Colin Gardner

  • Jim Shaw/Benjamin Weissman

    A self-reflexive, 45-panel, comic-strip-style narrative, Horror A Vacui, 1992, Jim Shaw and Benjamin Weissman’s recent collaboration, explores Western materialist culture’s fear and exploitation of the vacuum or void. Despite the best efforts of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, et al. to deconstruct Cartesian binaries built on presence and absence, capitalism, through the compensatory commodity form, has an intrinsic stake in perpetuating libidinal desires predicated on fulfilling a primal lack. Desire’s constant deferral, reinforced by the Freudian death drive and Oedipus complex

  • Gerhard Merz

    Gerhard Merz has built a reputation in recent years with a series of site-specific installations that attempt to realize the utopian Modernist dream of a formalism that fuses art and architecture in a seamless, nonutilitarian whole. While this seems at first glance to be a hopelessly nostalgic yearning for the “total” art epitomized by the art-for-art’s-sake movements of the early 20th century, Merz introduces enough contradictory elements to create a visually provocative, if theoretically futile work.

    Archipittura, 1992, Merz’s recent installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was a

  • “Helter Skelter”

    In “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s,” Paul Schimmel’s first major statement as MoCA’s new Chief Curator, he seems to have deliberately thrown the gauntlet in the face of traditional curatorial taboos. He has mounted a regional survey (read, “provincialism”); appended a historically dated title (Charles Manson, the Beatles, the ’60s); and has had the audacity to define the trends of the ’90s though the decade has barely begun. Despite this outward bravura, however, Schimmel’s main intent is more scholarly: a desire to invert the common conception of Los Angeles as “La-La Land”—the city that

  • Fandra Chang

    In recent years, Los Angeles nonrepresentational painters have begun to carve out a niche for themselves as deconstructors of traditional Modernist formalism. Instead of exploiting metaphysical oppositions such as center/margin, inside/outside, work/frame, and this/that, these artists favor a more differentiated approach, in which supplemental elements such as edge and surround supplant the usual dominant paradigms through endless slippage and deferral. In an impressive solo debut, Fandra Chang firmly aligns herself with this group in a series of mixed-media works that deliberately play on fluid,

  • Jeff Wall

    In painting, the tableau has traditionally been used to freeze a continuum of action into that exact, pregnant moment in which past and present come together to predetermine an inexorable future. It is a technique most commonly used in grandiose history painting (David’s The Oath of the Horatii, 1784, or The Death of Socrates, 1787) but also in smaller-scale genre works, such as Jean-Baptise Greuze’s overwrought family dramas. Most important, however, is the tableau’s innate overdetermination: its stagy mannerisms defamiliarize its formal machinations as much as they suck us into its narrative.

  • Shigeo Toya

    With their chain-sawed, charred surfaces and serial arrangements in blocklike masses, Shigeo Toya’s wood sculptures suggest a Japanese variation on Western Minimalism; it is as if works by Carl Andre and Donald Judd were suddenly imbued with a Zen-like “primal spirit.” However, instead of constructing sculpture from the inside out, so that material mass and volume are emptied out in favor of a skeletal space-as-mass, Toya’s guiding paradigm is archaeological. He excavates from the outside in, interpenetrating the material so that, by analogy, he inserts himself into its center. Toya himself

  • Constance Mallinson

    Constance Mallinson is concerned with the mediation of landscape painting by photography, specifically the idealized, picturesque vista commonly associated with National Geographic and Life magazines. During the ’80s her explorations took the form of large grids of small landscape vignettes appropriated from photographic sources and then restructured to form larger pictographic panoramas. Such arrangements forced us to recognize our view of the landscape as a received, ideological doxa, in which nature is not only framed for the delectation of monocular perspective but also made safe, via notions

  • Kiki Smith

    Kiki Smith’s sculptures and installations focus on the body, specifically what “civilized” society has proscribed as taboo: sex, death, disease, and their various excretions. Given the hegemony of the far right in the ongoing struggles for abortion rights and the financing of AIDS research, it is not surprising that many artists have made the body their current cause célèbre. However, with trendy post-Conceptualists citing Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Georges Bataille (and, by extension, the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch) as their theoretical gurus, it’s important to

  • Chris Kraus

    In Chris Kraus’ first film, In Order to Pass, 1982, one of the actors/participants suddenly asks the question, “What would happen if there were just plain flow between symbols?” The obvious answer is that the symbols would disappear as concrete anchors of received meaning, leaving us with a web of vectors, switching stations, and durations. This is perhaps an appropriate description of Kraus’ oeuvre as a whole, for one can discern in her films a gradual development away from dialectical relationships based on traditional binary oppositions, toward an interest in syntagmatic and metonymic fluidity:

  • Diana Thater

    The title of Diana Thater’s latest video installation, Dogs and Other Philosophers, 1991, refers to Thomas Hardy’s meditation on “the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise.” In Hardy’s novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, 1874, from which the phrase was lifted, logical conclusions are disclosed as tragically wrongheaded; in fact, the earnest young sheepdog pursues his flock so diligently that he ends up herding them over the

