Julia Friedman

  • picks February 10, 2015

    Tom of Finland

    In 1956, Finnish draftsman Touko Laaksonen (1920–1991) submitted a drawing of two strapping lumberjacks to a popular American beefcake magazine, Physique Pictorial. The drawing was accepted as a cover, attributed to Tom of Finland—an Anglicized approximation of Touko with the artist’s geographic origin thrown in for tempered exoticism. A contrast between traditional aesthetics and raunchy subject matter in the lumberjacks drawing would characterize his oeuvre for decades. The thirteen drawings, one gouache, and one multipanel narrative on view in this frisky exhibition span the years of 1944 to

  • picks September 21, 2013

    Iva Gueorguieva

    Iva Gueorguieva’s current exhibition is replete with symbolism. The year referenced in the title of her acrylic and oil stick collage Seated Woman: 1974, 2013, points to the ultimate origin of the piece: The Los Angeles–based artist was born in 1974 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yet the work points to its art-historical origins as well: Seated Woman owes a great deal to Pablo Picasso, Umberto Boccioni, and Giacomo Balla. The largest work on view is the sixteen-foot collage Man Hunt, 2013, a triptych whose panels merge into a complex design full of semiotic nods to a bustling metropolis. The work features

  • picks January 07, 2013

    “Painting”

    The title of this eleven-artist exhibition sounds like an understatement given the variety of media on view. For instance, the only traditional painting element retained by Carolee Schneemann’s three-dimensional Ice Box, 1963, is its landscape orientation. Likewise, the bright hues of Barbara T. Smith’s 1964 Day Glo Cotton Balls probes the confluence of color and light, the issues central to Impressionism, but it does so using nontraditional and modern materials. The most recent piece in the show, the textured shit-brown Foam Pallet, 2012, by Paul McCarthy, continues to skewer preconceptions of

  • picks August 30, 2012

    Tsibi Geva

    Those who know Tsibi Geva’s paintings, sculptures, and installations from the past three decades are familiar with these works’ unique poetic sensibility and their astute political commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For instance, Geva’s ongoing “Keffiyeh” series, 1988–, puts the pattern of the traditional Arab headdress into dialogue with chain-link fences.

    Curators Yona Fischer and Roni Cohen-Binyamini conceived “Transition, Object,” Geva’s current retrospective, as a glimpse into his understanding of the objet trouvé. Shifting the focus from the Israeli artist’s so-called political

  • picks June 08, 2012

    Lawrence Weiner

    In a perfect loop of beginnings and endings, this exhibition by Lawrence Weiner marks the closing of the West Hollywood branch of Regen Projects, a space that opened in late 1989 (as the Stuart Regen Gallery) with a show by Weiner. By then, he had already been making language-based artworks for nearly two decades, and was in the process of transforming his early Minimal text pieces into colorful large-scale installations.

    “AROUND & AROUND HIGH & LOW” physically centers on the titular piece, which is installed in the middle of the gallery’s floor. Its curved AROUND & AROUND portion intersects the

  • picks March 14, 2012

    “economy of means: toward humility in contemporary sculpture”

    For this show, curator Cassandra Coblentz has organized thirty-two sculptures by nineteen artists around five interrelated concepts: seriality (sic), circulation, chance, balance, and narrative implications. The works range from Minimalist groupings of found objects such as Martin Soto Climent’s Delivery, 2006–, a miniature housing estate where high-rises are represented by upside-down paper bags, to Beth Campbell’s Lamps, 2010, an elaborate production comprising four identical table lamps in various stages of liquefaction. Practically all these objects highlight the discrepancy between the

  • picks March 11, 2012

    “Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha”

    This gallery’s long-standing association with contemporary Japanese art has just been taken to a higher level with the space’s timely and ambitious historical survey curated by Mika Yoshitake. The ten artists presented here were born in the decade between the mid-1930s and mid-’40s, and came of age during Japan’s postwar reconstruction and subsequent industrial boom. Unsurprisingly, the work—which belongs to Mono-ha, or the “School of Things” movement, which scrutinized relationships between natural materials and industrial objects—references the larger discourse of cultural renewal.

    The objects

  • picks November 18, 2011

    Juan Downey

    Juan Downey’s first US museum retrospective offers a sampling of work he produced between 1968 and 1991. This venue is the second stop for the survey (it originated last May at the List Visual Arts Center and will travel to the Bronx Museum in February 2012), but this is the only show that features a reconstruction of the Chilean-born artist’s important and controversial Anaconda Map of Chile, 1973, in which a live anaconda slithers over hand-colored maps of the country that line the bottom of a Plexiglas-enclosed box. The snake evokes the Anaconda Copper Mining Company that was financially

  • Dmitri Prigov

    Those familiar with the poetry of Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov (1940–2007) might be surprised to learn that he was actually educated as a visual artist, and in 1975 was accepted into the prestigious, conformist, and nepotistic Union of Soviet Artists. This unbefitting membership was certainly at odds with Prigov’s sardonic dissident poems and oddball performances, one of which, 1986’s Public Service Appeal, briefly landed him in a mental institution. This (in hindsight) comical episode might have had tragic consequences were it not for the looming political changes leading to the collapse of the

  • picks September 13, 2011

    Jean Paul Gaultier

    Curiously enough, Jean Paul Gaultier’s opulent retrospective is notable not just for the stunning clothes, which he has produced since his first 1976 ready-to-wear collection, nor even for the authenticity of displays (among the objects on view are the sweat-stained cone-bra corset worn by Madonna, and Nana, Gaultier’s boyhood teddy bear fitted with the original bra), but for the extent to which his work has influenced contemporary art. Photographs and videos inspired by and dedicated to the designer inform and overwhelm this exhibition, thus making it clear that the real force behind his genius

