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

I see a lot of art when I go to LA.  What follows are my picks for what stands out in terms of quality and/or  those exhibitions which are in the middle of, what I perceive to be, current art dialogue.

John Frame
at the Huntington Library (San Marino through June 20)
This exhibition is a landmark effort by the Huntington - showcasing a contemporary artist.  John Frame has spent 4 years creating the whole installation which includes carved, articulated figures, photographs using the figures as subject, and then a terrific film in which the figures are the actors.  John Frame continues to advance his evocative carving.  With moving appendages and eyes his figures are more expressive than ever.  He has created an open narrative film which has compelling magic and engagement.  Being a huge fan of William Kentridge’s films, I now rank John Frame his equal.  This show is must see.

Rebecca Campbell
at LA Louver (Venice through April 16).
Terry Allen is the dominant artist in LA Louver’s current show.  I like his work but…  The reason to go here is for Rebecca Campbell’s paintings on the second floor.  She is a very confident painter.  Her dynamism with color and brush allow her to be in charge of the viewing experience.  Her work hypnotizes me into believing what I see.

Tricia Cline
at Obsolete (Venice through April 9).
This Woodstock, New York based artist creates her “past world/another time” sculptures out of unglazed porcelain.  The work is highly detailed and in Beaux Arts fashion tells spiritual tales with supernatural elements.

William Lamson
at Honor Fraser (Culver City through March 26).
Watching William Lamson’s video was a wonderful Zen experience.   He has mounted a Fresnel lens on a rolling contraption.  He follows the sun’s course across the cloudless sky - rolling the lens across a dry lake-bed.  Focusing the sun’s rays on the earth’s surface burns an intense line made of black, fused glass-substance.  This video documentation really captures the drama that this quiet, solitary performance must have been.

Sam Durant
at Blum & Poe (Culver City through March 26).
Combine maps with statistical data and add aesthetic overlay and that describes Sam Durant’s work.  I am attracted to all these features.  Durant is an interesting social scientist.   Why Is this being presented as fine art? 

Hiroshi Watanabe
at Kopeikin (Culver City through April 2).
Kopeikin is showing some of Watanabe’s “Love Point” photographs.  Watanabe is very skilled in presenting a “personality” in his models (in this case dolls).  Hiroshi Sugimoto and David Levinthal are inevitable comparisons to what the artist is doing in “Love Point”.  Watanabe is one of my favorite photographers - this series by him does not reflect how I think of him.

Greg Mocilnikar
at Walter Maciel (Culver City through April 2).
Mocilnikar’s paintings present spatially abstracted urban landscape.  He uses a pastel palette which reminds me of Willem de Kooning’s later paintings.  And Mocilnikar’s perspective on perception within architectural space reverberates with the highway perspectives of Dmitri Kosyrev.

Kris Chatterson
at Western Project (Culver City through March 26).
Chatterson’s seductive collages of printed film and pigment are at the intersection of printmaking and painting.   He jumps between low-tech and high-tech bring these two technical poles into the final work.  The work is energetic, clear, and purposeful.  The artist knows what he wants.

Jonathan Pylypchuk
at China Art Objects (Culver City through April 2).
Pylypchuk has been making Art Brut for the last ten years (MFA UCLA 2001).  To quote Nick Stillman, ArtForum, November 2007: “There seem to be two tactics at play in Pylypchuk's brand of slapstick craft art: scavenging, and the reliance on squalid iconography.”  The audacity of his characters made out of the worst of bad garbage is as creatively infectious as Curt Cobain.

Steve Roden
at Susanne Vielmetter (Culver City through April 23).
Roden has certainly established a career.  He is currently featured in exhibition at the San Diego State University campus Gallery.  I am a sucker for bright, polychromic art.   But Roden’s work has always seemed too nervous to me.  Not the sort of nervousness that comes from a reaction to the outside world - rather the jag that comes from trying too hard.

Larry Mantello
at CB1 (Downtown through April 3).
Mantello must have a really big garage to be able to store all the colorful pop-culture “memorabilia” that he uses to construct wall hangings, floor sculpture, and two dimensional paper work.  I like colorful detritus assemblage.  In addition to the pleasure of colorful jangle there is the speculation about what something is and why it came to be.  As is readily apparent to all who have written about this work, there is a sense of melancholy that comes from “innocence” relegated to history.

