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Clayton Brothers, I Wish She Would Wash He, 2006 (detail)

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Art in LA
May 31 - June 13, 2006

Unfairly typecast as a netherworld of escapist entertainment and airbrushed celebrities, Los Angeles has long fought for a legitimate place at the high-culture table. With its visual artists now emerging as global players, and its art schools gaining esteem, LA's moment as an art capital is arriving. To trace the growth of the current scene, we touch on the city's prominent artists and profile the young abstract painter Mark Grotjahn. We interview Ann Philbin, director of UCLA's Hammer Museum, about her transformation of the institution into a cutting-edge source for underground art. The SoCal art journal ANP Quarterly is our media pick this issue, and solo shows of Shahzia Sikander and Abbas Kiarostami round out our survey of current exhibits.

  A dynamic new collaboration between Budweiser Select and Flavorpill, Select Flavor harnesses the talents of up-and-coming artists and designers to interpret Select — a premier hand-crafted beer — and its iconic crown through original artwork. Expect a new kind of creativity. Expect everything.

Architecture Capable of Creating Conflict
(New York Times, May 21)
Dedicating the majority of a recent Sunday magazine to the topic of architecture, the New York Times contended that of all arts, it is the design and construction of buildings that provokes the most heated controversy. The paper cited historical examples, as well as an art historian's threat to blow up Richard Meier's new Jubilee Church in Rome, the arguments surrounding the projects for New York's Ground Zero, and David Chipperfield's expansion of Berlin's Neues Museum as evidence of the form's incendiary power.

Hirst Makes Most Expensive Work
(Guardian, May 21)
Recently named the "most powerful individual in the contemporary art world" by Art Review magazine, Damien Hirst will be putting aside animals suspended in formaldehyde in favor of fashioning a life-size human skull — one that happens to be the costliest piece of art ever made. Cast in platinum and covered with 8,500 diamonds from London jewelers Bentley & Skinner, the sculpture, entitled For the Love of God, is expected to cost between $15 and $18 million dollars to construct, and will be sold for as much as $93 million. "I just want to celebrate life by saying to hell with death," Hirst said by way of explanation. In a related story, Hirst's 35-foot-tall bronze sculpture of the Virgin Mother, complete with an inside view of her pregnant figure, was unveiled at London's Royal Academy of Arts.

Prince-Ramus Starts Own Firm
(New York Times, May 14)
Joshua Prince-Ramus, who headed up the American branch of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas's Rotterdam-based OMA firm, is partnering with another OMA alum, Erez Ella, to start Ramus Ella Architects, or REX. Principal architect on three OMA projects, Prince-Ramus will continue to work with OMA to complete works already under way, although the issue of credits has not been entirely resolved. While both Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus contend that the split is amicable, the latter is taking his entire 35-person staff from OMA with him to REX.

Tate Modern Rehang Unveiled
(Guardian, May 23)
The Tate Modern is receiving high marks for the reinstallation of its permanent collection. When it opened in 2000, the museum favored thematic groupings of artworks over chronology. Now the four large suites that display the museum's works have been reorganized around various movements, such as minimalism, cubism, abstract expressionism, and surrealism, with auxiliary galleries providing examples of responses to and interpretations of those art-historical contexts. Nearly 40 percent of the works now on view, including Roy Lichtenstein's Wham! and many new acquisitions, have not been shown previously at the Tate.

Auction of Mao portrait blocked more »

Two new Manhattan skyscrapers are all business more »

Miami museum reaches out to teenage girls more »

Gorillaz' Hewlett named UK Designer of the Year more »

Sculptor Jannis Kounellis sues Los Angeles dealer more »

Port commissioners mull the idea of LA biennial more »

Turner Prize shortlist shuns sensationalism more »

Yorkshire Sculpture Park home to latest Turell "sky space" more »

Henry Urbach tapped as SFMOMA's new design curator more »

Photographer Robert Heinecken dead at 74 more »

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[ Art in LA: Then & Now ]


