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Rank #25 in Visual Arts category

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Visual Arts

Art Talk

Updated 6 days ago

Rank #25 in Visual Arts category

Arts
Visual Arts
Read more

Art reviews from art critics Edward Goldman and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.

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Art reviews from art critics Edward Goldman and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.

iTunes Ratings

38 Ratings
Average Ratings
27
3
2
6
0

KCRW Highlight

By Andrew's Head - Aug 07 2011
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Should be broadcast nationally

Can't live without

By Pashlund - Apr 03 2010
Read more
My art gossip fix!

iTunes Ratings

38 Ratings
Average Ratings
27
3
2
6
0

KCRW Highlight

By Andrew's Head - Aug 07 2011
Read more
Should be broadcast nationally

Can't live without

By Pashlund - Apr 03 2010
Read more
My art gossip fix!

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Cover image of Art Talk

Art Talk

Updated 6 days ago

Read more

Art reviews from art critics Edward Goldman and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.

Broken Back, Unbroken Spirit

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The best time to enjoy – and even marvel – at the gigantic sculpture by Mark di Suvero on Venice Beach is sunset. That’s when his 60-foot-tall steel work, titled Declaration, looks the most imposing. It’s been there since 2001, in honor of the nonprofit Venice Family Clinic. The artist, and LA Louver gallery, which represents him, has loaned this work for almost two decades to the city without a fee.Unfortunately, the city was unable to find donors to help it acquire the piece, and so in late 2019 the sculpture will be removed and sent back to di Suvero’s studio in Northern California.

Installation photography, Mark di Suvero: Painting and Sculpture. LA Louver. Image courtesy LA Louver.

But, the good news is that right now LA Louver has a mini-retrospective showing the diversity and strength of his work over the last two decades. The steel sculptures selected are all of small scale, but each of them has a big story to tell. And a big surprise, as well… Take a look at the video of one of these sculptures, and you will be awestruck watching this super-macho, aggressive metal form moving in a most elegant dance. It’s as if male and female counterparts, in perfect balance, perform for your pleasure.

 Installation photography, Mark di Suvero: Painting and Sculpture. LA Louver. Image courtesy LA Louver.

One appreciates the work even more with the understanding that di Suvero, now 85 years old, continues to work like nothing happened to him. Actually, most of his life, he had to deal with a dramatic back injury that left doctors doubtful he’d ever walk again. Be sure that you ask the gallery assistant permission to spin each of his sculptures, which will make you dizzy with delight, watching it dance.

 Installation shot, Frank Stella: Selections from the Permanent Collection. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

And, talking about a mini-retrospective… LACMA just opened an exhibition of 10 works by Frank Stella – all of them, from the museum’s permanent collection. Some of these works haven’t been on display in over 30 years.

 Installation shot, Frank Stella: Selections from the Permanent Collection. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The exhibition reveals the amazing range of Frank Stella’s work, from his groundbreaking “black” paintings from the late 50s to his most recent monumental wall sculptures exploding into our space, making you take a cautious step back. At 82 years old, Stella doesn’t stop for a second…

L: Ron Bottitta C: Diana Cignoni R: Paul Norwood, the cast of “Faith Healer” at Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. Photos courtesy OTE.

And now, my smart and adventurous listeners, I want to tell you about two theatre productions I saw over the weekend that I think you will find intriguing. At Odyssey Theatre, I saw the play by Irish playwright Brian Friel (1929-2015), “Faith Healer,” in which three characters, one after another, tell the same story from three different perspectives. Directed by Ron Sossi, all three actors – Ron Bottitta, Diana Cignoni, and Paul Norwood – deliver their monologues with such passion and eloquence, you never want them to stop.

L to R: Brian Wallace, Michael Trevino, and Lola Kelly, cast members of “Crime and Punishment” at the Edgemar Center for the Arts Mainstage. Photo courtesy Working Barn Productions.

And of course, I was not able to resist the temptation to see the adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s famous novel, “Crime and Punishment” at Edgemar Center for the Arts. The long novel about Raskolnikov killing an old lady, both of them neighbors in the shady streets of St. Petersburg, is compressed into a 90-minute production with three actors playing multiple roles. What made me particularly glued to the stage was the fact that I was born in the very neighborhood where Dostoyevky’s story takes place.

May 08 2019

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A Tale of Two Museums: MOCA and LACMA

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This is a tale of two museums, The Museum of Contemporary Art and the L.A. County Museum of Art.

I’ll admit it. I am a booster for L.A. art. When I moved here in 1979, I started writing about it because I realized that the quality and originality was very little understood or even recognized outside Southern California. Certainly not in New York or Europe. There was no Museum of Contemporary Art.

L.A.’s first free-standing art museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had opened in 1966. Being a general rather than a contemporary museum, it could not, at times would not, dedicate its programs solely to post-war art or art being made here.

As a result, a truly dedicated group of local art collectors came together to make MOCA a reality in 1979. What is now the Geffen opened with The First Show in 1983 and proved that those collectors who genuinely did not want to give their art to a New York museum had made stunningly generous donations.

They also hammered out the deal to erect the MOCA building on Grand Avenue in 1986.

Guests at Chris Burden’s Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, 1986/2019, site-specific excavation. Courtesy of the Chris Burden Estate.

Four tumultuous decades later, that history is being celebrated with MOCA's sixth director, Klaus Biesenbach. On the job seven months, he was able to announce a $10 million dollar gift by MOCA president Carolyn Powers to help fund free admission.

A benefit dinner last Saturday was underwritten by Marina Kellen French so that some 300 artists and others could attend gratis. The exhibition titled The Foundation of the Museum: MOCA's Collection is a snapshot of the staggering commitment of past directors and curators to building one of best contemporary collections in the country.

So Biesenbach is off to a running start. The night of the benefit, he spoke to the crowd about being of service, about art as a force within society, about being a family.

Given the spin cycle of directors, curators and board members at MOCA in the last decade, he has a lot of ruffled feathers to smooth. He seems remarkably willing to perform that uneviable task. A collective sigh of relief seemed to permeate the evening, which was attended by past directors and curators in a gesture of reconciliation.

Daytime view of north stairs facing east, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

All of which brings me to LACMA and its director Michael Govan, who has completely transformed a moribund museum into one of the most popular places in the city. Under his direction, the museum installed the one of the most selfied works of public art, the grove of vintage lights by one of the city’s most revered artists, the late Chris Burden. At this point, I could go on and on about their excellent recent exhibitions with an unprecedented focus on contemporary art, including Robert Rauschenberg’s previously unseen opus 1/4 Mile, closing June 9.

Michael Govan. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Prior to Govan’s 2006 hire, Renzo Piano, an esteemed architect of museums, was on board to complete what is now the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art and the Resnick Pavilion. Even at that time, it was clear that it was not going to be cost effective or aesthetically desireable to renovate the 1966 LACMA buildings, a William Pereira design that had proved problematic and unwieldy. Curators, historians and artists have have been complaining about it since the day it opened. The 1986 attempt to disguise it with a giant facade and courtyard by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer didn’t help.

Interior view of a central gallery, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Govan could have let Piano continue building, which also entailed tearing down the old museum. He chose the more difficult path.

From the outset, he wanted the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and that decision has been controversial ever since. He set the bar higher with a fundraising goal of more than $600 million.

Now that he is nearing that goal and new models of Zumthor’s design are on view, there is a belated bellow of complaint about its curvilinear design, the amount of glass, the bridge over Wilshire, the concrete exhibition walls. Suddenly, people love the existing LACMA that they have been bad-mouthing since the day it opened.

Every daring museum design has faced similar fights. Without single-minded, stubborn directors, there wouldn’t be Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao (or even the Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim in New York). This is not to say that there can’t be questions about the design or that there can’t be improvements.

But at this point, given a stellar track record as a museum director on so many levels, Govan should be allowed to finish the job he was hired to do.

Interior gallery, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Same for Biesenbach at MOCA. Give the guy a chance.

Sometimes a museum needs a leader with singular focus, like Govan. Sometimes, it needs someone who can unify and motivate demoralized staff and supporters. One hopes that will be Biesenbach.

In this time of nationwide fury and schisms and internet-fueled psycho babble, I’d like to see a return to sort of civic minded perspective and loyalty to L.A. that enabled these museums to be built in the first place.

May 24 2019

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Disappearing—California c. 1970

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We tend to think of artists as people with sorts of egos that make them want to stay in the spotlight, to get attention. An exhibition of three important L.A. artists focuses, instead, on their various of methods of making themselves disappear. Aptly titled, Disappearing—California c. 1970 at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, this show is the first to look in detail at the conceptually-based art of Chris Burden, Jack Goldstein and Bas Jan Ader.

All of the artists are considered major figures in the art of their time and though they all lived in L.A. when it was a hot-house of great talents, they weren’t particularly close friends. In a way, that makes their sui generis obsessions more fascinating and undeniably connected to who they were as people.

Most of the art is based in an action, as opposed to performance, though all of them made certain that it was photographed, filmed or video-taped. In short, they knew they were making art and expected it to have a life beyond the action itself. This was part of a larger movement of performance-based art in the 1970s and what was called the “de-materialization of art,” a way to move away from the production line of saleable paintings and sculptures. Made in the shadow of the Summer of Love, in the waning years of the Vietnam War, the show has something of a somber tone.

Chris Burden. White Light/White Heat, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, February 8-March 1, 1975, 1975.

The best known of the three is the American artist Chris Burden, who had spent much time on the East Coast and in Europe before attending Pomona College and then U.C. Irvine, both of which were crucibles of permissivity for new art. His now notorious graduate piece was hiding in a school locker for five days and nights with nothing but water and bottle for his urine.

People could talk to him while he was in the locker but he could not be seen or heard. He had hidden himself away at the very time that most art students were preparing to make themselves known.

That daring piece ultimately contributed to making him one of the best known artists and the exhibition includes photographs of later manifestations of his extreme art. This includes the time that his art White Heat, White Light, (1975) consisted of the apparently empty Ronald Feldman gallery in New York where he lay on a white shelf near the ceiling where no one could see or hear him for weeks. His presence, felt by them or not, was the show.

Jack Goldstein, The Jump, 1978 (film still). 16 mm film, color, silent projection, and two black light tubes; 26 seconds. Estate of Jack Goldstein. © The Estate of Jack Goldstein

Canadian Jack Goldstein was a charismatic figure in the early years of Cal Arts gaining attention for his 1972 Burial Piece, where he had himself interred in a coffin with breathing holes while teachers and students observed. Other art had a more marked connection to popular culture, especially his short movies. One gallery features a number of projectors running his simple black and white films notably one in which the artist runs around his darkened studio attempting to evade a big spot light, disappearing from unwanted attention.

Bas Jan Ader, Please Don’t Leave Me, 1969

Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader was either the most reckless or the most committed to his art. His is the first work in the show, a 1969 wall text that says “Please Don’t Leave Me,” with a string of electric lights tumbling over it. Black and white films of his stunts can seem both slapstick and dangerous, like rolling off the roof of his house or riding his bicycle along a Dutch canal and tumbling into the water. In some ways, his work is the most moving since it includes evidence of what he called “The search for the miraculous.” Photographs document him with his wife, Mary Sue Anderson Ader, preparing for his solo 1975 voyage across the Atlantic from Chatham, Massachusetts to England in a used sailboat. His body was never recovered and the boat was discovered a year later off the coast of Ireland. He just…disappeared.

Bas Jan Ader, Fall 1, Los Angeles, 1970. Black-and-white 16 mm film, silent; 24 seconds. Edition of 3. © The Estate of Bas Jan Ader / Mary Sue Ader Andersen, 2019 / The Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Meliksetian | Briggs, Los Angeles

Was Ader naive? Did he have a death wish? He was the most extreme but all of the artists were exploring the effects of extreme actions on themselves first and foremost. All the documentation and relics can make the actions seem like theater or magic. Burden has long claimed that his most extreme act, of having himself shot, was a misfire. He wanted to know the fear of being shot at, not the pain of being hit. Perhaps Ader wanted to know the feeling of being lost at sea, the feeling of praying for and receiving a miracle. But his project, too, went tragically off course.

Goldstein wound up being a super star in the New York art scene for his 1980s paintings of nocturnal cities illuminated by exploding bombs of white light. Yet, he died an impoverished addict in 2003. His saga was compellingly told in Richard Hertz’s book Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia.
Burden produced the most work including the always pleasing grove of vintage street lamps in front of LACMA. He died of cancer at his home in Topanga just four years ago. This show connects his early extreme actions to his lifelong curiosity about the extreme effects of change in industrialization or military research, topics on which he had informed and off-beat opinions.

Organized by Philipp Kaiser, the exhibition captures a time when disappearance was an edgy new concept. It also serves as an elegy for three extraordinary artists who live on through their art. It is on view in Fort Worth through August 11

If you can’t make it to Texas, a show of work by Ader, Water’s Edge, is at Meliksetian Briggs gallery in the mid- Wilshire area through July 27

Jul 12 2019

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LACMA Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art is A Winner

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Any good exhibition of contemporary art that presents cultural developments abroad is a welcome and important way to better understand our allies and adversaries. The ambitious traveling exhibition that opened last month at LACMA, Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, is an excellent example of artistic and cultural collaboration at a time of an ongoing trade war between the US and China.

Song Dong. Water Records, 2010. Four-channel video projection; various durations. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

An article from ARTnews quotes Pace Gallery’s founder Arne Glimcher as saying, “It’s impossible to do business in mainland China right now… the last straw is Trump’s duty on Chinese art coming into this country and Xi Jinping’s duty on American art coming into China.”

Chen Zhen. Crystal Landscape of Inner Body, 2000. Crystal, metal, and glass. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

As a result, when I went to see this exhibition, I was surprised and challenged by the diversity of artworks and their dramatic presentation. The exhibition covers the last 40 years of Chinese contemporary art and focuses on a group of the most influential Chinese artists today – among them, Ai Weiwei and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Lin Tianmiao. Day-Dreamer­, 2000. White cotton threads, white fabric, and digital photograph. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The artists in the exhibition use rather wide range of materials in their practices – from wood to plastic, water, hair, tobacco, and Coca-Cola. A monumental bowl-shaped wood sculpture by Ai Weiwei, Divine Proportion, references both Leonardo Da Vinci’s illustrations and, believe it or not, cat toys. In a gallery with a four-channel video by Song Dong, we see the artist using a brush dipped in water to make marks on stone which slowly evaporate. In the same gallery, we are invited to dip our fingers into liquid and make our own marks onto a metal column and watch them disappear.

