Catherine Taft

  • Harry Dodge

    Harry Dodge’s recent works might well be the love children of the machine age and the digital revolution; his exhibition at the nonprofit space JOAN, “Works of Love,” comprised twelve new sculptures seemingly generated via intertechnological commingling, or perhaps through the tinkering of some ham inventor. Objects such as Pure Shit Hotdog Cake and Black Transparency (The Cloud Polis draws revenue from the cognitive capital of its Users), both 2017, looked like homespun satellites, teetering structures of wood, aluminum, resin, and other found hardware (Black Transparency even counts a “rocket

  • Todd Gray

    Writing in these pages in 2013, critic Bruce Hainley asked, “Aren’t the ‘life,’ ‘body,’ and ‘face’ of Michael Jackson in the running for some of the most abstract events of the last century?” Indeed, in his lifetime, Jackson complicated notions around his own race, gender, and cultural identity, and his transformation (what Hainley pointed to as “transgendering”) took place before a critical public eye. Todd Gray was Jackson’s exclusive personal photographer in the late 1970s and early 1980s—and thus enjoyed a proximity that allowed him a privileged view of the celebrity in construction—and many

  • Nicole Eisenman

    If history painting aims to convey the course of empire through the depiction of mythic or moralistic episodes, then Nicole Eisenman’s canvas Heading Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass, 2017, is likewise a tribute to recent American history, our country’s progress allegorized as a one-way trip down a swampy cataract. More than ten feet tall, the work depicts a sailing vessel—the impossibly large jawbone of a donkey—with a torn sail, manned by a solemn piper, a ghoulishly pasty sailor, and a politician-like fat cat, who lurks in the shadows. Perhaps an update to Emanuel Leutze’s

  • Simone Forti

    Musing on virtual reality in the pages of this magazine in 2017, Douglas Coupland remarked, “When a new technology triumphs, it allows the technology it’s rendered obsolete to become an art form.” Surprisingly, in that same text, Coupland characterized the use of holograms in art—except “by Simone Forti and a few others,” whom he characterized as deploying them “to great effect”—as a “flash in the pan.” While holography has only hesitantly been embraced as a valid art medium (and rarely as a triumphant technology), the question is not so much about novelty as about the depth of an

  • Gary Simmons

    Since the early 1990s, Gary Simmons has brandished the act of erasure as a means to visualize race and the history of its representation and misrepresentation. To employ this technique, the artist would first draw on a chalkboard, then smear the image, leaving faded traces of the drawing surrounded by chalky, gestural streaks. Although these marks seemed violent, the image refused to disappear.

    In his six large, mixed-media works at Regen Projects (all works 2017), Simmons built on his early chalkboard drawings, utilizing the formal aftereffects of erasure—forceful blurring—in the

  • William Leavitt

    It’s difficult to tell if William Leavitt’s work reflects an imprecise past or a strange, near future, and it’s exactly this temporal blurriness that makes his work so compelling. Comprising eleven paintings and three theatrical, flat-like sculptures, his recent exhibition “Cycladic Figures” proposed alternate realities in which the stuff of the past—for example, rotary phones, Polaroid cameras, and Greek statuary from 2500 BCE—collided with fantastic technologies, both real and imagined. As with much of Leavitt’s oeuvre, this pileup of images was set in a distinctly Californian

  • Elizabeth Axtman

    In her 2003 essay “Pimp Notes on Autonomy,” Beth Coleman writes, “The fame of black people . . . is a fame based on the foresight that race does not exist anymore, which does not necessarily make a body right.” O. J. Simpson’s infamous claim, “I’m not black, I’m O. J.,” could be read as a similar assertion, a cultivated self-definition of Simpson as a public figure pointedly outside of racial politics. But after the former NFL running back’s dramatic fugitive flight, “trial of the century,” and murder acquittal, he would never again be exempt from race in America (as if such an idea was possible).

  • AMALIA PICA

    Pica’s sculptures and performances are calls to action: They implore us to look, listen, and participate. Political subtexts—addressing everything from military dictatorship to governmental bureaucracy—inform the London-based artist’s practice; for this show, she mines the architecture of war and the obsolescence of technology. Building on her 2010–12 sculpture Acoustic Radar in Cardboard, Pica will exhibit new works in the same material, these based on early sonic equipment used by the British after World War I. The series “In Praise

  • Jennie Jieun Lee

    Among the torso-like, vertically oriented ceramics placed at deliberate intervals throughout “Seizure Crevasse,” Jennie Jieun Lee’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, a pair of small sculptures situated in and near the gallery’s eponymous pit were the most ominous and compelling. At the bottom of a five-foot-deep, roughly eight-by-four-foot rectangular recess in the gallery’s cement ground (an architectural leftover from the space’s former days as a car repair shop), a modest abstract ceramic piece with a glossy, multihued glaze rested like a decapitated head in a grave. Hovering over the

  • Michael Decker

    In 1968, brothers Wallace and Russ Berrie manufactured and sold a line of kitsch plastic objects known as Sillisculpts. The Sillisculpt served as a kind of 3-D greeting card that reflected the popular sentiments of Vietnam-era America; each featured a small, trophy-like figure, typically cast in off-white resin and fixed to a base stamped with a saccharine or humorously lewd phrase: I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH; WORLD’S BEST MOTHER; UP YOURS!; THERE’S NO PLACE FOR SEX IN THE OFFICE . . . SO LET’S MAKE ONE. As subtitles for the upward gazing dopey, doe-eyed figures, the phrases spoke alternately to

