square-foot central courtyard with more than 23,000 square feet of exhibition space. The complex even accommodates people looking for a cup of coffee or a place to sit down rather than buy or even look at art. Says Schimmel, “We are trying to make the building not just a place for exhibitions but a place to come and sit, with a garden, a courtyard, a restaurant, a bookshop, a breezeway you can ride your bike right into. We’ll have Saturday and Sunday hours, stay open late Thursday through Saturday… We want this to be the living room for the downtown arts community.” 49
SPRÜTH MAGERS DEBUTS IN LA KICKING OFF WITH JOHN BALDESSARI —
WORDS MEGAN ABRAHAMS IMAGES COURTESY SPRÜTH MAGERS
One of two blue chip European galleries to open Los Angeles outposts this year, Sprüth Magers broadens and deepens the local art scene with the exacting curatorial orientation of its program, one driven by a distinctive European aesthetic and feminist point of view. Sprüth Magers evolved as a counterpoint to the male-dominated contemporary art milieu of Cologne in the 1980s. Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers joined forces there in 1998. The gallery currently has locations in Berlin and London, with its home office still in Cologne. 50
Spr端th Magers, Los Angeles Photography: Joshua White/JWPICTURES.com
Installation view, ‘John Baldassari, 2016’ Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
John Baldessari Maybe That is The Simplest Way..., 2015 Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint 137.5 x 182.6 x 4.1 cm 54 1/8 x 71 7/8 x 1 5/8 inches Copyright John Baldessari Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery and Spr端th Magers
John Baldessari Ben’s Jacket Drapes…, 2015 Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint 180 x 138.7 x 4.1 cm 70 7/8 x 54 5/8 x 1 5/8 inches Copyright John Baldessari Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery and Sprüth Magers
Even five years ago the choice of LA, rather than New York, as Sprüth Magers’ American outpost might have seemed surprising. Today, LA’s commercial art scene is exploding. An LA location is especially logical for Sprüth Magers, considering its existing deep ties with the city. The gallery’s roster, mostly of established and mid-career artists, includes many Los Angeles luminaries, some of whom have not had local representation for quite a while. John Baldessari, whom Sprüth Magers has represented for some 30 years, lost his local gallery when Margo Leavin closed in 2012. As such, coming to Los Angeles seemed like a natural move to the European duo. “We have been traveling to LA since the gallery opened (as Monika Sprüth) in 1983, and the decision to open a gallery here grew over many years whilst seeing the city and the contemporary art scene develop,” Sprüth said in an email interview. “We experienced the city together with our artists, as many of them live here, like John Baldessari, Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin, Barbara Kruger, Analia Saban, Sterling Ruby and Ed Ruscha. It feels like the right moment to open a space in Los Angeles now.” Located in the Miracle Mile District, opposite the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus, the new gallery occupies an airy two-story 14,000 square foot space flooded with ambient light. The location was a strategic choice, not only because it’s right on Museum Row. There’s also the provenance of the building in which it is housed. “The building represents an LA aesthetic,” said Sprüth. “Our gallery is located in a midcentury space designed by West Coast architects Pereira & Associates, directly across from LACMA. We were looking for an interesting architectural space with an identity, and found it in a great neighborhood.” The inaugural exhibit, courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, featured a recent series of storyboard paintings by Baldessari. The works seem thematically fitting for the gallery’s LA launch because of their subtle connection to the world of filmmaking and the perceived hedonistic LA lifestyle. In the paintings, the artist combined found photographs of subjects at leisure with incongruous lines of text extrapolated from film scripts. The captions seem to have been paired arbitrarily with the images. Ben’s Jacket Drapes… (2015, varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint, 70 7/8 x 54 5/8 x 1 5/8 inches), presents the rear view of a female figure reclining on a chaise longue, facing a body of water that meets a distant tree-lined horizon. Below the image is the caption—a non-se-
quitur in all caps—“Ben’s jacket drapes perfectly over his shoulders.” On top of the photographs, the artist painted bold sections of rugged color, adding planes of contrast and texture. The overall effect, quintessential Baldessari, is playful, wittily tongue-in-cheek, in a characteristic not heavy-handed way, poking fun at the sybaritic lifestyle associated with Southern California. Launching with Baldessari made sense. At 84, the artist is a revered icon of the LA art community. “It felt natural to debut with John,” said Magers. “He has been so influential on so many of us. He is special.” In the coming months, the gallery’s Los Angeles program will branch off in new directions. Following the Baldessari launch is the first LA exhibit by New York artist George Condo in more than 15 years. In June, the gallery digs into its feminist roots with an exhibition entitled, Eau de Cologne, borrowed from the name of Sprüth’s 1980s art zine, in which she focused on female artists. The all-female group show will feature works by Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman and Rosemarie Trockel. While the gallery offers a home base for its local artists, the partners also intend to give their European artists exposure to a new audience. “We’ll bring the artists from our program to LA, not focusing on, but including LA artists. It is important to us to show the range of artists and we are excited to give the U.S. audience the opportunity, as we feel warmly welcomed in LA,” Sprüth said.
INTERVIEW WITH MARWA ABDUL-RAHMAN â€”
WORDS MICHELE ANTENORCRUZ IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST
Contradictions and contrasts abound in the life and work of Marwa Abdul-Rahman. To say she is an emerging artist diminishes her lifetime of creating objects. Her loud studio contrasts with its idyllic mountain suburban surroundings. Painted three-dimensional forms lurk from the high ceiling, on the concrete floor, in a corner, poised to come alive with a story for the viewer. Meticulously painted grids bend and stretch into grotesque forms, while brilliant hues and feasts of inquiry culminate in triumphant beauty. I wonder, first, what I am looking at, what materials were used, and then begin the quest of the narrative. Why? 60
Michele Antenorcruz (MA): How did this happen? Marwa Abdul-Rahman (MAR): I was always an artistically geared child who didn’t realize art could be a career. Whenever I had free time, I made sculptures and painted. Alone, and inside my head a lot, I would communicate through making things out of hangers, rocks, paint, all kinds of things. I’d wait for my parents to finish their can of coffee so I could repurpose the tin, or find abandoned objects on the ground and incorporate them in my sculptures, which now that I think about it, I still do. Whatever I made was just to make it. Nothing was ever precious, and eventually it would be forgotten again, and probably thrown away. I kind of still have that attitude. My work now always stems from a curiosity. I find it’s easier for me to take risks doing things that seem odd or unconventional. If I tell myself the work is experimental or temporal in nature, and if it doesn’t finally work out in my studio, (it) could just be reworked or abandoned. MA: From abandonment to resurrection to abandonment. What was the last thing you picked up? MAR: A big umbrella like the fruit sellers’ umbrellas around town, those colorful ones, was heaped on the side of the 210 West and my kids said, “Don’t get out of the car to get it; it’s too dangerous,” so we passed it up, day after day on our commute. I looked for it each time we passed, hoping no one had scooped it up. One late night when there were no cars, we turned around and I got it. Now it’s in the piece in my studio. We walk into the studio. I immediately delight upon seeing the incongruence of the piece. The reworked umbrella, its colors flapping, at once both a deflated and bloated mass with an intricate grid painstakingly painted across like the grid of a city. I wonder about the life of the umbrella and its current fate. I gawk at its renaissance. MAR: Even on the side of the road, it was so beautiful, this colorful formless mass, and it wasn’t obvious what it was, but I suspected I knew. That’s how I see art: it’s beautiful, not in a glossy, finished way, but more like the umbrella on this highway, with its stripes of yellow, red, lavender heaped on the concrete with the green hills around it. It was a beautiful contrast to its surroundings that made you
