August 03, 2013
heather gwen martin featured in Los Angeles Times Review: 'Rogue Wave' at L.A. Louver a micro-biennial at its best
By David Pagel, August 2, 2013 | Over the last 15 years, biennial exhibitions have gone from being must-see displays of the latest trends to the art world equivalent of Facebook friends: too numerous to care about deeply but too ubiquitous to ignore completely.
Over a slightly shorter span L.A. more
Aside from size, the biggest difference between the series of summer exhibitions known as “Rogue Wave” and conventional biennials is that the former is organized by a commercial gallery and the latter are mounted by public institutions.
Each type of venue has its pluses and minuses, but “Rogue Wave 2013: 15 Artists from Los Angeles” suggests that untested art is best served by institutions unencumbered by the idea that everything they present must make sense — the more authoritatively, the better.
Prepackaged insights and overcooked explanations are nowhere to be found in the jampacked show, which fills both floors of the gallery, spills onto the stairwell and overflows onto the building’s exterior, where Kim Schoenstadt’s wall painting calls on the imagination to fill the gaps between two-dimensional images and three-dimensional reality.
A charged sense of doubleness animates the best works, including Asad Faulwell’s dazzling depictions of Algerian women who fought against French colonialists only to be shunned by their own people, and Matthew Brandt’s 13 gorgeously damaged photographs of Wyoming’s Rainbow Lake, each of which appears to be simmering in an unnatural stew of post-apocalyptic ooze.
Heather Gwen Martin’s trio of 7-by-6-foot paintings makes your eyes flip back and forth, with wicked swiftness, between macro and micro. Sherin Guirguis’ mural-size triptych and mutant piece of ornamental furniture set up similar dynamics, playing lacy delicacy and explosive energy off each other.
Peter Holzhauer’s seven intimately scaled silverprints transform a seemingly outdated medium into the perfect vehicle for capturing the fractured reality we inhabit. To see the world through his eyes is to see that the abrupt cuts that once gave collage its kick are now a part of everyday life.
The works by Alison O’Daniel, Owen Kidd, Eric Yahnker and Farrah Karapetian seem to be overreaching, trying too hard to be clever and coming off as precious or, worse, self-impressed.
In contrast, there’s nothing self-satisfied in the figurative paintings by Sarah Awad and Laura Krifka, both of which treat the human body as a universe that is at once intimate and alien — as comforting as a lover and as disquieting as dread.
Making a virtue of inconsistency, works by Ashley Landrum, Christopher Miles and Kent Familton play functionalism against uncertainty. Internal conflict, rather than resolved argumentation fuels the best works in “Rogue Wave,” which far outnumber the duds.
L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., (310) 822-4955, through Aug. 23. Summer hours: Closed Saturdays and Sundays. www.lalouver.com [ VISIT LA TIMES ]
August 02, 2013
GEOFFREY TODD SMITH: "SECRET LIVES OF RAINBOWS", OPENS SEPTEMBER 7 - OCTOBER 12, 2013, 6-9 PM
In the Project Space, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by GEOFFREY TODD SMITH , titled Secret Lives of Rainbows, opening September 7 through October 12, 2013. An artist's reception will be held on Saturday, September 7th, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. more
In Secret Lives of Rainbows, Smith deploys an array of colorful media to create vibrant paintings whose complex arrangements of shapes, intricate patterns, vacillating spaces, and scintillating surfaces recall the wonders of basic school age geometry and visual trickery. Looking back at his own life, Smith channels his initial astonishment at first encountering simple one- or two-point perspective by using diagonal bands of shapes to evoke space. The dimensional complexity occurs when the viewer is denied vanishing points, causing the structures to simultaneously move forward and recede. As the color and compositional arrangement lead the vision back and forth through space, it is met with a net of decorative, obsessively drawn surfaces. Within Smith’s intimate, fetishistic surfaces lurks a devotion to the challenges of abstract beauty and its ability to confound expectation and provoke desire. Every composition is treated like a game with self-imposed rules and limitations regarding color and form. Though there is a grid present, its rigid structure and predictability operates as a foil to Smith’s often erratic and unplanned compositions.
