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Doug Simay’s Best Picks

My last visit to LA was a couple weeks ago.  My web-editor became obsolete so I have had to re-invent a system to get the site active again (thank you to Dan Landrum).  This posting is a week later than the writing reflects.  There are bugs and I am still on a steep learning curve.  But - better late than never...

Coleen Sterritt at Los Angeles Harbor College (Wilmington through Dec. 8).
Seeing new work by Coleen Sterritt never disappoints.  Hers are muscular assemblages of stuff.  The work is like a frozen moment.  At any time it seems it might just spin off, or explode, or levitate.

Gajin Fujita at LA Louver (Venice through Nov. 12).
Fujita has not been seen in his hometown in five years.  These new paintings are luminously dramatic.  The painting substrate is covered with white and yellow gold and platinum leaf thus their brilliance.  Fujita continues to “tag” his paintings (he was a member of the graffiti crews KGB and K2S in the 90’s).  He then renders classical Eastern motifs juxtaposed with Western attributes - sort of next generation Masami Teraoka.  Can being a street artist lead to fame?  The price of these paintings suggests so.
Upstairs the gallery displays a selection of works from gallery artists.  Really terrific work here: Tony Bevan, Charles Garabedian, Don Suggs and Tom Wudl.
Don Suggs 2011

Robert Irwin at L&M Arts (Venice closing).
Robert Irwin has firmly landed in the current PST (Pacific Standard Time) “bigger-than-ever” commercial market.  His show at Mark Quint’s gallery in 2010 was compulsively installed.  In that show the light within the work and exterior to it were all careful controlled.  In the “dark” (large room with no natural light) gallery at L&M the works were lined up right around the room.  They became sources of light pollution to their neighbors.  The one nice feature of this show was to see a large multi-tubed piece flanked by the ambient light of the outdoors.  Its all about the environment, right?

Gegam Kacherian at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through Nov. 12).
This artist loves to paint.  He likes being able to fashion expressionistic realism and then cut loose with impulsive psycho abstracts juxtaposing the two in complex, operatic, dark and light, East and West fantasies. I can’t figure out what I am seeing but sure do enjoy what I am looking at. 

Andrew Piedilato at Patrick Painter (Bergamot through Nov. 5).
Piedilato paints monumental paintings seeking to maximize their “intensity and drama“.  His technique of creating the illusion of mosaic is unique and effective.  I can’t imagine a Piedilato painting sized to fit in a domestic room - that’s how important scale is to these works.

Fred Eversley at William Turner (Bergamot through Oct. 30).
It is wonderful to see how proud LA is of its artistic heritage from 1945-1980.  PST exhibitions are found everywhere across town from the big museums to small museums, colleges, and galleries.  There is a whole lot to be proud of.  In this year, thank you Getty, art history is going to be part of the conversation engendered by dozens of exhibitions across the spectrum of the visual art experience.
Nice survey of Eversley works at William Turner.

Jocelyn Lee at Rose Gallery (Bergamot through Nov. 19).
Lee teaches at Princeton.  Her portraits of women have a marvelous sense of intimacy and humanity.

James Turrell at Kayne Griffin Corcoran (Santa Monica through Dec. 17).
Turrell is represented here by 4 installation pieces that represent aspects of this 45 year career.  Turrell is another artist for whom the impeccable quality of installation is vital to the work’s success.  That craftsmanship is lacking in this set of installations.  I have been spoiled by the Turrells installed in the Chichu Museum (Naoshima Island, Seto Inland Sea, Japan)  Not only is Turrell perfectly honored by Tadao Ando but programming Turrell with Monet and Walter De Maria is nothing short of genius.

Robert Therrien at Gagosian (Beverly Hills through Oct. 29).
Therrien has not been seen in LA for 10 years.  His artistic genetics is an extension of Pop and Conceptualism.  This exhibition is laid out like a history museum allowing the viewer to understand Therrien’s process.  OK.

Andrea Zittel at Regen Projects (West Hollywood through Oct. 29).
Andrea Zittel has been adopted by the fine art community.  I think of her as a social scientist; public architect, so I have to partially suspend my passion for aesthetics and beauty when considering her work.  She has installed both Regen I and II.  The results are artful - scientifically speaking.  To free herself from having to pursue, stay up with, fashion while still dressing with style she designed a smock-dress that is an easy, universal design that can be customized by the choice of fabric and appliqué.  She then wears each dress as daily wear for one season.  With the next season there is a new visual motif atop the static design.  This body of work reminds me of late Kasmir Malevich and his ideas for Suprematist dress.

Carole Caroompas at Western Project (Culver City through Nov. 12).
I have witnessed Carole Caroompas’ creative output for 30 years.  I still don’t get it.  Her work is iconoclastic, figurative, content laden.  She has been true to herself.  Her imagery is infectious and gets under my skin.  She has been a very influential teacher (Gajin Fujita for example).  I have great respect for skills that I witness but can’t peg.

Joe Goode at Michael Kohn (West Hollywood through Oct.29).
Joe Goode rides the PST wave strongly this season.  I learned a lot about Goode seeing these 1977 black paintings and drawings in which he crudely scribes, at times lacerating, the painting/drawing surface.  Not only is the structure of the painting revealed, but the shadows cast by the slashes become the blackest part of the work. Goode’s whole intent as I read it now seems a redux of the work initiated in the late 1950’s by Lucio Fontana.

