Naomi Wilding interviews Catherine Opie for Issue Magazine


Interview by Naomi deLuce Wilding

Images by Austin Irving

Catherine Opie’s work ranges from self-portraiture to landscape photography, often investigating identity through portraits of social groups including the LGBT community, surfers and high school football players. Her work documents and gives voice to social phenomena in America today, registering her subjects’ attitudes and relationships to themselves and others, and the ways in which they occupy the landscape. At the core of her investigations are perplexing questions about relationships to community, which she explores on multiple levels across all her bodies of work.

For years, Opie has been an active member of ACT UP and Queer Nation. She is an Ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and continues to donate her work to fundraise for HIV and AIDS-related causes.

Naomi deLuce Wilding: Where are you from?

Catherine Opie: I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio until I was thirteen, and then we moved to Poway, California, which is north county San Diego. Ohio was lovely—right on Lake Erie. I liked it.

NW: Do you miss it?

CO: Well, I went back recently and did a whole body of work for the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. I made the four seasons of Lake Erie. I got to spend about a year and half going back and forth to Ohio, staring at the lake during different seasons and photographing it. I came home at one point and said [to my partner], “Hey, Julie! You know how you want to have a horse ranch, more garden space and everything? We can do that in Ohio. I can try to teach at Oberlin.” She was like, “Yeah, we’re not moving to Ohio.” [laughs]

NW: I think that having access to those places is important, whether it’s nostalgic or because it resonates with you, but it’s not always enough. I felt that way going home to Wales recently. I loved being home and away from the grit of the city, but I’m connected to LA for many reasons—community, diversity, the energy of what’s happening here.

CO: It’s a fascinating city, Los Angeles. When I studied undergraduate at the Art Institute in the Bay Area, everybody assumed that I would stay. I came out as a lesbian and was part of a leather community. I had very deep roots in the community during the five years I lived there. So when I finished grad school at CalArts everybody was like, “You’re coming home now, right?” And I said, “No, I’m pretty interested in LA. I actually want to talk about this place.”


NW: That was my next question: When and why did you arrive in Los Angeles?

CO: 1985. At CalArts, I spent a good amount of my work looking at ideas of master plan communities and making a very large thesis on white flight from urban areas. What is a master plan community? How is it designed? Who is it designed for? I delved into the suburbia of the eighties, which was really different than the suburbia of the fifties in terms of American ideology and dreams. It was really in relationship to a city becoming a threatening place. So I spent two years digging into that idea and then moved to LA, to MacArthur Park just at the time that the subway was being built. I did a whole body of work of what it means to gentrify the MacArthur Park area, looking at it in relationship to transportation. And so I kept kind of peeling away at Los Angeles for all these years in my work in these different ways.

NW: How could you leave? It’s so embedded in your journey as an artist.

CO: Very much so.

NW: Do you consider your work as a photographer to be a form of activism? Put simply, do you think you are able to educate or improve people’s lives?

CO: It’s curious. I move in and out of it in different ways. There are some times in which I have incredible optimism in humanist acts and what democracy really is as somebody who, through multiple bodies of work, has traversed these conversations of ideas of community and democracy. Within the early portraits I did of my friends, I don’t think that I was attaching any optimism about changing the perception of homosexuality. So activism is tricky—it might not be about the full ability to change people’s perceptions, but making images creates a record. And without a record, or without trying to delve into issues of identity and visibility and providing images, a whole subset of culture would be completely denied.

NW: Right.

CO: And so, by going in and doing difficult things, I guess that one could think of me as a bit of an activist at the time. I was definitely an activist with ACT UP and Fair Nation, but that was really out of a sense of loss—very different than activism. In my work, it was about hanging on to this moment in our lives in which all of us were incredibly vulnerable from the decimation of our community through AIDS and experiencing extreme hatred. So when I made it, it was really for my own community and, selfishly, for myself to hang onto people that I was losing.

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Sharsten Plenge reviews …a pointy toe boot…

Houston. The largest city in the southern US and trailing just behind Chicago, New York, and LA as the fourth most populous in the nation. The same can be said for Houston in its trailing— or often oversight— as a major contemporary art center rich with prestigious institutions and brimming with emerging luminaries. Like LA, Houston has a geographically sprawling art scene colorized by exceptional private collections and has long predicated opening new grounds for display. Alternative and temporary spaces— from those staged atop a Holiday Inn to mobile micro-cinemas in Toyota Scions— to outsider and site-specific projects— like the The Beer Can House or the sculptural notsuoH club— are hallmarks to be revered. In my time realizing projects there, I was [admittedly] surprisingly whoa’d by the level of experimentation and diversity colliding within this fabric of creators. Unlike NY and more akin to LA— at least on some level— Houston appears more gray than black and white in its lack of wanting to appeal exclusively to the elite collector or distinguished director over also attracting the interest of the artist curating stellar shows in their apartment. They seem more involved and mutually acquainted— simultaneously engaged in an elastic paradigm for making, viewing, and thinking about art.