Ma Qiusha. Wonderland: Black Square, 2016. Cement, nylon stockings, plywood, iron, and resin. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

A large mixed-media diptych by Ma Qiusha is titled Wonderland: Black Square, and a wonder it is. The first impression when you put your nose to the surface is that it’s composed of shimmering brushstrokes from silver to deep black. But, once you read the label for the artwork, you understand that the main material is dark nylon stockings stretched over cement shards.

Liu Jianhua. Black Flame, 2016-17. Porcelain. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

I spent most of my time in a gallery with 8000 black porcelain sculptures on the floor. The artist Liu Jianhua calls this installation Black Flame, and if you take a look at the photo on our website, you can see how this black flame spreads over the floor. Somehow, I interpreted it not as danger, but as imagination expanding without any limitations. On a gray wall in the same gallery hang three rectangular objects appearing to be white paper. But, come close and you will be astonished to realize they are actually thin white porcelain wall sculptures.

gu wenda. united nations: american code, 1995-2019. Human hair. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Entering a house built by gu wenda, I found myself surrounded by different cultures. The title of this immense installation is united nations: american code, and it’s made from human hair, collected from all over the world. This artwork emanates a sense of harmony among different cultures, and reminds us that the US is a “nation of immigrants and mixed ethnic identities” (LACMA).

Jul 09 2019

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Terry Allen at L.A. Louver

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If you had come from Lubbock, Texas to Los Angeles in 1962, as did artist Terry Allen, you’d come to believe that anything was possible. You could be an artist, or a songwriter or a musician. Allen became all of the above.

You can see it all in a survey of his art at a galllery in Venice. The Exact Moment it Happens in the West: Stories, Pictures and Songs from the 1960s to Now.

Most of the drawings on view have not been shown before and they clarify the purpose of his serpentine art with its various detours and road blocks.

Allen, now 76, calls Lubbock a place “so flat that if you look in any direction really hard on a clear day you can see the back of your own head.” Son of a major league baseball player and a piano player, he married his high school sweetheart Jo Harvey and drove west. Like so many of the major artists to emerge in L.A. in the 1960s, he studied at Chouinard Art Institute, now Cal Arts. From the outset, his art had an animated, even goofy aspect that belied its biting content.

He was encouraged by slightly older artists like Ed Ruscha and Billy Al Bengston who had similar Western backgrounds and who had attended Chouinard, as well. Allen was already writing songs and he performed his own country-style Redbird on a 1965 episode of the TV show Shindig. His solution was to consider his songs and his visual art parallel but equally considered pursuits.

The Cowboy's Dreams of Home Turn to Chili-Up-The-Desert, 1969. mixed media on paper. 38 1/4 x 31 1/4 x 1 3/8 in. (97.2 x 79.4 x 3.5 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

For his 1968 series Cowboy and the Stranger, he attached a packaged reel to reel recording of a song to the back of each framed drawing. He called them “paper listening movies.”

Distorted and comical illustrations of scenes from the West tend towards the erotic and psychedelic, styles at large in the popular culture of that time. His music is country western but twisted to its own ends. In this show, posted next to each section of drawings, is a pair of headphones so you can listen to a song pertinent to that body of work.

By then, his wife Jo Harvey Allen was a part of the dynamic, performing works with him or on her own. They had their own radio show on KPPC, a broadcast that took place in the basement of the Pasadena Presbiterian Church, where she was the first female country and western dj.

Most of Allen’s art has a narrative underpinning: tales of love, loss, violence and just plain weirdness. For example, an installation of a video monitor shows Jo Harvey’s first performance as part of a wrestling match inspired by Terry’s father who promoted small time wrestling gigs, along with running a nightclub where he booked rock acts traveling through Lubbock. (When I ran into Terry at the gallery yesterday, he told me that his father was such good friends with the flamboyant wrestler Gorgeous George that every Thanksiving, the famous blond would send him a turkey stuffed with a packet of gold- plated bobby pins from his ranch north of San Bernadino.) The point is that Allen’s appreciation for the off beat is genuine. It is not a speculation about some lost part of American culture. It is the culture he got to live.

Allen’s 1975 concept record Juarez is a complex narrative about two couples and a border town told in songs and in drawings.

Stat Eline (Juarez), 1971. mixed media on paper and plexiglass. 30 1/4 x 40 1/2 in. (76.8 x 102.9 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Juarez is a piece very much of our times but Allen’s politics are always rooted in the personal.

Missing Footsteps , 1988. mixed media. 22 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (57.2 x 59.7 x 14 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

The Vietnam War affected so many of his family and friends that he spent a decade on the project Youth in Asia, which not only sounds like the word euthansia but encompasses the death toll on Allen’s generation. He wrote his texts in type fonts on sheets of lead, a material but malleable and deadly. Some of the drawings have objects and talismans attached to them, smaller versions of the installations that he was evolving.

Theater had been an influence since Terry and Jo Harvey saw the experimental Living Theater perform Frankenstein in the 1960s. The writings of Antonin Artaud not only affected their thinking about theater’s potential, it inspired Allen’s major installation, Ghost Ship (2010), which is not in the Venice location but can be seen by appointment at L.A. Louver’s warehouse location on Jefferson Blvd.

Ancient ("Dugout" Stage 1) , 2000-01. mixed media assemblage. 97 x 96 x 78 1/4 in. (246.4 x 243.8 x 198.8 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Incomprehensibly, there has never been a museum retrospective devoted to the work of Terry Allen. While this show is not a substitute, it is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the alternative universe of his thinking and creating. 

Allen has had a long career recording and playing music with his Panhandle Mystery Band with his son Bukka Allen and they will be playing at Zebulon on July 18 and 19. Also, Terry and Jo Harvey Allen will be interviewed by Aram Moshayedi at the Hammer on August 7.

On another note, some galleries are starting to observe summer hours. L.A. Louver, a block from Venice Beach, is not open on Saturdays but otherwise, Tuesday to Friday. The show is continues through September 28

Jun 28 2019

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Roy Dowell at As-Is

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For 40 years, at least, artist Roy Dowell has been honing his appreciation for the broadest spectrum of visual art. He mines billboard and posters, folk art, fabrics, the shapes and textures of Arabic, African and Pre-Columbian cultures.

He’s become a modest collector and accumulated the historical knowledge of an amateur scholar. Predictably, fragments of these passions have migrated into his paintings, collages and sculptures over the years. This is wonderfully evident in the show Roy Dowell: New and Recent Paintings (and a sculpture) at As Is gallery in the West Adams district.

Using water-based vinyl paint on linen, in this show Dowell explores his usual range of motifs including quilts patterns or the decorative aspects of Colonial Spanish or Pennsylvania Dutch furniture. He combines them with geometric abstraction. And this is key.

Untitled #1121 2019 40" x 20" Vinyl on Line



Dowell integrates the language of mid-century modern art and design with his other heterogenous passions. Neither is a superior idiom. It is a lens for looking at multiple cultures, often simultaneously.

All the pictures in this show are untitled but a vertical panel from 2016 is covered in lines of miniscule connected circles. Over that background, Dowell painted diagonal narrow white lines over black, a fat white cross, a black diamond and then a translucent lemon square.

Untitled #1097 2016 36" x 24" Vinyl on Linen



At the bottom of this complex yet organized composition is a rectangle of solid black with a small green circle at the center and a red border. The top and bottom of the painting are conversing with one another.

In another painting, that black rectangle with the green circle in the center anchors an ochre sunburst shape surrounded by a disc of white atop a background of red geometric shapes.

Untitled #1123 2019 48" x 36" Vinyl on Linen



These aren’t huge paintings. The largest is four by six feet. But they contain countless references balanced in a way that reveal the depth and breadth of his sources without being pedantic or predictable.

Dowell, 68, originally from Northern California, got his graduate degree from Cal Arts in 1975, a time when ideas about painting were being dissected and reconsidered. That foundation has affected his art from the outset.

He combined collage with his paintings for many years. The recent works have a similar feeling of being constructed of disparate parts, appearing familiar but foreign in their new contexts. We are drawn in by that friendly feeling and then asked to enjoy a complicated discourse.

Recently retired from his position as founding chair of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Otis College of Art and Design — where he has influenced and aided countless students — there is in this show an efflorescene of the sort of deep creativity that it can be challenging to access when juggling the duties of college administration. As homage, Otis will host a solo show of his work in June.

Untitled #1103 2017 36" x 24" Vinyl on Linen



The As-Is gallery is modest in size and location. It is the latest venture from Tom Jimmerson who has long supported the idea that even the most talented artists may be overlooked with the passage of time. He is committing this location to exhibiting old and new work by such artists, which is a really good idea. There is plenty of support for the young and emerging. What about the teachers and mentors who helped them find their way?

Dowell is just such a person but that is not the reason to see the show. The reason is the paintings, which are reward enough. It continues through June 8.

May 10 2019

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Celebrating the Anniversaries of Bauhaus and Rembrandt

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One of the most influential art schools of the last century – Bauhaus – was founded 100 years ago in Weimar, Germany. The Getty Research Institute marks this 100 th anniversary with a new exhibition, Bauhaus Beginnings, which pulls from its archives prints, drawings, photographs, and other material. In spite of the devastation of WWI from 1914-1918, the following year, in 1919, a group of avant-garde European artists developed a bold vision of a school of design and a model of education that would bridge the fine and applied arts.

Installation shot: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The Getty’s exhibition emphasizes the contributions made by Bauhaus founder German artist Walter Gropius (1883-1969), Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895- 1946), Russian artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879- 1940), just to mention a few of the teachers. The overall design of the exhibition, with particularly elegant floating geometric display cabinets, has an echo of the Bauhaus aesthetic.

Installation shot: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute. Studies for Vassily Kandinsky’s Farbenlehre (Course on color), 1929-1930. Colored paper and gouache on paper. Erich Mrozek. Photo by Edward Goldman.

One quote from the exhibition by Kandinsky emphasizes the spiritual and emotional significance of art: “Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions.”

Installation shots: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute.  L: Selection from the portfolio Das Wielandslied der älteren Edda (The Wieland song of the elder Edda), 1923. Woodcut. Gerhard Marcks. R: Figure Study, 1929-1931. Watercolor, graphite, and ink on paper. Erich Mrozek. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Here, in Southern California, two major American art schools – CalArts and ArtCenter College of Design – are philosophical descendants of Bauhaus, uniting the practices of architecture and design alongside the fine arts.

L: Rembrandt Laughing, about 1628. Oil on copper, 8 ¾ in. x 6 ¾ in. (22.2 x 17.1 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2013.60. R: Self-Portrait (detail), about 1636–38. Oil on panel, 24 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (63.2 x 50.5 cm). The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, F.1969.18.P. Images courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

Another anniversary – 350 years since the death of Rembrandt – is honored by 5 Southern California museums with a virtual exhibition of 14 of his paintings held by The Getty, LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Hammer, and Timken Museum of Art. Just imagine the pleasure of paying homage to Rembrandt with a short trip from The Getty to Norton Simon to see his self-portraits when he was only 22 and then 30 years old.

The Abduction of Europa, 1632. Oil on panel, 25 7/16 x 31 in. (64.6 x 78.7 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 95.PB.7. Image courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

One of his earlier paintings held by The Getty, The Rape of Europa, shows the Greek god Zeus, in the form of a bull, abducting Europa, whose face has a striking resemblance to Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia.

L: Portrait of Marten Looten, 1632. Oil on panel, 36 1/2 x 30 in. (92.71 x 76.2 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of J. Paul Getty, 53.50.3. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. R: Saint Bartholomew, 1661. Oil on canvas, 34 1/8 x 29 3/4 in. (86.7 x 75.6 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 71.PA.15. Images courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

During his lifetime, Rembrandt experienced and enjoyed not only fame and fortune, but also having been ignored and forgotten. His early style, with careful brushstrokes and complimentary portrayal of well-to-do clients, reflected the taste of wealthy Dutch merchants. But, toward the end of his career, his art dramatically changed. The smooth surface of his early paintings transformed into wild, distinct brushwork. His cool palette became much more muddy and earthy. And, complimentary presentation gave way to a deeper, psychological exploration of character.

Rembrandt paid a dear price for these profound changes in his art. He was no longer considered a desirable artist for commissions, and so he sank into poverty, lost his house, moved into the poorest neighborhood in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave. 350 years later, he is celebrated as one of the greatest artists of all time.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if all five Southern California museums worked together to pay homage to Rembrandt not only through a virtual exhibition, but by exhibiting all 14 paintings in one real exhibition? Of course, the logistics of such an exhibition would be overwhelming. But, the magic of Rembrandt’s art is worth it…

Jun 18 2019

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These Dance Performances Were Music To My Eyes and Ears

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The last two weekends, I enjoyed four nights of amazing dance performances – two times on stage, at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and two times on the silver screen, at Laemmle’s Royal theatre.

Screenshot from The Royal Ballet - Mayerling | Three Performances at The Music Center. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=wbw4JFuIl1c

After 24 years, The Royal Ballet returned to Los Angeles to perform its signature work, Mayerling, created by famous choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in 1978. Set in 19 th century Vienna, it tells the story of royal dangerous liaisons with the death of an Austro- Hungarian Prince and his teenage mistress. Sumptuous set design. Gorgeous costumes. Amazing dancers. All this impressed me, but, to be completely honest, it didn’t emotionally engage me as much as I had hoped it would.

As a pure coincidence, two days later, I went to see another performance by The Royal Ballet, this time, Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev’s iconic score, with original choreography by MacMillan from 1965. It was filmed during a live performance at The Royal Opera House and presented by Laemmle theatre here in LA. This time, I was completely and fully engaged by the dancers who told the heartbreaking story by Shakespeare, fortified by Prokofiev’s music.

