Sunday, September 20, 2009

L.A. Art "Scene" Roundup 9.12.09

Los Angeles Gallery Roundup 9.12.09

It seemed like this weekend was the kickoff of the Fall Art Season in Los Angeles, so I decided to head out with my acid tipped pen to see what all the buzz was about. I recognize that I have stayed West of Chinatown thus far, and I promise to rectify that situation.

As the date approached I began assessing life in Los Angeles and how the art here reflects upon it. Rarely do I see an unattractive person in Los Angeles and when I do they undoubtedly have an attractive person in tow. Without fail I always overhear a person talking about this or that person who sold a script or starred in some pilot, an introduction already in the works. To sum things up, life is perfect in Los Angeles and everyone is on the up and up. To compare this to New York is silly. New York is the home of the beats and the abstracts, people proud of their calloused hands and working class backgrounds, people who saw the angelic in the destitute and depressed. Los Angeles aesthetic is look poor live rich. Hence the skinny jeans, scraggly beards mixed with Mercedes, iPhone, Blackberry and three hour lunches on platinum cards.

So why should the art be any different than the people, fleeting. This is just an idea mind you, but the Los Angeles art scene seems to focus on the beautiful and the vapid. All sweet sticky paintings that’d look good over your sunstained bed while you make love to unreal blond you met at Bar Marmont the night before. I am not complaining, this is the art you’d hang at vacation homes in Laguna, Palm Springs or Santa Barbara. But, what is marching into museums and history here? And if it is, who got their daddy to buy it and donate it.

Anyhoo, here we go with the roundup, more thoughts on all this later. Decided on a quick crawl this week as work had been crazy and I wasn’t in the mood for a marathon. The idea was to go through West Hollywood and straight to Culver City. Do the galleries fast, get out and go to Father’s Office for libations and burgers. The mission was accomplished and if you followed me on Twitter ( you know it wasn’t a horror show like last time. Though there are a few galleries that I will challenge to do better.

September 12 – October 17, 2009

Nothing like light boxes of pretty and somewhat over photoshopped photography, wi
th words no less. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for words, hell I type them nightly, but when you put words in your art you can really lose your audience fast. The press release states that, “Doug Aitken's new light boxes combine image and text in a collision that creates a rupture in which alternate connections are presented.” I say, phooey. These are the perfect example of a Los Angeles art. Aesthetically there isn’t much to complain about, the art is good looking, the artist is skilled, but there is little to no commentary. Photos of Vegas in it’s raw form don’t even feel like an exposition on the seedy underbelly, it feels like a ripoff of some hip California bands album cover. Regen Projects continues to let me down showing cheesy LA art filled with meaningless words and lame art. Lightboxes might be the single most annoying idea for photography. If it isn’t a one sheet for the next kids movie keep it out of a lightbox please. This show was boring, pretty and boring, like a blind date with a beauty from Iowa moved to Los Angeles to make it as an actress but working at a sports bar to pay the bills and waiting for someone to discover her.

M + B
Andrew Bush: Vector Portraits
September 12 – October 15
M + B’s clean space and dreamy west coast photos are rewarding to the viewer for what they are, sensuous views of the Left Coast lifestyle. Bush’s subjects are all driving cars in the beautiful west coast sunshine. As a child of a family of car enthusiasts I appreciate the Americana of it. That he doesn’t capture the entire car and chooses to photograph the driver’s side from back window to side mirror allowing you to complete the car as you like only adds to it. This is the type of eye candy that I expect in Los Angeles and would never complain about seeing. It’s Hockney’s Los Angeles in photo, people driving to those Los Angeles homes to lay beside pools, drink fruity beverages and discuss four picture deals and minorities on their way to the country club where they’ll be caddying and serving Arnold Palmers to those very same dealmakers. It’s Manifest Destiny on Kodak Paper. Go see this work for a little glimpse into the left coast lifestyle, stay for the California dreamin’.