This conversation between cities and growing artscapes is the subject of an immaculately tailored group show currently up at Wilding Cran Gallery.  Curated by globally established and internationally dwelling artist Christian Eckart, ‘…a pointy toe boot up the backside’ Post-Abstraction From Houston presents a bouquet of Houston-based talents traversing the progressive vernaculars of post-abstraction. So… what the hell is ‘post-abstraction’? We can speculate this to reference the title of Clement Greenberg’s 1964 exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction— a group show traversing topographies, first premiering at LACMA and traveling on to the Walker Art Center and the Art Gallery of Toronto. Nowadays more aptly substituted with ‘hard-edge,’ ‘lyrical abstraction,’ ‘color field,’ and/or ‘minimalism,’ the term was coined by the notorious art critic to describe a new painting movement that ‘favored openness and clarity’ over pervading 40-50’s Abstract Expressionism.

Like Greenberg, Eckart highlights painters that depart from a return to the past— in this case ‘formal abstraction and its plastic vocabularies’— to dematerialize and reinvigorate ‘traditions with contemporary energy and timely inventiveness.’ Assembling ten artists and twenty works, Eckart’s selection draws underlying values and shades in an ‘effort to open lines of communication’ between LA and Houston. At first glance, parallels in palette, scale, and form spill into each other so seamlessly it can be difficult to differentiate between names. David Aylsworth’s vibrant rouge echoes in Paul Kremer, where diligent digitization accentuates matte horizons. A marriage of irregular forms with lattice myriads repeats in the impeccable linear planes of Aaron Parazette and Susie Rosmarin. The latter’s Op Art sensibility morphs into analog formulas bent and oscillated within a trio of porous surfaces by Tad Griffin. With ‘post-abstraction’ summoned as subject here, Joe Mancuso is best described as ‘post-Monet,’ where layers of latex and newsprint converge into muted landscapes. Sharon Engelstein’s sculptures are the only pieces to depart the wall within this two-room exhibition— instead landing as a quad of post-Duchampian hybrids placed on styrofoam pedestals.

With a title ‘framed by an irreverent tongue-in-cheek imperative,’ Eckart seeks to strike a ‘continued productive exchange between LA and Houston.’ He cites how ‘cultural centers exist in tangential dialogue …. often inform[ing] each other’s histories and practices.’ A sensibility for how and which ‘cultural centers’ create the market and foreshadow a shift from a ‘import only model’ (Houston) to an ‘import and export model’ (LA), takes form in a more intellectualized ‘tongue-in-cheek’ reference to James Turrell. The LA Light and Space master reminded everyone of Houston’s prominence as an art destination last summer when LACMA’s retrospective made its second stop at the Museum of Fine Arts. A Turrellian grasp for capturing ambient ephemera is seen in the geometric shapes hovering in the painted projections of Brooke Stroud.

Together, this selection relays a thoughtful, yet narrowed, survey of artists working to similar ends. A pool which is refreshingly different from LA, where an attention to formality is favored over a leniency towards a more cutesy abstraction of gestural architectures. What would strengthen the dialogue Eckart stands to wage, however, would be an elaborated two-city cross-pollination where perhaps this show travels to Houston and is followed by a similar iteration highlighting all LA-based artists or interweaving them within another relocalization. Eckart is known to be a man of two-cities in the past— previously based between NY and Berlin, then NY and Amsterdam— so we can hope this is only a precursor for a more open communication between two hubs inscribed with immense potential for growth, expansion, and congregation.

…a pointy toe boot up the backside’ Post-Abstraction From Houston features works by David Aylsworth, Sharon Engelstein, Tad Griffin, Geoff Hippenstiel, Paul Kremer, Joe Mancuso, Marcelyn McNeil, Aaron Parazette, Susie Rosmarin and Brooke Stroud. Closing with reception Saturday, Nov 7th 6-8pm. Regular hours 11am-6pm Wednesday-Saturday.

Jason McLean "Son of a Salesman" opens November 6 at Michael Gibson Gallery

Opening Reception on Saturday, November 7 from 8-10pm. 

SNAIL'S PACE, Acrylic Ink & Ink on Paper 2015, 30 x 22 in

SNAIL'S PACE, Acrylic Ink & Ink on Paper 2015, 30 x 22 in

"Son of a Salesman" features new large-scale drawings by London-born-Brooklyn-based Jason McLean.

The new drawings respond to Jason's time spent living with his family in Brooklyn, NY and explore his experiences, observations and perceptions of life living in the US.  They act as mental maps or visual diary entries that pictorially represent McLean's relationship with local environment.

One drawing tells the story of his obsessive search for celebrity autographs outside of the David Letterman show, while another weighs the pros and cons to moving from Brooklyn to Pittsburg because of lower housing costs.


Through these drawings, Jason McLean uses humour to touch upon challenging subject matter such as sadness, loss, displacement, mental illness and economic challenges.

Jason McLean was born in London, ON in 1971. After attending H.B. Beal Secondary School, McLean graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver in 1997.

