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Ariana Papademetropoulos

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 South Santa Fe Avenue, Unit A
September 16, 2017–October 26, 2017

Ariana Papademetropoulos, ‘spirit of Elvis be my sugar daddy,’ 2017, oil on canvas, 60 x 60".

Los Angeles–based artist Ariana Papademetropoulos recasts the cult of domesticity as hallucinatory fantasy: Watermarks tear Lynchian portals into her oil-on-canvas re-creations of photos depicting retro-kitsch interiors. A bedroom suffocated with royal-purple floral fabric appears in psychedelic relief in Best thing about not dating a scientologist is that I can do acid again (all works 2017). A bile-green aperture is superimposed over a bathroom with gaudy wallpaper, golden drapery, and a porcelain throne—rather unlike the one Presley died in—for ‘spirit of Elvis be my sugar daddy.’ In this lineup, Holy Water is a breath of fresh air: The watermark disintegrates the walls of a grand venue, opening it up to a misty mountainscape; chandeliers hang from the blue gauze sky; the empty theater seats are turned away from the natural splendor.

On a platform upholstered in plush magenta, Women Running Away From Houses displays an array of gothic romance novels whose covers portray women escaping from mansions, villas, and castles. A shrunken doorway in the gallery leads into a space reminiscent of a bedroom (Secret of Pale Lover), evoking the illusions of growth and shrinkage endemic to any acid trip. Here is a giant tennis racquet, a leveled bed with swan-shaped posts and mussed satin sheets, and a tiny chair. A ladder leads not to a window or an exit but to a vanity mirror, and a vintage exercise bike is poised near a TV encased in mossy plastic stone—a nod to Pippa Garner’s absurdist installation Thoughtspace, 1984. The tube plays a film of the artist exploring a mansion in a giant hamster ball. As Richard Lovelace wrote: “Stone walls do not a prison make / Nor iron bars a cage.”

Natasha Young

Jagdeep Raina

915 Mateo Street, Suite 210
September 23, 2017–October 28, 2017

Jagdeep Raina, From dawn till dusk, we watched helplessly as you drove away, leaving us with nothing more then these bitter tastes and memories, 2015, mixed media on paper, 50 x 60 1/2".

Amid the polarizing global immigration discourses currently seething, a group of Jagdeep Raina’s works on paper reassesses a historic episode among Punjabi populations living within Canadian borders. Working mostly from memory, the artist drew several archival photographs of a 1949 visit to a Sikh temple in Vancouver by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru’s role in negotiating India’s independence had drawn the ire of many Sikhs, particularly in Punjab, whose 1947 partition along religious lines resulted in immense violence and the displacement of millions when India and Pakistan became independent dominions.

Shades of gray embedded in the artist’s source photographs fall away in his starkly contrasting compositions, limned in dense thickets of charcoal. He locates a chromatic punctum in the figural embodiment of Nehru, and the pathos of this subject’s recurring presence pulsates viscerally throughout the exhibition. In the cinematically composed From dawn till dusk, we watched helplessly as you drove away, leaving us nothing more than these bitter tastes and memories, 2015, a large midcentury-style sedan slices through the foreground of a scene outside the West Second Avenue temple. In lieu of a noirish villain, the Indian leader, crudely articulated in cherry hues, gazes outward from the back seat. Two piercing black dots and a cartoonish, parabolic frown mark his visage while a shock of flames emanates from his head.

The nimble interplay of materials within these works rewards close inspection. Inconspicuously collaged paper cutouts echo fastidiously rendered throngs of people and towering architectural structures that stand like thinly stacked facades. In all their nuanced optics, they issue a call to consider the potential for photographic documents to continually resurface, resignify, and enable new narrative slippages among contested political histories.

Jeanne Dreskin

Franklin Williams

Parker Gallery
2441 Glendower Ave
September 17, 2017–November 4, 2017

Franklin Williams, A Thing, 1965, acrylic, gesso, spray paint, silk, and yarn on canvas stuffed with cotton batting, 38 x 9 x 6".

On the heels of a group exhibition of artists associated with the Northern California movement known as “Nut Art,” this gallery dives deep into the work of one of its progenitors, Franklin Williams. Focusing on the first decade of the artist’s career—from the time he was an undergraduate at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland to the early years of his teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute alongside Jay DeFeo and Bruce Conner—this focused show is, above all, an opportunity to see how an artist found his own way.

One can track Williams emerging from the monochromatic-assemblage aesthetics that were all the rage in the Bay Area when he was a student. His interpretations of this inherited style are of particular interest—especially a suite of paper collage works, which have been folded, sliced, and mounted onto wood. All untitled and from 1965, each contains a glimmer of the polychromatic wonder that would come to define his practice. Contemporaneous with these collages are bulbous, creature-like figures made of canvas stuffed with cotton batting. Sometimes these organic forms snake around a wooden frame, as in an untitled piece from 1964, which cheekily devours one medium (painting) in favor of another (sculpture). At once protozoan and fang-like, another of these hybrids, also dated 1965, hangs on a wall outside one of the gallery’s intimate exhibition spaces. An indentation in the top of the sculpture suggests an open mouth, and near it is a line of chopped yarn like a furry Mohawk, or cilia. The title? A Thing.

