Eli Diner

  • Sarah Pucci, A Heart That Sees You, ca. 1990, beads, sequins, pins, foam, locket, stand, 13 × 11 3⁄4 × 2 3⁄4".

    Dorothy Iannone and Sarah Pucci

    Sarah Pucci was born in Everett, Massachusetts, in 1902 and died there at the age of ninety-four, never having lived more than four miles away, spending a few years in an apartment in East Boston and two and a half decades at the house she bought in Medford. She worked in candy factories—Schrafft’s, Foss—putting designs on chocolates, and at the Leopold Morse garment factory, the Navy Yard, and General Electric. She outlived two husbands and had just one child, Dorothy Iannone. At fifty-seven, Pucci began to create a distinctive kind of craft object, covering Styrofoam forms in sequins, beads,

  • View of “Not I: Throwing Voices (1500 BCE–2020 CE),” 2021. Photo: Laura Cherry.

    “Not I: Throwing Voices (1500 BCE–2020 CE)”

    “Not I: Throwing Voices (1500 BCE–2020 CE)” was not about ventriloquism. Rather, curator José Luis Blondet made the act of talking with your mouth shut and manipulating a dummy the basis for a set of broad themes around which he drew from the museum’s vast holdings. Organized into several nonchronological sections, the exhibition of some two-hundred-plus objects ran on associative trains and chance resemblances. Under the heading “Dolls, Dummies, Surrogates, Pygmalion, and Plugs,” we found a Netherlandish Madonna and child, ca. 1510, painted by Aelbrecht Bouts hung beside Adrian Piper’s Ur Mutter

  • Lisa Lapinski, Little My Chair #3, 2017, wood, glue, found chair. Installation view.

    Lisa Lapinski

    Lisa Lapinski’s nursery rhymes don’t even rhyme. Nevertheless, they capture many of the hallmarks of the genre—entropy, slapstick violence, sexual innuendo—carried along a stream of assonance and alliteration. Take the story of Miss Swiss. She’s a steamboat, and she’s piloted by Steve. Miss Swiss gets spooked and Steve gets splashed when another vessel comes too close. She runs aground, and a crew of men tie her down and repair the BIG HOLES IN HER SIDES. The men then come aboard and enjoy a feast of clams, and MISS SWISS IS GLAD. Typed out in a generic serif font and set in a tidy white frame,

  • View of “Matt Sheridan Smith,” 2014.

    Matt Sheridan Smith

    Though it may be inadvisable, let’s begin with the press release. The text that Matt Sheridan Smith produced for his recent exhibition “Widow: Fig.3 Ep.1” didn’t merely gloss the show’s themes and forms, but rather played an active role in their production. He begins with the famous opening line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, only here Gregor Samsa has been replaced by “the widow,” who is transformed not into a “giant insect” but a “Figure.” The show hinged to a large extent on that final, prismatic term—figure—a word whose meanings include shape and pattern, one’s physical appearance or

  • Mathis Altmann, Common Pressure, 2014, concrete, chicken and pork bones, metal, plastic, LED light, wire, miniature, paper, 7 × 6 × 6".

    Mathis Altmann

    Amid the rubble lay a bottle of booze. A toilet was wedged in the wreckage. The pope, perched atop an ash heap, spread his arms in benediction. These were just a few of the chintzy plastic miniatures lodged among the crags and craters of Mathis Altmann’s dozen grapefruit-size assemblages that dangled from the ceiling, over a thick carpet of mulch, in his recent exhibition “Psycho Bombs.” The viewer, once drawn in to scrutinize these ruptured concrete-and-detritus globes, might have looked quizzically upon the seeming incongruity between the whimsical toys and the desolation of their settings.

  • View of “Isabelle Studies,” 1984–85. Cornaro,” 2014. From left: Premier rêve d’Oskar Fischinger (Part II) (Oskar Fischinger’s First Dream [Part II]), 2008; Figures, 2011; Film-Lampe, 2010.

    Isabelle Cornaro

    The establishing shot arrives almost halfway through Isabelle Cornaro’s Figures,2011. It’s not much of a wait; the film runs only two and a half minutes. But with this long shot comes a delicate shift in tone and, seemingly, in intention. The scene could almost pass for the Hollywood trick (familiar from Body Double, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and a dozen other movies about movies) in which an opening sequence is abruptly revealed as a film take: We’re not where we thought we were; we’re on set.

