Category: Art review

Art review: Daniel Pitin at Mihai Nicodim

March 1, 2012 |  7:00 pm

Daniel Pitin White Ribbon
The materials and references densely layered in Daniel Pitin’s recent paintings at Mihai Nicodim are beyond excavation, and the work is all the richer for feeling just out of reach. Pitin, born and based in Prague, embeds printed matter — ads, scraps of books and newspaper — into his canvases and occasionally writes cryptic snippets across them.

He paints in inky dilutions and viscous crusts, cloudy grays, scorched blacks and seeping yellows. A recognizable subject anchors each painting — a beekeeper standing among his boxes, a woman sitting on the edge of a bed — but suggestion often overtakes description. Narratives elude definition. All the while, the surfaces feel viscerally immediate.

Pitin invokes the past, in part, through television and film stills that he incorporates into his paintings and sequences that he uses as raw material for his own videos.

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Art review: 'Suspension,' video by Reynold Reynolds, Kevin Cooley

March 1, 2012 |  6:00 pm

Kevin Cooley’s “Skyward” makes a perfect endpoint to “Suspension,” an absorbing, two-person show of recent video works at YoungProjects. Most of the gallery is taken up by the work of Berlin-based Reynold Reynolds, every piece an intense excursion into the nature of time and its representation as movement and change, the body and its capacity to endure. Nods to the stop-motion photographs of Marey and Muybridge alternate with discomfiting scenes of physical violation. Scientific and aesthetic inquiry intersect, sometimes with damaging force. In “Burn” (a 2002 collaboration with Patrick Jolly), we watch a man set fire to a bed where a woman sleeps, and another man using a sandwich to tamp out — with disturbing calm — the flames rising from his shirt as he reads. It’s not just the filmed characters who are facing something treacherous.

Then comes the physically and visually quenching “Skyward” (2012). The seven-minute loop is projected on the ceiling, so it is best viewed lying down. That 90-degree shift of position aligns us with the camera, which delivers tracking shots looking upward at the L.A. sky, edged by architecture, fringed by palm trees, sliced by power lines, etched by the paths of birds and planes. The day performs itself as usual, but with our perspective gently recalibrated by the New York-based Cooley, the view feels fresh and new.

-- Leah Ollman

YoungProjects, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., (323) 377-1102, through March 8. Closed Saturday through Monday.

Images: Left, Reynold Reynolds, "Burn"; right, Kevin Cooley, "Skyward." Credit: From YoungProjects

Art review: 'Seven Young Los Angeles Painters I Like' at George Lawson

March 1, 2012 |  4:00 pm

From its title to its sprightly array of modestly scaled works, “Seven Young Los Angeles Painters I Like,” at George Lawson, exudes refreshing honesty. There is no real agenda in play, but an aesthetic consensus forms around the sufficiency of paint on a flat surface. However self-evident that sounds, it’s a quietly invigorating experience to look at two dozen paintings by emerging artists who subscribe to “old media” and make it new.

One of the painters currently studies at UCLA; the rest earned (or worked toward) their MFAs there, at Claremont Graduate University, California College of the Arts, Otis and the University of Tennessee. Each might be privately ambitious, but none succumbs to the grandstanding arrogance so common these days among young artists eager to set themselves apart from the pack.

Jacob Melchi paints delightfully restless geometric abstractions that tamper with spatial logic. Nano Rubio stages mixed marriages of tight linear patterns and thick, fleshy swaths, permeable and opaque, fluid and solid. Among the rest — Jonathan Apgar, Christopher Kuhn and Anne McCaddon — Sarah Awad stands out for her images of monuments and ruins redolent with the tenuousness of memory, and Rema Ghuloum for “Light, 15th and Harrison at 3pm,” a potent little canvas of warm greenish-gold abutting deep aqua and dark blue-violet, the record — and evocation — of a radiant moment.

-- Leah Ollman

George Lawson Gallery, 8564 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-6900, through March 17. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.

