Catherine Taft

  • Merlin Carpenter

    On January 30 (coinciding with the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair), Merlin Carpenter opened his second show at Overduin & Kite. The premise was simple: A friend asked the artist for an old painting that Carpenter had made in 1990. In return, Carpenter asked the friend to take the original and make twenty copies (“1990 Repainted 1–20,” 2010), all of which were put on view for the show. The works could be described as a nauseatingly polychromatic antidote to his recent three-year, multivenue project, The Opening, which featured smug phrases (among other markings) scrawled, predominantly in

  • Julian Hoeber

    If the gray-scale chart were given a sculptural physicality, it might well take the form of the nearly twenty-foot-long seating unit that sliced down the center of Blum & Poe’s upstairs gallery, forming Endless Chair, 2010–11, the centerpiece of Julian Hoeber’s recent exhibition. Built from bony slats of bolted-together plywood, this modular bench provided a direct (if less than comfortable) vantage onto the seven large abstract geometric canvases that comprise the artist’s “Execution Changes” series, 2010–. Viewers were permitted to sit on this protracted piece of furniture, prompting one to

  • Seb Patane

    At the heart of Seb Patane’s tight, studied exhibition is its namesake, a hypnotic video titled Year of the Corn, 2011. The time-based composition has a trancelike, vaguely tribal sound component and sets into action the many static expressions visible in the artist’s drawings, paintings, collages, prints, and sculptures elsewhere in the room. Over the course of six minutes, the piece shifts through five distinct movements: a dark silhouette (a head? a landscape?) floating static against a pixelated red sky; two planes of latticework spinning laterally; a strangely ritualistic performance shot

  • Koki Tanaka and Naotaka Hiro

    Perhaps the single most striking aspect of Koki Tanaka and Naotaka Hiro’s dizzying two-person exhibition was the choreographed sound that swept through the gallery in a protracted clatter: noises that evoked the prepping and chopping of fish, lights switched on and off, dishes broken, rhythmic drumming, repetitive chiming. This percussive orchestration arose from the show’s seven video installations (five by Tanaka and two by Hiro, both projected and screened on monitors) and served as white noise, the hypnotic power of which pulled the viewer into the action of each. The accord between these

  • diary January 19, 2011

    Open Mike

    “THERE IS A STRANGE DISQUIET,” wrote Dennis Cooper in Mike Kelley’s 1993 catalogue Catholic Tastes, “in looking too long and hard at the face of a druggie. The same goes for the artist, the criminal, the genius.” After Kelley’s opening last week at Gagosian Beverly Hills, I am inclined to add to Cooper’s list the wholesome harem girl, the dour gnome, and Colonel Sanders. There was little that could disquiet the enthusiastic horde that turned out for the event, however, as the faces of Kelley’s latest archetypes, which populate the installations Kandor 10/Extracurricular Activity Projective

  • SITE Santa Fe Biennial

    That the term stop motion is affixed to a technique for making moving pictures seems something of a contradiction; then again, the animation that results from stitching together still images has become so commonplace that the words read like a familiar trade name. The overlapping realities of this antiquated technology’s concurrent obsolescence and triumphal ubiquity are precisely what animate “The Dissolve,” another term naming a somewhat old-fashioned film technique and now the title of the eighth installment of the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, cocurated by Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco.

    “The

  • Paul McCarthy

    In 1968, Paul McCarthy built a hollow, galvanized steel structure shaped like the letter H and laid on its back. He titled it z-Dead H_ (the H standing for human), making additional versions in the years that followed—notably, Dead H Crawl, 1999, inside of which he imagined moving human bodies. In The Couch, a little-known video from 1973, we watch the artist force his body through a sofa feetfirst, only to emerge out the backside in a kind of birthing episode. And for the lifelike sculpture Dreaming, 2005, McCarthy produced a to-scale silicone model of his own pantless self reclining on a lawn

  • film November 25, 2010

    Eternal Return

    JEAN GENET famously spoke of a theater among the graves, one that embraced the cagey void of death through the equally mysterious undertaking of art and cast a bit of shadow on “a world that seems to be moving so merrily towards analytical clarity.” On a recent Thursday evening, Marnie Weber conjured Genet’s sublime vision in the shadowy corners and marble hallways of the Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, a sprawling gothic necropolis in the sleepy suburb (sorry, Genet, not your preferred Urb) of Altadena, California.

