By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Daniel Weinberg‘s gallery for the impressively lurid, ridiculously thick-painted plaids by Albert Contreras, which verge on Godawfulism, and be sure to put in some time with painter Roger Herman’s acidic new domestic interiors at Suzanne Vielmetter, particularly the kitchen scenes. This gets you up by ACE, which is the best one-stop viewing experience in L.A. at this particular moment in this evolving scene, though a good chunk of the work is from New York, and the most spectacular work -- Dennis Oppenheim‘s weird-plus Snowman Factory -- dates from 1995. Oppenheim’s reputation slipped early in his stardom, when he forsook the Smithsonian field operations that got him attention for the droller, narrative-haunted sculpture he‘s created since. The result has been that Oppenheim is often surprisingly better than you expect, and the work here is no exception. In addition to the factory -- an uncanny cartoon conflating the creepiness of an abandoned playground with an almost crippling Modernist self-awareness doubling as a critique of art-world production -- ACE is showing the also ominously goofy Red Lamp Dog, a dog-shaped latticework of steel pipes housing a dozen or so glowing red table lamps.
British pop sculptor Vincent James delivers further cartoonish sculptural works, on a decidedly more whimsical note -- most of these works wouldn’t look out of place in Disneyland‘s Toontown. Not that that’s a bad thing: Most art collections would be improved by one of James‘ foam pie splats. Joel Morrison, whose Styrofoam graffiti stack dominated the ”Bloodlines“ space, is allowed to stretch out here in his first solo show. Another stack, plus the rickety Pink Architectural Model With Red Windows, towers over a collection of enormous scrappy blobs assembled from foam, tape, carpeting and God knows what, then painted or bandaged with a final layer of colored gaffer tape. The work, though somewhat reminiscent of Jessica Stockholder, brings a welcome painterly process to young-L.A. sculptural practice.
Though I wasn’t as bowled over as some by the small abstract paintings of New Yorker Thomas Nozkowski, I can appreciate their handsome finish and considerable formal charms. More interesting are the two locals bracketing him, John Millei and David Amico. Millei‘s three large ”flower“ paintings take on one of the hoariest fine-art traditions with kick-ass results, layering discrete strata of billowing abstract forms to create theatrically giddy illusionistic depths that should have Georgia O’Keefe spinning in her grave (just in time for Dave Hickey‘s Beau Monde at Site Santa Fe!). Amico serves up a variety pack of high-caliber work ranging from several oddly dreamy schematics of office chairs and the Chinese takeout Zen of To Go, to a new group of works that flirt aggressively with the limits of the artist’s customary tastefulness by incorporating washes of transparent purple and turquoise inks (Plugs, Pinwheel) and other difficult colors (Ledger) to achieve a manic flamboyance.
Finally, the east wing of ACE is given over to three exceptional sculptures by the N.Y. artist Tara Donovan, who creates visually stunning works and installations with commonplace objects. Toothpicks, the most spectacular, consists of more than 3 million toothpicks held in a cube shape by gravity and friction alone. Impressive as this is, I‘m getting tired of quotidian riffing on the minimalist cube. Couldn’t she have made a tree, or a kitty in a sailing ship? Oh well, no such overworked tropes mar Donovan‘s other two works -- both sprawling floor pieces. One is an accumulation of tiny metastasizing puddles of Elmer’s Glue that wind up looking like something that tries to wrap itself around Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage. The other, Moire, is an optically dizzying installation of loosely rolled adding-machine tape arranged in overlapping disc shapes. I take it back about the toothpicks. What‘s really winning about Donovan is that she doesn’t subordinate the powerful and intriguing visual qualities she teases from her mundane materials to any gimmicky conceit, but allows her works to expand organically and at their own pace, without trying to make them be what they‘re not. This is, of course, how it should be.