Geoffrey Todd Smith lives and works in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include Western Exhibitions, Chicago, and Nudashank, Baltimore; as well as group shows at DCKT, New York; The DePaul Art Museum, Chicago; and Hyde Park Art Center; Chicago. Upcoming exhibitions in 2014 include a solo show at the Hughes Gallery in Sydney, Australia. Smith’s work is in the collections of Hallmark Art Collection, Kansas City; The Jager Collection, Amsterdam; South Bend Art Museum, Indiana; and Harper College in Illinois.
For further information, please call 310-838-6000 or email: email@example.com.
July 30, 2013
HEATHER GWEN MARTIN: "PATTERN MATH", OPENS SEPTEMBER 7 - OCTOBER 12, 2013, 6-9 PM
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by HEATHER GWEN MARTIN titled Pattern Math, opening September 7 through October 12, 2013. This will be Martin’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. An artist's reception will be held on Saturday, September 7th, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
In Pattern Math, Heather Gwen Martin continues her exploration of abstraction in painting. more
Heather Gwen Martin lives and works in Los Angeles. She was born 1977 in Saskatchewan, Canada, and studied at the University of California, San Diego (BA with Honors, 1999) and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2001). Recent exhibitions include Rogue Wave 2013 at L.A. Louver, Venice, CA; The Very Large Array at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; and Theatrical Dynamics and Paradox Maintenance Technicians at the Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA. In addition, the Gallery will present her work at the upcoming EXPO CHICAGO Art Fair, September 19-22. Her paintings are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Ron Pizutti Collection, Columbus, OH; Hallmark Art Collection, Kansas City, MO; as well as in numerous private and corporate collections.
For further information, please call 310-838-6000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 25, 2013
zackary drucker and rhys ernst's "She Gone Rogue" wins grand jury prize for outstanding experimental film at outfest la.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very happy to announce that Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst's SHE GONE ROGUE has been awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Experimental Film at the OUTFEST LA 2013 LGBT Film Festival. The award ceremony took place on Sunday, July 21, at the Marriott Hollywood, and was hosted by HBO and Outfest. more
She Gone Rogue is an experimental semi-narrative short film and collaboration between performance/video artist Zackary Drucker and independent director Rhys Ernst, starring Flawless Sabrina, Holly Woodlawn & Vaginal Davis. She Gone Rogue premiered at the first Los Angeles Biennial, Made in L.A. 2012, organized by the Hammer Museum.
Drucker and Ernst, a real life couple, bring to life the story of a trans woman seeking to discover herself and the dualities that lie within. Engaging a world of dream-like magical realism, She Gone Rogue riffs on the classical narrative of The Odyssey and offers strong hints of Alice in Wonderland, collapsing into Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon. The film utilizes a space where singular selves multiply and expand, offering windows into parallel dimensions, with time and space collapsing into a whirlpool of divergent possibilities. When Drucker finally finds the white rabbit, the process of identity construction completes a full circle, offering more questions than answers.
For more information on She Gone Rogue and the artists, please contact the gallery at 310-838-6000, or email email@example.com.
Check out Meredith Alloway's OUTFEST interview with Zackary and Rhys. [Click here]
July 25, 2013
IN THE MAKE INTERVIEW: HUGO CROSTHWAITE
“Each finished detail leads to another and another and of course a narrative begins to appear. This narrative is usually something that comes up organically as the drawing unfolds...”
Now looking back on the start of our WESTERN EDGE trip, I see that the feeling of big adventure kicked in right around the moment that Klea and I stood on the San Diego side of the United States-Mexico border waiting to meet Hugo’s studio manager, Pierrette Van Cleve. more
Along that 35-mile drive we somehow managed to get off-course more than once and all the while we listened to Pierrette’s fast and loose commentary on a wide variety of subjects that included her thoughts on the shoddy condition of Tijuana’s roads, the difficulties of single motherhood, the performative aspect of life, today’s new breed of feminism, and what it’s like to always feel like an outsider. She came to all subject matters with a wild and wacky mix of enthusiasm, comedy, poignancy, and bewilderment. To call Pierrette a “character” would be too cliché of a statement - but sitting in that car of hers, as her fervent voice boomed out the open windows and into the world, I couldn’t help but think that she was like no one I had ever met, and that I would remember that moment forever.