Andy Campbell

Los Super Elegantes

GAVLAK | Los Angeles
1034 N Highland Avenue
September 9, 2017–November 4, 2017

Los Super Elegantes, Decorating With Dogs, 2017, glazed ceramic, Martiniano shoes, dimensions variable.

Is now the right time to historicize the aughts? Milena Muzquiz and Martiniano Lopez-Crozet, who began releasing music together as Los Super Elegantes in 2001, were darlings of the art world then; they appeared numerous times in these pages (both on the Web and in print), usually in the context of extravagant parties. But their practice was weightier than all that might imply. Muzquiz, who is from Tijuana, and Lopez-Crozet, who was born in Buenos Aires, started their act in San Francisco, performing up and down the West Coast in a style that mixed improvisatory theater, performance art, and rock-star shenanigans. The duo made confounding, earworm pop at a moment when executives in the record industry were seemingly wringing their hands (but secretly filling their pockets) over the “crossover” successes of Latin American singers such as Ricky Martin and Shakira.

It is time to consider their practice anew. Since they stopped producing music (their last album came out in 2009), the two have lain low, exploring their own areas of interest—ceramics for Muzquiz and leather footwear for Lopez-Crozet. Evidence of these efforts is brought together in a stage-cum-catwalk that served as a platform for an opening-night performance. Eucalyptus, bubble wrap, a mop head, and a wine bottle, among other objects, hang above the set in delicate balance (Calder Mobile by Los Super Elegantes, 2017), and on a nearby wall Lopez-Crozet’s shoes are placed around Muzquiz’s glazed ceramic sculpture of hands (Decorating with Dogs, 2017). In the opening performance’s climax, Los Super Elegantes expressionistically painted a blank canvas and the surrounding wall, all to a pulsing dance beat. It was a parody of a parody of what many believe the creative process to be—and, if we’re to look back with a gimlet eye, maybe it always was.

Andy Campbell

“Chingaderas Sofisticadas”

Kohn Gallery
1227 North Highland Avenue
September 19, 2017–November 4, 2017

Alejandro Almanza Pereda, A Glass of Fruit, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 15 minutes.

There is a knowing wink in an exhibition titled “sophisticated shit.” Used by Spanish speakers when one has forgotten a particular word, the slang term chingadera inflects the practices on display here with jocularity, framing the work in a discourse of the not yet known. This reflects the show’s premise of bringing together the work of Guadalajara-based artists. Five of the nine were born elsewhere in Mexico or in the United States. Perhaps the collective efforts of these artists will change that ratio in the future.

Although some of the work bears a marked relationship with the craft traditions of the western Mexican city—ceramics and textiles—the organizers of this exhibition have gathered together a heterogeneous group of practices. Although not pointed out explicitly in any of the didactic material, references to horizon lines abound. There are the striped abstractions projected from Francisco Ugarte’s slideshow Diapositivas Abstractas 2, 2017, or the multitiered Jungled Up Gravity Sculpture 1, 2016, by ceramicist Milena Muzquiz. Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s entrancing video of fruit submerged in water, A Glass of Fruit, 2016, is another good example. In it, bunches of grapes, apples, and glassware are placed in an underwater tank split by a thick horizontal line of glass. Gravity seems to apply itself inconsistently; sometimes fruit drops from its perch in a submerged bowl onto this ad hoc horizon, and at other times it rises to the top, revealing the seemingly divided space to be continuous.

Andy Campbell

Julia Feyrer

2130 Valley Blvd
September 3, 2017–November 5, 2017

Julia Feyrer, New Pedestrians, 2017, fused glass, scissors, mirror, 15 x 12 x 7". From the series “New Pedestrians,” 2017.

Body contorted and crouched, one marvels at Julia Feyrer’s vivid dioramic sculptures, low-lying stacks of quotidian odds and ends sandwiched between mirror and bright glass. Viewed from above, the series of works that comprise her installation “New Pedestrians,” 2017, is a curious study in reflective surfaces and rippled textures, the bulges and contours of her footprints impressed into the kaleidoscopic material. She juxtaposes the abstract, undulatory shapes of the glass sheets with familiar found forms hidden underneath. Dripping candles, open scissors, plastic pill organizers (turned vertical with dice hidden in cavities), magnifying glasses, and other curiously configured domestic objects prop up these fragile slabs that bear the artist’s corporeal mark. These small feats of gravity are stabilized only by epoxy putty. Is Feyrer implying that she stands on shaky ground?

