Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

  • diary February 26, 2011

    Leather and Lace

    THE EVENING PREVIEW OF THE RODARTE SHOW BEGAN early Wednesday at LA MoCA’s bunker outpost in the Pacific Design Center’s plaza where all attendees had to navigate their way past the monolithic tent city that was being erected to host Elton John’s Oscar party mere days (now hours) away. It might have just been the cranes and forklifts plugging away outside around the clock, but you could feel the subterranean rumbling of the industry––half of the crowd beginning to rev up for the weekend’s bigger, flashier parties to come. Oscar buzz was beyond palpable, not only because Hollywood’s spring of

  • Brett Lund

    If Logos, figured through language as “the Word,” represents the all-encompassing unifying order of the world in metaphysics since Heracleitus, then Brett Lund’s exhibition title “ProtoLogos” would seem to suggest a breathtakingly ambitious attempt to step back even further in the mystical fog of being’s origins to grope something more embryonic, primordial, and pelvic at work in the universe. Palpating the transition between oozing chaos and inchoate order, between language and the inarticulate and ineffable on either side, the three wall works and five sculptures on view here manifested the

  • 2010 California Biennial

    Let’s be realistic. Most biennials suffer from a case of glut over guts, failing to really thrill anyone. Whether international in scope or charmingly regional, they are, more often than not, drearily low-yield, baggy affairs. Unhappily, I find myself only reinforcing expectation here, as “uneven” barely begins to describe the eleventh edition of the California Biennial. Given the Golden State’s sprawling art scenes and atomized array of artistic strategies, and given noteworthy previous editions of the exhibition, there was reason to hope for more.

    Curated by Sarah Bancroft, a recent transplant

  • picks November 28, 2010

    Dianna Molzan, Blinky Palermo, Los Angeles group shows

    The best show of the year that I saw was hands down Dianna Molzan’s “The Case of the Strand” at Overduin and Kite. The unresolved strangeness and dry-but-goofy formal humor of her meticulously dressed and undressed sculpture-canvases have stayed with and thrilled me for the past 382 days, since it opened its two-month run in November 2009. Abstract painting gets subtly processed through the aesthetic logic of midriff-baring crop tops, revealing cutouts, piping, pigeon droppings, 1980s wrapping paper, coffee-table legs, ceramic flecking, chocolate cake, and Southwest adobe—unexpectedly and

  • picks November 11, 2010

    Dan Graham

    Despite being especially revered in Los Angeles by local artists as the savant rock star he is, Dan Graham hasn’t had a solo gallery show here in seventeen years. Last spring’s tremendous MoCA retrospective, “Dan Graham: Beyond,” only reminded us of what we’ve been missing and whetted our appetite for more, making Regen Projects’ current (and first) exhibition with the artist feel like a momentous rarity.

    A new arcing pavilion, five recent architectural models, and three videos—in addition to a suite of seven street photographs that are presented with deadpan pop-topicality as “New Jersey Shore,”

  • Richard Aldrich

    The impact of “Slide Paintings,” Richard Aldrich’s second solo show at Marc Foxx, was slow and cumulative. The works—covering a scattershot range of abstraction—can be coyly obtuse, nonchalantly restrained, and cagey, but they gradually open up onto one another, subtly echoing a nearby shape here or a neighbor’s title there. Minute touches, quivering in isolation against the white of canvas and wall, conveyed prolonged deliberation, patience, and ruminative looking in the studio. The joys of viewing were understated and insular: They rested in the minor discoveries of mousy subtleties and nearly

  • Stephen Kaltenbach

    “BECOME A LEGEND.” It was a command. But it was also a crazy dream to live by—a stunning credo Stephen Kaltenbach issued to himself and each of the thousands of readers of this magazine in the summer of ’69. This was the eighth of twelve anonymous ads the now seventy-year-old artist placed in Artforum between November 1968 and December 1969. It is still, more than forty years later, the tightest, most thrilling “micro-manifesto” (his term) you could ever read. I want to put an exclamation mark at the end of it, but the original better reflects Kaltenbach’s own decision, made long beforehand,

  • diary June 30, 2010

    Publicity Stunt

    Los Angeles

    MAYBE YOU’VE NOTICED that James Franco has been steadily inching his way into the art world: showing up at high-profile openings, befriending artists, and collaborating with artist and filmmaker Carter on the art film Erased James Franco. Franco’s art-world trajectory reached its bewildering apex last Thursday evening during the unfolding of Soap at MoCA: James Franco on General Hospital, the latest installment in the fiction-cum-reality of his ongoing guest appearances on the classic soap opera as the mysterious handsome bad guy with a dark creative edge: “Franco” . . . the psychotic artist “

  • picks May 13, 2010

    Chris Martin

    In Sweet Dreams (2nd Pillow Painting), 2008–2009, Chris Martin has puffed out the picture plane, creating a grid of six rectangular pillows crammed together in two rows and fastened to a burlap and canvas ground. Half are spray-painted tranquil white or blue while the other three flash highlighter hues of yellow and pink, signaling a transition into the buzz of a dream state. Minimalism’s grid inflates into a squishy pop romance, and Martin’s combine seems to sing that Morrissey line: “Send me the pillow, the one that you dream on.” Most of this show hinges on an enthusiast’s private relationship

  • interviews May 13, 2010

    Phil Chang

    Los Angeles-based artist Phil Chang considers the recession by imaging economy and obsolescence in his first artist’s book, Four over One, published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A launch party for the project will be held at Printed Matter on Saturday, May 15, 5–7 PM; Art Catalogues at LACMA will host a reception on Sunday, May 23, 4–6 PM.

