Monday, June 1, 2015

Serendipity in life and art

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.
- Pablo Picasso

From childhood, when I first became passionate about art and literature, I recognized this instinctively as almost a self-evident - although maybe oxymoronic - truth. Art, a product of the imagination, reveals so much about life and our perception of reality. 

In my constant rounds of the LA art scene, this revelation is continually reinforced. I'm fascinated to learn about the inspiration behind art, the narrative that propels it, and the light it sheds on the world we inhabit. With every art review I write, I gain a new insight. I'm intrigued by the ripple effect of this knowledge. The learning process is cumulative and filled with coincidence. Once I uncover a clue to the symbolism behind one artist's work, it gives me a bit more code to understand the next work I see. 

Sometimes that serendipitous connection is subtle, sometimes almost literal. For example, I'm in the process of writing a review of Julie Heffernan: Pre-Occupations - currently at Mark Moore Gallery (link to be posted on publication). In her dramatic canvases, Heffernan portrays herself as a sort of environmental vigilante, entwined with the trees in a struggle to rescue elements of our natural world. Her work, while very different in style, shares common themes with Irene Hardwicke Olivieri, whose 2013 show at Robert Berman Gallery I reviewed in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art. Both contemporary female artists concern themselves with climate change, featuring their own self-portraits as the dominant figure in their narratives. Addressing the same concern from a more abstract angle, are the gorgeous multi-media collages of Merion Estes, whose show, Dystopia, at CB1 Gallery, I also reviewed in WhiteHot Magazine - just published a few days ago.

Some of my other recent reviews published recently in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art:

Carol Es: Exodus at Shulamit Gallery - a review of paintings inspired by the artist's meditative and spiritual retreat to Joshua Tree.

Hung Liu: Dandelions at Walter Maciel Gallery - a review of the extraordinary recent paintings and mixed media work by the California artist, who came of age in China during the Cultural Revolution.

I've also reviewed several exhibits for ArtPulse Magazine:

In Issue No. 22:

Harmony Korine: Raiders at Gagosian Gallery

Laura Krifka: Reap the Whirlwind at CB1 Gallery. 

David B. Jang: A visit to the LA artist's studio to correspond with his exhibit at TUB Gallery in Miami

For ArtPulse Issue No. 23 due to be published soon: 

Charles Gaines: Gridwork at the Hammer Museum

Craig Taylor: En Face at CB1 Gallery

Christine Frerichs: Serenade at Klowden Mann

A longer article on Ed Moses, the iconic Los Angeles painter who has been reinventing his oeuvre his whole career. 

ArtPulse Magazine is a quarterly print publication. Reviews don't appear in the online edition. 

I'm also very excited to announce I will be contributing to Art Ltd. Magazine as of the July/August 2015 issue! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rediscovery & Remembrance

During Christmas and New Year's, I went to Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas for a family holiday, to visit a friend from my schoolgirl days at the College of the Bahamas, and to do research on the story I'm writing. I lived in the Bahamas when I was growing up and I've spent a lot of time there in recent years. When in Nassau, I always visit the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, a small museum in the Villa Doyle, a beautifully restored example of British Colonial architecture. Wandering though the galleries, I was thrilled to see The Queen Staircase, (sic) (1986, house paint on board, 36 x 30 inches) by Amos Ferguson, a Bahamian painter whose work my mother collected. In this image, Ferguson portrayed figures going up and down the Queen's Staircase, an historic Nassau landmark. In the middle ground, three of the figures clasp babies in their arms. They dominate the composition, more prominent than the figures in the foreground and background because of their position, as well as their emotional resonance.

Ferguson usually painted in a flat two-dimensional style. His medium was typically house paint, often on cardboard. There was a logic, a sense of balance and symmetry to his work, as in this painting - in which the figures on the staircase, are dressed in yellow, pink, blue, pink and yellow - from top to bottom.

In the museum bookstore, I was delighted to find the book, Bahamian Art, which I bought as a reference. It profiles a number of Bahamian artists, including Brent Malone, one of my art teachers at Queen's College, the local high school I attended.

In the last few months, I've seen some memorable art exhibits and published several reviews: 

Stas Orlovski: Chimera @ Pasadena Museum of California Art in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art - a magical dreamlike animated vision which married old world sensibilities with new age technology.

