CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 32
framing studio www.voilaframingstudio.com
MASTHEAD Publisher Chris Davies Associate Editor Peter Frank Managing Editor Megan Abrahams Creative Director Chris Davies Art Direction & Design Chris Davies and Paul Soady Contributing Writers Megan Abrahams Shana Nys Dambrot Peter Frank Kio Griffith Michael Mccall Max Presneill Eva Recinos Leah Schlackman Kay Whitney
Contact Editorial: email@example.com Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: fabrikmagazine.com Mailing Address 269 S. Beverly Drive, #1234 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 Subscriptions Annual subscriptions: Four issues only $26 in the U.S. Subscribe online: fabrikmagazine.com or use our mail in form on page 96. Information Fabrik Magazine is published quarterly 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 Kenzi Shiokava. From left to right: Untitled, 1996. Cardboard cube, yarn bundle, cork. Sculpture: 15 1/2 in. (39.3 cm); base: 5 × 5 in. (12.7 × 12.7 cm). Flail, 1994. Bamboo, wood. Sculpture: 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm); base: 3 × 3 in. (7.6 × 6.6 cm). Figure, 1996. Wooden beads, macramé cord. Sculpture: 20 1/2 in. (52 cm); base: 5 in. (12.7 cm) diameter. Staff, 1994. Wood. Sculpture: 29 in. (73.6 cm); base: 4 × 3 in. (10.1 x 7.6 cm). Courtesy of Stremmel Gallery, Reno. Photograph by Brian Forrest. Part of the Made in L.A. biennial exhibit at the Hammer museum. See page 8.
CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 32
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
FABRIK ISSUE 32 We at Fabrik are having a long-standing two-way love affair, but we’re not cheating on either partner with the other. Our two sweethearts are close friends, not jealous rivals: One is visual art; the other design. Art is necessary to our existence even if its raison d’être may sometimes seem elusive. It’s driven by the human need to create beauty, transforming ideas from the artist’s imagination into concrete things that illuminate the world and enrich our lives. Design also exists to make beautiful objects—only with an infusion of function. We interact with design every day. As contributing writer Kay Whitney puts it in her feature on the A+D Museum in downtown Los Angeles, “no one can live in a structure, pick up a spoon or use a cell phone without being enmeshed in a process that begins with a need and ends in a tangible product.” Even the magazine you hold in your hands is the product of much thought and care about the nature of design. This is our annual design issue, which launches just in time for Dwell on Design L.A.—June 24 to 26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. As such, these pages are chock full of insightful articles on both contemporary art and design with an LA backstory, like Shana Nys Dambrot’s fascinating inside look at design whiz kid Ini Archibong; Leah Schlackman’s profile of designer Doron Gazit, who finds inspiration in a balloon; and our picks of some of the most exciting artists and art exhibits on the scene—such as the just opened biennial Made in L.A. exhibit at the Hammer Museum, which we feature on our cover. As always, there’s so much to see. Stop by the Fabrik booth at Dwell on Design L.A. We hope to see you there! Megan Abrahams Managing Editor
CONTRIBUTORS MEGAN ABRAHAMS is a Los Angeles based writer, art critic and artist. The managing editor of Fabrik, she is a contributing writer for Art Ltd., ArtPulse and WhiteHot Magazines. Megan is currently writing a novel and working on a new series of paintings. For links and more info, visit her sporadically updated blog: onbeyondwordsandpictures.com SHANA NYS DAMBROT is an art critic, curator and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for Whitehot Magazine, Contributing Editor to Art Ltd. and a contributor to KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Huffington Post, The Creators Project, Vs. Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Desert Magazine and Porter & Sail. She writes a lot of books and speaks in public with alarming frequency. PETER FRANK is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based art critic and curator. Associate Editor of Fabrik and art critic for the Huffington Post, Frank has served as Editor of THEmagazine Los Angeles and Visions Art Quarterly, as art critic for the LA Weekly, Village Voice and SoHo Weekly News, and as Senior Curator at the Riverside [CA] Art Museum. MICHAEL McCALL is a Los Angeles based visual artist. His work is represented by Timothy Yarger Fine Art in Beverly Hills, California. Michael is currently completing a memoir, Captain Squid and the Tentacle Room, to be released in the next year. MAX PRESNEILL, KIO GRIFFITH & COLTON STENKE / ARTRA CURATORIAL is a volunteer organization focused on creating new modes of artist-driven exhibitions, platforms, opportunity based interactions and community building events locally, nationally and internationally. Founded in 2009, ARTRA has orchestrated MAS Attack and other large scale art events in Southern California with additional projects in Europe and Asia. EVA RECINOS is a freelance writer and social media producer based in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured LA Weekly, The Creators Project, PSFK and others. She is less than five feet tall. LEAH SCHLACKMAN is a Los Angeles-based writer. A recent New York transplant, Leah studied art history and creative writing at NYU. In addition to contributing to Fabrik, she also writes for Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and works for an architectural arts restoration firm. KAY WHITNEY (kaywhitney.net) is a sculptor and writer. Her last solo show, “..a jest”, was at Torrance Art Museum in 2015. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented in numerous collections. She is the author of many catalogs, and a frequent contributor to Sculpture Magazine and Ceramics Monthly.
FEATURES & COLUMNS 8
Spotlight: Hammer Museum: Made in L.A. 2016
20 Spotlight: A+D Museum and Come In! DTLA 28 Profile: The Magical Luxury of Ini Archibong 40 Profile: Photographer Young-hwan Choi 54 Profile: Barbara Kasten: Stages
KAY WHITNEY SHANA NYS DAMBROT
62 Profile: Shaping the Unseen: Doron Gazit
70 Fresh Faces in Art: Artists You Should Know 78 Art About Town: Gallery Reviews 86 Art About Town: Film Review 88 Art About Town: Museum Views
Lauren Davis Fisher New Structures, New Orientations, 2013. Dimensional lumber, cable, lights. Dimensions variable. Installation at Human Resources, Los Angeles. Photograph by Cameron Crone.
Hammer Museum: Made in L.A. 2016 a, the, though, only (June 12-August 28, 2016) WORDS MEGAN ABRAHAMS
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE HAMMER MUSEUM
The third iteration of the Hammer’s Made in LA biennial survey takes a revelatory look at what it means to be a working artist in this city at this time, while also considering what may have led up to this moment of revelation. Made in LA seeks to bring the work of emerging artists out of the anonymity of the studio and into public view. At the same time, it also takes a step back, bringing to the foreground the work of mid- to later-career artists who have spent much of their careers in the shadows, receiving limited recognition. Organized by Hammer curator Aram Moshayedi and Hamza Walker of the Renaissance Society in Chicago – adding a perspective of distance – this ambitious and far-reaching exhibit places the work of some of these less prominent artists in a new, high profile – a young, energetic, perhaps somewhat disparate context, but all the more exciting for the mix. 10
Rebecca Morris Untitled (#16-15), 2015. Oil and spray paint on canvas. 75 x 75 in. 190.5 x 190.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist; Corbett vs Dempsey, Chicago; and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin. Photograph by Lee Tyler Thompson.
Adam Linder. Vexed Vista, 2015. Performance at Les Subsistances, Lyon, France, January 2015. Stage detail. Photograph by Shahryar Nashat.