When we arrived at Hugo’s family home, we found him in his studio working on large-scale drawings on canvas for his upcoming participation in the 2013 California-Pacific Triennial exhibition that just recently opened. Though much less exaggerated in manner, like Pierrette, Hugo is an easy talker. We discussed his childhood spent in his family’s curio shops and the visual aesthetic that those surroundings imprinted on him, and we also talked about his recent five-year stint in New York and what it has been like for him to be back in Tijuana, making art. My conversations with Hugo seemed to expand outwardly, like concentric circles. Often he would answer my questions from a personal, intimate place but then his ideas would widen out into history, politics, and culture… but always the center stayed the same - very personal, very specific.
Hugo’s work mirrors his conversations - it is so singular, distinctive and personal and yet it manages to reach out far beyond its place of origin. His voluptuous, sometimes grotesque figures seem to push against the edges of canvas or paper and immediately reveal the particular kind of rawness, claustrophobia, and melodrama that so often characterize a border town. But Hugo’s everyday “theater” of Tijuana people loitering on street corners, in doorways, in bedrooms and cars… could actually be anywhere, because the stories being told, the questions being asked are relevant to all of us. In order to be universal, you must pay close attention to the specific.
How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
I’m a draughtsman. The most important reason I make art is my love of drawing, something I have practiced since very early in my life. The subject matter or content in my work is derived from my practice of drawing. The process in which I work is one where I draw something and get it to the point where I consider it to be finished and then I move on to another detail and proceed as such until the entire work is finished. Each finished detail leads to another and another and of course a narrative begins to appear. This narrative is usually something that comes up organically as the drawing unfolds and can be determined by whatever I hear or feel and is often prompted by news I’ve heard on the radio or television.
Also there is a personal aesthetic that always seems to come through my work, one that is influenced by movies and artwork that I like. Movies have always been quite influential— Blade Runner made a huge impression on me aesthetically, particularly in thinking about urban environments. It’s dark, baroque, crowded - and in many ways that was why I wanted to live in New York - I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a layered, overpopulated city with subways systems and skyscrapers and tons of people on the sidewalks. I wanted to live in that visual aesthetic for a while and really take it in.
What mediums do you work with?
I work with pencil, charcoal, ink and more recently acrylic paint. I make drawings on paper, wood panels, canvas and walls.
In general my work has always been big, but when I moved to New York I began working in sketchbooks for the first time because I obviously didn’t have as much space. So I just started filling up these sketchbooks and I realized that I don’t actually do “sketches”— I couldn’t leave them alone, I had to finish them so they are in fact quite articulated. They became like little stories that I had to complete, sort of like visual diaries. Once I started doing the sketchbooks I began working with ink and now I’m really engaged in keeping up this work; it’s become a daily practice. I’ve noticed when I’ve included sketchbooks in my shows people have really been into them— people seem excited by them, so that’s been great to witness. So my time in New York (where I had been living for the last five years before recently coming back to Tijuana) was quite informative for my work, in many ways, but certainly this sketchbook work has been new and important.
You grew up in Tijuana - how has your personal history worked its way into your art?
I was born in Tijuana and lived in a curio shop in Rosarito Beach. My entire childhood was spent taking the public taxi everyday up to Tijuana for school and then coming back in the afternoon to work in my father’s curio shop selling handicrafts to American tourists. I learned English in this way and was constantly surrounded by a very baroque setting of colors, figures and textures. Ceramic pots, cartoon figures, glass and iron works, all portraying angels and demons. A way for me to fight off childhood boredom was drawing.
Your work isn’t necessarily explicitly political, but it does speak to the realities of a border town: cultural, social, and economic collisions are definitely present in your work. How are these issues explored in your work?
Tijuana is part of my personal aesthetic. Its realities, for better or worse, are part of me. My drawings also reflect things that I’ve seen and experienced in other places, in Atlanta and New York, cities that I have lived in. I don’t necessarily set out to explore specific subject matter in my work. I mostly just try to keep to what I honestly like to see in my drawing. I usually just make up things as I go along.
I’m interested in the myth of Tijuana and my work does address it at times. People have lots of associations about it because it’s a border town - drunkenness, sex, corruption, sin, chaos, etc. For me I don’t think of Tijuana that way… but now I recognize that when I was growing up so much of the economy was dependent on the U.S.; there was a lot of looking to the north for opportunities and that created a kind of subservient role for Tijuana. Now things have changed, in this past year the usual spring break madness of tourists just wasn’t what it used to be. Some people say this is a dark time, no American dollars are coming in, but to me this is a good time because Tijuana is turning in and looking at itself again and so the culture here is changing, growing, and developing in a different way. It feels like a really good time for me to come back and work.
