Category: Art review

Art Review: Firelei Baez at Richard Heller Gallery

April 14, 2012 | 10:00 am


The work of Dominican-born, New York-based painter Firelei Báez, on view in her L.A. debut at Richard Heller Gallery, is a captivating fusion of lightness and heft, agility and brawn. Her figures — nearly all of them female — are fleshy and substantial, with an animalistic quality, in several cases, that suggests a mythological undercurrent. Yet they’re entangled in wreathes of wispy ornament: curling hair, leaves, fur, birds, patterned drapery and decoration.

Most of the works are gouache on paper, with elements of graphite, ink and silk-screen, and the figures float as if weightless across the white space of each page, with the air of being in constant motion, whether barefoot or in heels (as many are).

Only two years out of graduate school, Báez has packed the work with erudite allusions — the press release cites such works as Dick Hebdige’s writing on British punk subcultures, Islamic miniature painting and black Creole fashion in 18th century New Orleans — geared to fleshing out tangled concepts of race and the formation of cultural identity.

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Art Review: Sarah Braman at International Art Objects

April 14, 2012 |  9:00 am

Calling Wendy - Braman
The work in New York artist Sarah Braman’s first solo show in Los Angeles, at International Art Objects (formerly China Art Objects), confronts viewers with one of the great existential questions of contemporary abstraction: Is it a painting? Or is it wood with paint on it? Is it a sculpture? Or is it scrap wood?

If we consider a painting to be an object in which paint and wood (or, in the case of one of Braman’s works, cardboard) are mysteriously synthesized, whether by effort, skill or accident, into an object of energetic resonance clearly in excess of the sum of its parts, only one of the four contenders in this show leans toward qualifying: an unaccountably lively piece called “Tuesday,” in which a thin wash of blue on one panel balances nimbly against several darker patches of blue on an adjoining panel.

The show’s four sculptures — large-scale plywood and Plexiglas cubes that tip and tilt across the floor with little apparent interference from gravity — fare somewhat better, filling the space of each room with a degree, at least, of companionable bulk.

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Art Review: Elad Lassry at David Kordansky Gallery

April 14, 2012 |  8:00 am

CarLassry Install 01

Elad Lassry has received a lot of attention in recent years for his engagingly odd photographic work, which blends a keen instinct for the language of images — the kooky and awkward as well as the luscious — with a calculated disregard for traditional photographic boundaries of the sort that keep the activity of taking pictures cordoned off from the activity of appropriating them. (He does both, indiscriminately.)

In his second exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery, it’s clear that he’s angling to get past photography into the more fashionable territory of the multi-disciplinarian, and is evidently being given the resources to do so.

He’s moved the gallery’s walls around, replaced roughly half of the photographs with drawings (of whose authorship isn’t clear), and thrown in a strikingly inconsequential sculpture. Just before the show’s opening, he orchestrated a performance in which members of the New York City Ballet tottered en pointe around a number of big rolling sculptures painted the color of Easter eggs — a lackluster endeavor that left one longing for a choreographer.

Despite a press release filled with illustrious nonsense — Lassry “anchors tangible artworks in an elusive experience to which direct access can no longer be granted,” we are told — the production falls so flat as to risk calling into question even the appeal of the earlier work.

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Art Review: Jason Kraus at Redling Fine Art

April 12, 2012 |  6:45 pm

Kraus 3

The premise of Jason Kraus’s second solo show at Redling Fine Art, appropriately titled “Dinner Repeated,” is an exercise in compulsive reiteration. On each of the first seven nights of the exhibition, the New York-based artist served a nearly identical meal: the same four-course menu to the same 12 people, on a plywood table of like design with matching dishes, glasses and flatware.

After each meal, he dismantled the table and used the wood to build a free-standing shelving unit, then cleaned all the dishes and stacked them neatly inside. At the end of the week, the installation was complete: seven apparently uniform cabinets, each stocked with 12 identical place settings, spaced around the floor of the gallery.