The exhibit includes the work of 26 artists immersed in a variety of disciplines extending beyond the typical museum fare of painting, sculpture, photography, video and assemblage. Also included are construction, fashion, performance art, music, dance and poetry, notably that of artist-poet Aram Saroyan whose poem, a, the, though, only provides the exhibit’s subtitle and an invisible understated theme. The range of ideas and media included in this survey even goes so far as to get literally down and dirty with Rafa Esparza’s adobe brick floor installation in an upstairs outdoor gallery, a work that will no doubt crumble during the course of the exhibit, leaving the telltale tracks of viewers’ footprints throughout the museum. Clearly, an inclusive, expansive net was cast in an effort to accommodate what Walker has referred to as “a raw spectrum of cultural expression.” If this seems a little overwhelming, in a way it is. The exhibit is vast in its reach and breadth. While thrilling, it may even be overly ambitious in scope, but the range of art and artistic visions is really the whole point. Irrespective of the overall context, there are numerous gems in the offering and moments of awe-inspiring splendor. Among these is a mini-retrospective 12
Sterling Ruby. TABLE 3, 2015. Steel. 37 1⁄2 x 72 1⁄8 x 55 1⁄4 in. (95.3 x 183.2 x 140.3 cm). Courtesy of Sterling Ruby Studio and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Robert Wedemeyer.
of the oeuvre of Lebanese artist Huguette Caland, who lived in LA from 1987 to 2013. Included here, distinct but still in the larger context of Made in LA, is a sampling of Caland’s work since the 1960s, inventive and deeply personal paintings, drawings, paper mâché sculptures and mannequins dressed in her whimsical painted caftans. These enticing works are infused with Caland’s elegant sense of line, delightful wit and unabashedly feminine erotic sensibility. In an interesting counterpoint to Caland are the dynamic large-scale abstract paintings of Rebecca Morris, with concrete layers and cleanly defined shapes which explore positive and negative space in an innovative palette – a whole delicious gallery full. Then there’s a suite of welding tables inherited by Sterling Ruby with his Los Angeles studio space. The tables echo the Made in LA theme with a different historical twist, reflecting the era of material labor in LA and the mid-20th century tradition of welded constructed works of sculpture. A gallery dedicated to Kenzi Shiokava’s totem-like sculptures and inventive assemblage works reflect what it apparently means to have been born in Japan, raised in Brazil and attend art school in Los Angeles. (Shiokava is the long-time artist-in-residence at the Watts Towers Arts Center.) 13
Huguette Caland. EnlĂ¨ve ton doigt, 1971. Oil on canvas. 15 x 30 in. (38.1 x 76.2 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Janine Rubeiz, Beirut.
Rafa Esparza. Building: A Simulacrum of Power, 2014. Performance on the site of Michael Parkerâ€™s The Unfinished (2014), the Bowtie Project, Los Angeles, August 24, 2014. Photograph by Dylan Schwartz. Courtesy of Clockshop.
Mark Verabioff. Marxism and Art Beware of Fascist Broism, 2016. Design by TAR Studio, San Francisco.
Shahryar Nashat. Still from Hustle in Hand, 2014 (detail). Digital video, color, sound. 9:40 min. Courtesy of Rodeo, London and Silberkuppe, Berlin.
If part of the point is to present a sampling of what it means to be an artist in the midst of the booming LA cultural scene at this moment in time, a, the, though, only does convey that. Bringing these artists into view â€“ especially the more wondrous and obscure work â€“ is an impressive achievement. In any case, viewers can weigh in on the merits themselves by voting for their favorite artist to win the $25,000 Public Recognition Award. Made in LA goes a long way toward pursuing the idea of the museum as preserver of material culture. At the same time, museums may also influence culture. In some instances, the curators helped move the artistsâ€™ processes along, so that some of the exhibits were in effect partially commissioned. An enduring example of this is the intriguing bright yellow catalogue, a commemorative adjunct to the exhibit. Something of an art piece itself, the book was innovatively produced in collaboration with the participating artists, who were invited to contribute to the pages as extensions of their artistic practices. 17
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A+D MUSEUM AND COME IN! DTLA (MARCH 24-JUNE 23, 2016)
WORDS KAY WHITNEY IMAGES COURTESY OF THE A+D MUSEUM
Architecture and design are embedded in the way we live our lives and manipulate our environment. These disciplines combine the conceptual and material; no one can live in a structure, pick up a spoon or use a cell phone without being enmeshed in a process that begins with a need and ends in a tangible product. Although the past two decades have been characterized by a growing fascination with design, few cultural institutions have responded to it. The Architecture and Design Museum is the only cultural institution in Los Angeles where architecture and design exhibits are continuously on view. 20
A+D Museum Aerial Exterior View Photo: Hunter Kerhart
The A+D Museum’s sole mission is to expose, promote and celebrate architecture and design. It has raised public awareness of both, through 15 years of exhibitions, educational programs and outreach to both the public and the design community. The Museum’s program is unusually inclusive: All design disciplines are considered, including landscape, fashion, products, graphics, interiors and film/theater design. A+D has displayed the work of local, regional, national and international designers through exhibits, symposia, multi-disciplinary projects and educational and community programming. It has provided a venue for discussion of important issues in architecture and design. Although A+D does not have a permanent collection, it is a showplace for both historical and contemporary design. Founded in 2001 by architect Stephen Kanner and architect/educator Bernard Zimmerman, A+D has had an itinerant existence. It opened in the historic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles and over the course of the next 14 years, moved four times. In the summer of 2015, it moved back downtown to an 8,000-square-foot space at 900 East Fourth Street in the Arts District. The firms of Gensler and RTKL renovated the building, leaving in place pre-existing elements including graffiti, wooden bow-truss ceilings and brick walls. The exhibition area is open-plan—a choice that gives exhibition designers a clean slate and total flexibility. All exhibitions result from the proposals of independent curators. A+D has joined a growing number of cultural institutions that have made the Arts District home. It’s in walking distance of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the design school SCIArc and the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and Box galleries. A+D board president Eric Stultz said the museum is forging its way in the downtown landscape of art and cultural institutions. “We wish to make our neighbors aware that we are the only museum in Los Angeles with a specialized focus on architecture and design… we are fortunate to be surrounded by esteemed academic institutions that offer architecture and design as core curricula…and feel that we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of their impressive resources.” As to A+D’s future, Stultz said, “We currently have a memorandum of understanding with the AIA (American Institute of Architects) to be a critical component of CALA—The Center for Architecture and Urban Design, Los Angeles. The Center is a design commons that inspires, engages and educates creative professionals, our elected leaders and the public to come together to advance the quality of the Los Angeles built environment.”
A+D Museum Exterior Views Photos: Chris Teuber
A+D plays a significant role in the community through its numerous outreach programs for young people and adults. Jo Lauria, A+D interim executive director, describes these programs as, “the heartbeat of A+D. They fulfill our education mission and provide us with the opportunity to connect over shared passions, whether it be conversations with architects and/or designers, or workshops that enhance understanding and appreciation for these disciplines.” A+D partners with CityLife Summer Camp, a full-time program for students between the ages of 11 and 14 at A+D’s Stephen Kanner Education Center. The camp offers teenagers the opportunity to study architecture, design and urban planning. In addition, Kanner Center serves as a venue for student work, special critiques, charrettes, lectures, movie screenings and ongoing education workshops. The recent exhibition Come In! DTLA (March 24 – June 23) was curated by Danielle Rago and designed by Tyler McMartin. The exhibition was the fifth iteration of the A+D’s annual Come In series, which explores specific themes engaging local L.A. emerging architects, designers and artists. Celebrating the Museum’s new home in L.A.’s Downtown Arts District, the exhibit presented the work of 18 Los Angeles–based artists, architects and designers. The show was intended as a forum for architects, artists and designers based in Downtown L.A. or surrounding neighborhoods who were inspired by the location itself, according to Rago. In addition, the work had to be “innovative and demonstrate a cross section of what was happening within the city today, creatively speaking,” Rago said. She characterized the participants as those “who present work that pushes the boundaries of architecture and design, extending to graphics, digital media, landscape, fashion, furniture, installation, photography, sculpture and more.” Each participant’s work has its territory defined through the use of scrims made from transparent plastic sheeting. The exhibit included the work of photographer Ave Pildas; fashion designers Behnaz Farahi and Julia Koerner; architects Besler & Sons; shoe designer Chris Francis; landscape architects Commonstudio, fine artists Tim Durfee Studio, HK Zamani and Vincent Tomczyk; graphic artists Kat Catmur and LAD Design; product designers KILLSPENCER x SNARKITECTURE; architecture and game designer Ozel Office; furniture-makers Ross Hansen Design and Taidgh O’Neill Design; installation artists Still Room and Untitled Mondays and architect/installation designer Vertebrae. Much of the work reflected the current highly theorized, mediated and ephemeral nature of art and design although several presentations
broke this mold. The street photography of Ave Pildas presents astonishingly verité observations of DTLA’s diverse residents. Pildas says it employs “the snapshot aesthetic of 20th century photographers such as Friendlander, Arbus, Winograd and Cartier-Bresson.” Ozel Office’s interactive digital animation, digital prints and 3D-printed object for Mission to Mars, A 3D Printed Habitat for NASA, 2015 represents an extraordinary act of conceptualization. Ozel Office (with UCLA’s Department of Engineering) responded to NASA’s 2015 3D Printed Habitats Challenge for an architect to propose a design and fabrication strategy for the first manned mission to Mars. By proposing a 3D printing technique using indigenous materials, Ozel Office aimed “to create high performance, composite enclosures that can face the extreme environmental context.” The result combined tough-minded, imaginative design solutions with a visionary sensibility, blending science fiction with the practicalities of creating a daily existence in a harsh environment.
