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

On a warm and sunny week in late October with easy traffic
and plenty of art to see...


Herakut
at LeBasse Projects (Culver City closing).
I continue to have mixed thoughts about today’s neo-surrealism, big-eyed-girl school of painting.  I appreciate that many young artists want to excel at skilled figurative painting.  I decry that most paintings of this genre appear to be derived with the same sense of naivete.  So I am encouraged to see the German cooperative Hera and Akut producing work that is collaged, loosely and abstractly painted, and literally multidimensional. 


Dirk Skreber at Blum & Poe (Culver City closing).
Skreber paints pop-imagery portraits in a graphic style.  He obscures and then re-discloses his subjects by adding and then removing foam tape to the surface.  The work is engaging and curious.  Or - as the press release states - “detached”.


Mabbery + Walker
at Maloney (Culver City closing). This collaborative, artist duo has been pushing the expressive possibilities in ceramics for 25 years.  Based on the fundamentals of ceramic tradition they practice “Pattern and Decoration”.  I am reminded of Peter Shire.


Laurie Hogin at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through Dec. 22).
Laurie Hogen loves to paint in outrageous, bright, saturated colors.  Hers are “Technicolor” extravaganzas where the psychedelia of the chroma is matched by the psychosis of the mythical creatures that brood in the foreground.  These complex paintings demonstrate how fertile and not-dead painting can be.


Yorgo Alexopoulos at Torrance Art Museum (Torrance through Nov. 9).  This video installation is exciting and engaging.  With two projectors and multiple views within each melded projection, the terrain that evolves offers options to interpret or to just experience. 


Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor
at Torrance Art Museum (Torrance through Nov. 9). Alexopoulos and Higgins O’Conner are two of the 13 artists presented in this year’s “Baker’s Dozen” survey of current LA artists.  Higgins O’Connor’s sculpture of cloth and blankets causes me to reflect on San Diego’s Brian Dick.  This installment of Torrance’s annual survey seems a bit thin.


Herb Ritts
at Fahey/Klein (Hollywood through Dec. 4).  Ritts was raised in a family of privilege.  Perhaps that allowed his early access to Hollywood and glamour.  In any case, talent and early success in the fashion industry offered a wonderful platform.  His powerfully composed, iconic imagery has been experienced by us all.  This survey of 25 years of photographs is a terrific reminder of one LA’s true talents now silenced (1952-2002).


David Trautrimas
at dnj (Hollywood through Nov. 5).  This photographic artist creates his sense of a Cold War-era landscape by computer melding landscape photos and his photographs of pieces of disassembled machines.  The works disclose their artifice readily; nonetheless belief in their reality is not suspended. 


Gale Antokal
at Couturier (Hollywood through Nov. 27).  Pastel on paper, when done as well as Antokal, is magically evocative.  Pastel allows for communicating nostalgic, hazy memory.  I am reminded of the power of work by Wolf Kahn, Norman Lundin, Larry Gray


Robert Gutierrez at Richard Heller (Bergamot through Nov. 13).
Richard Heller continues to mine and find interesting talent.  Gutierrez paints in acrylic and ink.  His organic imagery is positioned in a fantastic landscape.


                                                                                                           Astrid Preston
Astrid Preston at Craig Krull (Bergamot through Nov. 27).
Astrid Preston is indefatigable.  Just within this one exhibition there seem to be three bodies of work.  Whether she contextualizes Rothko, Orientally, or explores the abstraction of the in-between spaces of a trellis, Astrid’s landscapes are all inclusive.  For Preston landscape is a quality of mind and/or matter.  She obviously loves looking and painting.  This exhibition demonstrates that she is neither bored with landscape nor at a loss for new ways to represent seeing. 


                                                                                                        Astrid Preston


                                                                                         Kaoru Mansour
Kaoru Mansour and Gina Han at Ruth Bachofner (Bergamot through Nov. 26).  It is nice to see Mansour’s work again (last seen at Chinatown’s, now closed LMAN Gallery).  Hers are beautiful, vegetal painted-drawings on craquelure backgrounds. Her work is not politically nor theoretically meaningful.  The Oriental style is quietly beautiful.
Pairing Mansour with Gina Han makes for an inspired exhibition.  Han’s work is Pop-like and abstract in balance with Mansour’s figurative work.  Both women artists meld Western and Oriental sensibilities.