The concept of residue has had a lot of currency in recent years. Many a work has been generated from the marks or stains made by the unfolding of a performance or event. (Note Cai Guo-Qiang’s recent firework paintings at MOCA.) In a curious twist on this familiar trope, Kraus has done the opposite: made every attempt to erase the imprint of the events, emphasizing the generic nature of his mass-produced materials.

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Art review: Andrew Lewicki at Charlie James

April 5, 2012 |  4:50 pm

Andrew Lewicki, Louis Vuitton Waffle Maker, 2012, Edition of 3, Teflon coated aluminum, enamel on aluminum sheet, generic waffle maker parts, 14 x 11.5 x 13.5 inches, Courtesy Charlie James Gallery

The sculptures in Andrew Lewicki's first solo show, at Charlie James, shimmer as brightly and briefly as fireworks -- and leave just as little residue. Each involves some sort of transposition or transformation -- the familiar re-crafted in an unfamiliar material, the precious recast as mundane or vice versa. A waffle iron bears raised, Teflon-coated Louis Vuitton monograms instead of the usual generic grid of square nubs. What looks like a stack of gold bars is actually melted and reformed gold crayons. A cast-iron manhole cover looks exactly like a giant Oreo.

The work comes across as smart and calculated, but too much so -- overly schooled, almost smug. The sculptures are all one-liners, but as Lewicki writes in an airtight accompanying statement, they're meant to be so, intended to parody the rhetorical device even if they merely exploit it.

The stunted strategy brings to mind any number of artists from a generation ago who aspired to critique the commodification of art by creating yet more art-like commodities, framed by invisible air-quotes. Lewicki's work also recalls, naturally, Warhol and Duchamp, but doesn't pick up where they left off, re-envisioning relationships between found and fabricated, art and product, desire and fulfilment.

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Art review: Leigh Ledare at the Box

April 5, 2012 |  1:23 pm

Ledare Double Bind (Diptych #1225) LL
Complicated doesn't begin to describe the relationships that Leigh Ledare cultivates and documents in his work. The gamut runs from tender through troubling to taboo. In recent photographs, videos and an installation at the Box, the New York-based Ledare mines connections and disconnections between himself, his mother, his ex-wife and assorted strangers. The show is fascinating throughout for its twisted takes on intimacy, vulnerability and the shifting balance of control between individuals on either side of the lens. 

Each of Ledare's works starts as a conceptual proposition: What if he answered "Women Seeking Men" ads and paid the women to stage a portrait of him in their own setting, according to their own naked desires? What if he re-presented fragmented footage of a soft-porn video his mother and her friends once made, leaving audible the directorial cues, heightening the artifice?

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Art review: DeLoss McGraw at Couturier

April 4, 2012 |  1:58 pm

McGraw Painted Book Creeley
This post has been corrected. See note below.

DeLoss McGraw has long based his sprightly gouaches on literary sources, but for several years now he has created a more perfect union between image and text by painting directly onto the pages of books, some still bound. Pigment thickens the volumes both physically and metaphorically, adding layers of resonance, variably obscuring and isolating sections of text, setting in motion verbal/visual echoes, rhymes, collisions, collusions.

Two shelves filled with such hybrids are the highlight of McGraw's show at Couturier, composed mostly of slight yet luminous paintings on paper. The books come in different forms, slipcased, and as loose-leaf pages in portfolios.

Within a painted box, McGraw has nested a marvelous paper coil containing the first paragraph of "The Sound and the Fury," written out in vibrant, shifting hues, in his own characteristic, loping script. The words pass over a collaged photograph and painted piano keys, unspooling in time and space with Faulknerian momentum -- elusive and persistent.

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Art review: Antoine Roegiers at YoungProjects

April 3, 2012 |  2:49 pm

Antoine Roegiers, "Les sept peches capitaux (The Seven Deadly Sins)," video projection
Antoine Roegiers fulfills a desire common to viewers of paintings by Brueghel and Bosch: He lets us in. He breaks the implicit seal on their exquisitely dense dramas and grants us the privilege to roam through villages and over hillsides, to linger upon odd and marvelous details, to enter a scene and watch it unfold in something akin to real time.