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Ini Archibong Jadis Chandelier
The Magical Luxury of Ini Archibong â€”
WORDS SHANA NYS DAMBROT IMAGES COURTESY OF THE DESIGNER
At just 32, designer Ini Archibong is already taking the international high-end design world by storm, creating bespoke objects of interpretive materialism and poetic narrative. The Pasadena native, and Art Center College of Design alum, has lived, worked and studied in cosmopolitan centers from New York to Singapore to Lausanne. Archibong’s studio is based in Basel, Switzerland; and he is fresh off an artistic triumph at Milan’s Salone Satellite. But he will be the first to tell you that despite his intercontinental pedigree, his is a thoroughly Los Angeles story. “Everything I do is about finding ways to tell my own story,” he said, “and that story is completely about growing up in LA.” His uniquely thoughtful, unconventional approach to classic materials like wood, leather, glass, steel and marble—and his taste for non-traditional collaborative projects—deliberately reflect his own multifaceted background and eclectic influences.
Ini Archibong Jadis Chandelier (top), Cheshire Settee (bottom, behind table), Galilee Coffee Table (bottom, left), Orion Side Table (bottom, right)
As a student at Pasadena’s exclusive Polytechnic prep academy, Archibong was already a serious scholar by age 12, when he taught himself Photoshop and 3D modeling, and took full advantage of the resources the school had to offer in science and math. But Poly also required students to take art and craft/shop courses from ceramics to woodworking, enameling and even wrought iron. “I didn’t even know design was a field, much less that it would come to be my calling,” Archibong said, “The first art I ever saw was not in galleries—it was the mural and graffiti scene I saw driving down the 110. It made me want to sketch.” At school he fell in love with pottery and wood sculpture most of all, and came to value it as a form of artistic expression; even going so far as to present a pottery show as his senior thesis project—something that had never been done at Poly before. That was the first of the panoply of inspired and serendipitous deviations from the norm that defines Archibong’s career. He continued to treat his love of ceramics as a hobby, accepting a full scholarship to business school at the University of Southern California. But after two years of “ditching business courses to use the ceramics studio and audit philosophy classes,” he found himself on academic probation, and in deviation number two, walked away. By this time, the technology of digital design, especially his first love, 3D modeling, had advanced exponentially. Archibong immersed himself in its expressive possibilities while figuring out how to tell his parents he’d dropped out and waiting for a new muse to appear. One day, while wandering down Mission Street, he passed a random storefront window with the simple sign, George Architects. On a whim, he walked in and asked for a job. Archibong worked there for three years and got really good at it, especially rendering. His boss and mentor talked him into attending Art Center, which he did, with every intention of becoming an architect, until he attended a furniture class, a requirement in the Environmental Design program. “In architecture and even conceptual product design, it was so focused on the rendering, the idea, the commercial potential. Here at last was the chance to make something perfect and real, to channel my artistic point of view into realized pieces, tangible, gorgeous objects to be put out into the world.” His first fully executed piece (an office table on casters) was picked up and licensed by Bernhardt Design; Archibong was named student designer of the year, and that was that. Drawn to the luxury sector, first in Singapore, then in Switzerland, Archibong earned an MFA in Luxury—yes, that’s a thing—from the the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), a university of art and design. He did this for access to the kind of high quality materials and production resources that he felt would best enable him to realize his vision without compromise. Zeitgeist and good timing 34
Ini Archibong Jadis Chandelier
Ini Archibong Galilee Coffee Table (left), Orion Side Table (right)
Ini Archibong Jadis Chandelier
proved Archibong right. He burst onto the scene armed with an eclectic skill set that included philosophical rigor, business education, magnetic personal charm, infectious enthusiasm and the cache of being an LA designer at a time when the European market was becoming obsessed with all things California. Perhaps the most LA part of Archibong’s story is his friendship with the actor and artist Terry Crews, which blossomed into a collaborative patronage in which Crews ended up sponsoring/commissioning a capsule collection—one that would be the perfect unfettered expression of Archibong’s artistic identity. This suite of two tables, a sofa and a chandelier became In the Secret Garden, the installation so well received in Milan. “Terry wanted no creative control. ‘Do whatever you want,’ he said. So I made me.” Formally, the most unusual part of the collection is the way Archibong used glass, as both structural support and allegorical content. He worked with a well-known Swiss glassblower, a master of his craft who, Archibong laughed, “had never seen anything like what I was asking for. I wanted color, I wanted glass legs that could support a marble tabletop. I wanted a table that made people wonder. I wanted magic and illusion, and we made it happen.” But this interpretive inversion of traditional materials is more than a surprising feat of engineering; it moves the story. It turns out that the series is based on the Chronicles of Narnia, aspects of ancient mythology and even Alice in Wonderland. Even more surprising is how literal and legible those references are in the pieces, especially once you know. In the Galilee table, for example, Archibong uses blue glass in a reference to the parable of Jesus walking on water. “But did you know,” said Archibong, “that Peter also walked on water? It was just for a few seconds, before he looked down and lost confidence and fell.” In the Orion table, named for the celestial hunter, red glass stands in for blood. Orion, son of Poseidon, the sea god, could walk on water too. The Jadis chandelier is named for the White Witch of Narnia. Its canopy is marble, and the hanging lights appear to be emerging from it much the way flowers poke out of melting snow. The Cheshire Settee is the Cheshire Cat, of course; its eyes and teeth are not even subtle. “The collection explores what makes me me,” Archibong said. “It’s furniture of a personal mythology, reflecting my obsession with books, optimism, heroes... all of it. It is, I admit, incredibly literal, but you have to believe in magic to really see it.” More information on Ini Archibong can be found at designbyini.com.
