Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Doug Simay's Best Picks
It is unusual for the exhibition schedule of LA’s galleries to be in step. It is a rare concordance that has most shows closing this last weekend. I just got up to LA in time to see some really nice work.
For most of the month of April I was in Japan. For those that go to that terrific country for travel, don’t miss Naoshima Island and the Chichu Museum. Experiencing this art island in the Seto Inland Sea makes programming by the Chinati and Dia Foundations seem remedial.
Michael Light at Craig Krull (Bergamot through May 29).
Light documents the Western landscape with a 4x5 camera while flying in a helicopter or ultra light. These large format images are arresting. Vast natural planes are converted by immense human processes into earth-factories for our nurture and shelter.
Marc Valsella at Craig Krull (Bergamot through May 29).
If one ever doubted the beauty of a very well done silver-gelatin photographic print, Valsella’s work is proof of the point. These prints have the depth and beauty of a fine etching melded with the immediacy of a dense digital recording.
Ed Moses at Frank Lloyd and Greenfield Sacks (Bergamot through June 5). Showing new work in both these galleries proves that this 84 year old artist has plenty of vitality. His art is calculated, experienced, and decorative contrivance that works.
Steve Gibson at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot closing).
The more I see of Steve Gibson’s work the more impressed I get. Used to seeing his printmaking output, to now see him working in encaustic is tremendous. There are two 2010 paintings here that have me anxious to see more. Given Steve’s formalism, the encaustic keeps his hand from being too exacting. The result is exuberant control.
David Adey at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot closing).
Adey is certainly one of Southern California’s “real” sculptors. His work is strong on craft and content. This “John Henry” is a redux of the first installed at the Athenaeum this early Spring. The Luis de Jesus installation is more heroic while the Athenaeum installation was more sinister.
Lawrence Gipe at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot closing).
I have been a fan of Gipe’s work for decades. Each series is different but works with the same source materials (archival “propaganda” photos from post WWII (for this series Soviet post-war images)). In this series of paintings his sense for nostalgia has never been more forward.
Alice Neel at LA Louver (Venice through June 26).
There is a big Alice Neel (1900-1984) retrospective at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts that will travel and afford her first significant European museum exposure. This exhibition of sixteen portraits executed between 1940 and 1978 is beautiful. Anyone who loves portraiture will love this show.
Roland Reiss 2006
Roland Reiss at Torrance Art Museum (Torrance through June 12).
Roland Reiss is one of the titans of the Southern California contemporary art scene. His importance as an aesthetic innovator and teacher and exemplar cannot be questioned. This exhibition, while attempting to highlight his importance to contemporaries, succeeds most in offering a chance to see examples from three series of works from the mid 70s, 2006, and 2010. This is a wonderful opportunity to stay “abreast” of Reiss’s trajectories.
Roland Reiss 1976
Aimee Garcia at Couturier (West Hollywood through June 5).
Ms. Garcia is highly regarded and lives and works in Cuba. I don’t think this work is super-duper but it did stop me in my tracks. The self-portrait oil on canvas paintings are stitched with heavy thread that creates geometric pattern overlays. I saw several artists on this trip who are using needle and thread sewing in their work. Curious.
Nathan Redwood at Michael Kohn (West Hollywood through mid June). Fundamentally these are landscape paintings that mix representation and abstraction. They are exuberant in the manner of David Reed and William Wiley.
Uta Barth at 1301PE (mid-Wilshire through July 2).
Barth’s meteoric career seems a bit hyperbolic. She has capitalized on the “sculptural negative space” with her photographs. This exhibition presents germinal work from 1979-82 juxtaposed with her newest photographs. I prefer the work of Terri Weifenbach which similarly looks “between” but with attention to beauty.
Iva Gueorguieva at Angles (Culver City closing).
This artist was recently seen at Lux in Encinitas. Her busy abstractions have a cinematic quality and figurative elements seem to emerge that cause me to reflect on intention - much as I do with the work of Asger Jorn (1914-1973).