Another two days passed, and I found myself back at Laemmle Royal – this time, to watch a filmed performance of Swan Lake, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, in which all the swans are male dancers. Talk about a challenging and eyebrow-raising interpretation of a classical ballet… I give it a high-five.

Outlier from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. Company Wayne McGregor. The Music Center. Photo by Ravi Deepres. Courtesy The Music Center.

Last Saturday, I was back at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for another evening of dance performances – this time, a collaboration between The Royal Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of composer and conductor Thomas Adés, returned to Dorothy Chandler for the first time since the orchestra moved to Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

Outlier from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. Company Wayne McGregor. The Music Center. Photo by Andrew Lang. Courtesy The Music Center.

Watching the dancers perform impossibly difficult movements with unbelievable lightness, one could have thought that Gods and Muses gave them an extra vertebra. It was an extremely sensual and seductive presentation.

Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from Company Wayne McGregor. Top: Jacob O’ Connell and Chien-Shun Liao. Bottom: Rebecca Bassett-Graham and Izzac Carroll. Photos by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

The most intriguing part of the program that evening for me was Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment, which included a video installation by Ben Cullen Williams. Who knows? This artificial intelligence tool developed in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture Lab might have been an opening into the future of ballet theatre.

The Dante Project (Inferno) from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from The Royal Ballet. Edward Watson and artists of The Royal Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

The most anticipated program of the evening was the dance world premiere of The Dante Project Part 1 (Inferno), with set and costume design by famous British artist Tacita Dean. Dark, moody, and spectacular… that’s how it felt to me.

Dante Project (Inferno) from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from The Royal Ballet. Matthew Ball and Francesca Hayward. Photo by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

Here we are with Virgil and Dante, traveling through the netherworld – but, the music score of Inferno by Adés with the choreography of McGregor made me feel like I was in paradise. With all these dance performances over the last ten days, I was as visually informed, engaged, and challenged as I would expect to be visiting art galleries and museums. It was music to my eyes, and ears.

Jul 16 2019

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Getty Villa Welcomes Its Ancient Ancestors

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The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD is a well-known tragedy of the ancient world. Two nearby cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum, were destroyed, along with their populations. Everything was covered in layers upon layers of lava and ash. But somehow, this tragedy has a silver lining. Since the mid-18th century, archeological excavations of both cities have uncovered an unprecedented amount of artistic treasures – bronze and marble sculptures, well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, and the list goes on.

Installation shots: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Athena Promachos (First in Battle), Roman, first century BC–first century AD, marble. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 6007. R: Fresco with an Architectural Landscape, Roman, about 40 BC, plaster and pigment. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Photos by Edward Goldman.

The Getty Villa as it was envisioned in the early 1970s by J. Paul Getty is a copy of Villa dei Papiri, one of the best-known archeological discoveries in the outskirts of Herculaneum. Its name comes from the very fact that this villa had a unique library of more than 1000 papyrus scrolls, the only such surviving library from antiquity.

Installation shots: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Philosopher, Roman, first century BC – first century AD, bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. R: Poet (“Psuedo Seneca”), Roman, first century BC – first century AD, bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Some of these papyrus scrolls are on view in the exhibition, Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri, which just opened at the Getty Villa and will run until October 28. This unique exhibition is the result of years of collaboration with the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Installation shot: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Drunken Satyr, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, copper, tin, and bone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5628. Reproduced by agreement with the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism, National Archaeological Museum. R: Detail shot. Photos by Edward Goldman.

I trust that you, my friends, have been to the Getty Villa many times, admiring contemporary copies of Roman frescoes and bronze sculpture in its outdoor gardens. Now, in this exhibition of treasures from Villa dei Papiri, we have the rare privilege to look at and study two-thousand-year-old originals. The most famous of these treasures is a life-size statue of a Drunken Satyr, the mythical character from the legends of the wine god Bacchus. The contemporary copy of this sculpture has been in the pool of the Getty Villa since its opening in 1974. Now, for the first time, we have a chance to come very close and look at the happily drunken face of the original Satyr.

Installation shot: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. Runners, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5626-5627. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Like me, you probably passed many times by two bronze sculptures of naked Runners by the pool without looking at them closely. Now that I’ve had the chance to look at the originals, I realized these youths have personalities and character.

 Detail shot: Runners, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5626-5627.

Take a look at the images on our site – their faces, with remarkably well-preserved eyes made from stone and bone, makes one think of contemporary photography of Olympic runners.

Edward Goldman invites you to join him on a tour of the Getty Villa. Photo by Tom Mobley.

Guilty as charged – after seeing this exhibition, I had a glass of good red wine, another way to pay respect to these ancient guests visiting LA. Actually, The Getty Villa is hosting a whole series of related events, Bacchus Uncorked, inviting visitors to taste, drink, and think like an ancient Roman.

And, if all that hasn’t piqued your interest to see the exhibition, how about this? All these treasures from Napoli place us at only 1 degree of separation from Julius Caesar – yes, Julius Caesar – whose father-in-law was the supposed owner of the original Villa dei Papiri.

Jul 02 2019

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Agnes Pelton at the Phoenix Art Museum

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Georgia O’Keeffe may be the best known of the modern artists who also happened to be a women. Agnes Pelton, who had a similar education and traveled in the same circles, has remained on the periphery of art history. Thanks to mounting pressure and scholarship about artists who have been overlooked due to gender or race, Pelton is receiving new attention.

A spectacular exhibition, Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, is on view at the Phoenix Art Museum through September 8. It travels to the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Palm Springs Art Museum, where the first big reappraisal of her work was staged in 1995. In fact, Pelton lived in Cathedral City for most of her adult life.

During the research for my 2004 biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, Full Bloom, I came across Pelton’s art many times and was struck by the many parallels. Pelton lived from 1881- 1961. O’Keeffe from 1887 to 1986. Pelton was born in Germany of American parents but raised in Brooklyn after the age of seven. O’Keeffe was an outspoken Midwesterner.

Both studied in New York under the massively influential teacher Arthur Wesley Dow, who emphasized the seductive power of decorative motifs, especially as used in traditional Japanese art. He encouraged the curving lines of art nouveau and warm, even pastel colors in modern painting.

Pelton was considered enough of a rising star to be included in the historic 1913 Armory show at the invitation of Walt Kuhn.

Agnes Pelton,The Blest, 1941. Oil on canvas. Collection of Georgia and Michael de Havenon. Photo: Martin Seck.

O’Keeffe did not see that show but her own career was propelled by her love affair and then marriage to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the most zealous promoter of American modern art.

Pelton also made art out of her experiences in the south west, invited by patron Mabel Dodge Luhan to Taos in 1919. O’Keeffe didn’t make that pilgrimmage until 1929. By then, she was a superstar, with her flower paintings commanding huge sums.

Pelton, however, was on a spiritual quest. O’Keeffe remained more tethered to earthly concerns.

This exhibition focuses on Pelton’s abstract paintings that began to emerge in the 1920s, initially influenced by Kandinsky’s ideas about the synesthesia, the vibrational power of music and color.

In 1928, Pelton came to Pasadena to do deeper studies with the Theosophy Society. That is likely when she first visited Palm Springs. In 1932, she moved to Cathedral City where views of Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio inspired paintings of the desert landscape melded with her urge to find higher meaning through abstraction. Sand Storm (1932) layers the mists of the storms clouds that swept the desert with an emerging rainbow.

Agnes Pelton, Sand Storm, 1932. Oil on canvas. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville,Arkansas, 2012.504. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

She was pursuing deeper spiritual experiences through Agni Yoga, a branch of Theosophy. She developed friendships with the Transcendental Modernists of New Mexico, an informal coterie of artists led by Raymond Jonson who sought alternatives to the strictly formal view of mid-century abstract painting. Though she had not returned to New Mexico since 1919, her work was shown with theirs at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. Orbits (1934) shows the stars traveling paths of light at night above the horizon of Mount San Jacinto.

Agnes Pelton,Orbits, 1934. Oil on canvas. Collection of Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Concours d'Antiques, the Art Guild of the Oakland Museum of California.

Through the 1940s, she studied the writings of Krishnamurti and continued to integrate her spiritual beliefs with her painting but also pursued more realistic landscapes of the desert, which were easier to sell. Both were inspired by her long walks through the desert, then still largely undeveloped.

Pelton’s physical health failed in the 1950s and she died of liver cancer in 1961. The show includes her last painting Light Center (1960-61), which attempts to capture the transition from life to afterlife. After her death, her work was dispersed recklessly by distant heirs and her legacy all but lost until the work of art historians in the late 1980s. Her work was included in LACMA’s groundbreaking The Spiritual in Art exhibition of 1986.

Agnes Pelton, Light Center, 1947-1948. Oil on canvas. Collection of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Photo: Jairo Ramirez.

Pelton was dedicated to channeling presence, intuition and energy into visible form. This is a path leading directly into bad kitsch for many an artist but Pelton’s paintings always hover in the realm of ethereal radiance. You can scarcely help being pulled into their power, as though they operated as visual mantras.

Curator Gilbert Vicario has organized the show in Phoenix while two of the catalog essays were written by former directors of the Palm Springs Art Museum, Michael Zakian and Elizbeth Armstrong, where her reputation began to be restored. This is no exercise in compare and contrast between O’Keeffe and Pelton but an opportunity to expand our awareness of artists being welcomed into a more inclusive history.

Jun 07 2019

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Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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After 31 years of covering Art and Culture in Southern California, this is the last Art Talk that I am presenting on KCRW. It has been a privilege and an honor, my friends – and I mean that sincerely – to speak to you for three decades about the Arts in our City of Angels.

Installation shots, Alex Israel at the Huntington. 2016. The Huntington. Photos by Edward Goldman.

When I started my Art Talks, the LA art scene was so much smaller. Back then, after finishing each program, I would scratch my head wondering, “How the hell am I going to find something equally interesting and important to talk about next week?” Today, years later, with an art scene so vibrant, prominent, and vastly bigger, my weekly concern is, “How the hell am I going to choose what to talk about next week, with so many amazing cultural events happening right now?”

Several years ago, I had a rather amusing conversation with a successful New York art dealer, who decided to close his gallery in Chelsea and move his business and family toLA. When I jokingly asked him, “Hey, have you lost your mind, leaving New York?” His response was, “Let me tell you, Edward – Today, Los Angeles has become a destination for art, just like New York was for Paris, after WWII.” I was awestruck by his succinct and profound response. Of course, after WWII, so much of the European Avant-Garde started to move across the Atlantic to New York. In the last decade, we’ve seen a similar magnetic affect attracting famous artists and art businesses West, turning LA into a major global art destination.

Exterior of The Broad museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.

In the last few years, Los Angeles added to its cultural luster two ambitious private art museums: The Broad and The Marciano Art Foundation. And another major institution, the $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, is scheduled to open next year in Exposition Park.

Installation shots: James hd Brown: Life and Work in Mexico. 2017. USC Fisher Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Let’s not forget that some of our Los Angeles cultural institutions have a long history. The Huntington Library and LA Philharmonic are celebrating their 100th year anniversaries, and the USC Fisher Museum of Art is marking its 80th anniversary. Being an art critic for KCRW gave me the pleasure and privilege to meet and interview world renowned figures of American culture, including Phillipe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Art Museum, who stunned me by reciting some Russian poetry – and doing it in Russian – the language he had studied in college.

  Screen shot from Philippe de Montebello: Tempus fugit, ars brevis on Youtube

And God knows how I survived interviewing Richard Avedon. I told him how much I admired his work and described one photograph of his that I particularly loved. He paused, and then said, “Edward, you’re giving me a compliment that I don’t deserve. I wish it was my photograph, but actually it’s by Irving Penn.” Ouch. When I heard that, I wanted to die. But Richard, in spite of my faux pas, continued to be gracious and charming throughout the rest of the interview.

 Installation shot: Avedon: Women at Gagosian Beverly Hills. Photo by Edward Goldman.

My friends, I’ve been talking to you about the Los Angeles art scene for 31 years. There are so many wonderful memories, and more to come…

In this final program, I want to tell you how grateful I am to you for listening to my Russian-English all these years. I’d love to keep hearing from you. You can keep in touch with me through my email: edward@edwardgoldman.com and follow me on social media, to stay up to date with all the latest art happenings in LA.

So, let me end with a famous Latin saying, “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis,” which reminds us that life is short, but art is forever…

Installation shot: Yayoi Kusama. With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray, 2011. Marciano Art Foundation. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Aug 06 2019

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The Provocative and Explicit Art of Sarah Lucas

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OK, my friends. The subject of today’s Art Talk is the provocative and explicit art of British artist Sarah Lucas, currently on display at Hammer Museum. The tongue-in- cheek title of the exhibition, Au Naturel, is a French phrase meaning “in the nude.” And nudity – plenty of nudity – fills the many museum galleries in the form of sculptures, photographs, videos, and installations.

 L & R: Installation shots: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Born in 1962, Sarah Lucas received recognition as a member of the Young British Artists (YBA), a group of artists who gained notoriety in the 1980s for breaking norms of propriety. Now, three decades later, Sarah Lucas has distinguished herself as one of the most influential British artists. In numerous photographic portraits of the artist, we see her exuding self-confidence and plenty of attitude. Yes, she is a badass. The cigarette sticking out her mouth in one photo echoes other cigarettes sticking out of orifices in plaster sculptures of a woman’s body from the waist down.

 Installation shot: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman

I know her work is a little bit shocking, but the artist presents these plaster female naked bodies with a touch of absurdity, humor, and critique: leaning over tables or sitting on top of desks with legs spread. It’s up to us to make sense of what’s going on. Behind one of her naked plaster sculptures is the remnants of a performance during which women threw 1000 eggs against a wall, alluding to women’s rights to control their own bodies.

 Installation shot: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.

