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Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Doug Simay’s Best Picks
In my “Best Picks” writings I do not normally write about art seen outside of LA.  But since many of you may
be traveling across the country this month I present some of my recommendations for art to be seen in
addition to Los Angeles.  I see a lot of art and in the last 30 days have been able to diligently cover
Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Fort Worth – in addition to LA.
Pipilotti Rist at the New Museum (Manhattan through January 15).
This survey exhibition of the Swiss artist, Pipilotti Rist is the first significant opportunity to see her work in
the US.  Over the last 15 years I have frequently seen her work – but it is always in Switzerland.  Rist is
dominantly a video/film artist.  Her work can have spooky aspects like the photography of Geoffrey
Crewdson.  But it always revolves around a passion for beauty and visual poetry.  
Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer (Manhattan through January 29).
On the West Coast we have had the pleasure of seeing Marshall’s work (he was represented in LA by
Koplin Del Rio) (Marshall spent some early years in LA but is now a Chicago-based artist).  This major
survey is spectacular.  Marshall takes us into the ghettos and housing projects for a view of being Black in
America.  His painting is powerful; loaded with content that reflects reality interpreted with elements of art
history.
Alice Neel 1958
Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection at The Whitney (Manhattan through
February 12).
Being well schooled in abstraction and conceptualism, my heart lies with figural painting.  The Whitney has
pulled portraits from its collection to remind us that looking at the “other” is a great opportunity to consider
self. Portrait painting allows us to monitor the evolution of painting styles, the historical references that are
attached to people, and to reflect on our views of the world as we contemplate the sitter before us.
Francis Picabia 1913
Francis Picabia at MOMA (Manhattan through March 15).
MOMA and the Kunsthalle Zurich have jointly produced an ambitious survey of Francis Picabia (1879-
1953) documented with over 200 works.  Picabia was a naturally gifted artist - every bit as much a genius
as Picasso (an on-again, off-again friend).  It is now the 100th year anniversary of the Dada art movement
which was “birthed” at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in February 1916.  Dada was birthed as a response
to the horrors of WWI and Picabia was one of its earliest participants.  Picabia shifted his artistic output
many times from realism to abstraction, back and forth.  In 1922 he stated, “Our heads are round so our
thoughts can change direction.”
In late September I saw this exhibition in Zurich.  I have not seen the MOMA installation.  This is a must-
see, world class exhibition.
Mark Quint: Give Me a Minute, I’m Thinking at the Athenaeum (La Jolla through December 31).
Mark Quint has a perfect (as nearly so as a mortal can attain) sense of taste.  Stripping away the
commercial necessities of being a gallerist, this exhibition demonstrates the powerfully human qualities of
inquisitiveness.  It demonstrates the wonder of thinking and feeling.  It shows us why “collecting” is a form
of respect and the possibilities inherent in paying attention.  Ephemera has never been more respectfully
honored.
Roy Porello: Artists to Swatch at the Athenaeum (La Jolla through December 31).
Pairing Roy Porello with Mark Quint and their respective collections is inspired.  Roy’s collection of Swatch
watches demonstrates the highest qualities of collecting.  A great collector brings “added value” to that
which they collect.  Look no further than Roy Porello’s passionate collection to understand why “collecting”
has little do with “fashion”.
Kristin Leachman: Xylem Rays at Laguna Art Museum (Laguna Beach through January 15).
I have admired Kristin Leachman’s work since her exhibition days with Joni Gordon at Newspace.  Her
painting then was about domestic, feminine textures – abstraction of the figural.  Her latest work that
constitutes this exhibition are again abstractions birthed out of the figural nature of vegetal growth.  Kristin
Leachman is smart with a broad ranging education.  She understands the science that explains her
observations of nature.  That said, these paintings of organic growth, organically grow as her loaded
brush is drawn across the canvas.  I like seeing them as organic abstraction – a collection of wandering
lines that record the spiritual experience of walking through a forest.
Candice Gawne at Cornelius Projects (San Pedro through January 15).
