Matthew Wilder

  • Woman who had been thrown out with the garbage, 2005, archival ink-jet print, 31 1/2 x 41".
    picks November 16, 2007

    Dawn Kasper

    There are moments, looking at new art in Los Angeles, when one feels trapped in some cosmic-joke undergraduate thesis without end—a purgatory of the puerile. It’s exactly this quality that makes Dawn Kasper’s “Life and Death,” guest-curated by Rosanna Albertini for Circus Gallery, so cagy, so catchy, so eerily on the nose. The show’s highlights are videos of Kasper’s performances as her signature character—a frenetic, mile-a-minute stream-of-consciousness riffer on the meaning and unmeaning of life. A frowsier, more academic, more down-market cousin of Sarah Silverman’s chirping, racist naïf,

  • Cosas sin Nombre #5 (Nameless Things #5), 2003, found objects on paper, 10 x 6 1/2".
    picks November 01, 2007

    Elsa Mora

    No one in Los Angeles has as sweet a tooth for the exquisite miniature as Darryl Couturier. Earlier this year, he offered up a dazzling roomful of bite-size works by Maritta Tapanainen—diminutive, but one of the most exhilarating shows I’ve seen in ages. Now, Couturier is presenting Elsa Mora’s exhibition “Especimenes/Specimens,” a blithe, sinewy meditation on the intersection of family history and capital-h History, which features a great number of works that could be held comfortably in the palm of a (very small) human hand. Like many Cuban-American artists, Mora is a student of genealogy and

  • Use Your Head (detail), 2007, five galvanized steel streetlights and steel armature, 25 x 13' 4".
    picks October 22, 2007

    Tatzu Nishi

    As luck would have it, I saw Tatzu Nishi’s show at Blum & Poe just a few hours after watching Tsai Ming-liang’s hardcore-porn/musical-comedy/Warholian-slo-mo masterpiece The Wayward Cloud (2005), and somehow Tsai’s Taipei and Nishi’s Los Angeles blurred together in my mind (in a most beautiful way). Certainly Nishi’s menacing sculpture Use Your Head, 2007, recalls Tsai’s sinister reimagining of Taipei’s architecture: This hydra-headed streetlamp suggests the uterus of an extremely hostile creature from outer space; plunged through a skylight, its spine shooting up and out into the air, the

  • Post-Dualistic Bresson Notes (Production of Emotion . . . ) (Blanchoted), 2007, mixed media and collage on paper, 33 5/8 x 46 1/8".
    picks October 09, 2007

    Stephen G. Rhodes

    Everyone knows artists carry around a lot of baggage, but those carry-on items are now manifested more visibly than ever: Show after show reproduces the Stella Artois–stained detritus of studio life in EPCOT-style hyperreal detail. Stephen G. Rhodes’s “Ruined Dualisms” is among the most punctilious entries in this genre. Two prints of paperback covers conjure one’s favorite dog-eared undergrad texts, toted around till their spines turn to oatmeal. (One is a charming British-style “playscript” decorated with Tragedy and Comedy mask emoticons.) In his collages, Rhodes wheels out tropes recently

  • Houdini (Upside Down), 2007, ink and oil on unprimed paper, 72 x 44 1/2".
    picks October 01, 2007

    Whitney Bedford

    Geistige Körperlichkeit, the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s phrase, translates as “spiritual corporeality,” bespeaking a seeming paradox that might be no contradiction at all. At least, it isn’t when the condition manifests itself in the paintings of Whitney Bedford, a brilliant recent UCLA MFA graduate whose current obsession is the shackled body of Harry Houdini. Caught in a state of betwixt-and-between, not yet free of their chains but in performance mode, Bedford’s Houdinis seem firmly planted on the launching pad to transcendence but haven’t quite taken off. Most

  • 06-06-11, 2006, oil on canvas, 10 5/8 x 13 3/4".
    picks August 15, 2007

    Song Kun

    The antique customs, culture, and philosophies of Asia, vacuum-packed into the 3-D, 24/7 package of postmodernity: Could there be a triter visual subject or one more prone to the most facile of ironies? (Look at Jia Zhangke’s The World and its juxtaposition of geisha and Epcot imagery—each instance coming in for a ten-ton landing.) The been-there-done-that of the subject matter may be why Song Kun’s “It’s My Life” is such an ecstatic, tremor-inducing event. A series of 365 small paintings, created one a day for a year, the show has the shimmering quality of a life passing before one’s eyes,

