About 60 of Ansel Adams’ stepchildren will spend the coming four weeks hanging out in a downtown art gallery.
They’re pictures the great photographer of natural landscapes took of urbanized Los Angeles around 1940 – and donated to the Los Angeles Public Library more than 20 years later, with apologies because he thought that “none of the pictures were very good.”
John Huckert, director of drkrm gallery, which on Saturday will open “Ansel Adams Los Angeles: Photographs From the Los Angeles Public Library Ansel Adams Collection,” says the idea is to prove that Adams underestimated himself, while showing a side of his work far removed from the majestic scenes of Yosemite and the Southwest that made him famous.
Adams took the pictures while on assignment for Fortune magazine, which was featuring the burgeoning city and its aviation industry. They include shots of a hot dog stand and the Ocean Park pier in Santa Monica, a view of downtown’s Hill Street from the heights of Bunker Hill, and pictures shot in a bar and a bowling alley. The exhibition will run through March 17, occupying both the drkrm space and the adjoining Edgar Varela Fine Arts gallery, both at 727 S. Spring St.
The Fortune article, “City of the Angels,” ran in March 1941 and included just a few of the 216 photos Adams had taken, Huckert said. Adams kept the negatives and apparently forgot about them until the early 1960s, when he looked through his files during a move from San Francisco to a new home in Carmel. He donated them to the library rather meekly, noting in a letter that when he shot them -- he guessed it was around 1939 -- “the weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good…. If they have no value whatsoever, please dispose of them in the incinerator…. At any event, I do not want them back.”
Walking into "Beneath the Valley of the Lowest Form of Music,” an ebullient survey of art, ephemera and artifacts charting the 30-year history of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, is like walking into the garage of a cool, eccentric uncle. In the cavernous main space of the Box’s new Traction Avenue location, one wall is plastered floor to the ceiling with concert posters advertising the many bands affiliated with this loose collective of experimental musicians (Le Forte Four, Doo-Dooettes, Smegma, Extended Organs and Airway, among others).
On another wall, an immense grid of black and white photographs introduces viewers to the musicians themselves: a gaggle of gangly, often goofy young men (and the occasional woman) — a dozen or so in the core group, many more, it would seem, in the extended circle — who came together in the pre-punk days of the early 1970s to explore the outer reaches of rock, using instruments, electronics and just about anything else they could find.
Suzanne Adelman’s recent work, at Weekend, draws on the malleable nature of digital photography to explore the highly provisional operations of visual perception. The nine photographs on view in this modest but handsomely composed show each depict a common Southern California scene while blurring or blocking out one segment or another to simulate the selective manner in which the brain sorts the information that channels through the eye.
The most appealing are the simplest and more abstract of the works: a blurred gray and white interior wall studded with the square of what looks like a window or a mirror; a larger piece featuring a dark gray blur, completely indecipherable, hammed left and right by slender strips of some predominantly orange and red scene. Others depict a blurred urban or natural landscape interrupted by horizontal registers of clarity, a trick that produces a kind of ripple effect through the image.
The science of visual perception is a rich and virtually bottomless topic, against which this show, "Hide the Evidence," feels like only an initial sketch — but a compelling one.
-- Holly Myers
Weekend, 4634 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 514-4433, through Feb. 26. Closed Monday through Friday. www.weekendspace.org
Image: Suzanne Adelman, "Untitled #8," 2011-12. Credit: from the artist and Weekend.
A conceptual artist with a minimalist sensibility, Emilie Halpern rides a delicate line between economy and dearth. Her works can be slight nearly to the point of disappearance. When they click — which is to say, when a well winnowed concept comes into alignment with a gracefully refined form — the effect can be dazzling. When it doesn’t quite, or when the trick relies too heavily on a news release or other explicative mechanism, one has the feeling of being left with very little.
"Jamais Vu," Halpern’s second solo show with Pepin Moore, is a bit of a mix. An installation on the floor involving 29 black, hollow emu eggs, many of them cracked or shattered, feels insubstantial and mildly bewildering in a show in which the most eloquent themes revolve around the sea, the solar system and, in some fainter sense, birth and death. "Earth & Sky," on the other hand — a sculpture in which a small, black meteorite rests on a larger white stone that sits on the floor — is flawlessly composed, a neatly ironic material expression of its archetypal title, one that that echoes a number of other references in the show to the meeting point between the land and the heavens.
