Catherine Taft

  • Eileen Quinlan

    For an artist who cites accidental elements in her practice, Eileen Quinlan is undeniably fixed on the parameters and the quantifiable conditions of making a photograph. While the images she produces are marked by bleeding colors and the incidental abstraction of common objects, Quinlan in her meticulous experimentations stages her materially driven subject matter with the precision and control of a set designer—even employing the trade secrets of commercial photography, such as smoke machines, filters, and strobe and key lighting. For her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, titled “Downtime,”

  • Lecia Dole-Recio

    Lecia Dole-Recio’s loosely constructivist works on paper and vellum have long demonstrated her deftness at mixing gesture and structure in measured and unpretentious ways. Patterning line and shadow from tactical cuts, cardboard shapes, hand-drawn details, and heavy washes of pastel, fluoresecent, or metallic gouache, the Los Angeles–based artist has cultivated a trademark abstraction that seems poised some- where between the cohesive surfaces of hard-edge painting, the hasty marks of expressionism, and the shifting planes of collage. While Dole-Recio’s fourth solo exhibition at Richard Telles

  • diary January 30, 2009

    Hangar Ons

    Los Angeles

    THE ART-FAIR “SNEAK-PEEK” undoubtedly carries a certain attraction—attempts at backstage access are the subject of a whole body of fair lore. But when I was invited to an early view of Art LA’s installation last Wednesday—twenty-eight hours prior to the third edition of the fair’s opening gala (benefiting MoCA)—my instinct was to delay gratification. If you’re not shopping, what’s the point? By the time Thursday’s preview rolled around, there were plenty of polished displays to browse at the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar, a new venue that seemed an obvious improvement over last year’s

  • picks November 20, 2008


    Spotting trends in contemporary art is a relatively easy task, yet there is greater difficulty in labeling a “movement” while it is still in the making. One attempt might look something like “Base:Object,” a small, articulate show of recent sculpture curated by Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Cory Nomura. Through the work of Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O’Brien, and Sterling Ruby, Nomura complicates the conventional purpose and appearance of the pedestal (an idea that isn’t fresh but nevertheless comes across as original here). In these works, the pedestal—that once-reliable

  • picks November 15, 2008

    “After October”

    Playing against the operations and exigencies of the US election season, “After October”—a group show of seven European artists and a collective—is a convincing reconsideration of political art that deploys unexpected forms and their adaptable functions. What is perhaps most striking about this group of sculptures, photographs, collages, videos, and films is the way it visibly eschews the efficacy and economy of propaganda while remaining unmistakably politicized. For example, Andreas Bunte’s complex installation Die Letzten Tage der Gegenwart, 2006–2008—which includes two silent 16-mm films

  • picks October 10, 2008

    John Altoon

    “Advertising Parodies,” 1962–63, John Altoon’s little-known series of ink drawings, makes unsettling but compelling transgressions out of modern conveniences and their marketing. An “ad” for Metro Life Insurance displays a distinguished father and son whose wife and daughter (or mother and sister) lift up their kilts to expose their penises; promising “years of good service,” another one, for Bell Telephone Systems, depicts a repairman hard at work while the lady of the house, in lingerie, brazenly strips behind him. A related group of large pastel drawings free these risqué figures from the

  • film September 21, 2008

    Doom Towns

    LAST YEAR, the CIA reported that if California were to become an independent state, it would have the tenth-largest economy in the world. Despite the state’s steady rise as an important center of production, there still exist a number of severely depressed and abandoned towns scattered just outside the county lines of California’s largest metropolitan areas. These sites—former boomtowns established around specific industries and occupied by laborers—are the subject of Lee Anne Schmitt’s haunting new film, California Company Town. Since 2003, Schmitt has been researching, visiting, and filming

  • diary September 20, 2008

    Hide and Seek

    Los Angeles

    Printed on the lower corner of a back page of Taryn Simon’s new book of photographs is a fax the artist received from Disney Publishing Worldwide that reads, “Especially during these violent times, I personally believe that the magic spell cast on [our] guests . . . helps to provide them with an important fantasy they can escape to.” Although this fax goes on to outline the reasons Simon was denied access to photograph the Magic Kingdom’s backstage area, it might have explained the bands of revelers flocking to the fantasyland of Rodeo Drive last Saturday for the artist’s Gagosian opening of “

  • picks June 04, 2008

    Sandeep Mukherjee

    It’s almost too easy to relate Sandeep Mukherjee’s cosmic abstract paintings to the work of Lee Mullican, Jay DeFeo, or Lee Bontecou. While Mukherjee seems indebted to this vein of midcentury abstraction, what’s more interesting (and surprising) about his newest paintings are their intensely filmic—as opposed to cinematic—qualities. Mukherjee’s particular use of patterning; deep, saturated colors; and organic, spiraling forms seem more akin to the experimental, “direct” techniques of filmmakers Len Lye, Oskar Fischinger, and James Whitney than to painterly precursors. The twelve works in this

  • picks December 12, 2007

    Barbara T. Smith

    In 1968, Barbara T. Smith began fabricating her visionary Field Piece, a technologically innovative installation of 180 translucent resin columns. Standing nine-and-a-half feet tall, these narrow, somewhat phallic objects, meant to signify blades of grass, incorporated an electronic system that, when activated by the viewer, caused the sculptures to light up and to emit harmonic tones. Although Field Piece had a successful exhibition history—having been shown in forward-thinking LA galleries F-Space and Cirrus, as well as outside of the Long Beach Museum of Art—wear and tear and a lack of funding

