State of the Art ’05

Tim Hawkinson Now that his mind-boggling retrospective has been dismantled and packed away, Tim Hawkinson finally has time to move into his new studio. He’s hinted at compacted, cubic human bodies and feather motorcycles, but we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, the public can now see the 360,000-pound Bear sculpture he created for UCSD, and rumors persist of an L.A. landing for his gargantuan Uberorgan sound sculpture in 2006. (DH) Photo by Elizabeth Perrin

Anna Helwing One of the first gallerists to set up shop on South La Cienega Boulevard, in 2003, newcomer Anna Helwing has more than held her own against the cocky pre-eminence of her first neighbor, Blum & Poe, and helped to make that grimy strip of storefronts one of the most consistently interesting art stops in town. Moving from Zurich in 2000, Helwing put in a year at Christopher Grimes Gallery before setting off on her own, and she brings to this endeavor a refinement reminiscent of her former employer. Her artists are young and mostly local — Jessica Bronson, Emilie Halpern, Portia Hein, Kelly Poe, Robert Russell and Mindy Shapero, among others — but she manageslu to avoid the trendy slacker vibe that’s growing so stale in the Chinatown galleries. An easy sophistication prevails, and her shows are generally thoughtful, intelligent and aesthetically rewarding. Poe’s delicate photographs of birds were particularly memorable, and the paintings in Russell’s recent exhibition were by far the most beautiful portraits of pigs I’ve ever seen. 2766 S. La Cienga Blvd., (310) 202-2213. (HM) Roger Herman Herman is the closest thing to a Julian Schnabel–style ’80s painter Los Angeles has — except for the self-deprecating humor and perversely clichéd or mundane subjects of his work. Lumpy ceramic vessels adorned with erotic cartoons recently crowded Santa Monica Museum of Art’s project space, and he’s currently working on a suite of enormously scaled flower paintings, when he’s not teaching at UCLA or running hot Chinatown gallery Black Dragon Society. (DH) George Herms Herms’ recent retrospective at Santa Monica Museum of Art revealed the enduring elegance and wit of his assemblages of found funky objects. A poet of rust, a junkyard alchemist, he has continued in recent years to salute the musicians, writers and artists who helped him hone his own vision as a young artist. (MD)

Anthony Hernandez, Everything #2 (2003-04) Courtesy Christopher Grimes Gallery

Anthony Hernandez Hernandez has made a career of pointing his camera where others rarely look: into homeless encampments, abandoned buildings, the corners of stalled construction projects, and the muck of the L.A. River. His large, square-format prints flirt with abstraction and redeem these lonely locales with clarity and elegance. (HM) David Hockney When he hasn’t been promoting his radical theory that olde painters used optical devices (duh!) or championing smokers’ rights, swinging-London transplant Hockney has been creating sumptuous opera sets and — in his watercolors of the East Yorkshire landscape — some of his best paintings in decades. (DH) Evan Holloway After last year’s solid show at Marc Foxx, highlighted by his analysis of coprophagous social infrastructures (a.k.a. shit-eating grid), post-Charley Ray sculptor Evan Holloway has had solo shows in London and Brussels and appeared as an éminence grise in L.A. Louver’s hot-young-talent survey, “Rogue Wave ’05.” (DH) Salomón Huerta, Untitled (2002) Courtesy Cirrus/Patricia Faure Salomón Huerta Emerging from grad school in the late 1990s, Salomón Huerta made cool, spare, highly controlled paintings of people with their backs turned, then cool, spare, highly controlled paintings of Southern California bungalows, interspersed with startlingly intimate, trystlike odes to individual women (one in 2001 and one this year). Among the most distinctive voices to emerge from the identity debates of the past decade, Huerta is an ambivalent portraitist, perpetually playing with the viewer’s presumed right of universal access. (HM) Steve Hurd One of the few L.A. painters to emerge in the ’90s with an attitude besides market complacency, Hurd consistently turned his righteous painting chops against themselves. A recent Sunset in a show at Angles is the first glimpse of a stunning new body of pixelated photo-based political painting. (DH) Photo by Anitra Menning Courtesy Institute for Figuring Hyperbolic Planes Take Off Think the world is all straight lines and points and spheres? Think again. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Institute for Figuring will show you that the world is also hyperbolic. The institute is the primary home of Cornell mathematician Daina Taimina’s hyperbolic crochet pieces. In 1997, Taimina figured out a way to make durable, easy-to-handle physical models of a mind-bending kind of space called hyperbolic space: She would crochet them. In a hyperbolic plane, the surface curves away from itself at every point. Scientists had been pasting together paper triangles to demonstrate hyperbolic geometry ever since it was discovered in the early 1800s. Paper constructions were fragile, difficult to make and easily torn. But Taimina’s crocheted models are an elegant solution to a long-standing problem. Lately, Taimina, who learned traditional handicrafts as a child in her native Latvia, and the Wertheims — also avid knitters/crocheters — have been turning out the hyperbolic models like hotcakes. The models’ growth has been exponential, both literally and figuratively. Since the IFF’s exhibit at Machine Gallery in Echo Park in August, the institute has been invited to stage five shows next year, and art patron Eileen Norton has even commissioned a series of them for her personal collection. Pieces range from 4 inches to 2 feet in diameter and look like blue lettuce, or orange sea kelp, or the pink scrunchies that cheerleaders use to tie up their ponytails. In addition to being mathematically accurate, they’re colorful, fun to play with and cute in a complex way. A perfect match for the institute’s mandate to elucidate the aesthetics and poetics of scientific thought. “That it took something as simple as female handicrafts to make the most abstract science visible,” says institute founder (and Weekly science columnist) Margaret Wertheim, “is the beautiful thing about them.” We couldn’t agree more. (Gendy Alimurung) Nancy Jackson In beautifully crafted sculptures, paintings and drawings, Nancy Jackson offers a kind of philosophical soul all too rare in the contemporary art world. Actually dealing with what it means to be human, her work has a complex beauty and deep content that should be required viewing for those addled by art theory and mired in PoMo self-reference. (MD) Photo by Kim Bockus