YOUNG-HWAN CHOI: PHOTOGRAPHY BECKONED —
WORDS EVA RECINOS IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
While many artists pursue other career paths before settling on art, Young-hwan Choi’s disparate journey actually informed his current practice rather than standing apart from it. In the moments when he wasn’t holding a camera, Choi found the very material that inspired him to take more photos. As a child growing up in South Korea, Choi grew interested in photography while observing his father, also a photographer. But other concerns soon came to the fore. At the age of five, a disease threatened his life—and changed his perspective on death and living. He decided to become a pediatrician, but after a stint as a photographer for his school paper, photography beckoned him back. 40
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #037, 2008
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #11, 2013
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #10, 2013
Young-hwan Choi. Requiem #4, 2010
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #6, 2013
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #1, 2013
Young-hwan Choi. Babel #17, 2011
Young-hwan Choi. Requiem #17, 2009
“When I was an intern doctor, I had many chances to see patients facing death at the ICU of a hospital,” said Choi. “At that time, I recalled distinctly my fear of death when I was a child.” He channeled this fear and fascination with death into his work. During his resident training at university, Choi completed his first series, Requiem. The stark black-and-white photographs feature scenes that capture desolation: a close-up of a cracked statue, a skyward view of a single bird flying. These are the snapshots of a dark flâneur, a wanderer who finds the most desolate scenes and catalogues them with stunning honesty. “Most of these patients were uneasy, afraid, and in pain, due to despair,” said Choi. “But some of them seemed to get over their fear of death. They had peace of mind. When I met them, I discovered the enlightenment that human beings can get—genuine peace by depending on absolute truth. And then, I was able to get the inspiration for my Requiem series.” Babel, the photographer’s next series, takes a similar approach: street photography becomes a means for catching the city and natural landscape in its quietest moments, devoid of any passersby. But this series at least gives us a few
more hints of civilization: high-rise buildings, framed photographs of unknown faces and man-made waste. In his artist’s statement, Choi explained that he created the series to explore how society “uniformly pursues empty values” through scenes that capture “the intimate inner worlds of people today.” Choi is currently working on a series called Eden: color photographs that explore three distinct themes. The first touches upon “our feelings of nostalgia for paradise;” the second explores “desire” and “free will” within Eden; the last looks at manmade versions of Eden, natural spaces in the world that resemble the biblical land. While heavy themes and complex questions pervade these photographs, Choi hopes the viewer will find some form of solace in them. “Of course, when I made my artwork it was therapeutic in regard to my fear of death,” he said. “And I hope that the audience who sees my artworks will be able to begin to process and overcome their fear of death.” Much of Choi’s work continually revisits the tenuous thread between life and death, not to linger there too long, but to find a sort of acceptance and healing. The implication is that death cannot be denied, and fear of it should be explored so that it does not become too powerful. “My artwork includes the emotions of fear about death and extinction,” said Choi. “If these emotions are suppressed continuously, they can eventually explode in our minds. I think that photography which includes tragedy can help us safely eliminate unhealthy emotions from our minds.” The artist recently exhibited his work at Photo Independent and is finishing his graduate degree at Sangmyung graduate school. More of his work can be viewed at http://cyh7021.blog.me/.
BARBARA KASTEN: STAGES MOCA PACIFIC DESIGN CENTER (MAY 28 – AUGUST 14, 2016)
WORDS EVA RECINOS IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
In a digital era that knows full well not to trust the images seen on the Internet, or even in person, it’s expected that we might approach photographs with a hint of reserve. How much of what we see is “true” to the extent that it looked just that way when the photo was taken? How much was constructed afterward? 54
Barbara Kasten Architectural Site 7, July 14, 1986 60 x 56 Inches, Cibachrome. Location: World Financial Center, New York, NY. Architect: CĂŠsar Pelli. Courtesy of the Artist.
Barbara Kasten Scene III, 2012 Archival Pigment Print. 53.75 x 43.75 Inches. Courtesy of the Artist.
Barbara Kasten Construct VIII, 1982 10 x 8 Inches, Polaroid. Courtesy of the Artist.
Much of the literature surrounding the photographic work of Barbara Kasten focuses on the question of veracity. Viewers must be reminded, lest they forgot or are encountering Kasten’s work without knowing her process, that her images are not Photoshop collages. Stages looks not only at Kasten’s photography but also at her overall production and the way in which she plays with the world’s stages—its outdoor spaces and natural forms—and creates her own by meshing her work with dance productions and carefully constructing images through her own elaborate staging. Her Architectural Site series takes architectural spaces in cities like Los Angeles and transforms them into centers of bold colors and dizzying reflections. To achieve this, she controlled each element of the image and transformed the space into something new. “When I took my studio process to site specific architectural locations, the production grew to cinematic proportions,” said Kasten. “The Architectural Site series needed to be photographed overnight with a professional crew who had the experience to set up the lighting necessary on that scale. I worked closely with a six to ten member team, all working to create my vision.” Kasten acknowledges that growing up in Chicago probably helped her develop an interest in architecture. Stages was previously exhibited at the ICA Philadelphia and its current iteration in Los Angeles is like a journey that’s come full circle—some of the photographs in the Architectural Site series feature locations such as the MOCA Grand Avenue site in downtown L.A. “My 10 years in Los Angeles was a very important time in the beginning of my career,” said Kasten. “It was the transition period from textiles and painting to photographic experimentation. It seemed like the natural location [for me] to return to photograph the important architecture of the time. And now it is great to acknowledge my close connection to Los Angeles with the exhibition.” Her Construct series follows the same methods of production and theatricality. In these bold images, Kasten employed everything from gels to backdrops to wood props. These scenes in particular seem like they might have been manipulated in Photoshop, but Kasten simply made intentional choices to achieve the right effect. Much of the exhibition’s wall text focuses on the themes of the tactile and the optical. Her Photogenic Paintings seduce the viewer by capturing the essence of texture so convincingly. In taking them in, the viewer might feel the urge to reach out and touch them. The cyanotype prints on BFK Rives paper look more like undulating pieces of fabric than like photographs. 58
Barbara Kasten Architectural Site 17, August 29, 1988 60 x 50 Inches, Cibachrome. Location: High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Architect: Richard Meier. Courtesy of the Artist.
Barbara Kasten Photogenic Painting, Untitled 21, 1975 30 x 40 Inches, Cyanotype. Courtesy of the Artist.
Stages also features Kasten’s artistic practice in other media besides photography. Her mid-1960s work considers the art of craft. In 1971, Kasten worked with sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz in Poland through a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. Seated Form considers the imprints the human body leaves behind, showing the viewer three different chairs with textiles in varying shapes on top. Photographs on the wall show a female body in various positions with the chair. Here, the architectural forms come through in the shapes and swells of the both the body and the chair. “I am happy that the book and the exhibition show that I have been involved in interdisciplinary mediums throughout my career,” said Kasten. For this version of Stages, Kasten also created a site-specific piece, a projection of floating cubes that spins on a corner wall of the museum, changing colors as the viewer watches. At different turns, the projections shift, becoming two-dimensional and then three-dimensional again. Kasten established a great synergy with the Los Angeles curatorial team. “Bennett Simpson is an insightful, creative and experienced curator who was pleasure to work with,” said Kasten. “He considered my opinions and those of Alex Klein, the originating ICA Philadelphia curator of Stages for every step along the way. We had an excellent collaborative experience in creating an interesting interpretation of the show in the unique space of the MOCA PDC.” Commenting on the nature of abstraction in an increasingly digital age, Kasten emphasized that what comes first is perhaps not the medium but the content. “The digital process is a technique that can be used to affect content but does not define photography,” Kasten said. “There are still many ways to use photographic properties in making art. In fact, the digital technology may be inspiring more mixed media and experimentation than before.”
SHAPING THE UNSEEN: DORON GAZIT —
WORDS LEAH SCHLACKMAN IMAGES COURTESY DORON GAZIT
If you ask Doron Gazit about the inspiration behind his life’s work as both a designer and artist, he’ll likely reach into his back pocket to show you: Balloons. Simple, wilted balloons, the kind you inflate and twist into dogs, swords and hats at a children’s birthday party. “This is how I put myself through school and it has informed my entire career. I carry it with me as a reminder that you can find inspiration in anything.” 62
Doron Gazit | Frozen Flow
Doron Gazit | Sculpting the Wind, Sand Dunes, Israel.