Richard Misrach at Marc Selwyn (mid Wilshire through Dec. 3).
Misrach keeps showing us new work - demonstrating that he has too much going on to rest on his considerable laurels.  These i-phone, digitally retouched, photographs are fascinating and otherworldly.  They are not great art but a reminder from a superb artist that there is much wonder to be found in our daily sight.

Nevan Lahart at Steve Turner (mid Wilshire through Nov. 12).
I don’t call out (Irish/Dublin artist) Nevan Lahart’s work for its aesthetic prowess.  Rather I got a big kick out of his effective cultural criticism.  His topographical set with toy dump trucks hauling sunflower seeds (Ai Weiwei), steel toroids (Serra), earth (De Maria) bearing the logo “Guggenheim Globetrotters” resonates with me as I travel the world and watch the hegemony of “neo-liberal cultural propaganda“.

Ai Weiwei at LACMA (mid Wilshire through Feb. 12).
The provocative “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” by this controversial artist is now at LACMA.  Somehow watching the giddy energy of people taking each others pictures around these characters scarcely seems nationalistic or fraught…

Grant Barnhart at Ambach & Rice (mid Wilshire through Nov. 12).
This new gallery occupies the former Dan Weinberg space.  Barnhart fabricates unfired clay sculpture that then serves as the model for his photography and painting.  He intends for the various incarnations of his design to be seen in installation.  In this glorious gallery space he must be very happy with the results.

William Daniels at Marc Foxx (mid Wilshire through Nov.12).
Daniels makes very complex paintings.  He first models metallic foil into a structure.  Then it gets lit by various colored lights before being photographed.  The photographs then get translated by brush-in-hand into finely wrought paintings.  These are exquisite paintings that combine the best of realism and abstraction.  Such skill in painting validates this London painter’s formal training.  Nobody teaches classical excellence in painting like the British.

Uta Barth at 1301 PE (mid Wilshire through Oct. 29).
This new work by Uta seems to return to an earlier focus when her soft light images were about geometric abstraction rather than the “space in between“ elements of the domestic environment.  On the whole I enjoy these works.  Being a fan of her work, it has been difficult to maintain my expectations as she at times seems trapped by the success of her theme/technique.

Hans Burkhardt at Jack Rutberg (La Brea through Dec. 24).
I agree with Jack Rutberg.  Hans Burkhardt was a very important LA artist and to consider him in the context of PST is appropriate.  Rutberg has long been a champion of Burkhardt and I have seen and learned much about this artist because of the diligent, recurrent efforts of his dealer.  Jack Rutberg is one of LA’s consummate gentlemen and true art pros.  Walking his exhibitions and reading the artwork labels is a lesson in the possibilities, realities, and dedication of real time art history.

Gertrud & Otto Natzler at Couturier (La Brea through Nov. 26).
This couple defined SoCal ceramics in so many ways.  She was the potter and he the glaze innovator.  They were important teachers (like Beatrice Wood).  Their work is noted for its seemingly thin weightlessness and exquisite range of glazes.  ‘Tis joyful, modern stuff.

Norman Zammitt at Newspace (Hollywood through Jan. 20).
Joni Gordon is showing classic Norman Zammitt (1931-2007).  While I think of his color work, the black and white and grey paintings in this show demonstrate the mathematics and hard-edge engineering of his style.  He was an important educator at Otis, UCLA and USC.  His work demonstrates the meditative mood possible in geometry.

Elizabeth Tremante at Jancar (Chinatown through Oct. 29).
This is a nice show.  A bit Pat Steir-ish but…

John Pearson at Sam Lee (Chinatown through Oct. 29).
Pearson is a 71 year old Brit who teaches at Oberlin.  His vibrant, fluid abstractions on shaped canvas are an apt update/foil to the likes of Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin (seen abundantly in LA now).

Cirrus Gallery (Downtown through May 5, 2012).
The view above is from the top of the steps heading off the back deck of Cirrus to the second gallery space above.  I used to love climbing these steps smelling the fresh onions at the vegetable wholesaler that was next door.  This upstairs space has not been open for years.  To be able to go back up there and see work by Eric Orr, Eugene Sturman, Jay McCafferty and Joe Goode was way nostalgic.  I first met Jean Milant, Mr. Cirrus, when he was around the corner from Joni Gordon’s Newspace near the corner of Melrose and Western.  That was 30 years ago.  I have regularly gone to Cirrus since then.  Through next May, Cirrus is presenting a series of four exhibitions using the 40 year archive of the gallery.  This a very needed part of PST. There are contemporary/Modern dealers like Jean Milant, Joni Gordon, Toby Moss, Ed Lau, Marti and Allen Koplin, Patricia Faure, Rosamund Felsen, Kiyo Higashi (just a few of many who are important) who were/have been a vital part of the fabric of new art in LA.  The museums cannot present the new like the private sector dealers.  I am indebted to all the gallerists who have been cultural filters and impresarios.

Judith Baca
“Under the Big Black Sun” at MOCA-Geffen (Downtown through Feb. 13, 2012).
Having heard the criticisms of this show I nonetheless entered with an open mind.  I knew the show’s title was ad-man cute, in a very dark way like “Helter Skelter,” and that the show itself was perceived as dark emotionally.  The exhibition leans heavily on photography (John Divola deserves ever more attention, Richard Misrach).  This is the second exhibition this year (1st at CardwellJimmerson) to see Victor Henderson.  Roger Herman.  Masami Teraoka.  Llyn Foulkes.  Judith Baca.  It is a content laden show with very good documentation and a easy enough way to learn the art history.  I recommend it without reservation.

Get out, look at art, have fun.

Doug Simay (written 10/24; posted 11/2)

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