I recently finished an installation for the 2013 California-Pacific Triennial that was based on the carpa theater that was popular in the 1920s and 30s in Mexico. After the Revolution these vaudeville-like acts toured the country and were well-loved by the urban underclass - the performances often revealed (in a comedic manner) the way in which the system was failing the public, so they were quite political and questioned things like class structure, authority, and corruption.
Do you intend your work to challenge the viewer?
I try to do the best work I can with each drawing I make and I am confident that good work will always inspire and move the viewer just like the work of artists I admire inspire and move me. It makes me very happy when someone else identifies with my work, where they see something that relates to them in a personal way. I think that when you tell a good story there will always be someone that appreciates it.
But I am of course examining bigger ideas and stereotypes in my work - myths of the wild, wild, west - notions of Tijuana, ideas regarding morality, gender, identity, violence, etc. I’m interested in all these things because I have questions about these topics and I hope that my viewers can engage with these questions along with me.
What are you presently inspired by - are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
At the moment I’ve been thinking and dreaming about Julio Cortázar’s short story La Casa Tomada it’s a story about a brother and sister who live in this old house that is being taken by unknown and unseen persons, instead of confronting them they retreat from one side of the house to the other until they are forced to leave the house by the front door. This story gives me a sense of urgency. A beautiful fear that reflects my ambition of unseen projects to come - I want to make the best drawings I can possibly make, and I always believe that my best work is in front of me.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I have just finished a series of drawings on canvas and a mural for an installation for the California-Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art.
How do you navigate the art world?
I do the best work I can and trust that this work will find its public. Fortunately, I have encountered wonderful supporters that have helped me navigate the art world.
Here in Tijuana it was simple in a way - you get invited to shows, people want you to be involved and you can approach people and show your portfolio and ask for opportunity. But then I went to New York and tried that same approach and I couldn’t even get past the receptionist. It is so hard to get people to see your work there. I had to get more creative and strategic with my approach and I did, and luckily for me it worked out and I was able to get Joe Amrhein at Pierogi Gallery to take notice, and then this created a dialogue. Then Luis De Jesus Gallery Los Angeles asked to show my work in LA, and those experiences made me realize that sometimes it’s not always about the work just being good, it’s about getting your work in the door and getting the right people to see it.
Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?
Which other artists might your work be in conversation with? I didn’t really know there where art movements until I was 26 years old and was forced to take art history as part of my graphic design studies at San Diego State University. There my love of beautiful drawing was reinforced and I became an admirer of most of the artists from my 19th Century Art History book - Francisco José de Goya, Théodore Géricault, Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, etc… As time passes and I see more art, I understand that really important and relevant work is not always found in what is most recent or what is labeled “new.” But a few of the contemporary artists that I admire are Neo Rauch, Kara Walker, William Kentridge, as well as others that practice excellence in drawing.
Do you have a motto?
I don’t really have a motto. I think we are more complex than one single rule to follow or live by. I try not to be so orthodox, after all artists are supposed to be free. But I do want my grave to read Hugo Crosthwaite—Gave his Life to the Pencil.
Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
Where can people see your work?
Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles
Pierogi Gallery in New York [ VISIT SITE ]
July 25, 2013
KPFK OUTFEST Interview with Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst of “She Gone Rogue”, winner of Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Experimental Film.
Produced by Meredith Alloway / Filming & Editing by Gary Suderman
Published on Jul 16, 2013 -- Drucker and Ernst, a real life couple, bring to life the story of a trans woman seeking to discover herself and the dualities that lie within. Glamorous, grotesque and with plenty of glitter, the short film introduces us to icons like Holly Woodlawn, Vaginal Davis and Flawless Sabrina. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and abstract cinema, the couple brings an exciting voice to Outfest 2013!