Lisa Anne Auerbach: Spells @ Gavlak Gallery in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art - a witty and innovative compilation of knitting and word art.

I'm also a contributing writer for ArtPulse Magazine - a gorgeous quarterly publication in which reviews appear only in the print edition, not on the magazine's website. Here are some of my recent reviews published in ArtPulse Magazine:

For Issue 20: 

Robert Swain: The Form of Color @ Santa Monica Museum of Art - a stunning immersive scientific survey of the gradation of color.

June Wayne: Paintings, Prints and Tapestries @ Pasadena Museum of California Art - a retrospective of this important female artist who spoke out about feminism through her art.

Joe Lloyd: New Paintings @ Western Project - dynamic abstract paintings which use geometry and prism shapes as a point of departure.

For Issue 21:

Fabelo's Anatomy @ Museum of Latin American Art - my first feature length review for this magazine - on the mesmerizing paintings and anatomical drawings  of Roberto Fabelo, a contemporary Cuban surrealist.

Miaz Brothers and The Masters @ Fabien Castanier Gallery - haunting unportraits which convey only a hint of face and figure, leaving identity - the conventional point of portraiture - shrouded in mystery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An art round-up of Herculean proportions

Indulge me. Let's pretend this blog has been on a planned hiatus, a summer sabbatical. Humor me. I'd like to elaborate. In the last few months, I've seen, and written about, some extraordinary and revelatory art.

The last day of September, I was thrilled to visit the Venice studio of painter Ed Moses, whose exhibit with Larry Poons at William Turner Gallery last summer, The Language of Paint, I reviewed in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art. While Moses and I talked, he selected some of the paintings to be featured in his new retrospective, Cross-Section, at UC Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts (October 11 to December 13, 2014). The selfie above is from a magical installation of mirrors and paintings Moses created in his studio, inspired by the Jorge Luis Borges novel, Labyrinths.

Last Saturday, I joined Moses and his entourage of artists and friends on a bus ride to Irvine - arranged by Moses and William Turner - for the opening of the exhibit. There, we followed the artist through three galleries of his extraordinary paintings, a sampling from his breathtaking and expansive oeuvre, while he gave us a guided tour, pointing out particular details in the most casual manner, with his cane. I'm hoping to write about this experience for a publication - to be determined.

Other recent reviews I've written for WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art
(click on links to read)

A droll and insightful series based on thrift shop culture - Clayton Brothers: Open to the Public at Mark Moore Gallery

A haunting exhibit of multi media/painting: Edward Walton Wilcox: Sacred Intention at Merry Karnosky Gallery

Evocative choreographed photographs: Mei Xian Qiu: Qilin at Kopeikin Gallery

For ArtPulse Magazine:

I've reviewed a number of exhibits in the last few issues of ArtPulse Magazine. These reviews are only published in the print edition - not accessible online.

Here's a pdf of my review of visionary photography extrapolated from raw NASA and JPL data from outer space - Karin Apollonia Müller - Far Out: Diane Rosenstein Fine Art in ArtPulse Magazine Issue No. 18.

In Issue 18, I also reviewed Calder and Abstraction: from Avant-Garde to Iconic at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Robert Minervini: Until Tomorrow Comes at Marine Contemporary. 

For Issue No. 19, I reviewed Micol Hebron: (En)gendered (In)Equity: The Gallery Tally Project at For Your Art and Mike Kelley at The Geffen Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

ArtPulse Magazine is a gorgeous quarterly print magazine covering a broad range of contemporary art. It's available at some fine booksellers, better newsstands or by subscription. 

I'm scheduled to write a review and a feature for ArtPulse Magazine Issue No. 21 - to be published in December for Art Basel Miami. More on that coming up...

If you're in the LA area, I encourage you to make the very worthwhile trip to Irvine to see the spectacular Ed Moses exhibit!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

From Incognito to Pollock: art scene & seen

Ariane Vielmetter:  Pattern (for Hilma & Mrs. Delany)
In the last while, there's been a flurry of art events - some which I reviewed for ArtPulse Magazine and WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art - others that stood out which I didn't cover. Here's a rundown of art recently seen I'll never forget...

Incognito @ SMMoA

This is the tenth anniversary of Incognito, the annual fundraiser of the Santa Monica Museum of Art - probably one of the most fun art events I've ever attended.  Some 550 artists donated 700 works of art - all 10 X 10 inches in format. The artists are a mix of the established big names sought-after-by-collectors like John Baldessari - to mid-career artists such as my former painting teacher Quinton Bemiller, as well as emerging artists. The price for all the pieces is $350. The hitch - the artist's name is not revealed until you pay! 