    THIS PROJECT STARTED IN 2007. I was very interested in what was happening in the world of economics––namely the recession and the jolting destabilization of our collective notion of something as seemingly basic as a house. I wondered whether I could

  • Glenn Ligon

    In his newest suite of paintings, titled “Figure” (echoing his 2001 self-portrait series of the same name), Glenn Ligon continues his formal investigation of James Baldwin’s 1953 essay “Stranger in the Village,” a searching analysis of the author’s experience of extreme estrangement and isolation as the only black man living in a remote Swiss village. The new paintings further Ligon’s continual, laborious reading and rereading of the self through the language of another. He bases all twenty canvases on his own 2002 painting Masquerade—a nearly illegible rendering of a page from Baldwin’s text,

  • picks February 26, 2010

    Darren Bader

    A row of vinyl numbers runs clockwise around the gallery from 2 to 3,266, demarcating a conceptual baseline from which Darren Bader’s exhibition “Number[s]” departs. Throughout the installation, the artist interrupts the linear numerical progression (which is reminiscent of Mel Bochner’s early architectural/arithmetic installation Continuous/Dis/Continuous, 1971–72) by substituting objects for sections of numerals, ostensibly proposing some absurd equivalence between, for example, a blade of plastic sushi grass and the set of numbers between 866 and 1,035, or a container of sugared fruit jellies

  • William Leavitt

    William Leavitt’s Warp Engines, 2009, the most recent of his many domestic tableaux, is a spacey dream scene of cryptic simplicity. Pared down like a stage set, the installation features two fragments of ruddy brown stacked-stone walls stand adjacent to each other in a dimly lit room. The stone veneers, made from painted foam chunks affixed to thin plywood panels, are the backdrop to a fake potted houseplant with broad flat leaves and a chic retro lamp on a handsome midcentury side table. Together, these elements recall the living rooms of so many California ranch-style homes of the 1960s and

  • picks November 10, 2009

    Josephine Pryde

    Building off last year’s body of photographs that depicted three young women posed in totemic attitudes of motherhood, Josephine Pryde turns her lens to images of infancy in her latest exhibition (and first in Los Angeles), “La Vie d’artiste” (Life of the Artist). Fourteen large photographs from this year capture often awkward and close-up views of a towheaded toddler adrift in a studio setup. All but one are in color and titled Adoption, thereby casting the otherwise nonnarrative scenario as a kind of parodic audition for the role of child to an unseen mother or, perhaps, a reverse adoption


    THE LOS ANGELES–BASED PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER Elad Lassry often uses the term pictures when speaking about his work. He prefers it to both the more technical photographs and the more abstract images. This may partly be due to the lexical streamlining of an Israeli speaking English as his second language, but the distinction is nonetheless suggestive. Pictures carries a specific and familiar art-historical reference entwined with certain appropriative strategies drawing from mass-distributed print media, television, and cinema. And indeed, although Lassry’s practice is primarily devoted to

  • Michael Rashkow

    The stripped-down, rectilinear structures in “Quadrangles,” Michael Rashkow’s second solo show, flirt teasingly with Constructivism, combining geometric economy with precise but experimental facture. Having particular resonance with El Lissitzky’s Prouns of the early ’20s—two-dimensional works acting as “the station where one changes from painting to architecture”—the pieces here straddle flatness and inhabitable volume. They approach “the wall” as a thick substance, one that might be manipulated, moved through, or displaced.

    Rashkow’s procedure was most clearly articulated in the south gallery

  • picks September 25, 2009

    Ry Rocklen

    Ry Rocklen has always had a soft spot for the worn and ripped, the flattened and deflated urban detritus he finds accumulated in thrift stores and cast off in back alleys. A found mattress, curtain, sweatshirt, and rubber ball receive a second life and are petrified as lavishly handcrafted aesthetic objects in “House of Return,” Rocklen’s current exhibition. Rise, 2009, a mattress bent upright at the waist and meticulously inlaid with rows of glittering glass tile, stunningly conflates a cushioned heft with a hard, faceted surface. Bulging tummy folds humorously anthropomorphize the tilt of its

  • Cal Crawford

    A haunting, dirgelike melody transformed Cal Crawford’s solo debut—a sprawling installation—into a nocturnal menace determined to fix viewers in a trance. The eerie piano line creeps through high octaves, over the slow funereal boom of percussion and a lumbering baritone incantation. Modeled on the heavy-handed orchestration of B-movie horror and psychological thrillers, the music’s melodrama inflicts a visceral discomfort.

    The gallery’s windows were papered over and its lights turned off, leaving the space flickering dimly with light cast by strobelike videos. Five vinyl banners with Daniel

  • diary August 22, 2009

    Blood Bathos

    Los Angeles

    THE LINE OUTSIDE Hollywood’s Music Box theater last Sunday morning for the first ever Vampire-Con contained a smattering of the freaky, goth-nerd miscreants that one expects to see at a Bauhaus reunion tour or in a Tim Burton daydream. Perhaps the only difference was that these folks were less festive and inappropriately tanned by the California surfer sun.

    There is something wonderfully Los Angeles about swarthy “vampires” congregating across the street from a sold-out performance of Legally Blonde: The Musical. A few teenage girls did their best to satisfy the fishnet-stocking and black-patent-leather

  • picks June 04, 2009

    Jason Yates

    Jason Yates has circulated outside the conventional gallery circuit and its institutionally sanctioned seriousness for years. Preferring the exuberant experimentation of his local drugged-out rock scene, Yates has defined his aesthetic through one-of-a-kind rock posters (collectively called Fast Friends Inc.), which he hung, free for the taking, in LA neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake. In his current show, several of these posters are on display upstairs, each a colorful psychedelic explosion of creatures, captions, and hundreds of stickers. Despite the relentless energy and obvious