Travis Diehl

  • picks March 23, 2015

    Walead Beshty

    Those looking for clues in the polished press dispatch from Regen Projects learn only that “Walid AlBeshti—the transliteration of the artist’s name from Arabic into English—brings together paintings and sculptures.”

    Maybe the UK-born, Los Angeles–based Walead Beshty hopes to lend his “distributed,” postconceptual practice shades of his own transnational history. As if this might offset the lack of such personal/political sparkle in the works themselves, whose wrenchingly specific titles exude their own kind of mock-religious, backhanded austerity. Shroud (ExxonMobil Mobil 1 0W-40 Synthetic Motor

  • Frances Scholz

    The most coherent moments in Frances Scholz’s Trailer I and II, both 2014, ostensibly promo shorts for her as-yet-unmade film Amboy, are recurring snippets of writer (and friend of the gallery) Chris Kraus (re)delivering a lecture she once gave on Jason Rhoades. For Scholz’s project, Kraus has swapped Rhoades’s name for “Amboy,” the documentary’s doubtful subject, a fictional painter “you haven’t heard of”—resulting in phrases intended for Rhoades’s practice but here projected onto Scholz’s prolific every-artist. For example: “It was mostly just a bunch of people hanging around eating and

  • picks February 23, 2015

    William Hunt

    I Had to Stop Because I Was Scared, says the title of a 2014 collage in William Hunt’'s Los Angeles debut—too scared, it seems, to cover more than a thin scoop of the paper with black—afraid to reach the finish. Not so in the show’s centerpiece, the video Still Yourself and Calm Your Boots, 2014. From a dashboard view, we see the artist in macho racecar restraints, singing in relentless slow motion as he drives toward an explosion. The car jumps back to the starting line. Another interior angle, this time spun slightly faster; we’re not sure what happened, only that it’ll happen again—at somewhere

  • Ernesto Mallard and Pedro Reyes

    Ernesto Mallard made his radiant steel and cord “Natura” reliefs between 1968 and 1972—the year of Pedro Reyes’s birth. Indeed, Reyes has in many ways lived under their sign. The older artist’s late output has provided Reyes with the formal basis for a number of weblike works produced over the past fifteen years. In two pieces made for the pair’s recent two-person show, in fact, Reyes employs Mallard’s exact technique of stretching vinyl lines over metal bridges, here forming bright oblongs and a harsh TV test pattern in, respectively, Tondo and Caja Boba (Silly Box), both 2014. At Reyes’s

  • picks January 29, 2015

    Dan Finsel

    The big, black apple box in the center of one gallery (Affective Memory Sculpture: Performance Isolation Chamber with Audio from “the Animal Exercise” [Cat in Heat]), (all works 2015) could hide a man but has only a cat door for entrance. Inside roils a recording of Dan Finsel imitating the moans of the titular animal, which, like Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, makes writhing reference to artistic process itself, as an “affective memory exercise” channeled by the props of stage, film, and photo production.

    Finsel’s last show at Telles also turned on art therapy, yet it

  • picks January 28, 2015

    Danielle Dean

    “Poor Marge. She'll never hold a man.” Why not? Maybe chemicals. Sodium fluoride—complicit in the fluoridation of city water—is here the conspiracy-rich compound by which Danielle Dean bitingly links dental health, mind control, mass media, standards of beauty, and stereotypes of race. The three actors in blue dental scrubs who are featured in Dean’s Hexafluorocilicic, 2015, the centerpiece of her second solo show at the gallery, chatter in non sequiturs pulled from the gunk of the news cycle as they run a series of pointless experiments—demos with electric blue water, yellow changing into pink,

  • picks January 26, 2015

    Jennifer Moon

    Jennifer Moon’s revolution, if not exactly televised, at least involves a few live feeds. One of two long glass cases at Equitable Vitrines, built into the lobby of Koreatown’s skyscraping Equitable Building, houses a row of flat-screen monitors linked to cameras in Moon’s apartment. “How can we really see a person?” asked Moon at a recent panel. “How can I really see myself?” Putting yourself under surveillance is certainly one approach. 24/7 views of kitchen, hallway, bedroom, bathroom (a tasteful angle), even her car, aim to strip pretense, drop guard, open the private to “unmediated” public

