Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Closer Look

30 January 2010

If you’re thinking I headed straight for the Oscar Tuazon’s at the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair yesterday, you’re right and wrong. After the further delay of various errands, I finally made it over to PDC only to be waylaid by a figure in an International Klein Blue sweater (!) – Richard Hertz, the oral art historian (Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia; and The Beat and the Buzz – to which – full disclosure here – I contributed the instroduction), in the very pleasant company of Kim Light, Rachel Lachowicz, Alex Couri and Patrick Marcoux. Having just wrapped her colloquium on women in the art world (in which Rachel was one of the panelists), Kim felt free to chide me for my absence from the discussion. (As readers of this blog may recall, I offered a criticism of a group show Kim presented in New York, based partially on the absence of women artists from the group. I later learned this had more to do with art world politics and logistics than any curatorial agenda, which, knowing that world as I do, made perfect sense to me; and any criticism of that show must be (and herewith IS) qualified by those circumstances.) After an entirely salutary scolding, Richard and I shared our enthusiasm for the Sage Vaughn work in Kim’s space before I moved on – to the Intelligentsia coffee bar. (Believe me, I needed it.)

I’ve already mentioned the trend – very much on the wing – in avian subject matter in variously representational and abstracted painting and other media (in addition to the aforementioned Sage Vaughn, one thinks of Lisa Adams and Comora Tolliver). Another trend, which has probably been emerging for at least a couple of years – the sort of thing that ebbs and flows with the Zeitgeist – is photography-of-photography – the variously deliberate and random collage and (re-)configuration of photographs and photograph fragments, sometimes utilizing photographs of a particular subject or motive. My most recent encounter with this type of photography was at the Italian Cultural Institute here in Westwood, where Walead Beshty exhibited his most recent photographs in collaboration with the architectural firm, Johnston-Marklee in a joint show they titled “Later Layer” – which related (with mixed success) architectural maquettes of various housing developments designed ‘serially’ or in a layering process by the J-M firm with Beshty’s similarly serial and layered photographs (which presented as vivid shafts of colored light criss-crossing at various oblique angles – the original ‘subjects’ of which were largely abstracted architectural elements). Andrea Longacre-White does something similar using photographs of her studio, configured and re-configured, photographed and re-photographed until a satisfactory configuration of layers is achieved. Longacre-White’s photographs have not undergone the kind of darkroom manipulation Beshty’s apparently did, and (within the constraints of her studio subject) are far more monochromatic. (I believe there may have been some of these Beshty photographs available in another gallery booth, but I did not re-encounter them yesterday.)

I also re-visited the Charro-Negro Galleria (Guadelajara) space, whose overall roster of artists and gallery program interested me somewhat more than what they had available to view. (Maria Jose Lopez, the Galleria’s director, is so intelligent and completely charming.) I’m probably going to have to wait until I actually visit their gallery in Guadelejara – and I cannot wait.

Karyn Lovegrove, who I’d sort of lost track of a bit since she left the 6150 Wilshire complex, was showing work from her own roster, including Karin Apollonia Müller and Anna Sew Hoy, who, interestingly, may have a few new tricks up her sleeve. In addition to a few objects I saw inhabiting Karyn’s desk, I noticed what looked like gouache/ink/watercolor works on paper in one corner, which I learned were also by Anna Sew Hoy – a departure towards a new kind of abstraction for her: elaborated “blobs” as Timothy put it, in pen-and-ink and colored pencil – quite successful and very reasonably priced.

I stopped in briefly at Steve Turner’s space to have another look at a large painting by Jennifer Wyman, which in my slightly inebriated exhaustion Thursday night left a kind of paint-by-numbers-on-acid impression on me. Its overall design and (abstracted) subject did in fact reference camouflage-type pattern (an effect I learned she achieves with a turkey baster, (I assume) squirting these ‘camo-blobs’ in brightly hued acrylic pigments directly onto the canvas. The title more or less ‘filled in the numbers’ – “Combat Drag” – an ambiguous figure – soldier or devout female civilian, who could say? – in something that read as a “camo-burkha”.

Virtuosic painting abounds – Wyman is nothing if not technically adept; and I already mentioned the sweeping painterly lyricism of Monique von Genderen the other day. But sometimes you need a closer look. And it was great going back to The Breeder (Athens) to look at the work of L.A.-based Mindy Shapero. The Breeder has a phenomenal loyalty to Shapero and it is largely well-deserved. Speaking of my ‘on-acid’ impressions, I had a similar kind of first encounter with Shapero’s sculpture – an open construction in steel rebar with a ‘body’ mass of feathered, hand-cut, shaped and clustered plastic and, dangling at one end of a vertical extension of rebar, a ‘face’ plate or ‘mask’ of flat steel – ‘sheep’ or ‘ostrich’? – who could say? – but it did leave a very bird-like (that trend AGAIN!) impression. After the intial dazzle of that ‘thing’ (thank you, Hammer Museum), I was now able to focus on the painting – what from a distance resembled dramatically enlarged microscopic views of cells or organelles, in deep pigments heightened by goldleaf. (One panel had a entirely goldleaf backdrop.) Upon closer inspection, some of these (including the goldleaf panel) did look very ‘cellular’; others took on a mask-like configuration; still others in various abstractions of eddying waves and interior structure and incident – all very beautiful, almost breathtaking, taken (closely) in sum.

There were a few other events on my agenda for the afternoon and evening – including a vist to the (speaking of reconfigurations) ‘replicated’ Ferus Gallery around the corner on La Cienega. There were some beautiful things on view there, I will say that – including a great Billy Al Bengston, a lovely Joseph Cornell and classic Craig Kaufman (I’m forgetting a few other beauties – but go check it out if you’re in the neighborhood). I skipped a few other things, which I deeply regret, but, uh, I got waylaid again – by great conversation. John Kinkead hosted a barbecue for the painter Angela Dufresne, who will take up a one-month residency with Kinkead Contemporary in the coming month. I’m on fairly extensive record as a huge fan of Angela’s painting, so let me jump a bit here to say, (1) she’s been working in portraiture a great deal lately and her project with Kinkead will also deal with portraiture; (2) she’s also a phenomenal cook (and really knows her way around a grill, too); and (3) the pleasure of her conversation was not easy to break away from – though it was made easier by segue to another conversation with another local painter with whom she shares certain affinities – Matty Byloos – whom I also had the pleasure of introducing to her. I would have liked to have made it to Country Club – John Knuth’s new salon – but it was a terrific evening nonetheless.

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