Paul Donaldson
at FIG (Bergamot through April 16).
Paul Donaldson has been painting for 30 years.  I gather that the subject matter over most of those years has been constant, SoCal and Mexico along the Pacific Coast.   His gouaches in this exhibition are quickly and deftly laid down.  They seem very practiced.  Having just returned from Guatemala, I am sensitized to color in the environment.  Donaldson sees much of the same color in his environment.

Laura Karetzky
at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through April 30).
One must peer deeply into Karetzky’s intimate paintings.   Within most of her paintings, there is a feature that is jarringly inappropriate.  Her skills as a painter are superb.  It is the narrative intimated in her work that gives rise to curiosity and to dissonant cognitive reflection.

Dan McCleary
at Craig Krull (Bergamot through April 2).
When Dan McCleary paints a multi-person tableau - the results are jaw-dropping.  All the quietude and secular reflection of his single sitter paintings and drawings gets geometrically magnified.  In this masterpiece called “Panel Discussion“, each of the characters evokes that moment when we are alone in a crowd.  The painting’s structure owes a lot to Italian Renaissance views of the Last Supper.  The overall effect of standing in front of this painting is as if to be in the painting itself, quietly waiting for the panelists to become actively engaged.

Miyoshi Barosh
at Luis De Jesus (Bergamot through April 9).
This exhibition skillfully blends the work of Barosh, Nena Amsier, and Nava Lubelski under an overarching use of cloth, thread, fabric-like imitations.  The range of approaches to materials, the intensity each artist brings to their work, and the commonality bound by thread makes for another refreshing exhibition.  Taste and quality are an unbeatable combination.

Jimi Gleason
at Samuel Freeman (Bergamot through April 16).
Gleason’s work is seen regularly and widely in the contemporary art gallery world.  There is no mistaking his signature high gloss, mirror-like, metallic colored impasto.  This exhibition is particularly dramatic in its excellent installation.

Ed Ruscha
at Gagosian (Beverly Hills through April  9).
Ruscha’s newest paintings are just superb.  I was so surprised to walk into this show - expecting what I have come to expect of Ruscha - and to be in awe.  These large canvases are real paintings.  They are well grounded in all the cardinal aspects of good art (line, tone, color, shape, texture, composition).  They command their space.  They experientially draw me in and then push me back away to again take in their scope.

Cecilia Miguez
at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through April 23).
Years ago when I first saw Cecilia Miguez’s sculptures I mistakenly thought they were by John Frame.  There is really little in common with their work other than they make assemblaged, mythical figures.  Miguez is very refined with her approach and at times I find her to be too “controlling“.
It is good work - so judge for yourself.

Jay Kvapil
at Couturier (West Hollywood through April 9).
Count on Couturier to show the best in Southern California ceramics.  Kvapil has been a recognized LA Basin ceramics artist for 3 decades.  This exhibition highlights recent work.  For the last decade or more his creativity has been little seen.  The quality of his clay vessels and their gorgeous glazes are really as good as clay gets.

Laurie Frick
at Edward Cella (mid Wilshire through April 2).
Laurie Frick is a scientist.  She is interested in cognitive science.  She has recorded daily activity by charting behaviors at ten minute intervals for 24 hours.  She has collected EEG tracings during her sleep.  She then looks for patterns and encodes her pattern recognition in the form of sculptural wall assemblages made of recycled wood.  She has developed an aesthetic way of projecting thought patterns as art.   This work is skillfully at the interface of art and science.

George Herms 1994
Jack Rutberg
(West Hollywood through April 30).
Jack Rutberg has assembled a broad exhibition of modern and contemporary, contemporaries.  The theme is assemblage and collage.  Rutberg brings scholarship and his passion for the arts to this large, 50 artwork, group show. 

Giacometti @ LACMA (Lazarof Collection)
There is a Vija Celmins exhibition up through June 5.

Also on the plaza level of the Ahmanson wing is an installation of recently acquired work from the Janice and Henri Lazarof Collection.  The 130 works from this collection takes the LACMA  Modern collection to a new level of excellence.  It is an astounding collection and a truly magnificent legacy gift.  

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 3/21/2011 

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