  • picks January 18, 2015

    Liz Magic Laser

    A synthetic spot, resembling the brand color of TED Talks, holds the center of the gallery like a spotlit circle of red stage (Parenthesis [all works 2015]). Yet, as if to retract the reductive optimism of the inspirational-speaker format, this rug is branded with curly brackets. Liz Magic Laser is known for putting on bizarro versions of Western media’s discursive tropes. If TED’s chosen often exude childlike gumption, pacing across said circle in the video The Thought Leader is an actual child (Alex Ammerman). Rigged with LAV mic and sports shirt, this kid is eerily practical—as when he quips,

  • performance December 21, 2014

    The Year in Radio

    ABSENT FRIENDS—WHERE ARE THEY? Why, pulling their weekly shift down at KCHUNG Radio, of course—or KNOW-WAVE or Clocktower—one of the mostly unlicensed, mostly Web-only, artist-run underground radio stations that have kept the on-air light lit in 2014. It’s a rare program that, given the nearly full-spectrum saturation of modern communication, nonetheless anchors a small and anonymous collaborative; collaboration being the buzzword, for example, of this year’s Made in LA biennial, which (to borrow Thomas Lawson’s phrase) set up “mildly anarchic” collective KCHUNG in the front lobby. In a fragmented

  • picks December 11, 2014

    Max Hooper Schneider

    Instead of machined planes packing neat hunks of rot, Max Hooper Schneider favors rigs of steel chain, meat hooks, and C-clamps—dangling everything from neon drawings in Plexiglas to a resin model of a human spine. Paul Thek it ain’t. Schneider’s grotesque displays graft found or synthesized organics to factory supports, such as Precor Crocodilian 9.1, (all works cited 2014) a faux crocodile-hide belt retrofitted to a treadmill, or Genus Watermeloncholia, a square biomelon in a vitrine, beeping bummed messages on a little screen. The exhibition serves as a junk store for failed experiments; the

  • Body by Body/Odilon Redon

    Without a hiccup, the Los Angeles–based entity Body by Body—artists Melissa Sachs and Cameron Soren, whose joint efforts constitute a single practice—digested Chateau Shatto’s curatorial imposition of four black-and-white lithographs by French Symbolist Odilon Redon. If this pairing seemed capricious, it also happened to reflect, amid the infinite, Tumblr-like scroll of the duo’s research, Body by Body’s prior interest in Redon. For all its glutted culture-jamming, the exhibition “Education Pig” conformed to a beaux-arts structure of sorts, with floor and wall works arrayed beneath a

  • picks November 14, 2014

    Sayre Gomez

    On Sayre Gomez’s Instagram, in a shot of his latest solo effort, “Im Different,” a visitor bends down to clean up his dog’s poop. It’s easy to see how a dog could get confused: Sprinkled across Ghebaly’s spacious main gallery, like a kind of attitudinal filler, is a thin layer of dark, trashy mulch. The spread is studded with toxicologically painted fake rocks, hiding speakers (Hypnotic Presence of Popular Music in Southern California, 2014), each leaking out pop hip-hop hits—not least of which is 2 Chainz’s “I’m Different.” This ironical dawg park declares this exhibition “different” from your

  • picks November 07, 2014

    Yuri Ancarani

    In a dark and cushioned gallery, Yuri Ancarani’s trilogy of short films La malattia del ferro (The Disease of Iron), 2010–12, plays on a seamless loop. Each lush 35-mm segment focuses on an “unseen” form of labor, reveling in the dexterity of machine-amplified human bodies: the micro movements of a da Vinci surgical machine inside the abdomen of a patient; the macro movements of two excavators with enough force to break a mountain into slabs, directed by the flicks and waves of a quarry chief; and the human movements of submarine sailors systematically manipulating the ergonomic suits and