Since 1994, Jason McLean has exhibited nationally and internationally including shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Loyal Gallery in Malmo Sweden, and at Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica.

In 2012 he had a solo exhibition "If you can read my mind" at McIntosh Gallery, Western University (catalogue) and was included in Museum London's "L.O. Today" group show featuring 6 other artists & collaborators.

A Canadian art darling, McLean was chosen by Maclean's Magazine as one of the top 10 artists to watch in Canada in 2004. In 2013, McLean was the only Canadian artist selected by Canadian Art Magazine to collaborate with smart Canada to paint on a smart car that travelled across Canada. McLean has also collaborated on t-shirt designs with designer Jeremy Laing, was commissioned to paint a mural inside of the Drake Hotel on Queen Street, Toronto and co-runs the Canadian Pez Museum with his 2 sons Felix & Henry in the basement of their home.

Jason McLean has work in major collections throughout North America including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, BMO Collection, TD Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada.

157 Carling Street London, Ontario, Canada N6A 1H5
519.439.0451 / 1.866.644.2766
Tuesday - Saturday 11-5

Jeremy Everett in Flash Art

Jeremy Everett opens November 14th

Jeremy Everett, “Floy” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.

Jeremy Everett, “Floy” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.

LA Talks / October 9, 2015

Controlled Disruption / Jeremy Everett

Born in Colorado in 1979, artist Jeremy Everett lived in Paris and recently moved to Los Angeles. Darren Flook talks with him about the greatest American monuments, Land Art and construction sites.

Overturned trucks spilling milk across a highway, smoke blown onto a canvas by the wind, soil-eroded photographs of cheer leaders… There is a love of chance here, and also a feeling for American imagery, decay and impermanence. I wonder where this comes from in your practice? Can you fill me in a little on the connecting threads of your interests? What are the central motivating drives of this character called Jeremy Everett?

The greatest American monument is the highway; to wreck a truck full of milk is a very specific and important gesture that was absolutely necessary to me. While growing up in the US I was surrounded by subjects like the American cheerleader; I buried these photographs as a way of finding visual meaning, vital meaning. The paintings made with colored smoke began with chance but eventually developed into something more factual, revealing the painting structure as surface and as something to see. The painting became a photocopy of itself. All of the work is connected by a visual truth or fact, a reduction towards the absolute.

There seems to be a relationship to action. To overturn a truck — the act of finding it, filling it with milk, getting someone to flip the thing and then getting in a helicopter to film the result. The same with the smoke paintings — you build a box of canvases, let off the smoke bomb… All are actions, or at least active approaches to image making, which is a roundabout way of asking if there is a conversation with Land Art and monumental sculpture?

Jeremy Everett, “Floy” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.

Jeremy Everett, “Floy” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.

It’s important these images have the visual charge of an action. I want to perform this work whether it’s monumental or unmonumental and get the visual results through direct production. Michael Heizer’s Double Negative had a big influence on me early on and also a lot of Smithson’s temporary works that only exist now through photographs. Beyond using similar methods of documentation, I don’t feel my work has a connection to Land Art. I am producing works that participate inside of life, not isolated outside of it. I closed the highway so I could wreck the truck. I wanted the sculpture to temporarily stop the system.

I never thought of the closing of the highway as a part of the work. Do you think of the disruption caused by the smoke works in a similar vein? 

Initially I was imagining a disruption in the city, like a badly timed firework, leaving a cloud of red pigment in the sky. I did my first smoke piece on a rooftop in the center of Paris.  It is a very uniform, horizontal city, so you could see the color hanging just above the buildings for about ten minutes. I asked a photographer to document the duration of the piece from the roof of the Pompidou. After setting it off things turned hectic quickly. The neighbors called the cops and I ended up running through the streets to get away just in time before getting caught.

The next development of these works is using the smoke pigment to expose pieces of architecture, leaving a monochromatic photocopy of the exhibition space.  With the smoke works it’s more interesting if the disruption happens inside of a gallery.

I also used these ideas of disruption and intervention in my works in situ. One example was when I found a construction site in south of France with a front end loader completely stranded in a body of water. It is the perfect sculpture. I convinced them to stop working for the rest of the day, so I could photograph it.

Jeremy Everett, “Untitled” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist.

Jeremy Everett, “Untitled” (2015). Courtesy of the Artist.

I’d like to ask you about location. You now live and work in LA — a city very different from Paris and one currently very much in the art press. Do you think that move has affected your work? 

Yes, there is a freedom in LA that has changed my work — the availability of material and an opportunity to work at a larger scale that I didn’t have in New York or Paris. The foundation of the city is Hollywood, and all of the production material, printers, fabricators, etc., can be used for art making. Visually the light is unrelenting and incredible. I am always surrounded by a questionable reality. My studio is located on Broadway downtown, above Elvira’s Wedding Chapel. On one side is the building where Blade Runner was filmed, and on the other side is the shop where OJ Simpson bought the knife that was used in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.

