Travis Diehl

  • 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,

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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

  • picks August 10, 2017

    Jonathan Monk

    The artworks here are real—that is, original. Given artist Jonathan Monk’s taste for close citation, this doesn’t go without saying, especially since Monk didn’t simply curate the show: he turned the gallery into a fanciful re-creation of his studio, hung with work by artists he knows and admires. A 1983 Ettore Sottsass “Bay” lamp sits on the floor, a welcome mat turned backward marks the entrance (Welcome, 2011, by Ceal Floyer), and Robert Overby’s oil painting Untitled (Portrait of Jesus), circa 1973, watches over the hallway. Monk even covers two walls with mural-scale photographs of his

  • diary August 04, 2017

    Cosmic Thing

    FOR SOME PERSPECTIVE, SOME ART: In 1917, the year Duchamp signed a urinal, the one-hundred-inch reflecting telescope on Mount Wilson saw what astronomers lovingly call “first light.” The cost of a certain Basquiat would build the so-named Hooker telescope and dome ten times over. Its famous mirror alone took five years to coat and polish—as long as a Koons balloon dog.

    But to really get a feel for the instrument that bounced light at the retinas of Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein, and that first gauged the redshift of our expanding universe and peeped a galaxy beyond our own—it helps to see it

  • picks July 29, 2017

    “Whistleblowers and Vigilantes”

    In the lobby is a grid of prime suspects, drawn up like “wanted” posters. The Whistleblowers—Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning—join the checkered Vigilantes: a police sketch of the hooded, sunglasses-sporting Unabomber and the Guy Fawkes–masked face of Anonymous. The exhibition hangs on the famous mugs that have come to represent issues of digital privacy, mass surveillance, and the impossible weight of what we, mere names on a list, can do about it. One wall bears a creepy cutout of Julian Assange’s head, with a monitor playing an episode of The World Tomorrow, the Wikileaks founder’s TV show

  • picks June 12, 2017

    Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami

    It’s called “bullet hell” for a reason: In this die-hard subgenre of 2-D shooters, the player’s lone plane makes twitchy forays against radiating swarms of missiles and beams. Oliver Payne is a fan of the games, though, he admits, also very bad at them—but never mind, the goal is to mash the trigger while slipping into and through the patterned psychedelia of wave upon Voidborn wave of pullulating munitions. Payne’s present collaboration with Keiichi Tanaami—a pioneer of Japanese Pop art with, among other things, a vintage Jefferson Airplane album cover to his credit—makes a

  • picks May 18, 2017

    “Maven of Modernism”

    Galka Scheyer thought blue was a mystical color. Her Richard Neutra–designed house, built in 1934, still stands in Hollywood on Blue Heights Drive. Her poodle was named Blue Blue. And when it came time to brand her favorite quartet of modernist painters—Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky—she went with the Blue Four.

    The name caught. “Prophetess of the Blue Four,” proclaimed a November 1925 San Francisco Examiner article marking their West Coast debut. Dozens more shows would follow. A Jewish German heiress in exile since the Weimar years, Scheyer found California

  • picks April 03, 2017

    “You May Add or Subtract From the Work”

    In 1977, artist Christopher D’Arcangelo placed a blank centerfold in the journal of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art along with a note suggesting that readers paste the insert to the institute’s walls. Blank would meet blank: The artist exhibiting there at the time was Michael Asher, who, as usual, hung nothing, but instead hired folks to spend their days in the gallery at four bucks an hour. From that historical intersection comes this show’s historicizing axis. Curators Simon Leung and Sébastien Pluot present original scholarship on Asher and D’Arcangelo, including video interviews

  • picks March 13, 2017

    Sarah Ortmeyer

    Is it sad or is it “Sad!” when any embroidered hat immediately evokes the white-on-red MAGA brand? Never mind that the ball caps that make up Sarah Ortmeyer’s installation INTERNATIONALIS, 2010, bear little family resemblance: white and embroidered with generic black sans-serif letters, and instead of slogans they sport the wacky names of cartoon ducks, specifically Donald Duck’s three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, adapted for foreign markets. Here are Mexico’s Hugo, Paco, and Luis; there, Russia’s Billi, Villi, and Dilli. Hats sit on the ground or hang on pegs in neat orthogonal clusters of

  • picks February 24, 2017

    Trisha Baga

    Trisha Baga’s “Biologue” opens with a row of store-bought lenticular prints of cute animals and fruit—puppies, white tigers, watermelons—all dabbed with rainbow impasto, in collaboration with Josefin Granqvist. The paint sits on the surface like a rock. Three video installations inside a darkened gallery make a similar joke about depth and illusion, perspective, and objecthood: For example, in Virhanka Trail (all works 2017), footage of tourists walking up sand dunes is projected over papier-mâché boulders and craft-paper mountains. In a series of wall panels these same scenes, overlaid with

  • film February 17, 2017

    Rock of Ages

    A TEASER, says screenwriter Mike White midway through a manic cameo, should tell you exactly what you’re going to get. Where Is Rocky II?, the directorial debut of artist Pierre Bismuth, is a slick, evasive splice of reality TV, documentary, cinema verité, Hollywood spoof, and collateral art history. Real Hollywood. Real artwork. Fake rock. Inspired by a true story: the hunt for a little-known and never-seen work by Ed Ruscha—a fiberglass boulder that has been tucked among the Mojave’s endless spread of granite ones since 1979.

    There was almost no story at all—but Bismuth directs by withholding,

  • picks January 13, 2017

    Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wächtler

    Flanking the entryway of the upstairs gallery are two leather cutouts in the shape of depleted hounds. Peter Wächtler’s Dog 1 and 2 (all works 2016) loll on the floor like floppy shadows of the space’s twin mission-style windows. The scene inside is a pastiche of modern wit and dusty formalism, cast in flat light: Wächtler’s pastel drawings of volcanoes on the walls and glass starfish on plinths are intercepted by Sam Pulitzer’s smallish illustrations on ivory paper that looks aged, but isn’t. Pulitzer’s series has the grainy erudition of certain New Yorker covers but is otherwise slumming it,