Doug HarveyTim Hawkinson’s Überorgan at the Getty
The Reverend Ethan Acres, Sacred Heart 350 (2007) at Patricia Faure
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Liz Craft, Deathrider, in Eden’s Edge at the Hammer
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Lorser Feitelson, Dichrotomic Organization (1959), in Birth of the Cool at OCMA.
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After several years of scandal and shakeup, a transcendent display of intestinal fortitude. Too bad it ever had to come down.
Maher Shalal Hash Baz: L’Autre Cap (K Records)
My new favorite band, replacing TVOTR. Japanese ex–noise musicians with a euphonium player found on a construction site or something, singing rickety pop songs in Japanese and fractured English, mostly derived from the Old Testament. Helped me survive the death of my greyhounds.
TV on the Radio at the Fonda Music BoxMet and exceeded my expectations. My ears and heart were ringing for a week.
Outsider Music TrilogyProcess Media books scored a hat trick with long-overdue biographical studies of institutionalized 13th-floor elevator operator Roky Erikson, blind street-Viking composer Moondog and L.A.’s own Father Yod, the Source Family and YaHoWha 13.
“Mark Dutcher: Shelf Life”This knockout midcareer survey should have been at some place like the Santa Monica Museum (instead of Huntington Beach) because it was the most formally dazzling and uplifting museum-painting show in L.A. this year — and hardly anyone saw it.
Elvis Studio: Elvis Road (Buenaventura Press)
A minutely detailed 25-foot-long neo-Boschian cartoon scroll by Swiss collaborators Xavier Robel and Helge Reumann — nauseating, terrifying, beautiful. Awesome nursery mural.
Museum of Jurassic Technology: “Russian Eclipse”
The third installment in Mr. Wilson’s series of Russophiliac sort-of documentaries, this as-yet-unfinished gem details the heartbreaking collapse of the early Soviet astrophysics community through supersaturated heart-putting-back-together slo-mo landscape footage and voice-over. Can’t wait for the time-travel section to be finished.
Sublime Frequencies ReleasesI haven’t heard all the ’07 releases from this avant-punk ethnomusicological label, but I will. Weird Latin American psych, vintage Thai pop, minimalist Brazilian outlaw funk, spirit-possession pop from Myanmar, Syrian Jihadi techno — so much great stuff out there for us to protect!
Jimbo Doll (Yoe! Studio)
C’mon — an action figure of Gary Panter’s kilted punk Candide? Perfect post-apocalyptic training toy for the wee ones. Assuming they already have handguns.
O Lucky Man (Warner Home Video)Speaking of Candide…. The middle installment of Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) trilogy is a sprawling Bildungsroman for the blown minds and crushed blossoms of 1973, featuring a great, brilliantlyintegrated soundtrack by Alan Price and a remarkable balance of dreamlike mythic recursivity and incisive (and sadly still relevant) political satire. Sometimes self-indulgence is just the ticket. Finally out on bargain-priced double DVD!
The Reverend Ethan Acres: Sacred Heart 350Rev. Acres bailed on the art world for Alabama over a year ago, where he’s been fixing up an old church and preaching the Word. Out of the blue he shows up two weeks ago with this exquisite actual-size replica of a V-8 engine constructed from stained glass, dumps it at Patricia Faure’s, and heads back south for the holidays. Comeback of the year!
Holly Myers“Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure” at MOCA
Every once in a while, you come across a show that seems to reset some internal gauge, that sweeps away the trivial and reminds you of what art can — and should — really do. This was that sort of show for me.
“WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” at MOCAThis one goes without saying: a long-due tribute to the generation that made so much possible, as important for the talk it generated and the host of complementary exhibitions it inspired as for the work it actually showcased.
“The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820” at LACMASurely one of the heaviest exhibitions to come through town this year, and worth every pound: a big show about a big (and terribly bloody) subject, admirably orchestrated and dazzling to behold.
“Eden’s Edge: Fifteen L.A. Artists” at the HammerIf anyone needed another reason to esteem the Hammer, here it is: a thoughtful, sensitive, sensual group show celebrating 15 of L.A.’s best and brightest.