Rodney McMillian / Dave Kinsey / Kevin Appel / Mark Bradford

Southern California's storied natural light, crashing surf, and expansive landscapes have inspired artists for centuries and helped define the character of the region's visual art. Yet before the mid-century advent of high-profile movements like "light & space" and "finish fetish" — aesthetics derived from industries such as film and aerospace technology that took root there — this passionate embrace of natural beauty was largely considered a vernacular. Now two exhibitions look at the art that emerged from this region in the second half of the 20th century. Translucence, at the Norton Simon Museum, examines post-industrial sculptural modernism in LA in the '60s and '70s. The broader Los Angeles 1955-85: The Birth of an Art Capital, currently at the Pompidou, canonizes painting, sculpture, photography and performance art such as Ed Moses' jazzy abstractions; Ed Ruscha's iconic word-objects; John Baldessari's obfuscated narratives; the visceral, dystopian performances and mixed media anti-objects of Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, and Bruce Nauman; Beat poet George Herms' prolific output of collage and assemblage; and David Hockney's fractured, florid composites. It's a diverse crowd to be sure, but one that during this period cohered around a set of ideas and materials uniquely responsive to their time and place.

The next generation to take up the task of defining LA included performance iconoclast John Fleck, prodigal post-pop utopian Kenny Scharf, self-abusing multimedia artist Skip Arnold, and lowbrow painting patriarch Robert Williams. Catherine Opie's starkly lit portraits of area denizens and freeway underpasses and Raymond Pettibon's quirky, darkly literary ink drawings of punks, surfers, and baseball players soon became synonymous with the city's increasingly sophisticated aesthetic.

The current crop of emerging talents fuses this history with new perspectives on the global art scene. Rodney McMillian's deliberate structural decrepitude and Jennifer Pastor's futuristic and sensual constructions both invigorate the discourse on contemporary sculpture. Polymorphous art is staged in this amorphous cityscape: poignant and innovative found-object assemblages by Dave Muller; site-specific, indoor/outdoor, audiovisual mixed-media sculpture by Jennifer Vanderpool; ambitious DIY architectural constructions by Eric Wesley; and epic autobiographical and sociopolitical paper-based collage, sculpture, and installation (as well as ambitious mixed-media paintings) by Mark Bradford. Sharon Lockhart's incisive, intimate, and richly textured still and video portraiture, Robert Drummond's multichannel digital-video environments, and Jody Zellen's pioneering conceptual digital-media documentations similarly flourish in LA's tech-obsessed culture.

Despite the popularity of new media in LA, painting and drawing are still at the heart of its art world. Kim Fisher's abstract, post-industrial mixed-media paintings weave together formal influences culled from her forebears; while Chad Robertson's incandescent, diffuse figuration and the Clayton Brothers' ornate, noir-ish graphic sensibility satisfy LA's love of spectacle. Dave Kinsey's expressively textured and pensive urban symbolism and Gajin Fujita's immaculate conflation of classical Japanese and Latino guerrilla street lexicons strike at the pluralist core of life in LA; and Kevin Appel and Linda Besemer's disciplined, exuberant op art keep academic abstraction alive and kicking. (SND)

Los Angeles 1955-1985: The Birth of an Art Capital is on view at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through July 17; Translucence at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena runs through August 28. Catherine Opie: In and Around Home at the Orange County Museum of Art is on view June 4 to September 3; Chad Robertson's solo show, Rise, continues at sixspace in Los Angeles through June 24; and the Clayton Brothers' show Wishy Washy is on view at Bellwether Gallery in New York through June 24.

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Abbas Kiarostami: Una poética de lo real
Buenos Aires

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
Now through June 12

  Widely recognized for non-narrative films that shift between fiction and documentary modes, Tehran-born Abbas Kiarostami poignantly engages the stark Iranian landscape in which his dramas unfold. The Roads, a large series of ambient black-and-white photographs shot between 1978 and 2003, parallels this aspect of his cinematic explorations, foregrounding winding rural roadways as meditations on the impossibility of directness, both in storytelling and in life. Shown sequentially, Kiarostami's dreamy, melancholic images suggest a near interchangeability between movement and stasis. In the center of the gallery, Ten Minutes Older, from 2003, is a playful take on this recurring tension. Larger than life, and projected onto the floor, this looped video shows a baby serenely sleeping. (SK)

