Friday, January 29, 2010

Immersion and Encouragement at the Big Blue Whale

29 January 2010

That last bit in my last post – if anyone even remembers (or even READ) it now was my impression of Wallis Simpson, the late Duchess of Windsor. Before I back-track so much as a week, much less to that particular Saturday evening’s scene at RAID Projects (a terrific show, by the way – “That’s the way I see things” – which is still up) and Duchess Marlene and the ensuing hi-jinks – I’m just going to jump straight into the RIGHT NOW (or at least last night) and lead off with what’s immediately on the horizon – which is, uh, whaddayaknow? – ART. I’m not sure if it’s “Art Week” or “Art MONTH” here in L.A.; all I know is we’ve been IMMERSED in it – and people like me are finding themselves out almost every night, getting no sleep – and, uh, no blogging – which is not to excuse myself, but I’m still learning trying to master the skill of sleep-writing – and with my laptop you never know what you’re going to wake up to find on your screen. Yeah, yeah – there’s a bit of art-and-culture political biz to discuss (both MOCA and LACMA) – but it will keep for now. Let me just allow that I am cautiously optimistic about Jeffrey Deitch at MOCA. He thinks creatively both curatorially and financially (the latter of which MOCA has a desperate need for); seems to have a pretty good handle on this level of administration and understands collections (the suggestions that he divest himself of a large part of his collection are simply rubbish). That’s pretty encouraging right there.

The best encouragement of course is good art – and there was quite a bit on view last night at the opening of Art Los Angeles Contemporary at Pacific Design Center. First, let me just say that the layout of the gallery booths was compactly but brilliantly arranged with gallery booths opening out and grouped behind the glass panels and vitrines of the PDC’s showrooms, giving almost every gallery great visibility while helping to channel the traffic between the booths and display areas (which was a bit heavy at times last night). It was also very sociable – you could nosh and chat with your pals as you strolled through the corridors between fair sections while glimpsing what you might want to investigate further in the booths without having to jostle drinks and hors d’oeuvres plates amongst the fair-goers having a closer look.

A few highlights. Some dealers really know how to do this sort of thing. Thomas Solomon (whose booth was so outstanding at last year’s artLA) is one; David and Nowell at Angles are another pair; and apparently, Kim Light – who everyone knows will almost always have something to show – is another. Her space was given over to Sage Vaughn, a painter and, more recently, animator of his paintings (which seems to be something of a trend). His subject might be called the tragically corrupt and transcendently beautiful natural world – in other words nature as altered by human activity, but also ineluctably cruel on its own terms – and the locus of endlessly varied beauties in a continuous cycle of bloom and decay. In his video and paintings, robins, bluejays, cardinals, songbirds (another trend here, no? BIRDS) soar and fall amid the dappled skies and urban decay of a drab urban backdrop. I couldn’t tear myself away from the animation; and the larger paintings were also very beautiful. His collages play up the uneasy yet serendipitous intersection between human-made and natural worlds on a material and slightly grittier level.

Speaking of beautiful painting – there was a beautiful Monique van Genderen at Michael Janssen’s (Berlin) space – a looping abstraction in luminous yellows and burnished browns that had was like a sunflower gesture or ideogram arching over its panel. Also a wonderfully imposing (in its slightly archaic-look) and vividly impastoed Ruby Neri at David Kordansky’s space. (By the way, David and Nowell had pulled one of the Tom LaDuke’s out of their inaugural show at their La Cienega gallery – it looked almost better here than it looked there. Tom Solomon was showing Analia Saban; he plans to change artists each day of the fair.) Speaking of the gritty urban (more or less the same context as Sage Vaughn’s but to far less transcendent effect), I like Michael Vasquez’s painting (at Frederic Snitzer, Miami); but – between one fair and the next, I’m beginning to wonder if he’s a bit overexposed.

I ran into Skip Arnold, insouciantly resting his glass on an a large glass-faced Oscar Tuazon cube and pouring himself a cocktail as he engaged Jonathan Viner (London) in spirited conversation regarding the methods and merits of Tuazon – an interesting-looking object that seemed (at first blush) both original and clichéd in equal measure. (Skip thinks we should jointly write a piece discussing these sculptures. I’ll think about it Skip – maybe after I have a second look today). They appear to be constructed of glass panels – variously cracked and shattered, steel or wood (for the frame), enclosing various materials limned through the glass panels – what looks like crumpled vellum or some kind of scrim, chicken-wire and assorted debris. I’m not sure Jonathan Viner knew quite how to take our Skip; but I’m sure he’s recovered by now. (I think Skip was enjoying the Tuazon as a prop more than anything else.) Interestingly both Jonathan Viner and a gallery called The Standard (Oslo) were showing Tuazon’s work (which I’m otherwise unfamiliar with). The Tuazon at Standard was equally striking – but I’ll have to get back to it later – as in NOW – I’m out the door and off again to ALAC.

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