Category: Video art

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: 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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It Speaks to Me: Diana Thater on Nam June Paik's 'Video Flag Z' at LACMA

January 25, 2012 | 10:00 am

Nam June Paik is a wonderful artist. There are some great examples of his work in the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, but this is the only major Paik I know of in a public collection in L.A. It’s a grid of 84 Quasar TVs laid out like an American flag; one channel feeds all the screens on the top left section with images of stars, and the other channel gives us the stripes. The stars and stripes are constantly changing: images fold, multiply and zip across the screens. Scenes from movies dissolve in and out. It’s an exuberant work full of color and recognizable signs, like hearts and stars, and figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Allen Ginsberg, yet it creates no narrative and, in its comedy, mocks the quaint idea of linear time. For Paik there is no inherent meaning in the progression of history, in the ticking of the clock; there is only meaning in the simultaneous and chaotic flow of life. So the work encourages us to let go of the desire to link moments one after another into a falsely comprehensible story — it opens us up to living completely in the present. It has a kind of living beauty that is best expressed in the moving image.I think the people who restored the work a few years ago--Elvin Whitesides and Eddy Vajarakitipongse--understand that very well. TVs don't last forever, and they had to take them apart and put new tubes in them while keeping the aesthetic. They did an amazing job.
— Diana Thater, as told to Jori Finkel

Image: Nam June Paik's Video Flag Z, 1986. © Nam June Paik Estate, installation. Image courtsey Museum Associates/LACMA, 2012.

PST, A to Z: ‘Exchange and Evolution’ at Long Beach Museum of Art

November 28, 2011 |  3:00 pm

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

Kids tour of Bjorn
In 1974, the Long Beach Museum of Art turned its attic into a video production studio and became a home base for the then-nascent video art scene. It was a good deal for artists, who were free to use the facility as long as they donated a copy of what they made to the museum’s collection. The museum also initiated a wide-ranging exhibition program that brought in artists and video works from all over the world.

This ambitious initiative, which also included unrealized plans for a museum cable channel, came to an end in 1999 as desktop editing and commercial facilities became more widely available. The museum’s collection sat in storage until 2005 when it was acquired by the Getty Research Institute, which restored and presented selected works as the centerpiece of the 2008 exhibition “California Video.”

That expansive show is a hard act to follow. For Pacific Standard Time, the LBMA decided to revisit the collection with a focus on international exchange, featuring works by artists from abroad and by U.S. artists who address cross-cultural issues. All of the works in “Exchange and Evolution: Worldwide Video Long Beach 1974-1999” were either created or shown at the museum. The result is a bit scattershot — “cultural exchange” is a big theme — but the show does demonstrate one of the key benefits of PST, bringing otherwise forgotten or under-known works to the fore. 

One of the highlights is Japanese artist Ko Nakajima’s unflinching “My Life,” a two-channel, black-and-white piece that spans the years 1974 to 1992, juxtaposing footage of his mother’s deathbed and funeral with the birth and growth of his daughter. There are some unsettling comparisons — coffins and cradles are both boxes for bodies — but the poetic work suggests that coming and going are just part of the same process. The piece also has two separate soundtracks (playing through two pairs of headphones), meaning you can never quite take it all in — like life.

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PST, A to Z: ‘Doin’ It in Public,’ ‘Collaboration Labs’

October 21, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

Pacific Standard Time: Doin' It in Public

This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

It has become increasing clear, six weeks into Pacific Standard Time, that while Southern California artists and designers made some amazing objects, the intangible things they created were equally, if not more, important. This applies not just to performance art, which is by its nature ephemeral, but to the Eames’ legacy of design education, and the support systems, both creative and financial, that L.A.'s African American artists devised for themselves.

This idea is abundantly apparent in two exhibitions that look at the legacy of feminism and collaborative artistic practices: "Doin' It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman's Building" at the Otis College of Art's Ben Maltz Gallery, and "Collaboration Labs: Southern California Artists and the Artist Space Movement" at the 18th Street Arts Center. The former is a sprawling, near overwhelming presentation of artwork, documentation, posters and other ephemera from The Woman's Building, the hub of feminist art practice in Los Angeles from 1973 to 1991. The latter presents the work of five artists or pairs of artists whose work was highly collaborative and who were also involved in founding and running art spaces.