Shahzia Sikander

The Fabric Workshop and Museum
Now through June 17

  Shahzia Sikander joins decorative tradition with conceptual innovation, combining technical virtuosity in Mughal miniature traditions with a sophisticated transferral of cultural signifiers from one context to another. In this small but visually impressive installation, Sikander exhibits a series of delicate studies, a large-scale video projection, and a stunning five-by-six-foot folio that inflates her miniature technique into large-scale manuscripts. The folio — an elaborately hand-painted screenprint accented with gold leaf — is a tableau of Sikander's own iconography: mythic birds tussle with soccer balls, and floating heads sprout peacock tails. These icons magically morph into new forms elsewhere, as when a flock of birds appears again in the video, rotating in an Escher-esque swirl. (NB)

Andrew Grassie: Private
New York

Sperone Westwater
Now through June 30

  The Sperone Westwater gallery itself is the subject of artist Andrew Grassie's latest series of pint-size tempera paintings, so precisely rendered they could be mistaken for the photographs from which they were copied. Providing a look "backstage," the five works expose the private parts of the gallery through views of interior hallways, basement storage facilities, and the director's office, among other spaces. Grassie also carefully documents other artists' work — close examination reveals a Richard Long photograph and a Vik Muniz print during various stages of exhibition, adding another meta-layer to these paintings of photographs of a gallery for photographs and paintings. (JK)

Bas Jan Ader: All is Falling

Camden Arts Centre
Now through July 2

  This poignant retrospective suggests it is Bas Jan Ader's tragic history that imbues so much of his work with sadness. In 1975, at the age of 33, the Dutch-American conceptualist embarked on an ill-fated artistic journey across the Atlantic. Nine months later, his empty boat washed up on Irish shores. Some believe this was a planned final performance, and indeed, many of his photographs and installations — including I'm Too Sad to Tell You, in which he cries for 3 minutes and 21 seconds — concern death, loss, and grief. Other works, though, transform dark themes into poetic humor, as in the falling series where the artist comically topples from roofs or into canals, recalling the slapstick performances of Buster Keaton. (LCD)

Tom Burr: Extrospective: Works 1994-2006
Lausanne, Switzerland

Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne
Now through June 18

  American artist Tom Burr's first museum retrospective is a riveting tour de force with more than 50 works on display. Throughout, the show emphasizes Burr's exploration of notions of privacy as a social construct that influences both physical space and sexual identity. In Split, the halved replica of a 19th-century latrine reveals three holes, a reference to our shared bodily functions. Elsewhere, black-and-white photographs offer images of public bathrooms on one wall and private villas on another. In a provocative twist, Burr's Deep Purple plays on the concept of in situ sculpture. It is a smaller, mobile version of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, which was notoriously removed from public display in New York because of protests by employees who worked at the building site. (MS)

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[ Mark Grotjahn ]

Mark Grotjahn

One indication of Los Angeles-based painter Mark Grotjahn's tremendous talent is his recent inclusion in the collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Celebrated for his Butterfly series — radiant explosions of color, which gamely toy with perspective — Grotjahn moves between divergent modalities of abstract painting with a deft agility.

At first glance, his recent work recalls the megalithic color-block canvases of Barnett Newman, but Grotjahn appropriates old-school Color Field painting for a numinous inquiry into the nature and limits of perception. The prismatic, slightly off-kilter two-point perspective Butterfly paintings funnel the viewer into a kaleidoscopic experience — yet the painter often purposely thwarts the illusion with his large, glaring signature. Grotjahn lays down his signature first before building up the rest of painting, giving his authorship an exaggerated, neo-romantic importance. This playful and philosophical approach to painting is apparent in Grotjahn's earlier work as well. He first attracted attention for studied copies of folksy shop signs, which he then exchanged for the originals.

