Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Doug Simay's Best Picks
The dog days of summer leave the art scene in Los Angeles long in the tooth. Many galleries are closed to take a break before the next season inaugurates.
Leading off the coming “new season” is the 3rd year of Art San Diego 2011: September 1- 4. Ann Berchtold has done a stellar job of elevating this art fair to a class act - representing one of the West Coast’s best art fair productions. Then starting September 10th, all of Los Angeles will be ready to show off and bask in the glory of a season dedicated to the Getty Research Institute’s focus on art in postwar Los Angeles called Pacific Standard Time.
My report of what I saw last week follows.
Jason Martin at LA Louver (Venice through August 27).
Martin’s work looks really swell in the gallery’s formal white cube. I wonder how much and what type of space they would need in the real world in order to be as affecting. Martin’s career was launched being in the Saatchi Collection and his identity as a YBA (Young British Artist). This work is more dimensional than the slathered works of James Hayward (who will be seen at RB Stevenson in La Jolla this Fall within the context of Pacific Standard Time).
Reynold Reynolds at Christopher Grimes (Santa Monica through Sept. 3). I dropped back again this month to catch a couple more videos. The Berlin video artist, Reynold Reynolds curates the video selection for Week 7 (out of 8) of the series which screens August 22-27. I take my hat off to Christopher Grimes. He has facilitated one of the broadest expositions of contemporary video art in my experience.
Steve McCurry at Peter Fetterman (Bergamot through December). McCurry’s 1984 image of a green-eyed Afghan girl that made the cover of Time magazine is iconic. McCurry knows his subjects well - he goes and lives amongst them even if it is in harm’s way. Fetterman has a large selection of his work up for many months. While I tend to consider “National Geographic” like photos differently from “art” photos, McCurry’s work is visually luscious and delivers not only informational content - but also aesthetic substance. His images from India are mesmerizing.
Chain Letter at Shoshana Wayne (Bergamot through August 25). This huge show of art assembled itself like a chain letter. An initial group of artists were chosen. Each of them then chose ten other artists to invite and on it grew. The chaos of the jam packed gallery in places seems to organize itself. I think this exhibition is more about the process of how the artist community recognizes itself. It is most constructive to appreciate how reinforcing being at the crowded opening must have been. Each artist could see how significant their peerage is. On the other hand, that this exhibition is as close as most of these artists will get to showing in this signature gallery seems a bit desperate. Telling in this regard is this gallery note to the “exhibitors”:
“ALL artwork left in any galleries AFTER designated de-install times will be DISCARDED without exception.”
Sara Jane Boyers at Craig Krull (Bergamot through Sept. 3).
Boyers presents images taken in various Chinatowns in North America. Her photographs are at the same time sentimental and matter of fact. Above all they are respectful.
Abel Baker Gutierrez at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot through August 27).
Gutierrez paints enigmatic, wistful portraits of young bathers who are either at play or may be engaged with peril. The nostalgia of his subjects offers both a sense of comfort and a confounding of reality. Removed from their original contexts, these reinterpretations lead the viewer to ponder the ideological significance implied. In very many ways Gutierrez territorially aligns with Lawrence Gipe. They are brothers from different mothers.
Baker’s Dozen III at Torrance Art Museum (Torrance through August 27). This year’s iteration of their annual survey of LA Basin artists is one of the better such exhibitions. I highlight work by Amir Fallah, Anne Lapin, and Robert Olsen.
Cordy Ryman at Mark Moore (Culver City through August 27).
New York artist, Ryman, assembles everyday discarded materials, paints them, and frequently energizes the work by integrating it into its environment. He is paired with Kiel Johnson as a Neo-Constructivist. Ryman’s work is freshly engaging. It is not academic and relies on intuition rather than cognition.
Kiel Johnson at Mark Moore (Culver City through August 27).
Pairing Ryman and Johnson together is inspired. If Ryman’s work seems impulsive, Johnson’s work is carefully planned. Johnson presents Pop sculptures of technological marvels constructed from recycled materials. Both of these artists consider the context in which their work is to be seen and it is their perspective that gives us pause to reconsider the obvious.
Tobias Madison, Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Joan Semmel at Blum & Poe (Culver City through August 27).
This group show of nine artists was curated by Cecilia Alemani. All the artists are new to me. All the artists are skilled and the overall effect of the exhibition is to reassure that creativity is alive and well.
Tobias Madison is Swiss. Jakub Julian Ziolkowski is Polish. His dimensional wall pieces seem like a macabre meld of Red Grooms and Dubuffet. Joan Semmel is now 79 years old and her paintings in this show are from the 1970’s.
Jakub Julian Ziolkowski
Dion Johnson at Western Project (Culver City through Sept. 3).
Johnson’s work is deft and precise. It is very pleasing and I agree with the gallery’s comparisons with Karl Benjamin and John McLaughlin. I also see shared interests with Heather Gwen Martin and Ingrid Calame and the work of Monique Prieto from 10 years ago.
Michelle Matthews at George Billis (Culver City through Aug. 27).
Michelle Matthews has two works included in the gallery’s group “Cityscape Show”. Her image of the urbanscape is rendered by computer generated machine-embroidery.
Greta Waller at Maloney (Culver City closing).
Ms. Waller (MFA from UCLA in 2011) professes a love of painting and the history of painting. But she also feels “persecuted for realism”. Her work is confident and she has stylistic techniques that seem truly hers. There is no reason to apologize for this introduction of another fine LA painter.
Robert Pruitt at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through Aug. 27).
Robert Pruitt’s drawings lie between Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley. Quoting from the gallery press release about Pruitt‘s influences: “fresh expression of black identity that was multi-dimensional, self-actualized and bathed in futuristic symbology”. Pruitt engages us with his fantasies about how being Black departs from a historical identity dating from slavery.
Andy Warhol 1994
Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama at Gagosian (Beverly Hills through Sept. 2)Gagosian has installed a couple new Kusamas and an Andy Warhol 1994 piece, “Silver Clouds”. Very pleasing experience.
Joan Nelson at Michael Kohn (West Hollywood through August 27).
Joan Nelson continues her seductive gauzy, landscape romanticism. She hasn’t forgotten the Hudson River School nor the lessons from Joachim Patinir in her Postmodern practice.
Lynda Benglis at MOCA (Bunker Hill through Oct. 10).
This retrospective of Lynda Benglis is really terrific - don‘t miss it. I remember opening my Artforum in 1974 to see her outrageous exhibition announcement. She has continued to be a steadfast sculptural innovator.
Also at MOCA is a one room tribute to the late Cy Twombly (1928-2011) drawn from the collection of Eli Broad. This enviable collection offers a comprehensive view of all things Twombly.