Travis Diehl

  • picks October 05, 2016

    Julien Nguyen

    What is a superpredator, anyway? The racist term has wormed back into prominence this election season: Hillary Clinton used it twenty years ago in reference to supposedly ruthless, remorseless young gangbangers. These days Donald Trump is the law-and-order candidate, Hillary has said she’s sorry, and the resurrection of the phrase is a flailing bid by a bigot to paint his opponent as bigoted. Meanwhile, here’s this painting show. Julien Nguyen’s New World Order (all works 2016) is an old-fashioned oil-on-panel allegory. The Democrat-blue sky scrubs down to a horizon of olive-green mounds, while

  • picks September 27, 2016

    Rafa Esparza and Timo Fahler

    “Creosote Dream,” Timo Fahler’s toxicolored series of tinted Hydrocal casts on chicken wire (all works cited, 2016), reads like a rain-damp desert fantasy. Yet the works also bear the impression of a creosote-poisoned telephone pole. Such a detail drags the sculptures’ playful formalism into political invective. Likewise, the ragged shoes Rafa Esparza cuts and folds into pigeon-like, swoosh-winged birds aren’t any old Nikes, but Nike Cortez—named after the bloodthirsty, gold-crazy conquistador who toppled the Aztec Empire and founded Mexico City on the ruins. Creosote Dream (with gold rebar)

  • picks September 19, 2016

    Xanti Schawinsky

    It’s hard to imagine a time when a circle could be read as rebuffing a square. But there it is: The double-donut-shaped formalism of Xanti Schawinsky’s final series, “Sphera,” executed in the late 1960s and early ’70s, offers a dusky update of Josef Albers’s rectilinear color studies, arcing back to the painters’ prewar days at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught theater design there for a couple of years following a stint at the Bauhaus; in these big abstract dots, it’s possible to detect a yearning for art to do more than just hang.

    Black gauze overlays most of the canvases; two crisp

  • picks July 26, 2016

    Amitai Romm and Jean Marc Routhier

    On the campus of this contemporary kunsthalle on a rural Danish island, a late-nineteenth-century forge has been repurposed as a project space. For their installation piece you may cycle the layers without alteration, 2016, artists Amitai Romm and Jean Marc Routhier extend the idioms of site-specificity and artistic consultancy to the logos of neighboring businesses and organizations. They’ve collected around thirty, plus select bits of other found copy: words such as “Belladonna” and “Utopia” that, in the company of smiling water droplets or the emblem of the local TV Møn, ring with overwrought

  • interviews June 03, 2016

    Thom Andersen

    Thom Andersen lives in Los Angeles. For over fifty years, his films, including Red Hollywood (1995) and Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), have critically engaged the documentary form. A retrospective of his work will run at Anthology Film Archives ‪from June 3 through June 12, 2016. The screening series will also feature his latest full-length film, The Thoughts That Once We Had, plus the New York premiere of two new shorts.

    MY WORK ISN’T EXPERIMENTAL, IS IT? People call Los Angeles Plays Itself an essay film; personally, I prefer to call it a documentary. I think that when you go see a documentary

  • picks May 09, 2016

    Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s Circa 1968, 2004, renders a famous photo from May ’68: a woman in a crowd waving a Vietnamese flag, resembling Delacroix’s Liberté. In her “Circa Trilogy,” Kelly positions this formative political tableau between two others: a photograph of a library ruptured in the London Blitz, just before her birth—Circa 1940, 2016—and a cell-phone snap of May’s stifled echo at Tahrir Square more recently—Circa 2011, 2016. All three are rendered in Kelly’s signature “compressed lint,” cast in low relief on the filter screen of the artist’s dryer then glued to paper cards—duly interpretable as

  • picks May 06, 2016

    Hans-Christian Lotz

    We can hardly imagine the banality of the ant farm for the ant, who carries on even when its digs are revealed in an anthropogenic, vertical slice. So what, then, is the secret life of the sawdust and shavings likewise vitrined in these five untitled wall works, 2016, by Hans-Christian Lotz?

