CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 39
curatorial.c om/artcrate s
CURATORIAL ASSISTANCE EXHIBITIONS & ART SERVICES
MASTHEAD Publisher Chris Davies Editor Megan Abrahams Associate Editor Peter Frank Creative Director Chris Davies Art Direction & Design Chris Davies and Paul Soady Proofreader Leah Schlackman Contributing Writers Megan Abrahams Shana Nys Dambrot Molly Enholm Peter Frank Lawrence Gipe Juri Koll Simone Kussatz jill moniz EvaÂ Recinos David S. Rubin
Contact Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: email@example.com Web: thisisfabrik.com Mailing Address 269 S. Beverly Drive, #1234 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 Subscriptions To subscribe to Fabrik, please visit us online at www.thisisfabrik.com. 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 ÂŠ 2018. All rights reserved. PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES
ON THE COVER Ed Moses No Tiddle Oh, 2004 Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 48 inches See page 8 for more on Ed Moses: Man of the Tribe
CONTEMPORARY ART & DESIGN // ISSUE 39
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
FABRIK ISSUE 39 Fabrik, Growing by Leaps and Bounds You say “Fabrique” and I say “Fabric” – but however you pronounce it, this (we think) rather elegant and sophisticated magazine, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, is about to enter a new and very exciting phase. In the coming months, after a break while we regroup and redesign, we will launch a newly expanded version of Fabrik. The magazine is merging with ArtScene, which has been providing an indispensable resource on LA art happenings to the local community for more than three decades. But there’s more! By combining forces with ArtScene and its online entity, Visual Art Source (VAS), Fabrik will broaden its reach beyond Los Angeles. We’ll still be LA based, but we’ll also include the western regional art centers – from Seattle to San Diego, to Houston and Chicago – in our coverage. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy our 39th issue, which highlights some of the most important happenings on the ever-fascinating Los Angeles art scene! We were saddened earlier this year to learn of the deaths of LA Cool School painter and legend Ed Moses, and Los Angeles ceramist and sculptor Dora De Larios, whose work is currently the subject of an exhibit at the Main Museum. Inside this issue is Shana Nys Dambrot’s tribute to Moses, and an appreciation of De Larios by jill moniz. Also inside, Lawrence Gipe profiles painter Ian Davis and Eva Recinos profiles LA photographer Christina Fernandez. Dambrot shines a Spotlight on Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), an artist driven non-profit art organization now celebrating its 40th anniversary, and Juri Koll gives us an inside look at another vital non-profit art institution, Art Share L.A. Peter Frank reviews the Jasper Johns retrospective at the Broad, and much more… You may miss us when we go on hiatus, but when we re-emerge, we’ll have even more to talk about... Oh, BTW – we don’t care – just say Fabrik any way you like! Megan Abrahams Editor Spring, 2018
CONTRIBUTORS MEGAN ABRAHAMS is a Los Angeles based painter, writer, art critic and editor. The editor of Fabrik, she is also a contributing writer for WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art and other publications. An artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association, Megan is currently working on a new series of paintings. 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. MOLLY ENHOLM is a writer, art historian and artist based in Los Angeles. She is the former managing editor of art ltd. magazine and contributor to several publications, including Art and Cake, ArtScene, Fabrik, Hi-Fructose and visualartsource.com. Molly also teaches Art History at CSU Northridge. 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. LAWRENCE GIPE is an artist, writer, curator and art educator. His most recent exhibition, which he also co-organized - One Year: The Art of Politics in Los Angeles—was on view at the Brand Library Art Center through January 16, 2018. JURI KOLL is a Venice based artist, curator, writer and filmmaker. He is the Director of the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art and the Fine Arts Film Festival. He has written for the New York Times, the Huff Post and otherpublications. He exhibits extensively. One of his films was recently selected for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. SIMONE KUSSATZ is a German-born journalist and author. Published internationally and trained in the US and Berlin, she now shares her passion for the arts in multiple ways in Los Angeles. JILL MONIZ is an independent curator in Los Angeles. She serves as a community engagement advisor for the Getty, and sits on the CALTRANS Public Art Advisory Board. jill has a doctorate in cultural anthropology and serves as the academic curator at Pomona College Museum of Art. 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 other publications. She is less than five feet tall. DAVID S. RUBIN is a Los Angeles-based curator, writer, art critic and artist. He has held key curatorial positions at museums and contemporary art venues in Southern California, San Francisco, Cleveland, Phoenix, New Orleans and San Antonio.
FEATURES & COLUMNS 8
Spotlight: Ed Moses: Man of the Tribe
Profile: Christina Fernandez: Camera Lens as Window
Profile: Ian Davis, Dystopia in Paint
Spotlight: Keeping It Real: LACE at 40
Spotlight: Art Share LA: New Faรงade & Re-Vitalized Mission
Spotlight: MOAH: Lancaster Museum of Art and History
Spotlight: An Ode to Dora De Larios
Art About Town: Museum Views
Art About Town: Gallery Reviews
Art About Town: Film Review
Fresh Faces in Art: Artists You Should Know
SHANA NYS DAMBROT EVA RECINOS
LAWRENCE GIPE SHANA NYS DAMBROT
Ed Moses, Live Painting at William Turner Gallery
WORDS SHANA NYS DAMBROT IMAGES COURTESY OF WILLIAM TURNER GALLERY
ED MOSES: MAN OF THE TRIBE
Everyone has an Ed Moses story. Mostly these are about big and bold creative ideas, small and sweet notes for ways of living more fully, or just sharing a joint. Frequently all three. For Ed, you see, everything was connected. Better: for Ed, everything you see was connected. When he died in January at the age of 91, this yearâ€™s edition of the Art Palm Springs fair had already announced that he would be honored along with his son, the accomplished painter Andy Moses, as Artists of the Year. The plans went ahead, taking on the celebratory tone of a joyful memorial instead, with a renewed focus on a kind of torch-passing to the younger Moses, an artistic innovator whose style diverges from Edâ€™s, but whose restless spirit of investigation more than reflects his influence. 10
Ed Moses Untitled, 1977 Charcoal, ink and masking tape on board 30 x 20 inches
Both painters show with William Turner Gallery, who presented Ed’s landmark Moses @ 90 exhibition of 2016, and the subsequent Chance and Circumstance of 2017. As the gallery’s text on the latter exhibition notes, “The phrase ‘chance and circumstance’ has become something of a mantra for Moses. A student of Buddhism, he has made a career of fearlessly blazing down the path of the unknown. Driven by the metaphysical power of painting and its potential to transform, Moses bypasses the need to be in control and favors the idea of being in tune.” This ceaseless experimentation and deference to metaphysical forces resulted in Moses’ eclecticism, to say the least. An impactful 1996 survey of his work at MOCA highlighted this diversity in style, technique, material and process almost to a fault, with examples of his so-called grids, snails, lavas, sponges, draggings, circles, swoops, crackles, tarantulas and tars. “I make marks,” he said in a recent interview, “not pictures.” Ed did share with Andy what Peter Frank, speaking at the Fair’s Andy Moses interview panel, called “exploration rather than expression, a physical curiosity about what paint could do.” And in the past eight years, father and son—along with daughter-in-law, the talented painter Kelly Berg—lived next door to each other, enjoying daily studio visits and several exhibitions together. In a filmed interview screened at the fair, Ed described the act of painting with “a blank mind,” like a meditation with paint. He spoke of coaxing and discovering, rather than expressing, manifestations of his Buddhist practice. “I know [a painting is] done,” he said, “when it lights up!” He was laid to rest in a Buddhist funeral, per his wishes, followed by a lively wake which was, naturally, attended by a who’s who of the LA art world of the last 70 years. Present were hundreds of friends, collectors, dealers, curators, writers, Ed’s two sons and their beautiful families, and what seemed to be all the artists that put LA, and in particular Venice Beach, on the map in the middle of the 20th century. The Cool School and Ferus Gallery crews were represented in as full a force as possible. There were stories, and small blessings—and joints. It’s like Ed said in that interview, “I exist to connect the tribe.” 12
Ed Moses Woosh #1, 2016 Acrylic on Canvas 78 x 66 inches
Ed Moses Moses at 90 Installation, William Turner Gallery, 2016 Photo: Rob Brander
Donn Delson. Training Ground.