For thousands of years, the female body and sexual desire were the object of the male gaze in art – but, Sarah Lucas presents the female body with a sense of parody and drama. Don’t feel guilty if you giggle a little bit, looking at her “Bunny” sculptures made from stuffed nylon stockings. These life-size anthropomorphic forms are congregated around and on top of a billiard table, a site usually a gathering place for men.

Installation shot: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Center: Eros, 2013. Cast concrete, crushed car. Right: Hoolian, 2013. Cast bronze. Photo by Edward Goldman.

And now, with reluctance, let me try to describe the most provocative presentation of male sexuality and aggression in the show, a sculpture titled Eros. A gigantic white concrete sculpture of a phallus sits atop a crushed car, and the phallus is aimed at a wall- sized photograph of a woman with a raw whole chicken on top of her underwear, suggesting a vaginal opening. The only other female artist I can think of who so fearlessly dealt with such subject matter was Louise Bourgeois. These ladies and their art have balls…

 Installation shot: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Foreground: Eros, 2013. Cast concrete, crushed car. Background: Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy, 2003. Fiberglass, cigarettes. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Sorry, my friends, but there is no way for me to talk about the life-size sculpture of a crucified Jesus covered with hundreds of cigarettes without again talking about the phallic Eros sculpture in front of it. Without exception, images of the crucifixion present Jesus with cloth modestly draped over his waist. But this installation that juxtaposes “cigarette Christ” and a massive phallus makes you think that church and religion are not perfect, but like us human beings, are full of imperfection.

Sarah Lucas. Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy, 2003. Fiberglass, cigarettes. Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Hammer Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.

This must-see exhibition runs through September 1 – and, make sure you go to see it without your in-laws or children by your side.

Jul 30 2019

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Art and Empire in San Diego

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Walking into Art & Empire: The Golden Age of Spain at the San Diego Museum of Art, a map on the wall reveals the geography behind the world’s most far -reaching empire from the 17th to 18th centuries. Red arrows describe the extensive trade routes from the Iberian Peninsula to New Spain, from much of what is now Southern California to the tip of South America, as well as the Caribbean, Philippines and parts of Italy and Belgium.

The enormous wealth that resulted enabled unprecedented patronage by the church and monarchy, bringing masterpieces of Italian and Flemish art to Spain in the 1500s evident in paintings here by Peter Paul Rubens. This impacted artists of the Iberian peninsula and the show includes paintings by Velázquez, Zurbarán and El Greco.

Juan Sánchez Cotán (Spain, 1560–1627)Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber, ca. 1602. Oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 33 1/4 in. (69 x 84.5 cm) The San Diego Museum of Art, Gift of Anne R. and Amy Putnam, 1945

The point, however, is that the influences spread widely with Spanish artists emigrating to the colonies to live, teach and produce art for the emerging wealthy classes. Those artists as well as craftsmen and jewelers were in turn influenced by their time spent in the existing cultures of these many regions along with with trade with China and the Ottoman Empire. Organized by the museum’s curator Dr. Michael Brown, with more than 100 works in this show, the entire idea of a national art is overturned in favor of a global perspective.

At the outset, there are surprises including delightful Portrait of a Spanish Prince (1573) by the Milanese Sofonisba Anguissola, the most famouse woman artist of her time who came to Spain as tutor of Isabel of Valois, wife of the king. If her name is not familiar, there are two adjacent portraits of King Philip IV, the great Spanish patron, by Diego Velázquez, one from 1623, at the outset of his reign, the other decades later, showing the effects of struggle and age.

Both artists were courtiers with diplomatic duties and portraits painted by them and others were used to establish legitimacy and legacy through the two dozen realms controlled by Spain.

This extended to the most elevated figures of the Catholic church.

Miguel Cabrera (Mexico, 1695–1768) Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 1750. Oil on canvas, 77 1/2 x 57 1/2 in. (196.8 x 146 cm) Museo Nacional de Historia, INAH, Mexico City, Mexico

One of the most remarkable is a portrait of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1750) by the Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera. She sits at a desk in a library symbolic of her status as one of the great intellects and poets in Spain. Cabrera also painted the 1759 Virgin of Guadalupe with Apparitions, the story of Mary’s appearance to the peasant Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoazin, an image that remains potent to this day. Cabrera melded the gilding and lapidary colors of High Renaissance art to this story of humility and grace.

Miguel Cabrera (Mexican, 1695-1768), Virgin of Guadalupe with Apparitions, 1759. Oil and tempera on canvas, 72 13/16 x 40 9/16 in. Pérez Simón Collection

Following the Council of Trent in 1563, the church established guidelines for carrying the message to the people regardless of education or position. Spain became the leading force in the Counter Reformation, the response to the Protestant Reformation. Saints and archangels and narratives of good and evil abound in painting and polychromed, gilded wood carvings.

Devotion emerges in much of the art and a chapel-like gallery has been built for a number of those paintings where the atmosphere is enhanced by a soft recording of Lux Eterna, sacred music written in 1997 by contemporary Morton Lauridsen.

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spain, 1598–1664)Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635–39. Oil on canvas, 59 7/8 x 39 in. (152 x 99 cm) National Gallery, London, Bought, 1853

Even still life painting is freighted with spiritual symbolism including the pellucid realism of Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, with a heartbreaking Agnes Dei (1635-1640), the lamb of God lying with feet bound, ready for slaughter, but endowed with a silvery halo above its curly head.

It’s hard to imagine a better location for this show, either. The San Diego Museum of Art was built for the 1915 Panama- California Exposition, which was one of the first to applaud Spanish culture, and the building has five of the artists built into its facade — Velázquez, Zurbarán, Murillo, Ribera and El Greco. But this is the first time they have all been included in an exhibition there. It is worth the trip. The show continues through Sep 2.

Jul 26 2019

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Two Exhibitions Mixing Art, Music, and Politics

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The photographic exhibition at the Getty Museum, Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story, will break your heart, make you think and hope, and even smile a little. In the early 1960s, Gordon Parks was already a well-known photographer. So, it was no surprise that he was chosen by LIFE magazine to go to Brazil to report about the extreme poverty in Rio de Janeiro. It was pure serendipity that Parks connected with a 12-year-old boy there, Flávio da Silva, and his family, living in the unimaginable poverty of a Brazilian favela.

Installation shots: Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story. Getty Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

This encounter dramatically changed the life of the boy and made a strong impact on Gordon Parks, as well. And, when the photographs of the malnourished boy suffering from asthma were published in LIFE magazine in 1961, it created an unprecedented sympathetic response from the American public.

Installation shot: Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story. Getty Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Readers sent the magazine more than $26,000 in donations for the da Silva family, which is the equivalent of about one-quarter of a million dollars today. Parks returned to Brazil and witnessed a big change in the life of the boy. The donations collected by LIFE provided a modest home for the da Silva family.

L: Installation shot: Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story. Getty Museum. R: Gordon Parks. Untitled (Flávio da Silva). Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 1976. Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story. Getty Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

More importantly, Parks was able to bring Flávio to the United States, to Denver, to treat his illnesses. Their relationship turned into a friendship that continued over the next four decades, until Parks’ death in 2006. This exhibition, installed to a particularly dramatic effect, tells this story, worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Henri Ballot. L: Child Crying at the Window. Manhattan, NY. 1961. R: Neighborhood of the Gonzalez Family. Manhattan, NY. 1961. Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story. Getty Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Brazilians were so shocked and upset by what they considered a one-sided, negative representation of Brazilian life that they staged a political and cultural coup, sending a Brazilian photographer to New York City to document the poverty and anguish in the US. These photos are highlighted in the Getty’s exhibition. Believe it or not, some Brazilians accused Gordon Parks of staging his photographs. In response to that accusation, American press claimed that Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro manipulated their images of New York’s poverty, as well. Hmm… It turns out the “fake news” debate is not a new phenomenon at all…

Installation shot: Terry Allen: The Exact Moment It Happens in the West. LA Louver. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The Terry Allen exhibition at LA Louver gallery is another example of multifaceted storytelling. I don’t know about you, but until I saw this exhibition, I only knew of Terry Allen as a musician. But, it turns out that he is also a well-known playwright and an exceptional visual artist. This exhibition covers his creative career from the 60s to present, and includes nearly 100 drawings, plus sculptures, video installations, and audio from his various albums.

Installation shot: Terry Allen: The Exact Moment It Happens in the West. LA Louver. Photo by Edward Goldman.

I was taken by the humor and edginess of his earlier, cartoon inspired drawings. But, looking at his recent works made 50 years later, I saw a level of sophistication and maturity that can only come from a life of learning. This exhibition made me wonder why Gods and Muses, on rare occasions, give so much talent to one person… be sure to see this exhibition more than once to learn about his art, his music, and his writing.

Jul 23 2019

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Summer Reading in the Art World

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We listen to recorded books and audio newspapers. We read on our laptops and phones. Reading words on paper would seem to belong to the antiquated 20th century.

That is not the position of dozens of small presses who publish novels, poetry and non-fiction, many of them right here on the West Coast. And this weekend they are gathered at the first Little Literary Festival being held at Hauser & Wirth, an art gallery downtown but also a publisher which is co-hosting with the L.A Review of Books.

It is an opportunity to meet authors such as Tosh Berman, who will be signing his delightful memoir, Tosh, growing up in Wallace Berman’s world on Saturday. It is one of the few memoirs to make me laugh out loud at some parts and gasp with shock at others.
Son of artist Wallace Berman, Tosh knew of an LA that we can only envy. Not just the poets, artists and musicians of the post- war era but with all the other characters who ran outside the confines of convention. (Tosh’s paternal grandfather ran a Staten Island candy store that seems to have served as a front for a speak-easy. Tosh remembers his maternal grandmother working as a butcher at Hollywood Ranch market after her earlier years with a traveling circus.)

As an attention getting adolescent, Wallace Berman dressed in zoot suits and hung around the jazz clubs of Central Avenue. He drove around L.A. in a convertible with his cat wrapped around his neck. He was an award winning swing dancer but also a hustler, making money by dealing pot or playing craps. After being expelled from Fairfax High, discharged from the Navy, and even tossed out of Chouinard Art Institute, he was 100 percent committed to the Beat ethos of jazz, art and personal freedom. Despite all that, he married artist’s model Shirley and had Tosh, who was raised in a home dizzyingly, at time distressingly free of restrictions.

Berman is known for the combination of words, symbols and photographs in hand-printed magazines called Semina and verifax collages made with an early version of a copier.

Championed by curator Walter Hopps, he had but one gallery show, at Ferus in 1957. It was shut down by the police for including an erotic drawing and Berman went to jail. The trauma led him to move to San Francisco and then Larkspur for a few years before returning to L.A.

Wallace Berman had an almost shaman-like impact on people. Private to the point of paranoia, he avoided interviews or having his own photograph taken, though he repeatedly photographed his wife and son. In 1976, he was killed in a car crash with a drunk driver in Topanga on his 50th birthday.

Despite a substantial resurgence of interest in his art — there is a small show now of his collages at Kohn Gallery, there has never been much sense of what he was like as a person. His son, of course, had the ultimate insider’s perspective and the result is this joyous book.

Refreshingly for a Me-Moir, Berman does not veer from the unpleasant moments but he neither does he wallow in them. He credits his mother Shirley, only 19 when she married to Wallace, who was 28, with holding a number of full-time, low-level jobs to support her husband, the “artistic genius.” This meant living in modest conditions, a tiny house off Beverly Glen, which Wallace’s mother had received as an additional gift for subscribing to a magazine! She finally deeded it to Shirley because Wallace refused to sign anything with his name on it.

When living on a houseboat in Larkspur, while Shirley commuted daily for work in San Francisco, Tosh was raised by Wallace. When Tosh had to repeat his first year in school, kindergarten, it was shrugged off by his father, who thought all aspects of school were a waste of time.

In Northern or Southern California, Tosh was an only child who grew up with his parents friends so he was treated as an adult.

His father took his very young son to see the film And God Created Woman starring Bridget Bardot, who he still adores, leading to one of Tosh’s great lines: “It seems childhood never leaves. It just continues with facial hair and erections.” He hung out with his father at City Lights before he could read and was given first editions of the Wizard of Oz by poet Robert Duncan and Jess. Surrounded by books, Tosh educated himself by reading and has long had his own publishing imprint, Tam Tam books.

So, not a conventional upbringing but he was featured as “Boy” in Andy Warhol’s first film Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort Of in 1964 at their house off Beverly Glen. Regulars who came from the world of film to hang with Wallace were Dennis Hopper, Toni Basil, Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn, whose poet/actor daughter Amber wrote the introduction to this book.

And then, there is the mudslide of 1965, which destroys their house and much of what is in it. But Stockwell buys them another in Topanga! Neil Young soon rules the Topanga scene and the Bermans are a big part of it.

All of this time, Tosh yearns for a world outside the small, hermetic and pot-infused realm of Topanga, a wish that comes true when the family go to London, staying in the flat of art dealer Robert Fraser, who happens to be in jail due to infamous Rolling Stones drug bust. It was Fraser who had included the faces of L.A. artists like Wallace and Larry Bell on the cover of the Beatles, Sergeant Peppers album. It is the verbal, stylish London that sparks Tosh’s enthusiasm and subsequent lifelong interest in style, rock music and words.

Yet, it is his off-beat, funny accounts of growing up Berman that makes the book such a pleasure. It is like a mosaic of fragments coming together to offer a view of a lost world.

Fittingly published by City Lights, Berman will be signing copies of his memoir this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Little Literary Festival, which is held July 20 and 21 from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. 

Jul 19 2019

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These Dance Performances Were Music To My Eyes and Ears

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The last two weekends, I enjoyed four nights of amazing dance performances – two times on stage, at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and two times on the silver screen, at Laemmle’s Royal theatre.

Screenshot from The Royal Ballet - Mayerling | Three Performances at The Music Center. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=wbw4JFuIl1c

After 24 years, The Royal Ballet returned to Los Angeles to perform its signature work, Mayerling, created by famous choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in 1978. Set in 19 th century Vienna, it tells the story of royal dangerous liaisons with the death of an Austro- Hungarian Prince and his teenage mistress. Sumptuous set design. Gorgeous costumes. Amazing dancers. All this impressed me, but, to be completely honest, it didn’t emotionally engage me as much as I had hoped it would.