  • Karon Davis

    Catharsis, according to the American Psychological Association, is “the discharge of previously repressed affects connected to traumatic events that occurs when these events are brought back into consciousness and reexperienced.” Karon Davis’s solo exhibition “Pain Management”could easily be described as cathartic, availing itself of the transformative powers of painful memories recalled. Davis’s two large-scale installations revealed the emotional depths of their maker. As the exhibition’s press release explained, they were based on a “hospital-bound” reality of illness, which Davis and her

  • Ericka Beckman

    Ericka Beckman’s Cinderella, 1986, a 16-mm rendering of the fairy tale, is an Atari-like musical in which the title character staggers through various levels of narrative as if in a video game. As the centerpiece of a spellbinding exhibition, this rarely screened film demonstrated the staying power of Beckman’s work thirty years on. Mostly employing the artist’s signature palette of bold primary colors against black backgrounds, the stylized film resembles the classic tale only insofar as a female protagonist is put through the wringer of some odd gender socialization: Cinderella toils at an

  • OPENINGS: LAEH GLENN

    HOW SHOULD A PAINTING BEHAVE? The dreamy yet sober canvases of Laeh Glenn seem predicated on this question. The Los Angeles–based artist asks why a painting should exist at all, what its motivation should be, and how one should relate to it—particularly at a moment when images circulate so quickly and casually, and when painting itself seems to exist somewhere between code and canvas. She extracts the medium’s genres—still life, portrait, nude, geometric abstraction—to coolly linger in and wonder at its protocols. Through her distillation of these pictorial archetypes, she reveals

  • Howardena Pindell

    To legibly capture a television screen, a photographer must have both patience and a variety of technical tricks at her disposal, including a carefully calibrated shutter speed and an exposure time determined through trial and error. In addition to the motion of the video image, the analog photographer must also be sensitive to the friction between the camera’s straightforward light-capture process and the CRT monitor’s beams of magnetized electrons, which light up pixels within the screen to present a steady image to the human eye, but whose glow registers quite differently to the camera. This

  • Hermann Nitsch

    In the decades following World War II, Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch and his contemporaries pursued an approach to artmaking that—like those of so many artists around the globe at midcentury—attempted to deal with the underlying psychological depths of human existence. The particular avant-garde methods of the Viennese Actionists emphasized the body as a challenge to pictorial traditions and conservative cultural and political systems (specifically, Austria’s Second Republic in the early 1960s). Their work was raw, materially driven, scatological, performative, and ceremonial, at

  • Kate Costello

    Drawing has a directness and immediacy capable of revealing an artist’s thought process and, over time, formal development. It can document aesthetic mutability and demonstrate technical acumen, all the while circumventing the baggage of painting or sculpture. Kate Costello’s recent exhibition—simply titled “Drawing”—which included nine fabric appliqué works; a sculpture in paper, cement, and steel; and an artist’s book, was less concerned with draftsmanship than with the conceptual, linguistic, and symbolic possibilities of drawing. And for an artist well versed in sculpture, video,

  • John Wesley

    John Wesley’s flat, reductive, figurative paintings from the early 1960s represent an alternate Pop vision that not only emphasizes the slick surfaces of postwar consumer culture but also filters the esoteric visual iconography of WASP tribalism through the artist’s own odd psychology. Titled “Important Works from 1961 to 1966,” the sixteen pieces—painting, sculpture, and drawing—that made up this exhibition underscore Wesley’s importance during an early period in his career, namely the years immediately following his move from Los Angeles to New York, when he started exhibiting. As Wesley has

  • “Jim Shaw: The End Is Here”

    Jim Shaw recently explained to me that “creativity sometimes comes out of moments of crisis”—and when that moment is the apocalypse, the imagination gets wilder and more intense. “The End Is Here,” Shaw’s first comprehensive New York museum show, will foreground the Los Angeles–based artist’s longtime fascination with American cultural mythologies, marginal political histories, secondhand curiosities, and good old-fashioned religious fanaticism. Installed across three museum floors and accompanied by a substantial catalogue, the exhibition

  • Lutz Bacher

    One summer evening in 1964, at the suggestion of his friends, Andy Warhol trained a rented 16-millimeter camera on the Empire State Building, shooting the monolith for hours on end. The resulting film, Empire, 1964, is a study as much in cinematographic looking as it is on the properties of film itself; though the image of the building at night is otherwise fixed, small dramas play out through exposure, the shifting of light over time, and the slight jumpiness of the image as the celluloid passes through the projector.

    The centerpiece of Lutz Bacher’s exhibition “For the People of New York

  • K.r.m. Mooney

    Bad Reputation is a small, artist-run project space located in an anonymous prewar office building in Los Angeles’s Westlake neighborhood. Run by artist Andreas Waris, Bad Reputation takes its name from the title of Penny Arcade’s book on performance art, allegedly written in a seventh-floor office within the same building (where Arcade’s publisher Semiotext[e] also rented its offices and provided studios to writers). This past January, the gallery was supplanted by the Cologne Room, another off-space run by Waris, who conceived of the gallery-within-a-gallery as a tribute to 1980s Cologne—this