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State of the Art ’05

Courtesy Track 16
Jennifer Pastor

Jennifer Pastor only surfaces every few years with a new cluster of idiosyncratic sculptural musings but it’s always worth the wait.

The Perfect Ride

— comparing the Hoover Dam to the structure of the inner ear to a rodeo bull ride — debuted at Regen Projects before being featured at the Whitney last winter. (DH)

Tom Patchett
Between career milestones of creating the alien-puppet sitcom Alf and hosting the First Annual L.A. Weekly Biennial at his Track 16 Gallery, Tom Patchett has managed to amass a bewildering collection of stuff, including a complete African barbershop and diner car, literal tons of vintage neon signage, Vernon Kilns dinnerware, Elvis-head lamps, and Tanglefoot Fly Spray cans; not to mention an extensive sampling of contemporary art, from Marcel Duchamp to Argentine cookie-porn collective Mondongo, with major holdings of Fluxus ephemera and Joseph Beuys multiples — which inspired Show Your Wound: The Death and Times of Joseph Beuys, Patchett’s edutaining 2004 multimedia biography of the late German felt, fat ’n’ fascism artist. Coming soon: a show focusing on Patchett’s selection of works by Georganne Deen, Manuel Ocampo, Alan Rath, Llyn Foulkes, and maybe Raymond Pettibon. (DH)

M.A. Peers
M.A. Peers’ sumptuous paintings of purebred dogs on patterned fabrics taken from sofas and chairs found on the street are witty studies of genetic styles based on actual observation and loving interest. Her recent portraits on Mylar and canvas of corporate tsars like Ken Lay are more tough-minded typological studies, aiming to reveal the bland demagoguery that is the source of power for these amoral greed-meisters. (MD)


 Raymond Pettibon, No Title
(And as he)
(2005)
Courtesy Regen Projects

Raymond Pettibon

From designing the graphic identity for Black Flag to headlining the 2004 Whitney Biennial, visual/literary Frankenstein Raymond Pettibon’s had a long, strange trip. Last year’s winner of the $100,000 Bucksbaum award, Pettibon pushes further boundaries in his current Whitney solo show, which includes animation. Next:

Va-Voom

the video game? (DH)

Lari Pittman
Lari Pittman’s recent work — shown to great acclaim in London, Nice and, starting November 19, in New York at Barbara Gladstone — continues with the complex domestic interiors populated by insects or tethered birds, and cloven by axes, scissors, daggers and swords. As gorgeously decorative and formally risky as ever, they also capture the darkness of our times in a way few painters even attempt. See one of our two covers for a recently completed piece. (DH)

Ken Price
A key figure in the West Coast ceramics renaissance of the ’50s, Ken Price has been amazingly consistent for a very long time, and his body of work is absolutely unique. Over the years he’s produced misshapen cups that affectionately parody cheap, border-town pottery, geometric forms that serve as armatures for jagged planes of primary color, weird hybrids combining industrial and organic shapes, and ominous eggs with maggot forms pushing through fissures in their shells. It would all be a bit creepy were it not for the astonishingly beautiful glazes that finish the pieces. The 70-year-old Price continues to amaze, with a show of new watercolors at L.A. Louver through November 12. (KM)

Monique Prieto
Prieto gives the “new color painting” a very contemporary twist: She composes her painterly arrangements of eccentric, ballooning forms on the computer, and their transfer to canvas retains some of the slight stiffness that digital pixelation gives the original designs. This imparts an odd ?brittleness to what we expect to be entirely fluid shapes and colors. Call it color-field al dente. (PF)

RAID Projects
L.A. is becoming a world art center, but still lacks sufficient outlets for new art from around that world. Among the few that do serve as entry ports for young artists from Kenya, Korea and Ukraine, RAID Projects is probably the scruffiest, least predictable, most uneven, most congenial and thus most artist-friendly, befitting its location in the world’s largest artists’ complex, the Brewery. (PF)

Charles Ray
Ray could practically maintain bicoastal addresses at the Whitney Museum and MOCA, having been included in more shows than one can count between the two museums. Paul Schimmel, curator of “Ecstasy,” currently on view at MOCA, says the show was partly inspired by Ray’s work. Though he once made a sculpture of lifelike mannequin clones of himself in a daisy chain, the artist is a private type. But that hasn’t kept him from being a massive influence, broadly considered a defining figure in Los Angeles art, and American art in general over the past 20 years, and an artistic father to numerous UCLA sculpture students who have gained recognition of late. Ray’s secret as a teacher seems primarily to be that of educating by example, providing his students with permission and inspiration to pursue works with the same mix of oddness and ambition that defines his own. (CM)