Julie Joyce Julie Joyce has worn a few hats in her career: handling exhibition and publication projects at the galleries of Fred Hoffman and Dorothy Goldeen; working as a critic for the journal Art Issues; and authoring catalog texts notable for both their insight and their accessibility. But where she has shone is as director of the Luckman Gallery at Cal State L.A. What should be a sleepy outpost has, under Joyce’s guidance (as an actively curating director), become a serious destination on the contemporary-art circuit in Los Angeles. Joyce has offered overdue retrospectives of work by Charles Gaines, Todd Gray and Patrick Nickell. Her recent exhibition of work by Marnie Weber once again exemplifies her ability to sniff out the talent right under our noses. Her show of Charles Garabedian's works on paper was stunning, and her reintroduction of the paintings of Jack Goldstein was well ahead of the curve in what has now been a massive reassessment of Goldstein’s relevance in the ’80s and his influence on painting at the moment. And at a time when the Scottish artist Hew Locke already was gaining an international reputation with ambitious installation works, it was Joyce who gave Locke his U.S. debut. Each of these exhibitions points to Joyce’s smarts. All have been ambitious undertakings, all have been finely presented (Joyce seriously knows how to hang a show), and all have been accompanied by publications involving respectable writers. State school, tiny budget, limited resources. Miracles do happen. (CM) Inmo Of the handful of galleries that pioneered Chinatown as a contemporary-art community, China Art Objects and the Black Dragon Society have gone on to international fame. Less well-known is the third gallery to open there — INMO, named for its benign Korean owner/director. Inmo Yuon ran the gallery for four and a half years (including shows curated by myself and Weekly contributor Peter Frank) — although his interest in dining out sometimes seemed keener than his desire to hustle collectors — before crashing and burning in a splendidly tabloid fashion. Luckily, in this case, no one was badly hurt. Inmo nursed his wounds for a while — his old space has now reverted into one of those mahjong social clubs — before re-emerging, improbably playing the Korean Mafia boss in Michael Mann’s Collateral. He could have forged a Hollywood character-actor career out of the offers that came his way as a result, but instead he’s been everywhere on the art scene again and is preparing to open his new 3,000-square-foot gallery at 114 W. Fifth St. (formerly Billy’s Grill & Coffee Shop), in the heart of the downtown scene that many hope will be the sequel to Chinatown. “The space is almost an artwork in itself. There are all these great international spaces with unique identities — Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, Scai Bathhouse in Tokyo, Swiss Institute in Soho and so on. They’re my inspiration. I want to have something different, not just another gallery. A new system for new art,” he says. (DH) Solway Jones Where most dealers seem stuck pining for the “greed is good” ’80s, Michael Solway and Angela Jones have revived and updated the free-for-all optimism of the late ’60s. Their first gallery seemed like a hallucination — plunked in the middle of East L.A., a stone’s throw from the St. Vincent de Paul as-is yard, alternating exhibits of idiosyncratic visionaries like John Cage, Richard Hamilton and Buckminster Fuller with always-interesting locals like Patrick Nickell. Since moving to Mid-Wilshire, Solway and Jones have expanded both strategies with an important historical survey of the late Hannah Wilke, new work from the legendary William Anastasi, and a knockout show from local death-candy painter Mark Dutcher. (DH) Matt Johnson, Breadface (cast plastic with oil paint, 2004) Photo by Joshua White, courtesy Taxter & Spengemann/ Hammer Museum Matt Johnson Breadface poster boy for the Hammer’s slam-dunk “THING,” Matt Johnson had already made a ridiculous splash in New York, with The Times, Village Voice and Artforum vying for the honor of being first to praise his sculptures. His 2006 show at Blum & Poe is one of the most anticipated L.A. solo debuts in memory. (DH) Mike Kelley “Day Is Done” — Mike Kelley’s biggest gallery show to date — opens at Gagosian in New York City November 11. The third volume of his texts Interviews by Mike Kelley, 1986-2004 is out, and a new double CD by his art-noise band Destroy All Monsters is set for release. Busy dude. (DH) Martin Kersels Kersels’ ominous slapstick sensibility has produced everything from his kinetic artificial-limb-and-rubber-band sculpture Twist to his recent video of the hapless inhabitants of a house turned rock tumbler. In early December at LACE, big-boned Kersels reunites with his seminal ’80s performance troupe Shrimps. (DH) Toba Khedoori Persian-Australian Angeleno Toba Khedoori is one of the better arguments for the international-melting-pot theory of L.A.’s significance. Her delicate but epically scaled oil and wax paintings on paper — recently examining piles of rocks instead of architectural details — are seen most often at her N.Y. dealer Zwirner but occasionally pop up locally at Regen Projects. (DH)