Ed Moses Sumo Patton, 2010 Acrylic on Canvas 60 x 48 inches
Ed Moses Primal Strategies, #6/M-Y Branco, 1987-2016 Acrylic on Canvas 72 x 60 inches
Ed Moses No Tiddle Oh, 2004 Acrylic on Canvas 60 x 48 inches
Having received both the NEA grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and shown in Documenta, LACMA, MOCA, the Whitney Biennial and the Pompidou Center, his most cherished offerings, I’d still argue, were the dozen or so shows he perpetrated with Ernie & Diane Wolfe between December 1985’s Ed Moses and Vigango right through to January 2018’s Eddie M and the Fantastic Afterlife Vehicles (Ed’s last public appearance). Ernie and Diane remembered in a recent statement that the 2007 Mapiko: Musings From A-Far exhibition “explored the many shamanic demons and ‘faces’ Ed had encountered during his magical mystery tour through life. The realization that Ed carried this special kahuna DNA strain became all the more apparent to the artist himself in the 1990s, when he experienced the Caves of Lascaux with UCLA’s late, great curator-educator Henry Hopkins. Ed absolutely believed that his “mark-making,” and that shamanic DNA he possessed, were proof positive that he shared the blood lines of all those humans who are inevitably inclined to bear this magical and transcendent touch.” Everyone has an Ed Moses story.
WORDS EVA RECINOS IMAGES ALL PHOTOS FROM THE LAVANDERIA SERIES, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
CHRISTINA FERNANDEZ: CAMERA LENS AS WINDOW
The visual landscape of Southern California changes from city to city. Depending on your perspective, the region can feel like a mythical playground, an arid wasteland or a gritty, concrete labyrinth. Since the 1980s, photographer Christina Fernandez has linked her interiority to spaces in Southern California depicted through images that explore both SoCal as myth and the photographer’s own Chicana identity. Beginning more than two decades ago, Fernandez would drive through East Los Angeles at night—sometimes with assistance, sometimes alone—searching for laundromat storefronts to photograph. In an artist statement, Fernandez explained that she maintained an interest in “how the urban landscape speaks through the bits and pieces we leave behind in our day-to-day lives.” The
Lavanderia series takes into account the everyday motions of laundromat patrons framed by aesthetic identifiers such as graffiti tags on the windows. 22
Once her eyes locked on a location, Fernandez set up her working space. She used a 4x5 view camera, a large format camera first developed in the 1800s that sits on a base. To operate the camera she had to “use a black cloth to see the image and focus on the ground glass in the back of the camera.” The black cloth prevents outside light from coming in and lets the photographer focus on the composition. This anachronistic way of photographing the streets of East LA made for some stunning images, which led to series like Manuela S-t-i-t-c-h-e-d (1996) and Lavanderia (2003). Looking back, Fernandez doesn’t know quite how she did it. Not only did she work through the darkness, she often had to deal with questions from the owners of the laundromats, right at the moment when she ducked her head under the camera’s cloth. In 2017, Fernandez presented View from here and reflect/project(ion) at Gallery Luisotti. The former followed the thread of photographing locations while introducing personal narrative and little-known history about California and Arizona. The latter focused on the students Fernandez mentors at Cerritos College. The exhibition signaled her return to photography after a hiatus of ten years. A single mother, Fernandez focused her energy during that time on raising her son; now she has found a different rhythm, a way to “create work with him in my life.” Her most recent exhibition was part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/ LA. Fernandez’s Maria’s Great Expedition series—in which she recreates photographs based on her great-grandmother, Maria’s, life—was also included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s PST: LA/LA exhibition Home—So Different, So Appealing. As someone with decades of experience under her belt, Fernandez recently noticed an increase in “self-generating activities,” with younger artists refusing to let a white cube be their only means for exposure. Fernandez has always “wanted to do both.” Throughout her career, she has sought opportunities in both traditional spaces—Gallery Luisotti focused specifically on getting her work into museum collections—and with artist-focused organizations such as Self Help Graphics and Avenue 50 Studio. “I needed to be able to teach but also have a little bit of extra income for the things that I wanted in life, the goals that I have had for myself,” she said.
Fernandez describes herself as a “solitary artist.” Reflecting on her career, she admits that she “had to kind of strike a different balance for my work and... seek my own pathway in a lot of ways.” Now, she guides the young photographers she teaches. Cerritos College, she explains, has a large Latinx population. She realizes her students’ photography asks “the same questions” about identity that her own work has explored. There’s a focus on investigating the self and cultural identity through photographs, even when cultural norms and family beliefs make that process challenging. “There’s a lot of self portraiture, there’s a lot of portraiture, there’s a lot of going back home and photographing, there’s talking about home life and family,” said Fernandez. “All of the things that I talked about in my work.” Beyond offering purely artistic guidance, Fernandez also helps students with the cultural challenges of pursuing their passion for art. “I’ve seen that has been an issue, especially the daughter convincing the family,” said Fernandez. “Especially when they’re doing self-portraiture, some nudity is involved sometimes. It’s been a bone of contention.” That intergenerational impact doesn’t escape Fernandez. In 2017, she also appeared in a photography show at Occidental College’s Weingart Galleries entitled Chicana Photographers LA. Fernandez was happy to see “a couple of generations” in the group exhibition, only some of whom she knew beforehand. “There is a fraternity, a camaraderie, even though we may not be close,” said Fernandez. “Simply because of what we do, and who we are, where we come from. Which is really, really satisfying.” Fernandez will present new work in the exhibition, In The Sunshine of Neglect on view January-April 2019 at both the California Museum of Photography and Riverside Art Museum. She said that even though her career has been fruitful, there are still “things that haven’t happened.” Those remaining things drive her to continue exploring what interiorities she can express in detail through the camera.
IAN DAVIS, DYSTOPIA IN PAINT — WORDS LAWRENCE GIPE IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
A new painting by Ian Davis, Supermarket (2017), encompasses a number of themes that frame this artist’s compelling dystopian vision. There is the content of the picture itself, an eerily sterile warehouse of identical stacked goods, marching away from the viewer in one-point perspective. The image is distinctively Davis’, but reverberations from history inevitably emerge. One is reminded of Jacques Tati’s Playtime, where the filmmaker greeted the advent of automation with suspicion as well as humor. 28
Ian Davis Supermarket, 2018 Acrylic on Linen 54 x 50 inches
More recent examples would be the 1990s photographs of Andreas Gursky and the documentaries of Edward Burtynsky, where the monotony and repetition of factory labor are revealed in unrelenting fashion. Unlike these precedents, however, Davis is a painter, and his painstaking method creates a unique double-edged sword for the viewer. His high-resolution meticulousness is both attractive and disconcerting in its sharp attention to detail. Like many artists, Davis had an aesthetic journey through different approaches and methodologies before fixing on his trademark style. Born in Indianapolis in 1972, he skateboarded his way through an uneventful Midwest adolescence with a vague notion of making art as a living. The fashion he embraced early and tenaciously was based on graffiti art and Jean-Michel Basquiat, sources that might appear far afield from where he landed. This early work, gestural and full of collaged and expressionistic elements, was developed during the artist’s years at Arizona State University where he majored in painting (and, according to Davis, wasn’t taught any technique: “I didn’t even know what a ‘wash’ was when I left”). He found more satisfaction outside of the academy, where his Basquiat-influenced paintings acquired an audience through a gallery in Scottsdale. Then in 2003, after a move to New York, Davis visited a retrospective of Basquiat’s work. Rather than reinforcing his fealty to this artistic mentor, the survey left him cold. “I was stopped in my tracks,” he remembers. “All my marks had come from this one guy.” Davis started to transition into a cleaner, but more conceptually complicated, mode. In 2005, he moved studios and decided to keep his latest environment “splatter-free,” eschewing the cluttered graffiti vocabulary for a more pristine one. It wasn’t just a change of space that initiated the shift. Davis attended a residency in Skowhegan, where he would graze in his spare time through the institution’s library. (This was back when a surf on the smart phone wasn’t so facile and a turn through the stacks had to suffice). There he found old issues of out-of-print magazines like American Heritage and Horizon, and was struck by the oddball articles about esoteric topics. He encountered artists that he hadn’t fully studied before such as Magritte, Breughel and de Chirico, all of whom gave him the license to take on epic vistas and surrealistic subject matter.
