Catherine Taft

  • Arlene Shechet, Altered State, 2020, glazed ceramic, painted hardwood, blackened steel, sand-cast brass electroplated with chrome and nickel, gold leaf, 53 × 39 × 32".

    Arlene Shechet

    It’s difficult not to read Arlene Shechet’s vibrant mixed-media sculptures as stand-ins for the body. Many of the artist’s polychromatic forms are human in scale and even in demeanor. Take Altered State, 2020—one of the eight works featured in this exhibition at Vielmetter—an abstract assemblage of glazed ceramic, steel, and painted wood, which bears an arrangement of headlike forms in black, gold, and blue balanced atop a stocky trunk. The object seemed to be gazing down at its own image, which was reflected in a series of electroplated chrome tiles at the work’s base. Indeed, this quasi-figurative

  • David Gutierrez, Self-Portrait #41, 2019, ink-jet print, 30 × 72".

    David Gutierrez

    In this small, tightly focused exhibition, David Gutierrez presented figurative and literal dissections—or, more specifically, work that picked apart the artist’s own identity, personal history, and body through a panoply of doppelgängers. Displayed horizontally on the floor at the center of Tiger Strikes Asteroid was the life-size color photograph Self-Portrait #41, 2019, one of twenty-one such pictures that were included in the show. This piece depicted the artist costumed as an “anatomical Venus,” a kind of figurative wax sculpture that was popular in Italy during the late eighteenth century

  • Mariah Garnett, The Pow’r of Life Is Love, 2021, two-channel video projection, 4K video, color, sound, 13 minutes.

    Mariah Garnett

    Writing in his 1993 book The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, Wayne Koestenbaum asserted, “I hypothesize that opera’s hypnotic hold over modern gay audiences has some connection to the erotic interlocking of words and music, two contrary symbolic systems with gendered attributes.” Mariah Garnett seemed to test this conceit in her recent exhibition, “A Heart of Opal Fire,” which featured an ambitious new video installation that takes on opera, gender, mental health, family history, exoticization, and queer love—namely, a tryst between a woman and a rock. Garnett’s

  • David Hammons, Global Fax Festival, 2021. A new performance dedicated to Butch Morris in collaboration with Monday Evening Concerts and pianist Myra Melford, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, May 10 2021. Photo: courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Elon Schoenholz Photography © 2021.
    performance June 11, 2021

    Disorderly Conduct

    THIS IS IMPROVISATION,” Butch Morris says emphatically to an ensemble during a heated rehearsal. He continues, “This is collective improvisation. This is Conduction. This is conducted improvisation. This isn’t necessarily free music. This has a focus and I am the focus.” This moment—found in an uncredited YouTube clip likely filmed in the 1980s at the Alternative Museum in New York—effectively demonstrates the genius of Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris. To encounter the late improvisational virtuoso, theorist, conductor, composer, and performer in motion is to tangle with Conduction®, the rigorous

  • Sharon Hayes, Ricerche: two, 2020, two-channel video projection, color, sound, 38 minutes 47 seconds. Installation view.

    Sharon Hayes

    “What do you sacrifice to play?” “Do you feel connected to a feminist movement?” “Does football make you a better lover?” The questions are direct and grow increasingly personal as members of the group being queried warm up to the interviewer. The subjects—members of two Texas-based women’s tackle-football teams, the Arlington Impact and the Dallas Elite Mustangs—stand in a field under cool daylight. A few of the players are shifting their weight from foot to foot, while others grasp the fronts of their protective padding—we come to learn that some of the women wear kids’ pads because they better

  • Mildred Howard, Untitled, 1979, Xerox collage, 11 3/4 × 8 1/2".