As a pure coincidence, two days later, I went to see another performance by The Royal Ballet, this time, Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev’s iconic score, with original choreography by MacMillan from 1965. It was filmed during a live performance at The Royal Opera House and presented by Laemmle theatre here in LA. This time, I was completely and fully engaged by the dancers who told the heartbreaking story by Shakespeare, fortified by Prokofiev’s music.

Another two days passed, and I found myself back at Laemmle Royal – this time, to watch a filmed performance of Swan Lake, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, in which all the swans are male dancers. Talk about a challenging and eyebrow-raising interpretation of a classical ballet… I give it a high-five.

Outlier from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. Company Wayne McGregor. The Music Center. Photo by Ravi Deepres. Courtesy The Music Center.

Last Saturday, I was back at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for another evening of dance performances – this time, a collaboration between The Royal Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of composer and conductor Thomas Adés, returned to Dorothy Chandler for the first time since the orchestra moved to Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

Outlier from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. Company Wayne McGregor. The Music Center. Photo by Andrew Lang. Courtesy The Music Center.

Watching the dancers perform impossibly difficult movements with unbelievable lightness, one could have thought that Gods and Muses gave them an extra vertebra. It was an extremely sensual and seductive presentation.

Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from Company Wayne McGregor. Top: Jacob O’ Connell and Chien-Shun Liao. Bottom: Rebecca Bassett-Graham and Izzac Carroll. Photos by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

The most intriguing part of the program that evening for me was Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment, which included a video installation by Ben Cullen Williams. Who knows? This artificial intelligence tool developed in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture Lab might have been an opening into the future of ballet theatre.

The Dante Project (Inferno) from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from The Royal Ballet. Edward Watson and artists of The Royal Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

The most anticipated program of the evening was the dance world premiere of The Dante Project Part 1 (Inferno), with set and costume design by famous British artist Tacita Dean. Dark, moody, and spectacular… that’s how it felt to me.

Dante Project (Inferno) from Adés and McGregor: A Dance Collaboration. World Premiere featuring dancers from The Royal Ballet. Matthew Ball and Francesca Hayward. Photo by Cheryl Mann. Courtesy The Music Center.

Here we are with Virgil and Dante, traveling through the netherworld – but, the music score of Inferno by Adés with the choreography of McGregor made me feel like I was in paradise. With all these dance performances over the last ten days, I was as visually informed, engaged, and challenged as I would expect to be visiting art galleries and museums. It was music to my eyes, and ears.

Jul 16 2019

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Disappearing—California c. 1970

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We tend to think of artists as people with sorts of egos that make them want to stay in the spotlight, to get attention. An exhibition of three important L.A. artists focuses, instead, on their various of methods of making themselves disappear. Aptly titled, Disappearing—California c. 1970 at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, this show is the first to look in detail at the conceptually-based art of Chris Burden, Jack Goldstein and Bas Jan Ader.

All of the artists are considered major figures in the art of their time and though they all lived in L.A. when it was a hot-house of great talents, they weren’t particularly close friends. In a way, that makes their sui generis obsessions more fascinating and undeniably connected to who they were as people.

Most of the art is based in an action, as opposed to performance, though all of them made certain that it was photographed, filmed or video-taped. In short, they knew they were making art and expected it to have a life beyond the action itself. This was part of a larger movement of performance-based art in the 1970s and what was called the “de-materialization of art,” a way to move away from the production line of saleable paintings and sculptures. Made in the shadow of the Summer of Love, in the waning years of the Vietnam War, the show has something of a somber tone.

Chris Burden. White Light/White Heat, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, February 8-March 1, 1975, 1975.

The best known of the three is the American artist Chris Burden, who had spent much time on the East Coast and in Europe before attending Pomona College and then U.C. Irvine, both of which were crucibles of permissivity for new art. His now notorious graduate piece was hiding in a school locker for five days and nights with nothing but water and bottle for his urine.

People could talk to him while he was in the locker but he could not be seen or heard. He had hidden himself away at the very time that most art students were preparing to make themselves known.

That daring piece ultimately contributed to making him one of the best known artists and the exhibition includes photographs of later manifestations of his extreme art. This includes the time that his art White Heat, White Light, (1975) consisted of the apparently empty Ronald Feldman gallery in New York where he lay on a white shelf near the ceiling where no one could see or hear him for weeks. His presence, felt by them or not, was the show.

Jack Goldstein, The Jump, 1978 (film still). 16 mm film, color, silent projection, and two black light tubes; 26 seconds. Estate of Jack Goldstein. © The Estate of Jack Goldstein

Canadian Jack Goldstein was a charismatic figure in the early years of Cal Arts gaining attention for his 1972 Burial Piece, where he had himself interred in a coffin with breathing holes while teachers and students observed. Other art had a more marked connection to popular culture, especially his short movies. One gallery features a number of projectors running his simple black and white films notably one in which the artist runs around his darkened studio attempting to evade a big spot light, disappearing from unwanted attention.

Bas Jan Ader, Please Don’t Leave Me, 1969

Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader was either the most reckless or the most committed to his art. His is the first work in the show, a 1969 wall text that says “Please Don’t Leave Me,” with a string of electric lights tumbling over it. Black and white films of his stunts can seem both slapstick and dangerous, like rolling off the roof of his house or riding his bicycle along a Dutch canal and tumbling into the water. In some ways, his work is the most moving since it includes evidence of what he called “The search for the miraculous.” Photographs document him with his wife, Mary Sue Anderson Ader, preparing for his solo 1975 voyage across the Atlantic from Chatham, Massachusetts to England in a used sailboat. His body was never recovered and the boat was discovered a year later off the coast of Ireland. He just…disappeared.

Bas Jan Ader, Fall 1, Los Angeles, 1970. Black-and-white 16 mm film, silent; 24 seconds. Edition of 3. © The Estate of Bas Jan Ader / Mary Sue Ader Andersen, 2019 / The Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Meliksetian | Briggs, Los Angeles

Was Ader naive? Did he have a death wish? He was the most extreme but all of the artists were exploring the effects of extreme actions on themselves first and foremost. All the documentation and relics can make the actions seem like theater or magic. Burden has long claimed that his most extreme act, of having himself shot, was a misfire. He wanted to know the fear of being shot at, not the pain of being hit. Perhaps Ader wanted to know the feeling of being lost at sea, the feeling of praying for and receiving a miracle. But his project, too, went tragically off course.

Goldstein wound up being a super star in the New York art scene for his 1980s paintings of nocturnal cities illuminated by exploding bombs of white light. Yet, he died an impoverished addict in 2003. His saga was compellingly told in Richard Hertz’s book Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia.
Burden produced the most work including the always pleasing grove of vintage street lamps in front of LACMA. He died of cancer at his home in Topanga just four years ago. This show connects his early extreme actions to his lifelong curiosity about the extreme effects of change in industrialization or military research, topics on which he had informed and off-beat opinions.

Organized by Philipp Kaiser, the exhibition captures a time when disappearance was an edgy new concept. It also serves as an elegy for three extraordinary artists who live on through their art. It is on view in Fort Worth through August 11

If you can’t make it to Texas, a show of work by Ader, Water’s Edge, is at Meliksetian Briggs gallery in the mid- Wilshire area through July 27

Jul 12 2019

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LACMA Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art is A Winner

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Any good exhibition of contemporary art that presents cultural developments abroad is a welcome and important way to better understand our allies and adversaries. The ambitious traveling exhibition that opened last month at LACMA, Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, is an excellent example of artistic and cultural collaboration at a time of an ongoing trade war between the US and China.

Song Dong. Water Records, 2010. Four-channel video projection; various durations. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

An article from ARTnews quotes Pace Gallery’s founder Arne Glimcher as saying, “It’s impossible to do business in mainland China right now… the last straw is Trump’s duty on Chinese art coming into this country and Xi Jinping’s duty on American art coming into China.”

Chen Zhen. Crystal Landscape of Inner Body, 2000. Crystal, metal, and glass. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

As a result, when I went to see this exhibition, I was surprised and challenged by the diversity of artworks and their dramatic presentation. The exhibition covers the last 40 years of Chinese contemporary art and focuses on a group of the most influential Chinese artists today – among them, Ai Weiwei and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Lin Tianmiao. Day-Dreamer­, 2000. White cotton threads, white fabric, and digital photograph. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The artists in the exhibition use rather wide range of materials in their practices – from wood to plastic, water, hair, tobacco, and Coca-Cola. A monumental bowl-shaped wood sculpture by Ai Weiwei, Divine Proportion, references both Leonardo Da Vinci’s illustrations and, believe it or not, cat toys. In a gallery with a four-channel video by Song Dong, we see the artist using a brush dipped in water to make marks on stone which slowly evaporate. In the same gallery, we are invited to dip our fingers into liquid and make our own marks onto a metal column and watch them disappear.

Ma Qiusha. Wonderland: Black Square, 2016. Cement, nylon stockings, plywood, iron, and resin. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

A large mixed-media diptych by Ma Qiusha is titled Wonderland: Black Square, and a wonder it is. The first impression when you put your nose to the surface is that it’s composed of shimmering brushstrokes from silver to deep black. But, once you read the label for the artwork, you understand that the main material is dark nylon stockings stretched over cement shards.

Liu Jianhua. Black Flame, 2016-17. Porcelain. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

I spent most of my time in a gallery with 8000 black porcelain sculptures on the floor. The artist Liu Jianhua calls this installation Black Flame, and if you take a look at the photo on our website, you can see how this black flame spreads over the floor. Somehow, I interpreted it not as danger, but as imagination expanding without any limitations. On a gray wall in the same gallery hang three rectangular objects appearing to be white paper. But, come close and you will be astonished to realize they are actually thin white porcelain wall sculptures.

gu wenda. united nations: american code, 1995-2019. Human hair. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. LACMA. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Entering a house built by gu wenda, I found myself surrounded by different cultures. The title of this immense installation is united nations: american code, and it’s made from human hair, collected from all over the world. This artwork emanates a sense of harmony among different cultures, and reminds us that the US is a “nation of immigrants and mixed ethnic identities” (LACMA).

Jul 09 2019

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Getty Villa Welcomes Its Ancient Ancestors

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The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD is a well-known tragedy of the ancient world. Two nearby cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum, were destroyed, along with their populations. Everything was covered in layers upon layers of lava and ash. But somehow, this tragedy has a silver lining. Since the mid-18th century, archeological excavations of both cities have uncovered an unprecedented amount of artistic treasures – bronze and marble sculptures, well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, and the list goes on.

Installation shots: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Athena Promachos (First in Battle), Roman, first century BC–first century AD, marble. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 6007. R: Fresco with an Architectural Landscape, Roman, about 40 BC, plaster and pigment. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Photos by Edward Goldman.

The Getty Villa as it was envisioned in the early 1970s by J. Paul Getty is a copy of Villa dei Papiri, one of the best-known archeological discoveries in the outskirts of Herculaneum. Its name comes from the very fact that this villa had a unique library of more than 1000 papyrus scrolls, the only such surviving library from antiquity.

Installation shots: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Philosopher, Roman, first century BC – first century AD, bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. R: Poet (“Psuedo Seneca”), Roman, first century BC – first century AD, bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Some of these papyrus scrolls are on view in the exhibition, Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri, which just opened at the Getty Villa and will run until October 28. This unique exhibition is the result of years of collaboration with the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Installation shot: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. L: Drunken Satyr, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, copper, tin, and bone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5628. Reproduced by agreement with the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism, National Archaeological Museum. R: Detail shot. Photos by Edward Goldman.

I trust that you, my friends, have been to the Getty Villa many times, admiring contemporary copies of Roman frescoes and bronze sculpture in its outdoor gardens. Now, in this exhibition of treasures from Villa dei Papiri, we have the rare privilege to look at and study two-thousand-year-old originals. The most famous of these treasures is a life-size statue of a Drunken Satyr, the mythical character from the legends of the wine god Bacchus. The contemporary copy of this sculpture has been in the pool of the Getty Villa since its opening in 1974. Now, for the first time, we have a chance to come very close and look at the happily drunken face of the original Satyr.

Installation shot: Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri. Getty Villa. Runners, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5626-5627. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Like me, you probably passed many times by two bronze sculptures of naked Runners by the pool without looking at them closely. Now that I’ve had the chance to look at the originals, I realized these youths have personalities and character.

 Detail shot: Runners, Roman, first century BC–first century AD; bronze, bone, and stone. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 5626-5627.

Take a look at the images on our site – their faces, with remarkably well-preserved eyes made from stone and bone, makes one think of contemporary photography of Olympic runners.

Edward Goldman invites you to join him on a tour of the Getty Villa. Photo by Tom Mobley.

Guilty as charged – after seeing this exhibition, I had a glass of good red wine, another way to pay respect to these ancient guests visiting LA. Actually, The Getty Villa is hosting a whole series of related events, Bacchus Uncorked, inviting visitors to taste, drink, and think like an ancient Roman.

And, if all that hasn’t piqued your interest to see the exhibition, how about this? All these treasures from Napoli place us at only 1 degree of separation from Julius Caesar – yes, Julius Caesar – whose father-in-law was the supposed owner of the original Villa dei Papiri.

Jul 02 2019

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Terry Allen at L.A. Louver

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If you had come from Lubbock, Texas to Los Angeles in 1962, as did artist Terry Allen, you’d come to believe that anything was possible. You could be an artist, or a songwriter or a musician. Allen became all of the above.

You can see it all in a survey of his art at a galllery in Venice. The Exact Moment it Happens in the West: Stories, Pictures and Songs from the 1960s to Now.

Most of the drawings on view have not been shown before and they clarify the purpose of his serpentine art with its various detours and road blocks.

Allen, now 76, calls Lubbock a place “so flat that if you look in any direction really hard on a clear day you can see the back of your own head.” Son of a major league baseball player and a piano player, he married his high school sweetheart Jo Harvey and drove west. Like so many of the major artists to emerge in L.A. in the 1960s, he studied at Chouinard Art Institute, now Cal Arts. From the outset, his art had an animated, even goofy aspect that belied its biting content.