    Cornaro is an artist of drifts and quiet permutations, and her version of this maneuver is miniaturized

  • Emily Mast, B!RDBRA!N (Epilogue), 2012. Performance view, Public Fiction, Los Angeles, August 16, 2012. Photo: Anrita Haendel. From Made in L.A. 2014.

    Made in L.A. 2014

    Featuring two-hundred-odd works from only thirty-five participants, Made in L.A. 2014 (like all regional-survey shows) will no doubt provide ample grounds for outrage over its omissions and inclusions. But the roster of artists and artist-run organizations assembled for the second edition of the Hammer Museum’s biennial of Los Angeles art seems like a fair recapitulation of the city’s current state of affairs.The show will include Wu Tsang, Judy Fiskin, and Jibade-Khalil Huffman, who have each taken some corner of Southern California as subject or

  • Samara Golden, Actions Reflect, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

    Samara Golden

    Four, maybe five scenes made up Samara Golden’s sprawling exhibition “Mass Murder,” though clear boundaries were not easily distinguishable. One room spilled into the next, and sounds bled through the walls. The overall effect was disorienting, at times delirious, and scenes may not have appeared quite the same going as they did coming. I call them scenes, though one might think that environments, situations, or tableaux would serve just as well. But there was a heightened theatricality to the exhibition, a gruesome domestic drama, at once high camp and genuinely unsettling.

    With its gloomy mood

  • John Divola, Forced Entry, Site 29, Interior View A, 1975, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16". From the series “LAX/Noise Abatement Zone,” 1975–76.

    John Divola

    It is only fitting that photographer John Divola’s midcareer survey, “As Far as I Could Get,” would be spread across three California museums in three different counties. Those who have managed to see it all surely didn’t see it all in a day, and this insertion of ellipses into the viewer’s experience seems apt for a body of work concerned with temporalities, the photographic suspension of movement and stasis, and the poetics of presence and absence.

    The show’s curators, Britt Salvesen, Karen Sinsheimer, and Kathleen Howe, eschewed chronology and threaded Divola’s thematic interests throughout

  • View of “Jörg Immendorff,” 2013.
    picks November 22, 2013

    Jörg Immendorff

    The brown one squeezes the yellow one, tugs at rolls of fat, and pinches a ballooning cheek. Eyes shut and red lips purse as if breathing a sigh of deep pleasure: it’s an ecstatic, flabby embrace. These are nice babies.

    “Nice” was a watchword for Jörg Immendorff in the 1960s. “Artists be nice to the people”; “Be nice to everybody”; “You are nice”: slogans promulgated by Immendorff and his performers while donning baby masks. This welcomed exhibition of the artist’s early work, spanning from 1964 to 1969, demonstrates the development of his corpus of repeating cartoon figures and symbols—cute and

  • View of “Mixed Messages,” 2013.
    picks September 30, 2013

    Sean Kennedy

    Over smears, splotches, and oozes of color, corporate logos accrue through impulsive repetitions in Sean Kennedy’s new untitled paintings. A delirious little fracas—or a cloyed and weary reconciliation—between Pop and abstraction plays out across fifteen identically sized Plexiglas shadow boxes. At times merging with painted passages, at times disrupting them, cheap consumer commodities rest beneath the plastic panes in some works: electric outlet plates, disposable razors, Pez dispensers. Inert and somehow flatter than the churning surfaces, the objects sit there, a reminder of Pop’s celebrated

  • View of “Orange Grid,” 2013.
    picks May 20, 2013

    Channa Horwitz

    Writing in 1976 about drawings from Channa Horwitz’s series “Variations and Inventions on a Rhythm,” Lucy Lippard observed: “Logically they are flat and anchored to the grid, but their transformations implies freedom, the third dimension—space in which to act.” Horwitz herself was anchored to the grid, devoting decades to explorations of that form. In an exhibition suddenly rendered a valediction—opening just two weeks before the artist’s death on April 29—we find brought to the fore that third dimension and space in which to act that Lippard discerned in those early rule-driven, modulating