Catherine Taft

  • 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, 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


    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

  • Glenn Ligon, Synecdoche (For Byron Kim), 2018, neon, 5 × 30 3⁄4".

    Glenn Ligon

    Throughout his career, Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini spoke and wrote about his search for the “elsewhere,” which he defined as an alternative to the “anthropologically mutated” West. Indeed, his unfinished five-part film Notes for a Poem on the Third World—which was to be shot in the late 1960s in Africa, India, Latin America, the Arab world, and “the black ghettos” of the United States—would have attempted a revolutionary and anticapitalist political positioning of the real. Glenn Ligon takes on Pasolini’s mode of postcolonial, essayistic storytelling in his sculpture Notes for a Poem


    DIANA—ROMAN GODDESS of the hunt, fertility, and childbirth—swore never to marry. Neither wife nor mother, she was a celibate separatist living in a forest with a band of virgin maidens. Among the animals in her care were the bear, the boar, the goat, the stag, and packs of wild dogs. She herself was a predatory animal, armed with bow and arrow, breast exposed to facilitate a smooth shot. Diana swiftly punished transgressors of her law, a code that maintained the delicate balance between humans and wildlife. She famously disciplined the hunter Actaeon when he stumbled on the goddess and her nymphs

  • Raúl de Nieves, Psychopomp, 2018, vintage millinery trim, rhinestones, plastic beads, thread, glue, cardboard, mannequin, zipper, 44 × 15 × 25".

    Raúl de Nieves

    The work of Mexican-born, New York–based artist Raúl de Nieves owes much of its sensibility to early-1970s glam: its artifice, excess, and glittering attitude toward gender. But there was nothing nostalgic, ironic, or retro about the seven figurative sculptures, four mosaiclike wall works, and three drawings that comprised this show. Rather, the works’ dazzling, obsessive surfaces seemed earnestly drawn from some collision of nature, Pop, and fantasy in the service of pure theater. The actors here were six three-foot-tall bodies, each a construction of fiberglass, glue, and multicolored plastic