* * *

As I leave the conversation, I’m left with a sense of Everett as a kind of filmmaker — not in the literal sense of shooting films, but as Hitchcock said: “Film is collage.” It’s this sense of image following image, object from action and image again that stays with me. That and the fact/fiction crossover that is Los Angeles.

by Darren Flook

Helen Molesworth on Noah Davis


  Noah Davis, 2009. Photo: Ed Templeton.

  Noah Davis, 2009. Photo: Ed Templeton.

On September 17, 2014, I drove from my office in downtown Los Angeles to the Underground Museum. I still didn’t understand what east and west meant in LA, so I ended up somewhere on East Washington Avenue surrounded by train tracks and electrical lines, and I remember thinking either this joint is seriously underground or I am majorly lost. A few minutes and a big U-turn later I arrived at the actual Underground Museum, a storefront space located on a block that was home to a Jamaican lunch spot and a Spanish language evangelical church. It was ninety-six degrees. I had an appointment to meetKahlil Joseph and see a video that two of my Museum of Contemporary Art colleagues—Emma Reeves and Bennett Simpson—had urged me to see in an exhibition organized by Noah Davis called “The Oracle.” This was how I met Kahlil and his brother Noah for the first time. Everyone who has seen Joseph’s double screen projection video m.A.A.d, 2014, knows that it is nothing short of mesmerizing. I sat through it twice before walking back into a large office behind the galleries where Noah and Kahlil were hanging out; a black cat was being as still as possible on an old sofa upholstered with African or Japanese indigo fabric, and a stunningly beautiful woman, Onye, Kahlil’s wife, was working intently on a laptop. Even though the heat was deadly, we sat around and talked for hours. We talked about film; we talked a lot about Kerry James Marshall, an artist Noah loved. It turned out that Noah had heard some gossip from New York about the show I was working on with Kerry, and we laughed a lot about the ludicrous nature of museum politics. It felt easy and natural, and the connection was filled with the sparks of energy that fly around among people when they meet and realize they mutually love many of the same things: Marshall, David HammonsMarcel DuchampHenry Taylor, art, bookstores, Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room, Black Mountain College. And then there was the irreverence, the shared deployment of humor as a way of navigating the great cruelties of the world. While we were hanging out, another impossibly beautiful woman came in. Karon, Noah’s wife, was breathless, in a rush, with Moses, an angelic little boy of five. When introduced, she flashed me a huge smile, but she had things to do.

I had just had my first studio visit in Los Angeles. I drove back to my office, where I had worked for three weeks, and put Kahlil’s video on the exhibition schedule. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I only knew the video felt utterly and completely NOW and urgent, and we were making a new museum at MoCA, and I wanted it to be the kind of museum that could move fast and show what felt right.

The next time I went to the Underground to hang out, I asked Noah if we could do a studio visit, and he sort of blew me off. Standing outside smoking, he said something like, “This is it, you know, it’s just here. When I make some new work you can see it.” Noah was like that, humble, always deflecting attention away from himself. Because Kahlil’s video was showing at MoCA, I started seeing Noah and Kahlil, either at the Underground, or at MoCA. At the William Pope.L opening, Noah and I stood in awe of Pope.L’s huge, wind-whipped and blowing, frayed flag, and Noah told me he felt a little embarrassed by it because it made him feel like he used to feel when he looked at art. I knew what he meant, but asked him to say more, and he said something like, “It’s like art was before the market killed it, like when art was for the people who really loved art and thought art could really do something.” He thought the piece was unassailable, complete, full, uncompromised. It was one of the most open-ended, hopeful conversations I had had about a work of art in a long time.

Noah Davis, Basic Training 1, 2008, oil and acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10". Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection.

Noah Davis, Basic Training 1, 2008, oil and acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10". Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection.

I’m not exactly sure when Noah pitched his dream for the Underground to me. I remain flummoxed by how I can’t remember where we were; what I mostly remember is how nervous I was when I wrote toPhilippe Vergne, the new director of MoCA, to tell him that what Noah wanted was to show “museum-quality art” (he always put quotes around that phrase; Noah was so damn funny) at the UM. But I do remember the important question: Noah wanted to know “Would MoCA be willing to lend art to the Underground?” And I know that all I wanted to do was say “YES.” The Underground had started to feel to me like an artwork in and of itself, in the tradition of Katherine S. Dreier, Duchamp and Man Ray’s Société Anonyme, Marcel Broodthaers’s Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles, and David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology. I was completely turned on by the hopefulness of it all. No more trying to change things slowly from the inside. Fuck it. The general vibe of the Underground (and of Noah in general) was a tacitly shared “These folks fucked up . . . let’s just make this shit ourselves.” At least that’s what it felt like to me, and I confess I wanted in. And it turned out that Philippe wanted in too. For him it was a way to rethink museum expansion: No big-name architect needed! Let’s move horizontally, not vertically. Los Angeles was starting to work its magic on us.