Image: Jacob Melchi, "Diamond 1." Credit: From George Lawson Gallery

Art review: 'Breaking in Two,' visions of motherhood at Arena 1

March 1, 2012 |  3:15 pm

Why is it that the opening chapter of life has never received as much attention in art as the concluding pages? Why are elegy and memorial such established art forms (not just in visual art but in music, poetry) yet no equivalent form addresses birth, much less the ongoing process of raising children?

These aren’t trick questions, nor even difficult ones to answer, given the female-centric nature of these underrecognized subjects. Sexism reigned just as oppressively in the realms of art (creation, distribution and scholarship) as it had in the culture at large until the feminist surge a scant half-century ago helped redefine legitimate aesthetic territory. Now, women artists enjoy at least nominal equality with their male counterparts, though issues of the maternal, if no longer taboo in art, remain largely on the periphery.

“Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood,” at Arena 1,  puts those themes front and center. Organized by artist Bruria Finkel, and graced with the Pacific Standard Time imprimatur, the show features work from the 1960s to the present by some 40 Southern California artists (including a few collectives), among them Eleanor Antin, Kim Abeles, Alison, Lezley and Betye Saar, Jo Ann Callis, Channa Horwitz, Renee Petropoulos, Astrid Preston, Linda Vallejo, Ruth Weisberg, Lita Albuquerque and June Wayne.

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Art review: 'Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series' at OCMA

February 29, 2012 |  1:30 pm

Diebenkorn Ocean Park 43 detail"Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series" opened Sunday at the Orange County Museum of Art, nearly three years after it was originally planned to debut but was nearly derailed by the national economic crisis. The wait might have been a lucky break. Now, it turns out to be one of those odd and unexpectedly rewarding  museum exhibitions that you might have wanted to see but that you didn't know you really had to see -- until you see it.

Let me explain.

The large abstract paintings Diebenkorn made in his Santa Monica studio between 1967 and 1985, in which translucent veils of vaporous color seem suspended in shifting space from a tremulous linear scaffolding, have always seemed like the culmination of something. On a grand scale, they're the end of a century-long wrestling match between color and line as the dual engines driving Modern painting.

For American art in its ambitious, often aggressive postwar efflorescence, they bring a commitment to abstraction to a virtuoso climax. For the artist, who died in 1993 at age 70, they enfold into one grand and glorious whole everything learned in earlier nuanced series, which shifted back and forth between Abstract Expressionist and figurative canvases.

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Foes of Eisenhower Memorial design hit snag

February 29, 2012 |  1:14 pm

In the aftermath of President George W. Bush's disastrous escapade in Iraq, the right-wing clamor for a triumphalist monument to a wartime Republican president has gotten loud. But on Tuesday, the mounting political attack on architect Frank Gehry's more modest design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington slammed head-on into a wall.

The Associated Press obtained documents showing that David Eisenhower, the late president's grandson and the family representative on the memorial commission, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the project for a decade.

The younger Eisenhower joined the memorial commission in 2001. The AP reported that he "played a central role in selecting Gehry as the lead architect, according to the documents. David Eisenhower was the only person to serve on both the design jury and an evaluation board that recommended Gehry as the top choice to the full commission. When Gehry's selection was approved, David Eisenhower praised the 'integrity and excellence' of the selection process, according to the minutes."

Last July, Gehry told the commission that he was considering inclusion of a sculpture of the 34th president as a boy and metal "tapestry" images depicting Eisenhower's childhood home in Abilene, Kan., "bringing a representation of America's heartland directly into the heart of the nation's capital." Juxtaposed with sculptural reliefs of then-Gen. Eisenhower at D-day and later as president, the design would extol his role as leader of an army of ordinary citizen-soldiers who achieved greatness in World War II.

Commission member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) offered a motion to support Gehry's concept, the AP reported, while "David Eisenhower seconded it, and it passed unanimously."

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Art review: Jocelyn Foye at Armory Center for the Arts

February 23, 2012 |  6:00 pm

Jocelyn Foye's "Dance, Opera, Draw"

Titled “Dance, Opera, Draw,” Jocelyn Foye’s modest exhibition at Armory Center for the Arts adds to a growing interest in cross-disciplinary collaboration, a blurring of the lines between performance and visual art.