Ian Davis Pipeline, 2017 Acrylic on Linen 55 x 60 inches
Ian Davis Mine, 2017 Acrylic on Linen 55 x 60 inches
Later, a trip to the UK made an enormous impression: there Davis explored cities like Liverpool, a contemporary metropolis with areas still as derelict as when World War II ended. Overall, the gray, post-industrial mise-en-scène overlapped with a growing sense of social consciousness that was brewing in Davis’ pictorial content. Most consequently, a stop in Manchester exposed him to the work of L.S. Lowry, a locally celebrated painter of Northwest England’s mill towns and docks. He was blown away by Lowry’s stark, naïve cityscapes of “matchstick men” leaving the mills at quitting time—scenes Davis had been unknowingly channeling. Like the anonymous subjects in Lowry’s paintings, the status of humans in any given Davis tableau is usually no higher than a clinical mass of ants. Tiny figures in identical jumpers are depicted swarming around pools of seeping fuel tanks in Mine (2018); the characterless workers with sweep brooms strike identical poses, participating in futile combat with oozing toxic leaks. Similarly, Davis portrays minions in lab coats examining spurting oil lines in Pipeline (2017), a tour-de-force of linear and atmospheric perspective. In Eating (2015), dozens of men in police uniforms help themselves to a banquet, a scenario wrought doubly incongruous by their environment—in this case, a vast, deserted plain, bathed in crepuscular light. These and other new works evince a simplicity and directness of vision. Davis has created a political mode of art making that dwells powerfully on humanity’s irresponsibility towards the environment and one another. Like the best paintings, they are at once wonderful and horrible.
KEEPING IT REAL: LACE AT 40 â€” WORDS SHANA NYS DAMBROT IMAGES COURTESY OF LACE
A dedication to the art of our time that focuses on freedom of expression; experimentation with ideas, materials, and new forms; and content that is challenging and socially engaging.
Founded in 1978 by a group of independent artists who shared an enthusiasm for a transgressive, performative, homegrown avant-garde, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) has never wavered from its mission. Reached for comment on the eve of its 40th anniversary, LACEâ€™s current director, Sarah Russin, articulates this mantra with as much empathy and certitude as the day it was penned. In 40 years, LACE has presented work by some 5,000 artists through more than 3,000 programs, exhibitions and events. 34
Barbara Kruger Untitled (Platter War), 2018 Edition of 30 for LACE Courtesy of LACE
Just this March, the Getty Research Institute acquired the LACE archive—documenting the first four decades of the institution’s programs and exhibitions. Some of the best-known early adopters of LACE were Mike Kelley, John Baldessari, Bill Viola and Gronk—but with thousands of names to peruse, that list could be 20 times longer, stretching from Barbara Kruger to Dynasty Handbag. The sheer breadth, depth and volume of the LACE archive represents its own epic cultural and scholarly resource, now digitized—which you’ll have a chance to see for yourself, as a show based on its excavation runs through December. In recent years LACE has continued to host its share of breakout programs. In 2015 Rafa Esparza launched his current phase of artworld superstardom there with a majestic, performative sculptural installation involving 5,000 adobe bricks, guest artists, architecture, craft, history and spectacle. And what’s about to happen this summer—an exploration of the artwork of the Black Panther movement, including collaborations with the Zapatistas, concurrent with a summer residency promising “A maximalist Queer/Trans Femme Cave installation and performance series” —proves the vision of LACE and its underwriters is still fresh and fearless to the core. And busy: In the weeks surrounding this interview, LACE hosted the powerful group exhibition Names Written in Black; Guillermo Gómez-Pena in a rare political performance activation, a cultural exchange series with French artists, a Jewish operatic theatre group and Sharon Louden’s #Metoo event with Rachel Mason and Future Clown, “to inject a bit of parody into a serious conversation,” and illustrate the ways in which performance art is uniquely suited to tackle political issues. “When I came to LACE four years ago it wasn’t from a curatorial background,” said Russin. “But I believed in the core mission and that hasn’t changed: to present experimental and socially relevant art, and not be afraid to get political. But even there, I’ve wanted it to come from the artists, not from me. I never wanted that director-as-curator model, it was important to me to expand that.” One of Russin’s first initiatives was the Emerging Curators program, essentially switching to an open call for exhibition proposals instead of for individual artists. Russin moved to LA in 1987, “only ten years after LACE opened,” she noted, “and I’ve always been aware of it. You know at this point it’s been in Hollywood longer than it ever was in DTLA!” LACE famously relocated in 1993, and has served as a cultural anchor on Hollywood Boulevard. ever since. In fact,
(Top) Tim Youd Overnight at LACE, 2016 Photo by Annie Martens Courtesy of LACE
(Bottom) Postcard for Mike Kelley Meditation on a Can of Vernors, June 10, 1981 Courtesy of LACE
Rafa Esparza i have never been here before, 2015 Photo by Chris Wormald Courtesy of LACE
(Top) Guillermo Gómez-Peña The Most (un)Documented Mexican Artist, 2018 Photo by Annie Martens Courtesy of LACE
(Bottom) Jimena Sarno home away from, 2017 Photo by Chris Wormald Courtesy of LACE
they’ve produced frequent programs riffing off the Hollywood context, which many artists find irresistible. For example Tim Youd, who in 2016 retyped John Rechy’s underbelly masterpiece City of Night in the storefront window, during Warren Neidich’s fraught yet scholarly installation The Palinopsic Field about McCarthyist witch hunts of gay men in Hollywood. The current show makes use of the perspective of Hollywood as both a place and an idea. It features curators from Dublin and is keyed to the theme of spectacle. “They have the most famous performance artist in Ireland,” said Russin, referring to artist Amanda Coogan. “Her work takes on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.” Incorporating LA-based performance artists too, Activating Pangea: Acts to Objects runs March 15-April 29, 2018. The exhibit, The Archival Impulse: 40 Years at LACE, also opened March 15 in the above-mentioned Project Room (they’re calling it the Rainbow Room for the occasion). The installation was curated by Matthias Veigner, who has unearthed a king’s ransom of original documents, objects and so much ephemera there will be constant giveaways. The Getty acquired the LACE archives in December, in what will be an ongoing relationship with future contributions and collaborations. For example, everyone knows the Ed Ruscha book Every Building on the Sunset Strip, but he also did a version featuring Hollywood Boulevard in 2002, which the Getty made into a video during the the 2013 PST initiative Modern Architecture in L.A. LACE will feature that video in their window for the next year, along with Thank You, a sculpturally performative donation box sculpture installed in the lobby. That’s a cheeky way for Russin to remind everyone to support LACE, and not just during its legendary auctions (the next one is May 30.) “We have no endowment,” she said. “We make our budget from scratch every year. People think we’re way bigger than we are, but we’re just super scrappy! I like to say we are halfway between MOCA and four people in a garage. We’re not the typical commercial gallery, but not an institution either. We have a different responsibility to engage our audiences.” As their URL says, “welcometolace.org.”
ART SHARE LA: NEW FAÇADE & RE-VITALIZED MISSION — WORDS JURI KOLL IMAGES COURTESY OF ART SHARE L.A.
