Travis Diehl

  • Julien Nguyen, hic manebimus optime, 2021, oil on linen on panel, 20 x 16".
    interviews July 20, 2021

    Julien Nguyen

    At the end of our conversation, Julien Nguyen read from a poem by the eighth-century Chinese poet Tu Fu that supplied the title for one of his new paintings: “In ten warrior years and more, how / could I avoid all honor? Everyone // treasures heroes, but how shameful / to talk myself up like all the others. // War smolders across our heartland / and rages on the frontiers: all those // lords chasing ambition everywhere, / who can elude resolute in privation?” It may seem grandiose to tie yourself to history this way—and it is—but this is exactly what makes Nguyen’s art contemporary. He achieves

  • Rindon Johnson, For example, collect the water just to see it pool there above your head. Don’t be a Fucking Hero!, 2021–, rawhide, paracord, rainwater, dimensions variable.
    interviews May 14, 2021

    Rindon Johnson

    Visitors to Rindon Johnson’s “The Law of Large Numbers: Our Bodies” at New York’s SculptureCenter (March 25–August 2, 2021) pass first under the drawn whole hide of a cow. On damp days, the skin droops; in the rain, it holds water; the sun bakes it solid. It also gathers more than moisture. Before being hung, the rawhide spent six months in the museum courtyard, cooking and flexing, adding marks to those accumulated during the cow’s life. The piece is a harbinger—for the stained-glass courtyard door depicting New York City’s watershed; for the continuous rendering of an edgeless Atlantic Ocean;

  • View of “Terry Allen: The Exact Moment It Happens in the West,” 2019, L.A. Louver, Los Angeles.
    interviews August 16, 2019

    Terry Allen

    Although Terry Allen attended the Chouinard Art Institute during the heyday of left-coast Conceptualism, his fame arose from the 1975 song cycle Juarez, a landmark album of outlaw country. Allen’s latest record, Just Like Moby Dick, is due for release early next year, and a cassette tape of rarities, Cowboy and the Stranger, has been released on the occasion of his retrospective at L.A. Louver, on view through September 28. The show skirts classification, combining fifty years of drawings, paintings, audio works, and sculptures, all with interlocking themes. In the three-channel MemWars, 2016,

  • Frank Benson, Foam, 2003, pigment print on vinyl, 24 x 30".
    picks April 13, 2018

    Frank Benson

    The five photographs gathered for Frank Benson’s outing here share a few rigid formal devices. The most recent piece, iChiaroscuro, 2013, goes so far as to suggest a tidy theme: A model rests her head on the piercing white screen of a smartphone—the image’s only light source—which sinks half her face into dramatic darkness. The rest of Benson’s photographs feature the same raking lighting, which heightens the contrast between machine-crisp edges and bubbling, disintegrating shapes. Pitcher, 2003, depicts the titular vessel as a slumping, ribbed mass, glistening in a window. In Tissues, 1998,

  • picks March 07, 2018

    Logan Criley

    If juxtaposition is the quickest way to make new meaning and recombination the only way to tell new stories, Logan Criley’s paintings act accordingly: Photoshopping modernism and pop culture into surrealist tableaux. In Allegory of the Arts, 2017, mutant Beaux Arts figurations slink through a forest of ambiguous verticals. Here’s a polygon of crisp, Pollock splatter, and there’s the watery fill reminiscent of a Hockney pool. Lone Ranger (Shooting Gallery), 2017, depicts our hero’s coloring-book image with a Magritte pipe (or not-pipe) in his lips. Throughout this and the other five paintings

  • View of “Hayden Dunham: Canary for the Family,” 2018.
    picks February 15, 2018

    Hayden Dunham

    A recording of a bird’s song—a canary, presumably—warbles through the gallery’s darkened rooms like a warning of some vaporous danger. It’s no accident that Hayden Dunham’s latest sculptures come off as intentional mishaps. On the landing is a thin, matte spill, untitled (all works 2018), and cracked dry in some places while in others pooling in the joints of the floor. Upstairs, slight LED flashlights illuminate black or dark-blue fluids hardened on black window screens, while other bulbs click on and off in response to flashes from cameras or a flighlight. With slight variations, the artist’s