Sandow Birk: American Qur’an
September 8 – October 30

The first stop in Culver City was Koplin Del Oro for Sandow Birks controversial sh
ow, which should come as no surprise to the Los Angeles Art Gallery goer, was anything but controversial. American images confronted with a Muslim font style and basic feeling. This work , if you took the time to read it might say something interesting, but the whole idea of an artist born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and educated in Los Angeles choosing this subject matter, “An ongoing project to transcribe the entire Koran according to Islamic traditions and illuminate the text with scenes from contemporary American life.” Simply put, the Koran and contemporary American life have very little to do with each other. Another example of an American grabbing onto a hot American topic and trying to appropriate it as a commodity that will help in being controversial while saying little and making some money off the heat. The price point was high and the art was boring. This show looked good from outside but quickly became a bore.

James Everett Stanl ey: Let It Burn
September 12 - October 31, 2009
The last time I visited Kinkead Contemporary it was offering the tired insider Artist photography of hip artist hell that makes me vomit in my mouth and spit it on the floor. This time they were presenting James Everett Stanley’s portraits painted to reflect the destruction happening all around us. They are, “subjects transfixed by the after-effects of destruction and loss.” This is a subject a native New Yorker can really get behind. And you know what, they were the first truly memorable thing I’d looked at in a while. The portraits did fall short on a few walls, but the direction was right and it was a nice reprieve from Sandow Birk’s over-worked, over wrought work. Everett’s playful imagery of the end of the world was reflection on the “scenes” inability to grasp that their even is a world outside of the thirty-mile zone. Still, the playfulness suggested slightly that the artist was as clueless as the members of the scene and in that sense it fell slightly short. To say it nicely, the art lacked an angst or anger that would’ve helped enormously in putting it over the edge. In summary thought, these works are totally worthwhile and should be looked at.

LeBasse Projects
Edwin Ushiro: Softly Encompassing the Womb
Ryuichi Ogino: Idealistically Hypocritical 3
September 12, 2009

LeBasse is a solid visit for the dreamer. The art is affordable
and typical eastern in nature. Those dreamy Anime type landscapes where women float lazily in the lavender gloom that leave you wishing you could disappear into some early summer sunset floating along the waters of thought. These paintings are not reinventing the ways we see canvas, but they are a nice escape from an art scene that is obviously trying very hard. The couple I brought along even bought a reasonably priced study on graph paper. Ryuichi Ogino is an analytical painter trying to interpret entertainment as a medium that can never attain the categorization of art, if it has value then it is inevitably whimsical and poppy and not worth it’s seriousness. Edwin Ushiro’s dreamy suburban images of couples, kids and lost souls dangling rebelliously in the sunwashed early evening are like a strong drink of gin. You lose yourself in the mindbending colors and hope that the ledge isn’t too far off or perhaps you may drown in their dreaminess. All in all a good show and firm reminder that adults can still maintain their imagination.

Angelika J. Trojinarski: After the Gold Rush
September 12 – October 10, 2009
Let’s start by saying this is the first opportunity this critic has had to say he’s reviewing and artist from Dusseldorf, and wow is that a fun word to say. Unfortunately the art lacked a firm commitment to the subject matter. It felt propagated on one bad idea. The releases explained that, “variegated decay and abandonment are the protagonist of Trojanarski’s work.” This Dusseldorf has a weird way of showing it, slow to materialize abstracts and plays on the old abandoned west, it felt like a show lost on it’s own ideas. An idea of an America past it’s prime, lost in itself. The unfortunate thing about this show is the America on display isn’t the American the artist is referring to. This artist shows with Saatchi and is probably much richer than I am, but still, at least I can stay on subject.

Brian Besse: The Royal Box
This video installation of ironic hipster artist singing and cracking inside jokes that passers by pretend to understand is a continued trend that must be stopped. Just because it seems cool, e.g. you do not understand it, doesn’t mean you should smile, nudge your pal, and pretend it’s the greatest thing since Kraft Mac and Cheese. It’s described in the press releases as an, “Unapologetic exploration of human nature, relationships and desires.” This was not what was on display in the work. But, of course, maybe I have no idea what I am talking about and this was brilliant. Probably not, but if it helps you sleep at night, then sure.