 


 Charles Ray, The Family Romance (1993)
Photo courtesy Regen Projects



 REDCAT curators Clara Kim
and Eungie Joo
Photo by Elizabeth Perrin

REDCAT

In the two and a half years Eungie Joo has been director and curator of the Gallery at REDCAT, she has created a cutting-edge contemporary program essentially from scratch, introducing emerging artists as well as art-world players new to Southern California. Her show “White Noise,” for example, included up-and-comers like Sora Kim, Gimhongsok, Superflex, Taro Shinoda and the recent MacArthur fellow Julie Mehretu, none of whom had ever before shown in L.A. Upcoming shows include the first solo U.S. exhibitions for Mexican artist Damián Ortega and the Parisian Mathieu Briand.

By definition, REDCAT is an artistic laboratory, one part educational institution, one part creative haven and one part cultural resource. So, naturally, Joo has by art-world standards an unorthodox background: a B.A. in African-diaspora studies and a doctorate from UC Berkeley’s ethnic-studies program. But she caught the contemporary-art bug during a two-year stint at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and credits her brother, artist Michael Joo, for inciting her interest in the production of new works.

Assistant curator Clara Kim also comes by way of Berkeley and the Walker, and though the two women joke that they don’t always agree, they share both job and vision. “As curators we have an audience and thus a voice,” says Joo. “We look at a season as almost a group show, and have particular sensitivity for women, early-career and international artists.”

“We get to develop a mission and identity for the space,” Kim enthuses. “We’re actually creating what we represent.” (Nora Zelevansky)

Roland Reiss
Reiss commands a doubled influence on the L.A. scene. As head of the Claremont Graduate School’s art department for several decades, he helped crank out several generations of artists, many of them among our best. And when he gave up figural — even narrative — sculpture and became an abstract painter, he helped turn Light-&-Space-ville into a painting town for the first time ever. (PF)


 Steve Roden, Human Scale
(Topography)
, a piece in the
Richards-Tuck collection

David Richards and Geoff Tuck

Whether you’re doing the opening-night crawl in Chinatown, sipping cocktails at a MOCA preview, checking out an artist-curated show at a community college or wandering through open studios at one of the area’s art academies, the guy standing next to you is more likely David Richards or Geoff Tuck than anyone else on the planet. Partners in life and co-workers at Fields Devereaux, Richards, an architect, and Tuck, a contract manager, hold true to their motto of “see everything,” and make good on their expressed interest in the connectivity of art. Richards, vice president on the board of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, and Tuck, vice chair of the Fellows of Contemporary Art, followed a shared interest in California’s cultural history to the SoCal art explosion of the ’50s and ’60s, to an investigation of the region’s schools, to contemporary art. Collecting since 1998, the Hancock Park duo have shown little care for trend or consensus, favoring mostly emerging artists they believe in, but have made more than a few choices that turned out to be ahead of the pack, with works by artists such as Steve Roden, Mark Bradford, Amy Sarkisian, Joel Morrison, Lecia Dole-Recio and Jared Pankin. As ubiquitous as they are, however, they’re not easy to spot. But here’s a tip: Look for the guys who are looking carefully at the art, asking thoughtful questions, engaging in polite debate about what they see and focusing on the artists instead of themselves. (CM)

Steve Roden
Roden’s twin callings as artist (quixotically beautiful conceptualist objects) and composer (subtle post-ambient sound) have long been on a collision course. His recent large-scale sound installations at Art Center, London’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and Long Beach’s Dome Room make for one of the most tranquil and hypnotic smash-ups ever. (For more on Roden, see “Art for Artists’ Sake.”) (DH)


 Ed Ruscha, Hell (1988)
Ed Ruscha

Once upon a time, L.A. was an artistic hinterland, home to none but moviemakers and plein air painters, and an artist intent on making his fortune had no hope but to haul his talents across the country to the reigning mecca that was New York. In the 1960s, however, that began to change. There are many to thank for the shift, but few make for a handsomer hero than Ed Ruscha, who went west rather than east from his native Oklahoma, worked as a typesetter, glimpsed the secret poetry of billboards and elevated Los Angeles to the worthy status of artistic subject.

