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Doug Simay’s Best Picks

Folks, as 2011 comes to a close, I wish us all Peace and Love.  Enjoy your lives. Share that enjoyment with all around you.  Living can be artful and culture is something to be proud of.

Peter Shelton at LA Louver (Venice through Dec. 30).
The fact that Peter Shelton started off as a pre-med student at Pomona College is not belied by the organic, biomorphic sculptures that have been his hallmark for the last 35 years.  Shelton as sculptor is a source of SoCal pride.  This exhibition of work spanning 1975 through 2011 is also the stuff Pacific Standard Time has recurrently demonstrated to its audience - LA artists are full dimensionally terrific.  In many of Shelton’s works the “outside” is inside and the structure of the inside is “outside.”  It is phenomenal that he still makes his own sculptures (i.e. these works are made with his hands).

Suda House at dnj (Bergamot through Jan. 7).
This image is of a 1979 photographic work by San Diego’s Suda House.  It is shown next to one of her works from 2006.  I haven’t seen Suda’s work out in the world for decades.  It is so nice to see her creativity still demonstrated.  She is one of eight artists in this show called “Then and Now”.

Roland Reiss at William Turner (Bergamot through Jan. 3).
The gallery is showing 11 artists roughly dealing with “surface” (as in finish fetish).  I always enjoy seeing work by Ruth Pastine, Alex Couwenberg, and Eric Johnson.  I post this image of Roland Reiss’ 2007 piece just to help demonstrate his evolution since the 1970’s.

John Clendening at tag (Bergamot through Dec. 24).
Clendening is from Washington DC.  His formal training was there and included classes at the Corcoran as well as private training with a director of the Whitney.  He did not travel the path of the avant garde.  Rather he was a combat artist in Vietnam and in 2008 was selected to the California Art Club.  His traditional views of people and landscape are exquisitely done.  There are times when beautiful painting is its own justification.

George Herms at Craig Krull (Bergamot through Jan. 14).
Craig Krull has juxtaposed three artists in solo show to synergistically give the viewer an enhanced experience.  In this instance we get a view of LA during the 60’s through the varied, but overlapping, viewpoints of Herms, Edmund Teske, and Julian Wasser.  I particularly like Herms’ collages.  California Assemblage is defined by Ed Kienholz, Wallace Berman, Bruce Connor, and Herms.  Herms’ collages seen here are simple and marvelous.

Charles Arnoldi at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through Dec. 23).
It is good to see Arnoldi and Felsen teamed up.  They are veterans who are equals and each giants in their own way.  This exhibition is Arnoldi wall works from the 70’s.  There has been no shortage of interest in Arnoldi of late.  The 30+ year old works in this show are still vibrant and alive.

Adrian Saxe at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot through Jan. 7).
I have always liked Saxe’s orientalism and over-the-top ornamentation.  The new works from 2011 appear misleadingly reductive.  Saxe has embedded scannable barcode in these sculptures so that the viewer can access a whole new dimension of experience by applying their cell phone as scanner.

Barbara Kasten at Gallery Luisotti (Bergamot through ?).
Kastin’s photograms from the 1970’s are terrific.  They are this photographer’s contribution to the Light and Space dialogue and speak directly to Constructivism.

Chuck Close at Blum & Poe (Culver City through Dec. 22).
We have all seen plenty of Close’s work - frequently reproduced. I needn’t worry that his imagery or technique will become a parody of itself.  To see his paintings in this show offers a fresh viewing experience.  They are marvelous works - executed with an understanding that only practice can deliver.

Hung Liu at Walter Maciel (Culver City through Dec. 22).
Liu (MFA from UCSD) is a recognized master painter.  As a young person working in the fields of Mao’s China she took pictures of the people around her.  Now 40 years later she uses these images as sources.  The result (done in her customary painterly style) has tremendous humanity and warm fondness. As compared with her prior work that was pulled from historical/political sources, these works, in the words of the gallery’s press release, “…converts socialist realism into social realism.”   Joyous work.

John Divola at LAXART (Culver City through Jan. 21).
I am so happy to see attention being directed to John Divola.  Folks, there is oodles more to this artist than the “Vandalism Series”.  Still this exhibition with its black and white “studies” from the 1970’s helps to firmly educate the “Vandalism” audience.  Pair this show with his work in MOCA’s “Under the Big Black Sun” and that education is complete.

Billy Al Bengston at Katherine Cone (Culver City through Jan. 1).
Having always liked Bengston’s work, it was with anticipation that I looked forward to this show.  The large collection of “Draculas” is intimately hung in this one story space.  But I found the work to be crowded and handled a bit like commodity.  Art for sale may be indeed just a shopkeeper’s commodity - but some of us prefer to experience it more reverently.

Raymond Pettibon at Regen II (West Hollywood through Dec. 22).
This is a big, contemporary Pettibon show.  I include it in my “best picks” to demonstrate that I know what is considered important.  I still can’t figure out, in this case, why?

Karl Benjamin at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through Dec. 24).
Want to learn about LA art (particularly Hard Edge painting) from the last half of the 20th century?  Stern is the go-to place.  Benjamin is meticulous and his paintings are radiant.