think, go outside of the moment you were in, to figure out first, what it was, and second, what were the implications of its being there. MA: Poetic, right? So how did you get from coffee cans to strewn umbrellas? MAR: In college, I began studying molecular biophysics as a pre-med, but then realized I wanted to be an artist. My parents didn’t see the use of it, and my dad immediately said that I could not major in art. My parents emigrated from Egypt with $20 in their pocket and scholarships for Ph.D.s in engineering. The value of hard work and finding a way to be financially responsible, or getting yourself from the bottom up, was paramount to them. They did not see art as a way for me to be a financially independent woman, and opposed it. I ended up majoring in film as a compromise. My parents knew of people in Los Angeles who could make a living in the film business, so they didn’t oppose this choice. Film satisfied my desire to create and be an artist. Filmmakers, in a beautiful way, can get you to think and investigate and still leave questions. Just like the umbrella, because at first it’s confusing to see all of those colors on the roadside and if you try to unpack its life, it’s not obvious. To me, successful films aren’t straightforward either, but you have to investigate and be curious to see what the film is exploring or positing. MA: And then being an artist? MAR: I don’t think that anyone chooses to be an artist, and now I totally understand where my dad was coming from; it’s a hard road no matter what. I honestly wouldn’t wish making a living as an artist on anyone, especially not my children. But until I started graduate school for my MFA, I realized I had never before been truly happy. When I can paint, my life is so much more rich. I honestly think it’s a necessity for me. I believe people are put on this earth to do their work, whatever it is, even if it’s difficult. And when you find that work which you’re meant to do, even if it’s a struggle, it’s also the happiest you could ever be. I call myself a painter but I use materials other than oils and acrylics in my pieces. I also ‘paint’ with found materials and their ready-made color. In the umbrella piece, I “frankensteined” together the umbrella along with materials I had
Whoaaaa © Marwa Abdul-Rahman
already prepped for a painting I was about to begin, because however disparate they were, they just seemed to go together in my mind. In this way, my paintings almost look like resuscitated monsters—powerful, with a lot of presence. Some art can look defeated with the weight of the struggle, but in my work I really try to make the struggle emerge with pride or swagger. There’s a victorious nature and even joy denoted by big, bright, bold colors in your face. Warts, stitches and all are out there and proud. To me, they’re actually kind of funny. MA: I did laugh when I first discovered it. And then there’s the politics . . . MAR: Especially because of the umbrella and the fruit stands and the emergence and presence of fruit stands everywhere now—this weird convergence of white affluence mixed with marginalized people literally working on the margins, the sidewalks and streets—almost a weird symbiosis in Pasadena, especially of a suburban white commodity (the fruit) with a way to feed a family (selling the fruit). This symbiosis is brilliant and I don’t know if the fruit stands are owned individually, how safe, whether vendors make a living wage, conditions they work in; I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me. What’s interesting to me is the “other” because a person on the outside is making her way like me, as a child of immigrants. What does it mean that this fruit seller lost an umbrella? Will he be in trouble? Did he lose his livelihood? Does he owe money to someone? What our society looks at and overlooks as they drive by at 65 mph on the 210 heading west or at the intersection of California and the Huntington hospital. In any case with reference to politics in general, I tend to certainly think about politics when working. As an Arab American Muslim woman there’s no way I can’t… MA: So, how does art make an impact? MAR: In college, since I wasn’t going to be a doctor and felt I had to justify moving from a profession that helps people, to something visual, I realized, art can save lives as well, because certain art can change the world and how things can be seen. Not everyone can be a great surgeon or artist but I think art can have that power and it is not a selfish pursuit. I think great art is an honest reflection of what is going on currently in the artist’s
moment in time. I also believe visual art has a language all its own that is communicated in a visual way. There are people who are really good at translating that language and putting it into words, but ultimately, I think art can change you and ultimately change the world by shifting thought, in a visual way. MA: Have you ever had the experience of making a painting that you felt could act this way? MAR: That is my goal with all of my pieces. I try to create beautiful things I have never seen before which also speak to the viewer. Currently, the painting in my studio which is operating that way is my 20-foot long soft sculpture/painting (I’ll have a name for it soon). The giant scale is juxtaposed with its fragility and cumbersomeness and there are many different passages where things are going on and as a whole it comes together in this awakened way. It’s how I see life. I use different materials, patterns, brush strokes, so the various parts can be at odds with each other within the cohesive whole. It’s not rectangular, but rather a nonconventional amorphous shape made of soft wire, pliable screen and soft fabric painted into hardened looking pieces, which all convey the idea of different things with different meanings opening up thought and varied perspectives. My paintings are often two-sided, exhibited to show both front and a back. I try to think about everything from different perspectives, because in every case there is no ‘one’ way to tell a story or one side which is completely definitively correct. The importance of seeing various points of view could have stemmed from living in Egyptian culture in America, or being an Egyptian-American living in Europe. It has to do with seeing things from not the same hole. There are always bits of jarring difference and disruptions, and in those disruptions, I can see that many points of views or ways of thought are valid. I see this jarring difference and disruption reflected in my art. MA: Yes. Your art reflects the multi-dimensionality and complexity you describe. So how does your typical work day unfold? MAR: I wake up every day motivated to create something new or work out a problem in my studio, even if it is extremely frustrating and mentally difficult. I am a process artist and work intuitively. It’s grueling taking risks and trusting
that I’ll be guided to some acceptable outcome. I work on multiple pieces at the same time and will leave pieces up on the wall for a while to understand if they are done or not. Usually, but actually not always, the ones that are easy and quick have to be worked out some way. MA: Who has been influential on your artistic development? MAR: I lived in Europe for six years, where both of my children were born, and it was pretty hard for me to make anything or get any work done while they were babies, but I carved out bits of time and somehow found artists living where I was with whom I could create and talk about art and go out to see exhibitions. When I moved to Los Angeles from Spain, I took art classes at UCLA Extension, where I met a really dynamic art teacher and artist who turned me on to mixed media. It was so freeing for her to say it was fine and okay for me to do what I was doing. We became friends and I became her studio assistant. She did crits for me as I created work in my own studio in my spare time, and helped me build a portfolio for grad school. I didn’t get in the first year but decided to make more work and reapply. The second time I got in. Grad school was helpful because I’d never studied art before and came in raw. This is part of the reason I think that my works are open and bizarre. I’m a bit of an outsider artist in that sense because I don’t have the narrative of having to adhere to a specific way things are supposed to be done. In grad school, I was forced to do work in a short amount of time and I was constantly having meetings and people in my studio and I had to explain why I was making what I was making. It was helpful for me to be serious about my work and then to be uncomfortable and to work on multiple pieces at one time and to know that uncomfortable place. I learned to accept and ride it. Eventually, the really awkward and uncomfortable was what became so interesting to me: that confusing strangeness—to not want to look away. A lot of people don’t want to look at what’s uncomfortable, and accept what is. But bringing that discomfort to the fore is crucial to my work. I feel as though if I went for what was easy, struggle and difficulty wouldn’t show up in the pieces, which in the end goes hand in hand with being a survivor.
