Andrew Perchuk


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between

  • Ed Ruscha

    In a New York Times article from 1972 bluntly titled “‘I’m Not Really a Photographer,’” Ed Ruscha claimed he took up the practice only in order to make his books—among them, the now-seminal Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations (1963) and Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966)—and that his pictures should not be considered art objects but merely tools or means to an end. He focused on the photograph as a purveyor of technical data, believing it could bring a readymade object or site—a gas station, a swimming pool—into the realm of art without aestheticizing it. Offering an alternative to the fine-art

  • picks February 25, 2003

    Brandon Lattu, Scott Lyall, Corey McCorkle

    This extremely spare exhibition sets up a dialogue among a well-selected trio on the legacy of a “less is more” modernism. In particular, the two artists from outside California—Lyall, from Toronto, and McCorkle, from New York—have used the exhibition as an opportunity to engage with Los Angeles minimalism, a body of work often lumped under the category “Finish Fetish.” Lyall leans a Plexiglas rectangle against the wall, and its dark reflective surface and machined precision remind one of a John McCracken plank. But as one walks about the gallery, hints of an image permanently just out of focus

  • picks December 03, 2002

    Frances Stark

    Three shows currently on view in Los Angeles together may herald the formation of a new sensibility. Sam Durant, Dave Muller, and Frances Stark have all been showing since the mid-’90s, but the simultaneous presentation of significant exhibitions of their work represents a generational and aesthetic shift from the “Helter Skelter” artists dominant in the LA art scene since the 1980s. This is an aesthetic in the making and has not calcified into easily identifiable traits. Nevertheless, certain qualities stand out: These artists think in and through popular music as much as in and through the

  • picks July 19, 2002

    Michele O'Marah

    Michele O'Marah

    Something between the staged readings of old Brady Bunch episodes that were the rage in LA in the mid-1990s and Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot refilming of Psycho is Michele O’Marah’s homage to the film Valley Girl. The 1983 original was a Romeo and Juliet love story between a Hollywood punk (one of Nicholas Cage’s first roles) and the Galleria-hopping title character. It offered a commentary on the ’60s in the person of Sonny Bono, the Val’s sandal-wearing, health-food-eating, pot-smoking father, whom the budding Reagan youths considered “totally uncool.” O’Marah’s full-length restaging adds an

  • picks May 04, 2002

    Kelly Nipper

    Kelly Nipper

    All photography is fundamentally concerned with time. First, there is the actual length of the exposure, usually fractions of a second, but as long as several hours, as in Hiroshi Sugimoto’s blank-screened theaters. Then, there is what Roland Barthes described as photography’s “that-has-been,” the fact that whatever we see in a photograph is already past and irretrievably lost. The two series and two individual works in Kelly Nipper’s current exhibition directly engage with the problem of representing time photographically. For the largest series, timing exercises, 2001-2002, which magisterially

  • picks April 01, 2002

    Bruce Conner

    Bruce Conner

    Alexander Cozens developed the inkblot technique in the eighteenth century as a new method for landscape painting, believing that starting a work with inkblots could stimulate the imagination and suggest forms that could not be arrived at from merely observing nature. Many critics of the period, however, viewed the inkblot as a dangerous technique that abandoned the discipline required of drawing and could lead to flights of fancy—and, eventually, libertinism. Bruce Conner’s current series of inkblot drawings—ascribed to the aliases Anon, Anon., Anonymous, and Anonymouse—displays no fear of an

  • picks March 29, 2002

    Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930

    “Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930”

    The Polish painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski makes an occasional cameo in accounts of early-twentieth-century modernism. From seeing the paintings only in reproduction, however, one is unprepared for the extraordinary facture of his Architectural Composition 13c, 1929, or for the subtlety of his color in Unistic Composition 7, 1929. But Strzeminski and a couple of other notable exceptions aside, the most affecting works in the exhibition are in media other than painting. Perhaps this is because Central European art tends to be thoroughly syncretic, absorbing styles and tendencies not only from

  • Billy Al Bengston

    As this well-chosen minisurvey made clear, Billy Al Bengston will be a central figure in revisionist accounts of ’60s painting. Not only is his work of the period located at the productive intersection of Color Field and Pop, a convergence explored in current painting (from Kevin Appel to Laura Owens), but he is one of a number of West Coast artists, including Robert Irwin and Ken Price, who were instrumental in redefining the terms of artistic identity in the early ’60s by insisting that subcultural affinities and leisure-time activities (surfing, car customizing) were at the foundation of

  • Jeanne Dunning

    Jeanne Dunning’s photographic career has involved an extended investigation of corporeality. Since 1987 her work has tended to cluster into two groups: those images in which the familiar is made foreign by the addition of what Rosalind Krauss has called a supplement, and those in which the amorphous is made intimate through conspicuous photographic procedures. The works in the first group apply the objective, sharp-focus model of straight photography to things like an isolated mass of impossibly lustrous, cascading hair and a woman with a nipple on her tongue. The second group of images usually

