Saturday, May 24, 2008

Messages in bottles and embryonic stars

I mentioned the “week-end just past” in the last post and I realize we’re already coming up on the NEXT week-end. I might be inclined to say that Margie Schnibbe’s show at Circus was the singular ‘event’ of the week-end, about which I hope to expand at greater length both here and pages elsewhere (including, of course, artillery). Except that the COLA show was something of a blockbuster – really one of the best in years – flanked to boot by a show by Dana Maiden (the Feitelson Award recipient) – a stunning L.A. debut. And Richard Telles had another impressive pairing: new (and very different) work by Monika Baer and some very dark, disturbing (and beautiful) painting by an artist named Tom Allen. Did I mention how beautiful L.A. has looked the last few days? Uncharacteristically cool, gray, stormy, the jacurandas in bloom, the air clean and fragrant with the mingled frangrances of citrus, jasmine and honeysuckle; and the Lakers headed (knock wood) for the NBA finals.

12 May 2008 (cont’d.)

From Chinatown, I headed north on Sunset back towards Silver Lake and Gallery Revisited which has regrouped its overall concept, so to speak, in the direction of – (voila) The Group – group shows exclusively for the next several months by its stable of artists – which is interesting in the sense it gives both of the impulses, ideas and aesthetics circulating among a certain segment (or segments) of the Los Angeles (or larger, or smaller) art community, as well as the tastes (whimsical, eclectic) and thinking (probing, enigmatic) of its director, Leora Lutz. Lutz is completely serious about the mission of her gallery and about getting the best out of her artists, at which she seems to have had some success with this show, without necessarily burdening them with too many constraints. At the same time (and if her artists are any reflection of this), she’s all over the map (or at least one part of that ‘map’); and, for all her focus and seriousness, she’s sly, quick-witted (and changeable), and one of those people who can never fail to make me laugh. Without getting too much into the specifics (or the specific pieces), the direction the show elicits is about the enigmatic abstraction and the enigmatic object, which may be two sides of the same coin. It’s a terrain Hammer curators have explored in some breadth (if not depth) – both with Thing and even Russell Ferguson’s The Undiscovered Country. The abstraction here is not on the same order as Ferguson’s ‘undiscovered country,’ which had a figurative/representational bias, but partakes of a similar sensibility: e.g., a cool abstraction like Elana Kundell’s oil “It’s A Wash” (which is really an incredible painting). (I’m happy to say that my publisher, Paige Wery’s, painting was no less creditable in this regard. The painting/object was heavily worked – but I think to a successful end. There were surfaces here that seemed not lunar, not Martian, but Jovian. We may all be be in the gutter, but some of us are looking at – uh, apparently Jupiter.) It was interesting that Paige’s piece somewhat straddled the turf between painting and object – and the terrestrial (specifically, a tree) and extra-terrestrial. More definitively ‘object’ and perhaps also extra-terrestrial was Ya-Ya Chou’s embryonic/placental object in blown glass and red plastic – call it ‘Star Fetus’ or Star Embryo (I don’t remember what the title was). Then there was something that had at least the familiarity of one of those Steuben paperweights – containing a text – you might as well call that ‘Message in a bottle from another planet’ (again, I don’t know what the title was). Familiar at least conceptually was the vividly enlarged tongue segment with its clustered, nipple-like papillae, by Lana Shuttleworth (“Tongues Will Wag:”). Yes, they will. Another vivid, and utterly mysterious construction, something that looked vaguely like a pair of red peppers was actually a collaboration between Julie Hughes (who also showed work of her own) and another artist (Pete Goldlust?).

It sounds far out; and it only got farther out – almost to the verge of ‘outsider’ status. But then aren’t we all, until someone ‘sends the car’ for us? (L.A.-speak – that may be going out of fashion; what with the price of gas, they’ll soon be sending a bike and sidecar – or maybe a pedicab. I’ll settle for the invite.) I’m probably getting a lot of this completely wrong; what notes I have are completely illegible. (I hope the artists – or Leora, who apparently has her own blog now – will set the record straight.)

I had to bypass Eagle Rock more or less (a mistake) for La Brea, where one of my amici Italiani insisted I come to a show at Liz’s Loft – that’s Liz of Liz’s Antique Hardware, who has opened up the space upstairs from her amazing emporium of antique and vintage hardware, fittings and lighting to display everything from arts decoratifs to fine art. It’s a fabulous space – and the party was fabulous, too – fabulous wine, food (Liz is a great cook on top of everything else) – maybe a bit too fabulous for the art (by Anna Dusi). The action was definitely on the floor (I was craving a Dolce Vita/Otto e mezzo make-over a la Ekberg or Aimée) – or maybe the ceilings. There were beautiful chandeliers – long flanges and fingers of frosted glass or rock crystal (Venetian, 1980s) that almost eclipsed what was on the walls. (Credit my pal, Alessandra Montagna, genius art director and purveyor of chic antiques, who apparently procured them for Liz.) I missed the art in Eagle Rock (e.g., Kristi Engle), but Liz and Sandra had gossip for me about Big-Penn (see previous posts) that was nothing if not distracting.

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