MAR: I mentioned before I felt like my pieces mostly looked like joyous or victorious survivors. I use not only discarded items off the street, but also bed sheets, unwanted clothes, and household items, which recall being a survivor in terms of a domestic space. Survivor is part of a bigger idea of reclaiming my freedom sexually, as a woman, from being controlled, or from a certain race or religion. I have a tendency to try to cut loose anything that’s shackled or tied down. There are a lot of lines, bars, grids or parts tied up in my paintings. For those parts that are trying to be unbound, what happens when it comes through victorious? Being a Muslim woman in America these days, and the wars in the name of terror, or violence towards women in any way, not having to do with race or culture—I want to break through those bars and lines and see it as empowering and exciting, not beaten down. I find Islam being demonized frustrating, but it’s just another struggle. By representing myself as a Muslim and a woman, it’s as if I’m giving a different kind of face to these categories It’s part of the reason I don’t make small things and have always rejected small, dainty, pretty, and cute as an ‘exotic’ woman of color. I won’t play that game. I just won’t. — Marwa Abdul-Rahman’s upcoming exhibit at MaRS Gallery, 649 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles, will run from June 11 to July 16, 2016.
Please Think © Marwa Abdul-Rahman
LEIMERT PARK: LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD —
WORDS KRISTEN OSBORNE-BARTUCCA IMAGES COURTESY HAMMER MUSEUM & ART+PRACTICE
Much of the buzz surrounding Leimert Park either starts or ends with Mark Bradford’s Art + Practice. While this is not particularly surprising, it can be misleading in the sense that the neighborhood, a vibrant bastion of African American cultural expression, has a significant history that predates the genesis of Art + Practice and has much to negotiate in the wake of its opening. Leimert Park’s “revival” should more accurately be viewed as one chapter in a longer cultural story. 68
(L-R) Amy Sillman, Brenna Youngblood, Henry Taylor, Torey Thornton, D’Metrius John Rice, Jamillah James, Ulrich Wulff, Jamian JulianoVillani, and Kevin Beasley at the opening reception for ‘A Shape That Stands Up’ at Art + Practice. 19 March 2016. Photo by Natalie Hon.
The neighborhood, located in South Central Los Angeles, was a master-planned community developed in the 1920s. Its central gathering place was Leimert Plaza Park, which then, as now, was a colorful, ebullient communal space for music, art and conversation. Once the racial covenants excluding non-white buyers were ruled unconstitutional in the 1940s, the relatively small neighborhood attracted middle-class African American families. The area began to earn its reputation as an African American cultural enclave in the aftermath of the Watts riots of 1965. Both Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles lived there for a time. One of the most notable early events in the artistic history of the Village (as it came to be called) was the founding of Brockman Gallery by brothers Dale Brockman Davis and Alonzo Davis in the 1960s. The gallery was conceived as a space for African American artists to show and see work, which was increasingly difficult after the Los Angeles County Museum of Art split from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art and relocated to Miracle Mile 69
Opening reception for â€˜A Shape That Stands Upâ€™ at Art + Practice. 19 March 2016. Photo by Natalie Hon.
from Exposition Park, far from where these artists lived and worked. It had the notable distinction of being the first African American-owned commercial gallery, showing work by David Hammons, Samara Wiley and Noah Purifoy. Although it closed in the 1980s, its proprietors are still very much a part of the community; Brockman Davis is one of the first artists to use the residency space at Art + Practice. Like many neighborhoods in South Central L.A., Leimert Park suffered economically after the 1992 riots and unrest, although it was spared the physical destruction of property experienced in other areas. That did not mean that its cultural spirit dissipated, however; the 1990s was a vibrant time for the arts. Jazz cafes, dance studios, coffee shops, theaters and a museum dedicated to African American history filled the colorful storefronts. The famed Zambezi Bazaar opened in 1991. A curated retail space focusing on African arts and crafts, it was also a center for lectures, artist receptions and political dialogue. 70
Opening reception for ‘A Shape That Stands Up’ at Art + Practice. 19 March 2016. Photo by Natalie Hon.
The 2010s also brought arts opportunities to the neighborhood. In 2009, Los Angeles-based artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle began her project, Kentifrican Museum of Culture: Re-Imagining Identity, in which she explored the cultural ties between Kentucky and West Africa. The museum manifested itself in many forms and places, but in 2014, Hinkle brought it to the Village. The famed African American bookstore Eso Won Books, run by James Fugate and Tom Hamilton since the 1980s, moved to Degnan Avenue in 2006 (it has since moved into a space at Art + Practice). The small store is one of Los Angeles’s great literary spaces, frequently hosting notable authors and events. Before Art + Practice, there was Papillion Gallery, opened by Michelle Papillion in 2014 in Brockman’s former space. Leimert Park might seem like a risky place for a new gallery venture, given that there were—and are—few contemporary art galleries nearby, but Papillion was not deterred. “When I started I didn’t have many concerns and I didn’t feel like I was taking a risk. I was just 71
doing something I wanted to do,” she said, while pointing out, “now it seems ‘doing what you want to do’ can be risky!” However, Open, the inaugural exhibit, was well-attended and critically acclaimed, and the gallery is now considered a core cultural space in the neighborhood. Papillion explains, “I plan on being in Leimert Park for as long as it makes sense for me to be here. I love this neighborhood; it’s been good to us and we to it.” The same enthusiasm for Papillion greeted Art + Practice, which opened its doors in February, 2015. Conceived of by philanthropist Eileen Norton, artist Mark Bradford, a MacArthur genius grant recipient who grew up in the neighborhood and has his studio there; and Allan DiCastro, Bradford’s partner and former president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Council, the complex features exhibition space (its first show featured the work of Charles Gaines, and was organized in partnership with the Hammer Museum), art studios, space for Eso Won, and offices for the RightWay Foundation, which provides social services for young people aging out of the foster system and vulnerable to living on the streets. The opening of Art + Practice and the debut of the Gaines show was a star-studded affair that brought out Mayor Garcetti as well as major art world figures. On view through June 8, A Shape that Stands Up, is a Hammer Museum off-site exhibition curated by Jamillah James. This survey of paintings, drawings and sculpture founded in figurative abstraction features the work of established and emerging artists. James told Fabrik that the Hammer is committed to further work with A+P: “Leimert Park has long been an incubator and anchor for the arts in Los Angeles, and in its partnership with Art + Practice, the museum has been able to continue its involvement in the neighborhood.” Art + Practice has been justifiably praised as a welcome addition to Leimert Park. The fact that it was founded by people who have either lived or worked there, and that Bradford and DiCastro financed a great deal of it with their own funds, seems to augur good things. The future Village Metro stop along the Crenshaw line, slated to open in 2019, only adds to the sense that the neighborhood is shaping up to be a destination for arts-and-culture seekers. Of course, like many Los Angeles neighborhoods, Leimert Park has a complicated relationship with the forces of gentrification. While those seeking to revitalize Leimert Park seem to be demonstrating a great deal of respect for the uniqueness of the neighborhood, there are still questions about future develop-
Courtesy of PAPILLION ART.
ment. Concerns about the Metro stop were voiced over the past few years, as well as the general plans Art + Practice, the current heavy-hitter, has for the area. It isn’t difficult to predict rising prices and instability of rents; Zambezi actually closed and relocated for this reason. Such questions and concerns, while valid, should be considered in light of the positive changes in Leimert Park. Art + Practice, as James says, “offers a new model for arts organizations who want to serve their communities in a tangible way, beyond access to the visual arts,” which actually places it firmly in the tradition of its neighborhood forbearers. Leimert Park’s future will not be that of other contemporary art neighborhoods if it continues its commitment to embracing its history, its culture and its community.