For decades, industrial designer and environmental artist Doron Gazit has been using inflatables as a way of transforming and making an impact on space. The creator of the ubiquitous dancing inflatable, the Israeli-born Gazit, with his company Air Dimensional Design, Inc., has designed and produced inflatable landscapes for major events such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Oscars. Gazit supervises the design and production of every inflatable to leave the Air Dimensional Design studio, from engineering new lighting systems and overseeing the pattern-making to designing new, lightweight stands to enhance the inflatable experience. His expertise in design and understanding of materials, however, reaches far beyond the walls of Air Dimensional Design. Building on his life’s work as a designer and his life-long love of the natural world, Gazit uses his artwork to explore the relationship between the synthetic and the natural. In his sculptures and environmental installations, he articulates the power of the elements, making the invisible visible. Using the landscape as a canvas and the wind’s current as his medium, Gazit employs plastic tubes—ranging in size from 50 to 500 feet —to draw dynamic, three-dimensional lines across the natural plane. In his Sculpting the Wind series, Gazit and his team use open-ended plastic tubes to catch the current, allowing the wind to inflate and deflate the tube as it moves across the landscape-turned-canvas. Gazit’s use of natural elements for mark-making allows the viewer to witness the shape of something usually seen only in its effect on other objects (rustling leaves, the whirling weather vane). Gazit’s most recent body of work, Frozen Flow, also stands at the cross-section of the organic and the synthetic. These forms, originally resulting from a production mishap, are a study and celebration of the material with which he has worked his entire life: plastic. In Frozen Flow, Gazit allows the material to take a more natural shape than the conventional assembly-line rigidity normally expected of it. It spills and folds over onto itself, then hardens to form the final sculpture, illuminated from within, by a light source designed by Gazit himself. It is The Red Line that has garnered the most attention for Gazit, earning him a solo exhibition at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art this past spring. In The Red Line, Gazit uses his background in inflatables to demarcate the tragic effects climate change has wrought on the environment, visiting sites such as the Dead Sea and the San Joaquin Valley, where global warming has caused a decrease in the sea level and crippling drought, respectively. The red tube is a metaphor for a vein, conveying a sense of the earth as a living organism; vulnerable and delicate. Gazit travels to each site, unfurls the enormous tube and attaches it to a mechanical blower, making the line three-dimensional. Once the tube is inflated, Gazit documents the site, capturing the stark red vein splayed across the desolate 66
Doron Gazit | Red Line in the Burnt Forest
Doron Gazit | Red Line in the Dead Sea Sinkholes
Doron Gazit | Sculpting the Wind, San Francisco.
Doron Gazit | New York Convention Center
landscape. He then rolls the tube back up, packs it away and begins planning the next site visit. The Red Line has been rolled and unrolled for each iteration of the series. “We need to learn to conserve,” Gazit explained. “We misuse and overuse so many different materials and resources.” Symbolically, recycling the same red tube at every site perfectly articulates the connectedness of the environment. The same blood-line that runs through Israel runs through California, runs through Brazil, etc. The bold, unnatural color of the tube contrasts starkly with the dried sea-beds and charred tree branches, communicating the urgency of the problem. Gazit hopes to inspire others to take responsibility for the world around them and raise awareness of the devastating effects global warming has already caused in the environment. A balloon not yet inflated is the embodiment of potential; it is a shape waiting to be a new shape. The balloon is a vessel for invisible current, made to be manipulated and folded, to form something entirely new. It is simplicity awaiting complexity. Gazit does not use the “B-word” when referring to his own work, but he does not shy away from acknowledging the balloon’s capability, or its power to inspire. 69
ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW BY ARTRA CURATORIAL: MAX PRESNEILL (MP), KIO GRIFFITH (KG) & COLTON STENKE (CS)
BESSIE KUNATH Bessie Kunath takes everyday materials and creates small scale, intimate sculptures and installations; hand-made and strangely elegant while still being coarsely fashioned. The pieces embody an exploration of their own materiality and scale, the possibilities in their construction, the process of decision-making and a fine sensibility for subtle nuance of line and tone. With alterations and manipulations that allow fresh and engaging ways of re-encountering the forms, the sculptures mimic Minimalism but are provisional and poetic. They are distanced and yet considered while maintaining a sense of personality and idiosyncratic playfulness. They contain an oddness that pulls you in, while succeeding in simultaneously pushing you away—an unsolved mystery. Kunath implies a functionality that suggests more about the human brain’s need to formulate meaning and impose structure than perhaps exists in the objects themselves. They are conduits to reflecting the working of our own minds. Their intuitive and lyrical qualities ensure our response is a positive one, suggesting oblique references while never committing to any one dialogue or enquiry. The forms conceal their intentions and remain familiar, if unknowable, a container of their own selfhood, a fragment, a memory, reflecting our own ‘Self’—a body, a place in time and space… (MP) Website: bessiekunath.com
Bessie Kunath Consequences Installation Photo
DAVID LEAPMAN The quizzical paintings of David Leapman bounce out at the viewer through the use of fluorescent colors, but it is the line work hovering somewhere between figuration and the abstract that creates a magical scenario for considering his intentions. There is a calculated precision at work here, a careful regard. Quiet, but with a screaming intensity, the paintings remain poetic and lyrical, with the luminosity of Russian icons (both in their spirituality and in the desire for truth at their core). The biomorphic worm-like lines, the broken squiggles, the little individualized blocks of bright color, sometimes seen in stripe form, all combine to lead a narrative that avoids direct confrontation but rather sneaks around in our peripheral vision, while we fall for the sleight of hand when the forms suggest we might have discovered a resolution of meaning. The paintings have a graphic simplicity that misdirects the viewer, concealing their complexity. The colors are direct and bold, the line child-like in its imperfections. The forms cavort or maintain defensive positions, they lead us astray. They are tricksters. They seem tied to the digital realm but are cognizant of their own physicality as an act of painting, the paint handling prominent when seen in real life while disappearing in reproduction very easily. The search for meaning continues, with answers intangible and elusive, the gap between one and the other more pertinent than ever. (MP) Website: davidleapman.com
David Leapman Intoxicating Casings, 2015 Dayglo Acrylic on Canvas 12 x 9 inches
GABIE STRONG In a relentless, unreformable state of entropy, attention is as an alembic, distilling the player into a true physical sound emitted directly through abrasive and unflinching rigor. Gabie Strongâ€™s trans-disciplinary approach is an everyday resistance, not easily recognized as a public or collective modelâ€”such as rebellions or demonstrationsâ€”but rising out of its burial, camouflaged and not politically articulated. With subtle pungency, the fine-grained eruptions of her guitar wade among moments of stark primitivism generating sonic matrices that reticulate the acoustic depths of nature, technology and culture, leaving behind the destabilizing limits of any scale or chromatics. The auras emitted from each string attack sustain and hover over the fluctuating decaying void. (KG) Website: gabiestrong.com
Opposite Gabie Strong Music for Healing Performance Below Gabie Strong MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Los Angeles Performance
FRESH FACES IN ART
MARTINE SYMS By examining assumptions in contemporary America about identity, memories and beliefs, Martine Syms’ response contests propriety within art and art forms. A self-proclaimed “conceptual entrepreneur,” her work covers themes as varied as Afrofuturism, queer theory and the power of language. The rarified access to work in a typical institutional art context does not concur with Syms’ strategy of disseminating information; rather, she takes her work to where everyone hangs out—the Internet—and engages with different audiences through films, public lectures and publications. For Syms, these influences of discourse through ideas open up the gamut for conversation, even taking into consideration the virtual risks of trolling, the inherent potential for misunderstandings, and the ubiquitous presence of anything said and made living forever online. (KG) Website: martinesyms.com
Opposite Martine Syms S1:E1 Installation, 2015 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience New Museum Photo by Benoit Pailley Below Martine Syms Lessons I-XXX, 2014
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GALLERY REVIEWS PORCH GALLERY, OJAI Joshua Abarbanel & China Adams: Seismic | Formations (April 14-May 29, 2016) Words Shana Nys Dmbrot
Seismic | Formations, brings together works by China Adams and Joshua Abarbanel, artists whose practices are not overtly linked. Yet when considered together, as with all inspired curatorial pairings, the contrasts and confluences between the two artists highlight particular qualities of each. Here, those qualities include patience, obsessive execution, a fascination with expressions of the passage of time and the ways in which processes of nature and industry mimic one another in forms of instinct and entropy. The graphite drawings in Adams’ series A Certain Period of Time describe, prove and embody the physical, durational action of their own creation. Their conceptually hermetic, metonymical structures read as objects in pictorial space when viewed at a distance, but flatten out on approach, coming to resemble the stylus-graphs of earthquake tracking or lie detectors. The curvilinear outlines and contoured edges of the “shapes” generated by her repetitive but variable march of vertical marks seem
Joshua Abarbanel | Reef 09 | Stained and Unstained Wood. 26 x 40 Inches.