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Art review: Yoshua Okon at the Hammer

September 13, 2011 |  6:30 pm

Yoshua Okon 
Yoshua Okón, a video installation artist from Mexico City, stages partially scripted scenes in the unscripted world, using ordinary people whose own identities and histories are the true, underlying story. Equal parts absurd and provocative, his work thrives on incongruity, the convergence of artifice and reality, the intended and the unintentionally telling.

In “Octopus,” his new four-channel, 18-minute piece at the Hammer, Okón gathers day laborers, former fighters on both sides of Guatemala's civil war, and has them act out military maneuvers in the parking lot of an L.A.-area Home Depot. Half of the men are in black T-shirts and half in white, they scoot on their bellies across the asphalt aisles, hide behind hedges and aim their pointed fingers like guns at the presumed enemies in their midst. Cars roll by and shoppers pass with barely a blink.

Fragments from the semi-staged event are projected on all four gallery walls, one at a time, and simultaneously. The splintered presentation helps only minimally to enliven Okón’s slight, disconcerting riff on a deeply complicated historical phenomenon. Our government supported the coup that led to the military dictatorship that resulted in decades of oppression and violence in Guatemala, including the genocide of thousands of indigenous Mayans. Now these survivors of that trauma are here, disenfranchised yet again. Okón’s work makes smart sport of their invisibility but otherwise proves a weak vehicle for such a heavy conceptual load.

--Leah Ollman

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. (310) 443-7000, through Nov. 6. Closed Mondays.

Image: A still from Yoshua Okón's "Octopus." Credit: From Kaufmann Repetto, Milan.

Art review: Troy Morgan at Blythe Projects

August 12, 2011 |  5:30 am

The centerpiece of Troy Morgan's "Beneath the Sea" show at Blythe Projects is a three-minute video about a man obsessed with collecting underwater life forms. A Tim Burton-style blend of live action and incredibly skillful puppet and digital animation, its 19th century aesthetic seems to suggest the pitfalls of the Victorian cabinet-of-curiosities mind-set. But Morgan’s meticulous approach to creating this world — revealed in a display of the handcrafted objects used in the work — contradicts this message.

In the video, the collector keeps his treasures — seahorses, jellyfish and eventually a mermaid — in tanks inside a lighthouse on a craggy, windswept cliff. The sets and puppets are marvelously detailed, down to the moss on the rocks and the creases on the mermaid's face. It's fun to look at these things and to marvel at how tiny they are and how seamlessly they blend with the live action. But ultimately one wonders if this fascination with miniatures and detail doesn't represent the same desire to understand and contain the world that drives the collector in the video.

To Morgan's credit, the man is faced with an imminent comeuppance at the end, suggesting there is a price to be paid for obsession. However, the piece abruptly turns away from depicting these consequences, as if it cannot bear to watch. In combination with the detailed models in the other room, it leaves us with a romance of supreme craftsmanship but little else.

-- Sharon Mizota

Blythe Projects, 5797 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 272-3642, through Sept. 2. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: A scene from Troy Morgan's "Beneath the Sea." Credit: From the artist and Blythe Projects.


'Super 8' the video art exhibition. High concept? Yes. Movie tie-in? No.

July 7, 2011 |  6:30 am

Video art is notoriously hard to show in art galleries. It can hog a lot of space, its sound can spill over into other rooms, and its equipment can be cumbersome (though lighter and cheaper with every year).

And that's not considering challenging content, like Brazilian artist Tunga's recent video of a bizarre, alchemy-fueled sexual encounter that makes David Lynch movies seem sweet and straightforward by comparison.

So when gallery owner Christopher Grimes had the idea of doing a broad sampling of international video art in his space in Santa Monica, he wanted to make the format, if not the content itself, more accessible. And he came up with a festival-style program as a way of working around the gallery's space limitations.

Starting Friday, the Christopher Grimes Gallery is presenting eight weeks of video art programming, each week featuring work from a different city curated by a different artist.

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