George Legrady at Edward Cella (mid Wilshire through Dec. 31).
On first entering this exhibition of photographs and sensing the Fresnel lens/lenticular imaging “trick” I was on guard expecting to be visually manipulated - seduced by a optical trick. Well, Legrady absolutely manipulates the viewer to great effect.  He has integrated 3 photographic images into a common frame and then “separated” them using a lenticular front screen so that they are seen in a sequence as the viewer walks by.  A photograph is a static image.  Link a bunch of photographic images together and if there are enough of them then it is a movie.  But what about seeing only 3 sequential images that are related in time and space - but still are not strictly sequential.  Legrady’s work includes the audience as performer (they activate the viewing by walking by it) and all the emotional license that comes with suddenly unleashing a staccato narrative.

Aaron Morse at ACME (mid Wilshire through Dec. 21).
I like Morse’s work.  He seems to have fun with materials.  He likes pattern and decoration.  He is inventive.  He doesn’t treat art making as weighty - but he is serious.  He has something to say but seems to get involved more with how he says it.

Karen Sargsyn at Ambach & Rice (mid Wilshire through Dec. 28).
The gallery space explodes with complex, constructed paper sculpture. The mastery of this Amsterdam artist’s manipulations of static materials into dynamic story-telling is unique.

ACE Museum (La Brea through Dec. 30).
This new venue at 400 S. La Brea is intriguing.  The inaugural exhibition documents Peter Noever’s endeavors as director of MAK (Museum of Applied Art) in Vienna as well as the MAK Center in LA.  The host committee for this show is Douglas Christmas, Frank Gehry, Greg Lynn, Jeffrey Kipnis. Eric Owen Moss, Thom Payne, and Wolf Prix.  No wonder this exhibition space is as much the show as its contents.  Who knows what adventures this building’s future might hold?

Roland Reiss at Pasadena Museum of California Art (Pasadena through Jan. 8).
PMCA has pulled together a comprehensive showing of Reiss’ small tableaux sculptures from the 70’s and 80’s.  I have seen many of these works at least a couple times over the last decades.  The artist has migrated from figurative to abstract; from sculpture to painting (see his 2007 piece above).  For those who have not seen his tableaux sculptures, this a fine opportunity.  For those who have, it is wonderful to be reminded that a fine future can be built on a fine past and that evolution produces ever more refined responses to the present.

Joe Reihsen at The Company (Chinatown through Jan. 7).
The energy and passion of dealer, Anat Ebgi, is engaging.  Reihsen’s work is about responding to materials and the space they occupy.  There is no meaning, narrative, overarching purpose to these works.  They are reflexive, reactive and don’t point to any other purpose than fully occupying their space.

Houston Conwill, Collection of Doug Simay
Now Dig This at UCLA-Hammer (Westwood through Jan. 8).
The Hammer strikes again with a well developed; scholarly historical exhibition about Black (African- American) artists and their support systems in LA from 1960 through 1980.  One hundred forty artworks by thirty five artists is skillfully woven with engaging wall text to tell this story. Art history, well told - works for me.

David Amico at ACE Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills through mid January).
These heroic abstract paintings are convincingly authoritative.  They look like they may have collaged or stenciled elements. But they are paint that is carefully and forcefully applied.  The work harbors no identity crisis.  It is strong and defiant abstraction.

F Scott Hess at Koplin del Rio (Culver City through Dec. 22).
I have never been disappointed in seeing Hess’ work.  He is a master with materials and technique.  That he is now represented by Koplin del Rio is equivalent in significance to the melding of Arnoldi and Felsen.  A dedicated, practiced, and skilled dealer is exactly what a fine artist and their audience benefits from. Supporting an artist through their dealer is the best way to be sure that the visual environment stays democratic.
Richmond Burton at George Lawson (Culver City through Dec. 31).
It was informative and complementary to see Burton’s work soon after seeing David Amico‘s show.  Burton is Amico’s senior by decades.  Both artists adopt patterns and are colorists.  But compared with Amico’s defiant assertiveness, Burton displays a more feminine fondness for pattern and the “floating” elements on the pictorial plane.

Lisa Adams at CB1 (Downtown through Jan. 15).
Lisa Adams is a painter.  Her work bounces between abstraction and representation.  I don’t feel compelled to integrate and “understand” her pictorial plane.  Rather I look at the work with wonder and the satisfaction of experiencing their reality which may have no demonstrable meaning.

Terry O’Shea at CardwellJimmerson (Culver City through Jan. 14).
The gallerists, Cardwell and Jimmerson, have resurrected Terry O’Shea’s work from the 60’s and 70’s.  The work is about resin and the images and circumstance that can be frozen in cast plastic.  It is not about finish as in John McCracken or Fred Eversley.  Terry O’Shea layers plastic “freezing” stuff/drawing/painting in each layer.  40 years later the work is bright and fresh and relevant.

Lino Tagliapietra
William Morris, Lino Tagliapietra, and Ginny Ruffner at Imago (Palm Desert).
Palm Desert is not in LA.  But this glass exhibition is too fine to be unmentioned.  In fact, this glass exhibition is so compelling that it would make a museum proud.  The Tagliapietra work is his best I have ever seen.  William Morris is as unique an artisan with glass as can be experienced.  If one likes artistry in glass - it doesn’t get any better than this show.
William Morris

Get out, look at art, have fun.

Doug Simay 12/20/2011
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