I have known Candice since the 1980s when she exhibited her paintings at Karl Bornstein Gallery.  She left
painting to become a very successful neon artist. Her understanding of how to manipulate overlapping
colored light is the core to her success in neon sculpture.  It is also relevant to her return to painting.  Her
newest paintings are encaustic.  The translucency of that medium is key to her use of color to evoke a
spirituality of the commonplace; everyday.
Thomas Hirschhorn at The Mistake Room (DTLA through Dec. 17).
Hirschhorn’s installation is a big mess – flooded with objects and scrawled sayings that create the sense of
a post conceptual “shooting gallery”.  The cardboard columns that repeat from room to room in the string
of five rooms create a sense of a “hall of mirrors” that suck the visitor ever more deeply into an
environment that has the “last word”.
Lisa Beck at CB1 (DTLA through Dec.23).
I have seen a lot of work by Rothko lately.  Perhaps that is why I responded to Lisa Beck’s work.  She
paints on reflective materials and that makes her paintings unique even while they mine the abstract
geometries of Diebenkorn and Rothko.
Jack Davidson at CB1 (DTLA through Dec. 23).
Davidson uses leftover paint to color large sheets of paper which then get torn and collaged onto paper to
form the collage-paintings seen in this exhibition.  It is a simple concept that produces simple works.  At
this scale, the works appear like painting with the colored paper looking like paint and the resultant
collages looking like paintings.  It is seductive.
Melvino Garretti at Post (DTLA through Dec. 17).
Unsung and rarely seen, Garretti has long practiced (since the 1970s) accomplished ceramic sculpture.  
His engaging works represent the excellence in our midst -- excellence that doesn’t scream for attention
but has always been important for its creator.
Jennifer Steinkamp at ACME (Frogtown through Jan.7).
Jennifer Steinkamp’s room filling computer generated videos are mesmerizing.  Steinkamp has been
seen regularly in Southern California (she is a professor at UCLA).  Her work – like that of Pipilotti Rist –
embraces beauty while suggesting the sublime.
ACME has moved and this exhibition inaugurates their new gallery in Frogtown (near the intersection of
the Interstate 5 and the Pasadena (2) Freeway.  I’ve known both Randy and Robert since their first days
together as Food House (then located off Cloverfield in Santa Monica).  They are fine, principled
dealers, committed to their trade, and constant in pursuing quality.  Their new gallery will serve them
well.
Ha Chong-hyun at Blum & Poe (Culver City through Dec. 17).
This Korean artist has explored the relationship of paint to canvas for the last forty years.  He applies paint
to the back of burlap, smashes and squeezes it through the fabric, and then smears it across the surface
which then gets again modelled by scraping.  The fundamentally monochrome works investigate the
polarity of paint to canvas; positive to negative.
Alexander Tovborg at Blum & Poe (Culver City through Dec. 17).
The work of the Dane, Alexander Tovborg, seems out of character for this gallery.  It is gay, figural,
decorative with a “native culture” sort of aesthetic.  I was in Denmark this last June and had a chance to
comprehensively review current Danish art.  Gauguin began his artistic life in Denmark and Tovborg has
similarly been drawn to the exotic motifs of other/outsider native cultures.
Sean-McGee Phetsarath at Zevitas Marcus (Culver City through Dec. 31).
Phetsarath is Asian-American raised in Texas.  He is young and his work demonstrates the impact of
digital culture on his aesthetic.  On first view the work seems graphic and unidimensional.  Its humor
rapidly grew on me. So much of our aesthetics today comes packaged over computer/smart phone digital
screens. Phetsarath brand of Pop reflects new media.  I am reminded of another Texas artist from a
generation earlier (though Phetsarath is currently finishing a MFA in San Francisco) – Richard Thompson
(who now lives in Oregon).    
Jeffrey Vallance at Edward Cella (Culver City through Dec. 31).
Vallance is nothing if not idiosyncratic.  Of his multifaceted output, drawing stands out as dominant.  
Drawing is so immediate that surveying this exhibition’s dense selection of drawings produced over the last
40 years allows the viewer to “get inside” the artist’s head.  He has an active mind, a sharp sense of
insight, great/good humor, and wide ranging interests.