    Mildred Howard

    Bay Area artist Mildred Howard is known for her compelling assemblage sculptures and installations that mine personal memory, community histories, and diasporic movement. This small survey was a thorough and efficient overview of more than four decades of art, presenting some of Howard’s most recognizable works—including her wood-framed photo-emulsion pieces and a signature glass-bottle house, which she made this year—alongside a surprisingly fresh-looking selection of early works. Her influences are many: Among others, we see Jay DeFeo in the thick impasto surfaces of her paintings and the

  • View of “Psychic Plumbing,” 2020. Background: Sara Ludy, Channels, 2019. Foreground: Philip Peters, Fault Lines and Freeways, 2020.

    “Psychic Plumbing”

    On the white landing page of the website www.thecanarytest.com, two surveillance-style live feeds appeared side by side and a time signature gave the current hour, minute, and second in Pacific Standard Time. The cameras were trained on Canary, a new downtown off-space housed in a former clothing store. One was positioned at the front of the long narrow space and the other at the back, where metal racks and clothes hangers were still installed. The gallery’s inaugural show, “Psychic Plumbing,” existed in these two locations: the physical space and its 24/7 broadcast online. But this past March,

  • Johanna Went, Untitled, 2007, mixed media. Installation view.

    Johanna Went

    Grotesque props, crude puppetry, absurdist costumes, fake blood, and noise characterized Johanna Went’s riotous and scatological performances from the late 1970s and ’80s. A central figure in the Los Angeles punk scene of the time, Went was well known on both US coasts in her heyday and gained a cultlike following in LA underground art and music venues such as Al’s Bar, Club Lingerie, Hong Kong Café, and the Whisky. Alongside her collaborator, the composer Mark Wheaton, and a revolving cast of musicians, performers, and stagehands, Went blended experimental music, sculpture, spoken word, and

  • Liz Magic Laser, In Real Life, 2019, five-channel HD video, color, sound, 112 minutes.

    Liz Magic Laser

    Liz Magic Laser’s best work examines how politics, technology, psychology, and media are used to manage and calibrate human impulses and motivations. Consisting of two recent projects produced for European institutions, In Real Life, 2019, and Handle/Poignée, 2018, this show demonstrated the centrality of analysis and passé pseudoscientific aesthetics (think infographics and cyberpunks, modernism and New Age) to Laser’s practice. Perhaps the latter interest accounted for the vague belatedness that haunted both works, whose investments in semiotic experimentation and technological

  • View of “Judy Chicago,” 2019.

    Judy Chicago

    Not unlike Judy Chicago’s famed installation The Dinner Party, 1974–79, this exhibition took a clear and radical stance against the historical erasure of a woman and her work. Of the thirty-nine pieces making up this survey of Chicago’s prolific output from 1965 to 1972, almost half (nineteen sculptures and photographs) had been refabricated or printed anew within the past fifteen years. This work looked unapologetically fresh alongside older sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Conceived and executed around five decades ago, many of Chicago’s original works did not survive owing to the lack of

  • View of “David Hammons,” 2019. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

    David Hammons

    In a 1998 profile of David Hammons in these pages, Manthia Diawara observed, “The use of art against art is, of course, a familiar strategy by now, but what remains interesting is what becomes of the artist in his rebellion against convention. . . . In one sense, aura is everything in Hammons’s art.” For an artist known for refusal, Hammons projected a surprisingly strong aura in this loose retrospective, his first exhibition in Los Angeles in forty-five years. New and older sculptures, paintings, installations, found objects, archival ephemera, and works and films by other artists sprawled over

  • GROUP MATERIAL

    IN 1973, while still in graduate school, Suzanne Lacy organized an elaborate happening. Titled Maps, the piece instructed fellow students to travel to points across Los Angeles’s Southland—from campus to a mental-health hospital to a meatpacking factory—carrying butcher-paper-wrapped lamb’s organs, and to reassemble the entrails into approximate anatomical order at the final stop. The performance was quietly provocative, otherworldly. The following year, she partnered with a lawyer to prepare another, similarly visceral work. That piece, titled Body Contract, 1974, took the form of a fourteen-page