Consisting of just three charcoal-covered canvases and a musical soundtrack, the show is minimal to a fault: It’s actually the remains of an event in which two dancers made charcoal imprints on the canvases while responding to an opera singer’s rendition of Richard Strauss’ "Salome." The whole idea sounds intriguing, but the results don’t live up to its promise.

The drawings are dark, murky things, only giving up faint traces of their creation: a few finger strokes here, some splotches there. Combined with the opera soundtrack, they take on a rather funereal air, but don’t really stand on their own as images or as installation art. Together, they raise a couple of questions: When is performance documentation also art? And how much do we need to know about the performance?

In Foye’s case, a crucial link seems to be missing. The drawings don’t tell us enough about the remarkable conditions of their creation — even the show’s brochure, with its photograph of blackened feet and hands, is more evocative. While it’s laudable to examine how movement manifests across different media, in this case, “dance” gets left out of the equation.


More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

-- Sharon Mizota

Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 792-5101, through May 13. Closed Mondays.

Photo: Jocelyn Foye's "Dance, Opera, Draw," 2012. Credit: From Armory Center for the Arts.

Art review: Jennifer Steinkamp at ACME

February 23, 2012 |  5:00 pm

_moth_multi5_webJennifer Steinkamp’s latest exhibition at ACME eschews room-filling digital projections in favor of pieces that are more like paintings, or perhaps sculptures. Known for dissolving the walls in floods of flowers, clouds or streaks of light, Steinkamp here presents self-contained works that look like pieces of fabric tacked to the wall. Printed in geometric patterns with a silky sheen (reminiscent of necktie material), the layered swaths float and ripple like clothing on a line, blown by a gentle but insistent breeze. “Hanging” on the gallery wall, they are quite magical, like animated abstract paintings.

Yet the works also imply a certain violence. The pieces of fabric are ripped and full of holes, or more properly, slashed, in some cases almost to ribbons. This heightens the works’ visual interest: The tatters make for more varied movement; the holes allow us to see multiple layers of fabric at once. The projections exhibit an almost Baroque concern with light, shadow and the play of pattern and color. But the tears also suggest vulnerability. Evocatively titled “Moth,” the show evokes both the destructive effects of these hungry little creatures and their own self-annihilating urges, drawn ineluctably into the light.


More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

-- Sharon Mizota

ACME, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (323) 857-5942, through March 10. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photo: Jennifer Steinkamp's "Moth, 5," 2012. Credit: From the artist and ACME, Los Angeles.

Art review: Pietro Roccasalva at David Kordansky Gallery

February 23, 2012 |  4:30 pm

PR-12-003_webThe best part of Pietro Roccasalva’s U.S. solo debut at David Kordansky Gallery is the first piece one sees: a neon sign that reads “You never look at me from the place I see you.” The paraphrase from French philosopher Jacques Lacan is doubled and arranged in a Möbius strip, illustrating its own paradoxical message: The act of looking establishes a relationship between you and me that is constantly shuttling between our incommensurable points of view.

The rest of the show explores this idea in the context of art history. In the center of the room is a giant still life, including, among other things, a deflated hot air balloon, a bunch of grapes (delightfully made of purple balloons) and a wooden boat resembling a lute.

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Art review: Sam Falls at China Art Objects and M+B

February 23, 2012 |  3:30 pm

Sam Falls, "Untitled (House, Red and Yellow, Joshua Tree, CA)"
In a show that spans two galleries (China Art Objects and M+B) and at least three media (sculpture, photography, painting), Sam Falls explores the intersection of color, perception, digital imagery and natural processes such as fading and rust. At times, the works’ multiple references and Falls’ convoluted methods threaten to make one’s head spin, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Time and environmental forces play a large role in Falls’ work, as they do in the work of fellow L.A. artists Kim Abeles and Marie Jager, for whom sun and smog are artistic materials. The most direct expression of this proclivity is a series of works created by simply rolling different colored sheets of paper and leaving them in the sun. The resulting images suggest ghostly white cylinders emerging from fields of rich color. They’re remarkably dimensional and mysterious, and feel almost animate.

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