MALONEY FINE ARTS PRESENT: Malick Sidibé Photographs: 1962-2008

These photos speak for themselves. Very fun to look at. The photographer appro
aches his subject with the eye of a person appreciating every bit of joy, bravado, machismo, celebration or loss in the image and the subject. I really enjoyed these photographs in their primitive and slightly overexposed glory. Every one who stepped into the gallery gravitated to some image and moved closer to the image as if there were something hidden, as if they got close enough they could enter into the image. Very wornderful.

Claire Oswalt: Peril in Perfection
September 12 - October 31, 2009
These sculptural drawings by New York based artist (of course I would like it) capture people at the moment of violence. Working in the medium is wood and graphite on paper. While these works didn’t feel as if they have achieved what they’d set out for, they were very good. There were several striking elements to the work, that they are set off from the canvas, that they not only depict violence, but also cast a violent shadow make them doubly haunting. Claire Oswalt has captured something so grotesque and added an element of campy humor to boot, so that the expressions on these people’s faces reveal the ridiculousness of the moment, a drunken argument perhaps? A misunderstanding in the high school parking lot? A love lost? These questions along with figures that seem to be puppets, seem to be able to be moved at any moment, create a piece of art that is like us, ever changing. This was a good opening and definitely worth a look.

Song Kun: Seeking the Recluse but Not Meeting
September 12 - October 31, 2009

This show felt incredibly strange. The paintings all based in a gray fog of people lost in moments
of reflections. While technically the art seemed worked to perfection, the detachment was haunting and almost inhuman. It’s as if the artist had taken all the blood and life out of the subjects and turned them into a mannequins floating in life. Song Kun’s undeniably a gifted artist, but his works detachment from real life makes the paintings into ghosts on the wall, almost afraid to approach them you use caution and with your guard up it becomes hard to appreciate the work. This is a show I would actually like to go see again before it comes down, it’s haunting beauty like an uneasy moment revisited in your memory. Like a character from Haruki Murakami, anonymous and searching for something lost, while being lost at the same time.

Debbie Han: Hybrid Graces
September 12 - October 31, 2009
I don’t have much to say about this show except that for whatever reason, I got a kick out of it. Thrown in between all these contemporary works the study of these classical Greek style sculptures made me laugh and I enjoyed it for that. Definitely worth a look to make you imagine what art was like back when people wore togas.

Group Photography Exhibition
David Burdeny, Irene Imfeld, John Mann, Paula McCartney and Stephen Galloway
September 12 - October 31, 2009
Without sounding too condescending and realizing that there have been a lot of words already in this roundup, I will simply state that the JK Gallery’s Group Photography Exhibit lacked originality. I went in, I went out. I felt no contempt for the show, nor did I see it as anything different than looking at a bunch of pictures on a friends Facebook profile. I am done, the real rant is about to follow.

Kenny Scharf: Barberadise
September 12, 2009 — October 31, 2009

Now Honor Fraser and I just don’t seem to get along. While I appreciated som
e of the work in the galleries last show, the Emma Gray curated Bitch is the New Black, which seemed to be overstuffed with art and a bit of a scene. This new show took it to a whole new level, leaving me reeling and wondering how this artists blacklight poster paintings of popular Sunday Morning cartoons found its way into a gallery which makes claims at being a serious art space. I am all for a commentary about pop culture and while I know Scharf is a bit of a heavy hitter hanging in major museums. I do not see the point of this work, nor did I enjoy it. Too much of the art world seems to be one opinion maker influencing the way we spend our Sundays in the future, pretending to appreciate something hanging in a museum and telling our children it’s art. Well, I for one do not want to live in a world where I would have to explain the paintings from Kenny Scharf in this show. Again, wall candy. But, I think Honor Fraser might be the reason my New York friends thing Los Angeles’s art scene is just one big, gaudy, infantile joke. It was the last show of the night and left me wondering what the hell is going on out here. I had to retreat to the comfort of red meat and sudsy beer.

In summary
To summarize tonight, I think Los Angeles is all about the “look.” You go into an audition out here and you have to stand out to make an impression. And maybe this is the art imitating life, the art being so concerned with making an impression that it forgets what it’s supposed to say once the person consumes all there is to see on the surface. Next stop will be Chinatown where hopefully I find some more work worth really thinking about.

Craig A. Platt