FRESH FACES IN ART: ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
EMERGENT PRESENCE BY ARTRA CURATORIAL | ARTRA Curatorial is comprised of Max Presneill (MP), Kio Griffith (KG) & Colton Stenke (CS)
JONNI CHEATWOOD Playing a strategic game upon the surface of his often raw, large-scale, stitched together canvases, Cheatwood plays a set of related decisions in a step-by-step rejoinder to each possible move. The working process plays out on the studio floor, as the artist simultaneously moves from canvas to canvas, leaving behind the detritus of his own accidental marks, shoe prints, dropped and spilled materials, etc. so the work tracks its own history, the reality of the studio environment, the physicality of making paintings. With bold colors, occasional text and raw power that all merge into a rough and ready approach, that somehow remains elegant and visually seductive, these paintings point to a positive future for the young artist. (MP). http://jonnicheatwood.com
(Opposite) Jonni Cheatwood ShellďŹ sh Saleman 66 x 97 inches Oil, oil stick, enamel, spray paint and acrylic on raw canvas (Below) Jonni Cheatwood Kirby Kempo, Kingpin at Large 61 x 50 inches Oil, acrylic, enamel, spray paint on stitched raw canvas and burlap
FRESH FACES IN ART: ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
STEVE DEGROODT Steve DeGroodtâ€™s constructs are proprioceptive compositions performing a sense of locomotion which expound on physiologic feedback mechanisms; an antechamber of phantom memory relearning the visual system and its function. The formulation of his objects are naked to the eye without pretension, yet turn around consistent inconsistencies - leaving much to be discovered. Notated materials (scrap wood, torn fabric, envelopes, cardboard boxes, single thread, loose wiring, veil) act concurrently as conduits and cloaking devices, filaments and barricades. DeGroodt could orchestrate a world in reverse, by inventing artifacts which reverberate with shapes of presence and absence. Instead, he reaches deeper for the psychoacoustic spaces fathomed from fragments of inarticulate human existence. (KG). http://www.stevedegroodt.com
(Opposite) Steve DeGroodt Long Distance, 2003. The Beckett Series. Cloth with mulberry branches, and acrylic on elastic 53 x 47 x 12.5 inches (Below) Steve DeGroodt Ghazal 418, 1998 Fabric over cardboard boxes 39 x 23 x 23 inches
FRESH FACES IN ART: ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
JUSTIN JOHN GREENE The work of Greene reflects the indolent, perhaps desperate, lives of those living in the gig economy and social media funhouse of Los Angeles. Uncertainty for the future, pseudo-connection and alienation are reflected in the bright glow of a laptop screen after midnight, in a rented bedroom with no lights on. Reminiscent of 1930s German Expressionism, his dark works have a sadness that reminds of us of our own isolation noir but with the multiple sourced imagery from Disney cartoons of the â€˜40s, Hollywood movies and such. In these paintings, we can sense a morbid humor too. Pessimistic, forlorn yet anxious for fun, for relief, for something interesting to happen in them, anything, they are neurotic self analyses, featuring millennial self-absorption with a nervous uncertain laughter, all set to the portent of an underlying doom. With a formal oddity, the high-low combo, that keeps the viewer entranced, they may be the perfect reflection of the times and troubles of this generation. (MP). http://www.justinjohngreene.com
(Opposite) Justin John Greene How Fast Was I Going? 2015 Oil on canvas 60 x 96 inches (Below) Justin John Greene The Elysian,Â 2015 Airbrush media and oil on canvas 48 x 60 inches
FRESH FACES IN ART: ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
REGINA MAMOU Exploring the difficult liminal ideas that appear to hover between faith and reality, Mamou uses a wide range of materials incorporating sculpture, found objects, photography and more, to question how spirituality and aesthetics are entwined. Powerful objecthood is gained by the juxtaposition of materials and formal placement. The elements of quackery, pseudoscientific machinery and the supernatural are often included to structure the critique of systems and cultures of religious belief in formally diverse and surprising ways, as if prodding viewers to examine their own suspicions about systems in general. (MP). http://www.reginamamou.com (Opposite) Regina Mamou Untitled (Case Stack), 2015 Installation at Slow Gallery, Chicago Electropsychometer cases, mirrored acrylic Electropsychometer cases: 6 x 24 x 16 inches (each); Acrylic element: 72 x 36 inches (Below) Regina Mamou Proposed Vortex (Iteration #1), 2014 Installation at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York Digital C-prints, ďŹ‚oodlights, black light bulbs, duplex outlet wall plate, duplex power outlet, chalk 2 images: 40 x 50 inches (each); 2 light elements: 60 x 30 inches (each); 2 outlet elements: 4 x 3 inches and 4 x 1 inches; Chalk element: 24 inches
(ABOVE) SUNNY 5PM BOOK, 1ST POSITION, 2014. SILICA, GLASS, CALCIUM CARBONATE, FELDSPAR, DIRT, PINE NEEDLES, UV-RESISTANT RESIN, BRONZE HARDWARE. 22.125 X 16.5 X 3.5 INCHES. IMAGE COURTESY M+B GALLERY, LOS ANGELES.
FRESH FACES IN ART: ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
LIAT YOSSIFOR Liat Yossiforâ€™s abstract paintings are artifacts of pre-determined and timed performative actions where the bodily action, following the internal logic of a figurative base, allow her to transform the surface via the palette knife, to a record of reworked movement and time. Shades of gray (a little sexual, yes) with small hints of colors, concentrate the attention of the viewer onto the folds and smears of the lush materiality of the paint, drawing our attention to the shifting surfaces, with a surprisingly vibrant near-monochrome. They act as a form of memory storage for the here and now, tracking the allotted time and focused attention, her identity contained in the struggle between meaning, aesthetics and the personal. (MP). http://www.liatyossifor.com
(Opposite) Liat Yossifor Pre-Verbal Yellow I, 2016 62 x 60 inches, oil on linen. Photo:Â David Johnson (Below) Liat Yossifor Black Edge II, 2016 20 x 16 inches, oil on linen. Photo: Christopher Burke Images: Courtesy of Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York, NY
ART ABOUT TOWN
REVIEWS ACTUAL SIZE, LOS ANGELES Linguaviagem: A Poesia Concreta Dialogue (January 23-February 18) Words Peter Frank
Linguaviagem: A Poesia Concreta Dialogue, with its compact vitrines and small, primarily black-and-white publications, was one of the most purely “concrete” shows of concrete poetry presented in recent years in LA, if not in all of the U.S. Indeed, the very purity of the predominantly British and Brazilian gathering revealed the simple, almost romantic heart beating at the core of what may otherwise seem a rather austere phenomenon. In a word, concrete poetry employs typography to visual ends without abandoning the verbal significance of letter combinations. As such, many concrete poems encapsulate meaning “in a word,” elaborating across the page (or other support mechanism) so that the concepts associated with the word in question expand in space. One sees the poem and reads the picture—a classic postwar intermedium grounded in earlier avant-garde practices (notably Futurism and Dada, but also De Stijl and constructivism).
