Janelle Zara

  • picks May 12, 2017

    “The Basilisk”

    Alexander Reben’s mesmerizing five-minute film Deeply Artificial Trees, 2017, is basically Bob Ross on acid: The beloved late painter’s brushstrokes lay down rapidly morphing images of happy little pines, scorpions, puppies, and sinister birds of prey as Bob talks backward, or possibly in tongues. Using a Google visualization program designed to replicate our neural functions, a kind of ayahuasca for artificial intelligence, Reben’s piece taps into our deepest fears and warmest fuzzies simultaneously. It’s also representative of a show preoccupied with the eternal search for higher consciousness

  • picks April 28, 2017

    “Contre-cultures 1969–1989, l’esprit français”

    Countering the French national motto of “liberté, egalité, fraternité,” this searing archive of nearly seven hundred works posits that freedom in France is not at all a given but rather some holy illusion looming in the distance, a “hypothesis whose boundaries need to be pushed at all times,” according to curators Guillaume Désanges and François Piron. Enter counterculture’s vibrant expressions of civil unrest. See Michel Journiac’s gleaming white Formica guillotine, Piège pour une exécution capitale (Trap for capital execution), 1979, installed amid posters decrying police brutality in the

  • picks February 10, 2017

    Jonathas de Andrade

    Fishing is a display of male sensuality that is supremely underrated. In Jonathas de Andrade’s thirty-eight-minute film O peixe (The Fish), 2016, the handsome protagonists are the ageless, chiseled fishermen of a coastal village in northeastern Brazil. Wet skin catches the glimmering sunlight on the surface of the water. They steer their boats and swing their hooks. Muscles swell.

    Interrupting the tranquil ambiance of lapping water and wind drifting through the palms is the tug of a line, a ripple below. But then a sudden urgency to retract the net causes an explosion of violence and primal

  • picks October 03, 2016

    Vik Muniz

    Vik Muniz’s latest collages are a rare foray into lighthearted abstraction, with swaths of bright color, and textures produced by simple arts-and-crafts processes. Frames enclose sheets of paper that have been crumpled, torn, and layered; punched with holes, stitched with yarn, festooned with ribbons—or so it seems. Each of the works is a partial trompe l’oeil, for which Muniz has combined material process with highly rendered photographs. The photos downplay their own slickness, upholding the pretense that the show’s title, “Handmade,” suggests. The jagged white edges of torn colored paper

  • architecture September 21, 2016

    Chicago Hope

    The recently appointed 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial artistic directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee—in contrast to their predecessors, Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda and international biennial curator Joseph Grima—are not professional curators, but practicing architects. In 1998, they cofounded the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, whose current projects include the Menil Drawing Institute, a renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Green Line Arts Center, a project with the University of Chicago and Theaster Gates. Here, they discuss their interest in

  • picks August 19, 2016

    Peter Alexander

    This fifty-year survey of Peter Alexander’s resin works demonstrates how immaculately a synthetic material can distill natural phenomena into discrete objects—tall, vertical colored wedges that fade into transparency pay homage to the lightening of deep bodies of water near the surface, while the nebulous, yellow-and-purple gradations inside a translucent cube evoke a sunset over a stormy sea, as in the aptly titled Small Cloud Box, 1966.

    With the show’s earliest pieces dating back to the mid-1960s, at the heart of Alexander’s special effects is the Southern California legacy of Light and Space.

  • interviews July 19, 2016

    Robert Irwin

    In 1970, Robert Irwin abandoned his studio. Rejecting conventions, he developed what he now calls site-conditional work—art created spontaneously in response to the myriad and minute details of an environment. His latest piece recently debuted within the curved walls of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, where “Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change,” his first major US survey outside of his native California since 1977, is on view through September 5, 2016. He also has a permanent installation, untitled, (dawn to dusk), 2016, opening at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa,

  • interviews February 12, 2016

    Ed Bereal

    In the 1960s, the Los Angeles art world’s detachment from the violent tumult of the Watts riots politicized Ed Bereal’s practice, propelling him toward a critical focus on multifarious forms of social inequality. He abandoned studio art in favor of guerrilla street theater, and later a satirical TV series for PBS. Both were ultimately deemed too radical for the general public’s tastes and shut down, and Bereal in 1990 returned to making what he calls “political cartoons,” which took the form of painting, sculpture, and assemblage. His latest exhibition, “Ed Bereal: Disturbing the Peace,” is on

  • interviews January 05, 2016

    Lita Albuquerque

    For decades, the Los Angeles–based artist Lita Albuquerque has blurred distinctions between Land art and Light and Space on increasingly grander scales, whether it be building installations surrounding the pyramids in Egypt or placing sculptures across Antarctica to mirror the formation of the stars. Her cosmic explorations continue with two new bodies of work that are currently being shown at Kohn Gallery in Hollywood, from January 9 through February 27, 2016, and at USC’s Fisher Museum of Art, from January 26 through April 10, 2016. The latter exhibition will feature an opening performance by

  • interviews May 01, 2015

    Martial Raysse

    Following Martial Raysse’s recent retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, the first major monographic exhibition of his works outside of France since 1965 is currently installed at Venice’s Palazzo Grassi. Here the artist discusses his nearly sixty-year career and his visionary use of neon. The show is on view until November 30, 2015.

    WHEN GIORGIO DE CHIRICO was asked why his naked self-portrait from 1945 was his favorite painting, he answered, “Because it’s the best painted.” Ditto for my new paintings. In terms of progress, I feel that the paintings that I have submitted to the Palazzo Grassi

  • architecture March 16, 2015

    Getting It Wright

    FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S 1921 Hollyhock House, a temple-like home on top of Los Angeles’s Olive Hill, marks not only a sharp divergence from the architect’s previous Prairie School period but the starting point of all that came after it. Wright’s first foray onto the sun-soaked LA landscape and the radical leanings of the client, Aline Barnsdall—oil heiress, anarchist sympathizer, single mother by choice—synthesized into an experimental architectural program. Wherever possible glass doors, rooftop terraces, and outdoor counterparts to indoor spaces join the building to the open air of the site

  • architecture July 31, 2014

    Infinity and Beyond

    MARSEILLE MODULOR (MAMO), the art space on the newly refurbished roof of Le Corbusier’s Cité radieuse housing block, a midcentury experiment in vertical-urban planning in the south of France, has taken an audacious step forward in its sophomore annual summer exhibition. The show (on view through September 30) presents a monumental, site-specific installation by Daniel Buren, DÉFINI, FINI, INFINI, which significantly raises the bar for the fledgling space by staging a remarkable encounter between a weighty architectural context and an ambitious artistic intervention.

    MAMO has evinced a strategic