Precarity likewise informs her 16-mm film Escape Scenes, 2014, for which the artist made recordings staging various found materials in the back of a shaky truck as she drove around Vancouver. Feyrer constructs flattened environments with trinkets and household items, framing the cityscape as much as she obscures it with her bizarre compositions. These meticulous structures, however, seem destined to shatter. In one act, a tiny wrecking ball topples a stack of fake bricks. In another, the jolt of the moving vehicle knocks the pieces out of a scenario depicting an incomplete puzzle of the Parthenon surrounded by rock formations and neon plastic sand timers. Her work, like the ancient Greek temple, lacks stability.

While frailty and destruction might masquerade as Feyrer’s constant companions, she demonstrates a singular knack for theatricality and facade. Her works are tightly choreographed constructions that, when we look closely, reveal the shapes, images, and stories in what might appear to be only smoke and mirrors.

Simone Krug

Mary Corse

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 South La Brea Avenue
September 16, 2017–November 11, 2017

Mary Corse, Cold Room (detail), 1968/2017, Argon, Plexiglas, high-frequency generator, light tubes, monofilament, compressor, refrigeration panels, plaster, 50 x 50 x 6 1/2". Installation view.

It is a wonder to step inside Mary Corse’s Cold Room, 1968/2017, an installation that took the artist nearly fifty years to realize. Once you’re past the sliding door and within the small, freestanding space, a distinct feeling of solitude descends. Immediately, skin responds: every exposed inch enlivened by the temperature-controlled room. A floating plane of light (argon and tubes) flickers with inconstancy, powered from a distance by a hidden Tesla coil. (The artist has been building high-frequency generators for similarly functioning works since she took a physics class in the late 1960s.) Unlike Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored infinity rooms, which tend to drive even the most dispassionate art viewer into a social-media frenzy, Cold Room is a place of retreat and quietude, absorption and reflection.

This is true, too, of the other works in this show, all paintings completed in the past seventeen years. In art-historical accounts, if Corse is discussed at all, she gets placed at the edges of California’s Light and Space movement. This is at once apropos and entirely beside the point. Phenomenological perception of light is certainly a major theme in her work—as evidenced by the prodigious use of tiny glass microspheres, the kind used to paint white lines on asphalt roads, which shimmer and animate the surfaces of paintings such as Untitled (White Multiband, Beveled), 2011. But there are other concerns as well: the way the spheres seem expressionistically streaked in raking light, or how the five untitled paintings from the ongoing “DNA Series,” 2017–, employ shiny black acrylic squares, as if someone had dragged a Barnett Newman painting through a Bob Mackie showroom, lifting some of the seriousness of Corse’s sparse palette.

Andy Campbell

Ruth Root

356 S. Mission Rd.
356 South Mission Road
September 15, 2017–November 12, 2017

Ruth Root, Untitled, 2017, fabric, Plexiglas, enamel paint, spray paint, 93 x 56 1/2".

From a distance, Ruth Root’s shaped paintings appear tight and formal, but up close her hand is loose, almost sloppy. Their surfaces reveal the brush’s starts and stops, where paint pooled in lumpy relief. Alternating bands of color are often done freehand, in wavering lines. The overall impression is similar to that of approaching somebody standing stiffly in a three-piece suit, only to discover he is drunkenly slurring his words, and finding everything he says to be riveting.

Every work in this show is on Plexiglas, with a fabric component attached. Root gives the lie to the old saw that abstraction is disconnected from life by fusing the two. Her forms are geometric and biomorphic, but not quite figurative; they are silhouettes of ideas about painting, space, and our relationship to the world. She designs all the fabrics, creating repeating patterns that include images of her work and Frank Stella’s, slices of pizza, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face. In one work (all Untitled, 2017), the painted portion is black with horizontal lozenge shapes entering from the left and the right, five on each side. Like patriotic pills, the lozenges are filled with red, white, and blue dots, but they also resemble fingers laid across one’s chest, the fabric above suggesting a cravat.

The artist plotted out this installation, hanging every painting on a floating wall a little wider than each piece, sharpening the figure-ground relationships. As it’s difficult to see more than one or two at a time, the works become sequential in the mind, each morphing into the next in an animated wheel of memory.

Daniel Gerwin

Sowon Kwon

Full Haus
2042 Griffith Park Blvd
September 2, 2017–December 3, 2017

Sowon Kwon, Coffee Table and Escritoire (after Godwin), 1994, wood, paint, plaster, dimensions variable. Installation View.

Sowon Kwon’s current exhibition highlights the importance of punctuation in successful communication. For example: the comma, that curlicue of the sentence, was invented to accommodate written language to the process of reading out loud. The mark heralds a caesura while simultaneously conjoining words and clauses; such are the hairline semiotics of this artist’s work.