Linguaviagem, Installation View
ART ABOUT TOWN
Concrete poetry’s first manifestation as a distinct, self-aware development took place in early-1950s Brazil. Two groups of Brazilian concretists, the seminal Noigandres (especially the de Campos brothers) and the younger, more demonstrative Poema/ Processo (including Wlademir Dias-Pino), were seen to some advantage in Linguaviagem (which means language/voyage in Portuguese). England also produced a bumper crop of concretists, mostly in the 1960s. The Paterfamilias of British concrete poetry was Ian Hamilton Finlay. One of the touchstone figures in Linguaviagem, Finlay is revealed in the show as a devoted naturalist and, almost as a result, a sculptor—not just creator—of word-images. Several of his fellow UK concretists—notably Ken Cox, almost as formally inventive—accompanied him here. A few Europeans – pioneer Eugen Gomringer, publisher Hansjörg Mayer, and Jiri Valoch from behind-the-Iron-Curtain Czechoslovakia— rounded out this relatively cursory selection of typogrammatizations. Linguaviagem was anything but comprehensive. But its range across continents, forms and styles worked in its favor. Propped up in raw boxes in a tiny space, the works of concrete poetry beckoned brightly and yet mysteriously, their devices and even languages conflating the common and the exotic. It was an appetite-whetter, the perfect amuse-oeil. GREGORIO ESCALANTE, CHINATOWN Moira Hahn: Night of 1000 Fire Monkeys (April 9 to May 15, 2016) Words Shana Nys Dambrot
Moira Hahn is almost too adept at what she does for her own good. Her uncanny ability to recreate the formal, stylistic and technical characteristics of her source materials and inspirations—Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Persian miniatures, Tibetan devotional thangka paintings—risks obscuring the Pop-infused, cinematic, contemporary Western visual and narrative wit that is the true treasure of her practice. Hahn’s masterfully executed watercolor painting and crisp, radiant printmaking, are dedicated to the portrayal of anthropomorphic animals enacting convincingly authentic historically Eastern tableaux. Giant chickens-of-prey on the attack, primates checking their cell phones, tigers in the trappings of warlords and more cats in kimonos than your Facebook feed, occupy tatami-matted, paper-lanterned domestic spaces in which families feast and frolic, offspring play board games and samurai warriors defend against attack from outsized parrots. Hahn’s exotic, saturated palette, mannerist line work and knack for adding tiny details—lost dice, a fish tail in a kitten’s mouth, a cartoon cat smoking a cigarette, the traditionally misshapen bound feet of geisha 85
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Moira Hahn Under Water World (Print) 10 1/2 x 9 in. Fine art wood print on 1/2” sustainable birch wood, bright white finish
(except they’re cat paws)—all combine to pepper her compositions with a cascade of breathtaking surprises. After seeing one image, viewers may be moved to start again at the beginning, and re-examine every inch of every painting in search of more. They are never disappointed. But beyond the perennial appeal of this game of hidden magic, and Hahn’s undeniable craftsmanship, there is also meaning in her imaginative narrative scenarios. Besides the panoply of global art historical traditions she cites, and her ability to use animals as allegorical stand-ins for examining the peculiarities of human behaviors, Hahn’s specific interest in the interaction between Eastern and Western societal, aesthetic and popular cultural trends finds ample expression in her flawless mergers. 86
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OCHI PROJECTS Stephanie Pryor: Reverie (March 12 – April 16, 2016) Words Shana Nys Dambrot
Stephanie Pryor’s new paintings are technically abstract, but in truth, exist along the border of abstraction and representation, a liminal area Pryor is especially adept at navigating. Though these luminous, strange and engaging pictures follow conventions of landscape, her palette is too intense and distinctive to be exactly natural. This tethers them to an abstract practice through artifice, despite legible references to landscape reinforced in the titles—Sunbeam, Kissyface, Birds’ Nest, Elm, Centennial Pond, Forest Echo and so on. In fact, both images and words directly reference a recent series of landscapes, explicitly depicting a wooded area familiar from her childhood. Pryor’s previous portrait-based works derived their power from the flirty threat of abstractionist incursion into the domain of imagery, specifically clothing and flesh, through the same operations of color wash and diaphanous layering evident in these new non-objective works. The inverse but not the opposite of that dynamic, the results in Reverie are not all that different, whether her figures dissolve into abstraction; or her abstractions create moments of object and story. In geological tumult, meteorological atmosphere, shifting focal plane, low centers of gravity evoking horizons and territories of empty space evoking sky, the
Stephanie Pryor: Reverie. Installation View.
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gestalt of the Reverie paintings is almost organic. Yet these careful studies in perception candidly display evidence of constant consideration, revision, addition, resolution. A single shape, stroke or gesture might start as underpainting and resolve as overpainting in an adjacent passage. Pryor deploys microglitter in the pigments—with admirable restraint considering its delightfulness—triggering real optical action, pausing the eye, then setting it back into a different kind of motion. Once you see some glitter you look for more, and this closer scrutiny of the entire composition yields all kinds of other rewarding details. Pryor’s stylistic process is tautological in the most dynamic, generous sense, as she’s been consciously working both sides of the abstract/ objective divide for years. Except with Pryor, it’s not a divide, it’s a continuum. CRAIG KRULL GALLERY, SANTA MONICA Robin Mitchell: How Many Heartbeats in a Lifetime? (March 5-April 9, 2016) Words Kay Whitney
For almost 40 years, the art world has repeatedly and predictably equated challenging acts with spectacle and theatricality. Robin Mitchell’s work defies this shallow and repetitive trend; her paintings are unique for a modest scale that barely contains their intense and transcendent imagery. Mitchell never resorts to the decorative or sensational; she has faced and circumvented obstacles most abstractionists never negotiate. Her attitude encompasses the metaphysical and spiritual while completely embracing painting’s potential. Mitchell’s paintings are composed of layered, crudely concentric circles of dotted lines superimposed on a field of transparent color. Her imagery is subsumed into an all-over pattern of interlocking, repeating shapes, dots and dashes and amorphous forms conjured from a range of intense hues. The use of color is startling: Mitchell opposes light and dark and sets complementary colors against each other. Forms are mirrored, repeated and transposed. The resulting imagery rarely conforms to familiar or conventional ways of conducting color across a surface; their brilliant optical rhythms, strange and dissonant, create a powerful illusion of depth. There is a tangible visual throb, an effervescence, to the work; the charged planes of color and skeins of lines resemble a buzzing diagram of magnetic fields. The viewer is drawn into the structure of the paintings. The mind courses along their dotted pathways and illusory spaces. One aspect of Mitchell’s work is a resonance with non-Western imagery. Her paintings echo the symmetry of Mexican folk art and even the influence of Islamic designs. It also engages the vibrating illusions of ’60s Op art, Her work is in 88
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fact an intense compilation of distilled influences, the result of newly forged references and connections, realized with extraordinary skill and intensity.
Robin Mitchell. Eons, 2016. Oil On Canvas, 40 X 30 in.