There were others who’d painted L.A., many who’d written about it and many, of course, who’d filmed it, but Ruscha’s work catches something particularly quintessential. It lurks in the anxious suspension of his Hollywood, in the lunging precision of his Standard Station, the looming arrogance of his Twentieth Century Fox, and the archival lyricism of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass and his other seminal photo books. It’s something about the endless specificity of the landscape and the sensation here of being in a perpetual state of confrontation with words. Ruscha, more than any other artist of his generation, changed the way we see L.A., updating Chandler in the language of Conceptualism and illuminating the grandeur of the city’s banality. (HM)

Mark Ryden
Creepy, sad, poignant, strange, occasionally rather sweet and always beautifully crafted, the paintings of Mark Ryden have an inescapably absorbing sense of presence. One of the most successful artists in the Lowbrow movement, Ryden is also, perhaps, the most poetic, distinguished by a continually inventive repertoire of imagery and a talent for probing the underside of consciousness. (HM)

Betye Saar
Materfamilias to a burgeoning artist dynasty (including daughters Alison and Lezley), Betye Saar is also doyenne of L.A.’s socially engaged artists of color. Ever since she emerged in the post-Watts African-American renaissance, Saar has invested her densely, intricately constructed collages and assemblages with wit, elegance and a gently applied but tenacious bite. Saar’s richly bedecked icons bemoan African-American history and celebrate African-American culture with a persuasive lyricism. (PF)

Allan Sekula
The work of Allan Sekula combines all the virtues of great documentary photography — sociological insight, political feeling, emotional sensitivity and powerful imagery — with an incisive conceptual sensibility. Focusing, over the past two decades, on the exploration of maritime communities around the world, he’s illuminated the promises and consequences of global trade and offered an incomparable portrait of our age. (HM)

Jim Shaw
Shaw — champion and purveyor of thrift-store aesthetics, forgotten pop-culture detritus, his own impossibly convoluted dreams, and previously unknown American cult religions — has two entirely new shows opening this month. Unfortunately they’re in New York and Switzerland. Local fans should watch for the opening of his “Oist” storefront church. (DH)


 Photo by Elizabeth Perrin
Rose Shoshana

Israeli-born gallerist Rose Shoshana was a photographer herself when she decided to open the Gallery of Contemporary Photography at Edgemar Farms in 1991. The idea was to create a space to exhibit her own work, along with work by her friends, but that plan fell by the wayside in fairly short order. Shoshana’s desire to bring photography that otherwise wouldn’t be seen in Los Angeles to her gallery led to landmark exhibitions of work by Mexican masters Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, and a growing reputation as the best photography dealer in town. Graced with integrity and a light touch that’s rare in an art dealer, Shoshana has come to represent a stable of photographers that includes some of the best in the business — William Eggleston, Bruce Davidson, Charles Brittin, Dorothea Lange and Susan Meiselas, to name a few.

A graduate of Art Center College of Design, Shoshana spent the ’80s doing freelance photography for magazines and record companies, and she won an Emmy in 1992 for her PBS documentary film, The Women of the Georgian Hotel. The completion of the film coincided with the birth of her gallery, whose rapid growth forced her to put her interest in filmmaking on the back burner. Relocating to Bergamot Station when it opened in 1994, the gallery was re-christened Rose Gallery, and Shoshana’s range of activity continued to expand. A curator with extensive knowledge of the photography of Latin America, where she has organized several exhibitions, she’s also a publisher who’s played a crucial role in the making of books by Iturbide, Jeff Bridges and Guy Stricherz. When you walk into her gallery, you know you’ll see something good. (KM)

Alexis Smith
Some people are impressed by Alexis Smith’s elegant economy of means — all it takes is a few objects arranged in a simple rebus and she’s made her point — but most get off on her archly topical, yet recent-past-nostalgia-soaked subjects, redone with laconic wit. These include Hollywood, detective novels, politics — she’s a genre collagist, a film-noir Joseph Cornell. (PF)

John Sonsini
Sonsini’s dazzling new group portraits of Hispanic day laborers are virtuosic displays of the expressive and explosive qualities of oil paint. Through quickly brushed delineations of clothing, stances and facial features, they hint at the emotional lives of immigrant workers who are largely invisible in the economic and social life of the city. (MD)

Brad Spence
Spence is a rigorously conceptual painter who airbrushes appropriated mass-culture imagery but somehow winds up with beautiful, funny, moving artworks. His last solo show layered clusters of mundane snapshots to evoke a “go into the light” after-death journey. Arguably skeptical and inescapably ironic, but it doesn’t matter. (DH)

Tyler Stallings

Tyler Stallings is a thinking man’s curator with an inquisitive eye for popular culture. His shows are intelligent without being academic; ambitious without being haughty; and playful, when appropriate, without being flippant. In his tenure as chief curator (and formerly director of programs) at the Laguna Art Museum, he’s helped to elevate what might have happily remained a pleasant, provincial, small-town institution into one of the most valuable — and refreshing — arts centers in Southern California.

