By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
When Guston, already established as an abstract painter, exhibited renderings of ungainly, crude figures at Marlborough Gallery in 1970, the critical reaction was scathing. Later, the dramatic move would be seen as the smartest he'd taken. But even subtle transformations can show that artists are in tune with changes in culture.
"Some artists have the ability to retain freshness. Most don't," explains Tom Jancar, whose gallery, also in Chinatown, aims to put older and younger artists in conversation with each other. "Most really do peak at a certain point. What's strange is that no one really talks about the process, though people will suddenly start saying the work is no good anymore.
"Almost no younger artists expect the tapering off of their ideas," Jancar adds. Some, like Ilene Segalove, an artist on Jancar's roster, who spent the 1970s and '80s exploring the influence of Hollywood in her art, stop working until they can devise a project that feels right. In a recent exhibition, Segalove pitted her older and younger selves against each other. Just the contrasting quality of the photographs suggested how much had changed.
10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Westwood, CA 90024
Region: West L.A.
Frank Lloyd, whose Santa Monica gallery mainly exhibits artists whose careers began in the 1950s and '60s, has a roster that seems immune to atrophy. "There were only about 50 people around [the L.A. art scene] when they started, so you had to do the work for yourself," Lloyd says. "There's a drive and strength within these artists to take the medium to a place it's never been before."
Peter Voulkos was in his 70s when he exhibited a body of weirdly bulbous vessels at Lloyd's gallery. Bigger than Voulkos' earlier ceramics and looser than his bronze abstractions, they spun around on lazy Susans and had a prehistoric energy that made their spinning comically inventive. "I see it as my responsibility to keep encouraging artists to develop their work," Lloyd says, even if that means they move in uncomfortable directions that alienate previous audiences.
"Ed Ruscha: On the Road" won't alienate audiences. There's something too familiar about the exhibition's clean deliberateness. Though Ruscha wasn't available to talk about why he had chosen, at this point in his career, to channel Kerouac, he'd have answered smartly, I'm sure. He says pointed things about time. "It's the immediacy that ... makes you not even think about whether something could be ever out of date," he told an interviewer in 1981. But immediacy may be what's missing here.
Ruscha's career is immune to the need for freshness. He's an icon, and deservedly. His work is prominent in museum collections and on the cover of multiple histories of L.A. art. Still, the "On the Road" paintings arrive almost prepackaged, like advertisements for their own legacy. With just a little more restless energy, they might pull you into the moment instead of sending you back through time.
ED RUSCHA: ON THE ROAD | Hammer Museum | 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Wstwd. | Through Oct. 2 | hammer.ucla.edu