    Each piece collects piles of khaki- or cardboard-brown-colored sawdust and shavings between two panes of Plexiglas framed in wood. The thin shelf-like area, created by a third, slightly smaller pane stuck to the inside-front with visible gobs of silicon, bunches the settling fluff into what we might recognize

  • performance April 29, 2016

    Great Ballz of Fire

    IT’S HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA. A day’s work done, the gainfully, under- and self-employed rush home by way of a well-earned pint. On South Main Street in Los Angeles, from a sidewalk cluttered with chalkboards, a dozen upscale haunts beckon the thirsty. 452 South Main is not among them.

    That address, the once and future home of a food truck turned brick-and-mortar hopeful known as Great Balls, has stood empty for four lucrative years. The blank storefront has its neighbors to thank. In 2013, residents of the New Genesis Apartments, the low-income and recovery housing complex for which 452 is

  • picks April 07, 2016

    Judy Fiskin

    “Last April,” says Judy Fiskin, “I turned seventy.” Her latest video, Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation, 2016, dryly ponders what comes next. Most of Three Funerals’s fifteen minutes follow conservation interns, khaki’d like zookeepers, bathing the Getty Center’s outdoor sculptures. One dusts off, a bit indecently, the nested bust of René Magritte’s La Folie des grandeurs (Delusions of Grandeur), 1967. Another flops a chamois-draped broom across the molar gullies of Henry Moore’s Bronze Form, 1985. The hammered-steel paddles of George Warren Rickey’s Three Squares Gyratory, 1971,

  • picks February 29, 2016

    Fiona Banner

    An unflattering view of a power suit’s trousers greets visitors to Fiona Banner’s exhibition: aqueous gray lines diverge down a big Day-Glo orange sheet to form Pinstripe Bum Face, 2015. If the intrepid financiers who steered the 2008 banking crisis sought unregulated waters, Banner finds premonitions of our recessional present in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). The novel opens on a dusky River Thames; Orson Welles set his unrealized screen adaptation on the Hudson—both waterways opened the world’s oceans to the West’s colonizing, commercial capitals. It is not lost on Banner that

  • picks January 27, 2016

    Kota Ezawa

    On March 18, 1990, two men dressed as cops famously boosted thirteen artworks from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Partly because Gardner’s will allows no changes to the displays, partly in hopes that the stripped canvases will return, empty frames remain on view. Such an abstraction holds evident interest for Kota Ezawa, who, for his exhibition “Gardner Museum Revisited,” employed his signature reductive technique, similar to rotoscoping, for a salon-style hang of light-box replicas of the missing works. Here, the seasick dynamism of sight lines still crisscrosses The Storm on the

  • architecture December 22, 2015

    East of Eden

    PERCHED PARTWAY DOWN Bunker Hill, as if sliding off toward the braid of freeways in the valley below, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel marks the ragged westernmost edge of downtown LA. Its quintet of one-hundred-plus-meter mirrored cylinders, which look something like an unassembled skyscraper, make it the city’s largest hotel by volume. It is also the most iconic; built in 1976 by John C. Portman Jr., the building still beams the same retro advanced capitalism that led Fredric Jameson to flag the structure, part upscale sleepery, part shopping mall, as an emblem of the postmodern mindset. Indeed.

  • picks December 09, 2015

    Noah Davis

    In imitation of the grittier storefront spaces often rented by emerging gallerists—and as a parody of the trendy “micro-storefronts” dotting downtown Los Angeles—the Storefront at MoCA opens with a display of contemporary masterworks as re-created by artist Noah Davis. This exhibition, “Imitation of Wealth,” began in 2013 as a curatorial project for Davis’s own Underground Museum in Mid-City. Realizing no institution would lend him actual artworks, Davis zeroed in on the simplicity of famous works that he emphatically made his own: a Dan Flavin lighting piece, a Robert Smithson nonsite, a Marcel

  • picks November 19, 2015

    “In the Flesh Part I: Subliminal Substances”