Jeff Colson at Maloney (Culver City).
Colson is a master craftsman.  He manufactures magnificently realistic trompe l’oeil.  His work speaks
nostalgically of human qualities and the “tools” that deliver the heroically mundane.
Jennifer Boysen at Cherry and Martin (Culver City through Jan. 14).
Boysen’s paintings are sculpture screaming out of painting.  The understructure that stretches the canvas
is like howling bones sticking through taut skin.  
Ethan Cook at Anat Ebgi (Culver City through Dec. 17).
Ethan Cook weaves his own canvas and then pieces it together into simple geometries that
announce that they are hand-wrought.  What seems usually a feminine enterprise is well used by
Mr. Cook.  He operates in the spirit of Gee’s Bend and early Navajo quilts and weavings.
Sasha Pierce at Richard Heller (Bergamot closing).
Sasha Pierce has one piece in the group show that is just closing.  It is quite a stupendous piece not
very well represented by the above photograph.  The artist squeezes thin strands of paint out of a bag.
Using a ruler to line up the extruded fragments she orients the line of fragments into place much like a
reed is used to push the threads of a weaving.  Her paintings are easily confused with textiles.  
Bruce Cohen at Leslie Sacks (Bergamot closing).
Still producing beautiful wrought paintings of interiors with flowers, the decades long series of these
immaculate paintings continues to create a sublime aura echoing Dutch 17th century masters.  After years
of admiring Cohen’s work, I finally learned of his friendship with mentor Paul Wonner.  That makes sense.  
Two California artists who have never flagged in espousing the virtues of realist painting.
Stephen Hannock at Robert Berman (Bergamot through Jan. 7).
Another realist, Hannock has built his career on landscapes.  In this two painting exhibition the works are lit
with black light.  To call Hannock a Neo-Luminist has never been more appropriate.
Kaws at Fort Worth Modern (Fort Worth, Texas through Jan.22).
The curator has done a magnificent job of explaining KAWS to the viewing public.  In a short, very
successful career it is clear that KAWS is the heir-apparent to Jeff Koons.  Melding Pop art, commercial
culture, and graffiti – KAWS is prolific.  His figuratively based, geometric abstractions at times look derived
from Philip Guston crossed with Warhol.  But it his interchangeable address of high and low culture that
most mimics and updates Keith Haring.
KAWS on appropriated Keith Haring poster
Lorna Simpson at Fort Worth Modern (Fort Worth, Texas through Jan. 15).
I am not a fan of Lorna Simpson whose career has had an unrelenting upward coarse since getting her
MFA at UCSD in 1985.  She remains true to conceptual photography – now melding this backbone with
acrylic, ink, and silkscreen painting.  The results are dramatic and the most “artistic” I have seen her
function.
Everett Spruce (1908-2002) 1937 (a Texas Regionist) Amon Carter Collection
Richard Misrach at the Amon Carter (Fort Worth through Dec. 31).
Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo are jointly showing contemporary work dealing with the border and
its fence (seems a third of Trump’s project is already in place).  Called “Border Cantos” it is a human look
at the realities of the current border fence (covering 700 of the 1989 miles of shared border).  The
exhibition and body of work is not about beauty. It is Misrach as documentarian and humanist (can politics
be far from the discussion?).  
The Amon Carter Museum is a magnificent museum specializing in American art.  With over 60,000 pieces
in its collection it has always been a favorite.
Happy Holidays to All.
Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay  December 2016      doug@simayspace.com
Dr. Atl 1921
Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950 at Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia
through January 8).
This show has garnered huge press and positive reviews.  Built upon the significant holdings of Mexican
Modernism in the Philadelphia Museum’s collection (particularly their works on paper), this tasty exhibition
is indeed terrific.  I qualify this recommendation because the Mexican muralists (Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco,
Camarena, Tamayo) were hugely important to setting the political agenda in the re-creation of the Mexican
State.  The primary modality of the muralists were murals – and one cannot transport the murals out of
Guadalajara and Mexico City.  Short of going to central Mexico, this is the next best experience.