Catherine Taft

  • 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

  • picks October 03, 2006

    Untitled group exhibition

    Though September typically denotes an end to summer’s onslaught of emerging-artist group exhibitions, Richard Telles bucks convention to introduce his gallery artists at the start of each new season. As in Septembers past, Lecia Dole-Recio, Lisa Lapinski, Thomas Eggerer, and Richard Hawkins are featured, this year alongside Ginny Bishton, Roy Arden, and Nate Hylden. Characterized by forward-thinking abstraction and subtle figuration, the showcased paintings, collages, silk screens, and photographs have little to do with any overriding theme, but rather benefit from the understated, unexpected

  • picks September 21, 2006

    Katie Grinnan

    Katie Grinnan’s sculpture, Rubble Division, 2005–2006, a multiplanar construction supported by bungee cords, rebar, steel, and chunks of concrete, is the point of convergence for “Cheerleaders and Bandwagons,” the culmination of Grinnan’s summer tour across the American landscape. Last May, Grinnan moved her sculpture from High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree, CA, to Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, NY, making stops along the way in Aspen, CO; Crawford, TX; Washington, DC; and New Orleans. Rubble Division’s latest installment links four videos documenting its various incarnations

  • picks August 14, 2006

    “Tom of Finland: Rough

    Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, widely known as Tom of Finland, once remarked, “If I don’t have an erection when I’m doing a drawing, I know it’s no good.” This uplifting barometer of “good" art also reveals the motivation behind Laaksonen’s underground practice. Spanning fifty years of Tom of Finland’s prolific career, this show presents some 130 erotic drawings—amassed from early sketchbooks, unfinished compositions, and completed works—of well-endowed men engaged in gay sex scenarios (though female bodies ornament a few of the orgiastic scenes). Rendered with a silvery graphite that

  • picks August 09, 2006

    Kalup Linzy

    The official website for the ABC television show All My Children boasts a commitment to social issues through dramatically addressing “AIDS, abortion, teenage alcoholism, racial bias, acquaintance rape, spousal abuse, homosexuality, Reyes syndrome, Vietnam MIAs, drug abuse, the risks of motherhood over 40, safe sex and organ donations.” The odd juxtapositions alone are ripe for parody, yet Kalup Linzy’s Conversations wit de Churen II: All My Churen, 2003, maintains an unexpected sincerity while emulating daytime television drama. As the second work in a series of episodic videos, All My Churen

  • diary July 30, 2006

    Chain Store


    Encountering a cracked sheet of bulletproof glass on which the gnomic half-question “Just an Image in the Room in Which This is Happening of Good Taste?” was spelled out in drippy enamel, I knew I had found what I was looking for. The piece, along with other drawings and text works hung in storefront windows, lured visitors into Monica Bonvicini’s “Not for You,” the second coming of Emi Fontana’s West of Rome, inc., a series of exhibitions the Milan dealer sponsors in various cities, scouting alternative real estate for contemporary art projects. Installed in the former Pasadena retail outfit

  • diary July 12, 2006

    Ottmann Empire

    Santa Fe

    “I’ve participated in many biennials, and I’ve learned that the earlier you get there, the better they treat you,” advised Stephen Dean, one of thirteen artists featured in this year’s SITE Santa Fe International Biennial, “Still Points of the Turning World.” Unfortunately, the tip came late and so did I, arriving Friday afternoon, just in time to make the exhibition’s opening reception. The fête for curator Klaus Ottmann’s unconventional biennial (which has been likened to a series of solo shows) was the first event in a weekend tailored to local and international tastes and punctuated by

  • diary July 01, 2006

    Liberal Media

    Los Angeles

    Striking an apposite balance between serious and celebratory, Wednesday night’s opening of “Nothing Is Neutral: Andrea Bowers” at REDCAT drew both laid-back locals and conspicuous invitees. The two-project exhibition marks the LA debut of Letters to the Army of Three Displayed, 2005, an installation that redeploys archived letters written to the three founding members of the first Association to Repeal Abortion Laws, and the US premiere of Eulogies to One and Another, 2006, a series of hand-copied obituaries that traces the political work of two civilian activists, an American and her Iraqi

  • picks June 19, 2006

    James Turrell

    As summer appears and it takes appreciably longer for the sun’s blond rays to be snuffed out by dusk, the American debut of James Turrell’s new “Tall Glass” series just seems to make sense for the season. The three “Tall Glass” works—installations formed by etched glass and programmed LED lights inserted into shallow, rectangular spaces notched into the gallery walls—are presented with End Around (all works 2006), a new, ethereal installation from Turrell’s “Ganzfeld” series. Each underscores Turrell’s ability to apprehend light and its spectrum of effects. The “Tall Glass” works emit

  • picks June 07, 2006

    Doug Aitken

    This exhibition, Doug Aitken’s first comprised solely of photographs, renders plain the LA-based artist’s sustained investigation of social space and dislocated time. The twenty-five landscape and aerial shots on view span nearly a decade and are easily ordered by themes such as “horizon,” “illumination,” and “flight,” categories that allow for an almost-seamless thematic exchange between instances of culture and nature or the urban and the organic. Entering the gallery, viewers first encounter nighttrain, 2004, a mirrored C-print of a nighttime cityscape that settles at the bottom of the frame