  • Josh Mannis

    The tightly wound formalism of “Sexus,” Josh Mannis’s recent solo show at Thomas Solomon Gallery, might at first have seemed to run counter to his cutely pornographic subjects—grinning figures who stroke and fondle one another in parks and on floors. These scenes fill ten nearly square ink-on-paper drawings—eight in black, two in red—that were hung evenly on the gallery’s three white walls. But this buttoned-down hang and Mannis’s conventional medium were both support and stimulation for the works’ lecherous charge. Like Fernando Botero’s paintings of voluminous couples picnicking

  • diary September 29, 2014

    Crystal Visions

    “THE LONG-JAWED ORB SPIDER and the common house spider are perennial visitors to Crystal Bridges in the summer and early fall.”

    As I walked from one end of the Crystal Bridges Museum’s vaulted entrance lobby and restaurant, beneath a big gold Jeff Koons heart, across one of two enclosed suspension bridges spanning the natural spring that lends the building its name, a wall label caught my eye. “These opportunistic predators build their webs in the Museum’s large, illuminated windows to take advantage of the many insects that are attracted to them by night. Our grounds crew uses a variety of

  • picks September 19, 2014

    Miljohn Ruperto

    Over several weeks, artist Miljohn Ruperto worked with animator Aimée de Jongh and neuroscientist Rajan Bhattacharyya to turn one long wall in the darkened gallery into a digitized mineral room—eight weird specimens have been rendered as if floating inside small caves in a row of monitors. One striking example resembles a human heart, bulging with red and blue in writhing, severed tubes. Another suggests a peyote button; another, a jellyfish—all beam the aura of mysterious deep-earth organs. Each stone has been sketched, colorized, and animated into two jittering, faux-3-D frames. The

  • picks September 18, 2014

    “New Gravity”

    “New Gravity,” it seems, is not so grave as the old stuff. Curated by Olivian Cha and Eli Diner, this show fields interventions by seven artists that—rather than programmatically deconstructing their context, as might be expected of a previous generation—engage the gallery in playful, even decorative ways.

    A series of “Fluorescent Fittings” by Chadwick Rantanen, for example, augment one room’s lighting fixtures with cutesy plastic extensions from Beehive/Black to Birds and Bunnies/White, 2014. Elsewhere, Rantanen jams the gap between two standard wall works by Frank Benson and Oliver Payne with

  • picks September 15, 2014

    Tobias Madison

    When the dealer’s away, the art will play. Freedman and Fitzpatrick are out of town for Tobias Madison’s latest exhibition, but “the keys to the gallery can be picked up at Hollywood Smokes” next door. Meanwhile this artist’s crew of mummified rod-and-gauze figures, produced for the show, has replaced human art workers—shuffling, stacking, and checking in their overlords’ absence. The gallery storage, crated art, and other gear have been scooted to the back of the space and sealed behind Plexiglas. Sheet plastic smeared with dried iodine hangs from the rafters like some shredded surgical tent.

  • diary August 02, 2014

    Networked Television

    THE HAMMER MUSEUM, even though admission is now and forever free, is still way out there on the not-so-proletarian west side of Los Angeles, so I was still crawling down Wilshire at 12:30, the beginning of the KCHUNG TV broadcast day, but never fear—not to miss a live minute, I jacked my iPhone into the car stereo and called up kchung.tv.

    It was a bit like the old KCHUNG Radio that way. Just voices. Just the sonorous questions of artist, animal rights activist, and KCHUNG host Johnny JungleGuts; just the cadenced, rounded answers of his guest, film critic Dave White. But now everyone’s favorite

  • picks July 31, 2014

    “Passive Collect”

    Spot-welded above the roll-down shutters at Chin’s Push, like an old-timey emblem, is a sheet-steel replica of the Markets Data section of the Financial Times by artist Morgan Canavan. The illegibility of its raw figures is rendered as a sculptural pun—ticking digits accrete into heavy, creased matter. The work advertises the problem of data—how to display it, how to draw meaning from its abstractions—and flags the anxiety underwriting “Passive Collect,” a group show curated by artist Jesse Stecklow. Moving into the gallery, for example, one finds (CAS Registrations: Siladroxyllal and Plus