THE CENTER OF THE WORLD IS WHERE YOUR WORK HAPPENS
Notes on a long L.A. art world week-end – September 11-13, 2015
by Ezrha Jean Black ·
September 17, 2015 · in AWOL, Columns
The L.A. art industry never rests (as if awol ever needed proof of that!); but tradition dies hard, and art galleries and museums break out the new season alongside other arts and cultural venues. Matthew Barney had already screened his not-so-new (2014 – and six hours long!) film, River of Fundament, right alongside his new MOCA show, Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT at the Geffen Contemporary, while a number of art and fashion (or art-fashion collaborations) had also debuted new lines or work. (These included Carla Fernández’s exhibition of fashion, furnishing and textiles, The Future Is Handmade, which will be on view at Red Desert – 850 S. Broadway, 6th floor, downtown Los Angeles – through September 28th. More to come on this….) Fashion Week was already underway in New York. Here in L.A., the week-end (I was about to say, ‘the water’) really broke Friday night with Matthew Barney’s Water Castings opening at Regen Projects and Blum & Poe’s double show of painting by Kazumi Nakamura and a brilliant trio of Kyoto ceramic sculptors (Kazunori Humana, Yuji Ueda, and Otani Workshop) curated by Takashi Murakami (who was present for the opening); as well as a preview for a brilliant show of abstract (or, as it was termed here, ‘post-abstract’) painting and sculpture out of Houston, Texas, at Wilding Cran Gallery.
Caught winding my way about Culver City Friday night, I never quite made it back downtown for the preview, but had an opportunity to view the show late Saturday evening – and it was well worth the wait. Saturday’s openings were awash in outstanding painting, from Sarah Awad’s excellent show at Diane Rosenstein, to Miriam Wosk (though you couldn’t really call this show – which ranging between a tapestry and a lenticular piece exploited just about every medium – painting) at LAM, to Camillo Restrepo at Steve Turner, to Chris Barnard at Luis de Jesus, to Dan Bayles’s virtuoso theme-and-variations on Constantino Brumidi’s U.S. Capitol rotunda fresco, The Apotheosis of Washington at François Ghebaly. Even so, Christian Eckart’s elegantly curated exhibition of ten artists, all hailing from the Houston area more than held its own. I’m still puzzling over the title – “… a pointy toe boot up the backside” – but I could be excused for taking the ‘backside’ to be L.A.’s own. Here in what, between artist studios and an explosion of galleries large and small, is rapidly becoming an epicenter of L.A.’s burgeoning art-industrial complex, we had a glimpse of a layered dialectic between eye and extensions, forms wrought by the mind’s eye, media and materials, and sheer light and space far from the madding crowd.
I don’t think I would have called these ten artists – who included David Aylsworth, Sharon Engelstein, Tad Griffin, Geoff Hippenstiel, Paul Kremer, Joe Mancuso, Marcelyn McNeil, Aaron Parazette, Susie Rosmarin and Brooke Stroud – post-abstractionists. What they seemed to have in common as a group was a post-modern, freshly contextualized approach to late 20th century abstract tropes: the frame/edge, (color) field, geometric/fluid-/hard-edge, gesture, the spatial, interior-exterior, and deconstructive, the potential/actual opportunity for the surreal, the optical effect. (But you get the idea: they really covered a sweeping range of abstraction with a freshness and vigor rarely seen anywhere.)
Griffin’s quasi-suprematist takes on the grid were stand-outs that spoke to a gathering darkness just over the digital/cybertronic horizon. Marcelyn McNeil, David Aylsworth, Aaron Parazette and Paul Kremer embraced the power of shape, color and fluid form (literally in one instance by Parazette) to engage the latent surreal moment or gesture with grace and wit. Susie Rosmarin’s rigorous essays in line, color, pattern and process dazzled with their vibratile opticals. Mancuso and Aylsworth connected and compressed the residue of memory into all-over formal abstraction. The installation beautifully supported Eckart’s dialectic of abstractions amid the larger dialectical cacophony we contend with at almost any given moment in the fine art production – ooops!—I meant ‘entertainment!’ – capital of the world.
Finally a shout-out to François Ghebaly himself, who, in addition to hosting a pretty terrific pairing of artists (I didn’t really mention Candice Lin’s contribution, You are a spacious fluid sac; but how can I not love the notion of “Minimizing Males”?—I mean, come fucking on!) – managed to rescue two of the most adorable husky-mix dogs I’ve seen in some time, who were left abandoned in the alley feeding onto the Night Gallery perimeter and had been parked (with water and treats) at the entrance during the evening’s openings. François – you are one mensch I will never minimize. My return visit will include dog treats and I look forward to it.