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PAPILLION ART, LEIMERT PARK Zoë Buckman: Every Curve (March 12 – April 30, 2016) Words Megan Abrahams
In her debut Los Angeles exhibit, British born, New York-based artist Zoë Buckman opens the door to the private boudoir, a female refuge long infiltrated and influenced by the male point of view. Buckman’s installation is immersive in the most delicate and unexpected sense. Suspended from the gallery ceiling is a collection of vintage lingerie—nightgowns, stockings, garter belts, brassieres, teddies, kimonos, corsets and girdles (as in the days before Spanx)—in fine fabrics and a subtle spectrum of pastel colors like ivory, beige and pink. In shocking counterpoint to the feminine creams, silks and satins, the artist has hand-embroidered the garments with bold hip-hop lyrics by ‘90s rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. A flowery kimono floats in the air with the words, “I swear I’ll never call you Bitch again,” in red stitching across the back. The juxtaposition of these confrontational words on the personal item of clothing seems a shocking—and oddly intimate—violation. Although Buckman was exposed to the music of many rappers, the provocative music of Tupac and Biggie made a profound impression on her during her formative years in East London. The artist had the advantage of growing up in an enlightened environment. Raised in an activist feminist household, she had an insight into the significance of the message behind the lyrics in the background. Buckman’s use of embroidery as a medium for expressing her intent symbolizes the female experience. Traditionally, the dominant male hierarchy deemed embroidery an appropriate female art. Here, the “female art” is fully re-appropriated. In a curious way, Every Curve chronicles a young woman’s coming of age in a male-dominated society that attempts to define, shape and objectify women. The work documents, with both poignancy and humor, the clash of background noise and influences that combine to construct the female identity.
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Zoë Buckman: Every Curve. Installation View.
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MUSEUM VIEWS SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART The Art of Music Music and art are the closest of sisters, no matter that they barely resemble each other. Both disciplines brim with adoptions of and parallels with one another’s practices. Myriad exhibitions have tried to trace this complex, intricate, and often fraught relationship. Such exhibitions usually fall short of a satisfying (much less complete) description of the relationship – not for lack of trying, nor for a lack of appropriate and magnificent material, but for a lack of clarity or focus. Art and music have interacted in so many ways over the centuries, and a consideration of any one way or cluster of ways would suffice to drive home the point, certainly drive it home more cogently than the sumptuous but too often diffuse, and confused, approaches applied instead. The Art of Music committed some of the mistakes described above, but rather fewer than usual. Further, its particular ambition, to bring together examples of art-music interfacing among Western and non-Western cultures alike, is especially admirable: most such omnibus shows zero in on Western practice without reference to any other. Indeed, the non-Western portions of The Art of Music were its intellectual and experiential high points. The exhibition’s conventional approach to Western alignments between art and music also served it well enough, although the parade of paintings, interrupted by a decorated musical instrument here and there, tended to the predictable, even strained: the recurrence of musicians in Dutch genre scenes or Victorian depictions of lissome young women holding violins could try one’s patience. But the coupling of equally bathetic Neoclassical pictures with thematically related Greco-Roman artifacts proved not just sensible, but enlightening – and, in an odd way, prepared the viewer for the yet more dramatic co-display of African instruments and rhythmic weavings and drawings on cloth. A convincing parallel was also drawn between the fancifully carved instruments of pre-conquest Mesoamerican groups and modern Latin American paintings depicting folk musicians, or reverting to abstraction in order to capture the spirit of the music itself. As expected, The Art of Music looked at the relation between music and 20th-century abstraction; but – despite some important and exquisite examples 92
Christian Marclay. Continental, 1991. Two record covers and cotton thread. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.
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by the likes of Henri Matisse, František Kupka, and Morgan Russell – this section seemed perfunctory in the wake both of the exhibition’s earlier sections and the deep inquiries other shows on the same theme have provided. A few examples of music-driven cinema (Oskar Fischinger notable among these) were screened, several African-American artists were compared to roots music, and little new or startling was advanced until one came upon a gripping display, leading out of the exhibition, centered around the postwar collaboration of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. Represented by one or two works apiece including a rarely seen Rauschenberg assemblage from Johns’s own collection – this enclave set the tone for a much more dynamic and multivalent examination of music and art in the post-modern era. No such examination was forthcoming, maintaining the sense of truncation and underexposure that dogged the show as a whole – but not the rich and sumptuous catalog, whose many articles regard in detail the topics the exhibit could barely describe. As a book, The Art of Music is an excellent starting point for one’s further research into any number of places, periods, objects, and philosophies. As a show, The Art of Music could touch upon many matters but could go into nothing exhaustively, serving instead as a jumping-off point for further investigation. The curiosity and excitement so much of the exhibition inspired, for better or worse, must be exercised elsewhere.
UCLA HAMMER MUSEUM Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 Through May 15, 2016 What becomes a legend most? An exhibition that traces its life, its dynamics, and its impact on subsequent human thought and activity. The modern history not just of art pedagogy, but art itself, was shaped largely by a few art schools – schools, not incidentally, noted for more than just education and indoctrination. Black Mountain College is one such school, a center for exposure to and training in new ideas and forms in all the arts that arose at a crucial moment, shaping American artistic practice when that practice was ripest for shaping. Leap Before You Look excavates Black Mountain College, looking less at what impact it had on American postwar art (a well-worn subject) and more at why it had such an impact and what made it tick when it was ticking. Leap Before You Look unpacks the Black Mountain experience, laying out the history of the college (which was anything but a school exclusively for the arts) 94
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Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957 Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 21–May 15, 2016. Photo: Brian Forrest.
and then examining every facet of its instructional offerings – and, more to the point, every significant instructor, pupil, and visitor. Necessarily, the survey regards individual creative personality as the crucial element in the Black Mountain dynamic; the school’s artistic curricula, after all, were shaped not by a unified foundation-to-specialization program, as at the Bauhaus, but by the sensibilities of the people conducting classes, and hardly less by their students. It should be noted that the Black Mountain College we remember as an artistic hotbed was so mostly during the summers. This befitted both the live-work ethos of its community (who tended gardens, built structures for the school, etc.) and the experimental ethos of its artists. Master teachers such as Josef Albers taught yearround, but invited many colleagues – who often promulgated very different styles – to teach as well during the special summer institutes held in the late 1940s and early ‘50s. Such a conflation of art institute and summer camp had profound results. Look Before You Leap doesn’t simply introduce us to these results, it illustrates and explains them with a satisfying thoroughness – and a nimbleness and equanimity appropriate to the subject. It gives equal weight to Albers’s pedagogy and to that of 95
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his wife Anni, who taught textile design and production. It finds continuity among painters as disparate as abstract expressionists Willem and Elaine de Kooning and constructivist Ilya Bolotowsky. It cleverly superimposes pottery and poetry, not (just) for the sake of the near-homonym but also for history’s sake (as these two art forms endured especially late into Black Mountain’s waning years). It unearths now-obscure teachers and students and places them, to no disadvantage, with their better known peers. And it captures the ambience of the community and the spirit of its members through extensive photo-documentation produced by devoted shutterbugs like Hazel Larson Archer. Now-revered figures such as Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Robert Rauschenberg certainly get pride of place in the show, but that’s understandable: their work and attitudes had a notable impact on the Black Mountain experience not just in hindsight, but at the time. It isn’t easy to design and mount a show that must frequently jump scale and medium to encompass the variety of its many subjects’ styles. Leap Before You Look does so with as much grace as clarity. Taking advantage of the Hammer’s own flowing layout, the show (which did not originate here) posits discrete displays of particular people and disciplines that abut one another with the doubled logic of formal connection and chronological sequence. The show comes to a crescendo of sorts in the rooms devoted to music and dance, for it’s there that the John Cage-Merce Cunningham-Rauschenberg team is forged and goes on to re-invent the world. However spectacular, though, it’s a thoughtful crescendo. There is, alas, precious little documentation of Cage’s multivalent multi-media 1952 Theater Piece and none of productions such as the 1948 staging of Erik Satie’s Ruse of Medusa, starring Fuller, Cunningham, and Elaine de Kooning. (The massive catalogue, of course, provides such documentation.) But the immense screen showing early performances of even earlier Cunningham choreographies makes up for these lacunae.
