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
Lowbrow has a uniquely organic system for the transmission of tradition: Artists who hit the big time, like Ryden, spawn scores of imitators, who are often able to stake a claim to their own corner of the Lowbrow world. In conjunction with “Bunnies and Bees,” GCAC will display more than 250 tributes to Ryden’s influence (out of twice that many sent in response to a call for submissions in Juxtapoz) in a show called “The Meat Annex: The Public’s Response to Meat and Mark Ryden,” opening February 2.
One of the dark secrets of The Art World is that a majority of art students beginning their professional training, when asked who their favorite contemporary artists are, will name one Lowbrow practitioner or another. A great deal of energy is invested in disabusing them of such notions, and has been since at least as far back as Robert Williams’ school days. If most of the suckers shelling out 50 grand for an MFA knew what their income bracket would be five years down the road, they might retain some of the obstinacy of their early bad taste. But TAW, worn down by unrelenting generations of incorrectness and inspired perhaps by the vigorous fiscal well-being of Lowbrow, has started to wise up. After anointing a generation of retro illustrational painters (Elizabeth Peyton, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage et al.) as the next big thing, the museums are currently embracing the work of cartoonish narrativists like Barry McGee, his late wife Margaret Kilgallen and their Bay Area accomplices. The work is indistinguishable from Lowbrow, and TAW is going to have to come up with even more extravagant and improbable rationalizations for drawing their distinctions, or finally give up and let these disreputable upstarts into the clubhouse. Otherwise, the way things are going, the outsiders might soon be the ones holding the keys.
December saw the premature passing of two pivotal figures of the late-20th-century L.A. art scene: muralist Terry Schoonhoven and gallerist Burnett Miller. Fifty-six-year-old Schoonhoven’s most famous work, the much-reproduced Isle of California(1970–1972) — created with his collaborators in the L.A. Fine Art Squad, Victor Henderson and Jim Frazen — depicts a dangling freeway overpass jutting out over the surf after “the Big One” has torn California loose from the mainland. Though much faded and studded with rusty retrofitting plates, his signature work can still be seen at 1616 Butler Ave., off Santa Monica Boulevard. Raised in Illinois, Schoonhoven moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and painted more than 40 murals during his career. He succumbed to cancer on December 21.
Former gallery director Burnett Miller committed suicide in his home December 10. Miller was a Sacramento native whose energized presence on the art scene of the ’80s and ’90s helped establish Los Angeles’ reputation as an international art center. In addition to hosting exhibitions by international artists such as Antony Gormley, Wolfgang Laib and Sigmar Polke, and New Yorkers Leon Golub, Glen Seator and Sol Lewitt, Miller played a key role in the careers of local artists like Charles Ray and Nancy Rubins, as well as the posthumous recognition of the latex architectural castings of Robert Overby. After his Bergamot Station space (now Patrick Painter) closed abruptly in 1997, Miller continued to deal privately. He was 45 at the time of his death.
SHAG | At LA LUZ DE JESUS GALLERY, 4633 Hollywood Blvd. | Through January 27
MARK RYDEN | At CAL STATE FULLERTON’S GRAND CENTRAL ART CENTER, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana | Through February 24