Ashton Cooper

  • View of “Lauren Halsey,” 2020.

    Lauren Halsey

    Stepping into Lauren Halsey’s latest installation was akin to entering a three-dimensional mise en abyme. The wall-to-wall phantasmagoria—built primarily out of modules of large stacked cubes that were part mirror, part painted sign, part color field—seemed to be constantly in motion as the silver floors, mirrored reflections, and overhead lights animated the images and hues into a kaleidoscopic collage of sculptural media. The experience of moving deeper into the space, through the snaking aisles, was overwhelming, but mesmerizingly so.

    Halsey’s subject matter is South Central Los Angeles, often

  • Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, Moving Backwards, 2019, HD video projection, color, sound, 20 minutes.

    Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz

    In a glowing fifteen-foot-wide projection, a figure walks into the video frame, taking measured steps despite the fact that the individual’s orange sneakers are on backward, such that the toes are awkwardly pushed into the shoes’ heels. Over the next nineteen minutes, four other performers move in and out of the slowly tracking frame, carrying out various other reverse gestures in brief vignettes. The premise of the film, titled Moving Backwards, 2019, is explained in a letter written by the artists Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz on the occasion of the work’s debut this past summer in the

  • View of “Always put the rock back,” 2020.
    picks February 28, 2020

    Aidan Koch

    Aidan Koch plucked the title of her show from a bulletin board at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, where a child had left behind the unassuming advice to “always put the rock back” over beach-dwelling creatures. This spirit of observation and curiosity tempered by carefulness and consideration unites the distinct bodies of work on view, which include recent drawings and an animation in the graphic style that Koch is known for. A charming series of sculptures literalizes the show’s title: The artist has placed rocks on miniature beds made to fit the bodies of animals in her

  • View of “Laura Owens,” 2019–20.

    Laura Owens

    Visitors to Laura Owens’s exhibition “Books and Tables” might be surprised to find that the show consists of just that. Although she has been showing her handmade books for more than ten years, Owens has never before displayed them in a solo presentation without an accompanying installation of paintings. In the absence of the latter, the viewer’s eyes are pushed away from the walls and down toward the ninety-nine books spread out across six tables. Made in a wide variety of colors, sizes, configurations, and paper stocks, the books each ask for a slightly different mode of engagement. Some pop

  • Naudline Pierre, Love Becomes Her, 2019, oil on panel, 34 × 48".

    Naudline Pierre

    In Naudline Pierre’s eight-foot-tall painting Lest You Fall (all works 2019), a tangerine-tinged nude drops out of the sky—head first, legs flailing, arms spread wide—into a field of black flames reaching up from below. Four winged creatures (some might call them angels) plunge after her, using their wide crimson, teal, and hickory wings to scoop up her plummeting body. Meanwhile, a dove swoops in to touch her outstretched finger with its beak. Our rescued heroine, who figured at the center of every piece in Pierre’s exhibition “For I Am With You Until the End of Time,” called to mind a Renaissance

  • Cynthia Daignault, Elegy (House on Fire), 2019, oil on linen, 64 × 96".

    Cynthia Daignault

    In Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 essay “Cézanne’s Doubt,” the philosopher used the painter’s work to propose that an individual’s process of applying paint to canvas could serve as an index of the artist’s phenomenological experience of the world. “His painting was paradoxical,” Merleau-Ponty wrote. “He was pursuing reality without giving up the sensuous surface, with no other guide than the immediate impression of nature.” While Cézanne repetitively painted Mont Sainte-Victoire from life, Cynthia Daignault has, for the past five years, devoted herself to picturing the American landscape—actual

  • View of “Harmony Hammond,” 2019.

    Harmony Hammond

    Harmony Hammond first laid out a case for abstraction in her 1977 essay “Feminist Abstract Art: A Political Viewpoint.” Building on the feminist maxim that the personal is political, Hammond contended that abstraction is political because repetitive mark-making is a “record of present feeling.” From the early days of her practice, Hammond framed her abstract works as “visual diaries” capable of communicating their maker’s identifications and desires. In Hammond’s formulation, however, abstraction is not a mode of expressing the “real” self or the truths of the unconscious, as had been explained

  • Katja Farin, Dog Attack People Stack, 2019, oil on canvas, 8 x 6".
    picks September 20, 2019

    Katja Farin

    In Katja Farin’s eight-by-six-inch painting Dog Attack People Stack, 2019, three standing figures bent at the waist are piled on top of one another in an intimate but inexplicable arrangement. Their brown-, green-, and ocher-skinned bodies are purposefully unresolved—their musculature is unarticulated, their facial features barely marked. They stand on an imperfectly rendered tile floor whose wavering pattern hints at receding space but, in the end, draws more attention to the means of its own making. The painting, like most of the others on view, is self-conscious and self-referential: Within

  • Liz Larner, Firestone, 2019, glazed ceramic, 21 1⁄2 × 38 × 32".

    Liz Larner

    In her 1994 book Nomadic Subjects, Rosi Braidotti frames the body not as a biological category, but as “a point of overlapping between the physical, the symbolic, and the sociological.” The “nomadic” feminism she proposes suggests that subjects could promiscuously seek out interconnectedness by rejecting the coded, exclusionary systems of essentialism and nationalism. In resisting the illusion of fixed identities, then, nomadic feminists formally disrupt the symbolic meanings of the body and the self.

    Braidotti’s book was among a number of theoretical and poetic texts that Liz Larner left for

  • Mariah Garnett, Trouble, 2019, HD video, 83 minutes.
    picks March 11, 2019

    Mariah Garnett

    Mariah Garnett’s eighty-three-minute film Trouble, 2019, opens with clips from a 1971 BBC documentary about interfaith relationships in conflict-ridden Northern Ireland that features Garnett’s Protestant father, David (whom she didn’t meet until she was twenty-seven), and his Catholic then-girlfriend, Maura. As we come to discover, the program’s airing in Belfast at the height of the Troubles ultimately led to David’s departure from his country, never to return. Trouble is a heartbreaking account of the minute and massive consequences of human identifications—Catholic and Protestant, self and

  • Devin Troy Strother, Mandy Harris Williams, and Alima Lee, the worst witch, 2018, two-channel video, color, sound, 8 minutes 6 seconds.

    Devin Troy Strother

    Inside the witch’s lair, the walls were black and the windows darkened. A small stream of light glowed from the bulbs lining the edge of her vanity mirror, the shelf of which was littered with burnt-down candles and talismans of Baphomet, a writhing snake, and an ankh. Opposite stood a black-tiled portal. Strewn elsewhere were less sorcerous decorations, including family photos and houseplants. This installation was not just the theatricalized den of a witch, the interior of her home, but was what the artist Devin Troy Strother conceptualized as the metaphoric space of her inner psyche—a privileged

  • Rosa Loy, Haarversteck, 2018, casein on canvas, 19 3/4 x 15 3/4".
    picks December 21, 2018

    Rosa Loy

    In Leipzig-based painter Rosa Loy’s phantasmagoric compositions, the industrious, rosy-cheeked women of socialist realism are recast in Kafkaesque mise-en-scènes, in which they farm human-faced heads of lettuce, feed lollipops to Harpies wearing headbands, and recline on couches in poses of analysands more than odalisques. Loy imbues her scenes with the hazy sense of half-remembered dreams by using the water-based paint casein, which allows layers of underpainting to show through the thin washes on top, keeping colors and figures from being fully resolved. Often appearing in groups of two or