    Eternity Forever, a kind of funeral for Weber’s band the Spirit Girls,

  • “Hearts of Palm”

    Night Gallery (hours of operation: 10 PM to 2 AM) is an off-space in East Los Angeles nestled between a taqueria and a beauty salon. Opening last February under the direction of artist Davida Nemeroff, this intimate nocturnal venture appeared as a welcome other to the city’s more pedestrian gallery scene. The venture’s innocuous slackness—the artworks aren’t exactly titled or untitled, the installations may change during the course of the show, the space is attended by whichever trusted friends happen to be hanging around on a given evening—only lends breathing room to the venue’s black-walled

  • picks October 09, 2010

    Torbjørn Rødland

    For all their restrained, Nordic cool, the photographs of Torbjørn Rødland are uncannily tender and piercingly inscrutable. “A Black Ant Traveling,” the artist’s second solo show with Benevento, comprises a tight group of photographs that alternately parades and conceals the gazes of its subjects. MTV-VJ, 2007–10, and Celtic, 2009, for example, both picture self-possessed young women who assertively direct their confident, even cocky gazes straight into the camera and thus the viewer. An adjacent triptych, Untitled (Wax I – III), 2003–10, reveals a willowy young man—a figure seated among tiers

  • Brian Kennon

    For centuries, the law of the grid—as an invisible system of horizontal and vertical lines that partition a page into a visually consistent structure—has dominated modular graphic design. For decades, the group show has held sway over summer gallery schedules. Brian Kennon’s solo exhibition “Group Shows,” on view this past summer at Steve Turner Contemporary, employed the rules of the former to reformulate the latter, demonstrating that the layout of an exhibition can be as prefab as a page layout. Kennon’s nine new works on paper—single-edition ink-jet prints that feature found images swiped

  • diary September 23, 2010

    That Girl

    “DO THE PEOPLE in the crowd know what this is?” A sandy-blonde teenage girl and her mother were queued against a wall waiting with other thirteen- to sixteen-year-old blondes and their stage moms in the back of the Culver City nonprofit LAXART. “I feel like we’re monkeys in a cage,” replied the girl’s mother. “Or maybe they are.”

    The crowd in question had gathered on the public side of a glass wall to watch Charlie White conduct his Casting Call, an all-day performance event aimed at locating one “California Girl” who would have her image posted on a nearby billboard. Working with the Burbank

  • 2010 California Biennial

    Due in part to its many art schools; its sizable, affordable studio spaces; and, perhaps, that legendary laid-back lifestyle, California has an abundance of artistic talent, and the Orange County Museum of Art has been reaping these bounties for its biennials since 1984.

    Due in part to its many art schools; its sizable, affordable studio spaces; and, perhaps, that legendary laid-back lifestyle, California has an abundance of artistic talent, and the Orange County Museum of Art has been reaping these bounties for its biennials since 1984. For this year’s survey, curator Sarah Bancroft (who is relatively new to the state) selected some forty-five artists and collectives from California’s major metropolitan areas. Unlike the 2008 biennial, which extended the exhibition to sites throughout California and even Mexico, the 2010 presentation

  • Aaron Curry

    Day-Glo, both as color palette and modern invention, tricks the eye into believing that inanimate objects emit inherent electricity. “Two Sheets Thick,” Aaron Curry’s recent show of sculpture, collage, and painting, uses this trick liberally as if to articulate (or scream out loud) the “hotness” of his formal choices. Two of Curry’s six new sculptures (all works 2010), for example, are towering, freestanding constructions of hot pink (Mammut) or fluorescent yellow (Bcklmnmppe) coated aluminum that cause visual vibrations throughout the main gallery. Flat geometric panels bolted together,

