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

Early August is the end of the preceding art season. The art scene may pretend to be year round – but really the primary energies exist from September to June (except for December).  August is a time for reflection and selection (group shows of a gallery's stable).  Many dealers close for the month or several weeks at the end to take a vacation before the new season starts in the second week of September.  Such is LA now.  I had a terrific time this last week - meaning I saw a lot of very good art, had wonderful conversations and found a couple killer eating places.

Sophia Allison
at Lawrence Asher (mid-Wilshire through August 8). Allison builds visually tactile surfaces by sewing photographs-on-paper into cloth.  The paper becomes part of the fabric and thus its image becomes tapestry like.

Camilo Ontiveros
at Steve Turner (mid-Wilshire through 8/15). Over two years ago I hosted and curated the New Contemporaries exhibition of the San Diego Art Prize.  Camillo was one of the artists in that show and one of my great “problems” in pulling that exhibition together.   My thoughts then about “working with” an artist of his ilk were not pleasant, generous, or flattering.  Now two years later he has just completed his MFA at UCLA and carries the imprint of Barbara Kruger in his work-interest.  And, I walk in on him at his exhibition at Steve Turner.  This show is about the politics of discards and recycling and the border.  The exhibition image above is of discarded washing machines (the recycled material of this practically-realized conceptual project).  I am fascinated to see this young man, now further educated, showing at a prominent address in art-LA.  His project is not pedantic and yet teaches much.  I am not sure why the visual arts is the mechanism used by a political thinker such as Camillo in developing an audience.

Aaron Morse
at ACME (mid-Wilshire through 8/15).  Busy paintings that look like they might be quilts or cloisonne, the work is graphically strong and exuberantly in love with image making.  The exhibition is a joyful viewing experience.

Jeff Colson
at ACE (mid-Wilshire through August).  Colson's sculptures are smokin'.  They are finely crafted and yet present with an air of insouciance.  What looks like a pleasant accumulation of post-its with little other content implied is a finely wrought carving.  Or, is it a casting?  Or, how did he make that beautiful sculptural volume? Education, insight, high-craft are all present in his engaging work.

Chris Taggart
at ACE (mid-Wilshire through August).  For this sculpture the artist has taken a chicken foot, cast it, and then executed enlarged cast forms from it up through several enlargements.  He then has assembled the various sized chicken feet in order to construct this tree.  He makes rules and mathematical operators for dissecting an image and then reassembling it into a new expression of itself.  Very clever and effective work.  He could be a nerd scientist or he could be a creator with a different vision.  Or he may be both.

Robert Graham
at ACE (mid-Wilshire through August). If I think of Robert Graham, I can think of him in a Weyland-sort-of, corner-of-the-market, sort-of way.  But to see Graham is otherwise.  He understands the human form so well, feels it so precisely, that a simple gesture can imply the model.  Between encaustic painting and simple sculptural pinch-clay Graham demonstrates again his beautiful facility with the human form.  Robert Graham died in December 2008.

Gary Lang
at ACE (Beverly Hills through mid September).  I am a biased Gary Lang fan.  I think he is a terrific colorist.  The main exhibition gallery at  ACE Beverly Hills is huge. Gary's work is figuratively bigger than that room.  Its confidence and practice are evident in paintings so large I cannot figure out how the artist kept his perspective and physical attachment in painting the nested circles. I am reminded of Kenneth Noland – but only if you cross Noland with a Tibetan mandala sand-painter. The devotional meditation in these hand crafted works is spirituality rendered in riotous color.

Jay Mark Johnson
at ACE (Beverly Hills through mid September). Paring this artist with Lang is well considered.  Johnson has a special camera – a slit camera (versus the usual variation of a round hole) to digitally capture a moving scene.  Whether looking at a train or cars on a roadway the resultant image is very strange, very colorful, but also familiar in its content.

Ann Diener
at LM Projects (Downtown).  Diener is a very skilled artist in the classic sense.  She seems able to paint and draw in a totally convincing, confident manner.  Her created worlds are comfortable fantasies.

Tae Ho Kang
at Sabina Lee (Chinatown closed).  Since moving to Chinatown, Sabina Lee has upped the quality and intelligence of her shows.  The layered, colorful collages of Tae Ho Kang are all abstract.  The work is quite solid and the artist has a very long exhibition history in LA.  I was not aware of this Seoul based artist despite the long LA show history.  'Tis further evidence of the difficulty of being an “outsider” in an art scene incessantly focused on fashion.

Marius Bercea
at Francoise Ghebaly (Chinatown 15th August through 5th September).  Francoise has moved into Daniel Hug's former space on Bernard St.  For a couple weeks he is hanging a group show of some of his favorites.  Marius Bercea is Romanian and paints in a  striking “thin color” fashion that reminds me of Roger Herman crossed with Luc Tuymans.