The entirety of MoCA’s storied permanent collection exists in picture form in three massive three-ring binders in my office. I refer to these volumes as the bible. I leaf through them almost daily, and when we agreed that MoCA would lend works to the UM we decided to give Noah a copy of the bible and let him start looking at what we had. The plan was to let the Underground take the lead: He would choose, and we would follow. Around this time, Noah’s cancer returned, and he called to let me know he was going to have to miss a meeting because he had to check into the hospital for a few days. Me being me, I didn’t want to lose momentum so I just drove the bible over to the hospital. Watching Noah flip through its pages was exhilarating. His excitement was off the charts. We went deep, we laughed, and then he started making up shows—just like that, in a hospital bed. It turns out, on top of everything else, he was a curator too. Over the next months, Noah made lists of artists he wanted to show, lists of exhibitions he wanted to do. He had fundraising ideas. And he had the most enviable titles EVER, like “Water and Power” for a show with Olafur EliassonHans Haacke, and James Turrell. That was Noah; he made it look simple—three great art objects and one title that spun them around into a new formation. Boom! All my synapses would fire up, and to top it off I would usually be laughing.

He kept drafting exhibition ideas. We decided to start with a William Kentridge installation, a modest first step to see what it felt like. The Underground got all kinds of folks to volunteer to paint the walls and work on the show, and the staff at MoCA just leapt into the void; it was all about making things happen. The energy felt good. The press was off the hook (we were inventing a new model!). But the truth was Noah was getting sicker. The trips to the hospital were more frequent. It was clear he was in pain. I selfishly grabbed whatever time with him I could. I was always trying to get a little more out of him—a few more ideas about shows, a few more funny quips about art, a little more gossip. One day, en route to Palm Springs to check myself into a hotel to write a catalogue essay for my upcoming Kerry James Marshall show, I visited with him and Karon in the hospital. I started to tell them how nervous I was about writing the essay and Noah said, “Oh man, Kerry James Marshall: That work speaks for itself.” I laughed all the way from Santa Monica to the desert thinking about what a funny a thing that was to say to someone who was about to write an essay on Kerry James Marshall. Noah had a way of placing people’s egos in check. It still cracks me up whenever I think of it.

Art and death and love are inextricably linked to one another. Art is what is left behind; art is the trace of our brief time on the planet. It is a privilege to leave such traces, and it is an honor to tend to them. Love is the engine that makes the production and preservation of art possible. Love is the energy that allows us to connect equally with an art object made thousands of years ago or yesterday. Love—particularly love’s capacity for the infinite—is what allows us to be open to the experience of the other. It is love that enables the profound encounter with the ideas and vision and passion and feelings of another person. Such encounters form the very core of our engagement with art. It’s no mistake that Noah’s paintings are filled with figures that are touching each other. It’s also no mistake that Noah’s paintings are filled with solitary figures fully occupying the existential state of loneliness. For me, the Underground Museum is Noah’s magnum opus, a complete and total artwork, dedicated to creating a space for others, committed to making room for different encounters, inspired by the deep truth about art . . . that what it’s for is to pull individuals into fellowship—if only temporarily. Art helps us find the members of our infinitely dispersed tribe, art helps to bind us to one another. This is the great gift that Noah Davis left us, and the Underground is a reminder that setting out on a new path often means a return to the basics.

Noah passed on August 29, 2015. I was fortunate enough to know him for almost a year, but I will tend to his work and memory for much longer, because that is what curators do: They care for works of art. No bells and whistles, just back to basics. “Oh man, Noah Davis: That work speaks for itself.”

Helen Molesworth is the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Chris Cran interview in the new issue of BORDER CROSSINGS by Robert Enright

Taking the Polymath Test

Chris Cran and the Pleasures of Looking

By Robert Enright

Chris Cran, the Calgary-based artist, educator and arts advocate, is a picture-making polymath. There is no visual language he doesn’t understand well enough to mimic, transform, redirect and dismantle. At various points in his distinguished 35-year-long career (which is being recognized in May of 2016 with a retrospective at the National Gallery in Ottawa), he has performed all these functions. Cran has made art making, particularly painting, a pursuit coloured by his uniquely inventive and playful intelligence.

Cran first came to public attention with a virtuoso series of self-portraits begun in 1984 and which continued for another five years. Their combination of wit, art historical awareness and skilful rendering made them irresistible. His occupations are various; he joins combat nymphos in Vietnam, reflects on eye and nose charts, visits art galleries, watches television and reads famous books. In one self-portrait, he accepts a cheque for the commissioned painting we are looking at. The painting becomes a meta-presentation. In Double Self-Portrait – Wanting To Know What I’m Doing Home So Late, 1987, we see him as both penitent husband and interrogating wife; the latter holds an alarm clock in front of her like a weapon. Cran moves effortlessly from quotidian domesticity to artful appropriation. In Two Portraits Of The Artist By Andy Warhol, 1987, he masquerades as Warhol to paint himself in the serial style of Warholian ‘Pop.’

Lemons, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 inches. Courtesy the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles.

