By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
The UCLA Hammer Museum hedged its bets in compiling ”Snapshot,“ its state-of-the-art survey of L.A. art-world up-and-comers -- it ”makes no claim to be comprehensive“ and ”offers one picture of a moment from a continually evolving scene.“ This is just as well, because most of the work included wouldn’t live up to a more imposing curatorial premise. I suppose it‘s educational to see what this week’s matriculating class thinks they can get away with in the name of ‘90s slacker aesthetics and late-20th-century art-historical amnesia, but except for a handful of artists, it’s a pretty enervating affair. Thankfully, that handful makes a visit worthwhile. Eric Wesley‘s elaborate (and untitled) proposal to convert the Hammer’s underground parking structure into a Jiffy Lube, with the used motor oil recycled into objets d‘art in the higher chambers of the institution, is funny enough to carry its weight even before the implications of its site specificity (think Armand and Occidental Oil) kick in. Steve Roden takes his pop hermeticism to a new extreme in his intricately carved, 480-inch-long Surface of the Moon, which uses an elaborately detailed system to generate a unique chess-piece-like sculpture for each of that satellite’s craters. Roden also contributed a sound installation to the Hammer‘s inner courtyard: Bird Forms is easy to miss in its subtlety, but look and listen for it -- the flock of speakers deploy a continually shifting lunar soundscape of electronically altered birdcalls to dissolve and disarm Westwood’s usually invasive traffic din.
Kori Newkirk shows two new photo-realist pony-bead curtains that spell out the dislocation of the accompanying Nowhere -- the bead-curtain urban horizon-line from his first solo show in 1999. Monique Van Genderen‘s site-specific abstract wall piece, made from peel-’n‘-stick vinyl, is her best yet. Jonathan Pylypchuk’s scabby cartoons tread a fine line between sarcasm and sentimentality. While occasionally falling too far to one side or the other, the works are uniformly hilarious and graced by an offhand compositional and colorist facility that is obscured by the fuck-you humility of the materials. Tessa Chasteen‘s untitled drawings incorporating ships and kitties (just like Ivan Morley’s recent painting show -- what is this, a new genre?) shift elegantly from gooey expressionist splotches to narrative illustration to diagrammatic doodling. Aiko Hachisuka‘s quirky fabric mimicking of a mangled shopping cart is rendered even odder by its lack of context, but leaves you curious to see more.
One ”Snapshot“ artist whose work definitely suffers from isolation is Katie Grinnan. Her Water Ballet, intricately folded kaleidoscopic ink-jet photo-prints arranged in a blue fractal cascade, intrigues from a distance, but loses its energy on close inspection. Some of the works in her concurrent solo show down Wilshire at ACME suffer from the same slightness, but manage thanks to the supportive company of several more substantial works. Bag Mouth and Sunset, both consisting of minimally anthropomorphic figures posed in front of abject photo murals, suggest that Grinnan’s greatest strengths actually lie outside the finicky ephemerality of her better-known work.
Next door to ACME, Roberts & Tilton has assembled its own little snapshot of young L.A., with the similarly arbitrary title ”Bloodlines,“ which fares at least as well as ”Snapshot“ in presenting satisfying art. In the category of horrifying-‘70s-craft-trends-given-new-life-through-art, the macrame wreath goes to Laura Howe, whose poured colored-sand landscapes seem surprisingly serious. Less serious is Powderhound, a crudely charming pop sculpture of a bear careening on a snowmobile, by Paul Cherwick, lodge brother of the aforementioned Pylypchuk. Richard Nielsen contributes two sketchy but winning paintings, which both include images of deconstructed ships -- what, no kitties? -- while Keith Sklar assembles vertical, rebuslike sentences of his cast-paint tchotchkes, creating linear clusters of imagery that are adventurous both formally and content-wise. Samara Caughey’s abstract wood-and-fabric assemblage sculptures and minimal collages convey a spare poetry, while Break Off, Michael Dee‘s tiny fragment of video showing ice being chopped, is turned into a dazzlingly self-referential loop that is both visually and aurally compelling. Dominating the gallery is Joel Morrison’s impressive painted-Styrofoam tower constructed from horizontal 3-D renderings of graffiti.
I have yet to be convinced by the young wave of L.A. grad-school sculpture that has been heralded elsewhere -- too much of it looks like slapdash ripoffs of what the artists‘ professors were doing 10 years ago. Evan Holloway’s current solo show across the yard at Marc Foxx goes a little over halfway toward remedying this. Three of the six pieces in the show are keepers -- the ridiculously oversized Incense Sculpture and obnoxiously unrealizable The Sculpture That Goes With the Bank make slapstick plays on sculptural scale in the respective 1970s vernaculars of decorator kitsch and abstract corporate public sculpture. Ant Decoy Sculpture undermines the jerry-rigged high-culture pretensions of Holloway‘s earlier modernist twig-grids with a painted stream of tiny black ants. 12-Bar Blues Sculpture explores the interesting relationship between sound, sculpture and architectural space, but not in a particularly funny or revelatory way, so it gets half points. Holloway, who (apart from his wooden projectors) has in the past seemed to be claiming a presence beyond the reach of his talents, here strikes a balance by scaling down his ambitions and substituting a tart silliness for the ponderous faux-conceptual insider humor of his early work.