A high-visibility fair showcasing photo books from artists, self-publishers and publishers. APRIL 29-MAY 1, 2016 RALEIGH STUDIOS, HOLLYWOOD PHOTOINDEPENDENT.COM
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PERFORMANCE REVIEW 1984 in 2016: Big Brother is Watching THE BROAD STAGE, SANTA MONICA Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center January 8-February 6, 2016 Words Jacki Apple | Image Manuel Harlan
In case you have any doubts, Big Brother is here. Big Brother is there. Big Brother is everywhere. And so are Newspeak, Doublethink, and the Thought Police in politics, academia, media, and daily life whether or not you acknowledge it. The slogans “Ignorance is Strength” and “War is Peace” are confirmed in the hyperbolic chatter of self-styled citizen pundits, as well as the official ones, streaming daily from our ever-present screens. And to take my media quotes beyond George Orwell’s classic tome on totalitarianism and the erasure of history and memory, “the Truth is NOT Out There”, and “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” When 1984 was first published in 1949 in the early days of the Cold War, Orwell was critiquing Stalin’s Soviet Union and the perversion and betrayal of Marx’s egalitarian socialist dream. But 1984 was also a prophetic warning that has reached far beyond President Eisenhower’s cautionary advice to beware of the power and influence of the Military-Industrial Complex, deep into our 21st century silicon world. Orwell understood the ways in which language controls thought, and what happens when “propaganda” in all its mediated forms infiltrates and permeates every aspect of our lives. He may not have lived to see the digital age but he certainly envisioned the 21st century of “smart” technology and ubiquitous surveillance through which we are watched, tracked, profiled, and monitored 24/7. This condition that we as a society have collaborated in so willingly, is justified in the name of consumerism, security, convenience, and celebrity. Seduced by social media, and “cool” new products and apps, we are complicit in our own surveillance. But who is asking, as Orwell did, what the consequences will be? And who is listening? Fortunately a few theater artists who see the contemporary relevance of Orwell’s work have brought it back into the spotlight with a chilling sense of urgency. The latest production is the U.K.’s Headlong Theater’s brilliant adaptation directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. This staging cuts to the heart of the totalitarian surveillance state in which all perceptions of reality are unreliable, as is the authority of the text. When language itself is degraded, all links between past and present are 98
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Company by Manuel Harlan
dissolved. The narratives of history and memory collapse into doubt. Neither a sense of identity, nor individual thought and emotions can be trusted when they have been replaced by behavioral conditioning and social programming. Central to this interpretation of 1984, and so successfully captured in this production, is the schism produced in Winston, whose job it is as a clerk in the Ministry of Truth to redact texts as a means to excise so-called thought crimes and those who commit them. Winston’s resistance to this stripping of language of content, context, and meaning, is expressed in the radical act of writing down his own inner thoughts. His struggle to find some semblance of meaning in his controlled existence, some small pebble of hope that the “truth” is still out there beyond the watchful eye of Big Brother, is painful in its futility. Yet all the more essential for a contemporary audience to confront as we succumb to the limitations being put on free speech happening right now. The set in this version of 1984 has the musty aura of an old English college library, or government Ministry archive room, dually supporting and counterpointing the emphasis on a totalitarian control of language. Despite the futility of his effort to leave behind some record of the conditions under which he exists, Winston still puts pen to paper. As we all must in this age of “snap chats”, tweets and other taglines. The directors remind us of our current position by placing the action of the story in two different time frames simultaneously. Because the sets, characters, and 99
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costumes all remain unchanged it takes a couple of scenes to figure out that we are watching Winston in his 1984 present while he is also being observed in retrospect from two generations in the future around 2050. The directors use Orwell’s Appendix as the key to the authenticity of the text and the reliability of its author by placing the audience in the position of both the writer (Winston) and the readers (those debating it half a century later). Thus a subtle dialectic comes into play as sub-text. This is reinforced by having certain “stories” told repeatedly with only slight variation, folded into the conversational commentary on Winston’s predicament. The interjection of blackouts, power failures, alarms, and sirens between scenes adds to the temporal disjuncture. The reality of constant surveillance is made tangible by a projection screen at the top of the back wall of the set spanning the width of the stage. This screen watches Winston’s most private activities including the writing of his diary, as well as his self-reflective consideration of the consequences of this subversive criminal act. It also monitors his brief equally furtive romantic liaison with his co-worker Julia and their foray into the forbidden pleasures of sex and chocolate. Even a kiss becomes a defiant political act that will be played back to them as a deception that can only result in betrayal, thus proving that “freedom is slavery.” Reinforcing doubt in one’s own perceptions by reversing the order of logical thought is the ultimate form of mind control. When the mind is numbed so are the senses. In a world where two plus two no longer equals four how does one determine what is fact or fiction, “real” or “true”. The words themselves cease to have any meaning. Winston is of course arrested and brought to the dreaded Room 101 where he is interrogated by an urbane, if slightly ironic, utterly duplicitous Party leader with the coolly confident insinuating air of Francis Eckert in the original British version of House of Cards. Confession, submission, and obedience are extracted from those who question authority, deviate from the rules, and refuse to submit willingly, by subjecting them to their worst fears and terrors. In Winston’s case it is rats. “How many fingers?” Winston is asked over and over. He sees four. He is told “five.” Here I am reminded of The Prisoner, a prophetic British TV series of the 1960s that explored many of the same questions and issues of language, surveillance, and control as Orwell. There is no escape from the Village and when the protagonist asks, “Who is number 1?”, the reply is, “There is no number 1”. Likewise in 1984 the question of whether or not Big Brother exists, and if he will die, is answered as “not important because the Party (the System) is immortal and will live on. “Big Brother is you watching”. This is the future. The one we are living in now. And like those characters in this staged interpretation who are examining Winston’s world from more than half a century later, we should be paying attention to our own world of “doublethink” and “newspeak”, and “smart” devices monitoring everything. 100
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For Orwell, it all comes back to language and who controls it. Just as Winston pursues a book that supposedly contains “true knowledge”, only to later be told it is all a ruse, and those men of the future probe Winston’s diary looking for insight into their past, we too must examine the desecration of language in our current culture. The oppressive dictates of the latest outbreak of political correctness in our institutions of learning accomplish exactly what Orwell depicts when Winston is told to remove “bad” from the phrase good and bad, and replace it with good and not good. But ‘not good’ is not the same thing as bad. What happens when all the implications of bad are erased? As language shrinks so do all the nuances of critical thinking. When euphemism replaces accurate description, meaning dissolves. Icke and MacMillan’s production of 1984 holds up a potent mirror to our contradictions. On one hand we applaud Edward Snowden as a hero for exposing the abuses of government spying. On the other we submit to the invasiveness of corporate data mining. We bend to the demands of students with no historical perspective, who attack the First Amendment without any understanding of what it protects and why. By repressing freedom of speech on campus they put at risk the very principles of critical discourse and liberal education, something students in the 1960s so bravely defended and fought for. Ironically political correctness in no way mitigates or prevents the humiliation and destructiveness of real hate speech, and the ways in which it panders to intolerance and fear, and encourages it. However, the First Amendment provides us (and Bill Maher) with the freedom to openly challenge and expose demagoguery, ignorance, bigotry, misinformation and malfeasance in all its forms, through informed debate and open discussion, humor, satire, and art. Let us hope the day does not come when Orwell is banned from libraries. The brilliance of Headlong Theater’s production is in its insidious familiarity and intimacy, making it all the more unnerving. It is a more personal approach than The Actors’ Gang’s stark production of a few years ago in which the focus was on Orwell’s proposition that ”all political systems, be they fascist, communist, or capitalist, are based on the same hierarchal economic structure grounded in continuous warfare.” The distortion of language was still the tool used to manipulate the populace into an acceptance of a “totalitarianism of the mind” enforced through surveillance. In both versions, the end goal is to extinguish all independent thought not simply through censorship, but by a more sinister process of erasure and contradiction, thus emptying language of meaning. Given the global political situation in this 2016 year of a Presidential election Orwell’s message is more relevant than ever. Big Brother is watching you watching. Thank you to the artists who speak out.