The show’s most haunting piece, by far, is "Drown," an installation consisting only of a single, transient gesture: the pouring of four liters of ocean water onto the concrete floor of the gallery every day. It is a modest and, for at least some portion of the day, a nearly invisible act that assumes on alarming poignancy when you learn that it is the volume of water that would fill the human lungs.
-- Holly Myers
Pepin Moore, 933 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, (213) 626-0501, through Saturday. www.pepinmoore.com
Image: Emilie Halpern, "Mysticeti," 2012. Credit: From the artist and Pepin Moore, Los Angeles.
Former Getty Museum director Michael Brand has surprised the art world yet again — this time by taking a job instead of leaving one. After a six-month global search, the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, Australia, announced Friday that Brand has been appointed the museum’s new director.
Brand will be the ninth person to assume the role in the gallery’s 120-year history when he steps into the position in the middle of this year, following Edmund Capon’s 33-year tenure.
The native of Australia is currently acting as a consultant to Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum and from 2005 to 2010 served as director of the Getty.
Brand shocked the art world when he left his coveted Getty post 10 months before his five-year contract was to expire. He told the Times in 2010 that leaving "is my decision,” but would not say why he was going: "I really don't want to get into the reasons for my resignation."
Getty officials pointed to a possible “personality clash” and strategic differences between Brand and former Getty Trust President and chief executive James N. Wood.
Down under, the Art Gallery of NSW recently hosted one if its most popular exhibits "First Emperor," featuring China’s long entombed terra-cotta warriors, and is currently showing the touring Picasso collection, 150 of the artist's works from the Musee National Picasso in Paris, which are rarely seen outside of France.
-- Jamie Wetherbe
Photo: Michael Brand. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
British artist Rachel Whiteread has been tapped to create an original work inspired by the Tree of Life to adorn the London's Whitechapel Gallery’s historic façade.
The frieze, decked gilded leaves and branches, will be on display come June at the gallery’s main entrance in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The work will cost an undisclosed sum with the Art Fund as the top contributor donating more than $300,000.
Whiteread, the first women to win the Turner Prize, is best known for her monumental sculptures including "Ghost," a large plaster cast of the inside of a condemned home in London's East End. The artist also recently showed off her more private side, exhibiting 155 of her drawings at the Hammer Museum for a show titled "Rachel Whiteread Drawings.”
Photo: British artist Rachel Whiteread at the Hammer Museum, which hosted a show of her work in 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times
One of the best things about Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-sponsored sprawl of exhibitions that has been taking place across Southern California since October, is that it allows viewers to travel back to a time when art and big business had little in common.
That’s also true of “The History of Bruce: The Extraordinary Life & Times of Bruce of L.A., 1948-1974.” The exhibition of more than 60 photographs and two vitrines full of memorabilia, at Stephen Cohen Gallery, takes viewers to the golden age of Physique Photography. Back then, Bruce of L.A.’s photographs of handsome young men may have scandalized prudes. But today they seem sweet: utterly innocent and playfully wholesome.
Long before the Internet made all sorts of porn available 24/7, Bruce of L.A. marketed his signature pictures of oiled-up beefcakes the old fashioned way: first by mail-order advertisements in national magazines and then by publishing his own pint-size periodical, “The Male Figure.”
His 8-by-10s are gems. Their preposterous poses, silly props and threadbare setups do not get in the way of the guys, who seem pretty tickled to be having their pictures taken. Nothing explicit or untoward transpires in these endearing pictures, which traffic in anticipation and treat viewers as if our imaginations matter. That’s a lot more respect than we get from much of what passes for culture (and entertainment) today.
Stephen Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Blvd., (323) 937-5525, through March 17. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.stephencohengallery.com
Image: Bruce of L.A., "Tex Derrick," circa 1960. Credit: Stephen Cohen Gallery.