Joyce Lightbody at Western Project (Culver City closing).
Joyce Lightbody’s work is so unique that, regardless of the format it takes, her style is evident from across the room. This image is a detail from a piece that combines language, writing, musical scoring, and aesthetic design. Lightbody’s intelligence and sense of beauty are always equally balanced.
Jason Adkins at Western Project (Culver City closing).
Adkins and Lightbody are two of the eight artists in an exhibition entitled “Construction Zone.” Adkins sculptural trompe l’oeils looks like wood, is obviously steel, and is or is not hollow vs. solid bar steel.
Jorge Santos at George Billis (Culver City through May 29).
Everything about the craft of Jorge Santos’ painting is perfection. What distinguishes the work from mere extreme realism is the macabre undercurrents in his themes. Each painting seems like a single frame of a storyboard - a story that is either innocuous or pathologic.
Erik Frydenborg at Cherry and Martin (Culver City closing).
This body of work shows a great deal of whimsy. The press release for the exhibition is turgid. I hope the artist was far more creatively inclined in producing this work that the dry polemics that the press release suggests to be the root of Frydenborg’s creations. I am reminded of Andy Kolar‘s work seen at Carl Berg this last December.
Chris Natrop at Taylor de Cordoba (Culver City closing).
I like Natrop’s work. His light, motion, and multi-material installation in this gallery space was very well conceived. His organic, cutout paper or steel “doodles” are very handsome - as well as pretty.
Luisa Lambri at Hammer Museum (Westwood through June 13).
Lambri’s spare and formal exhibition of photographs that investigate the perceptual nuance of architectural space are ho-hum. The quirk that made this viewing experience unique came from performance offered on the evening I was there. A musician with electric guitar “piped” his musical output to a pair of headphones that I wore. As I walked around the galleries he followed me - we being tethered by the audio cord linking us. His was an improvisational performance that responded to the art, the manner in which I walked the room and approached different artworks, and his past experiences with others who received the same opportunity. It was fascinating to “share” an art experience that combined two people (one being an observer/responder to the other (me) observer/responder) and for me to get feedback about the way I look at art via the musical improvisations of the-other-artist/performer.
Robert Cumming at Jancar (Chinatown closing).
Cumming has been most known for his early conceptual art activities (like the practice of mail art). He is best known for his photographs with their layers of meanings about art and science. His drawings as shown in this exhibition are exquisite. The work has an edge and conflicting meanings are important. Jancar Gallery continues to offer exhibitions that are high on quality and scholarship.
Philip Loersch at Francois Ghebaly (Chinatown through June 19).
This artist’s drawings and paper cutouts float in space. The resulting sculptural schematics reverberate with the work of Chris Natrop at Taylor de Cordoba (see above).
Bart Esposito at Thomas Solomon (Chinatown through June 12).
After having seen Helen Lundeberg the day before at Louis Stern, Esposito’s work seems consistent with an approach to abstraction that has been practiced in this region since John McLaughlin. It is clean, incisive painting.
Christian Rex Van Minnen at Bert Green (Downtown through June 26).
This artist is an expert painter. His renditions and glazing are classical “Old Master”. But they are also classic Bretonian Surrealism. Out of a base underpainting layer of swirling “washes” he “finds” and distills grotesque portraits. The resultant works seem an amalgamation of Donald Roller Wilson and Joel Peter Witkin.
Gillian Theobald at Cirrus (Downtown through June 5).
Gillian Theobald received most of her art training in San Diego. San Diego’s art world still remembers her even after her transplant to Seattle long ago. I have only rarely seen her continuing art output at Cirrus, her long standing LA dealer. This new body of paintings is totally unforeseen. The work is now totally abstract. It seems like a bit of musical score, a bit like scientific schematic, and a bit joyfully decorative. I found myself thinking of Richard Baker and elements of his painting style I now see in Gillian’s contemporary work.