MARILYN NIX For almost half a century Marilyn Nix was a beloved, omnipresent personality—and a sort of magical envoy—within the Los Angeles art community. An accomplished writer, art critic, Wikipedia editor, curator and public relations professional, she was also the mother of a son, Jason Henry McCormick, and friend to many artists and art world figures. With her characteristic generosity, she went out of her way to enrich many lives, making introductions and spontaneous promotions that helped build numerous friendships and careers. In recent years, Nix held the position of assistant studio manager for the iconic Los Angeles artist Ed Moses. In that role she was responsible for public relations, publications, archives and exhibition support. Marilyn was also co-curator, with Juli Carson, of A Performative Trigger: Radicals of Irvine, at the University of California Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts last fall. The exhibit focused on an area of personal interest to Marilyn: the work and lives of UCI students of the 1970s who went on to become art world luminaries: Chris Burden, Nancy Buchanan, Richard Newton, Alexis Smith, Barbara T. Smith, Bradley Smith, Paula Sweet and Robert Wilhite. Although a graduate of UCLA, Marilyn discovered LA’s “new generation” of experimental artists at UCI in the early 1970s and worked hard for them ever since. She championed many of these artists, and many of their contemporaries, throughout her adult life. Notably, she supported the realization of their projects through Carp, the organization she co-founded and ran with Barbara Burden in the late 1970s. Marilyn had an unforgettable voice. Rich and melodious, it was the perfect instrument for her signature wit and sense of irony. Her caustic take on the world belied her optimism and generosity of spirit, but no one who knew her was oblivious to her expansive, giving personality. Marilyn Nix died of cancer on April 8. We are profoundly saddened, and deeply diminished, by her loss – and ever grateful that she was, until so recently, among us. Megan Abrahams / Peter Frank 102
Portrait of Marilyn Nix by Corinne Chaix, 2016
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Fast sacks. Safe sacks. ArtSacks. Say goodbye to piles of bubble wrap, rolls of packing tape, stacks of cardboard and hours of packing and unpacking your artworks for shows, exhibitions and fairs. This is pretty simple. Slip you work into one of our felt sacks, flop the top over, and you’re on your way. It’s even faster to unpack. What used to be hours, is now minutes. All the time protecting your valuable work from chips, dings and scratches. There are 9 sizes that hold artwork from 16” x 20” up to 50” x 72”, with extra padding around the bottom, which allows you to put your art down safely just about anywhere. Check us out at www.ArtSacks.net.
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SATURDAY APRIL 30 | 7-10PM RSVP: AFTERHOURS@ARTISTSCORNER.US Exhibition runs through May 1, 2016
SEXY is Voluptuous, Trending, Elegant and Perverse. SEXY is Hot. Hedonic. Nasty and Nice. SEXY is Very sex positive. And while the Getty breaks down barriers with Robert Mapplethorpeâ€™s Sexy exhibition, we want to break down some barriers, too. ~ Phil Tarley PHOTOGRAPHERS EXHIBITING: Boris Bezroukov, Mark Stout, Bobbi Bennett, Franz Szony, Phil Tarley, Stephanie Vovas, Kathy Curtis Cahill, Mei Xian Qui, Dani Olivier, Brooke Mason, Jerry Weber, Brad Branson, Robert Presser, Jaimie Milner, Bojana Novakovic, Sol Hill, Jan Burns, David Covarrubias, Daryl Henderson, Mike Spitz, Karen Bystedt, Michael Grecco, and Bobby E. Brown
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SSOR. 2012, OIL WITH MIXED MEDIA ON CANVAS. 36 IN X 36 IN © JULIENNE JOHNSON
Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art 21 April – 12 May, 2016 Las Vegas, Nevada Museum of Civitella d’Agliano 19 August – 31 August Civitella d’Agliano, Italy www.juliennejohnson.com
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Las Transformistas of Havana
First of its kind limited edition, fine art book on Havana’s gay cabarets "¡OUT! The Transformistas of Havana” is a celebration of the performers in Havana’s gay cabarets, both male-to-female transgenders and gay female impersonators (many of whom are considering or in the process of gender reassignment). It celebrates their individuality, creativity, sense of confidence in who they and their pride in being members of a larger community. "¡OUT!” offers a glimpse into a previously underground world, a part of Cuba rarely seen to the outside world that is suffused with the colorfulness, sensuality, and conviviality that so commonly are associated with Cuban culture as a whole. “¡OUT!” explores a unique and compelling juncture where gender identity, politics, community mobilization and artist expression intersect in Cuban culture. “¡OUT!” will be the subject of two concurrent exhibitions in Havana beginning May 15. “¡OUT!” is packaged strikingly with wrapping made of pink sequin material in a custom cut acrylic case with prominent sponge lips on the cover protruding from the case. For more information and to buy the book please visit
RAINMAN. 36” X 36”, MIXED MEDIA
LINDA STELLING lindastelling.com THOUSAND OAKS COMMUNITY GALLERY 2331A Borchard Road, Newberry Park, CA 91320 • 805-498-4390 Gallery Hours: 11 am-5 pm • Exhibition Dates: April 5-April 29, 2016
In Celebration of World Art Day Los Angeles April 15th 2016
GLORIA DELSON CONTEMPORARY ARTS & ART MEETS ARCHITECTURE PRESENT:
LATIN AMERICAN ARTISTS IN LOS ANGELES & THE PASSIONATE EYE
Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts: www.GDCAgallery.com Art meets Architecture: www.artmeetsarchitecture.com The Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk: www.downtownartwalk.com World Art Day: http://iaaworldartday.com FOR IMAGES CONTACT PETRA AT GDCA GALLERY 323-309-2875 OR EMAIL: PW@GDCAGALLERY.COM