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fluid at their edges, like billowing silk; yet they regain heft as well as spatial occupation with distance, resembling sketches of Richard Serra sculptures planted upright in white grounds, before proximity again disrupts the illusions of smooth surface which devolve and resolve into the crisp individual lines of their beings. Abarbanel’s machine-tooled, hand-assembled works for wall, ceiling suspension and tabletop are, by contrast, ineffably dimensional and tactile, telegraphing their profusion of quasi-organic detail at any pace. His constructions resemble the fractal perfection of lichen, moss, barnacles, flower beds and the knotty, gnarly bark of the wood from which they are culled. Newer works called Hulls resemble helmets, geodes, armadillos covered in flowers, partly unearthed ancient vessels… and are set down with balanced poise and illuminated from within. Both artists achieve powerful moments of paradox in their works; the illusion at work in Abarbanel’s pieces is the push and pull between the made and the grown, rather than between the flat and the spatial. In a salient and serendipitous overlap, Adams includes a small number of pieces that speak to Abarbanel’s. In these her time-based mark-making departs from the rectilinear to depict a cross-section of the concentric rings that mark the age of a tree, containing as it does in its very body the shape of its years of existence with lines of varying thickness and strength, recalling the encoded narratives that inspire each of these singular artists. LAMAG AT BARNSDALL ART PARK, HOLLYWOOD COLA 2016: (City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowships) (May 15-July 3, 2016) Words Megan Abrahams
One of art’s most exciting intangibles is the element of the unexpected. The 2016 City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowships (COLA) exhibit created a synergistic platform for 12 mid-career artists who run the gamut from puppeteers to poets. Their works explored a diverse array of concepts and disciplines—flavored with a potent measure of the unexpected. Strikingly, an unusual range of media formed the building blocks for much of the work—repurposed books and furniture, for instance, or porcelain, vintage faucets, ragdolls, flagging tape and a bicycle. This curious selection of unconventional media resulted in a surprising diversity of art objects, from curio cabinets stocked with coral specimens to a multi-colored pseudo-architectural structure. Despite this range of material and underlying themes, the disparate works somehow came together with a spontaneous, surprising and perhaps accidental synergy. Such lucky harmony can’t merely be attributed to any curatorial continuity achieved with enticing splashes of color throughout the exhibit, or the consistently innovative use of unconventional 79
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Megan Geckler | Rendering of Your Escape From Patterns Your Parents Designed, 2016. Extruded Aluminum and Flagging Tape. 120 x 120 x 120 inches.
Christine Nguyen | Portals of Light From the Mountain and Night Sky, 2016. Spray Paint on Folded Paper, Glass, Solder, Copper Foil Tape, Paint on Clay. Dimensions Variable.
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media. Rather, the pieces seemed to connect in a more profound way, because of the pervasive level of imagination and ingenuity driving them. Several of the featured works achieve that unquantifiable quality of unexpectedness—as with Megan Geckler’s Cube, one of the more prominent pieces. A centerpiece in the gallery space, this-site specific installation is a self-defining hybrid of architecture, sculpture and commercial design. Cube is composed of industrial materials, comprising a frame of extruded aluminum with walls and ceiling made of flagging tape woven in complex patterns. This brightly colored tape is Geckler’s preferred medium, supplanting paint. Reminiscent of a child’s playhouse, the piece is large enough for viewers to enter, with a door that may be closed, cutting off the surrounding world. Also unexpected was Christine Nguyen’s dramatic monumental mural, Portal of Light from the Mountain and Night, which enveloped an entire gallery wall. The work carefully married the wall’s architectural dimensions in an elegant abstract narrative composed of folded spray-painted sheets of paper pinned to the wall in a mosaic-like composition, with the climactic triangular mountain shape in the center. Unanticipated, too, was Blue McRight’s Font, a bookcase filled with predominantly blue- and green-covered water-themed books adorned with faucets and coils of hose, as if to suggest the inherent potential outpouring of knowledge, or that by the process of some metaphoric magic we might turn on the tap of narrative flow. Unexpected as well was Keiko Fukazawa’s Homage to Ai Weiwei. In this symbolic installation, a veil of 3,000 unglazed porcelain flowers surrounds a bicycle, its basket filled with silk flowers. The work references the Chinese dissident artist who was placed under house arrest by the Chinese government. In 2013, in silent protest during the course of his travel ban, he placed flowers in the basket of his bicycle parked outside his studio. These four pieces were prominent among the standouts in an intriguing and varied exhibit, one that annually celebrates individual mid-career artists while giving them the support and exposure they merit. FABIEN CASTANIER GALLERY, CULVER CITY JonOne: Urban Legacy (May 14-June 11, 2016) Words Shana Nys Dambrot
Urban Legacy is more than the sum of its parts — an extraordinarily vivacious series of abstract expressionist compositions from a titan of graffiti and street art which is also emblematic of a shift within the street art world toward the embrace of serious studio-based painting practices. When JonOne came up as an artist in 81
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JonOne | Walking Through The Darkness, 2016, Acrylique, Encre et Posca Sur Toile, 144 x 198 cm.
Harlem and Paris in the late 1970s and ‘80s, the Wild Style graffiti writing explosion was in full bloom, its mannerist flowering festooning the railyards and subway trains of New York with a profusion of fabulously eccentric fonts and saturated palettes, kaleidoscopic flourishes and inscrutable arabesques. They existed on a large scale and were often seen at a distance and/or through the blur of motion as trains raced past and above stationary viewers on sidewalks and platforms. Not everyone felt this way back then, but the experience was amazing — beautiful and free — like pollen-laden tropical flowers and dark vines silhouetted against postcard sunsets. Graffiti, not vandalism, it was actually a resistance to blight, a kinetic cloud of monuments to individual creativity. Though those throw-ups, not unlike certain traditions of ornate calligraphy, were more about imagery than legibility, they were, in fact, words. Twisted into abstraction, they were often laid over fresh color field backgrounds, and/or on top of other writing like a multi-layered crayon box meltdown. JonOne was one of the best at it, but that’s never been all he is. Like other street art-based painters, he has actively, purposefully recalibrated his painting practice for the canvas, for wrist rather than elbow, for expanses of blank white instead of distressed, palimpsestic steel. The libretto has all but vanished, but the opera of color, excited energy, palpable motion 82
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in the confetti of dispersed mark-making and seemingly infinite variegations of palette and qualities of impasto, still recall the dynamism of his Wild Style roots. Meanwhile, JonOne has become increasingly expert at constructing receding pictorial space, introducing quasi-architectural framing devices within the imagery, landscape-style boundaries against oceanic sweeps of purely abstract detail and a galactic array of individual points of contact between brush/knife/nozzle and canvas. Both a new and old art-historical style, it’s just as wild as ever. ACE GALLERY, LOS ANGELES Laurie Lipton: Techno Rococo (February-June, 2016) Words Michael McCall
Laurie Lipton’s solo exhibition, Techno Rococo, is an ironic take on our society’s complicated progress from the industrial to the tech revolutions. While her complex vision — a dystopian future featuring details of retro beauty juxtaposed with contemporary references — comes across like a horror movie, the exhibition is mesmerizing. Lipton’s large photorealist, graphite pencil and charcoal drawings all have a surreal twist, seducing the viewer into approaching the way a Diane Arbus or a Joel-Peter Witkin photograph compels us to dance. But once up close and present, the viewer is assaulted with a barrage of imagery. It hits deep. This dance of seduction can Laurie Lipton | Techno Rococo, 2016. Ace Gallery, Los Angeles. get uncomfortable; a tap dance of cacophonous beats that may have you stepping on your own feet. Born in 1953, Lipton grew up during a time when many women stayed home to take care of the household. In her piece Cooked, a well-coiffed housewife is in her kitchen seemingly making dinner. Instead of the juicy turkey one might expect, 83