[ WATCH INTERVIEW ]
July 17, 2013
federico solmi included in Artspace article: Denver Collector Ellen Bruss on Sharing Meals With Artists, and Living in a Museum's Backyard"
It's difficult to imagine a more neighborly couple than Colorado collectors Ellen Bruss and Mark Falcone. Ten years ago, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver approached Falcone, a real-estate developer, to ask for help relocating downtown. Not only did he donate a plot of land, he and his wife decided to move in next door. They hired David Adjaye to design both properties: a boxy, 6,000-square-foot steel townhouse for them and a tinted-glass cube for the museum—the Ghana-born architect's first public commission in the United States. more
Ellen Bruss spoke with Artspace about how the pair came to surround themselves with art—in their home and in the museum in their backyard.
What is it like living adjacent to the MCA, an institution on whose board you sat for almost a decade?
Choosing to live next door to a contemporary art museum is not for the faint of heart. We have had goats outside our door, a pigeon cote for six months, a nuclear reactor, lots of experimental music playing, plenty of late-night parties spilling onto our sidewalk, and an extraordinary parade of artists over the years. Both Mark and I served on the board for nine years. I retired last year and he is retiring this summer. Even though we are both termed off of the board, we remain, and will continue to be, close supporters and consumers of its offerings. We host artists who are installing at our home while they are in town. We throw parties, host dinners, and fund-raise as needed. I doubt that a day goes by when either of us has not mentioned "the Museum of Contemporary Art." The two of us are chairing the annual gala in the fall, and I am chairing the first annual "Broad's Banquet," a women-only dinner party late this summer.
How has the MCA evolved in the years since you came on board in 2003, and what role do you think it has come to play in the greater Denver art scene?
In 2003, the institution was only six or seven years old. It had evolved beyond an almost purely volunteer-run enterprise to a staff of four or five, but its long-term sustainability was still in question. By 2003, MCA was putting on some pretty exciting exhibitions and was building a great following among local artists and contemporary art fans, but it was not on the radar of community leaders and philanthropists. Today, MCA Denver has a staff of more than 30, produces exhibitions that regularly travel to other parts of the county, and is seen as a keystone element of the Greater Denver's cultural offerings. Pretty good for ten years!
Do you remember the first work of art you purchased? How did that evolve into a habit of collecting?
I bought Mark a paper sculpture piece by Jae Ko when we were first dating. An Isaac Julien might be the first piece we bought together. When we met, Mark had never bought an original work of art; I had collected local artists for a long time. We mostly focus on artists who we have gotten to know through the MCA/D. Because MCA/D is a non-collecting institution we feel a strong desire to help preserve the record of these extraordinary artists who have made such an impression on our community.
Do you and your husband have a collecting philosophy? Have any particular themes or aesthetic tendencies emerged over the years?
Honestly, no. I think we are both pretty open to and provoked by lots of different things. We really don't think of ourselves as collectors, so, frankly, that takes a lot of pressure off what we choose to buy. We don't have an art consultant, and we are not trying to create an encyclopedic collection of international artists. We simply buy objects that we like by artists who we think are smart and who we somehow have established a strong interest and connection to. We value works from a great Denver-based artist as much as one of the big international names who have shown at MCA/D.
Which contemporary artists are you particularly excited about right now? And where do you go to discover new artists?
We tend to enjoy the biennials more than the art fairs. We have been to most of the Venice Biennales over the last 10 years, and we usually get to the Whitney, Site Santa Fe, and we went to Istanbul two years ago—that was great. We really meet most of the new artists we collect through the MCA/D though. We just got a piece from Frohawk Two Feathers, who is amazing. Over the last several years, the museum has established a great connection with several contemporary Mexican artists. We are especially fond of the work by our friends in Guadalajara, Gonzalo LeBrija and Eduardo Sarabia. We love what Federico Solmi is doing, and he has a great new video out. And there's a number of Denver artists that we keep an eye on: Stephen Batura, David Zimmer, Adam Milner, Bill Stockman, Mary Erhin.
When possible, do you like to meet or visit the studios of artists you collect?
We love to go to artist's studios, but mostly we like sharing meals with them. You really get a good sense for someone's real views and the thoughts behind their work over a bottle of wine.
Where do you go to see art in Colorado?
Galleries include Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery for photography, Gildar Gallery for emerging artists, and Robischon Gallery for more established artists. As for institutions, of course we love what MCA is doing. Adam Lerner is a world-class director and David Adjaye's building has been amazing to live with. The Clyfford Still Museum is incredible—both the space and the art. Denver is very lucky to have this collection. Christoph Heinrich and William Morrow are making the Denver Art Museum a real force in the contemporary collecting-museum world. And if you really want a treat, go to the Kirkland Museum. It is the awesome eclectic collection of decorative objects and fine art from the mid-20th century.