The line began forming outside the museum at Bergamot Station early in the day. I was lucky to have a media sneak preview at 6 p.m. An hour later, the doors opened. The art stampede began. It's thrilling to see people scrambling for art! At the end of the evening, I was allowed to select from the remaining artworks. I bought a lovely piece - no. 637 (see above). When I picked it up, I found out the artist's name.

Jackson Pollock's Mural @ The Getty

I was riveted by Jackson Pollock's Mural at The Getty Museum. The painting is stunning - as is the story of its genesis. Commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, Pollock painted it before he was well known. In it are tantalizing clues foreshadowing the technique he later developed. The painting had an itinerant existence for decades, then a conservation job in the 70s that saved it from deteriorating, but obscured its true colors behind a milky veil. In the last year, it was restored to its brilliance by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). On view until June 1, the Mural is incredible to see.

Preview of Sotheby's Highlights - the upcoming spring auction

It was like peaking inside a priceless art time capsule. Glorious art treasures, among them two Picasso paintings, a Monet, three de Koonings, a Warhol and much more - which have been tucked away in private collections - some for decades. My favorite was a beautiful Milton Avery, March and Sally Outdoors.

Jeff Koons & John Waters - The UnPrivate Collection - Aloud & The Broad Stage

Aloud, the Central Library series, with The Broad Stage, presented a fabulous art conversation with Jeff Koons and John Waters at the Orpheum Theatre. The conversation was racy, revelatory and inspiring. It was fascinating hearing Koons talk about his childhood, his development as an artist - and something of a philosopher. Here are a couple of quotes from Koons that stuck with me:

As soon as you accept yourself, you can start to have transcendence.

What's menacing is not to exercise your freedom.

Here's a link to my review of the riveting F. Scott Hess Retrospective @ LA Municipal Art Gallery Barnsdall Art Park - published in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Accessible, interactive, engaging art

Barbara Kruger mural at The Hammer Museum (detail)
A series of recent art events and openings have made art seem especially engaging and approachable. First, our season of winter art fairs came and went - from the LA Art Show, an event that seems to be constrained by its venue, the stodgy LA Convention Center - to the more young and exciting Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC). Housed in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, ALAC's fun location may be a contributing factor to the prevailing infectious energy of the event. It also helps that this fair is vetted, attracting some exciting contemporary work by artists who  are interesting to watch anyway.

After having just reviewed Annie Lapin's latest exhibit at Honor Fraser Gallery - Various Peep Shows - in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art, it was fascinating to see her more recent work in the gallery's booth at ALAC. Lapin's newer paintings had evolved - or devolved - in an even more abstract direction in such a short time. New work by Alexander Kroll, represented by his Miami gallery at ALAC - also reflected an exciting departure from his last show at CB1 Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.  

The new exhibition at the Hammer Museum - Take It Or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology - examines visual art intertwined with text, subtext and context. As part of the exhibit, Barbara Kruger's marvelous new murals in the Hammer foyer invite the spectator to be the subject. 

In the last few weeks, several Los Angeles museums have initiated new admission free policies, making art viewing even more inviting. Among them, are two of my favorite museums, the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Hammer Museum. Always dynamic and exciting, the art world is suddenly that much more accessible. 

Here's another one of my recent reviews in WhiteHot Magazine - on a highly visible street artist who is conquering the gallery scene - Risk: Metallic Tissue at Fabien Castanier Gallery. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alexander Calder and the timelessness of art

enjoyed attending the press preview for Calder And Abstraction: from Avant-Garde to Iconic, at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). The exhibit re-contextualizes almost 50 of Calder's captivating abstract sculptures in a lyrical setting designed by Frank Gehry.

The retrospective surveys Calder's two significant forms - mobiles and stabiles - spanning more than four decades of the American artist's career. Calder spent many years in Paris, and was closely affiliated with the European avant-garde. After a visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian in the 1930s, Calder made a profound shift towards abstraction. His background in mechanical engineering gave him the technical facility to realize a unique and revolutionary artistic vision - introducing his signature kinetic sculpture to the lexicon of modern art.