Lemons, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 inches. Courtesy the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles.

The humour in the self-portraits was decidedly self-reflexive. Cran created a persona whose good-natured ineptitude became a visual signature. (In Self-Portrait Practicing Signatures, 1989, it was an actual signature; we look over his shoulder and see him trying out four different styles of handwriting.) In 1985 he is seen from behind plugging his ears to avoid the aftermath of witnessing a man shooting himself in the foot; two years later he enacts the same gesture watching a huge mushroom cloud forming on the prairie horizon line. An identical pose draws our attention to what is funny and what is final; the subject of his self-portraiture is comfortably nonsensical and nuclear.

Cran’s subject matter has been consistently wide-ranging; the painting calledDiamonds and Hamburgers, 2005, accurately frames the possibilities. He paints humans and animals, sculptures and cartoon characters, halftones and whole forms, picture frames and muscled arms. He works through inherited pictorial genres, including portraiture, still life, landscape and abstraction, and he borrows unapologetically from artists he admires. That use can be direct (as in Warhol and Max Beckmann); or it can be tangential (as in Ed Ruscha and Gerhard Richter).

Cran’s practice is to take what he calls “those old, square ways of making pictures and try something new with them.”Boat Face, 1993, an oil and acrylic on canvas, shows a simple yellow-lined schematic of a sailboat drawn over the head of a man. The nine lines that make up the boat also form a face, registering a portrait in two modes. A dozen years later inBoat on Still Life, 2005, he places a black-lined, slightly more complicated schematic sailboat over an orange still life, which is already situated behind a screen of stripes. This boat has a pair of gulls above it, turning the boat into a childlike drawing of a smiling face. The painting is an exercise in layering: a simple child’s drawing over a still life interfered with by a screen of narrowly separated vertical lines becomes a physiognomy. In House Head, 2009, he will exercise yet another variation: the windows of the house are eyes, the door a mouth and nose.

Similarly, he will make seductive, large-brush abstractions inBlue Abstract, 1993, and then return to the idea and the sensuousness 12 years later in Pink Abstraction, or in hisUntitled Abstractions, 2005. His toggling back and forth in time invites us into what he has elsewhere characterized as “the delicious pleasure of noticing.”

Large Green Laughing Man, 1990, oil and acrylic on canvas, 108 x 72 inches. Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photograph: Doug Curran.

Large Green Laughing Man, 1990, oil and acrylic on canvas, 108 x 72 inches. Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photograph: Doug Curran.

While Cran encourages us to look, he rarely helps us in our perceptual gambit by letting us know exactly what is it we’re looking at. He is committed to what he calls “the simple principle of confusing the eyes.” Of course, he is aware that what we see shapes what we think, so while the principle might be simple, the effect is not. Yawner and Singer, 2004, offers a simple example of this intentional confusion. The painting is comprised of two identical circular panels in which a man wearing a hat is doing one of the two things identified in the title of the painting. Or he’s doing both. Cran creates a situation in which as viewers we are inescapably implicated in a playful epistemology of doubt. He relies on us to read the work. He regards a painting as a “mute apparatus,” the meaning of which is imminent but not declared. It is our role to decide what the work is saying. We give it voice; we make the apparatus speak.

Locating the best place to see that voice is one of the tasks Cran’s work sets for us. Because of the perceptual ambiguities embodied in his work, the devices of interference he employs and the scale of the larger works, we are obliged to move around the gallery in search of the location and perspective from which the paintings can be read. We keep asking ourselves, what are we looking at; what do our eyes tell us that our head questions? The answer is simply a question of the image coming into focus. For Chris Cran, “focus is equivalent to meaning.”

Chris Cran will have two major exhibitions in the fall: “Chris Cran” at the Art Gallery of Alberta, co-curated by Catherine Crowston and Josée Drouin-Brisebois of the National Gallery, from September 12, 2015 to January 3, 2016; and “Inherent Vice” at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, curated by Ryan Doherty, from September 26 to November 22, 2015.

The following interview was conducted by phone to the artist’s studio in Calgary in June of 2015.

Continue reading... BORDER CROSSINGS

Noah Davis

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend Noah Davis.

Our hearts are with his family...

Noah Davis, a painter and installation artist who founded the Underground Museum, an exhibition space in a working-class neighborhood of Los Angeles that provides free art shows, died on Saturday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 32.

He learned he had cancer a few years ago, his family said in confirming the death.

Mr. Davis’s paintings were mostly figurative works depicting blacks in surreal landscapes, sometimes with their features distorted or smeared in a manner reminiscent of Francis Bacon. He drew inspiration from sources as varied as Richard Brautigan’s 1968 novella “In Watermelon Sugar” and “The Jerry Springer Show.”

“The palette is very moody and evocative, and he has an extraordinary ability to convey emotional effect,” Helen Molesworth, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, said by telephone Tuesday.

