Andrew Berardini

  • diary November 27, 2014

    Pole Position

    “ART CAN BE TRICKY in Toronto,” said art critic Bill Clarke. “Once you find it, it’s incredibly vibrant. But you have to find it.” We were standing in the VIA Rail Panorama Lounge in the Great Hall of Union Station during the cocktails and dinner for the fortieth anniversary of Art Metropole. Founded by artist collective General Idea in 1974, Art Metropole has for decades, with resolute passion and meager resources, distributed artists’ editions and publications, as a nonprofit bookshop, lending library, gallery, publisher, and most simply a center. The group who assembled for Thursday’s event

  • diary November 12, 2014

    Close Calls

    ONLY MINUTES INTO THE OPENING and the palace was packed. Just after 6 PM, on the wet streets of Turin, a suited and heeled mob pushed at the doors of Palazzo Cavour for SHIT AND DIE, Artissima’s inaugural event. Artissima is owned by the region and is as much festival as fair; its off-site exhibitions, falling under the umbrella “One Torino,” and on-site prizes are as much a draw as the commercial galleries boothed in the Lingotto Oval event center. Curators Maurizio Cattelan, Myriam Ben Salah, and Marta Papini culled the title from a work by Bruce Nauman, waiting until the last moment to announce

  • diary October 22, 2014

    Roller Models

    AFTER TWENTY HOURS of cramped airplanes and layovers, moving gradually from stark Los Angeles freeways to the leafy boulevards of Buenos Aires, I found myself sitting next to Ximena Caminos, director and chief curator of the Faena Art Center in the baroque interior of El Mercado restaurant. Caminos was helping to host the tenth anniversary of the Faena district with a celebratory roller disco by the ever-energetic Assume Vivid Astro Focus and a coterie of international travelers to show off the charm of Argentina’s capital. Perpetually clad in all white with a variety of cowboy hats sporting a

  • picks September 30, 2014

    Edgar Arceneaux

    More than a few tales tangle and collide in the hallowed half-light of Edgar Arceneaux’s Gesamtkunstwerk about the depths and vanity of human endeavor. All the disparate elements coalesce around Martin Luther King’s life and death. Amid theatrical tableaux walled by wood palettes, translucent mirrors, sundry wall works, and a feature-length video, Arceneaux’s installation pivots conceptually on the last major speech King gave against Vietnam and the perilous power of technology. This premise unfurls to include the coincidence of his assassination two days before the premier of 2001: A Space

  • diary September 18, 2014

    Islands in the Stream

    AMID THE CONFLAGRATION of bright new spaces and fall premieres, hardly anyone talks about closings. In the courtyard of the Hammer Museum last Wednesday, I waited for the twilight event of Made in L.A. 2014. The localist biennial divides the past few years’ time of alternative spaces and communitarian flux from the recent burst of commercial galleries expanding, warehousing, and franchising into the city. In the courtyard of the museum, I stumbled into the going-away party for Sarah Stifler, the Hammer’s now former director of communications en route to her new gig as chief communications officer

  • picks July 24, 2014

    John Altoon

    In a 1954 de Kooning knockoff called Mother and Child hung at the beginning of John Altoon’s long-posthumous (and very politely hung) retrospective, a lone squiggle floats like an errant feather across the surface of seething figures. Laura Owens points it out in the show’s stellar catalogue (which also includes a brilliant, anal-recussive screed by Paul McCarthy that would make Pere Ubu blush). Altoon’s singular career flows out of that single, wholly deliberate, slightly sploogy mark.

    A little fleshy, a little gross, his spacey pastel abstractions sometimes look like reassembled fourth-dimensional

  • picks July 17, 2014

    “Contort Yourself”

    The small, sincere voice of Sue Tompkins echoed from the courtyard into the gallery during the opening of “Contort Yourself,” an exhibition of four Glasgow-based artists. Singing with all the passion of a teenage punk chanteuse but with none of the backing music, Tompkins’s voice was at first jangly, then awkward, settling into its own strange beauty by the end of her performance. Inside the ample, James Turrell–designed gallery, her paintings and works on paper include smallish gestures—signs, letters, shapes—writ loud, like her voice, by the odd and singular force of their aesthetic ardor.