  • Robert Millar

    Robert Millar’s environments seem a hybrid of “California Light and Space” and “finish fetish” esthetics, filtered through the antithetical post-Minimalist predilections for material integrity and situationist ephemerality. This view is partly a result of his obvious interest in the mutual contingencies of light, form, and space as perceptual signifiers. Closer acquaintance reveals a strategy more aligned with what disciples of Gilles Deleuze would call “multiplicity and proliferation.” In this case, specificities—this material object in this space—do not remain constant but are perpetually

  • Alan Saret

    Alan Saret is usually associated with the so-called post-Minimalist generation of sculptors that emerged in the mid to late ’60s and included Lynda Benglis, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Keith Sonnier, Eva Hesse, and Richard Tuttle. Whereas the Minimalists explored the contingent relationship of fixed objects to surrounding space, this younger group tended to eschew objecthood in favor of ephemerality. Instead of permanent objects in gestaltlike relationships to fixed spaces, they produced transient works that could be set up according to written instructions, taken down, packed away, and


    The streets are our brushes, the squares are our palettes.
    —Vladimir Mayakovsky, “Order to the Army of Art,” 1918
    Not the Old, Not the New, But the Necessary.
    —Vladimir Tatlin, 1920
    Go to the factories, this is the only task for artists. . . . Artists must become producers.
    —Osip Brik, Art of the Commune, 1918

    The major exhibition “Art Into Life: Russian Constructivism 1914–1932,” curated by Richard Andrews and Milena Kalinovska, represents the culmination of the recent historical and critical reevaluation of the Constructivist movement.1 Not only did the show present work that had never before been seen in the West, but it allowed the viewer to reexperience Constructivism in its vital, youthful idealism, emphasizing the Constructivists’ enthusiastic support of the new political system ushered in by the Bolshevik Revolution.

    Perhaps the most important shift in art theory and criticism of the past twenty

  • Richard Jackson

    Using the contexturalization of painting as his material paradigm, Richard Jackson’s installations have consistently exploited a dialectic between the illusionistic and the literal. His theoretical springboard would appear to be Michael Fried’s well-known, late-’60s distinction between art and objecthood. According to Fried, the Minimalist (literalist) practice of creating environmental situations, in which artwork, beholder, and surrounding space create a contingent, experiential gestalt was not art. Because the active viewer became the subject of the piece, the actual artwork was necessarily

  • Rebecca Horn

    “Diving through Buster’s Bedroom,” Rebecca Horn’s first West Coast solo exhibition, consisted of 18 large-scale mechanized sculptures created in close thematic relationship to her latest film, Buster’s Bedroom, 1989–90. Although it was possible to read the installation independently of the film—the sculptures’ references to reptilian metamorphosis, alchemy, and mechanical conjunction/dislocation are familiar themes in Horn’s oeuvre—the cross-pollination of ideas and symbology between the two media was crucial to Horn’s undertaking. The three-dimensional works not only reference ideas and characters

  • Cindy Bernard

    Cindy Bernard’s latest series of photographs, collectively entitled “Ask the Dust,” focuses on the cinematic mediation of the American landscape. Bernard has chosen one film from each year between 1954 and 1974 in which the landscape plays an important contextual, political, or allegorical role. Using production notes or information provided by each film’s director or unit production manager, Bernard has returned to the original film locations and photographed the landscape in accordance with the exact mise-en-scène and aspect ratio of the original movie. Thus Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, 1958,


    When you are dealing with language, there is no edge that the picture drops over or drops off. You are dealing with something completely infinite. Language, because it is the most nonobjective thing we have ever developed in this world, never stops.

    —Lawrence Weiner, “Art Without Space”

    Words are no more, and never can be more, than symbols, indicating a thought, a feeling, or an idea; symbols which need action, gesture, intonation, expression, and a whole context of circumstance, to give them their full significance.

    —Denis Diderot, The Paradox of Acting


  • John McCracken

    Since his early association with the Los Angeles finish-fetish group in the mid ’60s, John McCracken has always been seen in terms of contradictory esthetics. On one hand, his sculptures’ reductive geometries, serial arrangements, and contingent relationship to both viewer and surrounding space have aligned him with Minimalism. On the other hand, the works’ highly reflective surfaces, their reduction of material properties to pure color, and the interplay of form and exterior light have encouraged transcendental readings, as if Minimalism’s materialism were merely a smoke screen for “spiritual”

  • Robert Grosvenor

    Like most Minimalist sculptors, Robert Grosvenor explores the dialectic between object and surrounding environment in order to disclose a semantic space in which work, artist, and viewer can coexist in mutual contingency. While this strategy has remained consistent since his first gravity-defying geometries of the ’60s, the artist’s concerns have evolved considerably. The early indoor works, with their often enigmatic relationship to the surrounding architecture, tended to expand formal issues into more fluid areas of supplementarity and reception: Does the work supplement the space? Does the

  • Kevin Pasnik

    At first glance, Kevin Pasnik’s object-sculptures appear to reference Minimalism, both in their use of industrial and everyday materials (sheet metal, 4 by 4s, and actual tree branches) and their serial, highly structured interaction with the surrounding space. Closer inspection, however, discloses a more overt concern with process. Pasnik attempts to occupy an enigmatic middle ground between the art object and performance (with the “work” acting as a trace of work). Unlike Minimalist practice, which tends to present the object as a productive fait accompli, Pasnik includes the residue and debris