Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Doug Simay's Best Picks
January is another art month with inaugural importance. All of LA’s visual art scene is newly refreshed So the opportunities for visual experience is unparalleled.
In addition, in the month of January there are/were three art fairs in LA. I am not a fan of art fairs. I believe that connoisseurship and education in the arts offers the best ways for understanding why the here-and-now are part of history’s continuum from the past to the future. Art fairs commodify art and artists and ultimately are about fashion and being fashionable. Great art is not so fickle.
Frederick Wight at Louis Stern (West Hollywood thru March 5).
Frederick Wight (1902 - 1986) left an indelible mark on Los Angeles arts with his roles as faculty and art visionary at UCLA. After he retired he was able to use the years 1979 to 1986 to paint. Results of his final passion are on view in this excellent exhibition. Hats off to Louis Stern for continuing to honor LA’s artistic heritage.
Will Cotton at Michael Kohn (Hollywood thru Feb. 26).
Cotton is a technically excellent painter. The work seems out of place, out of step thematically in the current art world. Compared to Mel Ramos, Cotton’s work appears like soft-core illustration.
There is a lot of portraiture in the current LA exhibition offerings. I post this show in evidence that things run in series.
Wu Junyong at Fabien Fryns (Hollywood thru Feb. 12).
Junyong trained at the China Academy of Fine Arts. His work revolves around film and animation and shadow-puppetry. The exhibition is an eclectic mix of motifs - all well handled.
Ben Durham at Marc Selwyn (mid Wilshire thru Feb. 12).
These portraits done on rough hand made paper are realized by writing and over-writing a stream of conscious narrative. These are very obsessive works. The people imaged are acquaintances of the artist and their pictures were found in jail/police booking records. His rambling writing which, additively overlaid, produces the image is the artist’s reflections on his recollections of the subject. This contemporary manner of producing a person’s likeness echoes the power of great portraiture.
David Korty at ACME
Los Angeles Museum of Ceramic Art at ACME (mid Wilshire thru Feb. 5).
Roger Herman and Monique van Genderen have organized a ceramics exhibition with 24 artists and 150 art pieces. This show is playful and creatively varied. Roger Herman’s fascination with clay is shared by these artists for most of whom clay is a secondary medium.
Maritta Tapanainen at Couturier (Hollywood thru Feb. 19).
Cutting from preprinted paper, Tapanainen produces organic collages that may seem like drawings except for the different gestural realities that come with multi-sourced collage. The juxtaposition of Tapanainen with Stephen Aldrich (at Craig Krull below) demonstrates the breadth possible with this technique.
George Stoll at Maloney (Culver City thru Feb. 12). Stoll’s work is elegant. His wax forms become Morandi-like in their quiet elegance of hue and shadow. And his trompe l’oeil sponges are made of painted, burned balsa wood.
Dan Bayles at Francois Ghebaly (Culver City thru Feb. 5).
I like Dan Bayles painting and it captures my attention. The jaw-dropper here is the gallery itself. Francois Ghebaly’s gallery, newly reincarnated on South La Cienega near Venice Blvd., is really terrific. He has removed the floor that separated the pit from the car ramps in a former muffle shop to create an intimate, high-walled space that you walk down into. The gallery is a nice counterpoint to the new “beauties” like Blum & Poe, Vielmetter, and Roberts & Tilton.
Nigel Cooke at Blum & Poe (Culver City thru Feb. 12). I have been warming up to the program at Blum & Poe. They seem to be elevating the art and the art skills they show.
I continue to think that good art is the melding of craft with idea. It seems that in the flood of new art school graduates I can only surmise that the art schools run high enrollment to generate max profit (and if they don’t teach the craft of art making - then they only need enough square footage for a media lab). And, art grads seem very interested in getting famous fast - which precludes spending the time to develop the craft of object making.
I don’t think Cooke’s painted ideas are wonderful - but his paintings are. His manner of painting demonstrates his good training and his diligent practice at being a good painter. It figures that he is British and trained at Goldsmiths.
Jill Giegerich at CardwellJimmerson (Culver City thru Feb. 12).
It has been some years since I’ve seen Giegerich’s work. It is nice to see one of LA’s accomplished talents again in exhibition. This current body of work is less sculptural physically - though conceptually the paintings are about how an image is built.
Joshua Levine at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City thru Feb. 19). Levine is showing some new small bronzes. They have qualities that make good art: wonder, quality, enchantment.
Cordy Ryman at Mark Moore
Mark Moore Gallery (Culver City thru Feb. 12). Mark Moore has moved from Bergamot Station to the redesigned, former Billy Shire space on Washington in Culver City. The building-as-gallery has never looked better. A 25th Anniversary Show is up.
William Steiger at Kopeikin (Culver City thru Feb. 12). I enjoy the rigorous geometries of Steiger’s drawings and his graphic economy. He is able to extract beauty from seemingly the mundane.
Soo Kim at Angles Gallery (Culver City thru Feb. 12). Kim takes photographs, excises portions of them and then places the fenestrated images over companion images. The effect is to see and to see through architecture. The resultant cityscapes have a very cinematic inflection.
Nathan Mabry at Cherry and Martin (Culver City thru Feb. 12).
