Travis Diehl

  • Wu Tsang, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 2022, color, sound and silent, 75 minutes.
    film April 15, 2022

    Dark Tide

    “THE WHITENESS OF THE WHALE,” the famous forty-second chapter of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, smuggles a mini-disquisition on whiteness into the elaborate racial narrative of the novel’s whole. Published in 1851, Melville’s book presents a picture of race just a few years before the US Civil War. The picture is thoroughly, tragically modern—such that, one hundred and seventy-odd years later, a fairly superficial treatment of its themes still lands with impossible weight. Which is to say that Wu Tsang’s new feature film, Moby Dick; or, The Whale, manages to maintain the novel’s nauseous sway

  • Emma Stern, Shelly, Ursula + Sandy (Roving Gang), 2022, oil on canvas, 76 x 72".
    interviews March 22, 2022

    Emma Stern

    The Jolly Roger flies in the East Village—or some pastel fantasy of it, the skull and crossbones glazed with sunset pinks above a rippling, mirrored sea, flapping in the breeze over the entrance of Half Gallery. This is piracy, Emma Stern style. The artist is known for shapely, shaded tableaux in oil on canvas that, merging then and now, draw on images from her ever-expanding cast of comely gray 3-D avatars. This time, a trio of glassy-eyed babes don swashbuckling skirts and boots, grip pistols and cutlasses, and maraud shores inundated with high camp and high water. Scourged by the promise of

  • Candice Lin, Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping, 2021, hand-printed (katazome) and hand-drawn (tsutsugaki) indigo panels, steel bar, dyed rugs, glazed ceramics, epoxy resin, feathers, block-printed and digitally printed fabric, bells, tassels, and miscellaneous small objects, dimensions variable. Installation view, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2021–22. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.
    interviews November 01, 2021

    Candice Lin

    Candice Lin made Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping, 2021, in the isolation and inertia of the coronavirus pandemic. The installation, which also marks her first solo museum show, strains against that sadness. Centered in and around a collapsible, movable, wearable tent, Lin’s latest work draws on the ways she found connection over the last eighteen months, and creates a setting where others might find the same. But connection is double-edged: The installation references the sometimes gradual, often violent ways cultures meet and intermingle, creating new hybrids and then moving on. The exhibition

  • 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