R.B. Kitaj It’s been almost 10 years since R.B. Kitaj, in the midst of intense personal and career crisis, moved to Los Angeles from London, where he had been pigeonholed as an English Pop artist. The exuberant, erotic suite of paintings dedicated to his late wife reaffirms life, art and the utter stupidity of pigeonholing. (DH) Tom Knechtel Tom Knechtel is our most sophisticated master of classical rendering, offering a soul and wit beyond mere showy technique. Rare lyrical pleasures, his drawings and watercolors of animals mix imagery from a wide variety of Eastern and Western sources. Knechtel’s complex allegorical paintings are Mozartian operas, full of mistaken identities, visual puns and headstrong illusions. (MD) Barbara Kruger, Untitled (It’s Our Pleasure to Disgust You) (1991) Courtesy MOCA Barbara Kruger She was already an art-world heroine when she blew off New York and settled here in the ’90s to teach; but for all her success, Barbara Kruger has lost none of her feminist fury or Post-Structuralist skepticism. She still uses her youthful experience as a woman’s-journal photo editor to compose graphically formidable message montages, appropriated photos overlaid with tough, lyrically worded slogans comprising deconstructions of consumer manipulation: anti-billboards. (PF) Liz Larner Her career-making, wall-destroying Corner Basher (1988) may not have seemed like a formalist statement at the time, but Larner’s work in the intervening years — including her recent mangled, patriotic scrapheap RWBs and abstracted freestanding porcelain Smiles — has shown her knack for narrative and physics engaging with an ever-widening visual and spatial vocabulary. (DH) Liz Larner, RWBs (2005) Courtesy Regen Projects Joyce Lightbody In her small-scale collaged drawings and sculptures, Joyce Lightbody creates dense worlds of poetry and feeling. A fiercely independent advocate of personal expression, she offers intricate, fanciful worlds illuminated by tiny images cut from postage stamps. Her translations of lyrical texts into systems of dense imagery and musical notation are profound sensory mixes in the tradition of Kandinsky and Klee. (MD) Meg Linton Former curator of the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach and director of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Meg Linton had big shoes to fill when she took over the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis, a post long held by beloved L.A. art-scene veteran Anne Ayers. But Linton has proven herself a worthy heir with ambitious programming, including “Shahzia Sikander: Dissonance to Detour,” on view through November 12 in tandem with the Pakistani-born, New York-based artist’s residency at Otis. (CM) Sharon Lockhart Lockhart’s cool, quiet, enigmatic images are among the most eloquent manifestations of the narrative impulse that swept photography in the 1990s. Lockhart’s tender approach to childhood and adolescence in particular imbues her work with an emotional resonance often lost in many of her peers’ more theatrical configurations. (HM) Liza Lou Liza Lou is probably the most improbable and controversial art star to come out of L.A. in the past decade. Her uberkitschy, beaded Kitchen (1995) was a testament to obsessiveness and art-world impropriety, dismissed by many as outsider delirium. Now that Lou has had a MacArthur Genius Grant and shows at trendsetting Deitch Projects and White Cube Gallery, insiders are backpedaling furiously. (DH) Monica Majoli Underground legend Majoli is one of the city’s most intense artists, working obsessively on paintings and watercolors that make most art seem cheap and easy. Her electrifying panels depicting private sexual acts and wrenching self-portraits have been followed by a new series of watercolors, of solitary figures encased in rubber. These strange, ethereal works tap into mystical realms fueled by a kind of sacrificial loneliness. (MD) Daniel Martinez Martinez’s bad-boy stance is no put-on. Driven by a volatile imagination and an arch regard for social foibles, Martinez deconstructs everything and its counterpart — racism and ethnic nationalism, Hollywood and its audience, artists’ careerism and the art-world nexus that rewards a few, devalues the many. Martinez makes his points with outrageous objects, off-putting images and confrontational installations. (PF) Paul McCarthy What has it been, a decade, since poopmeister Paul McCarthy had an actual hometown gallery show? In spite of this, and his retirement from UCLA, his subversive influence remains strong, and he pops up in the oddest places — like the Natural History Museum, where his surprisingly romantic nautical bent has found voice in this spring’s “Conversations” exhibit. (DH) Kelly McLane With a romanticism tempered by black comedy and an unmitigated respect for the sublime, Kelly McLane’s meticulous, meaty drawings and paintings conjure the forces of nature and fate, as manifested in deserts, forests, mountaintops, vistas, plains and night skies that will forever remain bigger than we are. Centered around the surreal bio-scape of the L.A. River, her new work pushes her investigation of the freakish, trashed and pathetic state of American culture to even deeper levels. (MD) Jason Meadows An artist whose emergence