He was encouraged by slightly older artists like Ed Ruscha and Billy Al Bengston who had similar Western backgrounds and who had attended Chouinard, as well. Allen was already writing songs and he performed his own country-style Redbird on a 1965 episode of the TV show Shindig. His solution was to consider his songs and his visual art parallel but equally considered pursuits.

The Cowboy's Dreams of Home Turn to Chili-Up-The-Desert, 1969. mixed media on paper. 38 1/4 x 31 1/4 x 1 3/8 in. (97.2 x 79.4 x 3.5 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

For his 1968 series Cowboy and the Stranger, he attached a packaged reel to reel recording of a song to the back of each framed drawing. He called them “paper listening movies.”

Distorted and comical illustrations of scenes from the West tend towards the erotic and psychedelic, styles at large in the popular culture of that time. His music is country western but twisted to its own ends. In this show, posted next to each section of drawings, is a pair of headphones so you can listen to a song pertinent to that body of work.

By then, his wife Jo Harvey Allen was a part of the dynamic, performing works with him or on her own. They had their own radio show on KPPC, a broadcast that took place in the basement of the Pasadena Presbiterian Church, where she was the first female country and western dj.

Most of Allen’s art has a narrative underpinning: tales of love, loss, violence and just plain weirdness. For example, an installation of a video monitor shows Jo Harvey’s first performance as part of a wrestling match inspired by Terry’s father who promoted small time wrestling gigs, along with running a nightclub where he booked rock acts traveling through Lubbock. (When I ran into Terry at the gallery yesterday, he told me that his father was such good friends with the flamboyant wrestler Gorgeous George that every Thanksiving, the famous blond would send him a turkey stuffed with a packet of gold- plated bobby pins from his ranch north of San Bernadino.) The point is that Allen’s appreciation for the off beat is genuine. It is not a speculation about some lost part of American culture. It is the culture he got to live.

Allen’s 1975 concept record Juarez is a complex narrative about two couples and a border town told in songs and in drawings.

Stat Eline (Juarez), 1971. mixed media on paper and plexiglass. 30 1/4 x 40 1/2 in. (76.8 x 102.9 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Juarez is a piece very much of our times but Allen’s politics are always rooted in the personal.

Missing Footsteps , 1988. mixed media. 22 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (57.2 x 59.7 x 14 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

The Vietnam War affected so many of his family and friends that he spent a decade on the project Youth in Asia, which not only sounds like the word euthansia but encompasses the death toll on Allen’s generation. He wrote his texts in type fonts on sheets of lead, a material but malleable and deadly. Some of the drawings have objects and talismans attached to them, smaller versions of the installations that he was evolving.

Theater had been an influence since Terry and Jo Harvey saw the experimental Living Theater perform Frankenstein in the 1960s. The writings of Antonin Artaud not only affected their thinking about theater’s potential, it inspired Allen’s major installation, Ghost Ship (2010), which is not in the Venice location but can be seen by appointment at L.A. Louver’s warehouse location on Jefferson Blvd.

Ancient ("Dugout" Stage 1) , 2000-01. mixed media assemblage. 97 x 96 x 78 1/4 in. (246.4 x 243.8 x 198.8 cm). © Terry Allen. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Incomprehensibly, there has never been a museum retrospective devoted to the work of Terry Allen. While this show is not a substitute, it is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the alternative universe of his thinking and creating. 

Allen has had a long career recording and playing music with his Panhandle Mystery Band with his son Bukka Allen and they will be playing at Zebulon on July 18 and 19. Also, Terry and Jo Harvey Allen will be interviewed by Aram Moshayedi at the Hammer on August 7.

On another note, some galleries are starting to observe summer hours. L.A. Louver, a block from Venice Beach, is not open on Saturdays but otherwise, Tuesday to Friday. The show is continues through September 28

Jun 28 2019

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These People and Animals Compete For Our Attention

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It’s been almost 50 years since John Baldessari (b. 1931), one of the most famous American artists, printed a lithograph with a written statement, “I will not make any more boring art”. And, boy, has he kept that promise all these years… the current exhibition of his prints at Laguna Art Museum is perfect proof that Baldessari has always been able to grab our attention.

Installation shot: I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art: Prints by John Baldessari. Laguna Art Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.

His best-known works are based on photographs – some of them appropriated, some made by the artist himself. The faces of people in his prints are hidden by color blocks. We see these people engaged in activities and social interactions, but their personal identities and emotions are masked. Many of his compositions have a sense of humor, and a touch of criticism. This exhibition presents over 70 prints from the private collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, which holds an impression of almost every print Baldessari has made to date.

Installation shots: Sculptures by Gwynn Murrill. Laguna Art Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Another solo exhibition at Laguna Art Museum presents work by Los Angeles artist Gwynn Murrill (b. 1942), who is well-known for her sculptures of animals in bronze, wood, and marble. And while Baldessari hides the personality of his characters, Murrill gives each animal their own unique personality.

Installation shots: Sculptures by Gwynn Murrill. Laguna Art Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Every time I look at Gwynn Murrill’s animals, I am tempted to touch them, not only with my eyes, but my hands as well, to experience the sensuality of their smooth, polished surfaces.

Eric Fischl. The Exchange, 2018. Oil on linen. Image courtesy Sprüth Magers.

The exhibition by Eric Fischl (b. 1948) at Sprüth Magers gallery is his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles in 25 years. In the 1970s, Fischl studied at CalArts. And, one of his professors was John Baldessari. It was a time when focus within the school was on conceptual art. In spite of that, Fischl, without any formal training as a painter, started to experiment with abstract painting.

At the opening of the exhibition, Eric Fischl talked about how much he disliked his early abstract paintings, which he eventually stopped making. After I heard his talk, I checked out his website for these images, and I immediately realized why he stopped making these abstract paintings. While Baldessari, his teacher, promised not to make more boring art, Fischl, his student, decided to stop making bad paintings. It was a good decision.

Eric Fischl. On the Beach, 2019. Oil on linen. Image courtesy Sprüth Magers.

As a result, Fischl started to make figurative paintings, often using his own photographs to inspire their compositions. Fischl shows his characters engaged with each other, but not necessarily with us. Clearly, these people, some of them nude, are not aware they are being watched. Their personalities are not his focus. Instead, we observe them moving past blue oceans, pools, and skies in somewhat awkward, often unflattering positions. But, what makes these new paintings particularly appealing to me is his dramatic, open, and wild brushwork. And, even though Fischl abandoned abstract painting decades ago, it has reappeared in a much more sophisticated and subtle way in his new work. There aren’t too many artists who, in the 8th decade of their life, produce the best works of their career.

Jun 25 2019

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All about Dilexi Gallery, 1958-1969

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When talking about the L.A art scene in the 1960s, the name of the Ferus Gallery is foremost. Founded in 1957 by Walter Hopps with artist Ed Kienholz, it was a free-wheeling operation initially showing artists from the Bay Area alongside the L.A. set.

But Ferus was not the first gallery started by Hopps. That would have been Syndell, opened in 1954 in West L.A. with his friend Jim Newman. They had become friends a few years earlier while students at Stanford where they spent as much time organizing jazz concerts as studying.

After his first year, Hopps returned to his native L.A. to attend UCLA, Newman went on to Oberlin College. They remained friends. Neither expected to become a conventional art dealer but opened Syndell with the idea of supporting the artists they knew who were challenging ideas about making art in the 1950s, especially in abstract sculpture or assemblage. After his experience at Syndell, Newman and Beat poet Bob Alexander started Dilexi in San Francisco in 1955. At that time, the city was considered the apex of culture with a museum dedicated to modern art as well as a growing counter culture.

Though Hopps had left Ferus to become curator and director of the Pasadena Art Museum, many of the Ferus artists continued to show at Dilexi in San Francisco. Newman opened a short- lived L.A. venue down the street from Ferus in 1963 with the Rolf Nelson as director. Newman, who parted from Alexander after the first year, remained closer to artists who lived and worked in the Bay Area.

This summer, the fascinating but rarely studied history of Dilexi Gallery (1958-1969) is the focus of a group of shows in four galleries in L.A. and two in San Francisco.

Some of the artists are well-known, others deserve to be. Co- organized by Laura Whitcomb, an independent curator, a catalog is forthcoming.

The largest portion of the exhibition opens this Saturday, June 22, at The Landing, a large warehouse of a space on Jefferson Blvd.. Titled Disparate Ontologies, the exhibition includes a wide-ranging group of works by more than two dozen artists that conveys the taste for experimentation that Newman embraced.

The progressive nature of San Francisco, with artist-run exhibition spaces and progressive art schools, meant that there was a growing interest in dance, Happenings and film-related art. One of the big moments in this show is a rare 1958 expressive abstract painting by Robert Morris just as his choreographer wife, Simone Forti had interested him in dance and movement. Soon after, they moved to New York, where those interests evolved as key components of his Minimalist art of the ‘60s.

Robert Morris. Untitled, 1959. Oil on canvas. 71 x 71 in. 180.3 x 180.3 cm

The interest in abstract expressionist painting that dominated the Bay Area can be seen in powerful pieces by Hassel Smith and Frank Lobdell. It can also be seen in the early work of L.A.- based artists like Ed Moses and Craig Kauffman. All showed at Ferus so the show proves the regular migration of artists and the constant recycling of ideas between the two cities.

Joe Goode. Bo, 1962. Oil on canvas with painted milk bottle. 67 x 67 in. 170.2 x 170.2 cm. On loan from the collection of Dallas Price and Bob Van Breda

The Landing show also includes a major 1963 Milk Bottle painting by Joe Goode, who had his first solo show at the Dilexi in L.A. But Newman’s enduring legacy turned out to be his support of music, film and performance. After closing Dilexi in 1969, he funded 35 Happenings and produced films of work by Terry Riley, Sun Ra and Walter De Maria which were shown on KQED in San Francisco in the years before such work could be seen in any sort of public way. Many of these programs and some live performances will be held at The Landing over the course of the show, which continues to August 10

At Parker Gallery, which is located in a series of rooms on the ground floor of a large Tudor style h ouse in Los Feliz, the selection of 14 works is titled Seeking The Unknown. On a pedestal near the front door stands an exceptional tablet-shaped sculpture by the mystic artist Jess, which remains in Newman’s own collection.

Jess. Variations on Durer’s Melcancholia I, 1960. Collage on paper, Art Nouveau frame, mixed media. 38 x 24 x 20 inches. Collection Jim Newman and Jane Ivory

This work of collaged panels of black and white illustrations is set within a voluptuous bronze-colored frame. Peach-colored velvet on the reverse is set with silver sequins that state the title: Variations on Durer’s Melancholia (1960).

An icon of the Bay Area scene, Jess was known for his “paste- ups,” collages of carefully cut-out bits of illustrations and photographs. Along with his partner, poet Robert Duncan, he pursued research on arcane theories from the distant and recent past.

A fascination with arcane and ancient spiritual beliefs was embraced by poets, artists and musicians of the Bay Area. The very name of Dilexi was taken from the Latin, “to select, to value highly, to love.” The show at Parker includes a 1965 Verifax collage by Wallace Berman, whose inaugural show at Ferus was shut down as erotic by the LAPD, which prompted his move to Northern California.

Eccentricity was in large supply especially in the paintings of Roy De Forest, who had the most shows at Dilexi. One of his early constructions Napoleon on St. Helena (1961) is a collection of molded and painted organic shapes mounted on a rectangle of painted white wood. The show continues through August 10.

Another aspect of Dilexi is called Totems and Phenomenology at Parrasch Heijnin downtown, opening Saturday, June 22.

Tony DeLap, Modern Times, 1966, wood, fiberglass, and lacquer, 39 x 67-1/2 x 39 inches. Image courtesy of Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

With work by five artists, it highlights the interest in perception that activated the work of Tony DeLap and Charles Ross. These artists were interested in ideas about mindfulness and seeing and spiritual presence. The show continues to Aug. 10

Jay DeFeo. Untitled (Berkeley), 1953. tempera and acrylic with paper collage on rag board. 22 1/8 x 28 inches 29 7/8 x 35 7/8 x 2 inches, framed. "Berkeley '53" on verso in pencil in artist's hand

A key figure of LA and San Francisco art of the 1960s was Jay De Feo. A show of her work will open on July 13 at Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Meanwhile, Dilexi Gallery: The Early Years is at Brian Gross Fine Art in San Francisco through July 27.  Also in San Francisco, Crown Point Press is featuring Fred Martin’s 1967 publication Beulah Land. 

Taken together, these exhibitions complicate and fulfill a history that is still being written. All the galleries deserve credit for starting to fill in those large gaps in the story.

Jun 21 2019

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Celebrating the Anniversaries of Bauhaus and Rembrandt

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One of the most influential art schools of the last century – Bauhaus – was founded 100 years ago in Weimar, Germany. The Getty Research Institute marks this 100 th anniversary with a new exhibition, Bauhaus Beginnings, which pulls from its archives prints, drawings, photographs, and other material. In spite of the devastation of WWI from 1914-1918, the following year, in 1919, a group of avant-garde European artists developed a bold vision of a school of design and a model of education that would bridge the fine and applied arts.

Installation shot: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The Getty’s exhibition emphasizes the contributions made by Bauhaus founder German artist Walter Gropius (1883-1969), Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895- 1946), Russian artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879- 1940), just to mention a few of the teachers. The overall design of the exhibition, with particularly elegant floating geometric display cabinets, has an echo of the Bauhaus aesthetic.

Installation shot: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute. Studies for Vassily Kandinsky’s Farbenlehre (Course on color), 1929-1930. Colored paper and gouache on paper. Erich Mrozek. Photo by Edward Goldman.

One quote from the exhibition by Kandinsky emphasizes the spiritual and emotional significance of art: “Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions.”

Installation shots: Bauhaus Beginnings. Getty Research Institute.  L: Selection from the portfolio Das Wielandslied der älteren Edda (The Wieland song of the elder Edda), 1923. Woodcut. Gerhard Marcks. R: Figure Study, 1929-1931. Watercolor, graphite, and ink on paper. Erich Mrozek. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Here, in Southern California, two major American art schools – CalArts and ArtCenter College of Design – are philosophical descendants of Bauhaus, uniting the practices of architecture and design alongside the fine arts.

