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Doug Simay's Best Picks

This month marks the 4 year anniversary of my “Best Picks” writing.  I have been making regular (about 7 or 8 times per year) comprehensive “art rounds” in Los Angeles for just over 30 years.  I have seen some history.

Ted Twine

Ted Twine at LA Harbor College (Wilmington closing).  Twine’s are not superb paintings - but they are the best art to be seen in Wilmington.  He skirts abstraction with a very visceral figuration/cartoon that reminds me of both Darren Waterston and Lari Pittman.

Jonathan Lasker

Jonathan Lasker
at LA Louver (Venice through April 3).  For the last thirty years Jonathan Lasker has been painting “his way”.  His abstract painting seems totally self-indulgent.  It is the surety of his indulgence that is so captivating.

Oliver Michaels

Oliver Michaels at Shoshana Wayne (Bergamot through April 3).
In this installation of projected video, first glance offers formal renditions of formal sculptural art.   But, the images of this sculpture (taken from museum postcards) are seen to move their lips while the sound-track speaks a nonsensical formalist litany.  Their implied authority dissolves in the drivel of verbal constructs that go nowhere.  I am reminded of watching politics on TV.

Richard Miller

Richard Miller
at Craig Krull (Bergamot through April 3).  This exhibition demonstrates a successful artistic career.  Miller (born 1912) took wonderful photographs that were at the time popular and are now considered as fine art.  In this exhibition, from carbro color prints to images of the construction of the Hollywood Freeway the photographs are masterfully composed and finely wrought.  It is terrific to see series that span an artistic career.

Karen Carson

Karen Carson at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through April 17).  Over her significant career Karen Carson seems always to be inventing new approaches to painting.  In this exhibition she paints very atmospheric environments/landscapes that are as joyous as Peter Alexander and splashy as Jackson Pollock.

Larry Bell

Larry Bell at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot through March 27). Larry Bell’s thin metallic film work is a marvel of physics and optical beauty and he has the corner on this art technology.  In this rare series he has used his superb collaging skills to intimate portraiture.  What is really nice about this exhibition is that the work (metallic films collaged on black paper) is unframed - so there is nothing between the work’s surface and the viewer’s eye.  Luscious.

Dustin Yellen

Dustin Yellen at Samuel Freeman (Bergamot through May 1).  Dustin Yellen’s layered, resin/glass encapsulated paintings are marvelous to behold.  In this, his second Freeman show, there are now head portraits and anatomic cross-sectional amalgamations that mimic Alex Grey in 3-D.

Laura Lasworth

Laura Lasworth at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through March 27).
All the paintings in this exhibition are the same size and display the same technical expertise with oil on wood.  The intimate landscapes are moody and charge their allegorical subjects with a sense of profound spirituality and soul.

Federico Solmi

Federico Solmi at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot through April 3).  Luis de Jesus is now beautifully ensconced in Bergamot Station.  The new gallery looks terrific.  Given the aesthetic integrity and informed taste he demonstrated in San Diego - I think LA should offer Luis a warm reception.
Federico Solmi, Italian, presents a suite based on his hand-drawn animated video “The Evil Empire“.  This work has been a lightning rod for charges of “obscenity, blasphemy and offense to religion”.  The Catholic Church would be offended by this work - as offended as I am by the immorality of the Pope’s tribe on which Solmi bases his satire.

Dean Monogenis

Dean Monogenis at Walter Maciel (Culver City through April 3).  I enjoyed these paintings because I like landscapes and architectural motifs.  This work has inventiveness and a present spirituality.

Lana Shuttleworth

Lana Shuttleworth at George Billis (Culver City closing).  Lana uses pieces of traffic/safety cones to make her mosaics.  The material has some unique optical qualities that allow it to seem like an organic metallic tile. Her artworks become mosaics.  These mosaics have a feminine beauty to them that disguises the brutish, masculine nature of the rubber cone material.

Michael Reafsnyder

Michael Reafsnyder at Western Project (Culver City through April 3).  With Reafsnyder’s work on the east side of La Cienega and Grotjahn’s work across the street -- South La Cienega is exploding with color.  The ceramic sculptures here seem restrained and cerebral compared with the paintings that, in the words of Christopher Knight, are “painterly hedonism.”

Ed Templeton

Ed Templeton at Roberts & Tilton (Culver City through April 3).  Templeton offers us sequenced views from the road; of the road.  He shoots his snapshots through the passenger-side car window or from the deck of his skateboard.  I am reminded that to his generation there is another option to the car for “hitting the road”.  The skateboard is another platform for seeing the world as a pastiche of random sequences.

JB Blunk

J.B. Blunk at Blum & Poe (Culver City through May 15).  The current show at Blum & Poe is the best exhibition I have yet to see here.
J.B. Blunk (1926-2002) was a Northern California sculptor who carved, with hand tools, huge cypress and redwood burls.  His organic forms were intuitive and seem like a Paul Bunyan-infused Isamu Noguchi
(with whom he was good friends).  His Modernist aesthetic always honored the natural material - just as his contemporary George Nakashima.  His sculpture is heroic.

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn at Blum & Poe (Culver City through May 15).  Grotjahn’s “face” paintings are both figurative and abstract. They are heavily modeled - almost becoming planar sculptures.  The exhibition sales and prices have many other dealers wondering “why him, why this, why now?”