Mikael B’s vibrant, monumental new mural, Vivid
Rhythms, on the exterior of Art Share L.A.—at the corner of E. 4th Place and S. Hewitt Street in the downtown LA Arts District—represents new energy for this vital and much loved Los Angeles non-profit art institution. The artist’s work, while contemporary and charged with color, also seems rooted in the past, bringing to mind the imagery of Wasily Kandinsky. 42
Lizy Dastin is an LA-based art history professor who studies contemporary art and urban practice. A passionate advocate of street art, she provided her perspective on Mikael B’s murals in an interview with Fabrik. “The new murals at Art Share by Mikael Brandrup are not only visually engaging but also holistically appropriate to the history of the space. The artist who adorned the building prior to Brandrup, Isna, is UK-born with roots in graffiti that he parlayed into a more aestheticized graphic design practice… Brandrup synthesizes this early exposure to graff[iti] lettering with a sleek, more polished graphic design sensibility, producing work that is chaotic but also controlled.” The route Mikael B. has taken, to Los Angeles from his native Denmark, has given him the opportunity to travel farther and wider to make his work. As 43
he said, “When I grew up in Denmark, my biggest inspiration was the graffiti and street art of Los Angeles. Moving to LA four years ago was one of my biggest decisions in my life and a dream com[e] true. And as fate would have it, one of my first gigs after moving to the city was doing live painting at one of Art Share L.A.’s events. Here, just a few years later, my vision was selected to lead the institution into its next stage of rebranding. With Vivid Rhythms I want to share my passion, my dream, the belief that anything is possible. Take chances, create your own positive flow and rhythm and attract the things into your life you dream of.” Founded in 1997, Art Share L.A. took off with the conversion of a large warehouse into a community space with galleries, a theatre, and 30 affordable studio spaces. After the 2008 recession, its big dreams almost died until Cheyanne Sauter joined as interim director in 2013. Her vision, with the help of John Jason and many others, turned the place around. As a uniquely independent non-profit that owns its own building, the organization is sustained by its volunteers and donations big and small from entities such as the LA County Arts Commission, the Sister Karen Boccalero Arts Fund, the California Arts Council and Rock Robinson & Anna Browne-Robinson. 46
As Sauter related to Fabrik, “Art Share almost closed their doors seven years ago after being hit very hard by the recession. There were a few of us who decided to keep the mission and vision alive because, even then, we saw that many artists were coming to Los Angeles from New York, Austin, San Francisco and around the world. Rents were inexpensive compared to some of those cities and Los Angeles was being underutilized. In a few short years, Los Angeles’ creative scene has exploded and has welcomed so many creative people, galleries and new institutions to the landscape—The Broad, Marciano Art Foundation, Beta Main—it’s incredible to see the importance of art and culture increase in our daily lives.” During its history, Art Share L.A. has always been about fostering creative change and growth, from taking on the herculean task of building and renovating the converted warehouse to the continued presentation and exhibition of cutting edge work running the gamut from internationally known artists to those getting their wings in the art world. As an exemplary part of that mission, the mural’s unveiling was celebrated at Art Share L.A. in late February. As Sauter, explained, “It took Art Share L.A.’s team almost two years to select the artist to reimagine our building. We searched [for] artists that were internationally based, native to LA and local artists. In the end, we felt that selecting a local artist was very important, but that the[ir] being a native Angeleno was not a requirement. We have embraced the many artists who have moved to Los Angeles to access this amazing time of creativity and creative capital.” Art Share is here to stay, committed to its future goals, which include “providing emerging artists with a roadmap to find financial success and to gain exposure.” Just as Kandinsky followed his passion as artist from Russia to Estonia, to Germany, back to Russia and then finally to France, so has Mikael B. traveled to LA and beyond pursuing his. Whether despite or perhaps because of the myth of California, Los Angeles has always been a place where people are drawn to create, grow and pursue their dreams.
MOAH: LANCASTER MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY ART THRIVES IN THE DESERT — WORDS MEGAN ABRAHAMS
Nestled in the desert landscape between the San Gabriel Mountain Range to the south and the Tehachapi Mountain Range to the north, in the heart of the burgeoning bedroom community of Lancaster, is an unexpected oasis of art and culture. Founded in 1986 as the Lancaster Museum/ Art Gallery, today, the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) is aggressively advancing an agenda of art appreciation and artist engagement in the Antelope Valley—and beyond. 48
Lezley Saar How the Wanderings of the Tiniest Floating Islands Came to the Mother of Waters, 2017 Acrylic on fabric over wood panel Photo by Megan Abrahams
MOAH is located on a welcoming block of Lancaster Boulevard in the BLVD Cultural District. Here piped music infuses the air, murals make the outside walls come alive and high school students drop by Thursday afternoons when the museum stays open late. Even the art cognoscenti of Los Angeles—those with access to the competing world-class art attractions of the big city—make the 70-mile trip to check out MOAH’s ambitious curatorial program. The museum’s agenda wasn’t always so far-reaching. Originally housed in an 8,000 square foot building on Sierra Highway, its mission focused then on showing the work of local artists and preserving a permanent collection of artifacts and records related to Antelope Valley history. As the city grew, the museum evolved. In 2010, the City broke ground on a new site, the outcome of a public/private partnership between the City of Lancaster and Steve Eglash and Scott Ehrlich, founders of InSite Development. MOAH’s manager and curator, Andi Campognone, came aboard in 2011 to help steer the museum’s vision in concert with the new building, which opened in 2012. Since then, MOAH has gone on to do much more than just organize exhibitions. In fact, art shows account for a mere two percent of its activities, said Campognone in a recent interview with Fabrik. The thrust of the museum’s agenda is focused on public engagement: connecting with school kids, local residents and artists. “Everyone always goes back to, ‘Oh, the museum has this great show,’” said Campognone, formerly a curator at Riverside Art Museum. “They think it’s just this building that houses exhibitions, and for two and a half months there’s this kind of static engagement with these inanimate objects.” Campognone is emphatic about correcting this misperception. “It’s not just our job to show the work. It’s also our job to create the next generation of human beings who are interested in understanding culture on any level. Just plopping a museum in the middle of the desert and hoping that the handful of people who are sophisticated enough to value the arts will show up… that’s kind of like the icing on the cake. The most important part is having that museum supplement all the young people with experience and education and engagement. That’s where it starts.” Unlike most museums, MOAH is a municipal institution, overseen by Lancaster’s director of parks, recreation and arts, which gives Campognone considerable leeway in charting the museum’s course “When it comes to the agenda for the museum, it’s me and another curator,” she said, referring to Robert Benitez, curator of MOAH: Cedar, the museum’s nearby satellite exhibition 50
Scott Yoell Tsunami It Takes A Village Photo by Megan Abrahams
Lisa Bartleson Kindred It Takes a Village Photo by Megan Abrahams
Alison Saar Foison, 2011 Carved wood clad in green patina copper sheeting with cast bronze cotton balls, moths and acrylic paint Photo by Megan Abrahams
space. “We have a foundation board, but their sole job is to fundraise, so our collecting is based on what is relevant and what fits our mission, not supporting our board members’ collections,” said Campognone. “Our collecting mission and our exhibition mission revolve around accessibility for the community.” Addressing the need for public engagement, especially in a somewhat remote location, MOAH has a vast range of outreach initiatives. For example, the museum’s foundation pays for school buses so local kids can visit. They get a tour, engage in hands-on art making in the MOAH classroom and view the outdoor murals. “We talk [to them] about public art, and in that component, for young people, it’s pride of ownership in your own community,” Campognone said. Not a kunsthalle, MOAH also has a permanent collection. To kick off the museum’s contemporary collection, Eglash and his wife, artist Gisela Colon, donated several pieces, hoping to inspire other collectors to do the same. The collection has grown each year since MOAH opened. As Campognone noted, it’s crucial for the collection to reflect the relationship between the aerospace industry—long centered in the immediate vicinity—and movements in contemporary art. “We wouldn’t have the resin artists, we’d have none of the Light and Space artists, none of the Finish Fetish culture, none of what’s happened in painting. All of that directly comes from materials that were developed through aerospace and the military; and that happened in the Antelope Valley,” she said. Edwards Air Force Base, Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop Grumman are all nearby. Leveraging this aerospace connection, the museum is planning a show with NASA in 2020. Also vital is the museum’s dedicated effort to engage emerging and mid-career artists from the LA area, one of the reasons Campognone said she decided to stay at the museum when her initial contract ended in 2012 after the opening of the new building. “Right around that time there was all that uproar happening at MOCA. This was an opportunity to support the LA art makers. MOCA, when it started, that was its mission, to focus on contemporary art being made in Los Angeles. Over the years, it just got further and further away from that, where now it’s blue chip shows from artists from everywhere else but Los Angeles. I was hearing from all these [local] artists, ‘Where do we go? There isn’t a quality exhibition space that supports us.’ I thought, ‘I want to be here because I think I have an opportunity to fill that void.’” Filling that void has paid off for artists and MOAH alike. “It’s been a kind of a blessing,” said Campognone. “There’s so much work being made in Los 54
MOAH Lantern Room at Night
Angeles that’s valid and relevant that isn’t even getting two looks by the larger museum organizations, but we have this beautiful space, why not show it? Why not support it, and why not be a steppingstone for emerging artists. Why not help some of those mid-career artists who need that book produced or who need that film made, or to help them in that part of their career?” Fittingly, the current exhibition, It Takes a Village (through April 22, 2018), features the work of LA artists. Curated by Betty Ann Brown, the headliner exhibit, Memory & Identity: The Marvelous Art of Betye, Lezley and Alison Saar, is a survey of the work of the extraordinary artist family: the mother and her two daughters. MOAH has published a catalogue to accompany the exhibit, because, as Campognone said, “The show doesn’t end when the show ends.” Related exhibits by Richard S. Chow, Lisa Bartelson, Jane Szabo, Wyatt Kenneth Coleman, Rebecca Campbell and Scott Yoell, investigate the theme of family, identity and community from different angles. It’s no coincidence that the community theme echoes the museum’s mission—and raison d’être. The last exhibit at MOAH Cedar, Monica Wyatt: Continuum, (January 20-March 3), showcased the work of the Los Angeles based assemblage artist. (See our accompanying Museum View on page 69)
