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Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Doug Simay's Best Picks

Los Angeles is the City of Angels.
LA is my favorite city in the world... 
Where else can one see so much art using the luxury of personal transportation?

Jean-Leon Gerome at Getty Center (Westwood through Sept. 12).
Gerome (French, 1824-1904) was, in his day, hugely popular with his audience.  But given his interest in the commercial development and popular spread of the work (utilizing reproduction techniques like photography) and his license in using his stylistic viewpoints to fabricate a view of history -- the “academy” neglected discussion of him for most of the 20th century.  In the age of the giclee, this highly worthwhile show could not be more germane.

Paul Caponigro at Peter Fetterman (Bergamot through mid Sept.).  Caponigro studied with Minor White and this broad selection of his work attests to the skill of Caponigro and the significance of his education.  His work follows well the path laid by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Hilary Brace at Craig Krull (Bergamot through July 10).
Brace’s charcoal on mylar, fantasy landscapes are produced reductively.  She coats mylar with charcoal and then by various means erases the charcoal to produce the final image.  The work is imagined landscape within an imaginary landscape and demonstrates her exquisite finesse with drawing.

David Thompson at Schomburg (Bergamot closing).
Thompson’s complex silk-screen prints take many dozen hand-cut stencils to execute.  The nature of the medium produces very “clear”, flat imagery.  I am reminded of the work of Gustave Baumann

Judith Foosaner at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through July 3).
Foosaner has lots of fans.  Her work is immediately recognizable.  The choreography of her mark making is her thematic calligraphy.  The work is present beauty.

Seung Hoon Park at Sarah Lee (Bergamot through July 10).    Park’s unique approach to photo-collaging a scene is to assemble cutouts from 16mm film.  The resulting unique images are well composed and arresting.

Yvonne Venegas at Shoshana Wayne (Bergamot through Aug. 28).
Venegas received an MFA from UCSD.  Her visibility in the current art scene has always perplexed me.  In this excellent installation of her series documenting the life of Maria Elvia de Hank of Tijuana she has done a wonderful job of ambiguously documenting a Mexican family of privilege.  I wonder why this work is seen in the visual art arena.  Seems like a new approach to sociology. 

Peter Zokosky et al at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through July 17).
The gallery asked their artists to submit erotic work for this summer group show called “Kink.”  I was particularly impressed with Kerry James Marshall, Norman Lundin, F. Scott Hess.  And of course, the wit and skilled craftsmanship of Peter Zokosky is without equal.

William Swanson at Walter Maciel (Culver City through July 2).
I like the thematic realm that Swanson’s paintings inhabit - the collision of architecture and nature.  Despite areas within the painting that might appear CAD generated - the human hand of the artist is fully in evidence.  I am reminded of Dmitry Kozyrev.

Tim Hawkinson at Blum and Poe (Culver City closing).
Given this exhibition, I would guess that Hawkinson has moved from ACE to Blum and Poe .  I like Hawkinson.  He is smart and fascinated with fabrication.  He is also mechanically inventive which serves his whacky insights well.  Still this exhibition, despite its creativity, doesn’t seem up to the power of his preceding shows at ACE.

Angela Dufresne at Kinkead (Culver City through July 24).
These are wild amalgamations of appropriated ideas and images.  What makes her messy painting work is that her skills as a painter come through loud and clear despite her “punk” attitude.  She was trained at Tyler and, god love Philadelphia, they know how to teach fundamental skills back there.

Ellen De Meutter at Roberts and Tilton (Culver City through July 3).
De Meutter is Belgian and I think the Belgians have always been great painters (must be genes and the ale).  This work is free spirited; not influenced by fashion.  Her use of a visual vocabulary resonates with Ernest Silva.

Kenton Nelson at Peter Mendenhall (mid Wilshire through July 17).
Nelson’s work is not now in vogue.  His outsized oil paintings seem regionalist/populist - a style not in favor in the vaunted circles of current high art.  Given how luscious they appear and how they seem based on fashion conscious, heroic advertisement they may well be Neo-Pop.

John Sonsini at ACME (mid Wilshire through July 3).
John Sonsini is a tremendous portraitist.  Watching his style of rendering a portrait demonstrates the evolution and mastery of his technique.  These new paintings show a fierce confidence in the power of gesture.  With broad strokes, laid down without hesitation, Sonsini’s painting has become ever more economical.  He has obviously thought about and practiced painting for 40 years.  What may seem to be elemental strokes and nuance come together to great effect.  Looking at this work I am reminded why a portrait in oil offers so much more in experience than simply the image of the sitter.

Alia Malley at Sam Lee (Chinatown through August 21).
Two things strike me about Alia Malley’s photographs: her sensitivity to nature and the presentation of nature within the urban sprawl.  The quiet power of her work resonates with Gustave Courbet and John Constable.

Arshile Gorky at MOCA (Bunker Hill through Sept. 20).
This is a definitive Gorky exhibition.  It covers Gorky (1902-1948) from the first to the last with all the salient in-between.  Learning of Gorky’s life is a reminder of the Armenian genocide.  Seeing his work is to see the titans of Modern art that were working around him (Picasso, Cezanne, Stuart Davis, Leger, John Graham) for some of each of them can be found in his art.  I am not a Gorky fan.  It was his paintings from 1947, at the end of his short life, that make a difference to me.

Nancy Rubins at Gagosian (Beverly Hills through July 9, and Sept. 3).  The work pictured above is heavy paper that has been torn,  collaged, and covered with drawn, thick layers of graphite.  Hung like drapery on the wall they appear as a great fabric made of lead.  This work complements the more recognized, monumental sculptures of assembled canoes in the new South Annex (on view until Sept. 3).  Gagosian’s BH space has never been more “Wow.”

Herb Alpert at ACE Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills through Aug. 28).
I am in awe of Herb Alpert.  He is as fine a sculptor as he is musician.  These “Black Totems” are cast bronze and walking amongst them is terrific.  The gallery now is chock-full of excellent art - it is an art-full stop.

Elizabeth Patterson at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through Aug. 28).
Elizabeth Patterson has used her considerable skill in painting and drawing to capture the romantic notion of rain in Southern California.  I find the work to be romantic indeed.

Henry Leutwyler at M+B (West Hollywood through Aug. 14).
This body of photographs documents personal articles belonging to Michael Jackson that were impounded from Neverland during bankruptcy proceedings.  Viewing this show on the 1st anniversary of Jackson’s death was poignant. 

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 6/29/2010 

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