Ron Pippin (detail)

Ron Pippin at Gallery 478 (San Pedro through May 28).  Ron Pippin has been constructing and exhibiting his assemblages for decades.  After not seeing his work for a while I am a bit perplexed to see it now in such an obscure venue.  Pippin’s craftsmanship is superb.  His view of nature at the hands of “nurture” is disturbing.  His contemporaries are Cecilia Miguez and John Frame

Lloyd Hamrol

Lloyd Hamrol at CardwellJimmerson (Culver City closing).  Lloyd Hamrol first constructed and then presented the installation shown in this exhibition in 1966.  Except for a couple of the nine original sculptures the rest have been lost.  Hamrol reconstructed the nine modular, articulating sculptures and has recapitulated the 1966 installation for this show.  This is a very pleasing exhibition in which Hamrol plays the Modernist game as seriously as Richard Fleishner and Sol Lewitt- though his formalism is irreverent and demonstrates a utopian domesticity.  Gotta love the “California spin”.

Michelle Muldrow

Michelle Muldrow at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through April 10).
Muldrow has a sweet way with landscape.  She has captured the LA landscape well allowing realistic gouache to dissolve into abstract  washes.  That she is using gouache on paper to suggest transparency belies the opaque nature of the tempera.

Melissa Cooke

Melissa Cooke at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through April 10).  Reproduced images of Melissa Cooke’s drawings cannot communicate the incredible drama and presence they have in person.  She takes staged photographs of herself and then produces from these photographs the very large powdered-graphite drawings.  Her hyperbolic characters seem cinematic.  The drawings are theatrical and resonate with the early work of Cindy Sherman.

John Baldessari

John Baldessari at Margo Leavin (West Hollywood closed but extended).  I am not a Baldessari fan.  He is an important educator and has been a leader in his form of Conceptualism.  This three part installation is successful.  “Blue Line (Holbein)“ is poetic, seems to connote meaning, and charges the space well.  David Pagel’s review of this show hits it on the head.

Andy Freeberg 

Andy Freeberg at Paul Kopeikin (West Hollywood through April 17)
Freeberg has taken photographs of Russian museum art and the protector-attendants who sit on watch.  It is a remarkable series of images.  The attendants and attended paintings seem to mirror each other - built on the fidelity of the guardian women.

William Steiger

William Steiger

William Steiger at Paul Kopeikin (West Hollywood through April 17).  Steiger’s work is fine.  He chisels down scenes to their most core and salient visual composition.  They are resolutely matter of fact.

John Stephan

John Stephan at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through April 3).  For an education on mid 20th century Modernism, one can count on Louis Stern to deliver.  John Stephan (1906-1995) painted discs/orbs of luminous and nuanced color.  Curious to think about Stephan in the context of Kenneth Noland (or vice versa).

Paul Davies

Paul Davies at Lawrence Asher (mid Wilshire through April 10).  I am indeed a sucker for seductive landscape and architecture.  Davies, Australian, has responded to his tours of SoCal architect’s houses (Neutra, Schindler and Eames) in a style that recalls the spiritual landscapes of Peter Doig.

Albert Contreras

Albert Contreras at Peter Mendenhall (mid Wilshire through May 1).  Albert Contreras is 77 years old.  In his early adulthood he was an artist, he then worked as a truck driver for the City of Santa Monica for 20 years, and then returned to art making in 1997.  His very unique and interesting story is chronicled by David Pagel.,0,263464.story
His paintings are made of contemporary inks, paints, extenders and certainly show the “hand” of the artist.  No heavy meaning here - just the joy of color, manipulation, and creativity.

Dennis Oppenheim

Dennis Oppenheim at Thomas Solomon (Chinatown through May 1).  Oppenheim (born 1938) has been seminal in Earth and Body Art; Performance Art.  In this exhibition his works from 1969-70 speak the same “language” as Bruce Naumann , Chris Burden , William Wegman.
Tom Solomon is wise to inform us about this work as it underpins much of the conceptual framework of other, more contemporary artists he represents.  Connoisseurship is fundamental to art appreciation.

Guy Goodwin

Guy Goodwin at Kathryn Brennan (Chinatown closed - but extended).  This is yet another “historic” exhibition presented in LA.  Seems that tough economic times allow dealers to “teach” while they await a market rebound.  These are good times for the viewer.  Goodwin is 69 years old and this is his second show in LA after 23 years.  The painting illustrated above (from 2008) is built of layers of paint saturated paper.  In this work there is much structural similarity shared with Mark Grotjahn.

Robert Mallary

Robert Mallary at The Box (Chinatown through April 4). Robert Mallary (1917-1997) was in the avant-garde of New York in the late middle 20th century.  His sculptural tableaux combine dirt, concrete, resin and clothing that seem influenced by Spanish and Mexican sculptural themes of the time.  They also reverberate with the work of the Boyle Family.  Given the Vietnam war some of the resin soaked clothing seems elegiac. I applaud this exhibition and the gallery’s generosity in bringing education to the forefront.

David Levine

David Levine at Francois Ghebaly (Chinatown through April 25).  Levine has a huge collection of actor/actress headshots and formal letters of introduction written to talent agencies.  The juxtaposition of photos of beautiful people with their formal, realistic supplications for attention is poignant.  This installation really is about art and science.  The fact that Levine has procured and faithfully retained these materials is a story onto itself.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 3/24/2010 

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