Mabry sculptures are undeniably present. He appropriates forms and themes from the early Modernists and then gives the appropriation a stiff twist. So a Picasso sculptural icon is recapitulated with contemporary forms (like a salami for a nose) or other structural mixed metaphors.
It is all hugely nuts - but a pleasant folie cast in heroic proportions.
Robert Olsen at Susanne Vielmetter (closing). Olsen’s paintings of generic service machines (as in gas pumps) in unpopulated, theatrically dramatic isolation have a very specific presence - much like a portrait. They hover between geometric abstraction and realism.
Sandra Yagi at Bert Green (Downtown thru Feb. 19). Yagi is an excellent painter. Her realistic subjects are creative fantasies often acting out bizarre rituals. While more macabre, Yagi reminds me a lot of Peter Zokosky.
Alexander Kroll at CB1 (Downtown thru Feb. 20). The Kroll show is well presented and swayed my first-take opinion. His abstractions are the sum of layers, each layer laid on top of the preceding layer. On the surface his sloppy push-the-the-paint-around slowly reveals his sense of planning and control. He is sorta crazy like a fox.
Fay Ku at Sam Lee (Chinatown thru Feb. 19). Fay Ku executes beautiful drawing even when the subject is less than beautiful. I like her chimera drawings in which the morality plays seem about nature/nurture, past/future, East/West. Additionally, I am surprised to see chimeras again being a primary motif (Yagi @ Green, Aldrich @ Krull, Levine @ Koplin del Rio, Ku @ Sam Lee). As I have frequently said - things tend to run in series.
Roger Herman at Jancar (Chinatown thru Jan. 29).
Tom Jancar’s gallery occupies the same gallery space that housed Roger Herman’s Black Dragon Society gallery (a birthplace of the Chinatown art scene launched in the mid 2000’s). It is pleasing to see Herman’s work back in this space. Particularly interesting in the most recent Herman paintings is a subtle evolution in style that seems more warm and gently expressive even though his subjects of mountains, architecture, and dance-halls remains the same.
Eske Kath at Charlie James (Chinatown thru Feb. 12).
Kath is Danish and his painting clearly demonstrates the quality of his art training. The paintings are beautiful and luscious in visual texture. Conceptually they are about the nervous interface between nature and human intervention. Danish painters are infrequently seen in these parts. The Danish art and design idioms are so rooted in our American vernacular that is hard to remember that we learned design from them.
See Line, Carl Berg Projects, d.e.n. (Pacific Design Center thru March 4). It was a very enjoyable opening evening at the PDC with 16 open venues - most all with group shows. The evening’s crowds were considerable and everybody seemed to have a good time. The PDC management seems increasingly supportive of the galleries here and now plans to be open for art viewing one Saturday a month. The three galleries listed here are the best bets for excellent art viewing. They are all hosting group exhibitions. I single out HK Zamani at Carl Berg. His small paintings are simple, yet evocative. I felt the spirit of Philip Guston in these works.
Sol LeWitt at LA Louver (Venice thru Feb.26).
I did not expect to be as impressed with this exhibition. What is most affecting are these large wall “drawings”. It took the LeWitt Estate crew three weeks to produce the complex, layered, glaze-like paintings. The cost of “buying” the plan/concept of these drawings does not include the specialized labor of creating the final piece.!
Simon Willems at Torrance Art Museum (Torrance thru March 5).
This series of paintings tells a story of an art making hermit who lived in Spain. The series of works is interesting to look at not so much for the story told but for the manner of the telling.
The master exhibition at Torrance is a prelude to the coming year’s focus on the LA Basin - Pacific Standard Time. It is a chance to see artists who came to our attention in the 60’s and presents some of their current works. OK.
Charles Arnoldi at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot thru Feb. 5). It feels right to have Rosamund Felsen now representing Arnoldi. They have been contemporaries in the LA art world for decades. They are both very important creative well-springs in the LA cultural scene. Arnoldi has never looked better nor more in control of his goals.
Margie Livingston at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot thru Feb. 26).
Margie Livingston’s work is pigment freed from canvas, paper, armature. She is a painter whose use of paints becomes sculptural. This exhibition is luscious, very smart, and playful too.
Stephen Aldrich at Craig Krull (Bergamot thru Feb. 19). I always appreciate seeing Aldrich’s collage work. Two most outstanding features of this work are the consummate skill that Aldrich brings to collaged paper and the phenomenal collection of papers that he has archived to be used in these creations. The Aldrich image used above is of chimeras. As I said, this month chimeras are running rampant in LA.
Cheryl Ann Thomas at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot thru Feb.5).
If for no other reason, Thomas’ porcelain sculptures are remarkable for how diaphanous they make ridged and brittle porcelain appear. Her sculpture appears almost as light as air.
Phyllis Green at Otis (baja Venice thru March 19).
This is a 25 year career survey exhibition. Phyllis Green’s work takes a female perspective. She crafts sculptures out of clay, wood and fibers. She has integrated video into the manner in which her sculpture is engaged. The work is exotic. The press release accurately states that “Green has used the traditional techniques of craft to achieve unconventional outcomes in the realm of fine art.” This is an excellent exhibition of a true artist.