It was Marcel Duchamp who named them mobiles. Jean Arp called Calder's stationary sculptures stabiles.

Still fresh and surprising today, his sculpture is ingenious, each piece a careful balance of form with color - and science with art. The property of balance itself is a key element of his work, as each sculpture was conceived and constructed so that even the most asymmetrical structure is suspended with perfect equilibrium. Propelled in gentle movement by ambient air currents, the mobiles float with grace, their elegance reflected in rippling shadows.

It's entrancing to linger in front of each piece and admire the inherent strength, delicacy and air of whimsy. Calder's wit infuses La Demoiselle (1939, sheet metal, wire and paint) which somehow captures the essence of French femininity. In Tree (1941, sheet metal, wood, glass, mirror, plastic, wire, string and paint) little orbs and discs catch the light as they move through space. I was mesmerized by Gamma, (1947, sheet metal, wire, paint) with its intricate harmony of lines. It's particularly striking to stand at either end of Gehry's curving gallery space, and view the exhibit in its entirety, under the carefully orchestrated lighting.

Before leaving LACMA, I made my customary pilgrimage to the sculpture garden, to see Three Quintains* (aka Hello Girls) Calder's sculpture in the fountain, commissioned by the Museum in 1964. Almost 50 years later, I watched, enchanted, as the three mobiles danced in the water.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Shifting to the contemporary, following are links to two of my recent art reviews published in Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art: 

~ I was fascinated to encounter the work of Irene Hardwicke Olivieri, an artist who channels her passion for the environment through paint. Here's a link to my review of Breakfast in the Forest, her recent exhibit at Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station - published this month in WhiteHot Magazine.

Someday, I Imagine- Irene Hardwicke Olivieri (2013 Oil on red cedar 24 X 36 inches)

~ I also reviewed Maya Hayuk's dynamic, monumental, color-infused murals in the entry staircase of the Hammer Museum for WhiteHot Magazine.

Maya Hayuk - Hammer Projects 2013, mural detail

*Quintain - I had to look it up (Middle English from Old French) - a practice target used in jousting. Calder named the sculpture Three Quintains. It acquired the name Hello Girls because of the way its parts wave in the wind.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Art and Travel

Britteny Bennett
My son and I just came back from a wonderful trip to Honduras. We traveled to the Caribbean island of Roatan - one of the Bay Islands - renown for its world class diving. While it's not relevant to my love of art and literature that I'm a certified scuba diving instructor and my son is a dive master, our love of travel to remote places combines beautifully with the adventure of diving.  

A penchant for travel is also delightfully compatible with a passion for art. Wherever I go, much of my exploration involves visits to local art museums. In remote places like Roatan, I always seek out the work of local artists, usually hoping to bring a painting home. On this trip, friends introduced us to the work of a young Honduran artist, Britteny Bennett. Her use of color and undulating shapes captures something of the essence of the Caribbean. As we left her studio, I admired one of her smaller paintings, stuck in a corner of the window, and my son bought it for me as a birthday present. 

My childhood home was filled with a diverse collection of painting and sculpture. When I was growing up, my family moved to the Bahamas, where my mother began collecting the work of Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson, whose flat, childlike images later became well known in the outsider art genre. Two paintings by Ferguson are cornerstones of my own art collection. I also treasure a drawing by Canadian artist, Miller Brittain, which belonged to my mother, as well as work by artists from Haiti, Indonesia, and other places I've traveled. 

I returned home with a renewed motivation to start painting again. The lush beauty of the island, both underwater and on land, was revitalizing and inspiring. I'm also constantly inspired by the art at galleries and museums here in Los Angeles.

I've recently reviewed a few noteworthy exhibits:

* Here's my review of a recent exhibit by collage artist Alexis Smith, who re-contextualizes found paintings, illustrations and other carefully selected objects: Slice of Life at Honor Fraser Gallery published in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art in August.

* The work of abstract expressionist Joyce Pensato, whose recent exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art featured large scale gestural paintings which satirize familiar characters from popular culture, like Mickey Mouse, Batman and Homer Simpson: I Killed Kenny published in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art in September. 

I also have two reviews in the latest issue of ArtPulse Magazine: Speedy Graphito: New Worlds at Fabien Castanier Gallery and James Turrell: A Retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I will link pdfs of these two reviews soon, because they're only accessible in the print version of this quarterly magazine.