  • picks November 07, 2007

    William Pope.L

    To many Angelenos, “The Grove” is synonymous with a West LA retail shopping experience, one of the ubiquitous outdoor malls that crowd much of the American landscape. William Pope.L’s new, large-scale installation of the same name could perhaps be the environmental subconscious of such a site, the residual ghost of nature overrun by capitalist drives. The Grove, 2007, a forestlike arrangement of potted palm trees power-sprayed with white paint and slowly dying, is one of three parts of Pope.L’s first major West Coast museum exhibition, “Art After White People: Time, Trees, & Celluloid.” Drawing

  • diary October 16, 2007

    Over the Moon

    Los Angeles

    Any conspiracy theorist will tell you that the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing was a cold-war hoax staged in a Hollywood studio, but thus far only Tom Sachs has had the wherewithal to show us how this might have been possible. Marking the closing of his five-week-long exhibition “Space Program” at Gagosian Gallery, on Saturday night Sachs proved, in a private performance activating the show’s sculptural elements, the plausibility of a simulated moon mission.

    I arrived at the Beverly Hills gallery at 6:30 PM sharp. With clearance from a beefy doorman, a twiggy gallery assistant, and a spiffy attendant

  • picks July 25, 2007

    “Substance and Surface”

    Bortolami’s summer group show, “Substance and Surface,” claims as its point of departure a single Piero Manzoni “Achrome,” or “colorless,” painting, made ca. 1959. However, this group of monochromes from sixteen international artists—Ghada Amer, Bozidar Brazda, Thilo Heinzmann, Mike Kelley, Lovett/Codagnone, and Donald Sultan among them—revisits formal considerations that may be better understood as post-Minimal. Like post-Minimalism, which reacted to the tired authority of stiff, geometric objects, these recent works return to a more nuanced relationship between viewer and form through commonplace

  • picks June 14, 2007

    Timothy Hull

    Timothy Hull’s new paintings, drawings, collage, sound work, and “scent” meticulously revolve around representations of the early-twentieth-century European spiritualist G. I. Gurdjieff. Titled after the mystic’s book LifeIis Real Only Then When “I Am” (1974), this body of work proves to be a study of a cult persona that stops just short of fanaticism. In works on paper, Gurdjieff’s emblematic image—a dignified man with a handlebar moustache and an Astrakhan hat—is repeated, mirrored, silhouetted, traced, sketched, and decorated with horror vacui patterns and geometric diagrams. Other portraits

  • picks April 06, 2007

    David Askevold

    To reproduce a painting that never existed is to induce memory, and in this exhibition, titled “Three Easy Pieces,” David Askevold attempts to do so as an exorcism of his early aesthetic considerations. In his painting The Missing Link, 2006, the artist offers thumbnail views of four nearly identical canvases that he did not produce between 1963 and 1966 (a period when he was studying art in New York). An adjacent canvas, 1964, 2006, presents one of these images, a magenta-hued abstraction composed of translucent layers of Giclee ink, at full scale. In this and other works, Askevold uses

  • picks March 12, 2007

    “Restricted Access”

    The Performing Archive, 2006–, Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz’s recent project, questions the functions of performance art, historical documentation, and sculpture while testing the limits of all three. “Restricted Access,” the first exhibition of this ongoing endeavor, offers a dialogue between two generations of women artists about these ideas (and their relevance to feminism today). The exhibition is an experimental context for the (mostly paper) archives of Lacy and Labowitz’s women’s activist organization Ariadne: A Social Art Network, which includes personal correspondence, photos, props,

  • picks February 12, 2007

    Justin Lieberman

    Attempting to impose a quasi-sociological order on the bedlam of a distinctively American subsistence, New York–based artist Justin Lieberman turns a flux of capitalist odds and ends—receipts, magazine clippings, found photos, counterfeit dollars, lottery tickets, small sketches, public signage, fridge magnets—into a subjective material history of late-modern life. Playing off the show-and-tell conventions of the natural-history museum, Lieberman presents four sizable collages in thick-glass vitrines, accompanied by hand-drawn and -numbered keys cataloguing the origins of the remnants. These

  • picks January 02, 2007

    Ed Ruscha

    During his two-month fellowship at Los Angeles’s Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1969, Ed Ruscha cultivated his “liquid word” images, a theme he had developed through paintings three years earlier. These images, sometimes based on arrangements he staged in the studio, present short, often monosyllabic words—like EYE and AIR—figured as splotches of liquid on flat fields of color. Fourteen of these works, on view in this exhibition, evince Ruscha’s technical knack for graphic art while marking both his attention to language and his unmistakably American sense of humor. In these textual works,

  • picks December 19, 2006

    T. Kelly Mason

    T. Kelly Mason’s multimedia installation Rain Is an Emotional System, 2006, deploys text and sculptural materiality to structure sound, space, and concept. Beckoned by the nearly ambient patter of rain and intermittent guitar tunes resounding from suspended colored cubes, the viewer must enter Mason’s sculpture—a narrow, angular passage formed by interlocking aluminum poles draped with industrial packing blankets—to reach the video monitor at its center. There, a looped DVD transmits vague outlines of letters, which slowly form thought-provoking phrases as a raindroplike image descends from

  • picks October 03, 2006

    Andy Warhol

    Warhol’s “Diamond Dust Shoes” of 1980 and 1981 invoke the early commercial success of the artist’s mid-‘50s hand-drawn shoe ads while hinting at the celebrity, sex, and money that had flavored his subsequent life and practice. In 1985 and 1986, Warhol again presented a shoe motif, not as a symbol of his talent for recycling, but rather as a heavy and anxious form. This selection of his black-and-white ad paintings, a series of silk screens made two years prior to his death, is full paranoia. An overt example is Untitled (Puma Invader), 1985–86, a loose outline of the brand-name athletic shoe