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

With each visit to LA, I come away with the impression that confidence in the health of the art market is progressively sliding.  Visiting this last week represented the nadir of hope amongst the gallerists.  I saw few other gallery visitors and heard on more than a few occasions that not only were sales down - foot traffic is down.  The big banks may be proclaiming the bottom of this recession - but on the street the recession still seems to be biting hard.

Craig Hodgetts at ACE (mid Wilshire through Oct. 31). Hodgetts is an architect - many would say an architectural radical.  He currently teaches at UCLA in addition to his active architectural practice, Hodgetts+Fung.  This unusual exhibition for ACE presents six projects designed by Hodgetts and collaborators between 1965 and 1978.  They are all wacky and playful.  It is a very engaging exhibition and a beacon for the tremendous imagination and creativity that smart people have.  This maquette is for a mobil stage that loads onto trailer trucks for transport and then gets inflated by air to assume its function.

Heather Carson at ACE (mid Wilshire through Oct. 31). Ms. Carson has had a successful and prominent 30 year career as a lighting designer for performance.  Her understanding for the modulating influences of light on light is formidable.  I find them arresting and stimulus to think about Dan Flavin and Josef Albers.

Tomory Dodge at ACME (mid Wilshire through Nov. 14).  I place Tomory Dodge firmly in the firmament as a new star of American painting.  This exhibition consists of watercolor and collage on paper.  While his formal paintings have abstract techniques applied to a figurative subject ground - these “studies” are solely abstract.  The work is endearing - though serves best in understanding what goes into his formal works.

Jennifer Steinkamp at ACME (mid Wilshire through Nov. 14).  Steinkamp’s digital video installations are truly beautiful.  Every installation I have seen by her (she is very popularly shown in many public museums) is magical.  This installation of her work is amongst the best.  She will be seen in exhibition at the MCA San Diego in 2011.  I say that three of the top 5 video artists in the contemporary art world today are women: Pippilotti Rist, Jennifer Steinkamp, Shirin Neshat.  The two men are: Gary Hill and Bill Viola.

PDC Galleries.  There are now 14 fine art show-spaces at the PDC (temple and marketplace for the applied arts of design).  It is an odd; yet complementary juxtaposition.  The spaces are all heroic and look smashing.  I like being faced with calculating the distinctions between fine art and craft - a contemplation invoked by being in this huge complex.

Bari Ziperstein at See Line (PDC through Nov. 19). Ziperstein’s sculptures are unique by virtue of being low fire ceramic constructions.  They are as curious as a curio in Jeff Koons’ hands; as fanciful as the gargoyles of David Mach.  The sculptural juxtapositions and bright colors remind me of Paul Knotter.

Lorser Feitelson at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through Dec. 12).  Between Stern and neighboring Silverman, one can get a real sense for abstraction in mid 20th century California painting.  Lorser Feitelson (1898-1978) always adopted aspects of various forms of Classicism in his work.  By his late career (the paintings in this show date after 1960) his paintings had become economically Minimalist in melding the organic with the geometric.

Emerson Woelffer at Manny Silverman (West Hollywood through Oct. 31).  Silverman calls this Woelffer (1914-2003) exhibition “Classic Works 1947-1962”.  This Chicago-born abstract expressionist was an important art professor in Los Angeles from 1969 until 1989.  He taught at Cal Arts Valencia and then Otis.  He has left his imprint on a generation of LA artists.

Roy Dowell at Margo Leavin (West Hollywood through Nov. 14). It is funny how I perceive the art world to temporally operate along themes - as if there was a formal mandate that the month of October is “geometric abstraction” month.  Roy Dowell’s abstractions are pleasing enough and seem to fit in with this October’s city-wide “theme”. 

Brendan Monroe at Richard Heller (Bergamot through Nov. 14). Part of the discussion that accompanies Monroe’s show is about illustration art versus fine art.  Monroe’s organic abstraction can be seen as crisp design.  It is skilled, tight and ready for the presses.  Everything from paintings to sculpture seem to have a unique integrity to them.

Robin Mitchell at Craig Krull (Bergamot through Nov. 21).  Mitchell’s abstract painting is frenetic and highly detailed.  There is a rhythm and syncopation to the work in which marks seem like the hieroglyphics of a lettered page or musical score.

Dan McCleary at Craig Krull (Bergamot through Nov. 21). I am unabashedly a McCleary fan.  I know his work as well as I know anything.  I go ga-ga over the haunting quietude of his paintings. In addition, I am thrilled to see him represented by Craig Krull. Krull’s gallery is amongst LA’s top 10 by virtue of his experience and long tenure and the superior artists he represents.

Retna & The MAC at Robert Berman (Bergamot closing).  These two muralist artists are collaborators and this is their first gallery show together.  They are good.  MAC is a photorealist spray artist.  Retna is noted for his urban calligraphy  The work wallops a visual punch and the skill of practice is evident.

Sarah Perry at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through Nov. 14).  It is hard to overstate the resourcefulness that Sarah Perry executes in finding the minutiae that she re-assembles into complex, skillfully wrought assemblage.  In this sculpture she has encased a desiccated, mummified rat inside the clear plastic skin of the “Visible Man” (perhaps a feminist statement?).  There is an element of the macabre in her work.

Blum & Poe (Culver City).  I have been routinely visiting Blum & Poe since they first set up shop in the back row of the Colorado Blvd., Santa Monica, brick galleries -- 15 years ago. Now they have moved into a huge, newly remodeled palace-gallery on South La Cienega across the street from their last location. I cannot remember ever really responding to any show I have seen in this gallery.  Obviously, there are moneyed collectors who see what I do not.  I did not take a picture of any of the art being shown as I don’t like any of it.  But the space is worth a look to see how the “other half” lives.

Kenny Scharf at Honor Fraser (Culver City through Oct. 31). Scharf is a “one and only“.  All of the work in the show is recent - demonstrating his undiluted enthusiasm for Pop culture.

Seth Kaufman at Torrance Museum (Torrance through Nov. 7).  Kaufman and  David French are shown together in Gallery Two.  The pairing is perfect.  Kaufman’s naturalistic, flora-like sculptures are constructed of wood, adhesive and paint.  Just terrific.

David French at Torrance Museum (Torrance through Nov. 7).  French’s bio-morphic abstract sculptures are crisp, trompe-l’oeil renditions of more substantive materials.  This piece is made of Styrofoam, fiberglass and auto paint.

Mark Dutcher at Torrance Museum (Torrance through Nov. 7).  In the Main Gallery 13 artists are presented with a couple works each.  ‘Tis a very good show.  The Torrance Museum executes a really fine exhibition program and is absolutely worth including on any LA art tour.  This sculpture is made of oil paint, wax, cardboard and foam.

Nathan Redwood at Torrance Museum (Torrance through Nov. 7). Nathan Redwood and Jared Pankin (also in this exhibition) were formerly represented by Carl Berg.  They are both excellent artists. Nathan’s work is acrylic on canvas.

Charles Burchfield at Hammer Museum (Westwood through Jan. 3, 2010). Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) painted watercolor on paper scenes from nature.  A good friend of Edward Hopper he had a unique style and enjoyed critical and economic success during his lifetime.  His late landscapes frequently are abstracted to interpret and represent the sounds of nature.  This exhibition curated by the artist, Robert Gober, is superb.  The Hammer has again offered its LA audience a terrific opportunity to enjoy a beautiful and scholarly exhibition that should not be missed.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 10/27/2009 

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