What are some of the works currently on view in your home?
We have a beautiful Larry Bell cube, a roof deck installation for Isaac Julien videos, a Liam Gillick word sculpture, a Kara Walker study, and we have a 16th-century painting by Antonio Balestra next to a record album piece by Dario Robleto. [ VISIT SITE ]
July 15, 2013
hugo crosthwaite / On View: “2013 California-Pacific Triennial” at the OCMA
A showcase of artwork from the diverse countries that line the Pacific, the “2013 California-Pacific Triennial” opened at the Orange County Museum of Art at the end of June. The show features installations and 2D work from 30 artists hailing from California, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, China and beyond — including the California-based Mark Dean Veca (featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 23), Indonesian textile artist and sculptor Eko Nugroho and Chinese installation artist Lin Tianmiao. more
July 13, 2013
Rogue Wave 2013
15 Artists from Los Angeles
Venice, CA -- L.A. Louver is pleased to announce Rogue Wave 2013. This group exhibition includes 15 artists whose work encapsulates the vibrancy and excitement of art being made in Los Angeles today. Cocurated by the gallery's Chief Preparator Christopher Pate and Founding Director Peter Goulds, this is the fifth group exhibition in L.A. Louver's ongoing Rogue Wave program. Painting, drawing, photography and installation will be on view throughout L.A. Louver's first and second floor galleries, Skyroom and exterior spaces. more
July 06, 2013
hugo crosthwaite / los angeles times Review: A modern Silk Road passes through OCMA's Pacific Rim show
By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic
July 5, 2013, 6:00 a.m.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Silk Road emerged as a network of flourishing trade routes between Asia and Europe, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Cultures crossfertilized. Civilizations prospered, others flamed out. Art recorded the complex new entanglements. For the next 4½ months, a modern Silk Road is passing through Southern California. more
A prime difference from its ancient predecessor is that Asia's trading partners here focus on the Americas, not Europe. Enlarging the geographic purview to encompass artists working in countries around the vast Pacific Rim, OCMA has changed its old biennial format, which looked exclusively at California artists.
The organization period necessarily grew from two years to three. As OCMA curator Dan Cameron notes in the show's catalog, the Pacific Ocean is by far the largest single geographic entity on the planet. It dwarfs continents, even making the sky look rather small.
So one difficulty in shifting from a California focus is that the vast Pacific Rim geography can make the happily ambitious show feel thin. It surveys current painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation art in 15 countries as diverse as Honduras, Thailand, Peru, Indonesia, the West Coast of Canada and the U.S. and more — but there are only 32 artists. It's a thumbnail sketch.
The show might better be described as offering a quiet curatorial polemic. It means to shake off a narrow but very common American cultural view, which looks out across the world of art from a perspective confined to a perch at the edge of the Atlantic Rim. That shift is important, and it manifests itself in several thoughtful ways.
First is a beautiful mural encompassing the entry gallery. Titled "Sharawadgi," a gardening term that means "borrowed landscape," the walls are covered in an exquisitely painted chinoiserie pattern, all sinuous floral motifs, fanciful pagodas and gracefully attired scholars set against a limpid, sky-blue background.
Chinoiserie emerged in the 1600s as a wildly popular European design style that embodied a colonial fantasy of the Mysterious Orient. "Sharawadgi," however, is by China's Michael Lin. His chinoiserie slyly suggests that any concept of cultural authenticity is its own fantasy, especially questionable in a media-saturated, post-colonial world.
That theme gets a comic turn in a raucous homage to the Vatican by Mark Dean Veca (U.S.). His big installation reconfigures Bernini's extravagantly Baroque throne of St. Peter using florid design motifs recalling intestines and an alimentary canal. Scatology merges with eschatology, the end of digestion with the end of the world. Deposited as the centerpiece is a beanbag chair in sparkly gold vinyl — part suburban rec-room vulgarity and part VIP-room furnishing for an urban nightclub.
With Europe's art-historical glories thus summarily dispatched, the show teases out its New Silk Road analogy with something specific: Diverse works by half a dozen artists are focused on textiles.