AN ODE TO DORA DE LARIOS â€” WORDS JILL MONIZ
I am interested in intersections: the spaces where serendipity or suffering meet, where passions collide and limbic resonance manifests. When I encountered the work of Dora De Larios, my response was vibrational. Her ceramics struck all my chords. They were made exquisitely over a career dedicated to exploring both the cultural history and the innovations of the material, as part of a thriving practice in spite of art world trends, by a woman of color unapologetically defining her aesthetic space. De Larios worked over decades without interest from or in the canonical arts scene because she had a vision and an impulse to create that superseded the need for celebrity or renown so prominent in todayâ€™s cultural milieu. 56
Dora De Larios Seated Woman
I never had an opportunity to meet her. Dora De Larios lost her fight against cancer on January 28, at the age of 84. I was devastated. After losing my mother a year ago, I have leaned heavily on my arts family to fill the void. I had an inkling Dora’s voice might feel like my mother’s whisper in my ear. I couldn’t wait to watch and listen as she spoke about her intentions, her loves and her practice, as I was sure it would feel like a homecoming. As I grow older, I have anchored my curatorial paradigm around creativity and freedom. I recognize the necessity of both community and compassion, and my responsibility to reciprocally support the artists and works that sustain me. I had been hoping for the possibility of expanding my community to include Dora. From afar, she seemed so beautiful and beautifully complex, occupying a liminal space between figure and abstraction in her practice and in my imagination. When I heard the news about Dora, I regretted having been too busy to meet her during the preparation of her exhibition. I had relied too heavily on my musings of a grand encounter where we would recognize each other as kindred spirits. Her work carries on the traditions of Doyle Lane, Ken Price and other ceramics innovators at USC. And her forthright integration of her Mexican identity into her fine art practice without regard to normalizing convention, and the freedom with which she pursued her aesthetics, producing a body of work that was narrative and compositionally precise, all aligned with my curatorial tenets. Although I never met her, like many Angelenos, I am rejoicing in a love affair with her objects on exhibition at Main Museum through May 13th, Mother’s Day. Allison Agsten, executive director of the Main Museum, allowed me to sit with De Lario’s works during installation, understanding my need to find the words to convey both my delight in Dora’s life and despair about her death. But as I sat among the rich hues, smooth glazes, fantastical creatures and powerful goddesses in the new mezzanine gallery on 4th Street in Downtown LA, I realized that Dora lives. She built a legacy by maintaining a studio on Irving Place in Culver City, just down the street from where my sons went to elementary school, as well as an exhibition history with Craft & Folk Art Museum and the Main Museum, both under the direction and strong leadership of women I respect and admire. Most importantly, she loved making tactile narratives full of depth that conjured space and time, an invitation for respite and contemplation for denizens of this bustling city.
Dora De Larios Blue Goddess
Dora De Larios Ram
Dora De Larios Blue Disk
The ceramics, drawings and paintings of Dora De Larios are lasting gifts she generously created so that we can all know her. Agsten, who worked closely with her for the Other Worlds exhibition said, “I don’t remember who or what I fell in love with first, Dora or her work. I met her when she was 83 and she had a better sense of humor than most of my peers, she told the most riveting stories I’d ever heard, and she had a boundless energy for making art. The energy… I could feel it imbued in her work. The clay seemed to be an extension of this woman. “Now, as l look at the work in gallery, that energy vibrates and reminds me that she is still with us in some ways. I feel enveloped [in] Dora’s love for beauty, her indomitable will, her joyous spirit. I am glad we are left with Dora’s sumptuous blues and her majestic goddesses. I see her wink in the playful faces of the creatures she created. But as much as I want them to be, the creatures are not Dora. Even the goddesses are not Dora. Those disks, which she told me represent unity for herself—a full circle if you look at it that way—those are not Dora. I will miss her forever.” Dora De Larios lives with us in memory, imagination and in the community she has created; the space for her enduring work. 61
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MUSEUM VIEWS THE BROAD, LOS ANGELES Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth (February 10-May 13, 2018) Words Peter Frank
This is the Jasper Johns retrospective that everyone, no doubt Johns himself, has been waiting for—a survey that emphasizes not chronology or studio production or objects or subject matter, (although all these figure prominently) instead, focusing on iconography. When he emerged some 60 years ago Johns rocked the post-Abstract Expressionist art world by making works that did not simply portray things—instantly recognizable things—but works that became those things. Ever since, we have been puzzled and frustrated when his field of vision has opened up to incorporate such things (miraculously keeping their thingness intact) into an expansive but recondite, even hermetic, personal cosmology. Now, finally, that cosmology is presented motivically rather than just sequentially, and what emerges is the artist-as-poet-as-alchemist. The retrospective divides Johns’ oeuvre according to various conceptual, perhaps philosophical, approaches. It begins with rooms filled with flag paintings, target paintings and number paintings, the segregation of motifs allowing us to comprehend both Johns’ obsessiveness and his seemingly endless capacity for variation; he seems to find infinite ways of faceting the image, or at least the context, of a simple thing like a numeral. The exhibition groups this multi-monomania under the broader rubric, Things The Mind Already Knows (a Johns quote), grounding us at an epistemological null point. Painting As Object is a yet simpler concept, but addresses a more complex aspect of art, the facture of normal painting and that of painting that insists on invading the realm of sculpture—a reflexive condition based in Johns’ exposure to the work of Marcel Duchamp. Words and Voices traces Johns’ relationship with language, from an early fascination with the word itself—an entity at once visual, lingual, and emotional—to a surrender to poetry by the early 1980s. The New York arts scene of his salad days had exposed Johns to America’s literary avant garde, but it was only decades later that he came comfortably to embrace the literary in his own activity, activity he’d maintained as purely pictorial. 62
Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1992–4. Encaustic on canvas. 199.4 x 300.7 cm. The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection. Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
If any one characteristic arcs through this survey, it is Johns’ increasing philosophical depth of field. His thing paintings are obdurate in their thingness, but his later work—which he makes sure has the same weighty material presence— displays more and more elaborate motivic, even symbolic, relationships. Time and Transience reveals his crosshatch paintings, with their nervous, fractured dance of colored and muted pinstripes, as a meditation on mortality, and the thingness of the works grouped under In the Studio engages them in a clever dialogue between the momentary—the paintbrushes crammed into a coffee can—and the monumental—the reproduction of those paintbrushes and can in bronze. Among Johns’ thing references are quotations from art around the world; but his incorporation of Nepalese Buddhist imagery or the Isenheim Altarpiece are no mere admissions of art-historical self-consciousness. Rather, as Fragments and Faces documents, they are personal touchstones for the artist, affecting him subjectively. In Seasons and Cycles Johns puts those associations to even more ambitious thematic purpose, producing in the mid-1980s a Four Seasons sequence bristling with references to other art and artists (e.g. Picasso) and to more vernacular forms of visual experience. In the final thematic section, 63
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Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas. 77.8 x 115.6 x 11.7 cm. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Gilman Foundation, Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura Lee Whittier Woods, Howard Lipman, and Ed Downe in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary. Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Memory Tracings, the autobiographical current in Johns’ work comes to the fore in typically intricate but lucid conflations of private references. These are contrasted with a series of “catenary” paintings marked, even bracketed, by erratic curves determined by the looping of strings allowed to sag under their own weight—a reversion to thingness and painting-becoming-sculpture whose formal grace anchors Johns’ now fully self-reflexive art with the gravitas of nature. A life lived, framed by the natural world: Johns’ may not be a tidy mind, but it is a methodical one. Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth determines that the artist’s method should be allowed not simply to speak for itself but to dictate our comprehension of his work. Without losing sight of his evolution as an artist, the survey concentrates on Johns’ persistent presence in contemporary art as a thinker and a verbalizer. If you enter the show regarding Johns as a thing-maker, you leave it thinking of him as a proposer of circumstances—looking, as it were, for rhymes among images and harmonies among textures. 64
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A+D MUSEUM No Taste For Bad Taste (February 23-April 29, 2018) Words Shana Nys Dambrot
You see the red couch from across the room, right away. Its curves and contours and large-bore tufting combine with saturated color and warm organic texture, and there’s nothing for you to do but to go have a seat. From your luxurious, insanely cozy and ultra-hip new perch, the rest of the installation unfolds in every direction—a small sea of utterly unique chairs, settees, credenzas, lighting rigs and sundry design confections arranged in a rhythmic pageant of masterful vignettes. Ten miniature pavilions each expressing in immersive sculptural haiku one of the main tenets in the exhibition’s modern French design doctrine. It’s a riff on both contemporary art fairs and design showrooms, done with theatrical flair and cozy sophistication. A think tank of 40 design luminaries including makers, artists, critics, gallerists and photographers were tasked with identifying a central core of what became 40 “cult objects” and contextualizing them within the ten pillars they identified as essential values of “le French Design,” not all of which require translation: Art de Vivre, Creativity and Industry, Elegance and a Hint of Luxury, Sustainable
From the exhibition No Taste for Bad Taste. Courtesy A+D Museum.