  • picks July 05, 2011

    “Venice in Venice”

    This show is a herald of sorts for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980”—the much-anticipated exhibition and cultural events extravaganza planned to commence this fall. Part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative to rediscover and anthologize the distinctive LA art scene, it was produced specifically for the Fifty-Fourth Venice Biennale, but unlike the Biennale’s many other collateral events, this particular show demonstrates an intrinsic connection to the host city. The show’s stated theme, “glow and reflection,” references water and light—two of the natural phenomena that are at the

  • picks June 05, 2011

    Paul Kos

    Paradoxically, the very name recognition that establishes one’s right to creative existence sets a permanent benchmark that one must continue reaching in order to remain both relevant and recognized. Paul Kos’s fifth solo exhibition at this gallery successfully places his recent work within a selection of older objects. It offers a subtler and less polemical side of the veteran Bay Area artist than what is usually seen.

    Kos’s well-documented retrospective held at the Berkeley Art Museum in 2003 gave viewers an ample chance to consider his creative evolution. The current show completes the picture

  • picks May 13, 2011

    Jack McLean

    Just four days before the devastating Tohoku earthquake of March 11, a new Tokyo gallery opened its doors for its inaugural exhibition, by the Glasgow-born, Tokyo-based artist Jack McLean. “The Container” is a fitting name for the space, since it is, in fact, a shipping container placed in a trendy hair salon in the fashionable Nakameguro district. The show, which consists of mixed-media installation on the inside of the space and a set of pen drawings mounted on the outside, references the Japanese salaryman culture—its hollowness, its uniformity, its constraints.

    Once in the container, the

  • LG Williams/Estate of LG Williams

    LG Williams’s caustic commentary on the state of contemporary art is as poignant as it is funny, and his latest show at the Super Window Project gallery in Kyoto was bound to make one do a double take. Yet there was nothing declamatory or political in what he did or how he did it. In the buildup to the “aha!” moment when his ideas finally revealed themselves, one could simply enjoy the pieces on view—fifteen meticulously produced ink-jet museum labels bearing the titles of missing artworks. The labels themselves are perfect, formally speaking; they could thrive purely on their aesthetic

  • picks April 07, 2011

    Xavier Veilhan

    If Xavier Veilhan’s 2009 project for Versailles was an attempt at a visual deconstruction of reality, his solo debut in Tokyo is about the spatial metaphor of gaining altitude. The four sculptures in this show were inspired by the new exhibition space on the seventh floor of the Louis Vuitton building in the neighborhood of Omotesando. According to the artist, it was the sense of the space being suspended above the Tokyo skyline that gave him the ambitious idea of integrating literal weightlessness into the modernist canon, paying homage to Malevich, Calder, Brancusi, and Giacometti.

    The centerpiece

  • picks January 13, 2011

    Aki Sasamoto

    This exhibition marks the Japanese debut of Aki Sasamoto’s 2010 installation-performance Strange Attractors, and presents an adaptation of the eponymous piece she contributed to the last Whitney Biennial. The show is a homecoming for the Yokohama-born artist, who is now based in New York. By changing the initial conditions of the work to include new parameters of Japanese language and culture, Sasamoto altered its entire composition.

    In mathematics, a strange attractor is a collection of diverse elements, perceived as a single object, that becomes the final point of a dynamical system. The artist

  • picks November 04, 2010

    Taiji Matsue

    In “Survey of Time,” Taiji Matsue’s latest exhibition, the artist extends his trademark examination of space from photography to video. Four photographic works on view in the gallery’s front room depict conceptualized landscapes similar to those found in the artist’s first color series, “JP-22,” from 2005. Shot from above, these new photos, with their omitted horizons and exaggerated continuity of landmass, appear at once flat and stereoscopic. Nature, contained by Matsue’s lens, becomes visual metaphor, as geology is transformed into pattern. The alpacas, cars, construction trucks, and solitary

  • Yuuki Matsumura

    Yuuki Matsumura’s exhibition “Almost-Dead Sculpture” was about the suspension of disbelief. The moment viewers entered the gallery, they were challenged to account for what are, ostensibly, oversize crumpled balls of glossy magazine stock featuring provocatively posed nudes. These turned out to be made of paper-thin steel panels with X-rated images printed on them. Matsumura had manipulated the panels to look like crumpled paper—discarded pages torn out of porn magazines—strategically placing the protruding shapes of body parts within these images to emphasize the sculptures’ volume. The

  • picks September 15, 2010

    “Nanugi Agency”

    Presenting work by nine artists, one of whom also acts as a curator, this exhibition is based on the premise of an imaginary company called the Nanugi Agency, which provides creative solutions for sharing property between former spouses or siblings quarreling over inheritances. According to the narrative whimsically laid out in the accompanying catalogue, the objects on display belong to a recently divorced couple, Mooyoung and Ami Kim, the agency’s first clients, and the installation aims to be read as an advertisement of sorts. The catalogue refers to the artists as “researchers,” each tackling

  • Nobuyoshi Araki

    Two years ago Nobuyoshi Araki, then almost seventy and diagnosed with cancer, completed what he called his “posthumous” cycle: a series of black-and-white photographs onto which he brushed kanji characters meaning “2THESKY, my Ender”—his word-and-image presentiment of death. Araki’s most recent show, “Koki No Shashin: Photographs of a Seventy-Year-Old,” also evoked death, but taken together, the ten new series on view (all 2010) offered a more oblique and conflicted reflection.

    “Chiro” documents the demise of Araki’s beloved cat, a necessarily impermanent aide-mémoire and a mental link of sorts