Mr. Davis founded the Underground Museum with his wife, the artist Karon Davis, in 2012 (they had married in 2008) in a row of storefronts in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Mr. Davis organized eclectic shows there like “The Oracle,” which combined sculptures by Henry Taylor, 19th-century carvings from Sudan and a video installation by his brother, the video artist Kahlil Joseph. The work, titled “m.A.A.d,” is a 15-minute paean to the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles set to the music of Kendrick Lamar.

Another exhibition was Mr. Davis’s 2013 installation “Imitation of Wealth,” in which he recreated works by artists like Jeff Koons and On Kawara using inexpensive materials.

“I like the idea of bringing a high-end gallery into a place that has no cultural outlets within walking distance,” Mr. Davis told the magazine Art in America that year. The installation is now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, with free admission.

Noah Marcus Davis was born in Seattle on June 3, 1983, to Keven Davis, a lawyer, and Faith Childs-Davis. He studied at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York but did not graduate.

Mr. Davis’s art has been exhibited in group shows at the Studio Museum of Harlem and in the Rubell Family Foundation’s “30 Americans,” which has showcased the work of African-American artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

Mr. Davis sometimes felt frustrated by being grouped with other artists by race. “For a while, I thought I was being put in a box,” he told the alternative newspaper The Stranger in 2010. “But it’s the most glamorous box I’ve ever been in, so whatever.”

In addition to his mother, his brother and his wife, Mr. Davis is survived by a son, Moses.

The Museum of Contemporary Art has also begun showing artwork from its permanent collection at the Underground Museum, under a three-year partnership that is to feature themed exhibitions of works by Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Ellsworth Kelly and others. tThe shows had been planned by Mr. Davis.

Graeme Mitchell in ISSUE MAGAZINE

Interview by Jay Batlle

With Cinderblock, A Still Life After, 2015

With Cinderblock, A Still Life After, 2015


Interview by Jay Batlle





I’ve always avoided getting too close with my neighbors. It’s an unspoken rule in NYC: keep to yourself but always be companionable. The ones with whom I’ve been able to transcend this iron code are friends for life.

New York is all or nothing / Graeme is my friend for life.

The front doors to our Brooklyn apartments faced each other in the psychedelic purple hallway of the Chocolate Factory. Behind those doors were our respective studios—Graeme’s darkroom and my painting place. Before we knew each other, I always seemed to be going out around the same time that my Canadian neighbor began his daily street photography. Day after day our doors opened simultaneously, and we were facing each other, buttoning our coats. Then one spring day as I was leaving to take my lurcher Seymour for a walk, we started talking, and we haven’t stopped since.

Thereafter, our solitary routines seemed to merge naturally into seeing each other and chatting about what we were seeing. Mainly art. Graeme’s work was the first street photography I’d seen in years which spoke to me. I ended up looking forward to grabbing some cold beers in the store downstairs and shooting the shit with Graeme. Getting home was no problem: we just took the elevator and parted on our respective thresholds, still talking.

Graeme has since relocated to Los Angeles. We caught up recently over a long lunch at the Soho House in West Hollywood.

Jay Batlle: I’m having a Peroni? You?

Graeme Mitchell: Yeah, great, two of those. It’s hot. Nineties in February is bananas. It’s nice up here though! It is rare to have such an elevated view of this city.

JB: Please don’t remind me. Brooklyn has been brutal this winter. Okay, so when did you first start making photographs?

GM: At the age of 11 or 12. My dad was into tech, so there were old cameras around the house that I’d play with. I figure at that age a camera was a cool object, like a boom-box or a sword, but for whatever reason I was serious about using it or performing with it. I’d direct my brothers in these scenes—neon sunglasses, roller skates, the works. It was playing.

JB: When and how did you start making portraits?

GM: Right from that start. It’s what I assumed cameras were for, to photograph people. I didn’t take pictures of anything else for years. After my brothers, I moved on to portraits of friends. I did this, I’d say, throughout high school. It was my way to connect with people, to show affection. The actual photographs didn’t matter. That would come much later. My portraits as work began after moving to NYC and meeting editors who spotted this natural direction.


Continue reading interview ISSUE MAGAZINE

Major retrospective for Chris Cran

IN MY OPINION: Chris Cran love-fest: Major retrospective for Calgary artist

by Jeffrey Spalding
August 19, 201

Senior Calgary artist Chris Cran has achieved a remarkable and unique career milestone. If somehow you managed not to know his work before, you most certainly will now. The National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta have come together to organize a 40-year survey of his art for display in Edmonton and Ottawa. Completing the trifecta is the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge, which will concurrently mount an exhibition of his new works. Inclusions in commercial gallery and other thematic shows will further flesh out this extraordinary Cran love-fest. These are welcome and most deserving honours for an artist of long-standing achievement, a man organizers describe as “influential” and “one of the country’s most notable painters of the last few decades.” 


MOCA & Noah Davis' Underground Museum collaborate.


By Carolina A. Miranda

Watching William Kentridge's video installation "7 Fragments for George Méliès" is like watching a bunch of ghosts play with the materials of art. In this suite of seven videos, ink flows backward. Torn scraps of paper levitate and reassemble themselves. Drawings come magically to life. 

