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Doug Simay's Best Picks

Last month I spent in self-study of Flemish art in Belgium.  Comparing the contemporary art scene in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp (with the Cologne Art Fair thrown in) with LA there is little contest.  I happily live just 120 miles south of a center of the art world.

Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin
at LA Louver (Venice closing).
Mendelsohn Rubin’s paintings are built up with undiluted oil paint on canvas.  There is no glazing.  These landscape works are about painting in color.  They are rich in a way that reflects 30 years attention to her craft.

Barbara Kruger
at L&M (Venice through July 9).
Kruger is smart.  But her streaming one-liners are just that - one liners.  Seeing her “The Globe Shrinks” multi-channel video installation  has hugely increased my estimation of her creativity.  This video project is the reason not to miss this exhibition.

Jeffrey Conley
at Peter Fetterman (Bergamot through July 30).
A photograph can be powerful if it causes us to see reality differently or because it shows us a reality that we are unlikely to see ourselves.  Jeffrey Conley has sought out winter when it is most “in charge.”  His beautiful large prints show a frozen, ice entombed landscape that few of us ever really can see.  He is there when winter’s fury has just then abated enough to be witnessed.

Elliott Erwitt
at Peter Fetterman (Bergamot through July 30).
Elliott Erwitt (born 1928) produced mid 20th century work that had a comic humanity that is still a pleasure to see.  He wears a lot better for me than Diane Arbus (in exhibition at Gagosian Beverly Hills (closing)).

Jean Lowe
at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through July 2).
Jean Lowe continues her consumerist view of the world by composing her paintings as amalgamations of snapshots.  The effect of color; tilted planes of view that are constrained within the painting’s primary rectangle gives the work an electric energy.
One gallery is dedicated to individual pieces of work ready-to-buy, a sort of redux of Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store” from 1961.

Margaret Nielsen
at Samuel Freeman (Bergamot through June 4).
Over the last 30 years I have frequently marveled at Margaret Nielsen’s  jewel-like paintings in which there is most always a surrealistic angle.

Gail Roberts
at Luis de Jesus (Bergamot closing).
Considering the breadth and tenure of her painting career, Gail Roberts’ new paintings are transcendent.  Her imagery is still built on reality.  But the new work effectively plays as abstraction.  Her confidence with the brush, particularly in the two largest paintings, is wonderful to behold.

Peter Voulkos
at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot closing).
Peter Voulkos (1924-2002) is primordial.  His slab built sculpture and vessels are signature. I find his works to be self-righteously audacious.  This is not a criticism. On the contrary, his work has a youthful-but-wise presence that frustrates chronology within a career that spans 50 years.

Jim Shaw
at Patrick Painter (Bergamot through June 17).
Jim Shaw is a very talented painter. The complex works in this exhibition need a full written page to explain the facets and features of the work's creation.  Even without knowing the “whys” the paintings capture attention due to the amount of skill painted into them.

Wayne White
at Western Project (Culver City through June 11).
White covers a whole lotta territory.  He seems adept with whatever material comes to hand; his is raw talent.  The work resonates with HC Westerman, William Wiley, Matta, and James Ensor.  He uses his anthropomorphic sculptures as characters in a puppet stage show.  This exhibition is a three-ring circus.

Kehinde Wiley
at Roberts & Tilton (Culver City closing).
Wiley’s portrait work continues to be arresting.  But his manner of production, his social-cultural statements made through choice of models, and the final heroic appearance of his exhibitions leaves me thinking that he is a successful art-machine.  Someday I hope to see another facet of his artistic skill.

LA Fine Arts Squad
at CardwellJimmerson (Culver City closing).
Terry Schoonhoven and Victor Henderson were the LA Fine Arts Squad from 1969-1973.  They painted some of LA’s most signature mega-murals like “Venice in the Snow” and “Isle of California” (the only mural that still remains; though in horrible condition).  CardwellJimmerson reconstructs features of the working collaboration that put their apocalyptic visions on huge surfaces.  The differences in their personalities is evident in this show.  Victor Henderson is still alive and working.  He is and they were truly Los Angeles’ creative native-sons.

Nicole Eisenman
at Susanne Vielmetter (Culver City through June 11).
Eisenman is a happy appropriator.  She likes to sample Klimt, Guston, Renoir and the CoBrA artists in creating pastiche paintings that, to quote David Pagel, are “troublesome and irresistible.”

Alida Cervantes
at Steve Turner (mid Wilshire through July 9).
Graduate school is showing its influence in these new paintings by Alida.  Ms. Cervantes has a way with brush and paint.  Her painting gestures are so human that her painted subjects seem to come to life.  These paintings are curious and engaging.  They are believably nuts with a macabre twist.

The Date Farmers
at ACE (mid Wilshire through July).
In 1998 Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez formed the Coachella Valley based collaborative, The Date Farmers. I was really uninterested by this large exhibition until I experienced the “3D Club Video” with the sick&twisted video A Volta, a collaboration that features the art of the Date Farmers.  You can see that video here:
The Date Farmers come from Indio, I grew up in Indio, and Peter Zokosky is from Indio.  Indio as incubator.

Miles Coolidge (detail)
Miles Coolidge
at ACME (mid Wilshire through July 2).
Miles Coolidge has a very distinctive way of seeing and photographically recording the world.  While his photographs may seem dead-pan straight forward they are not.  He does not operate like the Bechers or Lewis Baltz.  His work seems always to be palpably present. His photographic prints are the object rather than a record of an object.  The huge 3 piece print of an archery backdrop is beyond stunning.

Daniel Douke
at Peter Mendenhall (mid Wilshire through July 9).
These trompe l’oeil paintings are just that - stretched canvas on which all the effects are made with pigment that has been built-up, sanded, and modeled to mimic another reality.  Douke’s work needs to be considered along with Richard Shaw and Jeff Colson.

Helen Lundeberg
Lorser Feitelson
and Helen Lundeberg at Louis Stern (West Hollywood through June 18).
Feitelson and Lundeberg were married life-partners as well as kindred artistic spirits who helped define Post-Surrealist and Hard Edge painting in Southern California.  This fine exhibition of work from 1919 to 1987 particularly highlights Lundeberg’s beautiful abstracted landscapes.

Elliott Hundley
at Regen Projects (West Hollywood through July 1).
Hundley’s paintings and sculptures are very complex constructs of all sorts of materials. The end result is quite cinematic.  His huge panoramic paintings are three dimensional extravaganzas with figures and facets pinned to them; projecting into space.  Viewing the work through a suspended lens that tracks in front of the painting’s surface (like a library ladder) gives a whole new view and experience.  This is not facile production.

Mary Younakof (installation detail view)
Pacific Design Center
Lucky me.  I was present for the May 26th opening night at the PDC.  There were 15 venues open with all sorts of creative endeavor on view.  See Line Gallery, Carl Berg, and d.e.n. continue strong programming.  There was plenty of video art to be seen and a novel video exhibition space showing a dozen works, each in private spaces.  Keep your antennae up for announcements of “Design Loves Art” openings.  It is the only way to have access to the PDC after 5pm.

HK Zamani
at CB1 (Downtown through July 2).
Habib’s new body of work is really luscious.  The paintings are not forced; rather they seem to reflect a subconscious imperative that finds its direction by moving paint with a brush.  While the work seems to have a figurative intent they finely rest in abstraction.  I keep thinking I am looking at Guston’s ghost.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 5/31/2011 

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