Born in Pasadena in 1968, Grotjahn received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, and was an artist-in-residence at Skowhegan. His work was recently shown at MoMA, included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, and featured in a solo show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. While Grotjahn's reputation grows abroad, his work is rooted in Los Angeles — a city in which perception is integral to navigating a tenuous and flexible border between the real and unreal, truth and lies. (CG)

Mark Grotjahn's work will be included in the group show Dark Matter at White Cube in London from July 7 to September 9. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York will present a solo show later this year. He is represented by Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, and Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

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[ Ann Philbin ]


Walead Beshty / Hannah Greely / Terri Phillips / Matt Johnson

Paul Laster talks with Ann Philbin, director of the ULCA Hammer Museum, about the museum's exhibitions, programs, and expansion.
AK: You were the director of the Drawing Center in New York for nine years, and during that time you transformed it into a vital center for emerging and historical art. What did you see in the Hammer that compelled you to leave an established position in New York and begin anew in Los Angeles?

AP: Well in general I think it's healthy to jump off a cliff every ten years or so — to scare yourself a little. It was time for me to do something different and when I saw the Hammer, I had ideas about what it could or should be.

AK: The Hammer Museum's collection is rich in masterpieces by Rembrandt, Sargent, Monet, van Gogh, and Daumier. What did you have to do to make it an important destination for contemporary art?

AP: One of the first steps I took was to initiate Hammer Projects, an exhibition series dedicated to the work of emerging artists. We now have at least three to four projects up at any given time, so contemporary art — often fresh out of the studio — is always a strong presence at the museum. In addition, we make an effort to complement the classical collection with temporary exhibitions by living artists — such as Christian Marclay, Stephen Shore, Lee Bontecou — and group shows exploring trends in contemporary art.

AK: At what point did you start to see a public response to the new programs that you put in place? How has that changed the perception of the institution in the local arts community and internationally?

AP: The response was quick, but has continued to steadily grow in recent years. Our goal from the beginning was to put artists first, with the idea that if our exhibitions and other programs are relevant and interesting to the local community of artists, they would be viable for a broader public as well. The word continued to spread from the core audience outward — from artists to their friends, dealers, and collectors, and then further out to those interested in arts and culture, and by now, we have penetrated a broad general public. Positive word of mouth is a big factor in this success, and our attendance has doubled over the course of the past five years.

AK: The popular Lee Bontecou retrospective, which you organized in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the edgy exhibition THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles were chosen as among the best shows of 2004 and 2005 by the International Association of Art Critics. What was it about those two exhibitions that hit a chord with the public and critics alike?

keep reading the interview »

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  ANP Quarterly

Large in format and full of funky images and quirky interviews, ANP Quarterly covers art and culture from an offbeat point of view. Rather than aiming at the mainstream art world, the editors (Alleged Gallery's Aaron Rose, photographer/skateboard pro Ed Templeton, and Brendan Fowler of BARR) select content that might appeal most to graffiti artists, skateboarders, indie musicians, and slackers. Issue No.1 featured Margaret Kilgallen on the cover and a 16-page tribute to the late artist's work. No. 2 provided in-depth interviews with celebrated LA artist Raymond Pettibon and photographer Bill Burke. No. 3 dedicated 18 pages to the folksy work of the creative couple Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson. And the just-released Issue No. 4 gets cozy with photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark, interviews the team behind the Luggage Store, and reproduces a treasure trove of drawings from early issues of the Latino magazine Teen Angels. Every issue of ANP features snapshots of a work in progress, such as an Os Gemeos mural or a Matt Leines drawing. Best of all, there are no advertisements, and it's still free — if you know where to find it! (PL)

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Cover Art
Clayton Brothers
I Wish She Would Wash He, 2006
Mixed media on paper
Courtesy Bellwether Gallery, New York
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster
Bryony Roberts
Andrew Maerkle
Greg Zinman
Nikki Columbus
Jocelyn K. Glei
Mark Mangan
Shana Nys Dambrot
Allison Kave
Marlyne Sahakian
Sarah Kessler
Laura Moser

Naomi Beckwith
Justin Conner
Rachel Cook
Lisa Cooley
Annette Ferrara
Cole Godvin
Leigh Goldstein
Katherine Gunderson
Jessica Kraft
Catherine Krudy
Katie Kurtz
Melissa Lo
Christopher Y. Lew
Natasha Madov
Audrey M. Mast
Shiraz Randeria
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Claire Trancons
Hannah Vaughan
Michelle Weinberg

Anjuli Ayer
Morgan Croney
Jules Gaffney

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

Christopher Elam
Mark Barry

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