                                                                                                                 Gina Han


                                                                                                           Anthony James
Anthony James at Patrick Painter (Bergamot through Dec. 4).  Vitrines and hall of mirror encasements seem to be popping up all over (I just experienced Pistolleto‘s “Great Mirrored Cube” at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence).  Think about crossing Damien Hirst (pickled shark in vitrine) with Michelangelo Pistolleto (Italian Arte Povera) and Anthony James’ work becomes intellectually bracketed.  The main sculpture is the artist’s destroyed Ferrari Spider. The other sculptures in this exhibition are sections of birch trees encased in one-way-mirrored tombs; fluorescently lit.  No matter how “precious” an intellectual analysis becomes - seeing the work is affecting.


                                                                                                          Anthony James


Craig Kauffman “Loops’ at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot through Nov. 13).
Craig Kauffman (1932-2010).  These “Loops” were at the beginning of his artistic trajectory (made in 1969).  In LA there is lots of Kauffman to be seen now.  Between the various venues it is easy to be reminded of his singularity.


Raimond Staprans
at Peter Mendenhall (mid Wilshire through Nov. 13).  Staprans’ painting is very familiar to me - regularly seen when visiting the Bay Area.  Seeing him in this intimate show in SoCal has allowed me a fresh perspective with my judgments.  I have frequently thought of the artist’s contemporaries, Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, when seeing Staprans’ work.  Staprans, now 84 years old, is worthy of being a distinctive definer of late 20th century California Modernism.  His dense, opaque color with strongly defined composition and references to qualities of light is uniquely Staprans. 


Roger Herman
at Steve Turner (mid Wilshire through Nov. 13).  I am a big fan of Roger Herman’s neo-expressionism artwork (paintings and woodblock prints).  In the last years the most frequently seen Herman artworks are ceramic.  I don’t know what that means.  He seems dazzled by Picasso.  These, most current vessels, are invigorated, animated, and certainly expressionistic.  The artist’s woodblock-printed poster for the exhibition, I admit, had me most excited.


Michelle Segre at Daniel Weinberg (mid Wilshire closing).
Assembled materials with some sort of organizational motif.  These sculptures attracted me a bit with no overtly obvious reason for why they should.


                                                                                 Craig Kauffman 1962
Happy Birthday Mr. Blum at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through Nov. 6).
This beautiful collection of notable California artists was selected by Irving Blum.  Dave Hickey has written a fun essay for the occasion.  The show is museum quality and offers a wonderful cross-section of what matters in modern and contemporary California art.  I have chosen this gorgeous 1962 Craig Kauffman to illustrate the power that this exhibition radiates.


                                                                                                          Jeff Colson
Jeff Colson at ACE Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills through Dec.).
Colson’s sculpture is masterful and playful.  His amalgamations are all constructed from wood or fiberglass and then painted.  The trompe l’oeil skills displayed are obsessively formidable.  I am reminded of the ceramic artist Richard Shaw.  If I had only one word to summarize the Colson experience it would be “baroque”.


                                                                                                      Jeff Colson


Justin Bower at ACE Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills through Dec.).  Having seen Bower’s work in group shows at Western Project and the Torrance Museum 8 months ago we now have the opportunity to see him in comprehensive exhibition at ACE.  Constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed large “portraits” of genetically modified, androids, bionic chimeras -- there are a whole lotta references here. 


                                                                                               Craig Kauffman 1976
Craig Kauffman “Works on Paper” at Cirrus (Downtown through Nov. 6).  Jean Milant of Cirrus was the printer of many of Kauffman’s paper series.  This is a terrific survey (works from 1958-2006) of Kauffman’s particular sense of composition.  Jean Milant is now in his 41st year as an arts professional.  That in itself is a magnificent story.


Ivan Limas at Edgar Varela (Downtown closing).  Limas is a skilled painter.  A 2007 MFA graduate this exhibition with paintings, photographs and a video seems too broad in scope.  I think he is best considered as a painter and hope to see his future work focus most in that vein.


Nancy Baker at Jancar (Chinatown through Nov. 13).
These graffiti-esque mixed media on paper works are dense with imagery and types of media used.  They resonate with Lari Pittman’s work and seem Chicano-like for a New York educated artist living in North Carolina. 

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 10/31/2010 

If you want to respond to this article please e-mail me directly at doug@simayspace.com.

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