L: Rembrandt Laughing, about 1628. Oil on copper, 8 ¾ in. x 6 ¾ in. (22.2 x 17.1 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2013.60. R: Self-Portrait (detail), about 1636–38. Oil on panel, 24 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (63.2 x 50.5 cm). The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, F.1969.18.P. Images courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

Another anniversary – 350 years since the death of Rembrandt – is honored by 5 Southern California museums with a virtual exhibition of 14 of his paintings held by The Getty, LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Hammer, and Timken Museum of Art. Just imagine the pleasure of paying homage to Rembrandt with a short trip from The Getty to Norton Simon to see his self-portraits when he was only 22 and then 30 years old.

The Abduction of Europa, 1632. Oil on panel, 25 7/16 x 31 in. (64.6 x 78.7 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 95.PB.7. Image courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

One of his earlier paintings held by The Getty, The Rape of Europa, shows the Greek god Zeus, in the form of a bull, abducting Europa, whose face has a striking resemblance to Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia.

L: Portrait of Marten Looten, 1632. Oil on panel, 36 1/2 x 30 in. (92.71 x 76.2 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of J. Paul Getty, 53.50.3. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. R: Saint Bartholomew, 1661. Oil on canvas, 34 1/8 x 29 3/4 in. (86.7 x 75.6 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 71.PA.15. Images courtesy Rembrandt in Southern California.

During his lifetime, Rembrandt experienced and enjoyed not only fame and fortune, but also having been ignored and forgotten. His early style, with careful brushstrokes and complimentary portrayal of well-to-do clients, reflected the taste of wealthy Dutch merchants. But, toward the end of his career, his art dramatically changed. The smooth surface of his early paintings transformed into wild, distinct brushwork. His cool palette became much more muddy and earthy. And, complimentary presentation gave way to a deeper, psychological exploration of character.

Rembrandt paid a dear price for these profound changes in his art. He was no longer considered a desirable artist for commissions, and so he sank into poverty, lost his house, moved into the poorest neighborhood in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave. 350 years later, he is celebrated as one of the greatest artists of all time.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if all five Southern California museums worked together to pay homage to Rembrandt not only through a virtual exhibition, but by exhibiting all 14 paintings in one real exhibition? Of course, the logistics of such an exhibition would be overwhelming. But, the magic of Rembrandt’s art is worth it…

Jun 18 2019

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Sarah Lucas at the Hammer

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Sarah Lucas is an artist I’ve admired for decades but I’ve only been able to see individual pieces or photographs. Her survey at the Hammer Museum, Au Naturel, offers an opportunity to see the British artist’s 30-year exploration of sex as power, and vice versa.

Of course, the exhibition is timely in ways that couldn’t be anticipated when Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton, curators at the New Museum in New York, began organizing the show. Who could foresee this country’s all out assault on women’s rights, which has so become apparent in the past two years?

Sarah Lucas, Sod You Gits, 1991. Photocopy on paper, 85 3/4 x 124 in (218 x 315 cm). © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Lucas, however, is no victim. Since the early 1990s, she has been the sort of woman and artist who defied the tacit restrictions that cropped up around what a Feminist artist could and could not get away with. Instead, she grabbed the strategies implicit in the art of men to make her sharp-edged statements.

And, she did so with the sort of dry, wicked humor that is endemic to the British. You see it in the Lucas t-shirt for sale in the gift shop that proclaims: “Selfish in Bed.”

Lucas, now 56, first gained attention with other so-called Young British Artists, or YBAs, such as Damien Hirst, in the early 1990s. Their raucous, anti-establishment approach was refreshing in a country that still held dear the enduring values of traditional art. She, too, studied at Goldsmith’s, the hot art school in London of the 1980s.

Sarah Lucas, Self-portrait with Fried Eggs, 1996. C-print, 60 x 48 in (152.4 x 121.9 cm). © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

It was a loose curriculum, perfect for an artist finding her way. Though she and artist Tracy Emins took a commercial space that they called The Shop, she didn’t bother getting a studio — too expensive — and learned to make work out of what was at hand. That included the 1992 pair of fried eggs and a kebab suggestively arranged on a wooden table and recreated daily at the Hammer. (Even as a successful artist, she works on the kitchen table in her Suffolk home.)

Lucas’s own remarks about her work are posted on the gallery walls, along with the standard museum didactics, and deserve attention. While she believes in critical thinking, she can put it aside in favor of the immediate response and the well- considered object. She quips, “earnestness and hard work are to be regarded with suspicion.”

Hammer curator Anne Ellegood has arranged the work according to themes and relationships, not chronology, which works really well in the museum galleries. Lucas’ photographic works —tabloid collages of the early ‘90s, “self-portraits” taken by other people but presented as her own — are on the walls.

But three-dimensional space and sculpture based on common objects, with all their theatrical implications, are her strength. Surrealism of the 1920s is the backdrop for the alteration of the everyday in erotic and disturbing ways. You can see the indirect influence of other women especially the art of Dorothea Tanning, Meret Oppenheim or Louise Bourgeois.

The exhibition is titled after her 1994 tableau of an old mattress bent between the wall and the floor. A pair of melons with an empty bucket and a pair of oranges arranged on either side of an erect cucumber are surrogates for the man and woman.

Disgusting and funny, it lives up to its name Au Naturel, the French phrase for being in the nude.

Sarah Lucas, Bunny Gets Snookered #9, 1997. Tan tights, yellow stockings, office chair, clamp, kapok and wire, 41 × 18 7⁄8 × 26 in. (104 × 48 × 66 cm). Collection of Stephen and Yana Peel, London. © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Lucas does indeed lay it bare here and everywhere in this show. There is the Bunnies series of 1997, made with stuffed pantyhose stuck on office chairs with multiple legs jotting in all directions so the focus is pretty much in only one place. The smashed carcass of a car is topped with a huge white plaster phallus. The plaster casts of naked women are bent over toilets, to wretch, or tables in sexual offering.

Sarah Lucas, NUD 18, 2009. Tights, fluff, and wire, 11 3/4 x 14 1/8 x 12 5/8 in (30 x 36 x 32 cm). © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Among the strongest series in the show is Penetralia, which begins in 2008. Instead of lamenting, criticizing or arguing about the power of patriarchy, Lucas seizes it, literally. Like the groupie plaster casters of Sunset Strip rock clubs, she has memorialized the male members of lovers, friends and blokes from the pub. These plaster phalluses relate to ancient sculpture, Indian lingams and outsized dildos. They point quite literally to the source — real, imagined or culturally determined — of power, and appropriate it. At the Hammer, they are commandingly installed before an amber colored gallery containing her recent Nuds, stuffed, rounded, emphatically female forms, mostly made of tights stuffed with fluff, that wind around upon themselves. The exhaulted art of Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth is reenergized in her hands. In the midst of this gathering, a hemispherical nest made of net spheres, like breasts, hangs in space, as inviting as a bizarre swing.

Brazen yet unpretentious, Lucas uses her art to undermine all manner of expectations: political, sexual, moral and aesthetic.

Her bold survey at the Hammer is a tonic that is not to be missed. It is on view through September 1.

Jun 14 2019

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My Fantasies About Film, Literature, and Architecture

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La Chaise, 1948. Charles and Ray Eames. MoMA. Photo courtesy MoMA.

Looking at last Sunday’s issue of the New York Times and seeing a photo of the famous 1948 chair by Charles and Ray Eames, La Chaise, I felt that this magnificent object reminded me of something – but what was it? The whole day, I was fantasizing about the chair’s sensual floating shape, with a mysterious oval hole in the middle of it.

Exterior view of The Broad museum. Los Angeles. Photo by Edward Goldman.

All of a sudden, I realized that one of the most idiosyncratic architectural buildings in Los Angeles, The Broad museum, has a similarly indented oval window in its façade. The architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro describe it as an “oculus,” the classic architectural term from the Latin word for “eye.”

Edward’s 1953 copy of Tom Sawyer in Russian. Photos by Edward Goldman.

This association somehow opened my mind and triggered memories… As a little boy growing up in Russia, I learned to read when I was 6 years old. The first book I ever read was – believe it or not – a Russian translation of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”. I had no understanding then that it was my introduction to American culture. - ТОМ! Нет ответа. - ТОМ! Нет ответа. - Удивительно, куда. мог деваться этот мальчишка!... ТОМ! Нет ответа. I can hear you, my friends, wondering what the hell Edward was saying in Russian. Let me say the same, but in English - "TOM!" No answer. "TOM!" No answer. "What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!" No answer. Yes, these are the opening lines of “Tom Sawyer,” the only book I brought with me to America as a keepsake of my Russian childhood.

 Still from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, (1937). Photo courtesy Insomnia Cured Here on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/2063134998)

And, I will never forget the magic of the very moment I saw Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, at about the same time as I read “Tom Sawyer”. I was breathless, watching this animation – but not on a large movie theatre screen, but on a tiny, black and white screen of the first generation Soviet-era TV.

 Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer in War and Peace (1956). Dir: King Vidor. Image by Skeeze from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/audrey-hepburn-mel-ferrer-actress-519387/

In the height of the Cold War, in the late 50s, the epic Hollywood film by King Vidor, War and Peace, was released in the Soviet Union. Just think, this American movie based on the famous Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy, was made in 1956, more than a decade before the Soviet Union released its own adaptation. My mother took me to see Vidor’s movie when I was 12 years old, years before I even read the novel. Ever since, when I think about the main character Natasha Rostova, I am thinking about Audrey Hepburn…

Still of Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959). Dir: Jack Clayton. Image courtesy YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf0aHiQZ0PY).

After 40 years of living in Los Angeles, I continue to try to see as many classic and contemporary films as possible – and, the Laemmle Theatres, particularly the Royal in West LA, offers the most diverse and surprising screenings. Once a month, film critic Stephen Farber introduces a special screening of a classic film. This Thursday night, he invited me to choose my favorite classic film to screen at the Royal, and to briefly talk with him about it. I chose the 1959 film Room at the Top, directed by Jack Clayton and starring the incomparable Simone Signoret, who received an Oscar for her performance in this film. I fell in love with her then, and I am still in love with her decades later. I look forward to seeing some of you at the screening, to talk with you about the magic of this movie.

Jun 11 2019

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Agnes Pelton at the Phoenix Art Museum

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Georgia O’Keeffe may be the best known of the modern artists who also happened to be a women. Agnes Pelton, who had a similar education and traveled in the same circles, has remained on the periphery of art history. Thanks to mounting pressure and scholarship about artists who have been overlooked due to gender or race, Pelton is receiving new attention.

A spectacular exhibition, Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, is on view at the Phoenix Art Museum through September 8. It travels to the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Palm Springs Art Museum, where the first big reappraisal of her work was staged in 1995. In fact, Pelton lived in Cathedral City for most of her adult life.

During the research for my 2004 biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, Full Bloom, I came across Pelton’s art many times and was struck by the many parallels. Pelton lived from 1881- 1961. O’Keeffe from 1887 to 1986. Pelton was born in Germany of American parents but raised in Brooklyn after the age of seven. O’Keeffe was an outspoken Midwesterner.

Both studied in New York under the massively influential teacher Arthur Wesley Dow, who emphasized the seductive power of decorative motifs, especially as used in traditional Japanese art. He encouraged the curving lines of art nouveau and warm, even pastel colors in modern painting.

Pelton was considered enough of a rising star to be included in the historic 1913 Armory show at the invitation of Walt Kuhn.

Agnes Pelton,The Blest, 1941. Oil on canvas. Collection of Georgia and Michael de Havenon. Photo: Martin Seck.

O’Keeffe did not see that show but her own career was propelled by her love affair and then marriage to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the most zealous promoter of American modern art.

Pelton also made art out of her experiences in the south west, invited by patron Mabel Dodge Luhan to Taos in 1919. O’Keeffe didn’t make that pilgrimmage until 1929. By then, she was a superstar, with her flower paintings commanding huge sums.

Pelton, however, was on a spiritual quest. O’Keeffe remained more tethered to earthly concerns.

This exhibition focuses on Pelton’s abstract paintings that began to emerge in the 1920s, initially influenced by Kandinsky’s ideas about the synesthesia, the vibrational power of music and color.

In 1928, Pelton came to Pasadena to do deeper studies with the Theosophy Society. That is likely when she first visited Palm Springs. In 1932, she moved to Cathedral City where views of Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio inspired paintings of the desert landscape melded with her urge to find higher meaning through abstraction. Sand Storm (1932) layers the mists of the storms clouds that swept the desert with an emerging rainbow.

Agnes Pelton, Sand Storm, 1932. Oil on canvas. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville,Arkansas, 2012.504. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

She was pursuing deeper spiritual experiences through Agni Yoga, a branch of Theosophy. She developed friendships with the Transcendental Modernists of New Mexico, an informal coterie of artists led by Raymond Jonson who sought alternatives to the strictly formal view of mid-century abstract painting. Though she had not returned to New Mexico since 1919, her work was shown with theirs at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. Orbits (1934) shows the stars traveling paths of light at night above the horizon of Mount San Jacinto.

Agnes Pelton,Orbits, 1934. Oil on canvas. Collection of Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Concours d'Antiques, the Art Guild of the Oakland Museum of California.

Through the 1940s, she studied the writings of Krishnamurti and continued to integrate her spiritual beliefs with her painting but also pursued more realistic landscapes of the desert, which were easier to sell. Both were inspired by her long walks through the desert, then still largely undeveloped.

Pelton’s physical health failed in the 1950s and she died of liver cancer in 1961. The show includes her last painting Light Center (1960-61), which attempts to capture the transition from life to afterlife. After her death, her work was dispersed recklessly by distant heirs and her legacy all but lost until the work of art historians in the late 1980s. Her work was included in LACMA’s groundbreaking The Spiritual in Art exhibition of 1986.

Agnes Pelton, Light Center, 1947-1948. Oil on canvas. Collection of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Photo: Jairo Ramirez.

