Ashton Cooper

  • View of “Cauleen Smith: My Caldera,”  2022–23. From left: Pryoclastic unconformity (red libr); My Caldera; we have gone as far as we can together, all 2022.

    Cauleen Smith

    In the prologue to her 1992 novel The Volcano Lover, a period piece set against the backdrop of Naples’s Mount Vesuvius, Susan Sontag describes the eponymous geological object as such: “It’s the mouth of a volcano. Yes, mouth; and lava tongue. A body, a monstrous living body, both male and female. It emits, ejects. It is also an interior, an abyss. Something alive, that can die. Something inert that becomes agitated, now and then. Existing only intermittently. A constant menace. If predictable, usually not predicted. Capricious, untameable, malodorous.” Sontag’s passage evocatively captures the

  • Mary Kelly, Interim, Part I: Corpus (detail), 1984–85, thirty panels, laminated photo positive, acrylic, and silk screen on Plexiglas, each 48 × 36 × 2".

    Mary Kelly

    In the opening essay of filmmaker Nora Ephron’s 2006 book I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, she reflects on the experience of getting older in her signature, cleverly confessional style: “That’s another thing about being a certain age that I’ve noticed: I try as much as possible not to look in the mirror. If I pass a mirror, I avert my eyes. If I must look into it, I begin by squinting, so that if anything really bad is looking back at me, I am already halfway to closing my eyes to ward off the sight.” Few would disagree that Ephron, as a perfector of the rom-com

  • Kaari Upson, Untitled, 2020–21, acrylic, spray paint, and oil on canvas, 56 × 50".

    Kaari Upson

    Untitled, 2020–21, a canvas by the late Kaari Upson (1970–2021), depicts a huddled mass of frenetic, layered brushstrokes heaped atop a red-gingham-covered picnic table. Looking closely at the swarming field of rainbow-hued marks, a viewer gradually made out various Upson symbols: yellow braided hair, a plaid shirt, a dismembered limb—emblems that also flicker across the other twenty-one paintings and pair of sculptures on view in the gallery’s upstairs space. This body of work, made during the pandemic, examined psychoanalytic themes familiar from the artist’s oeuvre: twinning and repetition,

  • View of “Three Landscapes: JB Blunk, Anna and Lawrence Halprin,” 2022. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

    “Three Landscapes: JB Blunk, Anna and Lawrence Halprin”

    “Three Landscapes” brought together a trio of artists who lived and worked, both individually and collaboratively, in Marin County, California, during the 1960s and ’70s: dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin (1920–2021); her husband, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009); and sculptor JB Blunk (1926–2002). This charming show foregrounded the aesthetic influence of Marin County, that magical cusp of land north of San Francisco that’s still rife with foggy cow pastures, eucalyptus-lined country roads, and shuck-it-yourself oyster shacks overlooking the sea. The Halprin family home,

  • Nicola L., Cloud, 1974–78, ink, cotton, wood, 63 × 35". From the series “Pénétrables,” 1968–2012. From “Shell.”


    Cloud, 1974–78, a body-size construction by Nicola L. (1932–2018), is a large, wall-mounted rectangle of cotton canvas measuring five feet high and three feet wide. From it hang five pockets of fabric that respectively mimic a head, arms, and legs. This object is one of the artist’s “Pénétrables,” 1968–2012, so named by French art critic Pierre Restany in the late 1960s. These wearable works were paraded in various art and non-art settings around Europe in the 1960s and 1970s by figures such as musician Caetano Veloso, attendees of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, and the artist’s own son.

  • Jonny Negron, Cosmic Dancer, 2021, acrylic on linen, 54 × 74".

    Jonny Negron

    In Jonny Negron’s acrylic-on-linen painting Untitled (all works 2021), a muscle-bound man, facing the viewer, luxuriates in a soapy bath. His large cartoonish eyes are turned down as a pout curves his ample lips, accentuating the picture’s moody, contemplative atmosphere. Both his body and the pillowy drifts of bubbles that cling to his sculpted physique are awash in sensuous shades of red as he sits before a humming monochromatic field of luminous crimson. This piece, one of six new canvases in “Spirits,” the artist’s second solo show at Château Shatto, represents Negron’s move from modestly

  • Susan Cianciolo, Shabbat Shalom, 2021, mixed media, textiles, 58 1⁄2 × 50".

