Gary Simmons

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd
November 11–December 22

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–December 23

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

Nevine Mahmoud

612 North Almont Drive
November 11–January 6

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

Miriam Schapiro

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
November 4–December 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

Elisabeth Wild

918 Ruberta Ave, Unit B (entrance in the alley)
November 5–December 16

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

Lynda Benglis

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

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