  • diary July 04, 2014

    Go West

    “HOLLYWOOD” IS NOT JUST SYNECDOCHE FOR AN INDUSTRY; it’s also a very real, and seriously weird, place. Trawling the flickering neon of its mostly low-rent territory last Thursday and Friday, I found myself at a quartet of gallery openings, the most notable being the inauguration of Gavlak Gallery’s new H’wood outpost, with a dinner at old standby Musso & Frank.

    I began in West Hollywood, the wealthy municipal enclave and boys’ town, where I caught “Soft Target,” a group show at M+B curated by artists Phil Chang and Matthew Porter. The only remaining contemporary gallery on Almont, a strip that’s

  • diary April 04, 2014

    Love Hangover

    LAST FRIDAY NIGHT at 9:09 PM, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shivered through Los Angeles. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, the crowd watched videos sway, stuffed animals tremble, and Kandors clink. A small opening for friends and supporters was inaugurating the final stop of the late Mike Kelley’s retrospective, the day before the museum’s slightly less intimate annual gala. Besides a few deep breaths and nudges, everyone loved the show, a homecoming for the lost artist at the almost-lost museum, nearly sunk by financial profligacy. Art historian and Kelley catalogue contributor George Baker

  • diary February 05, 2014

    Carnival Barker

    “I LOVE LOS ANGELES,” declaimed Dave Hickey as he fingered a pack of cigarettes a few minutes before his talk last Wednesday at the Grand Central Market downtown. “It’s just like Las Vegas: You’re never far from your angels or devils.” These days it doesn’t feel like you’re far from anybody. Wait long enough and everyone will move to Los Angeles.

    Hickey’s talk, organized by LA MoCA, kicked off one of the fullest weekends in the annals of art in the city. After “Pacific Standard Time” and “Made in L.A.” as well as dozens of middling art fairs and festivals, the city feels above apologizing for

  • picks February 04, 2014

    Morgan Fisher

    Morgan Fisher has spent his brilliant career removing choices, framing perimeters, and constructing (not composing) works of art with an exceedingly dry sense of humor. In their simple frames and leaders, his films and paintings reveal their structures and consequently the machinations that define them. And so, in his own way, did his father—an unsuccessful maker of prefab houses who contracted color consultant Shepard Vogelgesang to select the paint colors for the off-the-shelf domiciles, creating decorative schemes in pleasing combinations. Displayed at the gallery’s counter, “Exterior and

  • slant December 24, 2013

    Andrew Berardini

    A YEAR OF STRANGE ROOMS, STORIED INTERIORS. A city of secret gardens and hidden beauties, Los Angeles, dappled and palm-treed in the midday sun, always hides more than she gives. Too many tourists cheap thrill-it at shitty nightclubs and then bag on the traffic to peer behind that blank storefront vitrine or notice the quietly marked doors on shady backstreets.

    Tucked behind the storefronts along Hollywood Boulevard, a valet’s jog from Musso and Frank’s, Piero Golia stood above a Pierre Huyghe aquarium, feeding a silver-shelled crab a shivering live meal amidst a forest of angled white oak. He

  • picks October 23, 2013

    David Snyder

    Ectoplasm is of course gross. Leaking from the ears, noses, and throats of Victorian spiritualists caught in scattered pictures, this proven fakery globbed and congealed, providing for the credulous visceral evidence of afterlife, the slimier the better. Though not the first thing glanced in David Snyder’s current exhibition, a huge slathery snotball of ectoplasm fills the main gallery of the show. A painting, Portrait of a Nugose (all works 2013), hides just behind the goo-heap—get close enough to try and read its subtle lines and the piece begins to joggle and shift, a crack in its veneer