“El Anatsui: Gawu” at the Fowler
The best show this year that no one I know seemed to actually see (though I hope that’s an inaccurate sample). El Anatsui, like Matta-Clark, is the real thing, making art from what’s there, about what’s there, with stunning concision.
Charles Ray at Regen ProjectsIt’s hard to say what could make a show that consists of nothing but a life-size, knothole-for-knothole, carved reproduction of a tree stump so thoroughly enchanting, but this one surely was.
Lari Pittman at Regen ProjectsWhat Lari Pittman achieves within the space of a single canvas puts 95 percent of his dilettantish, post-object, media-hopping young counterparts to shame.
“Nicole Eisenmann: A Show Born of Fear” at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles ProjectsI’m not sure it’s possible for an artist to be genuinely “transgressive” anymore, but Eisenmann comes awfully close, in part because she’s so damned earnest — not to mention really funny.
“Birth of the Cool: California Art, Culture, and Design” at Midcentury (Orange County Museum of Art)One of the most tightly conceived, handsomely executed exhibitions of recent memory — a show that comes to more than the sum of its parts, with an excellent catalog to boot.
Vija Celmins at the HammerWork so focused, concentrated and devoid of nonsense that it was almost unnerving to look upon.
I’m Not There
Lynda Benglis, Female Sensibility (1973), in WACK! at MOCA
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Lari Pittman, Untitled (2007), at Regen Projects
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El Anatsui Gawu, Crumbling Wall (2000), at the Fowler
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I’m stepping outside my jurisdiction here, but I loved this film so much I have to throw it in: a dazzlingly ambitious, thrillingly agile, marvelously intelligent ode to one of the richest creative minds of our time.
Christopher MilesHolly “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” at MOCA
More a re-revolution than an exhibition, this survey revealed, among other things, its incompleteness and the need for more exhibitions and scholarship to continue the revelation of how the feminist movement turned out to be the last and most influential mega-movement in art of the late 20th century.
Bill Jensen and Tomory Dodge, both at ACME
Two different shows, different artists, different generations, very different approaches, but both testimonies as to why painting still seduces and matters.
Karen Carson at Rosamund Felsen
An artist who has always been guts and glamour, she continues to surprise. Nothing short of afternoon delight looking at these paintings of skyrockets in flight through skies stampeded by wild winged horses.
Charles Ray and Lari Pittman, both at Regen Projects
Ray, who often uses formal and technical maneuvers to get at a treasure-trove of anxiety and neurosis, took a quieter, more majestic turn, re-creating a giant fallen log, hand-hewn by Japanese woodcarvers, that hushes and awes, while still churning worries about excess and mortality. Pittman took his paintings to a level of hot, bothered and irritable so high it seemed you could fry eggs on them, and the compositions seemed as if they might start itching and throwing elbows (if they hadn’t been populated by amputees). You could almost call Pittman an expressionist, if the paintings didn’t still manage to seem cool and collected.
Brenna Youngblood at Margo Leavin
Full disclosure: She was my student a long while back, but I don’t think anyone ever much taught her anything. She was already too smart and talented, and able to bridge worlds that don’t bridge easily with photo-collaged paintings that succeed via a combination of rough-and-tumbleness and refinement, and an insistence that art can still speak to the world.
Carole Caroompas at Western Project
If there ever was an L.A. painter, it’s Caroompas, who isn’t shy about reminding us how much redneck Americana repressed backwater really lurks beneath our blue-state internationalist hothouse tinseltown, in paintings that fit together like puzzles with pieces that can’t stand one another but know they belong together.