  • View of “Ben Wolf Noam: Leap Year,” 2018.
    picks February 13, 2018

    Ben Wolf Noam

    You know things are bad when a young painter like Ben Wolf Noam, used to winding patterns and cheerful gradients, turns to the sooty textures of charcoal on cardboard. Call it the new Neue Sachlichkeit—a certain polemical caricaturizing that, like a market crash or the flu, tends to come back around. The opulent desperation Noam depicts across forty panels, hung two rows high, presents the last thirteen months of the American experience as a wide-angled, roughly cubist mania. Here, contorted figures dance, upside down, above a Mesoamerican pyramid, serpent gods, and a slapdash glass-and-steel

  • View of “Cali Thornhill-Dewitt: Safe Words,” 2017.
    picks December 20, 2017

    Cali Thornhill-Dewitt

    Google “burning palm trees” and in the first few rows of search results is a pair of spindly green-and-orange torches above tan, white, and gray slivers of roofs. This pic of two San Diego palm trees ignited by a lightning strike is the template for Cali Thornhill-Dewitt’s latest body of work and first solo show in Los Angeles. Across eighteen panels, the eerie blue sky of the source image bends into soot-stained tones, from irradiated dusk to day-for-night, sandwiched between white sans-serif words in a formal laminate of posters and memes: “HUNGRY / GHOST,” “FINAL / FORM,” “AS THE / WORLD /

  • picks November 28, 2017

    Nevine Mahmoud

    The title of Nevine Mahmoud’s first solo show, “f o r e p l a y,” goes just like that, the letters held apart. Likewise, the exhibition itself is desirously spaced, opening with Primary encounter (pink tensions) (all works 2017), comprising two big, pink marble blocks, one with a hole, the other, a corresponding peg. The pair is separated by a few charged feet of empty floor. Mahmoud combines a classical conceit—the erotics of marble sculpture—with a contemporary chill, as if Pygmalion were a Minimalist. And in case you get carried away with the idea of abstract penetration, a slick sense of

  • Matthew Brannon, Concerning Vietnam: Bell AH-1S Cobra, Pilot’s Seat, 2016–2017, silk-screen with hand painting on paper, 66 1/2 x 52".
    picks September 18, 2017

    Matthew Brannon

    Americans born in 1971, such as Matthew Brannon, have a range of astrological signs, but share a political one: Richard Nixon. Thus the artist has given himself license to base a body of work on that retrograde subject, the Vietnam War. The screen prints in the ongoing series “Concerning Vietnam” imagine symbolic centers of command and control, from the Oval Office set up for a presser (Concerning Cambodia: Oval Office, April 1970, 2017) to a Huey cockpit littered with pilots’ trinkets (Concerning Vietnam: Bell UH-1D Iroquois, Cockpit, 2016–17). Comprising dozens of intricate layers, at the

  • Harry Gamboa Jr., Gerardo Velázquez, Synthesized Music Composer, 1991, gelatin silver print, 14 x 11".
    interviews September 12, 2017

    Harry Gamboa Jr.

    A native of Los Angeles, Harry Gamboa Jr. is a photographer, performance artist, writer, educator, and founding member of the Chicano collective Asco. He will be the subject of several shows this fall, including a comprehensive exhibition of his ongoing “Chicano Male Unbonded” series of portraits, opening at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles on September 16, 2017, and a retrospective of his Asco photographs, which is on view at Marlborough Contemporary in New York through October 7, 2017. Here, Gamboa discusses his recent projects and the evolving context of his practice.

    I

  • Gene Beery, Gift, 2001, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 20".
    picks August 14, 2017

    Gene Beery

    “TRA as the background music of life” is written on a painting by Gene Beery—but what is “TRA”? Nothing less than “ART” backward, like “dog” from “god”: the wordplay of white-bread irreverence. TRA skates across the sixteen midsize black-on-white canvases in this show, with the works hung in rough salon-style clusters but at jaunty angles, like they’re doing the twist. This, indeed, rids painting of its preciousness (or at least demonstrates that this painter cares not for such things). They’re slapdash in execution, too, so that any one piece feels exTRAneous—or, as he puts it, “ETCETERA TRA