The artists he’s showcased solo — Deborah Aschheim, Sandow Birk, Simon Leung, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Kara Walker and Robert Williams, among others — are expansive thinkers, often politically minded and adept at the manipulation of boundaries. Group shows like “Whiteness: A Wayward Construction” (2003) and “Cyborg Manifesto, or the Joy of Artifice” (2001) reflect similar concerns on an ambitious, if occasionally unwieldy, scale. The boundary play, in particular, comes to the fore in his accessible but still rigorous surveys of popular culture: “Surf Culture: The Art History of Surfing” (2002), “Margaret Keane and Keanabilia” (2000) and “Grind: The Culture and Graphics f Skateboarding” (1995).

In addition to curating and writing, Stallings is also an artist — his eloquently unsettling paintings showed at Newspace last year — and he brings an artist’s sensitivity to all of his many endeavors, making him a salient presence on the Southern California scene. (HM)

Jennifer Steinkamp
In the old days, video art was slow, dry, tedious and cerebral. Steinkamp is one of the blessed pioneers working to uncover its hidden pleasures. Her room-filling computer-generated projections, like the gorgeous masses of gently swaying vines that curtained the walls of ACME this summer, are the epitome of digital visual luxury. (HM)

Don Suggs
UCLA drawing and painting mainstay Don Suggs was one of the first artists signed by L.A. Louver, but his stubborn variety — restlessly shifting between droll Baldessarian landscape painting and intricately constructed photo collages, motorized analog-image-morphing projections with symbol-laden totem poles made of found plastic — has kept him under-recognized. His upcoming retrospective at Otis’ Ben Maltz Gallery should allow the public to get a handle on his wide-ranging oeuvre. (DH)

Shirley Tse
Hong Kong native Tse is the most talented and inventive of a group of L.A. sculptors who emerged in the ’90s using commercial packing foam as their primary medium. Tse’s elaborately carved polystyrene reliefs have always resembled alien architectures. It will be interesting to see how her recent visit to the ancient Cambodian ruins at Angkor Wat gets translated. (DH)

Jeffrey Vallance
Vallance first achieved notoriety for buying a deluxe pet-cemetery funeral for “Blinky the Friendly Hen” — a prepackaged Foster Farms fryer from the supermarket. Since then he’s been blurring boundaries in the art world — and around the globe from Tonga to Lapland. Since recently settling back down in the Valley, he’s been working on a series of reliquaries for the fragmentary remains of his early pranksterisms. (DH)

Monique van Genderen
Van Genderen’s color abstraction refuses to stay put. Instead of confining it to the picture plane, van Genderen is as likely to let it fly all over the walls. And instead of carving out a particular look for herself, she is painterly one day, hard-edge the next, kind of in-between eccentric the third. It’s not her shapes that define her style, it’s her sensitivity to color itself. (PF)

Bill Viola
Since staging his surprisingly controversial Passions at the Getty, video genius Viola has kept a low local profile, but he’s scheduled to make a big splash when his (and director Peter Sellars’) completed version of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde returns to L.A. in March in all its elemental glory. (DH)


 Marnie Weber, The Bunny (2001)
Marnie Weber

Heir to the magical, fantasy-laden realms of surrealist artists such as Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, Marnie Weber offers a more haunting and lyrical alternative to the whimsy of Pipilotti Rist. Her recent exhibitions of videos, collages and sculptures at Cal State L.A. and Rosamund Felsen Gallery amply demonstrated the richness and haunting sensitivity of her animal surrogates and fairy-tale allegories. (MD)

Eric Wesley
Wesley was already a unique voice on the L.A. art scene with funny, confrontational works like his kicking-mule sculpture, illicit crossings of Silver Lake Reservoir, and oil-recycling remodel of the Hammer Museum included in “Snapshot.” But a dark cloud attached itself when his dealer Giovanni Intra OD’ed while celebrating Wesley’s New York City debut. Since then he’s had solo shows here and in Amsterdam and created sharp, often site-specific works for art fairs and the Whitney Biennial. Watch for a MOCA project in ’06. (DH)


