Category: Galleries

Art review: Carolyn Castaño at Walter Maciel Gallery

March 22, 2012 |  5:20 pm

Carolyn Castaño, "Narco Venus (Angie)"
Carolyn Castaño’s latest exhibition at Walter Maciel Gallery serves as an ambivalent memorial to female victims of the Latin American drug trade. Four large paintings, each named for a real woman, depict idealized nudes reclining in lush, glitter-strewn tropical landscapes. The women are equal parts art history and pin-up poster, but there’s something sinister about the large, Rousseau-like vegetation that surrounds them. Studded with skulls and other images of death, ominous swathes of pure black press in, giving the figures’ white skin an otherworldly glow.

Smaller paintings feature the severed heads of male drug lords — a seemingly vindictive symbolic act. While Castaño restores the women to life, she tosses the men’s heads in the long grass. Still, they too are encrusted with glitter and sparkly flowers. Perhaps they died much as they lived: astride an undercurrent of violence papered over with rhinestones.

The paintings are darkly beautiful, but the highlight of the show is a video featuring Castaño as a newscaster rattling off a litany of sound bites on the history and status of women in Latin America. Alternating seamlessly between English and Spanish — often in mid-sentence — the work pokes fun at the quick-cut, non sequitur nature of TV news while rattling the viewer’s linguistic and cognitive circuits. It undoes what we think we know about Latin American women, clearing a space, hopefully, for something more real and complex.


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-- Sharon Mizota

Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 839-1840, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photo: Carolyn Castaño, "Narco Venus (Angie)," 2011. Credit: Walter Maciel Gallery. Credit: Josh White.

Art review: Ben Sakoguchi at Cardwell Jimmerson

March 22, 2012 |  4:45 pm

Ben Sakoguchi, "Untitled"
To call an artwork a one-liner is to dismiss it. But what happens when you string a bunch of one-liners together, somewhat obsessively? You might come up with something approaching a worldview.

Such is the case with Ben Sakoguchi, best known for twisting the sunny designs of California orange crate labels into cutting critiques of cultural and political orthodoxies. An engaging mini-retrospective at Cardwell Jimmerson, ranging from the 1960s to the present, paints a much broader picture of his subversive thinking.

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Art review: Robin Rhode at L&M Arts

March 22, 2012 |  4:05 pm

obin Rhode, "36 Ways a Dice can Roll / Dice"South African artist Robin Rhode is known for ingenious, storyboard-like narratives depicting a lone figure (sometimes the artist, sometimes not), interacting with drawings on the wall or the ground behind him.

For his first solo outing in an L.A. gallery, Rhode also ventures into more conventional modes of sculpture and photography. An oversized rubber stamp in the shape of the moon and crumpled images of abandoned post-Katrina houses both feel labored, but most of the works on view at L&M Arts are actually quite magical.

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John McLaughlin's paintings meet Mono-ha sculptures

March 21, 2012 |  9:35 am

Mono-ha Nobuo Sekine 'Phase - Mother Earth' 1968 Knight
The recent decision at the Orange County Museum of Art to organize the first full retrospective of paintings by John McLaughlin (1898-1976), which is very good news indeed, happens to coincide with an ambitious exhibition at Blum & Poe chronicling a pivotal revolution in modern Japanese art. Anyone interested in McLaughlin -- among America's great 20th century artists and the first in Southern California -- should make a point of seeing the Culver City gallery's revealing "Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha" (to April 14). It was organized by independent curator Mika Yoshitake.

Mono-ha, roughly translated as "School of Things," is hardly known in the United States. But the art, which is mostly sculptural, transforms a profound Japanese aesthetic into a contemporary idiom that was also essential to the Californian's earlier work. McLaughlin lived in Japan, China and India for many years before moving to L.A. in 1946 and starting to paint, and he bought and sold Japanese prints for much of his life.