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however, she is extricating a tired, run-down machine from the oven. The cupboards are packed – not with food , but tubes and pipes. She seems happy and completely oblivious. In another piece, Off, the housewife stands in front of an open refrigerator holding a bottle of milk; the refrigerator is loaded with rotten food. When you look closely, two sly, satirical details of this disturbing tableau surreptitiously emerge: The cord to the icebox lies unplugged on the floor while the housewife herself has a small crack in her front tooth; the smile is blemished. The tech revolution doesn’t go unmocked either. In Wired, a wrinkled arm dominates a busy digital-wire background, the hand holding a cellphone with a selfie image capturing a partial view of a face. A single troubled eye looks out toward the viewer. Disturbing, humorous, apocalyptic, entertaining, the dance goes back and forth. Lipton’s conclusion is unmistakable: our collective soul is dying. But maybe we will just ignore the chaos, our inevitable destruction and death, like lemmings walking off a cliff. CRAFT AND FOLK ART MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES Windfall By Box Collective (May 29-September 4, 2016) Words Kay Whitney
Demonstrating ongoing support for environmental responsibility, the Craft and Folk Art Museum exhibit Windfall By Box Collective, is a collection of work embodying the standards of green design. The 15 pieces of furniture, sculpture and domestic objects on display were fashioned from some of the thousands of trees that fell between November 30th and December 1, 2011 during the San Gabriel Valley windstorm. Most of the works are made out of wood from fallen trees collected at the Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Gardens. Ten members of Box Collective are represented: Robert Apodaca, Casey Dzierlenga, Harold Greene, David Johnson, RH Lee & JD Sassaman, Samuel Moyer, Andrew Riiska, Stephan Roggenbuck, Cliff Spencer and William Stranger. The Los Angeles-based group of furniture makers is committed to sustainable design and production. Their mission is to emulate the era when value was placed on fine craftsmanship, long-lasting materials and sound design. Employing reclaimed materials that would otherwise be discarded, they dumpster-dive and upcycle wood, scrap, glass, metal or paper products. The pieces in the Windfall exhibition are stripped of extraneous detail and express their composite materials. The most sculptural piece in the show is Riiska’s window installation, Marshmallow Box Garden, made from a single piece of bark-cov-
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Cliff Spencer | Windfall By Box Collective, Craft And Folk Art Museum.
ered Aspen log that’s been cut into segments. The segments are pierced by dozens of thin, peeled branches, each crowned with a wooden cube. Its playfulness stands out against the backdrop of functional objects. Stranger’s darkly hovering I-Table is made from a slab of Paulownia cantilevered over a steel I-beam. Inscribed in the end-grain is a quote from the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami: “the wind knows everything inside you.” Box Collective designs do not inhabit the consumerist culture of mass-produced, throwaway objects. Their aesthetic antecedents are found in the Bauhaus, Danish-Modern design and the furniture of Sam Maloof and George Nakashima. The furniture in Windfall illustrates a principle Box Collaborative refers to as ‘emotional design’ — design that produces a strong, enduring relationship between people and products. The smooth, matte surfaces are seductive; the objects invite use but are also meant to be treasured and preserved.
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FILM REVIEW THE GETTY CENTER Burden The Los Angeles premiere of the documentary on artist Chris Burden May 31, 2016 Words Megan Abrahams
Even as a young art student at the University of California Irvine in the early 1970s, Chris Burden had begun the process of defining himself by choreographing detailed conceptual performance pieces. These piqued an unusual amount of attention, garnering him considerable notoriety. For his 1971 master’s thesis, Five Day Locker Piece, Burden confined himself inside a school locker (No. 5) for five consecutive days. Later that year, Burden staged Shoot, in which he arranged to have a bullet shot at his arm. This public event—or sculptural work, as he called it—would ever after be linked to his persona. Stunning archival footage of these and other bravado works form the captivating bones of the 2016 documentary film, Burden, directed by Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey.
Chris Burden | Urban Light, 2008, the Gordon Family Foundation’s gift to “Transformation: The LACMA Campaign,” © Chris Burden, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA.
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The documentary was made with Burden’s consent and participation, granted a few years before the Los Angeles artist was diagnosed with melanoma. He died in May 2015, less than a year before the film’s release. Interviews with Burden in his Topanga Canyon studio during those last few years anchor a compelling narrative thread, adding revealing insight from the point of view of a mature artist looking back and ahead. Branching off from the extreme performance art, drug use and wild acts of his early years, Burden went on to focus his artistic vision beyond the conceptual, leveraging his extraordinary capacity for concept as the blueprint for ingenious kinetic sculptures and immersive installations. These include Metropolis, his homage to Los Angeles; Urban Light, the permanent streetlamp installation outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Ode to Santos Dumont, the kinetic airship sculpture modeled after Alberto Santos-Dumont’s 1901 dirigible that flew around the Eiffel Tower. The latter piece involved a decade of research, and was Burden’s final work. One of the last scenes documents its inaugural display at LACMA in May 2015, just days after the artist’s death. The film captures Burden’s diffident air while convincingly drawing the through line that connects his early performance work with his later sculptures and installations. All were products of Burden’s limitless imagination, an imagination driven by the indomitable character that brought them to life. After this debut among his friends and peers, Burden will go on to be screened on the festival circuit followed by theatrical release.
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MUSEUM VIEWS THE BROAD MUSEUM, DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life (June 11-October 2) Cindy Sherman has become one of today’s most famous living artists by engaging in a supreme and extended act of would-be narcissism. This alone would seem to make her a perfect artist for our time, except that her supreme and extended act is actually one of self-erasure. Sherman has adopted a formula and stuck to it for 40 years (the earliest work in her retrospective is from 1976), precisely in order to set up a pattern that serves as a through line even as it confounds expectations. Although actually, they are less confounded than queered: Sherman’s work is not about Cindy Sherman, it is about all sorts of people whom Sherman plays, and about her playing them. Sherman’s oeuvre is one long theatrical conceit – or, you might say, drag act. This act of disappearance into others serves as a given in any one of Sherman’s series, whether in the Untitled Film Stills with which she broke into international prominence or in the latest work in which she transforms herself into matrons of a certain age, status and milieu. It eliminates the distracting question of who really is appearing in her photographs without obscuring the model’s identity. It’s the same model, picture in and picture out, and the same person who conceived of the image, fashioned it and arranged it. For all that, these are not self-portraits. At most, they’re other-portraits of the self. This might suggest that Sherman is documenting myriad alter egos — the 3000 Faces of Eve. But rather than inner personae, these are outer roles. Their apparent identity trumps their actual identity – which is why the Untitled Film Stills, for instance, are (still) so compelling, so close in spirit to their postwar-European-cinema sources. It is also the reason the grotesquely conceived, garishly colored and lit color photos of the mid-1980s are still so repulsive, whether or not you have a stomach for horror flicks and the Grand Guignol, while yet so riveting. The Untitled Film Stills work wonderfully in reproduction. Every one of them, a gelatin silver print, printed in a cozy (once-ubiquitous) 10 x 8-inch format, they read as pages in a book. The rest of Sherman’s oeuvre, however, suffers at that scale. When she began working in color and in large sizes, she was no longer approximating the conditions of information about movies, but the conditions of movies themselves. In 1980, Sherman went large and loud and has not looked back since – 88
Cindy Sherman | Untitled #122, 1983. Chromogenic color print. 35 1/4 x 21 1/4 inches ÂŠ Cindy Sherman. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures.