From Coffee Table and Escritoire (after Godwin), 1994, a relief-sculpture re-creation of an “Anglo-Japanese” design by Edward William Godwin, to Fiction, 2017, a relief covered in false eyelashes, to a collection of artist’s books, these works delight in the collation of disparate things, undermining legibility and singularity of authorship or identity. By freely associating artists such as Ed Ruscha, Sylvia Plath, and herself (as in the artist’s book dongghab, 2010), Kwon imagines a self-portraiture fabricated from the most diminutive of links. In her book S as in Samsam, 2017, she draws upon the droll chance of homographs, short-circuiting the relation between signal and sign—in this case, “sam,” the Korean word for teacher, and the English given name. The pieces here seem made for interior space—domestic and psychological, between and inside the subject and the predicate, the seen and the read, and in the breath taken for a pause.

Meg Whiteford

Lynda Benglis

Blum & Poe | Los Angeles
2727 S. La Cienega Boulevard
October 26, 2017–December 16, 2017

Lynda Benglis, HILLS AND CLOUDS, 2014, cast polyurethane with phosphorescence and stainless steel, 11 x 19 x 19'.

Resembling a melting hillock, comically propped up with an array of bars cast in stainless steel, HILLS AND CLOUDS, 2014, is a wonder to behold, an enormous sculpture in which Lynda Benglis’s depth of material knowledge is matched by a sheer ambition of scale. Milky green clouds made of phosphorescent polyurethane float above the gray metallic land and hedonistically frost its ridges. Though initially exhibited outside, on the grounds of Storm King Art Center, the sculpture has lost none of its grandeur and has, thankfully, not been over-cleaned in the interim. Little white rings of calcium speckle the glow-in-the-dark puffs, and slight discolorations mar the otherwise “stainless” steel. It makes a queer sort of sense that a work intended to resemble nature is now also partially its index.

Beside HILLS AND CLOUDS, the other works in the first-floor galleries are wall-mounted sculptures, which are viscerally compelling. Luckily, Benglis facilitates a close interaction, allowing a viewer to stand underneath works such as THE FALL CAUGHT, 2016, or to peer around the curled edges of FIGURE 6, 2009. Three vibrantly colored, egg-shaped objects, named after Greek nymphs and minor goddesses, lead into a room of paper and chicken-wire constructions, some heavily gilded with glitter. Amorphous, irresolute, and husk-like in appearance, these pieces embody a uniquely tacky glamour. Upstairs, a selection of ceramics from 2013 joins two made twenty years prior. It’s a clever conceit, revealing that for this artist, new work is always in conversation with the old, and that her practice has a shape all its own.

Andy Campbell

Gary Simmons

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd
November 11, 2017–December 22, 2017

Gary Simmons, Balcony Seating Only, 2017, oil paint on aluminum, steel, 13' x 12' x 36".

Gary Simmons depicts sites of movement as static objects, fixating on the hard truths and memories that emerge in moments of pause. Smudged white chalky titles of early silent picture shows, talkies, and names of yesteryear’s famous African American film stars appear on black canvases, rolling credits emblazoned and blurry like the projection of a stuck celluloid film strip. The name of actress Hattie McDaniel, best known for her controversial, Oscar-winning role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939), graces a canvas titled Law of the Jungle (all works 2017), alongside one of Bill Robinson, contentiously remembered for his performances in minstrel shows and vaudeville earlier in his career. These monikers share more than a marquee; vilified for what they represent from the past, they bear the albatross of American cinema’s racist stereotyping. Simmons likewise paints lesser-known black entertainers, and the titles of feature films they starred in, in varying states of legibility—words seem to appear and disappear quickly, like the afterthought of a credit reel for the few who stick around for it. These captions call forth the ghosts of fraught, forgotten, or disappeared histories, demonstrating that the haziness of time can distort—or worse—erase.

A life-size staircase, Balcony Seating Only, that bears the word colored floats along a nearby wall. The interior architectural fragment was built to resemble the Jim Crow–era back stairs in movie theaters that African Americans climbed to their segregated balcony seating. Yet this piece leads nowhere, a passageway rendered inoperable. Confronting viewers with the physical signage of segregation in space, the artist amplifies this difficult narrative not simply about the history of cinema but about the United States. One wonders if even McDaniel and Robinson watched their own pictures from this relegated vantage point.

Simone Krug

Sarah McEneaney and Ann Toebbe

Zevitas Marcus
2754 S La Cienega Blvd
November 4, 2017–December 23, 2017

Sarah McEneaney, Studio Spring Summer 2017, acrylic and collage on wood, 48 x 60".

Family homes spread open their walls like flower petals greeting the sun. In several paintings by Ann Toebbe, domestic spaces are shown from above, with patterned floors and walls flattened on the same plane. What lies inside is not some form of suburban dysfunction, though. No one dishes the dirt; in fact, no one appears at all. In one scene of a living room, Family Room (Artist), 2017, stock art covers the walls, toys clutter the floor, and Good Eats plays on the television. Despite their familiar appearance, the objects in these interiors reveal little about their owners.