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From the exhibition No Taste for Bad Taste. Courtesy A+D Museum.
Innovation, Audacity, Savoir-Faire, Balance, Heritage, Cultural Openness and Panache. The exuberance of the overall exhibition design and poignant branding is itself an exercise in perfect fabulousness, telegraphing in its own aspects the tone of cheeky reverence that infuses the whole. For this internationally touring exhibition, which will have been on the road from 2017 to 2020 in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East, the organizers commissioned creative polymath Jean-Charles de Castelbajac to devise an umbrella concept, including everything from key graphics to publications, merchandise and installation design. De Castelbajac calls what he did “an ephemeral palace,” not a bad way to describe the whole thing. A bit of Picasso’s delicately hefty Greco-Roman line-drawings, an iconic tricolor motif and the ebullience of Matisse’s cutouts and wall painting, all visually and emotionally tie the whole field of micro-pavilions together in something like a story, making the whole room feel like a life-size pop-up book. You’ll want—and you’re allowed—to go ahead and sit in every chair like Goldilocks, starting with that seductive red couch in the Art de Vivre tent, Ploum (2011) by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Ligne Roset. Savoir-Faire has 66
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the most surprising ottoman, the luscious “seating square” in milky coffee leather, Carre’ d’assise (2013) by Philippe Nigro for Hermès. As the Panache offerings beckon, the idea begins to settle in that, though these be functional objects, the sculptural, painterly and illustrative sensibility belongs in a fine art context. Panache’s red and white wrought iron chairs featuring wings and poetry, Anges (2008) by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac for Fermob; and the astonishing chaise d’arbre (tree sofa) Borghese (2012) by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance for La Chance introduce wit and conceptual seduction into the discourse. Audacity hangs a photo by Denis Darzacq, of a young person floating in a supermarket aisle as if in a dream, behind the Ben Hur (2010) velvet chariot chair by Jean-Paul Gaultier for Roche Bobois, a modest but profound bit of adaptive reuse and post-industrial whimsy. In the Heritage tent, a regal dresser exudes the frolic and fancy of very old-school French design legends with Commode Louis XV 570 (1997) by Moissonnier. Sustainable Innovation breaks the mold with the fur-draped bicycle S+ARCKBIKE Snow (2012) by Philippe Starck for Moustache Bikes, speaking to the challenge of ameliorating resource pressures without ceding one inch of material luxury. PASADENA MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA ART The Feminine Sublime (January 21–June 3, 2018) Words Molly Enholm
The Romantic notion of the sublime continues to haunt our consciousness, often accompanied by a healthy dose of critique. The concept, most famously articulated in the influential writings of Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant, posits, in a simplified version, that a form might either delight the eye (the beautiful) or overwhelm the viewer through scale, power and grandeur (the sublime). In The Feminine Sublime, currently on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, five Los Angeles-based painters further explore this legacy in response to contemporary conditions. That these artists happen to be female, dealing with notions typically ascribed to their male counterparts, offers another layer to excavate. In a book with which the exhibition shares its name, literary critic Barbara Claire Freeman exposes the gendered oppositions providing the foundation of Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry. She writes, “The sublime amalgamates such conventionally masculine qualities as power, size, ambition, awe, and majesty; the beautiful collects the equally conventional feminine traits of softness, smallness, 67
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Constance Mallinson. Still Life in Landscape.
Katz Virginia. Land Recomposition, with Topaz, Amethyst, Ametrine and Quartz Crystals.
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weakness, docility, delicacy, and timidity.” Where Freeman primarily critiques literature, the current exhibition at PMCA, curated by artist and participant Constance Mallinson, offers a powerful challenge to Burke’s gendered investigation through the visual arts, in the form of landscape painting. While each artist offers an individual point of entry, collectively, Merion Estes, Yvette Gellis, Virginia Katz, Marie Thibeault and Mallinson effectively deconstruct Burke’s presuppositions. Today, the sublime of the natural world is often countered by the sublime of the industrial. No longer a construct of the mind, as Kant might have it, a more physical intrusion is exemplified in the heaps of leftover candy-colored packaging and forgotten toys Mallinson strews among the fallen leaves of her autumnal landscape painted with painstaking precision. The panoramic view puts forth empirical evidence of contemporary consumption gone feral, as unyielding in its monstrous appetite as Goya’s Saturn Devouring his Children, while suggesting a conclusion similar to the great Titan’s fate. Across the gallery, a trio of abstractions by Thibeault also takes on the impact of unfettered consumerism. The imagery, conjuring notions of a horizon obscured through layers of brightly colored geometric forms and roughly hewn outlines, is based on the artist’s views of the Port of Long Beach with its seemingly endless parade of container ships coming to harbor. The sublime is never static, but remains in a state of eternal evolution. Estes, known for exquisitely layering collage and paint on found printed fabrics, conjures destructive forces in Burchfield’s Plea as a wildfire destroys what appears to have once been an imaginative landscape of the earlier American visionary artist. Estes counters this image of elemental force with her second work, depicting melting ice caps rendered beneath a foreboding blood-red sky—a cautionary tale with global impact. Gellis also negotiates this territory, rejecting the associations of a pristine wilderness in her contemporary abstractions. The single painting on view is actually a fusion of two works, the first made in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which she later sliced and mounted onto a second canvas. The fractured amalgamation of the two works echoes the discord within both the ecological and the political landscape, suggesting that the sublime is not limited to the natural world. Against these variegated paintings Katz’s nearly monochromatic works offer a meditative counterpoint. A large-scale triptych, Land–Into the Abyss, evokes views of preserved cross sections, macroscopic slides, of the oceanic abyssal zone as aquamarines morph into deep azurite blues, occasionally interrupted with mineral hues of copper and ochre. Nearby, the sole sculptural work in the exhibition lacks the luscious hues found in the Abyss, purposely removed by the artist to invoke a 69
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sense of loss. Wavelike forms constructed of warm gray slabs of pigment populated with semiprecious stones conjure notions of the recent landscapes and the avalanche of debris left in their wake. If the Kantian secret to conquering the sublime is through conceptualizing the source of our dread, these semiprecious stones offer glimmers of hope, symbolizing the strength and fortitude nestled deep within the feminine sublime. MUSEUM OF ART & HISTORY (MOAH) CEDAR, LANCASTER Monica Wyatt: Continuum (January 20-March 3, 2018) Words Megan Abrahams
Monica Wyatt’s mesmerizing solo exhibition Continuum, takes the viewer for a ride through a theme park of the imagination. Born of a synthesis of art and science—both artistic invention and intervention—formerly quotidian objects morph into dreamlike assemblage constructions. Objects once forgotten, abandoned, discarded or overlooked are first re-envisioned, then reincarnated into prominent new roles as the components of whimsical creations held together with the glue of magic. Zip ties, glass marbles, wire, mattress springs, dominoes, hairnets and (shades of Noah Purifoy) sardine tins; these are just a few of the items Wyatt has salvaged from a treasure trove of once-disparate things whose orbits might never have intersected in their original, strictly utilitarian roles. Re-deployed by the artist, once-incongruous objects find new meaning, fitting together like puzzle pieces into an unexpected formal harmony, such as an array of electrical capacitors that assume the guise of lichen-like plant forms. Wyatt composes these new configurations with an eloquent and seamless craft that might cajole the viewer into believing they could have evolved that way organically. The artist’s debut solo exhibition, her first collaboration with curator jill moniz, occupies three distinct spaces. In the entryway, a sampling of assemblage works is mounted on the walls, an overture to the larger body of work. Adjacent in the right hand gallery is an intriguing mini-survey of Wyatt’s assemblage work from 1999 to the present. Among these are a few pieces contained within rectangular framing devices such as wooden boxes. Leveraging this construct, the artist has deliberately focused her vision, confining the compositions so each element thoughtfully interacts with its counterparts as well as with the self-imposed parameters of the box or frame. 70