Kentridge is a highly regarded South African artist who has had exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris. "7 Fragments," a tribute to Méliès, the French special-effects pioneer, was made in 2003 and is in the permanent collection of various international museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The piece is on view in L.A., but it can't be found at any museum.

Instead, for the last three weeks, "7 Fragments" has been quietly screening inside a low-slung storefront on Washington Boulevard in Arlington Heights, down the block from a tattoo parlor and a liquor store. Showing alongside it are two companion videos by Kentridge that are also part of MOCA's permanent collection. 

The installation is part of an innovative new collaboration between the Underground Museum, the alternative art space founded by painter Noah Davis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. For the next three years, the Underground will feature a series of exhibitions, curated by Davis, that will be drawn from MOCA's permanent collection — placing important works of art in a largely working-class black and Latino neighborhood at the heart of Los Angeles. 

"Noah said that it had been this huge dream of his to have the Underground Museum have museum-quality work," says MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth. "I had been thinking about wanting to do things with artists, to have the museum do things that the artists couldn't do themselves, that they needed resources or expertise that we could bring to the situation."

Founded in part by artists, MOCA has long referred to itself as an "artist's museum." And Molesworth, who joined MOCA late last year, says that Davis articulated his idea — of showing museum quality work at the Underground Museum — right at a moment in which she was considering what being an "artist's museum" meant.

She floated the idea of a collaboration to MOCA Director Philippe Vergne, who immediately supported it. "Both Philippe and I feel very strongly that if you follow the artists, you will be in the right place," she says. "That's what it means to be an artist's museum."

Continue reading article...  LOS ANGELES TIMES

Interview with Austin Irving in Frontrunner Magazine

Edward Symes of Frontrunner Magazine interviews Austin Irving.

Tell me about the group of photographs of NOT AN EXIT.  When did you begin to capture the series and edit them into a cohesive show?  Did you begin with a concept or did you have realizations along the way as far as color, form, and overall style?

I found the first image of my NOT AN EXIT series by accident. I was staying in a hotel in Souest, Netherlands in 2007 for a commercial assignment and late at night after a long day of shooting bridal gowns, I discovered that from one exact spot, the hotel hallway looked strangely and uncomfortably impassable. When I travel, I always bring my 4×5 camera with me, so I was able to capture this bizarre optical illusion on film. At the time, that image was an anomaly as I was primarily shooting portraits, landscapes and nightscapes. It wasn’t until I found another location in Singapore in 2009 that had the same qualities as that first image in Souest that I realized that this was going to become a series.

continue reading interview on FRONTRUNNER MAGAZINE

NOT AN EXIT review in LA Times, Art I Like LA & The Plus

Austin Irving NOT AN EXIT in the Los Angeles Times, Art I Like LA and The Plus magazine


Los Angeles Times

Eagle Rock, Los Angeles County, CA

Eagle Rock, Los Angeles County, CA

Austin Irving photographs spaces with no exit


The nine color photographs in Austin Irving's absorbing show at Wilding Cran read as existential propositions as much as visual documents. Each is shot looking through a doorway or into a hallway, but none of the spaces promise passage. They all recede into what seem like dead ends, suffocating cul-de-sacs of glaring banality.

One site photographed in Eagle Rock (all are titled by location and some by function as well) shows a door absurdly set in a wedge-tight corner. Kafka must have served as architectural consultant; the situation reeks of futility. A Texaco rest stop in Ehrenberg, Az., could pass as an interrogation facility or perhaps an abattoir. Its gray-tiled walls seem designed to be hosed clean of evidence.

Throughout, the L.A.-based Irving focuses on surfaces insistently generic, bureaucratically bland and bleak, absent all niceties of fine detail or ornamentation. The spaces, characterized by industrial carpet and fluorescent lighting, are not attractive; her canny perspectives make them feel downright desperate.

She ups the visceral impact of the images by printing them large (most are 4-by-5 or 6 feet), with a matte surface. Mounted on thin aluminum-composite panels and unframed, their spaces feel nearly continuous with our own. We experience them bodily, not just visually, as if stage sets dense with metaphorical implication.

Interview in the Plus Paper

Art I Like LA

Vikky Alexander, Martin Bennett & Chris Cran in group show at TrépanierBaer in Calgary AB


Damian Moppett  Candle (London 2010) , 2010

Damian Moppett
Candle (London 2010), 2010

Still Life: Looking at the Overlooked

Opening Saturday, May 23, 2015
2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m

Still Life: Looking at the Overlooked

Vikky Alexander
Nicolas Baier
Martin Bennett
Eric Cameron
James Carl
Didier Courbot
Chris Cran
Gathie Falk
Fred Herzog
Geoffrey James
Harold Klunder
Owen Kydd
Liz Magor
Chris Millar
Damian Moppett
Ron Moppett
Julian Opie
Tony Scherman
Ryan Sluggett
An Te Liu
Ron Terada