In contrast, Sarah McEneaney’s paintings show a distinctly singular life through her home. The artist depicts herself (a chic and mature woman) in each image, and the perspective is always raised, as if one were looking through a picture window. In Office Work, 2015, McEneaney is seated in her home office, looking at a picture of a dog on her laptop. Behind her, pets stand idly or rest. The animal motif seems innocent enough, until one notices that behind her are shelves of abstract, feline-like corpses—a rare, surreal element among her works on view here.

Both artists consider objects of domesticity—everyday items can be so generic that they say little, or they are loaded with personal associations, which remain opaque to outsiders. What is the sweet spot? This conundrum is exemplified in McEneaney’s culminating work, Studio Spring Summer 2017, which shows her workspace with three other paintings that appear in this very show, hung on the studio’s wall. At first glance, these works look like decoration, but their significance is evident within the artist’s own space.

Nolan Boomer

Anastasia Douka and Shana Hoehn

Klowden Mann
6023 Washington Blvd
November 18, 2017–December 23, 2017

Shana Hoehn, Configuration A, 2017, photographic fresco, dominoes, tape dispenser, and monitor on wall mount, 8 x 22'. From the series “The Boneyard,” 2017.

In Anastasia Douka and Shana Hoehn’s current two-person show, the past is pulled into the present while the present is pushed into antiquity. In The wife (Oz) 2017 (modified paper cast of “Aspasia” by Mara Karetsou, 1983), 2017, Douka recasts Karetsou’s bust of Pericles’s mistress from a public sculpture in Athens, adorning the figure’s head with a funnel. The work’s understatement pays homage to women who, despite their accomplishments, are known primarily for their associations with powerful men. Nearby, on a pedestal no more than two inches high, is Douka’s How to Hide, 2016, a collection of gesticulating plaster hands suggesting benedictions and rude gestures, both understandable responses to history with its countless forgotten women.

Hoehn’s series “The Boneyard,” 2017, at first appears to be made up of broken slabs of ancient fresco in wandering linear arrangements, held about a foot off the wall by mounting brackets. They are, in fact, stills from her eponymous video transferred onto wet Hydrostone, into which she has embedded dominoes, a tape dispenser, a peppermint, and a broken plate. Two of the three wall configurations are laid out like a game of dominoes while also evoking sections of a labyrinth. The imagery involves aerial views of people in drab administrative or medical settings, as well as references to Eadweard Muybridge’s protocinematic experiments, all bordered above and below by horizontal black bands reminiscent of the edges of filmstrips. Hoehn slows down time and materializes the process of film editing, in which all moments are interchangeable. The quotidian feels honored and preserved, as when the universe is visible in a single blade of grass.

Daniel Gerwin

ektor garcia

Visitor Welcome Center
3006 W 7th Street, Suite 200A
November 4, 2017–December 23, 2017

View of “ektor garcia: cochi,” 2017. From left: cochi, 2017; sin parades, 2017.

A small, brown square of leather rests at the corner of el piso (all works 2017), a floor-based gathering of glazed-ceramic rose garlands and spinal forms, drawings on leather, and totems of plastic spools. A simple message is carved into this square, in letters decorated with six-pointed stars (a visual leitmotif of the exhibition): “SOBRE VIVIR.” Survive. Evidence of survival is everywhere in ektor garcia’s work here, taking the form of small, handworked sculptural objects—a pair of aviator sunglasses whose lenses have been replaced with latex and wax linen resembling animal hide, a crocheted doily dipped in latex, and even a small crystal penis, all part of the floor installation cochi. These and other items are aggregated and placed with care on windowsills, on exposed wall studs and bracing, and in sprawling floor installations. In the middle of this remarkable show a hammock swings limply, a promise of rest and self-care amid so much activity.

Garcia’s accumulations are at once fey and macho, melding the domestic and the sadomasochistic in stunning displays of control and abandon. In madre, the artist has amended a vintage piece of floral embroidery with his own images of Santa Muerte, an uncut cock, a marijuana leaf, and handcuffs. A leather strap attached to the verso of the cloth dangles down to the floor and bends languorously next to a ceramic hand, whose fingers are splayed. Two tiny doilies peek out from below two fingers, like crocheted fingerprints trying to escape. The artist’s exhibition is full up with moments like these, miniscule worlds containing complex cosmologies. In attaching ourselves to such gestures—small in scale but significant in import—we join the artist in his call to survive.

Andy Campbell

Gala Porras-Kim

Commonwealth and Council
3006 West 7th Street, Suite 220
November 4, 2017–January 6, 2018

View of “Gala Porras-Kim: An Index and Its Histories,” 2017.

The final chapter of Gala Porras-Kim’s three-part investigation focused on the Proctor Stafford Collection—from the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—of ceramic vessels dating from 200 BCE to 500 CE from Mexico’s Pacific coast, “An Index and Its Histories” expands the scope of the project rather than neatly tying it up, in a tacit admission that the work of undoing history’s pat narratives is never done. Many artists have pointed to the museological imperative to order—collections, people, and spaces—but, happily, rather than deconstructing current museum practices, Porras-Kim seems more interested in proposing new, hybrid forms and modes of display.