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Monica Wyatt When Shadows Chase The Light, 2018 Mixed media 108 x 132 x 84 inches Photo by Mark Horowitz
Inside the third gallery space, the notion of borders or frames is utterly abandoned. Concealed behind curtained doorways leading to the room on the left, strategically-aimed soft lighting filters down on an amorphous cloud-like constellation of cascading, enrobed, acrylic orbs suspended from the ceiling. The space, which the artist described as “womb-like,” feels like a secluded and remote enclosure far removed from the outside world. When Shadows Chase the Light, the artist’s most recent assemblage, defies the confines of a box– although in a way, the room itself could be construed as a giant box. In her appropriation of this space, Wyatt makes it thoroughly her own, inviting the viewer to enter and experience the installation almost as a participant. Floating on the perimeters of the room are complementary works including, Continuum 1, 2 and 3, richly burnished wood and rock structures that infuse the atmosphere with the essence of an enchanted forest. The prevailing palette is quiet, reflecting colors seen in nature: gray tones, sepias, umbers, white, black and ivory, such as might be found on the landscape of a driftwood strewn beach on an overcast day. Rust—the color as well as the actual oxidized substance—appears prominently as the powdery patina acquired on old metal. Left intact, the rust seems a memento of mysterious past narratives, which the artist has made a point to respect and preserve. Its presence adds layers of nuance and meaning—a symbolic continuum of references—that deepen the resonance of Wyatt’s work. 71
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GALLERY REVIEWS WALTER MACIEL GALLERY Katherine Sherwood: The Interior of the Yelling Clinic (March 3-April 28, 2018) Words Megan Abrahams
Katherine Sherwood has had a longstanding interest in brain structure as holographic paradigm. In the early 1990s, she began incorporating imagery of the human brain, along with satellite imagery, as motifs in her painting. Although thematically different, both kinds of imagery appeared as forms of abstraction, while actually presenting representational documentation of real scientific subjects. Sherwood’s fascination with the brain became profoundly personal in 1997 when she experienced a massive stroke, leaving her right side paralyzed. Six months later, she went to the hospital for a cerebral angiogram. Seated on a gurney, she was riveted by the arterial images of her own brain displayed on the computer screen. They reminded her of Southern Song dynasty Chinese landscape paintings. Explaining she was an artist, she requested copies of the images. The radiologist gave her a full set, which she has put to excellent use ever since. Sherwood never regained the use of her right hand, eventually learning to paint with her left. She adapted her process, working with larger brushes in a looser style and increasing the scale of her paintings. The Bay Area artist had often used symbols in her work; now she has expanded her use of symbolism, almost inventing a new mythology in which autobiographical allusion, art historical references and brain imagery are ever-recurring elements, if not fixtures. Re-appropriating the odalisques— as painted by Ingres, Manet, Goya and other male painters—Sherwood re-visualizes them from a contemporary feminine point of view, infused with her own narrative. Replete with sub-text, Sherwood’s Venuses are painted on the flip sides of found composite linen rectangles featuring reproductions of classic paintings, once used for teaching art history. Tiled together, the backs of the reproductions are marked with the names of the artists—Dürer, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Turner, etc. —left visible on the textile ground of her work. Humor and pathos entwine as Sherwood superimposes the faces of her odalisques with MRI scans of her own brain. Furthermore, her Venuses are decorated with leg braces, canes and prosthetic devices. 72
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Katherine Sherwood The Interior of the Yelling Clinic Courtesy Walter Maciel Gallery
In her accompanying series, Brain Flowers, Sherwood reinterprets the classic still life trope with beguiling brain scans popping out from the bouquets, unexpectedly disguised as flowers. LA ARTCORE UNION CENTER FOR THE ARTS Kio Griffith: in(poetry)2dexed (January 7-28, 2018) Words David S. Rubin
Kio Griffith’s installation simulated characteristics of algorithmic systems using pre-digital media such as books, newspapers and cardboard boxes from vinyl record album sets. The project was inspired by the artist’s recent discovery of his late father’s diaries, which prompted him to think about how the concept of a diary has changed. Traditionally, diaries were written in the author’s unique handwriting and read sequentially. Today, by contrast, they are recorded using digital platforms 73
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Kio Griffith, Algorithm Counter, 2017. Video, variable loop. Courtesy of the artist.
such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in which text comingles with photos, moving images and sounds. Reading online postings tends to be a fragmented experience, broken up by distracting text messages, pop-ups and links. Nor do we have total control over what to read any longer, as we are frequently guided by algorithms that make decisions for us. Even the tactile sensation of touching paper has given way to the sterile experience of viewing information though the transparent window of a digital monitor, tablet or phone. Griffith’s in(poetry)2dexed effectively blurred distinctions between pre-digital and algorithmically controlled information. Mimicking the way algorithms shuffle bits of data from a variety of sources, the installation was an intriguing mash-up of vintage texts taken from different mediums, cultures and time periods. For one section, the artist installed a row of elegant minimal wall sculptures made by separating the cloth from the cardboard of Japanese dictionary and encyclopedia book covers. Elsewhere he presented newspaper collages overloaded with more text than one can possibly consume, and sculptures created by cutting up and restructuring books and record-set boxes to resemble architecture or to replicate patterns of sound frequencies. The most captivating work in the exhibition was algorithm counter. This projected digital video resembled an odometer or slot machine with numerals arranged in three vertical columns that move at varied speeds and in different directions according to a score based on Dvorák’s New World Symphony. Presented in black-and-white to yield the raw appearance of analog, the video displays a brilliant and visually enticing blend of references to old and “new world” data systems. 74
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MARC SELWYN GALLERY, BEVERLY HILLS Signals (January 13, 2018-February 10, 2018) Words Peter Frank
The rediscovery of concrete poetry, more than a half-century after its emergence, stems both from the pleasures and the pains of the digital universe. The graphic context of a type-based intermedium fusing the visual with the verbal has been rendered commonplace by the possibilities of on-screen composition. On the other hand, concretion itself is a condition distant from the haptic (non-)experience of that smooth, featureless screen. In this day and age, concrete poetry no longer promises the adventure of cross-bred disciplines but the immediacy of cross-bred objects. Thus, the six artists comprising the roster of Signals are not all concrete poets per se. (Nor are they all of the â€œMcLuhan generationâ€? that gave us concrete poetry.) Even so, all seem geared to investigate the intersections of drawing, language and concrete poetry. In other words, type is no more prominent than script, a free-standing sculptural object can be the site of text, and a book can escape the lexical or can explode it.
Signals, Installation View.
