Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Doug Simay's Best Picks
The new art season is launched in LA. Every gallery has their newest show up and is putting their best foot forward. I look forward to each new season - optimistically hoping that a good inauguration bodes a good coming year. Being between other journeys - my bounce up to LA was too fast for even me and temporally much shorter than usual. I covered most all except did not take in Downtown or Culver City or the “new“ PDC (which opens in another week). The quality of the work and of the exhibitions is globally high and the mood is cautiously optimistic. It is a fine and auspicious start to the 2009-2010 art season.
Kathleen Buckley at Lawrence Asher (mid Wilshire through Oct. 10). Buckley is more of a figurative painter than an abstract painter. The paintings in this exhibition seem bound up in the freeways and constant construction that is a permanent in the urban visual sphere. She has some car crash paintings (reminiscent of Carlos Almaraz) and freeway on ramp/off ramp through construction zones paintings (reminiscent of Tom Jenkins). Pleasing work.
Also in exhibition are paintings by Todd Carpenter last seen in San Diego at 4 Walls.
Ruth Pastine at Edward Cella (mid Wilshire through Oct. 31). Ruth has worked in the same manner for years. Her paintings are opaque, subtle gradations of color that abstractly echo a melding of Mark Rothko with Josef Albers. In this exhibition there is a more pronounced sense of top-and-bottom; left-and-right in her work. She is sustaining a strong critical response and attention on both coasts.
Kati Heck at Marc Selwyn (mid Wilshire through Oct. 24). Kati Heck was born in Dusseldorf and now lives and works in Antwerp. I am a big fan of Belgian painters and Heck’s paintings contribute to this bias. There are wacky aspects of the work that play like the meta-realities of William Wiley while layering and compositing images like David Salle.
Matthew Ronay at Marc Foxx (mid Wilshire through Oct. 17). I always go to Marc Foxx’s exhibitions - let me count the decades. The number of times I appreciate and enjoy his exhibitions can be counted on less that one hand. This sculpture show I appreciate. A New York-based artist (MFA Yale), Ronay’s work is primitive and tribal-like with a metaphysical symbolism that seems fresh and non-contrived.
Kristin Leachman at Peter Mendenhall (mid Wilshire through Oct. 24) Leachman’s exhibition in the intimate Mendenhall Gallery is perfectly proportioned. Excellent paintings - excellently presented. In this body of work the “woven” color strokes of her former abstract paintings are still actively in play but now the paintings are about real architectural space in which her abstraction emotionally edit’s the mood.
Kevin Appel at ACME (mid Wilshire through Oct. 10). I am always impressed with Appel’s work. The gouache and collaged paper pieces that compose this exhibition are confident and fresh. The show left me thinking about Juan Gris.
David LaChapelle at David Desanctis (West Hollywood through Oct. 31). LaChapelle constructs elaborate and precise sets that are then photographed in large format. His work is playful, profane, historically accurate (though warped), and artfully extravagant. There are only two works in this exhibition. This image of Michael Jackson was executed “post mortem” using an impersonator.
Doug Aitkin at Regen Projects I & II (West Hollywood through Oct. 17). Aitkin’s light boxes are quite successful in causing intellectual dissonance in the viewer. Normally I find light boxes + photography to be a bit gimmicky. But Aitkin is highly successful in keeping the visual experience relevant and engaging. Not to be missed (and that means allowing at least 20 minutes of viewing time) is his film “migration” in which we watch up-close and in-detail different animals loose in nondescript motel rooms. “This hallucinatory epic depicts the movements of migratory animals as they pass through vacant and deserted motel rooms…a nomadic passage…”
Roger Herman at Jancar (Chinatown through Oct. 10). Jancar now occupies the gallery space that Roger Herman first developed long ago and from which the current Chinatown art scene evolution started. So it seems very fitting to see a selection of Herman paintings from the 1980’s being displayed here. I love the expressionist, broad-brush enthusiasm that make Herman’s work seem like “action painting”.
Analia Saban at Thomas Solomon @ Cottage Home (Chinatown through Oct. 10). Saban’s work is best understood as mono-printing using acrylic screen-printing inks. She paints each color as a layer that gets peeled off the production substrate and is then transferred and applied to stretched canvas. Think of gel layers that are collaged together. I think it is the medium that is the message here.
Francesca Gabbiani at Patrick Painter (Bergamot through Oct.24). I am a sucker for cut paper “art” (think of the exquisite Oriental cut-paper images of landscapes and koi). Years ago my introduction to the work of LA-based Gabbiani was quite architectural in motif. The work in this exhibition is more decorative and beautiful. I think she does very interesting work - though I admit it is the seduction of layered, cut, colored paper that captures my attention. But as I left the exhibition I found myself thinking of Robert Kushner and wishing that Gabbiani would just flat-out push the beauty aspect.
Tony Marsh at Frank Lloyd (Bergamot through Oct. 3). Tony Marsh is the head of the ceramics program at Cal State Long Beach. He spent three years of his early training in Japan. The sculpture in this exhibition is strong and straight forward. I left feeling as if I had seen real “art”.
Gegam Kacherian at Rosamund Felsen (Bergamot through Oct. 10). Kacherian’s paintings meander across the surface of the canvas as splashes and daubs of paint and line that irregularly, regularly crystallize into highly wrought images of the real world. The figuration juxtaposed with abstraction becomes surreal and “sometimes intensely pop.”
Eric Johnson at William Turner (Bergamot through Oct.17). I know Eric’s work very well having shown him in exhibition several times and owning many of his sculptures. It is really great to see him exhibiting so prominently in LA -- the “Finish Fetish,” automobile-centered heart of America.