In a sequence of graphite-and-Flashe-paint drawings on paper, she imagines a contemporary morphology of vessels (Three joined gourds vessel, all works 2017), a dog preparing to expel (Dog vessel), and two precariously balanced Buddha’s hand fruits (Two joined Buddha’s hands vessel). On a low platform nearby, the artist has installed a sequence of pots paired with mismatched lips, a conjuring of idiosyncratic combinations. For example, Vessel with lip 4 brings together a slim-necked rounded collar and lip with a squat cubic container; suspended by a handsome display mount, the lip appears as an ill-fitting crown. In other works, Porras-Kim highlights the negative space from the designs that appear on the LACMA ceramics for Mesoamerican Negative Space 1 and 2, and explores a humor born of excess—as in the ten figures joined together on a bobsled-like construction made of linen and mahogany (Joined Decouple). Taken together, these experiments in arrangement articulate strategies of containment and classification (often performed by prestigious museums) and push them to their limit, making space for a decolonial aesthetics to truly take shape.

Andy Campbell

Nevine Mahmoud

612 North Almont Drive
November 11, 2017–January 6, 2018

Nevine Mahmoud, Breast shade, 2017, alabaster and pigmented resin with stainless steel hardware, 13 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2".

The title of Nevine Mahmoud’s first solo show, “f o r e p l a y,” goes just like that, the letters held apart. Likewise, the exhibition itself is desirously spaced, opening with Primary encounter (pink tensions) (all works 2017), comprising two big, pink marble blocks, one with a hole, the other, a corresponding peg. The pair is separated by a few charged feet of empty floor. Mahmoud combines a classical conceit—the erotics of marble sculpture—with a contemporary chill, as if Pygmalion were a Minimalist. And in case you get carried away with the idea of abstract penetration, a slick sense of humor keeps things real; two of the nine works on view, Abacus arm 1 and 2, resemble nothing so much as handrails threading soft stone rolls of toilet paper.

Breast shade and Mother milk, a bell shape suspended on a steel cable and a soft white blob on a glass plinth, respectively, are both tipped by pink resin nipples straight out of a Tom Wesselmann nude. The first piece trails a long wire to within a tantalizing half inch of the floor. It’s important that it doesn’t reach, of course—just like it’s necessary that we can’t touch art. Slick slice, an orange calcite wedge glazed with tearing glass, sits on a transparent pedestal so that one can take a look underneath. Poor, reflexive creature: You will.

Travis Diehl

Elisabeth Wild

918 Ruberta Ave, Unit B (entrance in the alley)
November 5, 2017–January 7, 2018

Elisabeth Wild, untitled, 2017, paper collage, 10 x 7".

The works shown here from Elisabeth Wild’s ongoing “Fantasías” series, all untitled and 2017, are collaged abstractions of cityscapes, skyscrapers, bridges, and still lifes. Each is no larger than one of the magazine pages from which she most likely gathered her material. Advertisements are cut and rearranged into geometric forms that negate their former capitalist purposes, then carefully overlaid with images of antiquated technologies, including iPods, CD-ROMs, telephone booths, and ballpoint pens. The self-contained compositions of the artist’s works bring to mind the Maschinenmensch of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s never-realized plans for an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, and a sliced and pasted Moebius comic.

In these “Fantasías,” the artist can be a foreigner and an elder (Wild is ninety-five, and this is her first show in the United States). The gallery can be painted a sunny yellow, at variance with the tyranny of the white-walled tradition. The work can be arranged in an undulating pattern, like a polygraph wave, rather than positioned at standard height in a neat, straight line. Wild isn’t only imagining such alternatives but also modeling a facsimile of the cycle of obsolescence. The work demonstrates that what was once young and glossy eventually becomes old and discarded, or, perhaps worse: ornamental—all surface and no substance. On the flip side of this high-fashion page, however, the artist’s layerings provide a meditation on endurance. Her labors declare the artist as the structure that will last amid both trending and dated technologies.

Meg Whiteford

Cali Thornhill-Dewitt

Karma International | Los Angeles
4619 West Washington Blvd
December 6, 2017–January 20, 2018

View of “Cali Thornhill-Dewitt: Safe Words,” 2017.

Google “burning palm trees” and in the first few rows of search results is a pair of spindly green-and-orange torches above tan, white, and gray slivers of roofs. This pic of two San Diego palm trees ignited by a lightning strike is the template for Cali Thornhill-Dewitt’s latest body of work and first solo show in Los Angeles. Across eighteen panels, the eerie blue sky of the source image bends into soot-stained tones, from irradiated dusk to day-for-night, sandwiched between white sans-serif words in a formal laminate of posters and memes: “HUNGRY / GHOST,” “FINAL / FORM,” “AS THE / WORLD / BURNS.”