  • Urs Fischer

    The Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer’s gigantisms and tricksterish transformations will take over LA MoCA’s two most sizable spaces—Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary—for his first true US retrospective. Among the forty-some works on view, his 2004–2005 house of bread, the melty wax replica of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women from the last Venice Biennale, and a new addition to Fischer’s series of squeezed bits of clay enlarged to Brobdingnagian proportions—this one to be forty-five feet tall—will flaunt the sculptural tumescence that has

  • picks February 09, 2013

    Bernard Piffaretti

    Spot the difference. A colored line cuts down the middle of the thirty works in Bernard Piffaretti’s latest exhibition; in each the left side (mostly) mirrors the right. A split-image game fallen out of Sunday’s funnies and kids’ magazines comes alive in these bifurcated paintings. Halving the painting is a long-running gag of the artist’s—call it his signature. Abstraction pars the course here, but it’s easy to find stories in their lines and streaks. The artist when interviewed, however, propounds them purely as formal abstractions. A pink searchlight cuts through black-and-white striped clouds

  • diary November 22, 2012

    Practical Magic

    DURING ANY GIVEN SOJOURN in Turin, someone offhandedly remarks that the city, which sits at the confluence of two major rivers and forms an axis of two occult triangles, is the center of magic in Europe. The rumor is so widespread, the enchantment so palpable, it never seems worth questioning. The clatter of streetcars down long avenues lined with maples creamed and burned by autumn, the play of dark and light in the central piazza (a metaphysical chiaroscuro that inspired de Chirico) give the city an aura of noir. All of this juxtaposed sharply with my reason for being there: The pale pink

  • picks October 19, 2012

    Miller Updegraff

    Dark ecstasy, expertly withheld, haunts Miller Updegraff’s latest exhibition. The drawings feel enveloped in an ominous silence, while in the separate gallery of paintings, the tinkle of old-timey music seems to leak through a peephole cut from the wall, which when peered through reveals a slow-motion séance. The paintings are quite fine but the drawings are finest. Drawn in an almost holographic coloring of red and violet watercolor pencil and painted with oil, each precise scene murmurs with otherworldly potential, nothing untoward or overtly occult beyond a stilled cinematic cross-fade (well,

  • diary June 12, 2012

    California Über Alles

    THE CAVALCADE of colorful cars clogging the entrance to the parking garage at the Hammer Museum was perhaps one of several handy metaphors for the launch of the first major Los Angeles biennial, which opened at three venues scattered across the city the weekend before last. Another might be the long storefront window of the American Apparel shop on Sunset Boulevard, where the tricolor posters for the exhibition commingle with mannequins dressed in the company’s trademark T-shirts, the brand and the exhibition coalescing around variations on the same slogan: Made in LA.

    Is “Made in LA” a locavore’s

  • diary May 19, 2012

    Los Angeles Plays Itself

    SCENE: ANOTHER NIGHT IN LOS ANGELES. A converted furniture showroom on a summer evening, rented at an in-kind kind of price, is covered in advertisements for tonight’s art opening: “Rebel,” a show “conceived by” James Franco and produced by (though not hosted at) the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. It’s about 6 in the evening and Saturday night traffic coughs by on busy Highland Boulevard to and from Hollywood. While the place isn’t jammed yet, members of the General Public have crowded the sad-looking shrubbery next to the entrance, which is choked with metal barricades and velvet

  • picks April 29, 2012

    James Lee Byars

    With an infinite regress of impossibly perfect marble sculptures and the other bodies of work on view in this exhibition, James Lee Byars managed to make Conceptualism less a smart guy’s in-joke and more a metaphysical koan. One room in this posthumous exhibition gathers eight “books,” made between 1989 and 1994: carved marble blocks in fetishy wooden vitrines, which are installed in a grid that stands flawlessly within the grid of concrete rectangles that makes up the gallery’s floor. Grid upon grid, the patterns are quietly optical. The oblong room is lined with mirrors, like a spiritual