    Ivana Basic’s Asleep (all works cited, 2015), one of three glossy lumps of flesh cast in wax and silicone, resembles a slightly torn organ resting on a pillow. Listed among its materials are “weight,” “pressure,” and “body.” Has process become material? Are there body parts here? Perhaps after decades of engineered food, it’s our materials list that includes alien matter. Mounted to a nearby wall is Display Unit, U-238, a PVC exhibition case printed with texts and diagrams and inset with samples, by collective Encyclopedia Inc. In the cheerful didactics of a science museum, the piece surveys

  • picks November 18, 2015

    Ann Hirsch

    Burnt-orange carpet runs head high up the gallery walls like an institutional merkin. Paintings cling there. In one, The Restauranter’s Daughter (all works 2015), a girl wearing the outline of a frock tilts her head up at the heroic, lipstick-wearing profile of a woman in a strappy black dress; some scarf-like strokes trace the girl’s aspirational gaze. In the lower right corner hovers a third, haggish head. The Restauranter’s Daughter is rendered as a trompe l’oeil page torn from a giant notebook. The loose, hairy brushwork—totally untutored—barely covers the gesso, and in fact scales up the

  • picks November 16, 2015

    Sean Townley

    Classical Greek artists, having never seen actual lions, based their funerary lion sculptures on a combo of house cats, dogs, and other sculptures of the real thing. Sean Townley has possibly never seen a lion sculpture. For his series “One of Three Shades,” 2015, Townley modeled a clay and carbon-fiber lion after a digital scan of an unspecified Greek example, carved by anonymous artisans and catalogued by an unnamed institution, and then made three aluminum casts. Originality becomes as abstracted as authorship. If the source is marble, the hollowness, jagged truncation at the waist, and empty

  • picks November 10, 2015

    Faith Wilding

    “Waiting for my breasts to develop . . . Waiting for my breasts to fill with milk . . . Waiting for my breasts to shrivel up”: So goes the arc of Faith Wilding’s poem Waiting, delivered at the installation Womanhouse in 1972, a video of which is on view in the Armory’s old munitions vault. In this clip from the 1974 documentary by Johanna Demetrakas, Wilding rocks forward and back with each line, her hands in her lap, for a performance of the woefully passive woman she refused to become. Rather than “waiting for him to pay attention to me”—“him” being the male-dominated art world—Wilding instead

  • picks November 03, 2015

    Bill Jenkins and Chadwick Rantanen

    Normally flatly lit, this gallery hangs in near darkness for Bill Jenkins and Chadwick Rantanen’s exhibition “Honeydew,” composed entirely of untitled works from this year. A sheet of black plastic, by Jenkins, funnels the gallery’s fluorescent lighting onto a tabletop sloped inward, drain-like, to a central slit; another, lined with mirrored Mylar, directs the skylight’s beams. Like a returns counter, the table is littered with toys, a lamp, a few small plastic globes broken into hemispheres, and some motion-activated polyethylene birds that chirp when triggered. Their open battery compartments

  • picks October 20, 2015

    Candice Lin

    If Western historians like to imagine phallic arrows of progress, Candice Lin offers a circular, organic, and panbiological corrective. Her current show infects the authority of didactic forms familiar to ethnographic museums. One lushly illuminated manuscript, 5 Kingdoms (book) (all works 2015), unfolds a mythology that accounts not just for animals, plants, and people, but also germs and fungi. Small stones and a desiccated paw support its folds. Nearby, a series of framed panels incorporate samples of dried herbs, archival images, and quote passages that unsettle the pat platitudes of

  • picks October 02, 2015

    Glenn Ligon

    Glenn Ligon’s Live dissects the full length of Richard Pryor’s 1982 concert film, Live on the Sunset Strip, projecting parts of the comedian across seven speechless screens. Suspended in the round are zooms onto hands, head, mouth, shadow, and crotch. Seemingly a formal study, the effect is also vertiginous. The blown-up reds, blacks, browns, and golds of Pryor’s face, suit, shirt, wedding ring, and boutonniere wrap sickly around each frame’s object, which is pinned to center. Ligon’s stated intent is to examine, beyond Pryor’s radical words, what made him such a great performer. Yet surrounded