  • diary May 11, 2006

    Just Desert

    Joshua Tree

    If you don’t consider the colorful drive from Los Angeles to the Southern Mojave Desert (roadside dinosaurs, fifty-nine-cent “dig-your-own-cactus” outposts, and banners for “Grubstaker Days”) a cultural affair, then you may not fully appreciate the unconventional aesthetics of the High Desert Test Sites weekend. Despite raging gas prices and ninety-degree temps, visitors road-tripped to the annual celebration organized and presented by artists Andrea Zittel and Lisa Anne Auerbach, dealers Shaun Caley-Regen and John Connelly, collector Andy Stillpass, and local liaison Veronica Fernandez. Saturday’s

  • picks May 03, 2006

    Joan Jonas

    True to her form of translating the language of video (editing, montage) into performance and passing performance through the lens of video, the newest iteration of Joan Jonas’s The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things, 2004–2005, is a sophisticated, layered, and at times exhaustingly complex reflection on diverse cultural source material. Commissioned by and performed at Dia:Beacon in October, 2005, this project is the result of Jonas’s research into German art historian Aby Warburg’s essay about a fin de siècle trip to the American Southwest. Warburg’s musings served as therapeutic tool aiding

  • picks April 11, 2006

    “Rough Trade”

    Rumor has it that, when asked to complete an entry for Who’s Who in American Art, artist Bruce Conner deceptively listed himself as “Deceased.” “Rough Trade,” a group show curated by Peter Bartlett, determines that Conner’s visual style is as alive today as the seventy-two-year-old artist himself. Featuring work spanning four decades of Conner’s oeuvre and new pieces (all dated 2006) from a younger generation of artists— including Victoria Neel, Brian Bress, and Macrae Semans—the exhibition holds a mirror up to Conner’s multifaceted practice to detail his influence on contemporary

  • diary March 28, 2006

    Screen Memories

    Los Angeles

    “Is this the show?” quipped one would-be partygoer temporarily stuck in the uncooperative elevator at Hermès Beverly Hills. “Alan Kaprow would have loved this,” she enthused. Doug Aitken might have too. It took a bit of effort to locate the third-floor “Gallery at Hermès,” site of a party celebrating Aitken’s newly published book Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative (D. A. P.), but the crowd inside appeared unfazed. The upbeat, decidedly well-heeled revelers appeared to appreciate the largesse of the temple to pricey chic. The evening was billed as the first of four bi-coastal

  • picks March 14, 2006

    Alex Katz

    A 1996 issue of Artforum features an essay on Alex Katz by (a flagrantly O’Haraesque) Jack Pierson in which the painter is quoted as claiming, “My art is fairly repressed actually.” Though this line may touch upon Katz’s hard-edged realism or earnest figurative subjects, the group of recent paintings on view here flaunts an uninhibited brushstroke and unrestrained scale. The eleven canvases, deemed landscapes by more categorical historians, are atmospheric and quite literally absorbing; the flat Southern sunlight that infuses the gallery’s front room seeps directly into the dense yellow background

  • picks February 28, 2006

    “A Lover's Discourse”

    In A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes demonstrates how “the amorous subject has no system of sure signs at his disposal.” Presenting photographs, sculpture, and video by six international artists, curator Dean Sameshima, an artist himself, offers an image repertoire that seems to tease out such uncertainty. Taking advantage of the split-level gallery, Sameshima orchestrates a psychological space through an arrangement of images and objects that are at once kinky and familiar. Upstairs, the work is tight and approachable. The parallel black monoliths of Terence Koh’s Untitled, 2006, seem a totem

  • picks February 07, 2006

    “Group Exhibition Organized by Clarissa Dalrymple”

    While historians and institutions attempt to brand “appropriation art,” artists continue to generate referential and mimetic images that often occupy thornier places in art history. With the veneer of appropriation loosely guiding her, Clarissa Dalrymple has brought together six such artists. Featuring the pointed and political work of both young and veteran practitioners—from Sari Carel and Gardar Eide Einarsson to Joseph Kosuth—the show offers blunt commentary on a profuse visual culture and its mechanical reproduction. Craig Mulholland's reedited, reanimated and replicated pieces

  • picks January 20, 2006

    Otto Muehl

    Otto Muehl has probed psychosexual politics through art for over half a century, yet it is only now, at the age of eighty, that the Austrian artist is presenting his United States solo debut. Gathered from the Friedrichshof Collection and the Otto Muehl Archive in Paris, the gallery offers a small selection of the Viennese Actionist’s more puritanical paintings as well as three films by Kurt Kren that document Muehl’s elaborate and scatological performances. Marking Muehl’s turn against figuration in the late ’80s, ten abstract canvases display refined material surfaces while retaining the traces