Mono-ha is characterized by artists making worldly refinements rather than withdrawing into tradition's  cloistered realm. Materials are ordinary or industrial -- dirt, water, stone, paper; steel, lumber, concrete and glass. Nature and industry often collide. For the generation following World War II's devastating blow to national identity, the friction is unsurprising. By the '60s, the stresses of explosive reconstruction were felt.

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Art review: Ali Smith, 'Flip Side' at Mark Moore Gallery

March 15, 2012 |  6:00 pm

Ali Smith, "Bend and Stray"
Digital technology may not have killed off collage, but software like Photoshop has made the art of cut-and-pasted paper look very last century. At Mark Moore Gallery, Ali Smith’s new paintings gaze back at collage with fondness and purpose.

With their rough edges, fractured compositions and unpredictable scale-shifts, the L.A. artist paints energetic pictures whose wild swipes and slashes are not expressive — in any way, shape or form. Rather than standing in as authentic emblems of inner turmoil or heartfelt emotions, the whiplash gestures in Smith’s paintings take on lives of their own.

Each of Smith’s oils on canvas is an exuberant ruin, a cartoon train-wreck of a composition that combines the unselfconsciousness of doodles with the deliberate kick of carefully wrought images.

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Art review: Tam Van Tran at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

March 15, 2012 |  5:15 pm

Tam Van Tran, "Bodhisattva"
There’s enough art in Tam Van Tran’s exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects to fill three solo shows, and each would be as stimulating and emotionally satisfying as the best exhibitions out there. Quantity and quality dovetail in “Adornment of Basic Space,” giving visitors a wide range of deeply engaging experiences.

Clay and paper are the main ingredients Tran uses to make his paintings and sculptures. To some, he adds recycled beer bottles, chlorophyll and algae, along with thousands of staples.

These unusual materials function formally, adding color, texture and density to Tran’s organically elegant abstractions. They also add meaning, linking his flexible fusions of mismatched media to the environment they are a part of and to the cycle of life, which no one escapes.

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Art review: 'Claire Falkenstein' at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

March 15, 2012 |  4:45 pm

Claire Falkenstein, "Values"
At Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, “Claire Falkenstein: An Expansive Universe” is a treasure trove of idiosyncratic gems by an artist who was once well known in the U.S. and Europe but is not currently thought of as an integral part of Los Angeles art history. That may change. In any case, don’t miss this opportunity to see 33 works Falkenstein (1908-1997) made from 1939 to 1981.

It’s a pleasure to discover her funky little collages on painted wood, jittery abstract gouaches and rock-solid clay sculptures, all made in San Francisco before she moved to Paris in 1950. Three pieces from her years in Paris stand out: a brass necklace that seems primitive and Egyptian; a dense little tumbleweed made of strands of copper and partially melted chunks of glass; and a 6-foot-long swirl of metal woven to resemble a space-age chrysalis.

In 1963, Falkenstein moved to California, where she settled into a beachfront studio in Venice and began working on many public commissions. She also made tiny sculptures that fused copper and glass, dot paintings that paid homage to Lee Mullican and elegant screen-like reliefs, all while experimenting with unlikely combinations of cast resin, Mylar and enamel.

Throughout the show, the sense of discovery is palpable. It matches the ethos of fearless experimentation that Falkenstein embraced as she hopscotched among media, finding surprises and laying the groundwork for such contemporary artists as Liz Larner and Pae White. Like Falkenstein, neither confines herself to a single medium and both are equally inspired by art, craft and design.

-- David Pagel

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Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 938-5222, through April 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: Claire Falkenstein, "Values," 1945. Credit: Jack Rutberg Fine Arts.

Art review: Delia Brown at Country Club at Martha Otero

March 15, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Delia Brown, "Guerrilla Villa"
The world economy is a surreal stew of cooked books, epic bankruptcies and uncertain ambitions. Its out-of-whack atmosphere takes queasy shape in Delia Brown’s 13 new paintings, most of which depict sexy women lounging around the beachfront pools and tropical gardens of the super-rich.