California on fire: the iterative disaster of the bush that burns but won’t burn up. For this Day-Glo cynicism at its most billboard clear, see Expect the Worst (all works 2017), an eighteen-by-twelve-foot wall work where the all-too-recognizable facial features of the likes of Mitch McConnell, Ann Coulter, and Kellyanne Conway peer through slits in the orange paint dominated by the black block letters of a modern motto, “EXPECT THE WORST.”

Dewitt’s doomy wordplay (the exhibition is titled “Safe Words”) may be meant as literal protest but is also, and more interestingly, an attitudinal kind of coping: the anticapitalist declaration that lets you continue capitalizing. The one piece that seems nakedly cruel is OH NO, a four-panel text work over a doorway—the O’s are pictures of a melted, cracked earth. But where the meme lives and dies by mutation, and thrives in the motility of custom merchandise and Twitter posts, on gallery walls even the most catastrophic irony (“COASTAL / ELITES”) is framed mostly by a papery impotence—since nobody wants the world to end, right? . . . Right?

Travis Diehl

Ben Sakoguchi

2130 Valley Blvd
November 16–January 28

Ben Sakoguchi, “Fat Man”/Flash Burns, Nagasaki, August 9 1945, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 32". From the twenty-four-part suite Bombs, 1983.

Hung in a tight grouping on a single wall, Ben Sakoguchi’s suite of twenty-four paintings, Bombs, 1983, depicts a host of nuclear weapons, tests, and strikes, and constitutes one of the most eloquent and acerbic arguments against nuclear proliferation in contemporary art. Created in just four months, the works’ small scale and significant visual wallop parallel what is most incomprehensible about atomic weapons—the deep disjuncture between their destructive capacities and their relatively small size. Rage seethes through paintings such as Mk.17, wherein the artist has added a graphic of an exploding stick of dynamite and the word “Super.” Linguistic intensifiers rarely match, or combat, the level of hubris and slaughter enacted by nuclear weapons, but this comes close, undercutting the bomb’s necropolitical extension of human capability.

At the center of the group are two diptychs that set the mushroom clouds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (generated by the perversely named Little Boy and Fat Man, respectively) alongside the physical traumas of those who survived—at least for a time. A human hand is painted into each of these frames, holding a placard that dutifully, economically describes what is being shown: “Flash Burns, Nagasaki, August 9 1945” and “Keloid Tumors, Hiroshima, August 6 1945.” This highlighting of suffering, scarring, death, and the callous disregard for life that nuclear weapons engender animates the rest of the installation.

Political works such as this suite are not just artifacts of a time gone by. Recently, the president of the United States—at once fat man and little boy—boasted on social media of his ability and willingness to push the “nuclear button” (which, of course, is much bigger than anyone else’s). Super.

Andy Campbell

Michael Queenland

Kristina Kite Gallery
3400 W Washington Blvd
December 9–February 10

Michael Queenland, Untitled (Eye), 2017, marble, granite, ceramic tile, dye sublimation tile, wood, metal frame, 80 x 32 x 1".

Spazzatura, the Italian word for “trash,” is more specific than the generic rifuiti (which can be translated as “refuse” or “waste”) and is certainly more fun to say. Sharing a root with the Latin verb spatior—meaning “to walk around”—the word suggests a connection between the detritus on the street and the activity of walking by it. One person who clearly doesn’t bypass trash, though, is Michael Queenland, whose solo exhibition “Roam” comprises a grouping of floor-bound tile sculptures ornamented with high-resolution scans of trash, refuse which the artist happened upon while walking through the streets during his residency at the American Academy in Rome.

Stepping into the role of taxonomist, Queenland gathered this collection of rubbish and divided it into categories. Discarded cigarette packs recur most often, with their shrieking, bold typographic reminders that inhaling their contents only hastens death (IL FUMO UCCIDE), and their disturbing, graphic photographs of cancerous holes in the throat (Untitled [Orifice], 2017), milky eyes (Untitled [Eye], 2017), and various other spectacular ailments (Untitled [Hardships], 2017). A group of twisted champagne muselets, Untitled (Underfoot), 2017, looks as if it were a graphic line drawing against the stark white tile, giving form to the drunken debauchery that no doubt occasioned their disposal. Also included here is a series of framed works from 2012 in which photographs of dead bodies found in the New York Times are matted side by side with the images in reverse—a kind of chance operation with sometimes surprising results. These cadavers, many of which were left out in the open, like so much spazzatura, were the result of a daily violence forgotten, and now remembered.

Andy Campbell

Miriam Schapiro

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
November 4–February 16

Miriam Schapiro, Mylar Series (Computer Series), 1971, tape on Mylar, 42 x 47".