The most compelling are by Lin Tianmao (China), whose rainbow of silk threads puddles on the floor, cascading down from a frieze of mammal bones that rings the gallery and puts human and animal life on equal footing; Kimsooja (Korea), whose nearly silent video of traditional Peruvian weavers exposes a powerful social choreography centered on the feminine hand, flourishing within our technological era; Tiffany Chung (Vietnam), whose homespun but otherwise vaguely ominous aerial maps (think bombing and surveillance targets) are sewn with colorful embroidery, sequins and buttons; and Raquel Ormella (Australia), who unravels her national flag, transforming the arbitrary borders it represents from a political insignia into a celebratory shower of stars.
Even paintings by Hugo Crosthwaite (Mexico) could be seen in this light. Chaotic, absurd and finally poignant pictorial mashups evoke freaky sex and violence in a format that derives from sideshow banners common in rural carnivals.
The age range in the triennial is wide, with an emphasis on midcareer artists. Half are in their 40s.
The eldest is Mexico's Pedro Friedeberg, 77. The artist was born in Florence, Italy, and he and his family fled the darkening clouds of World War II when he was 3. He's represented by 16 drawings, prints and sculptures made over the last 50 years — a miniature retrospective within a show otherwise limited to recent art. With work displayed in both of the museum's two main halves, he's positioned as the show's godfather.
Friedeberg is famous for his iconic, 1962 Pop Surrealist hand-chair. Like a gilded hand of Buddha, its palm forms a seat, bony fingers a backrest and bent thumb an armrest.
I've never acquired a taste for Friedeberg's dense graphics — maze-like compositions assembled from arcane texts and Victorian-style collage elements, as if they are ancient manuscripts left behind by a lost era that is in fact the present. His sculptures, including the chair and a devotional assemblage that blends Catholic, Hindu and Aztec iconography, are more persuasive. The hybrid work's thematic usefulness for the triennial is plain.
More engaging overall are displays of ordinary cultural artifacts — Mexican American-themed record album covers, cheap knickknacks, etc. — archived by Robert Legorreta as conventional indicators of twisted identity. Legorreta, known for his transvestite performance character Cyclona, is a self-taught artist.
That resonates against one kinship among these artists that is largely unacknowledged. Despite the Pacific Rim diversity — 12 artists from North America, two from Australia and nine each from Latin America and Asia — most went to art school in the U.S. and Europe or have at least lived there. Post-minimalism emerged in the West in the 1970s, soon becoming academic orthodoxy; it's everywhere at OCMA.
That's fine, but it also shows that traveling the Silk Road can mean getting stuck in a rut. For instance, paintings by Kim Beom (Korea) are composed by coordinating firm brush strokes with the artist's loud grunting noises, rehearsing long-dead claims of abstraction as a representation of inchoate inner urges; clearly intended as satire, it just feels wheezingly out of date.
Two other installations are stand-outs. Both suggest the apocalypse is now, its entertainment value among its most sinister features.
"No Exit" is a portentous sound-and-light installation by Danial Nord (U.S.). Suspended in a darkened room above a plush black carpet that invites prone contemplation, a stage-flat with three open doors is internally illuminated by flashing LED lights. The trinity of rectangular doors mimics the aspect-ratio of a movie screen. Both the lights and the thunderous, explosive soundtrack were edited from crash-and-burn scenes in Hollywood action-adventure movies.
Similarly stark is "Látex," a video-projection by Yoshua Okón (Mexico). Grim scenes of an authoritarian-themed performance artwork are juxtaposed with shots of a fashionable, blandly attentive audience — slyly shifting the work's focus onto us, doing the same in the gallery. Individual actions have social consequences.
That's a common theme. Tension reverberates in descriptive paintings of elaborate scientific experiments by Masaya Chiba (Japan), where nature struggles on life support. Videos by Koki Tanaka (U.S.) gather five piano students at a single keyboard and nine scissors-wielding hairdressers around one woman's head, then let them negotiate how to proceed simultaneously with their singular art.
Speaking of Tanaka: Born north of Tokyo in 1975, he lives and works in L.A. He is representing Japan this summer in Italy's Venice Biennale. Whether that counts as Pacific Rim, Atlantic Rim or maybe just Global Rimlessness I cannot say — and I'm not sure it finally matters anyway. [ READ ON ]