Sipping champagne, listening to music and posing like tourists, the attractive thirtysomethings wear bikinis, berets and fatigues, à la Che and rebels everywhere. In hot tubs, on patios and in designer dining rooms they act like college kids on spring break — not as brazenly, or as drunkenly, as on “Girls Gone Wild,” but purposefully and pointedly.

A sense of good-student seriousness runs through Brown’s domestically scaled oils on linen. If the members of a graduate seminar in French literary criticism, circa 1985, designed a book cover that was meant to make fun of themselves and their professors, it could be any one of the wickedly contradictory images in her exhibition at Martha Otero Gallery, in collaboration with Country Club Projects.

Titled “Last Exit: Punta Junta,” Brown’s suite of paintings refers to Tom Lawson’s 1981 essay, “Last Exit: Painting.” To his manifesto that defended painting from its postmodern detractors, Brown adds the sing-songy sound of a nursery rhyme gone south. “Punta Junta” evokes both the beauty of Caribbean vistas and the ugliness faced by start-up governments and wanna-be leaders, who presumably act on behalf of ordinary folks.

The conflict between leisure and labor, privilege and privation, is Brown’s subject.

Delia Brown, "In There Like Swimwear"
To make her paintings, she used her savvy as an artist to gain access to the vacation estates of some 1 percenters, who let her use their St. Barts retreats as the backdrops for such rebel fantasies as “Guerrilla Villa,” “In There Like Swimwear” and “Les Demoiselles de Saint Barthelemy.”

Brown’s pictures of conspicuous consumption gone wrong are nothing if not divisive. On one level, they are pricey items that cynically capitulate to the powers that be. On another, they present a world that has been turned upside down, its exclusive properties occupied by 99 percenters. In the absurd world captured by Brown’s realistic art, it’s hard to know where fantasies end and nightmares begin.

-- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times 

Country Club at Martha Otero, 820 N. Fairfax Ave., (323) 951-1068, through April 14. Closed Sundays and Mondays.;

Images, from top: Delia Brown, "Guerrilla Villa," 2008-09; "In There Like Swimwear," 2008-09. Credit: Country Club and Martha Otero.

Art review: My Barbarian at Human Resources

March 8, 2012 |  7:00 pm

My Barbarian, Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater (installation view)

Much of what is unique, relevant and delightful about the performance collective My Barbarian is contained in the title of its current exhibition at Human Resources: “Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater.”

Say it out loud a few times — it’s lovely on the tongue and only gets funnier the more you repeat it.

Note the ironic conceptual gulf (aesthetic, economic and ideological) between the nearly homophonic “broke” and “Baroque”; the clever dance of that syntactically pivotal apostrophe (“people’s,” “peoples’”); the understated nod to pressing political realities — namely, the dawning awareness brought on by the recession that we live in an age of egregious economic disparity, in which the Baroque — or those socio-political forces there engendered — have long since washed their hands of the broke and retreated to the comfort of their private home theaters. 

It is much to our benefit that My Barbarian (the trio of Jade Gordon, Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade) remains out here with the rest of us.

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Art Review: Rosson Crow at Honor Fraser

March 8, 2012 |  6:00 pm

Sorting the flash from the substance in the work of a prestigiously educated and excessively hyped young painter such as Rosson Crow is an ambiguous business. Her first L.A. solo show, at Honor Fraser in 2008, leaned mostly toward flash — big canvases, a blaring neon palette, heaps of stylishly graffiti-inflected activity buzzing across the surface of the picture plane — complicated by glimpses of what looked to be a soundly developing painterly intelligence. 

In this, her second L.A. solo show (after shows in Paris, London, New York and elsewhere), that ratio appears to have been reversed. She’s kept the big canvases but drained all the color, leaving a moody, atmospheric range of pre-Technicolor gray. She’s exchanged the jumbled, vaguely sordid interior scenes for a loosely abstracted urban milieu: landscapes of a scale suggesting the sites of rallies, marches, and ticker-tape parades, though devoid of figures and most identifiable detail.

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