Michael Ned Holte

  • George Herms

    Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, almost exactly a decade ago, I encountered the work of George Herms. At first, the rusted and dusted aggregation of bric-a-brac by this local Beat legend scared the shit out of me. Not because it was ugly—it was and still is—but rather because I was entirely unprepared for its existence. If Pop and Minimalism had become emblematic of modernism’s trajectory through the 1960s, the contemporaneous Assemblage movement had long since been dismissed from the list of worthy topics for discussion. Too messy for art-historical streamlining, too unattached to the

  • Left: Petra Haden and the Sell Outs. Right: Stephen Prina “live.” (All photos: Tamara Sussman)
    diary July 08, 2005

    Pop Rocks

    Los Angeles

    It was a beautiful summer Friday evening in Los Angeles as I arrived at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre for the world premiere performance of Petra Haden’s a cappella remake of The Who’s 1967 album, The Who Sells Out, presented by the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Sound (SASSAS). Encircled by lush flora, the Ford is a handsome, vaguely medieval fortress, its idyllic charms heightened by its proximity to the decidedly un-idyllic 101 Freeway. I reached the stage in time to hear the end of the sound check. Petra was the sole performer on the recording, but is joined for live

  • Installation view.
    picks March 10, 2005

    Richard Aldrich, Olivia Booth, Brian Fahlstrom, Carrie Gundersdorf, et al.

    Despite the so-called “return of figurative painting,” this exhibition suggests that young artists are equally interested in invigorating painting by redeploying the vocabulary of Modernist abstraction with new syntax that generally avoids irony. Brian Fahlstrom’s lush (almost) monochromes in grey and purple, mediated by three smaller canvases featuring busier brushwork, intimate that the bigger works might be hiding some expressive underpainting, or—conversely—are fields awaiting further action. Olivia Booth’s paintings on glass panels lean against the wall, frequently achieving

  • Exhibition view.
    picks March 04, 2005

    “Percussion Music”

    Spanning four decades, this group exhibition gathers together work in which sounds—or their indices, either scores or visual traces of percussive actions—are carefully organized to allow indeterminate rhythms to develop amongst them. John Cage provides the “governing” spirit that playfully haunts the exhibition. His delicate drawing Where R = Ryoanji R/15 2/88, 1988, in which he traced rocks onto paper using a complex aleatory system, relates to his composition Ryoanji, which reflects the asymmetrical balance of the eponymous 15th-century Zen garden. Steve Roden’s Stadium Loops (North),

  • Left: Kristen Morgin, Sweet and Low Down, 2004. Right: Curators James Elaine, Aimee Chang, and Christopher Miles. (Photos: Elon Schoenholz)
    diary February 10, 2005

    West Coast Thing

    Los Angeles

    It’s not often that the unfashionably early are rewarded in Los Angeles, but at the opening of “THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles” at the UCLA Hammer Museum, those who showed up on time (myself included) were actually able to enjoy the exhibition, while latecomers were hustled through the crowded galleries in a scant five minutes by the officious guards. Five minutes? Actually, the drive-by viewing worked in the show’s favor, to the extent that “THING” curators Christopher Miles, James Elaine, and Aimee Chang predicated their choices on a generational return that reverses sculpture’s course

  • Untitled (Christmas lights, multicolored on grey),
    picks December 23, 2004

    George Stoll

    In a previous life, George Stoll worked as an art director on off-Hollywood gross-outs such as The Stuff, thus honing his knack for immaculate facture and his sense of showmanship. As an artist, Stoll is known for his perfect reproductions of familiar objects, such as sponges carved from balsa wood and colored beeswax molded into Tupperware sets. In a funny, festive show titled “Thinking of Christmas,” he presents garlands (two half-circles and one tweaked line), two piles of snowballs, and a suite of organza works suggesting strings of soft-focus Christmas lights. Stoll’s untitled simulacra

  • Still from Peacehead, 2004.
    picks December 23, 2004

    Michele O'Marah

    Michele O’Marah’s three-channel video and installation Peacehead, 2004, is a funny, if ambiguous, rejoinder to much of the recent so-called political art that has offered little more than gross caricatures, simple platitudes, or—even worse—regurgitated idealism from the late 1960’s. The work spins around murky reenacted political intrigues borrowed from films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Alan Pakula’s Parallax View (both 1974), as well as a few less fondly remembered turkeys. Fittingly, most of the Los Angeles-based artists cast in the video were born in the cynical period

  • Options, not solutions, 2004.
    picks November 26, 2004

    Richard Hawkins

    Set in a disconcerting underworld club—or “boyquarium”—where androgynous figures compete for attention, Richard Hawkins’s new paintings (all 2004) emerge from his abstractions of recent years and reiterate his mid-1990s works in which magazine images of glam rockers were collaged onto felt banners or paper-clipped to creepy, sliced-up Halloween masks. Following slyly from the earlier collages, the new paintings are less composed than cropped: Space imposes heavily on each figure, either crushing them—in Closing Time 2, for example—or dismembering them, so the viewer can lavish

  • Spotted Deer Pointing to Magic Fungus, Snuff Bottle, Daoguang Period, (1821–50), 2004.
    picks November 04, 2004

    Mari Eastman

    Employing watered-down acrylics, spray paint, pencil, glitter, and loose brushwork, Mari Eastman makes paintings that revel in soft-focus pictorial pleasure. While every work in the show reveals some debt to the delicacy and shallow picture plane of Asian pictorial traditions, Eastman’s interest in Chinese decorative arts is most readily apparent in the subject matter of three canvases and the ephemeral wall drawings that surround them. In Spotted Deer Pointing to Magic Fungus, Snuff Bottle, Daoguang Period, (1821–50), 2004, for example, an efficiently painted doe simultaneously decorates a

  • “Danupe,” 2004. Exhibition view.
    picks November 03, 2004

    Stephanie Taylor

    Using sculpture, photography, and silkscreen prints, Stephanie Taylor constructs a sophisticated—if goofy—installation titled “Danupe,” starring rats, crows, and albino peas. Taylor employs her own arcane system in which sentences or phrases—some derived from the site of the work, e.g., “Dan Hug”—are broken into syllables. She then subjects the syllables to a process of textual play that dictates the materials she uses and the forms they take. In Quay and Ark, 2004, for example, an ark made of bark parks atop a quay (pronounced “key”) shaped like a “P” and covered in dry tea. And in Aerie of a

  • Rodney Dangerfield, 2004.
    picks September 24, 2004

    Sean Landers

    Sean Landers has taken the stage at two of Chinatown’s finest galleries. What gives? For over a decade, Landers has been a popular punching bag for critics. The artist’s peculiar combination of self-deprecating humor and over-inflated ego has offered an easy target, and the “Kick me” sign on his back grows bigger every year. So, it is somewhat surprising that his recent “salon” paintings of comic geniuses—Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor, Don Rickles, Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, Bob Denver—manage to ingratiate so convincingly. They’re good, efficient portraits. It’s no secret that

  • Lab, 2004.
    picks September 19, 2004

    Will Fowler

    In his ambitious West Coast debut, Will Fowler excavates modern painting’s history in order to reinvent its future. A tall order to be sure, but Fowler manages to transform a familiar visual syntax—stripes, squiggles, collage, unmixed color, all-over composition—into a complex and unexpected language. In an untitled diptych (all works 2004), colored vertical stripes partially obscure collaged images of El Lissitzky’s exhibition model for the 1930 International Fur Trade Exhibition. Perversely, if appropriately, the model was displayed on a tiger-skin rug. The stripes suggest a dead