Pelton was dedicated to channeling presence, intuition and energy into visible form. This is a path leading directly into bad kitsch for many an artist but Pelton’s paintings always hover in the realm of ethereal radiance. You can scarcely help being pulled into their power, as though they operated as visual mantras.

Curator Gilbert Vicario has organized the show in Phoenix while two of the catalog essays were written by former directors of the Palm Springs Art Museum, Michael Zakian and Elizbeth Armstrong, where her reputation began to be restored. This is no exercise in compare and contrast between O’Keeffe and Pelton but an opportunity to expand our awareness of artists being welcomed into a more inclusive history.

Jun 07 2019

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Galia Linn and Alexandra Grant: Stories in Clay and Paint

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Ceramic sculptures by Los Angeles artist Galia Linn hold one’s attention through a rather conflicting combination of opposites: strength and fragility, multi-colored glazes and monochrome natural clay, and the feminine and masculine.

Installation shot: Galia Linn: Evidence of Care. Track 16 Gallery. Image courtesy the gallery.

Linn’s solo exhibition at Track 16 Gallery shows her love – or if you prefer, obsession – with just one material: clay. But, looking at her small, medium, and large-scale sculptures on display, one sees that in the hands of Galia Linn, clay – the most earthly material any artist can use – is telling stories and keeping quiet, reaching out and hiding secrets.

L: Single horn guardian II, 2015. Untitled. Inside Garden III, 2013. Galia Linn. R: Come With Me VI, 2018. Galia Linn. Both, installation shots from Galia Linn: Evidence of Care, Track 16 Gallery. Images courtesy the gallery.

“Growing up in Israel instilled Linn with an intimate connection to a land full of ancient and contemporary relics of past and present civilizations” (Track 16). There is something in common between the archaeologist who excavates ancient objects from the earth and the artist who opens a kiln after firing ceramic sculptures – both of them should be ready to deal with unpredictable results.

 Come with me I, 2016. Galia Linn. Image courtesy Track 16 gallery.

Control and surrender, life and death – all that and more, hidden and revealed, in a handsomely installed exhibition by Galia Linn at Track 16, on the 10 th floor of the Bendix, one of the most beautiful buildings in Downtown LA.

 Installation shot: Alexandra Grant: Born to Love. Lowell Ryan Projects. Image courtesy the gallery.

Another solo exhibition that echoes the voices of ancient cultures is Born to Love by Alexandra Grant, the Los Angeles artist whose new large-scale paintings on paper are presented by Lowell Ryan Projects, a new gallery in the West Adams district.

 Installation shot: Alexandra Grant: Born to Love. Lowell Ryan Projects. Photo by Edward Goldman.

These paintings are inspired by Antigone, the ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles, in which Antigone declares, “I was born to love, not to hate.” The dramatic combination of geometric abstractions and text creates multiple layers of storytelling that are up to us, the viewers, to interpret.

 L: Mike Weiss, Co-Founder of Lowell Ryan Projects, with Alexandra Grant, R. Photo by Edward Goldman.

What I find particularly appealing in these new works by Alexandra Grant is her combination of control and happenstance and her juxtaposition of muted and bright colors. Once again, I am looking at artworks which make me think of archaeologists digging through layers of earth to hear voices of the past, still tremendously relevant to the present.

I’ve been following the careers of both Galia Linn and Alexandra Grant for more than a decade and have reviewed their exhibitions on several occasions. Every time I talk with them about their work, either in galleries or in their studios, I am impressed by their eloquence, joyfulness, and humility. But even if you never meet these artists, these qualities will be there for you to discover and to experience through their art.

Jun 04 2019

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Kirsten Everberg at 1301 PE

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Every day we learn — and experience — more about climate change with 300 animal and many more plant species now considered endangered just in California. Overwhelming realizations such as this are increasingly taken on by artists. The ideas are addressed in a quite personal way in a show of new paintings by Kirsten Everberg at 1301 PE in the mid-Wilshire district. The glossy pictures are so lush, their message might take a few moments to absorb. Birds and snakes, insects and flowers are painted in her trademark oil and enamel on panel, a medium that is shiny and vibrant.

Kirsten Everberg. Western Lilies, 2019. Oil and enamel on canvas mounted on wood panel. 72 x 60 inches. Photo credit: Marten Elder. © Kirsten Everberg 2019

The title of the show, Life Still, offers more than one meaning. This is life at this moment, life that is holding still but also still here. La Graciosa (2019) is an arrangement of lavender thistles and blooms is set before a yellow wall and window to the outdoors, where a ferret looks in. Grasshoppers are coupling under a blossom. A winning hand of cards lays on the table to emphasize the role of chance. (Very appealing cards of the artist’s unique design.)

Kirsten Everberg. La Graciosa, 2019. Oil and enamel on canvas mounted on wood panel. 90 x 75 inches. Photo credit: Marten Elder.  © Kirsten Everberg 2019

This and other still lives were arranged by the L.A.-based artist who received her undergraduate and graduate degress in art from UCLA. They are set up in her architectural home, designed by Barbara Bestor, in Silverlake. They are intimately observed but they come from a lengthy lineage of art, especially the Golden Age of Dutch painting in 17th century. Artists chose flowers from different seasons of the year to symbolize the brevity and beauty of existance. Such paintings are called vanitas because they symbolize transcience and transcendence, the vanity of looking for internal, spiritual sustenance in the temporal assets of wealth or fame.

In the past, this referred to the lives of people, encouraging the search for faith in their time. Everberg’s asks us to consider our impact on the lives of animals and plants, whose survival as species is dependent on our behavior.

Rather than linger on that depressing thought, we can look to the painting themselves with their carefully integrated areas of color that puddle and swirl like liquified jewels yet coalesce as studies of nature within the context of daily life.

Kirsten Everberg. Golden Bird, 2019. Oil and enamel on paper. 23 x 30 inches. Photo credit: Marten Elder. © Kirsten Everberg 2019

In this and other paintings, the animals are not portrayed in their actual proportions. Bugs are big, animals small. The effect is a bit jarring but accomplishes the desired result, making us look more closely for other clues to meaning.

Everberg brings us vanitas paintings for our times with a broken glass as fragility, a butterfly perched on a split pomegranite as a token of sundered faith. She is hardly the only contemporary painter to be returning to the still life traditions. Known for her past paintings that integrated memory and present reality, often within in architectural interiors, she now asks us to look at the present before it becomes our irretrievable history. The show continues through June 29.

May 31 2019

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Skirball and Vielmetter Los Angeles: Art, Fashion, Politics

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When I visit Skirball Cultural Center to see the latest exhibitions there, I expect to be informed, surprised, and challenged. That definitely was the case last year, with exhibitions celebrating composer Leonard Bernstein and Supreme Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead of speaking at the visitors, Skirball exhibitions speak to the visitors in a very friendly, accessible way. Two new exhibitions have the same easy-going approach to sharing their stories, and both are very elegantly installed.

 Selections from Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite. The Skirball Cultural Center. Photos by Edward Goldman.

The exhibition Black is Beautiful by photographer Kwame Braithwaite (b. 1938) presents over 40 photographs of black women and men “during an era when segregation still prevailed across the United States” (Skirball). Images by Braithwaite chosen for this exhibition celebrate black beauty and pride at a time when mainstream beauty standards excluded people of color. Brathwaite and his art helped to coin the term “Black is Beautiful,” planting the seeds for contemporary political movements like Black Lives Matter. This is the first major museum exhibition dedicated to this important artist, though here in Los Angeles, we were lucky enough to have seen a smaller exhibition of his work at Philip Martin Gallery last year.

L&R Installation shots:Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich. The Skirball Cultural Center. Photos by Edward Goldman.

Another exhibition at Skirball I want to urge you to see is Fearless Fashion, celebrating the famous fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985). And fearless, he was… He gained notoriety for his jaw-dropping and innovative designs, including the “monokini,” a women’s topless swimsuit and pantsuits for women. Born in Austria in 1938 as a Viennese Jew, he fled the country due to its anti-Semitic policies. He found sanctuary in Los Angeles, where he was able to “challenge conventional beauty standards and redefine style” (Skirball).

Installation shot: Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich. The Skirball Cultural Center. Photos by Edward Goldman.

The presentation of this exhibition is unusually theatrical, with mannequins modeling his designs in dramatic poses, as if in the middle of a dance – a reminder of Gernreich’s association with a well-known interracial and socially engaged dance troupe, Lester Horton Dance Theater. Seductive and Sexy would be the best way to describe not only Gernreich’s fashion, but this beautifully designed exhibition, as well.

Installation shot: Arlene Shechet: Sculpture. Vielmetter Los Angeles, Downtown LA. Image courtesy Vielmetter Los Angeles.

Across town in the Arts District, I went to see Vielmetter Los Angeles, the new, ambitious gallery by Susanne Vielmetter, who still has her gallery in Culver City, though it’s scheduled to close in Autumn. There are two exhibitions that will grab your attention from the get-go. The exhibition by New York-based sculptor Arlene Shechet (b. 1951) is a dramatic confrontation of geometric shapes and a variety of materials – wood, ceramic, metal – rarely combined in one sculpture. In spite of their small to medium scale, their energy fills the entire gallery. The works are so surprisingly diverse that if I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was a group show.

Deborah Roberts. L:  I do solemnly swear (Nessun Dorma Series), 2018. R: Our destinies are bound, 2018.  Vielmetter Los Angeles, Downtown LA. Images courtesy Vielmetter Los Angeles

The second exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles is by Austin-based artist Deborah Roberts (b. 1962), presenting a series of her signature style mixed-media collages on canvas. Most of the images are of young black boys who experience an inescapable sense of danger. Many of Roberts’ works references the “tragic case of Tamir Rice… the twelve- year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun in a park… and shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer” (Vielmetter). The title of one artwork, I do solemnly swear (Nessun Dorma Series), was inspired by the famous aria “Nessun Dorma” from a Puccini opera. Like most Italian operas, life and death are the fodder for Deborah Roberts’ poignant art.

May 28 2019

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A Tale of Two Museums: MOCA and LACMA

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This is a tale of two museums, The Museum of Contemporary Art and the L.A. County Museum of Art.

I’ll admit it. I am a booster for L.A. art. When I moved here in 1979, I started writing about it because I realized that the quality and originality was very little understood or even recognized outside Southern California. Certainly not in New York or Europe. There was no Museum of Contemporary Art.

L.A.’s first free-standing art museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had opened in 1966. Being a general rather than a contemporary museum, it could not, at times would not, dedicate its programs solely to post-war art or art being made here.

As a result, a truly dedicated group of local art collectors came together to make MOCA a reality in 1979. What is now the Geffen opened with The First Show in 1983 and proved that those collectors who genuinely did not want to give their art to a New York museum had made stunningly generous donations.

They also hammered out the deal to erect the MOCA building on Grand Avenue in 1986.

Guests at Chris Burden’s Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, 1986/2019, site-specific excavation. Courtesy of the Chris Burden Estate.

Four tumultuous decades later, that history is being celebrated with MOCA's sixth director, Klaus Biesenbach. On the job seven months, he was able to announce a $10 million dollar gift by MOCA president Carolyn Powers to help fund free admission.

A benefit dinner last Saturday was underwritten by Marina Kellen French so that some 300 artists and others could attend gratis. The exhibition titled The Foundation of the Museum: MOCA's Collection is a snapshot of the staggering commitment of past directors and curators to building one of best contemporary collections in the country.

So Biesenbach is off to a running start. The night of the benefit, he spoke to the crowd about being of service, about art as a force within society, about being a family.

Given the spin cycle of directors, curators and board members at MOCA in the last decade, he has a lot of ruffled feathers to smooth. He seems remarkably willing to perform that uneviable task. A collective sigh of relief seemed to permeate the evening, which was attended by past directors and curators in a gesture of reconciliation.

Daytime view of north stairs facing east, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

All of which brings me to LACMA and its director Michael Govan, who has completely transformed a moribund museum into one of the most popular places in the city. Under his direction, the museum installed the one of the most selfied works of public art, the grove of vintage lights by one of the city’s most revered artists, the late Chris Burden. At this point, I could go on and on about their excellent recent exhibitions with an unprecedented focus on contemporary art, including Robert Rauschenberg’s previously unseen opus 1/4 Mile, closing June 9.

Michael Govan. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Prior to Govan’s 2006 hire, Renzo Piano, an esteemed architect of museums, was on board to complete what is now the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art and the Resnick Pavilion. Even at that time, it was clear that it was not going to be cost effective or aesthetically desireable to renovate the 1966 LACMA buildings, a William Pereira design that had proved problematic and unwieldy. Curators, historians and artists have have been complaining about it since the day it opened. The 1986 attempt to disguise it with a giant facade and courtyard by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer didn’t help.

Interior view of a central gallery, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Govan could have let Piano continue building, which also entailed tearing down the old museum. He chose the more difficult path.

From the outset, he wanted the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and that decision has been controversial ever since. He set the bar higher with a fundraising goal of more than $600 million.

Now that he is nearing that goal and new models of Zumthor’s design are on view, there is a belated bellow of complaint about its curvilinear design, the amount of glass, the bridge over Wilshire, the concrete exhibition walls. Suddenly, people love the existing LACMA that they have been bad-mouthing since the day it opened.

Every daring museum design has faced similar fights. Without single-minded, stubborn directors, there wouldn’t be Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao (or even the Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim in New York). This is not to say that there can’t be questions about the design or that there can’t be improvements.

But at this point, given a stellar track record as a museum director on so many levels, Govan should be allowed to finish the job he was hired to do.

Interior gallery, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary. Photo courtesy of LACMA.

Same for Biesenbach at MOCA. Give the guy a chance.

Sometimes a museum needs a leader with singular focus, like Govan. Sometimes, it needs someone who can unify and motivate demoralized staff and supporters. One hopes that will be Biesenbach.

In this time of nationwide fury and schisms and internet-fueled psycho babble, I’d like to see a return to sort of civic minded perspective and loyalty to L.A. that enabled these museums to be built in the first place.

May 24 2019

3mins

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