Devon Tsuno
at Sam Lee (Chinatown through 8/22).  Tsuno uses many different materials to create his layered biomorphic paintings.  Spray paint may be opaque but it can be used to create a sense of transparency.  Sam Lee is adding a space at the PDC in addition to his Chinatown gallery (see Carl Berg below).  Sam is energetic and resourceful and principled.  He is one of the new generation of art dealers on whom I pin my hopes for a bright future in art-LA.

Will Fowler
at China Art Objects (Chinatown through 8/15).  I liked these paintings.  I like them without any other explanation.  They remind me of Francisco Clemente “button” paintings I saw in Berlin.

Rebecca Campbell
at Otis (Westside through 9/12).  Campbell is one of 13 artists in this exhibition.  The show is OK  and the artists do good stuff.  But the curatorial writing that accompanies the exhibition is turgid and undecipherable.  Thankfully I have been spared having to read such crap in a while.

Rogue Wave
at LA Louver (Venice through 9/19).  Gotta love Peter Goulds' dedication to bring another “Rogue Wave” to his prestigious gallery.  Of the 10 LA artists exhibiting here I was most drawn to Annie Lapin (pictured above) and a video piece by Micol Hebron.  Hebron's video is structured around people blowing bubble gum bubbles and then audio enhancing the popping of those bubbles.  Close your eyes and the soldier-blowing-bubbles-that-burst sounds like gunfire.

Judith Foosaner
at Lora Schlesinger (Bergamot through August).  As expected the quality of the work in the group show in this gallery is great.  I continue to be increasingly enamored with work by Judith Foosaner.  Be it a small drawing, a collage, or a large painting – Foosaner has a distinctive style that is engaging and meaningful.

Jennifer Nehrbass
at Mark Moore (Bergamot through 8/16).  These paintings ain't genius.  They don't teach me anything or cause me to reconsider.  But they do stop me in my tracks and insist that I look.  Todd Hebert's work that rounds out the current show is quite good.

Clayton Brothers
at Patrick Painter (Bergamot through 8/29).  To quote the gallery's press release: “Bold and brilliant colors and crowded compositions create images that are simultaneously brash and beautiful...”  Yup.

Julius Shulman
and Juergen Nogai at Craig Krull (Bergamot closed).  Julius Shulman defined Modernist photography in LA with his photographs of Modernist architect's projects.  Aided at his advanced age by his collaborator, Juergen Nogai, the two have created true synergism.  The luscious work is exciting and visually electric.  When they have gone back to re-photograph some of Shulman's earlier images the results are Shulman-bested.

Jason Meadows
at Country Club (upper Fairfax through 8/29).  This new gallery is parented by a Cincinnati based gallery.  It is being managed by Lizbeth Oliveria, formerly of Culver City.  The work is as I would expect given Oliveria's presence.  Jason Meadows is only one of several artists being exhibited.

Carl Berg Projects
at PDC (West Hollywood through 8/28).  Carl has reappeared in a BIG way in the Blue Whale (the Pacific Design Center).  He is now on two floors (#215 and #315) totaling 10,000 square feet.  Carl has wanted to do more curatorial style projects.  Wow -what a huge knock-out space he has for the next part of his career.  He grins ear-to-ear when he talks of his plans.  The owner of the Design Center has lots of vacant space and wisely wants  creative energy brought to focus in this place.  So this September look for this address, the PDC, to be a jumping hot spot for new approaches to visual culture. The largest problems are that the Center is open Monday through Friday (only 9 to 5) and that no long term leases are being offered. But there is a significant list of new arts tenants coming to the PDC and I hope they will creatively find a way to “juice” the LA scene with the possibilities inherent here.

Studio at MOCA-PDC (West Hollywood through 11/15).  I have not usually gone to MOCA at the PDC (usually design oriented).  But with the renewed action in the neighborhood – it is now on the circuit.  Ball-Nogues string installation is – intriguing - with a bit of hypnotic appeal.

12 Korean Artists at LACMA (mid Wilshire through 9/20). See this exhibition.  It is well conceived and integrated. Particularly allow enough time to experience Kimsooja's video installation “ A Needle Woman”. 

So Cal Sculpture
at the Hammer (Westwood through October 4)  I love going to the Hammer.  I don't always love their shows.  The Hammer Collection was given 50 sculptures by 29 LA artists donated from the Valentine-Adelson Collection.  The artwork has all been produced since 1995.  I sure would have spent my money otherwise.  This collection certainly reflects the fashion of the heady times in which it was assembled.  One has only to look at the sculptors at ACE to see that better work is easily accessible in LA.
In another show, the photographic art by Larry Johnson was surprisingly interesting to me.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay 08/11/2009 

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