Clotheslines, floor mats and document shredders come to mind in Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia’s exhibition at CB1 Gallery. Hand-woven fabrics, pixelated imagery and religious tapestries are also evoked by his grid-bending abstractions, whose insouciance provides a nice balance between goal-oriented authority and seat-of-the-pants improvisation.
Each of Segovia’s eight pieces in the main gallery begins as a dozen or more sheets of thick paper. After painting both sides in an organic palette of mellow tertiaries, the Mexico-born, L.A.-based artist cuts each sheet into hundreds of long, skinny strips. Then he weaves them together, creating compositions whose humble beauty, both supple and sturdy, stands on its own.
A second gallery features eight little pieces, push-pinned to the walls like collected butterflies, and the largest work: a two-sided, 10-foot-square abstraction that does double duty as a room divider.
Many of Segovia’s works recall tartan plaids. But repetition yields to cockeyed improv, each element missing the mark and being all the more captivating for it.
In some, shadows shroud the picture plane in dusky mystery. In others, coherence disintegrates into flickering fields that resemble digital transmissions gone bad. Many read pictorially: the warp and woof of their surfaces opening onto spatial illusions. A few capture the sexy swing of hips sashaying beneath skirts and trousers.
In all of Segovia’s tastefully restrained paintings, hinting at things proves to be more potent than laying them bare.
-- David Pagel
CB1 Gallery, 207 W. 5th St., (213) 806-7889, through Feb. 19. Closed Mon.-Tue. www.cb1gallery.com
Image: Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, installation view of "Papel Tejido." Credit: CB1 Gallery.
Ryan Sluggett’s new paintings grab your eyes from the get-go. Their supersaturated colors, rambunctious compositions, crazy scale shifts, jagged shapes and wildly energized lines have all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop: fun while it lasts but a mess to clean up.
And then the eight big paintings in Sluggett’s first solo show in Los Angeles, at Richard Telles Fine Art, do something unexpected. The explosiveness with which they first impressed gives way to a type of refinement that is all the more powerful for being rough-edged. Bare-knuckle ruggedness and exquisite delicacy come together in Sluggett’s complex paintings, which marry the immediacy of instant messaging to the slow burn of great novels.
Sluggett works on unstretched expanses of finely woven fabric, using fabric dye, tempera, acrylic and oil paint to create lusciously dense surfaces. He slices irregularly shaped sections out of several sheets and sews them atop and alongside others, often leaving dangling edges. When he is finished stitching, he stretches his Frankenstein-style rectangles taut as drums and adds back-mounted frames. Their pastel loveliness complements the composition’s chaos.
Holding everything together is Sluggett’s laser-sharp visual intelligence. The Calgary-born, L.A.-based painter’s loaded fusions of pattern and patchwork do for painting what Jessica Stockholder’s everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink installations do for sculpture: throw it open to endless possibilities while letting you savor the details, right here and right now.
-- David Pagel
Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (323) 965-5578, through Feb. 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.tellesfineart.com
Image: Ryan Sluggett, "Stew," 2011. Credit: Heather Rasmussen.
“Snow White in Evening Wear and Other Works” is Kristen Morgin’s fourth solo show in Los Angeles. It’s also her best. That’s saying a lot because her first three, in 2006, 2008 and 2009, are among the most memorable of the last decade.
This one is unforgettable: tragically sad and heart-wrenchingly bittersweet, it sings of loss with unsentimental intensity. Rather than coming off as despairing or even depressing, Morgin’s installation is quietly inspiring, not glibly uplifting but profoundly heartening in its clear-eyed insightfulness.
At Marc Selwyn Fine Art, nearly all of Morgin’s new sculptures are made of unfired clay, on whose fragile surfaces she draws and paints with great delicacy. Many pieces take the form of old-fashioned toys, most broken, and handcrafted puppets whose missing limbs have been replaced with ad hoc prosthetics. Others are low-relief collages, homemade renditions of such cartoon characters as Mickey, Popeye and Jiminy, whose heads, bodies and limbs are mismatched. Put together with devilish purpose, these piecemeal talismans often include worn playing cards and frayed game boards alongside comic books, paperbacks, bottle caps and jar lids. Even Morgin’s thumbtacks and pushpins are made of clay.
On the floor, Morgin has laid out two multipart pieces. Each is masterful.