in the late ’90s helped signal the arrival of a new generation of L.A. sculptors — defining an oddball, DIY aesthetic and taking inspiration from everything from step ladders to lawn furniture to IKEA bric-a-brac — Jason Meadows also became a key figure in the stable of L.A. gallerist Marc Foxx. A recent show at Sister in Chinatown, for which Meadows produced custom bases or pedestals for a selection of artists who then made pieces to go on top, was one of the freshest local sculpture shows in recent memory. (CM) Kristen Morgin Since seemingly coming out of nowhere (actually, the ceramics faculty at Cal State Long Beach) to dazzle everyone with her cargo-cult Cadillac hearse in the Hammer’s “THING,” Morgin has been featured in the World Ceramic Biennale in Korea and has several shows lined up, including one at L.A.’s Marc Selwyn. (DH) Sandeep Mukherjee, Untitled (2004) Courtesy Sister Gallery Joel Morrison A mix of old-school formalism, postmodern irreverence and a solid dose of street smarts defines Joel Morrison as much as his sculptures, which are made by corseting together castoffs, flea-market finds, canned goods and 99-cent-store bargains inside layers of padding and packing tape. The bulging masses are then sheathed in metallic tape or fiberglass, or cast in stainless steel or aluminum. Perched on pedestals ranging from paint cans to custom-made, multifaceted bases, they’re abstract while hauntingly, vaguely referential, as their insides still dictate the contours of their skins — like much of Los Angeles, trashy and trampy on the inside, slick and shiny on the outside. (CM) Sandeep Mukherjee Mukherjee’s stunning self-portraits on incised Mylar were among the most revelatory works of the past decade. He is a quiet master of site-specific drawing installations, and his new shift into organic abstraction heightens the visual spectacle, providing contrasts of geometric patterning with swelling masses of colored dots. The new Mylar paintings read as luminous landscapes, emanating a kind of inner light. His new abstract work is on view at Sister in Chinatown, Oct. 29-Dec. 17. (MD) Dave Muller With Three Day Weekend (his decade-long experiment in the art of networking) and a Hammer Museum retrospective of his quirky watercolor homages behind him, Dave Muller has discovered his inner formalist, with slices from friends’ record collections blown way out of proportion and transformed into surprisingly substantial museum-scale paintings. (DH) Manfred Muller Born in Dusseldorf, where he studied with Joseph Beuys, Muller relocated to L.A. in 1989 and has been transforming industrial materials into extravagantly gorgeous sculpture and site-specific installations ever since. A gifted colorist whose approach to composition is infused with the bold clarity of the Russian Constructivists, Muller’s spent the past decade on the fringes of the L.A. art scene, quietly mastering his materials. His work of the past year is nothing short of stunning. (KM) Dave Muller, Urb Magazine Star, (2005) Courtesy Regen Projects Kori Newkirk Newkirk, whose work melds social consciousness, art-historical engagement and formal ingenuity, won this year’s $25,000 William H. Johnson Prize, installed a panoramic sculptural version of his photo-realist curtains of pony beads at San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art and had hit museum shows in Toronto and Oslo. (DH) Ruben Ochoa Driving your parents’ 20-year-old van around town hardly sounds cutting-edge. But Ruben Ochoa, who grew up in Oceanside and studied fine art at Otis and UC Irvine, managed to transform his family’s ’85 Chevy into a mini–art gallery, complete with track lighting and hardwood floors. “I’m interested in engaging with the public,” says the 31-year-old artist, who was initially inspired by the long political history of muralists. After painting a few murals of his own, though, Ochoa wasn’t satisfied. “Doing murals seemed false in a way,” he says. “So I moved on to do work that I call more an intervention.” Ochoa’s “CLASS: C” van gallery is definitely an intervention. After retooling the vehicle, which had been used for his family’s tortilla business, Ochoa solicited work from artists and then took to the streets. Sometimes he’d park near other galleries, but “they didn’t want me around at first, because they thought I was a parasite.” Ochoa found warmer responses elsewhere — he’s parked at Culver City bars, the Rose Bowl and random street corners, and artists have used the van as the center for “walk-in” movies and as a prop in performance pieces. (In one, titled Jale, Albert Lopez pulled the heavy vehicle with a rope through a busy intersection.) Ochoa’s other projects similarly intervene in public space. With Artificus, he responded to the city’s decision to cut down unruly ficus trees by making a full-size concrete tree. And for a temporary installation at ESL, Ochoa went around the neighborhood borrowing ladders for a piece about balance, trust and sharing. Once again, a bunch of ladders may not sound so radical, but Ochoa doesn’t really care. “I really like this idea of trust, of engaging with the public,” he says. “It’s like customer service, building relationships. That’s what it’s about for me — going back and forth, intervening.” (Holly Willis)