Roegiers, a Belgian artist living in Paris, paints and draws and since 2005 has been making animated videos from his own imagery and well-known works by the great 15th and 16th century Netherlandish painters. There are six videos in his first solo show in the U.S. at YoungProjects, and each stretches and bends time, kneads it and perforates it, affirms its elasticity. This is animation at its most compelling and yet most literal, devoted to the fundamental act of breathing life into something still.

In an 11-minute piece, Roegiers unpacks Bosch's phantasmagoric St. Anthony triptych, in which the hermit faces an array of real and allegorical demons. Bosch followed the pictorial convention (common to periods of Western and non-Western art alike) of representing multiple chapters from a narrative within a single, unified space.

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Art review: Urs Fischer at Gagosian Gallery

March 29, 2012 |  6:00 pm


Urs Fischer’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery is a big disappointment. Titled “Beds & Problem Paintings,” it feels as if it’s been phoned in. Worse, its lackadaisical attitude is at odds with the spare-no-expense production of its slick, custom-made objects.

While effort, hard work and thoughtfulness are not the only ingredients that go into a work of art, they are almost entirely absent from Fisher’s pompous pieces.

The three sculptures (one in each of the three first-floor showrooms) are unimaginative rip-offs of works by Charles Ray and Robert Therrien.

Fischer’s two life-size beds are overshadowed by Therrien’s whimsically weird beds, which he has been making for a couple of decades, and Ray’s “Unpainted Sculpture” from 1997, an exact copy, in Fiberglass, of a crashed Pontiac. Fischer’s sculpture that resembles an ordinary wood table likewise borrows too directly from Ray’s 1989 “Tabletop,” which also uses hidden mechanisms to provide special effects.

Fischer’s preposterously big pictures, on nearly 12-by-8 foot aluminum panels, are portraits of people whose faces can’t be seen because they are blocked by images of disproportionally large objects: a sliced chile pepper, a mushroom and a steel bolt that appears to have wilted. Fischer’s men are pushed into the background by similarly Freudian stand-ins for their genitals: a mushy banana, an uprooted turnip and a steel screw that seems to have been made in the same place as Salvador Dali’s melting clocks or Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures.

In Fischer’s hands, tragedy is bypassed as history is immediately repeated as farce.

 -- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, (310) 271-9400, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: Urs Fischer exhibition at Gagosian Gallery. Credit: Mats Nordman

Art review: 'B. Wurtz & Co.' at Richard Telles Fine Art

March 29, 2012 |  5:40 pm

 B Wurtz sculpture
Good old American ingenuity doesn’t make the news these days. Nor does the attitude of can-do optimism, which seems to have been squashed by a rising tide of anger, disdain and bitter defeatism.

The spirit of DIY inventiveness lives on at Richard Telles Fine Art, where guest curator Matthew Higgs has brought together 26 works by 11 artists. Titled “B. Wurtz & Co.,” the quietly inspiring selection takes art back to the basics: individuals making things out of just about nothing.

In most religions, that’s a god’s job. But there’s nothing grandiose, overblown or entitled about the humble objects in this refreshing exhibition, which puts salt-of-the-earth honesty and homegrown improvisation front and center.

Most works are abstract, yet none disguises the materials it is made of. Scrap wood, plastic lids, bits of yarn, postal labels, coin wrappers and bottle caps are plainly visible in the casual yet composed pieces by Al Taylor, B. Wurtz, Judith Scott, Udomsak Krisanamis, Gabriel Kuri and Philadelphia Wire Man.

Collage predominates, its cut-and-paste aesthetic given sharp shape in subtly charged works by Richard Hawkins, Joe Fyfe and Vincent Fecteau. Doodling is a virtue in Martin Creed’s crisp compositions. And unsullied emptiness is filled with potential in Noam Rappaport’s clean canvases.

At “B. Wurtz & Co.,” imaginative handiwork never looked better, its democratic impulse a timely reminder of art’s place in everyday life.

-- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (323) 965-5578, through May 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: B. Wurtz, "Untitled," 2009. Credit: Richard Telles Fine Art


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