Miriam Schapiro’s early collaborations are well-trod ground; her cofounding with Judy Chicago of one of the first feminist-art programs, at the California Institute of the Arts, in 1971 is legendary, and her part in coining the term femmage broke open linguistics for a burgeoning field of feminist art. But a particular association, with physicist David Nabilof, is understudied. Schapiro met Nabilof while both were teaching at the University of California, San Diego, in 1967, and together they explored the possibilities of then-nascent computer-aided design technologies. For a painter who was inculcated into the cult of Abstract Expressionist mark-making, this must have seemed a revelation—and the canvases on display in this eight-painting show are evidence of that fruitful dialogue.

One gets a sense of the artist sans computer in three paintings, all dated 1967, which display Schapiro’s crystalline, geometric style. Byzantium, for example, is a gathering of rectilinear shapes emerging from a deep-violet background, with the central form a broken pilaster. This changes in 1969, when her compositions began to look like wire frames of non-Euclidean geometric problem sets. Computer Series, 1969, presents a group of cubes and planes atop an orange ombré ground. Here, the hard-edge clarity of shape is set against ambiguous space, creating a painting that is confounding and pleasurable in equal measure. Executed on the silvery substance name-checked in its title, Mylar Series (Computer Series), 1971, is the apotheosis of Schapiro’s cyber-dream, wherein a viewer’s reflection is necessarily incorporated in her thinly taped forms—a collaboration without end.

Andy Campbell

Lezley Saar

California African American Museum (CAAM)
600 State Drive, Exposition Park
October 25–February 18

Lezley Saar, Vesta the Johnny, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16''. From the series “Gender Renaissance,” 2015–.

For most of the run of Lezley Saar’s jewel-box retrospective exhibition at this museum, a visitor could also see work by Saar’s sister, the sculptor Alison Saar, and mother, Betye Saar, a few paces away, in a separate, traveling group show. Indeed, the Saars are a formidable presence in Los Angeles—they’re the closest thing to an art dynasty we have—but as of yet, far less attention has been paid to Lezley Saar’s research-intensive and wildly speculative work. This installation seeks to amend that, bringing together four series for the first time under the winking title “Salon des Refusés.”

Unlike the original “Salon de Refusés” in 1863, none of the painted and collaged works here are rejects, but rather the people portrayed in them have been tossed aside and discounted by society. The artist invests in these individuals for their latent potentialities. Paintings from the series “Madwoman in the Attic/Madness and the Gaze,” 2004–12, explore, among other things, nineteenth-century fictional characters, many of whom are brown or black, who subvert societal restrictions on the behaviors of women of color via madness or mental disorders. In Bertha Rochester, 2012, the head of Charlotte Brontë’s famous “madwoman in the attic” is proposed as a free-floating tree of pain and despair, while surrounding keyhole photographs of clocks and stacked dollhouse furniture give one a sense of her isolated life. For the series “Monad,” 2014, the artist blends the organic and the cosmic—eyes float in the heavens, set within a carpet of stars—while the fictional women depicted throughout, with a few notable historical references, appear as explorers of the boundaries between science and the occult. Finally, “Gender Renaissance,” 2015–, investigates personages (including real individuals) who blurred gender lines prior to the emergence of transgender identity discourse. In all these cases, Saar looks to the past—lived and literary—so that we might see how to make the present a more welcoming place for the strange and the brave.

Andy Campbell

Kristin Lucas

And/Or Gallery
980 S Arroyo Pkwy #200
November 18–February 24

Kristin Lucas, Greater Flamingo, Marching No. 2, 2017, laser animation, silent, 2 minutes.

Kristin Lucas’s Sole Soaker, 2015, begins at the base of an impossibly tall staircase. For this video game, a gallery visitor can become a player by picking up a nearby Xbox controller. Ascending the stairs gives one a sense of the landscape; at the edge of a lush and verdant peninsula is a blacktop parking lot, bound on two sides by water. In the distance is a blue car. At sixty meters above sea level a chime sounds and a disembodied feminine robotic voice confirms your progress. Things change quickly as the waters begin to rise, quickly engulfing the landscape, and finally cresting at the tops of scattered trees.

The artist’s interactive work is less a cybernetic cri de coeur than a confirmation of what we already know to be true. This is the world in ecological collapse—a tidal reclaiming. Sole Soaker is an unsettling centerpiece in an exhibition that otherwise uses the figure of the flamingo as a visual symbol to explore everything from human sociality to the history of recent imaging technologies, integrating lasers, as in Greater Flamingo, Marching No. 2, as well as augmented reality, as in Flamingos, Flocking, both 2017. Kitschy, gorgeous, and enigmatic, for this body of work Lucas sees flamingos everywhere, perhaps precisely because they are becoming evermore vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. This is a well-researched and playful flamboyance of works that, when taken together, gesture toward the deceptively simple yet deliciously complex insight made by anthropologist Anna Tsing that “human nature is an interspecies relationship.” Let the choir sing and honk their affirmations.

Andy Campbell