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
Although retaining a foot at all times in the pop-cultural swamp, Duffy's work has steadily grown more formally and conceptually challenging since then, while simultaneously becoming more autobiographical and tinged with social commentary. Searcher extends and amplifies the artist's recent multivalent explorations of automotive culture, pop ephemera and domestic furnishing design while collecting several important earlier pieces that haven't been seen locally before.
Most prominent among these prodigal artifacts is Car 23 (2008-2010), Duffy's re-creation of his father's customized, zebra-striped 1964 Toyota Land Cruiser, which sits incongruously abandoned in the LAM lobby. Two of a 2008 series of silk-screened "paintings" on stained drop cloths — their lower thirds cluttered with a landscape of superimposed automotive logos — team with a new pair of his better-known modular grids of silk-screened plywood units (these ones depicting variations of contemporary outdoor sport magazines instead of vintage LP covers) that reiterate Duffy's almost incidental position as one of the most interesting and challenging painters currently working in L.A.
Two of the gargantuan chop-shop surrealist music boxes from Duffy's COLA installation at Barnsdall Park are included, as well as examples from an even stranger series in which he de-collages bits from multiple copies of Artforum and other art mags until the remaining image elements constitute enlarged text fragments — in this case the word "Sun" from the masthead of archetypal California lifestyle magazine Sunset and the word "Hot" from the masthead of archetypal California lifestyle magazine Hot Rod.
There are several other equally intriguing works, including some gorgeous gas-can and zip-tie coral-reef light fixtures, but my personal favorite is probably the simplest piece in the show. The latest in Duffy's ongoing series of altered turntable sound sculptures, Almost in Love (2010) consists of two decks conjoined in such a way that the spindle of one drives the outside edge of the other, reducing its RPM to just about 1. Which results in the titular LP — a 1970 of contemporaneous Elvis singles (including, pointedly, A Little Less Conversation) — being transformed from a toe-tapping 20 minutes to a rumbling, explosive eight-hour drone-fest. It isn't always clear what Duffy's searching for with his Frankenstein mash-ups, but let's hope, for the sake of the L.A. art scene, that he doesn't find it for a while.
Speaking of the surprise quotient, another show currently up at LAM completely slipped under my radar, and took me by delighted surprise. John Paul Jones was one of the leading figures in the American printmaking revival of the 1950s and '60s, and an important teacher at UCLA and UC Irvine. "John Paul Jones," curated by Mike McGee, includes several stunning examples of his printmaking, but spends at least as much attention on his exquisitely subtle figurative paintings and his spare, droll and ultimately spiritual geometric sculptures.
I'd go on, but since you'll be making the drive for the Cali Bi and Duffy anyway, kindly check it out for yourself. Kirk out.
THE 2010 CALIFORNIA BIENNIAL | Orange County Museum of Art | 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach | Through March 13
SEAN DUFFY: SEARCHER & JOHN PAUL JONES | Laguna Art Museum | 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach | Both through Jan. 23
CHILDREN'S ART WORKSHOP WITH SEAN DUFFY | Sun., Jan. 9, 1-3 p.m.