  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    One piece in the recent show of Gordon Matta-Clark’s work, titled Blast from the Past, 1972–73, consists of a vitrine containing a photographic fragment of a small pile of trash measured by a ruler, a reconstruction of the floor sweepings on the neutral white bottom of the display case, and these handwritten instructions: “Puzzle kit . . . contains all the parts necessary to recreate this compelling scene from history of my floor . . . Just use this simple diagram to put everything in its proper place.” The disjunction at the center of this work, the impossibility of following the instructions

  • “Different Roads”

    The exclusive association of MoMA’s history with the European-centered high modernism of Picasso and Mondrian is in need of serious revision. Alfred Barr, the museum’s first director, conceived of breaking the institution into separate departments out of a desire to put the so-called minor arts of photography, film, and industrial design on an equal footing with painting and sculpture. While Barr did not agree with Duchamp’s dismissive statement that “the only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges,” he did complain in 1940 of “the tendency of the public to identify art

  • Jeremy Blake

    Jeremy Blake’s first solo exhibition in New York was a meditation on modernism as both a group of formal conventions and a set of lifestyle choice configured through a phantasmagoric depiction of Los Angeles. The show was held together by a loose narrative centering around Bungalow 8 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the mythic site where high-powered deals are brokered while starlets and hunks lounge around the hot tub. But Blake’s version bears almost no morphological resemblance to the famously baroque “Pink Palace” on Sunset. In his series (which takes “Bungalow 8” as its title), the facades,

  • Jean-Marc Bustamante

    Scheduling Jean-Marc Bustamante’s exhibition to open at almost the precise moment the MOMA Pollock retrospective was closing was good timing. Bustamante, a Frenchman born in 1952, is just old enough to have felt the oppressive weight of postwar, particularly American, abstract painting in Europe, the legacy of which is an apparent subtext of his new “Panorama” series (all works 1999). At first, the title of the show, “A Wall with a View,” seemed ironic. The presentation resembled a conventional exhibition of abstract paintings, in marked contrast to the engagement with the gallery architecture

  • Jim Hodges

    Jim Hodges’s transformations of the readymade through labor-intensive processes have always had a strong phenomenological cast. His works are, on one level, the physical record of long, painstaking work, and it seems increasingly, clear that this artist’s “phenomenology” is positioned in contradistinction to that of ’60s and ’70s style Minimalism. While the phenomenological experience of the historical work was understood to exist outside real-world social relations, Hodges’s art insists upon iconographic and biographic particulars.

    Many of Hodges’s earlier works share a formalist preoccupation

  • Uta Barth

    From the beginning of her career, critics have focused on the surface qualities of Uta Barth’s photographs to treat them as a form of nouveau Pictorialism. Aspects of the work are certainly complicit with this reading, notably the indistinct, evanescent imagery and the tactile surfaces of the matte prints, which give the suggestion of looking through a layer of wax. Barth, on the other hand, has presented her work as a conceptually oriented investigation of the nature of perception vis-à-vis the manner in which we make images of the world, and the four large diptychs and one massive triptych

  • Michael Ashkin

    For a number of years Michael Ashkin has been producing tabletop tableaux that depict distinctive aspects of the contemporary American landscape: nearly barren postindustrial sites, stretches of desolate highway, and other fringe areas. These precise dioramas comprise terrains fashioned from plaster, cement, dirt, salt, and other substances, and bodies of water of poured Envirotex, a resinlike liquid that hardens to a slightly translucent coat. The occasional car, power line, and spigot might be purchased from hobby shops, and everything is constructed to exacting scale. Ashkin’s style has become

  • John Brill

    Several generations after the pictorialist aesthetic, which first asserted photography’s claim to the status of art, was banished by straight photography’s insistence on the objective rendering of form and the unmanipulated shot, blurry, evanescent images have resurfaced as a major mode of picture making. John Brill’s recent series “ennui” constitutes a self-conscious attempt at a contemporary pictorialism. The photographer has said that this body of work “continues and takes to the extreme my exploration of the subjective and equivocal nature of meaning. . . . Eschewing and ultimately freed

  • Robert Beck

    Robert Beck’s recent exhibition was a show of fragments, both in the sense that some of the individual pieces were components of larger, thematically based installations, and more important, in that each work comprised one term in an extended network of signification. The ten drawings contain figure numbers and references to sources ranging from a psychoanalytic tract by Lacan to a catalogue of hunting gear; some refer to narratives of the artist’s invention. They were grouped with four Polaroids: an architectural detail, a blank brick wall, a man lying with arm outstretched in a log cabin, and

  • Reverend Ethan Acres

    For those of you who thought camp was dead, Reverend Ethan Acres has arrived to demonstrate that it was just festering in the open wound that is Las Vegas. Acres, recently featured in “The Vegas Show” at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, is the product of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The art world’s current focus on Las Vegas seems to be another sad attempt to recapture some of the glitz and instant marketability of the ’80s. This strategy takes a page directly from pop music by promoting a form of regionalism—searching for an art-world equivalent of Minneapolis or Seattle.

    Acres has all the