The moving van/gallery

Catherine Opie Self Portrait/Nursing (2004) Courtesy Regen Projects Catherine Opie began her career in the early ’90s, making frank, proud, unapologetically confrontational portraits of people whom many in mainstream America would just as soon not look at: transvestites, transsexuals, drag kings and queens, and leather-clad S&M’ers. Then she shifted gears, moving from the people on the fringes of society to the architecture at the center of it. In L.A., she photographed freeways and mini-malls; in Manhattan, the cavernous alleys of Wall Street in early morning; in Minneapolis, the skyways suspended between downtown buildings. Outside of Minneapolis, she photographed ice houses floating on snowbound lakes, tapping a vein of poetic formalism that reached near perfection in a subsequent series of Malibu seascapes. There are common characteristics, however: a certain aesthetic classicism, a concern for the meaning that exists on the surface of things and, above all, an abiding interest in the concept of community. Lately, she’s taken a domestic turn, returning to her flat colored backdrops to produce a series of wonderfully tender portraits of children and topping one of her most searing early works — a self-portrait from behind, revealing a childlike drawing of a happy domestic scene (two female stick figures and a house) carved painfully into the flesh of the artist’s back — with its visual, conceptual and emotional inverse: a tranquil, almost regal portrait, taken from the front, of Opie nursing her infant son. (HM) Rubén Ortiz Torres Born in Mexico City and transplanted to L.A. on a Fulbright in the early 1990s, Ortiz Torres employs a democratic variety of media, from photography and film to baseball caps and car parts, to chart the rich psychic and sociological territory of border consciousness with intelligence, humor and an eye for the revealingly absurd. (HM) Kaz Oshiro Careful where you set your cocktail or plug in your guitar. From nothing more than paint and canvas, wood and a little bit of Bondo putty, Kaz Oshiro, Okinawa-born graduate of Cal State L.A., produces exacting replicas of modular modern life in its various forms: amplifier and speaker stacks, kitchen cabinets, fast-food restaurant “Thank You” trash receptacles and home appliances. All are deft conflations of minimalism, Finish Fetish, hyperrealism and Pop. (CM) Laura Owens Untitled (2000) Courtesy MOCA Laura Owens Girlhood fantasy writ large, the paintings of Laura Owens are delirious confections buttressed by luscious technique, smart composition and a brilliantly poetic sense of space. Love ’em or hate ’em — and there are plenty who hate ’em — they’re wonderfully impossible to ignore. (HM)

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

To read part three of the story, from Jennifer Pastor to Diana Zlotnick click here.


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