Benjamin Weissman

  • Mitchell Syrop

    Mitchell Syrop’s gargantuan installation of approximately 900 high-school-yearbook photos possessed a peculiar subtlety. The aluminum supports, which Syrop calls “extrusions,” and the gridlike stacking of rectangular images lent this work an industrial, living-on-top-of-eachother, cell-block quality. Blown up via laser printing to 8 1/2 by 11 inches, the photographs were assembled into ten separate male and female Caucasian “constellations” of 500, 300, 24, 12, etc., ranging in size from 14 by 27 feet to 24 by 35 inches.

    Though these photographs reeked of institutional control—as in a roll

  • David Humphrey

    David Humphrey’s paintings are a vision of family members in the Freudian funhouse, a whirlpool of holes and poles, of leering toothy smirkers with painfully swollen ears. There’s an everybody’s-talking-about-me quality, a buzzy self-consciousness thing going on that jumps from painting to painting and causes the entire body of work to hum with big-time anxiety. A sort of laugh-track esthetic is operating here, in which gaps pave the way to humiliation. These paintings kick around ideas of carnality, of growing up, of composing a facial identity for the camera, of being found out—the compulsion

  • Michael Joaquín Grey

    In Michael Joaquín Grey’s show the trouble begins with the first seductive photograph. After its abstract first impression fades away, a tiny, cryptically muted image is detectable—an upside-down rubber replica of the Tin Man’s helmet. One thinks of The Wizard of Oz—rusty, cheerful, and void of a heart. But no; perhaps the photograph is to serve as a metaphoric “funnel”—a starter button to a body of work that wishes to address seemingly everything: animation, logic, genetics, electricity, human development, animals, play, sexuality, evolution, erosion, and ecology. With the aid of the funnel in

  • Ellen Phelan

    To look and think about the dolls in Ellen Phelan’s 42 doll drawings, a 15-year project, is to submit in some way to their rule, which is really only to submit to one’s own narrative impulses. A refusal to regard the secret lives of our plastic and furry likenesses is to cast oneself as a no-fun doll boy or a disbelieving doll girl. Phelan presents us with a play-before-you-paint situation; indeed, in order to paint dolls, she had to spend a great deal of time moving them around, imagining the world from their points of view.

    In Reconciliation, 1991, a green frog wearing tight red shorts puts

  • Tom Wudl

    Tom Wudl’s tour of earthly delights takes two forms. Tiny paintings (as small as four by three inches) of isolated objects—a goblet, a yellow fish, a bird, a hand holding a bullet paradoxicallyfeel as expansive as the gigantic The Rapture of Dionysus (all works 1991), a painting that features an explosion of information—a burst of flora, a clock, a deck shoe, a violin, and the Challenger spaceship exploding in a galaxy studded with stars and planets. Small paintings have a tendency to be awkwardly constricted, but Wudl’s diminutive works do not fall prey to rigidity and stiffness; they

  • Lari Pittman

    In Lari Pittman’s Victorian domestic utopias, the most terrifying nightmares and the ripest euphorias take tea together within the cozy parameters of the rectangle. The vocabulary is gaudy and hallucinogenic—an ornamental chaos maxed out with information, in which the artist proposes an anxious unity between things humiliating and pleasurable.

    In this new body of work—a virtual masquerade ball—Pittman represents himself as a highly socialized, carnivorous female owl, with large saggy breasts and humongous vaginas. In Transubstantial and Needy, 1991, an oversized owl wearing a bejeweled crown that

  • Terry Allen

    As bronze sculptures go, a male bust being whacked in the back of the head with a baseball bat is pretty appealing. This image becomes all the more pleasurable in the context of a gallery, where violence is usually kept safely at arm’s length—denounced as political atrocity, or repressed through earnest yammerings about gender and politics. Consider all the figures who have achieved the status of bronze or plaster bustdom and try and restrain yourself from taking a baseball bat to the back of at least one esteemed cortex. The striking of a skull also speaks of the need for art that takes viewers

  • Charles Arnoldi

    When Charles Arnoldi began exhibiting in the early ’70s, his work offered a delicately organic alternative to the high-gloss formalism that dominated current Los Angeles painting. While everyone was flexing their heads about flatness, surface, and edge, Arnoldi was making paintings out of tree branches. Debarking the branches, gluing them into rectangular formations, and painting them with various colors, Arnoldi coasted for over a decade, but, as so often happens with art-world innovations successful enough to become trademarks, Arnoldi wore the gesture out.

    While adopting the conventions of

  • Pruitt • Early

    Pruitt • Early are a pure product of the art world; as naughty and wild as their art pretends to be, their intent is merely to fit in. In an effort to instantly historicize their efforts, the artists have dated each of their pieces with the phrase “Early 90’s.” Pillaging the styles and ideas of other artists, not to mention the strategy of appropriation, the work rides on the coattails of Andy Warhol, Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons, and Haim Steinbach. Pruitt • Early’s antiesthetic is cheap, low class, and heavy metal; it’s art for or about teenagers. Teenagers are shallow and dumb. They drink

  • Manuel Ocampo

    Like many complex, authentic gestures, ultimately Manuel Ocampo’s paintings, which relentlessly display physical and spiritual agony, are simple, organic, and speak of things close to home. Chaotic, angry, and 100 percent morbid, Ocampo’s paintings are also fun to look at. Though they resemble folk retablos, they are broader in scope and less specifically private. No direct prayers to Jesus to help a brother or sister regain their consciousness, no thank-yous for rescuing a loved one from under a bus, figure in these images. The grim events depicted here are far from accidental; colonial rulers

  • Robert Williams

    As the war between high and low culture wages on, Robert Williams, a former decal and comix artist turned easel painter, continues to assault his viewer’s eyeballs relentlessly. Cerebrally, one is bound, gagged, beaten, and cut to ribbons by these meticulously rendered full-color deliriums. Indeed, the works are so visceral that one half expects a grisly soundtrack of heckling, shrieks, and flesh chewing. It would seem virtually impossible to accommodate this material without a certain distance and not be rendered dysfunctional.

    Since the obscene rears its head everywhere in these psychotic

  • Jim Morris

    Twenty small photographs and paintings—some of clouds and some of an old California mission—presented in identical tasteful walnut frames, resurrect a conversation between painting and photography that in any sense but a historical one is decidedly tired. To point out that photography is no less a dispassionate register of objective truth than painting, hardly constitutes a revelation at this juncture.

    Jim Morris’ photographs of the mission are astonishingly beautiful. Some of them boast painterly effects that result from layering several negatives on top of each other; corrosive streaks, stormy