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The orthodox concrete poets here, running their paper time and again through their typewriter carriages, are the (East) German Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and the late English Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houédard. For them, patterns of type could encode and express concepts simultaneously, proposing that the hand can draw, and the mind can speak, without the pen. By contrast, Irma Blank, born in Germany and working in Milan, is hand-and-pen reliant. But her notations, however similar to cursive writing, prove illegible, recording activity rather than thought. So, in their own way, do the spare geometric drawings of French-born, Los Angeles-based Guy de Cointet, seemingly encrypting information—or dialogue, given the late artist’s involvement in theater and performance art. The two artists here born (well) after World War II, local Conny Purtill and Glaswegian Sue Tompkins, are more concerned with the relationship of text/notation to material, and thus as much engaged with the artist’s book intermedium as with concrete poetry itself. In particular, Purtill’s intervention in printed books, betraying his vocation as book designer, clarifies sometimes startling connections between disparate words and images. For her part, Tompkins wields the typewriter like a DJ wields a tone arm, conjuring new structures (betraying her engagement with sound poetry) from found sources as much as from her own invention. STEVE TURNER CONTEMPORARY Claire Milbrath: Crome Yellow (November 11-December 16, 2017) Words Megan Abrahams
Claire Milbrath’s recent series of narrative paintings are populated with figures that appear to interact while remaining oddly disconnected, echoing the bizarre and intriguing Aldous Huxley novel Crome Yellow, the inspiration behind these works. Milbrath’s signature style, contradictorily and refreshingly naïve, while psychologically insightful at the same time, succeeds in distilling some of the novel’s flavor: Crome Yellow tells a peculiar story of a group of misaligned, eccentric, largely insecure and pretentious characters who have gathered for a summer holiday party set in the 1920s in the garden of Crome, a centuries-old estate in the English countryside. The Montreal-based artist takes a largely two-dimensional approach. Expansive vistas of green represent the verdant lawns of a fictional garden. 76
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Claire Milbrath Crome Yellow. Installation View Steve Turner Contemporary
Gradations of blue, pink and white—and occasional yellow marks—describe nuanced skyscape and water, adding contrast. Flat planes meet at a horizon, so that sky and landscape are clearly indicated, while middle ground and foreground flow together so they are almost indistinguishable. The net effect of this merged middle-foreground is an odd sense that the composition is pouring out of the frame. The scale in most of these paintings is just large enough to give the viewer a sense of mise en scène. In these various vignettes, as in the novel, points of view shift from one character, or group, to another, focusing primarily on a central figure, Poor Gray, an androgynous gay character cultivated from the artist’s imagination. Emphasizing the figures, outlines define and add contour to forms and features. While casually posed, the figures convey an air of self-conscious discomfort. Through Milbrath’s adroit portrayal, the subtlest details—the direction of a gaze, the position of a figure, the clothing—suggest much about the inner workings of each: pomposity, frustration, wistfulness, lust and boredom are somehow implied with spare hints and a witty flair. The works take cues from 18th-century fête champêtre paintings, portraying as they do a gathering of aristocratic subjects indulging in leisurely pursuits in pastoral settings, all cleverly infused with a contemporary ironic twist. 77
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FILM REVIEW Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow: To be a Refugee for 145 minutes Words Simone Kussatz
Was it coincidence or destiny when Ai Weiwei couldn’t attend the screening of his film Human Flow at the Hammer Museum in early January due to the cancellation of all flights out of New York? Either way, the artist’s absence immediately sensitized his guests to the misery of being stuck somewhere. Now imagine being trapped in a place for up to 26 years and your stomach keeps growling, your clothes are filthy and wet, and the only entertainment you have are the constant electricity outages, the snakes inside your tent and the tear gas being sprayed on you where you had believed you’d be free and safe. All that after a strenuous trip, during which you witnessed women being raped and fellow refugees drowning. This is a summary of the stories being told in Ai Weiwei’s 145-minute documentary about the refugee crisis, thus the 65.6 million displaced people around the world. His film was shot in 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Germany, Greece, France, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Macedonia and Pakistan. The Chinese-born, Berlin-based artist/filmmaker, a displaced person himself during the Cultural Revolution and a detainee in 2011 due to his outspokenness against the communist regime, introduces the subject matter in a gentle way. In fact, while Human Flow is a documentary, it includes several scenes that could easily be construed as part of a fictional feature film. Human Flow opens with the stunning scene of a white seagull flying gracefully above a dark blue ocean, perhaps the Aegean Sea, shot from an elevated view, accompanied by haunting music by composer Karsten Fundal. There are more cinematic moments throughout: as when a group of African refugees wrapped in silver-golden rescue blankets shimmer at night like a crackling fire, or the stunning shot of horses bathing in the turquoise blue ocean at Gaza beach. Not only pure aesthetics capture the viewer’s attention, however. We are captivated by the combination of reportage, poetry, oral history and interview, contrasted against close-ups of silent refugees and recurrent scenes of wind. The film’s pace is perfect. The viewer never has to endure a situation for too long; 78
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Refugees walking near Idomeni Camp, Greece in HUMAN FLOW, an Amazon Studios release. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios
intense and painful scenes are repeatedly replaced by enchanting and humorous ones. The mise-en-scène is thus varied yet balanced, due to Weiwei’s masterful directorial style and skillful editing by Niels Pagh Andersen. Another strength of the film, which more than 200 people worked on, is that it puts a face to refugees and humanizes “the other” in the style of immigrant and Holocaust movies. Thus, the refugees in the film are presented while dressing their children, cooking and sharing images on their cell phones. The multiple scenes of gap-toothed children smiling into the camera, symbols of innocence, remind us that, had we been born at the wrong place and wrong time, we’d be the refugees. Human Flow is a beautifully conceived film with a powerful message: Respect is important. The only minor flaws occur in moments of slight confusion as to geographic location, and when certain staged scenes clash with the naturalness portrayed in the rest of the film. Ai Weiwei was harshly criticized by the international press at the Venice International Film Festival and the German news magazine Der Spiegel for his noticeable presence throughout the film. However, his appearance in front of the camera proves necessary. He demonstrates how we can reduce the suffering in the lives of refugees by understanding and being kind to them. His installation Law of Journey, to be featured at the 21st Biennale of Sydney, is another effort to achieve that goal. 79
FRESH FACES IN ART
ARTISTS YOU SHOULD KNOW SEAN NOYCE
BY LAWRENCE GIPE
Many decades before the Internet cultivated fake news, philosopher Michel Foucault flipped the dictum “Knowledge is Power” into its ominous mirror image: “Power is Knowledge.” By reversing the cliché, Foucault prophetically revealed a dire—but more realistic—equation of how authority uses mass communication to control what becomes “truth.” In his new series, Technoselfie, Sean Noyce tackles this quandary for our media-inundated age, painting Tarot Card-like compositions that offer a stacked deck of inauthentic information, glitch coding and false prophets. The underlying subjects in Technoselfie are 20th-Century occultists and soothsayers like Aleister Crowley and Patricia Crowther, who both gathered followers in the pre-Internet age with their louche agendas. Noyce writes a computer code and filters Crowley’s and Crowther’s images through the algorithm, leaving traces of their presence on each panel in silkscreened pools of pixilated distortion. While these characters inhabit the under-layer of each panel, both thematically and visually, Noyce superimposes a dominant motif, a classical bust on a ceremonial altar. Objects that refer to the modern rituals of fast living (needles, razor blades) tumble in the mix with Masonic symbols and dripping candles, conjuring a Grand-Guignol ambiance that allows for little optimism. Noyce grew up in Utah, in a conservative atmosphere of restrictions and morality; as such, the Salt Lake City-native knows a few things about homegrown prophecy. In his statement about Technoselfie, he lays out a mission: “The task of our time will be to understand the forces behind programming and take control of our own narratives.” While governing ¬our own narratives might be a challenge, Noyce offers us a cautionary one in his work. (Sean Noyce is half of Noysky Projects, a Hollywood gallery co-founded with the artist, Katya Usvitsky, also a Fresh Face in this issue.)
Sean Noyce, The Soothsayer
FRESH FACES IN ART
BY LAWRENCE GIPE
As a child in Minsk, Belarus, sculptor Katya Usvitsky’s maternal “babushka” (also named Katya) nurtured and influenced her artistic tendencies, mainly by crafting clothes for her toys. Usvitsky now feels as if she “knew how to sew before she could talk.” Grandmother Katya taught her self-sufficiency, the meditative rituals of making things and the technique of stitching on an old-fashioned sewing machine. By 1989, America’s “Lautenberg Agreement” had classified Soviet Jews as persecuted, and the ensuing decade saw a large influx of Russian-Jewish immigrants from all the provinces. The opportunity arose for her father’s half of the family—the Jewish members—to emigrate to the US, and in 1991 the clan landed in Cleveland—for no particular reason other than Katya’s aunt “liked the name.” A decade and a graphic design degree later, Usvitsky entered New York’s contemporary art milieu. “New York was my grad school,” she said. Not incidentally, during the mid-aughts, fiber art was reemerging as a viable, even trendy genre. Strategies of accumulation, like Sheila Hicks’ mounds of vividly colored balls and Mike Kelley’s piles of stuffed animals, inspire Usvitsky’s work. But her hand-wrought forms do not act as autonomous entities. Rather, each is in service to the next, like interlocking organic cells. Much of Usvitsky’s work is tonal; in fact, the subtly varied dyes of a single shade of nylon—she prefers “nude”—is often the only color involved. Each ball is a module, in sculptures that range from intimate to human scale. Home (the official title of a piece the artist has nicknamed Big Mama.) is capable of encasing a body. The pictured version of Home is a self-portrait that gives us a glimpse of Usvitsky’s character: a self-described introvert, she turns her back on the viewer, resolutely filling in the entrance to her cocoon. (Katya Usvitsky is half of Noysky Projects, a Hollywood gallery co-founded with the artist Sean Noyce, another Fresh Face in this issue).
Katya Usvitsky, Home
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