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
David Korty’s larger project as an artist, as evidenced at his first solo show at Michael Kohn and previous exhibitions at other venues, seems distinctly, unabashedly and optimistically modernist. Korty, who for a few years drifted between experiments in revisiting approaches of Impressionist and Postimpressionist painting (generally to lovely and compelling ends) before his more recently concretized formulation of a kind of cool and muted, soft-hard-edged fauvism, has seemed like an artist in search of a style.
Such a claim might read as an allegation of trend-following. But in the case of Korty, it seems less about nailing a hip signature — well, maybe a tiny bit — than about rising to Baudelaire’s Modernist call a century and a half ago to find the “small-m” modernity, in its distinct spirit and beauty, in each age. And while Korty’s particular combination of lush but quieted colors, simplified shapes and articulately angular lines mixed with others as fluid as noodles following French curves might not amount to the stylistic program I’d choose to capture the world I see when I open the morning papers, I can’t deny its applicability to my imaginary better version of the world.
And that better world, which I gladly inhabit when I can — that place where friendly people browse in bookstores, text in peace, lounge in midcentury furniture and commit no transgression greater than stressing out the IT guy by putting their ice-blended beverages too close to their computers — is clearly where Korty, who belongs to the more optimistic of the tribes that have divided Baudelaire’s imperative into half-empty and half-full visions, prefers to operate.
Korty is an astute artist, formally and socially. Astute enough to notice and convey that a racing stripe on the sleeve of a stretch-velvet zip-up topping flared Lycra gym pants worn on a body holding a cell phone while sitting in a bucket chair yields a combination of shape and line unfamiliar even a few years ago. Astute enough to know that his style, though indebted to well-worn precedents, only makes sense in a post-psychedelic, postelectronic, post-IKEA world where design, as the skin of consumerism, has become the incarnation of our dominant faith. Astute enough to know that amid the calm of his images, one also picks up hints, as one does from a friend who has an undivulged problem, of alienation and detachment.
Baudelaire wanted artists who could capture the pageant of “floating existences” that populated the modern world. Korty sees a handsome world in which existences have become wireless.
Michael Kohn Gallery, 8071 Beverly Blvd., L.A., Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (323) 658-8088 or www.kohngallery.com.
Art and Architecture seldom come together as interestingly as they do at the MAK Center, where sculptor Katie Grinnan’s multipart project “Polaris” inhabits the house R.M. Schindler built in the early 1920s. What’s impressive about the interface between the project and the structure itself is that Grinnan’s work, while it was created for this site, isn’t exactly site-specific. In fact, it’s more specific to a site distant in place and time.
The first of three Locus Remix shows to be presented at the MAK, with each show involving one person addressing a distant locale, Grinnan’s project focuses on Kukulkan’s Pyramid in the ancient Mayan city of Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatan. A sculptor as notable for her cultural smarts as for her cleverness in handling material and form, Grinnan is no stranger to dealing with unexpected referents and sites, nor to matters of transplantation. She once created something of a monument to modern ruins and took it on a cross-country road trip to see how it played in politically charged locations including Crawford, Texas, and New Orleans.
Utilizing photographic and video documentation of the Yucatan site, Grinnan sculpted a scale model of the Pyramid, and, from a mold, cast multiple impressions in Friendly Plastic, a water-soluble crafts product that has become one of her signature materials. These minipyramids are painted and in some instances affixed with ink-jet-printed photos from the site, then variously inverted, tipped on their sides, stacked and arranged in rows. This is an overt mimicry of Brancusi’s Endless Column, an allusion to Minimalist sculpture à la Carl Andre and Donald Judd, and an adoption of modular design strategy that, while unusual for her, here makes sense to both of the sacred sites she addresses.
One sculpture converts a Brancusian stacking of the pyramid form, this time erected in welded steel, into a three-tiered equipment rack housing a trio of DVD players. With each piece projecting a diamond-like image conceived by digitally stacking right-side-up and upside-down views of the pyramid, they combine their efforts to create an equally Brancusian apparition on the wall — a conflation and a kind of conspiracy of the architecture of the ancient Americas, Modernist sculpture and design, and new technology.