“Zoopsia: New Works by Tim Hawkinson” and Tim Hawkinson’s Überorgan, Oudry’s Painted Menagerie, and Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère, all at the Getty
(1) Hawkinson’s animal hallucinations haunted, while his Überorgan benevolently infected the Getty’s stark rotunda with a dose of homespun baroque. (2) What’s not to love about life-size animal portraits fit for a king? (3) One of the greatest works in the history of art came to a city that has too few of them, and for a while you could walk back and forth between Manet’s bar scene and Ensor’s Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889, one of the great historical works of art that does reside in Los Angeles, and feel like there was no better-suited place to view these 19th-century European paintings than here and now.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting (1975), at MOCARee Morton at Overduin and Kite
Because an artist whose short but prolific, profound and multifaceted career warrants a solo show of her work in Los Angeles, and because an upstart gallery was the first to do what any of the city’s institutions should have done a long time ago.
“Kim Jones: A Retrospective” at the Luckman Gallery, Cal State L.A.
Because yet another small venue beat the museums to business they should have already taken care of — in this case, co-organizing with the UB Gallery at the State University of New York Buffalo, a survey of another multifaceted artist, perhaps best known as his performance-art alter ego Mudman.
Don Suggs, David Hockney, Charles Garabedian and Richard Deacon, and Rogue Wave ’07, all at L.A. LouverBecause the old guys were looking fresh this year, and because even at one of our most established galleries, the kids are alright.
Michael Hakimi, Jacob Dahl Jürgensen and Bernd RibbeckBecause a quiet little group show, slipped in at the end of the year to introduce us to three very interesting young artists, is worth remembering.
Joel Tauber at Susanne VielmetterBecause tree hugging and conceptual art can coexist as oddly harmoniously as sycamore and asphalt.
I could go on… Francis Alÿs and Vija Celmins at the Hammer, Sam Durant at Blum and Poe, Matthew Monahan at MOCA, Polly Apfelbaum at Angles, Peter Rogiers at Roberts & Tilton, Ginny Bishton at Richard Telles, Sue de Beer at Sandroni Rey, Tony Marsh at Frank Lloyd, Monique van Genderen at the Happy Lion, Kim Dingle at Kim Light/Lightbox, Won Ju Lim at Patrick Painter, Thomas Lawson at LAXART, and many more…
Amra BrooksB. Wurtz at Richard Telles Fine Art
Wurtz transforms trash into humble, calculated, stunning, minimalist sculptural meditations. He’s magic.
Jeni Spota, Giotto’s Dream at Sister Gallery
These thick little paintings are painted with the hand of a talented cake decorator, rich and dense, giving new life to iconic religious scenarios.
“Rebecca Morris: Los Angeles” at Karyn Lovegrove Gallery
A hodgepodge of technique and styles resulting in the most fantastic and grotesque abstractions.
Nicole Eisenman’s “A Show Born of Fear” at Susanne Vielmetter Projects
Hilarious, smart, political, personal: Eisenman’s paintings and drawings prove her to be consistent and one who is constantly investigating her role as an artist and now as a parent.
Videos by Stanya Kahn and Harry Dodge at the Hammer Museum as part of “Eden’s Edge: Fifteen L.A. Artists”This dynamic duo showed four videos that were both gloriously funny and painfully sad, with Kahn as the main performer and improv virtuoso Dodge as the cameraman, and L.A. itself as a major character.Richard Aldrich at Marc Foxx Gallery
Jose de Paez, Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga. in The Arts in Latin America, 1492-1820 at LACMA
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Aldrich’s paintings are in a constant dialogue about form, structure, pattern and color. They even seem to have a few inside jokes.
Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s “De/Feat” at Sandroni Rey
Rafferty’s 12-mintue video has the artist putting on and taking off a straitjacket, Houdini-style.
Bjorn Copeland at China Art Objects Galleries
Copeland’s psychedelic and hypnotic collages feel like secret coded language.
Ree Morton at Overduin and Kite
One focus of this new gallery is to show historical work that is not only extremely relevant today, but has rarely been shown in our city. Morton’s show was simple and elegant, and extremely poignant.
Mary Heilmann: “To Be Someone” at the Orange County Museum of Art
Some of the best paintings ever, hands down. Check out Terry R. Myers’ recent study of her painting Save the Last Dance for Me (One Work) (Afterall Books).