Wally Hedrick at the Box
Wally Hedrick (1928–2003) was one of the seminal figures of the West Coast Beat-era artistic renaissance. It was Hedrick, in fact, who approached Allen Ginsberg in 1955 to do a poetry reading at the Six Gallery, resulting in the famous ground-zero happening of the Beat phenomenon, including the first public reading of Ginsberg's "Howl." Hedrick was a founding member of Bruce Conner's Rat Bastard Protective Association, introduced Jerry Garcia to the blues, and supported his wife — painter Jay DeFeo — as she labored on her 2,300-pound masterpiece, The Rose, for eight years. He was a beloved and influential teacher in the Bay Area for decades.
So why is his upcoming solo show at the Box in Chinatown only his third in Los Angeles? Granted, that S.F. assemblage crowd was pretty disdainful of L.A. — especially after Wallace Berman was hounded out of town — and Hedrick was notoriously uninterested in the social dimension of Art World stardom. But the fact that Hedrick was using his art practice to actively denounce America's presence in Vietnam as early as 1959 might have had something to do with it as well.
Although Hedrick created stellar artworks that anticipated assemblage, kinetic art, pop, neo-expressionism and so on, his habit of not-very-carefully concealing messages like "Fuck the FBI" in his paintings (Bury-Berry, 1964) pretty much guaranteed his status as an artist's artist. His two previous L.A. shows — both posthumous — were almost polar opposites: Michael Kohn Gallery's 2007 "Estate Sale" featured mostly Hedrick's late, deadpan appropriation paintings of antique advertising engravings. The Box's previous outing re-created 1967's War Room, an architectural environment originally built from early works Hedrick had overpainted in black monochrome. The new exhibition — opening September 17 — will land somewhere in between, focusing on his sometimes garish political paintings from the '80s, but ranging from 1962 to 2000. —Doug Harvey
THE BOX | 977 Chung King Road, L.A. | (213) 625-1747 | Sept. 17-Oct. 23 | Reception Fri., Sept. 17, 6-9 p.m.Ruben Ochoa at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
What started as some kind of post-Chicano take on the urban fabric has transformed into an all-out assault on the industrial materials that built this city. No hard-headed minimalist content to stack bricks or box up plywood, Ruben Ochoa fashions his concrete into amorphous bodies with spidery rebar legs. This month, Ochoa will spear concrete with choreographed fence posts, trying to make playful these humble urban props usually used to make boundaries. —Andrew Beradini
SUSANNE VIELMETTER LOS ANGELES PROJECTS | 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City | Sept. 10-Oct. 23Dani Tull at Mark Moore
Dani Tull's work over the last decade has frequently referenced psychedelia, as with the peyote cacti and tie-dye sky framing Tull's depiction of our scavenging prehistoric ancestors in (Study for) Unfolding the Stone (the painting that graced the cover of the Weekly for its 2008 "Some Paintings" art issue), or the heavy-lidded stereotypical stoner cartoon on the faux cover of his hypothetical hippie zine, My Fluorescent Beatitude (2005).
His latest body of work will be previewed as part of Mark Moore Gallery's "Ultrasonic V: It's Only Natural" opening on September 11. Titled "Golden Eagle," the new work is a radical departure from his earlier work, and not only for its obvious abandonment of cartoonish representation for elaborately carved, reflective encaustic abstractions — kaleidoscopic mandalas of golden, featherlike striations that shift dramatically depending on the viewer's point of view.
The new works still deal with psychedelics, but rather than filtering the topic through the plausible deniability of pop culture–mediated irony, they derive from the artist's recent commitment to the exploration of mystical states of consciousness through the shamanistic use of plant entheogens, and are intended to act as "technological objects that charge and release transcendent energy." Now that's what I call functional art! —Doug Harvey
ULTRASONIC V: IT'S ONLY NATURAL | Mark Moore Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., A-1, Santa Monica | (310) 453-3031 | Sept. 11-Oct. 16 | Reception Sat., Sept. 11, 5-7 p.m.Dirk Skreber at Blum & Poe
Dirk Skreber believes icons of any manner after World War II, from popular ads to photos and paintings, should not only be distrusted but also twisted, sullied or placed at a distance. Basically, clean-cut, buttoned-down imagery offers only the fantasy of a utopian lifestyle swiftly headed to its demise. Skreber's work ranges from sober to manic, from Gerhard Richter to Sigmar Polke, often presenting tight-lipped, fuzzy disaster paintings next to full-size cars, twisted audaciously around poles. Disaster fetishes in art don't always have a point, but for Germans, they almost always do. Skreber's paintings are smart, laced with historical poison, and more than they seem. —Ed Schad