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

Lynn Aldrich, Jessica Rath, & Carrie Ungerman at Otis (LAX through June 13).
The three women in this refreshing and vital exhibition fashion sculptural installations.  Lynn Aldrich uses metal and plastic rain-gutters.  The effectiveness of each artist’s endeavor is amplified by the synergy they share in the collective use of common materials - used in quantity. 

Deborah Butterfield at LA Louver (Venice through May 9).  Butterfield continues to mine her tremendous familiarity with horses.  Hers are the sculptural equivalent of George Stubbs’ paintings – able to capture the essence of the beast.  If you haven’t seen her unique, painted (to mimic the natural drift wood from which the sculptures are first constructed) bronze horses – they are magnificent.  In this exhibition I was most attracted to three small abstractions of assembled metal waste that share the same resourcefulness as Calder and David Smith.   

Stephanie Sanchez at Terrence Rogers (Santa Monica closed).  I have been viewing Sanchez’ work for years.  As I am attracted to contemporary landscape painting, I have watched her career with curiosity.  This set of paintings deliver a freshness and abstract luminosity that I find successful.  I have long thought that Sanchez and Larry Cohen occupy similar territory – she has now distinguished herself from what was a soft, pastel, Impressionistic rendering of the landscape with a more Constructivist view.  Good show; good work.

Kimberly Merrill at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through June 6).  Kimberly Merrill loves dogs and lovingly paints their portraits displaying anthropomorphic emotions – but not sentimentality.  These classic portraits render the sitter and their spirit and are totally without kitsch.  This is very strong work that rises easily above the cliché that paintings of dogs might evoke.

Astrid Preston at Craig Krull (Bergamot through May 16).  Today I think that Astrid Preston looks at the landscape through both ends of the “telescope.”  Most times she looks the typical direction through this observational telescope – seeing things magnified.  She sees the spaces between facets of nature.  Then she paints the abstract nuances found in that natural scene.  At other times she looks backwards down this telescope and sees, let’s say a bird, as the whole of the cosmos complete in and of itself in beauty and harmony.  Such is this exhibition of bird paintings.  Her taxonomy of winged creatures is presented like exquisite painted ceramic tiles that might adorn a palace sanctuary. 

David Bungay at Craig Krull (Bergamot through May 16).  Bungay’s painted constructions are wild.  This two dimensional photo looks like a beach scene.  But  the “painting” it documents is three dimensional with bulging wave, reflected light coming off the “mirror of wet sand” and the projection of reflected and refracted light.  The primal aesthetic forces used in these artworks respond quite effectively to the primary elements: air, water, land.

Terry Braunstein at Craig Krull (Bergamot through May 16) and El Camino College (Torrance through May 1).   El Camino College is showing a retrospective of Braunstein’s work and Craig Krull is showing her contemporary work.  The collective body of work demonstrates an affinity for photomontage, constructed artist-books, and multi-media constructed tableaux.  Her tableaux evoke a sense of Joseph Cornell and at times, Llyn Foulkes.  This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the breadth of this artist’s oeuvre.

Jennifer Lee at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot through May 2).  This British artist produces elegant, thin-walled, stoneware vessels from hand built coils.  The final color and texture of these vessels come from oxides mixed into the wet clay, finished by hand burnishing.  There is no glazing involved.  Whew!  Artist as master.

Donald Sultan at Greenfield Sacks (Bergamot through May 2).  Sultan has been making signature work since I “was a boy.”  While most see plants, fruit, and still-life florals in his work, his goals are rooted in abstraction.  The contemporary tempera-on-paper and aquatint etchings in this show are Sultan at his best.

Masahisa Fukase at Sarah Lee (Bergamot through May 9).  The series of photographs called “The Solitude of Ravens” was published in 1976 just after his divorce.  The images are haunting and gloomy.  Their sequencing is visual narrative at its best.  Poignantly, Fukase is to this day in a coma after a drunken fall down stairs in 1991. 

Jean Lowe at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through May 16).  Jean Lowe is on a terrific roll.  In the last couple years her painting has blossomed.  Her paintings now carry their weigh within the confines of the stretched orthogonal canvas.  She does not need to use constructions and faux furniture sculpture to create the “set” for her insights.  Included in this exhibition are collaged pictures that she constructs as models for the paintings.  The collages are also terrific and tremendously elucidate the goals of her paintings.