  • diary August 13, 2010

    Crush with Eyeliner

    Aspen, Colorado

    ASPENS ARE COMMONLY KNOWN as the world’s largest living organism, which makes them an especially apt totem for other organisms aspiring to live large. Dreaming big, I arrived in the eponymous Colorado town last Wednesday—though a monsoon thunderstorm threatened to keep my jet away—for the Aspen Art Museum’s sixth annual artCRUSH benefit and a slate of events tailored to inspire the largesse of the locals.

    Trekking to Aspen is a tricky affair (the exit from I-70 isn’t even marked), and I was fashionably late to wineCRUSH—the fundraiser’s opening ceremony, wine tasting, and multicourse meal. I sunk

  • diary August 03, 2010

    Growing Pains

    Los Angeles

    OF THE MANY OPPORTUNITIES for growth and discovery this summer, West of Rome Public Art’s first annual benefit was perhaps the most sensory. Staged inside Mike Kelley and Michael Smith’s collaborative project A Voyage of Growth and Discovery—a warehouse-size multimedia installation of Burning Man–inspired videos and sculptures—the journey officially began last Monday night at the Farley Storage Building in Eagle Rock once guests had signed a waiver: “. . . you elect to participate in an ‘activity’ that may cause social discomfort or distress in some participants.” Said “activity” included Nurse

  • diary July 09, 2010

    Club Soda

    Twentynine Palms, California

    MOST PEOPLE IN THE ART WORLD—if they’re anything like me—like to think they know what Pop art is. But last Sunday, artist Mike Bouchet proved me wrong with his own brand of Pop: a swimming pool in the desert filled with his unique recipe for bubbleless diet cola. Hosted by Mara McCarthy’s Chinatown gallery the Box, the Flat Cola Pool BBQ marked the culmination of Bouchet’s My Cola LITE project, begun in 2004, in which the artist bottled his cola, shipped the bottles to China, and distributed them for free. In the spirit of free enterprise (if not “freedom” altogether), Bouchet planned his event

  • Waltercio Caldas

    Waltercio Caldas’s drawing 1, 2009, is a straightforward composition of india ink and pins on paper; two diamond forms—one small and red; the other, larger and black—slightly intersect near a spot of printed text reading simples. While this word (a plural) seems to describe the adjacent shapes, its placement here is curious for an artist who rarely uses text, even if he repeatedly references the textual. Caldas typically makes abstract sculptures that signify the syntactic movement of language, as if diagramming a sentence. By applying to his materials a set of formal guidelines—for example,

  • Paul McCarthy: Pig Island

    To fully understand Paul McCarthy’s practice, one should consider the artist’s studio as a kind of sculpture itself—an object perpetually digesting and expunging the everyday grotesqueries of the American psyche.

    To fully understand Paul McCarthy’s practice, one should consider the artist’s studio as a kind of sculpture itself—an object perpetually digesting and expunging the everyday grotesqueries of the American psyche. Pig Island—an expansive, debris-strewn installation that operates like a laboratory in which sculptural crossbreeds are conceived, molded, mechanized, and cannibalized—is the most efficient conceivable expression of this idea. Cultivated over the past seven years in the heart of McCarthy’s studio, this work, never before seen in its entirety, is to be

  • Leonor Antunes and Amalia Pica

    The conceptual impulse behind artmaking typically manifests itself in either indulgently labored or stoically restrained gestures. This two-person exhibition, featuring the work of Portuguese-born, Berlin-based Leonor Antunes and London-based, Argentinean-born Amalia Pica, presented both approaches to Conceptualism as ways to investigate ideas about the organization of and communication across space. Although mounted as two solo shows occupying the same gallery, “Alongside” revealed that Antunes’s and Pica’s respective convictions and formal assertions are not unrelated.

    On the east side of the