 Photo by Kim Bockus
 

Robert Williams
“Something dead in the street,” Robert Williams once wrote, “commands more measured units of visual investigation than 100 Mona Lisas!” And be assured that visual investigation is what Williams wants from you: If death — or blood or tits or chrome or guns or burgers or warty, veiny, slobbering, monstrous things — is what it takes, so be it, he’ll throw them in there. His paintings can be ugly, disturbing, disgusting, appalling, creepy, lecherous and maddeningly offensive — but they’re also funny, brilliantly executed and more resoundingly intelligent than most of what passes for clever in the mainstream art world today.

Rising from an art-director position in the studio of hot-rod guru Big Daddy Roth (where he was, by a truly canny stroke of providence, actually sent by an employment agency), through the halls of Robert Crumb’s Zap Comics, Williams has become the revered godfather of the Lowbrow movement. (Indeed, he actually — literally! — owns a copyright on the term.) He is vocal in his antagonism toward the mainstream art world, and he can afford to be, as he probably sells a lot more than most of the reigning darlings of Artforum. His complaints, however, are far more astute than bitter, and rather than lapse into self-syndication or drift comfortably into the lucrative land of Lowbrow merchandising, he persists in making good old-fashioned, gallery-scale paintings that engage with not only art history but human history, science, literature, culture and the whole sticky mess of being alive.

At the heart of his work, beneath the sex and the gore, is a very democratic sort of compassion. As he writes in his 1993 book, Views From a Tortured Libido: “What is banal and gross to some (maybe most) is painfully self-evident secretly to all of us.” (HM)

David Wilson
L.A.’s own personal Wizard of Oz, David Wilson received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant a few years back, but the precise nature of his genius is impossible to define. You could call Wilson a conceptualist, but that doesn’t begin to describe him. What is he doing out there at the Museum of Jurassic Technology? He’s never broken character and explained, but whatever it is, it’s a national treasure and it’s in your hometown! (KM)

Andrea Zittel
You’ve got to hand it to anyone who can hole up on an acreage in Joshua Tree and still stay on top of the art world. With her multi-purpose A-Z Enterprises and High Desert Test Sites, Andrea Zittel has taken the kinds of mock-corporate landscape interrogations posed by the Center for Land Use Interpretation and opened them up to a flurry of faux-utilitarian object-making. (DH)

 


 Andrea Zittel, A-Z Fiber Form Uniforms (2003)
Courtesy Regen Projects


 Photo by Elizabeth Perrin

Diana Zlotnick
There aren’t many collectors like Diana Zlotnick, though there ought to be. Still going strong at 78, she has given over her modest home almost entirely to displaying and preserving the more than 600 artworks she’s accumulated over the last 40-some years. In the late ’50s, a magazine article drew her into the nascent Ferus Gallery, where she bought a Robert Irwin on the installment plan, then returned to trade it for a John Altoon.

Zlotnick — a former schoolteacher and the wife of a veterinarian — was hooked. With nothing to go on but her instincts (and whatever was left over in the modest household budget), she managed to acquire works by Warhol, Ruscha, Wallace Berman, Richard Pettibone, Llyn Foulkes, George Herms and many others. Even more than the objects themselves, Zlotnick valued exposure to the artists’ milieu, and began to focus almost entirely on L.A. locals.

Not content to play the passive art consumer, she quickly began circumventing the gallery system, approaching artists directly — visiting studios, exploring work in depth and developing real relationships. When Berman’s famous obsolete Verifax machine crapped out in 1966, Zlotnick was able to supply him with another from her late father’s office. Wanting to share her enthusiasm, she taught “direct experience” art-appreciation classes and has published a sporadic newsletter since 1972.

With works on loan to the recent SMMOA “Semina Culture” show, the upcoming Richard Pettibone retrospective at Laguna and the Pompidou Center’s L.A. show next year, Zlotnick could easily rest on her laurels. Instead, she continues to spend several days a week checking out galleries and visiting young artists in their studios, using her spare time to document her collection, and trying to encourage others on fixed incomes to trust their untapped instinct for collecting art. (DH)


To read part one of the story, from The Rev. Ethan Acres to Mark Grotjahn click here.

To read part two of the story, from Tim Hawkinson to Laura Owens click here.


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