  • Mother, 2006, oil on canvas, 72 x 36".
    picks August 02, 2007

    Melora Walters

    Melora Walters’s paintings of beasts in crisis have a seismic, upsetting sensuality. Her For Goya (all works 2006) forces gouts of red scribble—angry-child slashes that might be blood or a variant on a comic book’s “!!!”—out of the mouth of a five-legged creature that seems part dog, part horse, and all unmediated rage and panic. In Mother, a parent-and-child pair of animals cavort in a wide-eyed dance that might be protective, playful, or sheerly abusive, depending on where you’re standing. The black-on-white barbarism of Mother evokes the primal starkness of Robert Motherwell, but everything

  • View of “You Will Be Re-materialized Through Your Secrets.” From left: Katja Strunz, Untitled, 2005; Gedi Sibony, Mediterranean, 2003; Katja Strunz, The Last Waves, 2007.
    picks July 31, 2007

    “You Will Be Re-materialized Through Your Secrets”

    Utter the words the secret in Los Angeles, and everybody thinks they know what you're talking about—you know, that self-help book that tells you that if you think the word rutabaga, rutabagas will manifest in front of you and so on. Is the secret disclosed in this sly, taciturn collection of artworks—titled “You Will Be Re-materialized Through Your Secrets” and curated by Michael Clifton—really all that different from The Secret? On the surface, the secret alluded to in the exhibition title seems closer to Lacan’s notion of agalma—the elusive objet petit a, the precious nugget of gold contained

  • Carbon Dreams, 2007, papier-mâché, wire, acrylic paint, and fabric, 26 x 30 x 26".
    picks June 20, 2007

    Margaret Adachi

    In his masterpiece “The Oyster,” the great, largely forgotten French poet Francis Ponge found a whole cosmology in that dollop of mucus we drown in Tabasco and quickly imbibe: “Beneath a firmament (properly speaking) of mother-of-pearl, the heavens above recline on the heavens below, to form nothing more than a puddle, a viscous greenish bag that flows in and out as you smell and look at it, fringed with a blackish lace along the edges.” In her nearly-as-great Consider the Oyster, the epicurean writer M. F. K. Fisher views the oyster’s unlikely life as a heroic but Sisyphean saga, an uphill

  • Center for Tactical Magic, Vital Psigns, 2006, tomato plants, grow lights, automatic watering system, instructions, and psychic energy, approximately 8 x 5'.
    picks June 01, 2007

    “Psychobotany”

    Is it just me or do words like sustainable and organic give off a whiff of xenophobia? Those who long to go off the grid and eat raw foods in a yurt are recoiling in no small part from the human density and hybridity of urban life itself—because what lies behind the hivelike sprawl and technological advances of the city so much as the heterogeneity of colliding cultures? These are a few of the thoughts that passed through my mind at “Psychobotany,” a part-art, part-education exhibition mounted by Machine Project, the genesis of some of Los Angeles’s more advanced riffs on the 1960s paradigm of

  • Light Action: light/CONCENTRIC, 2007, seventy-two fluorescent fixtures, thirty sodium vapor fixtures, aluminum pipe, speed-rail fittings, conduit, junction boxes, conduit clamps, digital relay switches, and computer control, 9' 7“ x 10' 3” x 60'. Installation view.
    picks May 24, 2007

    Heather Carson

    Sandwiched between an Arthur Murray dance studio and an old Pottery Barn in an especially small town–like swatch of Beverly Hills, a group of metal cubes, their skeletons highlighted by fluorescent bulbs, sits in a lonesome abandoned storefront. There, they light up and dim out every few seconds, enacting a poignant rise-and-fall, cradle-to-grave saga, like a fifty-first-century Henry Moore family group, distilled from too-solid flesh to pure electronic DNA. Or maybe they’re more like a passel of stress-position cages in some Gitmo on Ice Station Zebra? Heather Carson first came onto my radar

  • Wisdom of One, 2003, paper collage, 6.75 x 9.75".
    picks May 08, 2007

    Maritta Tapanainen

    Like a four-hand piano concerto by Robert Schumann or an insightful paragraph by Edna O’Brien, the collages of Maritta Tapanainen offer an appealingly modest but quietly intense pleasure. While everyone else is chasing the next big something, she is discreetly re-creating the prior old everything. Prior: The very scale Tapanainen works on—most pieces could comfortably lie in the palms of your two hands—recalls an era far before the proliferation of bazooka-huge artistic statements. Old: Creating cool-brown and off-white backgrounds out of what look like antique Band-Aids, Tapanainen collates