Kenichi Yokono at Mark Moore (Bergamot through May 16).  These dramatic carved wood paintings are painted with electric white and red enamel.  The imagery melds the recognizable motif of Japanese woodcuts with Pop Art reference.  The work is energetic and unique.

Zadok Ben David at Shoshana Wayne (Bergamot through May 16).  A large installation of small, laser cut, thin steel, Victorian plants are painted black on one side and in color on the opposite.  12,000 of these plant silhouettes are “planted” in a thin layer of sand on the gallery floor.  Entering the room the plants appear dark against the sand.  Walk around the sandlot and the other side of the plants flash their color.  The double life of these objects metaphorically mimics the annual earthly evolution from winter to summer.  Ben David is London based.

Annenberg Space for Photography (Century City).  This new “museum” for photography may well be the first of a new generation of visual-culture-venues (tomorrow’s art museum) that will tell cultural and aesthetic stories digitally.  Eight LA photographers debut and have their work displayed along the circumference of the space.  But the real show is in the core where large screen digital monitors and many smaller such monitors project a curated, visually dense, ultimo power point presentation of each artist.  In this model, future VCV (visual culture venue) curators will best have cut their teeth on music videos.

Hammer Museum (Westwood).  There are four terrific shows here.  I recommend Wang Quinsong’s video, SkyscraperFrancesca Gabbiani’s selected prints from the UCLA Collections, and Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from LA.  The later show includes the rendered flesh paintings of Victoria Reynolds (think Andy Wilf), Lisa Anne Auerbach’s knitted aphorisms, Charlie White’s portrait photographs of teen girls standing next to transgender women (its the teenage girls who look androgynous), the world according to Jeffrey Vallance, and the incomparable Llyn Foulkes.


Jedediah Caesar at Susanne Vielmetter (Culver City through May 23).  Caesar fills boxes with junk materials and then fills the boxes with plastic resin.  Using a band-saw he cuts the resultant blocks like a loaf of bread.  The layers are presented like CT scan/archaeological sections that reveal the history of their creation.  Cute - but denigrated by the gallery’s written verbage that attempts to create meaning.  The work is a chaotic, trash redux of Arman.

Kehinde Wiley at Roberts & Tilton (Culver City through May 30).  Wiley’s very large paintings are, as usual, arresting.  Wiley is really smart and resourceful.  An MFA graduate of Yale he continues the spirit of Jeff Koons and Murakami in his manufacturing process (using a “factory” of Chinese painters to produce most everything other than painting of the figure).  His true skill as a painter elevates the work and brings its Pop effectiveness home allowing a broad audience from black youth to art intelligensia to identify with its technique and message.

Yi Chen at Honor Fraser (Culver City through May 16).  Chen is a Queens-based, Chinese artist who executes paintings that appear collaged. Seemingly familiar, this work appears singular and fresh enough.

Conor Harrington at Kinsey/Desforges (Culver City through May 30).  Two British artists are on view. Harrington and Chloe Early.  My favorite is Harrington with his layered imagery built first upon figurative imagery and then abstracted by the overlay of graffiti tagging.  The inescapable observation is how well the classically-based training of British artists serves their final artistic expression.

Peter Zokosky at Koplin Del Rio (Culver City through May 23).  Speaking of classically-based painting – Peter Zokosky’s work is rigorously classical both in execution and intention.  His view of animals is different from Kimberly Merrill.  His beasts can be anthropomorphically viewed – but in Zokosky’s painted world there is enigma and unsettling undercurrents of the macabre.  Zokosky is as good a painter as there is anywhere in this world and his system and subject continue to be unique and legitimately his own.

Larry Pittman at Regen Projects (West Hollywood closed).  In a three artist exhibition now closed but still up for view, Pittman’s work demonstrates his easily recognized style that continues, after all these years, to reinforce the vitality of painting.

LACMA has installed the 4th floor of the Anderson Building with some of its Latin-American collection.  The particular reason to recommend this stop is the Jorge Pardo designed installation.  Hurrah for this fresh manner of exhibiting cultural artifacts.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 4/25/2009 


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