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clearly because she wants to maintain and explore how a picture confronts a viewer, whether still or moving. These looming, eye-blistering apparitions need to be oversize and domineering, to the point where viewers aren’t sure at first what they’re looking at and have to re-glance or step back to grasp the subject matter. The subject matter has remained cinematic, but no longer self-consciously, deconstructively, so. At a certain point, Sherman began allowing herself to make fun of her own process while still flogging it. It wasn’t when she really started allowing the seams to show, the make-up to cake and the prosthetic enhancements to begin their decay, so much as when she permitted herself to tell tales out of school rather than being the smart, observant student. Sherman shows through in the non-selfportraits of the ‘90s; once again, they’re about her playing dress-up. But around 2000 she begins disappearing into the portraiture, zooming in on images of contemporary women who could actually exist independent of her. Having admitted to the fakery, Sherman now fakes it better; no longer faking it but playing it. With its careful pace and wise selections, the Broad retrospective makes evident all these undercurrents. It validates the brilliance of Sherman’s calculations and the equal brilliance of her follow-through, and it honors the intensity of her narrow, laser-like vision.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART (LACMA) Agnes Martin (April 24-September 11) Agnes Martin was an artist’s artist. Her approach to art was so singular, so personal and so hermetic that only other artists could (and may still) comprehend, or even appreciate, it. Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, Martin was a fully mature painter when she arrived in New York. She invented a formal language of such restraint and quietude that it skirts the invisible. Fittingly, LACMA has installed this retrospective in a low light, not only to protect the fragile marks Martin made on canvas as well as paper, but to prompt us to look closer. Martin is known for introducing the grid—the evenly spaced recurrence of straight vertical and horizontal lines forming a pattern of quadrilaterals—into the vocabulary of American art. She presented the even crosshatch as a thing in itself, not as an armature for anything else. Her minimalist successors, who helped bring her to prominence, regarded the grid as an ideological tool, a non-hierarchical structure that forced the viewer to regard it as a fixed edifice. But Martin was impelled by a more spiritual impulse. The grid—and, indeed, most of the compelling patterns and
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Agnes Martin | Summer, 1964. Watercolor, ink, and gouache on paper, 9 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches. Collection Patricia L Lewy Gidwitz © 2016 Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Courtesy Pace Gallery.
repeated devices that dot the exhibition—serves as a focus for contemplation, like the highly simplified tantric drawings used for meditation in Eastern practices. The retrospective, going back as far as the early 1950s, consistently portrays Martin’s as a gentle, diffident, even fragile sensibility. Her early abstract canvases may be relatively large and marked with fluid, complex, interlocking shapes, but their muted color and soft edges, entirely free of physical gesture, contradict the aesthetic of abstract expressionism to which they respond. By the end of the decade Martin had gravitated to the reductive, repetitive approach that would define her work for the next half-century.
ART ABOUT TOWN
Agnes Martin | Untitled, c. 1955. Oil on Canvas, 46 1/2 x 66 1/4 inches. Private Collection. © 2016 Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Courtesy Pace Gallery.
It is not the reduction and repetition per se that ravishes so many viewers and confounds so many others; the show’s survey of Martin’s work in the ‘50s and ‘60s includes a number of sculptures, constructions and assemblages that feature these characteristics in a jaunty, even at times aggressive, manner. Rather it is the intimate, even reverent quality of Martin’s two-dimensional work that tests people’s thresholds. You may be moved to exasperation as readily as to tears in a room of her small incised drawings from the early ‘60s but you cannot deny their honesty; they present themselves as devotional objects. In 1967, Martin left New York and art-making, retreating to northern New Mexico to regroup. Her work had become associated with the hot new avant-garde and she was uncomfortable both with minimalist ideology and with the ego-distorting and work-thwarting effects of fame. Six years later, however, she returned to art (if not to New York) with a suite of prints and, subsequently, a sequence of paintings that lasted until her death in 2004 at the age of 92. The prints reiterate Martin’s gridding in a more neutral manner, asking us to fall under the spell of their lockstep compositions without admiring any handiwork. The paintings do the opposite. Clearly handbrushed, the horizontal bands of pale color are deliberately luminous and elusive,
ART ABOUT TOWN
their watery and earthy tones quavering across each canvas in tender echoes of sky and land. The high desert had become Martin’s field of transcendence. While her earlier work had aided her in finding inner peace, her later work induces outer peace, a contentment with the stratified verities of the natural landscape. It’s tempting to say that, while Martin kept her conjuration of inner equilibrium to herself in her earlier work, she shared it with us later. But there is something so right, so thorough in those early-‘60s drawings and paintings and even objects that they still move us profoundly. And, conversely, Martin’s later work is hardly showier; it, too, requires second and third glances for the magic to work. Her art may have changed noticeably after she allowed herself to wander in the desert; but her voice did not.
PASADENA MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA ART Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture (April 17-September 11) Claire Falkenstein, it’s fair to say, was one of 20th century America’s most inventive sculptors—except when she was painting. Best known for dense but aerated volumes formed by elaborate tangles of material (usually metal of some kind), Falkenstein actually began as something of a geometric artist and finished her long career as something of a representational painter. But, as this retrospective demonstrates, she asserted her sensibility early on, and any work of hers, be it eccentric object or expansive commission, bears her imprint. How do you tell a Falkenstein welded steel “bush” from the similarly clumped pedestal pieces of her New York counterparts? How do you tell her elegant, late-Art-Deco reliefs from those fashioned by so many artists bridging the 1930s and ‘40s? How do you distinguish a delicate drawing or lithograph composed of myriad floating flecks from all the other quasi-Asian (and actually Asian) works on paper floating around the ‘60s? By the simultaneous firmness and nervousness of Falkenstein’s line, by her exquisite sense of the properties of diverse materials, by the tendency of her compositions to revolve centripetally and begin to fold in on themselves without ever collapsing. You see this in a 1939 ceramic and equally in a 1992 acrylic on canvas, even though the latter is big, flat and figurative, and the earlier work is small, intimate and loopy. Falkenstein was a product of her time. Much of her work has affinities with abstract expressionism and European art informel—which should be no surprise, as she worked in San Francisco in the 1950s and in Paris and Italy in the ‘60s—but
ART ABOUT TOWN
Claire Falkenstein | The Sign, or Moving Points, 1961. Gouache and Watercolor on Paper, 19 x 25 inches. The Falkenstein Foundation. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York.
Installation view, Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture, April 17-September 11, 2016, Pasadena Museum of California Art. Photo ÂŠ 2016 Don Milici.
ART ABOUT TOWN
admits its roots in the prewar polarities of Surrealism and geometric art, more readily than does most American art of her generation. The relative obscurity into which Falkenstein fell even before her death here in LA in 1997 was due not to any lack of distinction or, conversely, any overwhelming idiosyncrasies, but simply to her refusal to heed the fashions of the moment. She changed style when she felt like it, not when told to do so, and kept herself in the game by employing a vast array of materials, from clay to glass to wood to aluminum to copper wire to iron to oil to acrylic to gouache to precious stones. In fact, Falkenstein is unusual, if not unique, among American sculptors for the range of materials she used, not least in dramatic combination with one another. The principle of conjoining contrasting substances that governs jewelry design governed all Falkenstein’s work, certainly in three dimensions, right from the start. The early geometric works, with their eccentric contours, delicious surfaces and alluring colors capitalize on the poised dissonances she allowed between disparate substances. These objects from the 1940s are elegant because they are rather garish and gawky—and because they are capable of formal moves at least as playful and outré as Alexander Calder’s. The later pieces, crushed webs or controlled explosions of wire, ribbons, tubing and the like, often assume, or at least pretend at, functionality; Falkenstein was especially well known for the gates she fashioned especially for clients at home and abroad, and the show photo-documents the ones that couldn’t actually be shown (or no longer exist). The survey depicts other site-specific or temporary sculpture as well, testifying to Falkenstein’s unstinting sense of adventure and virtuosic handling of all kinds of stuff, from logs to bamboo to fused Venetian glass to Lexan. And, despite the varying scales and tones and compositions, it all always looks—and feels—like her.
Diane Pirie Cockerill Photography
Stephen Rowe Painter
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