    Susan Cianciolo

    Susan Cianciolo’s second solo show at Overduin & Co.—“Transmission of energy from celestial alignment with galactic center: Run 13 Collection”—was as sprawling, intricate, and multidimensional as its title indicated. Across three separate spaces, visitors encountered the artist’s new Run 13 clothing collection; a selection of “costumes” (as Cianciolo refers to them) from the archive of Run lines, which viewers could browse on rolling racks; a room hung with mixed-media-on-canvas works, mostly from 2020; several 2D and 3D tapestry pieces that were made last year; a mobile; a healing station; and

  • Anita Steckel, My Town, ca. 1969–74, gelatin silver print, 37 × 49".

    Anita Steckel

    In the late Anita Steckel’s large-scale gelatin silver print My Town, ca. 1969–74, a busty recumbent nude stretches out across several city blocks on Manhattan’s East Side, resting her elbow on a squat little building just to the right of the United Nations. Nonchalantly making the skyline her own chaise longue, the woman possesses a body transparent enough to reveal the architecture behind her. Pictured with Steckel’s own face, the figure collapses images of private and public during the same time that “The personal is political” became a feminist rallying cry. In an emphatic assertion of

  • Thornton Dial, People Will Watch the American Tiger Cat, 1988, corrugated tin, epoxy patching compound, and enamel on wood, 48 × 72 × 9".

    Thornton Dial

    Thornton Dial’s nearly thirty-year career in the art world began in the late 1980s, when the artist was then approaching his sixtieth birthday. This show of about a dozen works, titled “Thornton Dial: The Earliest Years, 1987–1989” and curated by writer and artist Phillip March Jones, took us back to that moment and to an oft-repeated origin tale—one that featured prominently in Dial’s 2016 </span>New York Times obituary. The story goes that Dial didn’t make artworks or even fully grasp the concept of what those in the know might call “high art” until he was visited at his home in Bessemer,

  • Xylor Jane, Walking to Your House (Counting by Threes), 2020, ink and oil on panel, 18 1&#8260;2 × 19 1&#8260;2".

    Xylor Jane

    When tasked with explaining Xylor Jane’s paintings, writers often start with the numbers. They explain that Jane uses magic squares, prime palindromes, and counting spirals to construct her systematic, grid-based paintings of geometric forms and numerals. They often comment on the exactitude of her nearly lenticular application of brightly hued pigments and wrap it all up with references to the transcendent, the occult, the magical, or the cosmic. This pairing—matter and spirit—has been identified by several art historians as the special paradox of modern painting. In her 1978 essay “Grids,”

  • Bri Williams, Precipice, 2020, metal, soap, curtain rod, 45 × 45 1/2 × 46 1/2".

    Bri Williams

    “The Ghost in Me”—the title of Bri Williams’s first solo show in Los Angeles—could easily be read as a self-descriptive statement written by the sculptures themselves, almost all of which contained spectral and slowly decomposing objects trapped inside shells made of hard soap. Expanding on her use of this material as a sculptural medium, Williams created these works by placing found items with personal significance—such as a crucifix; Mardi Gras masks; and an antique sign featuring Reddy Kilowatt, the former mascot for US electric companies—into molds that get filled with cut-up and molten bars

  • View of &#8220;Em Rooney: Women in Fiction,&#8221; 2020 at François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Em Rooney and François Ghebaly.
    interviews December 15, 2020

    Em Rooney

    For her first solo show in Los Angeles—on view at François Ghebaly from December 12 to January 9—Em Rooney unveils a new body of sculpture alongside her photographs. While Rooney is known for creating sculptural framing devices for her photos, this marks her first exhibition of stand-alone sculptures, almost all of which assume the form of flowers. An emphasis on tactility and process has always been evident in Rooney’s photographic “containers,” which deftly merge two differently valued modes of knowledge acquisition: sight and touch. Focusing on sculptural forms allows Rooney to continue