Travis Diehl

  • picks September 30, 2013

    Judith Bernstein

    How far can you ride a rude sketch? Past parody, through détournement, and into infinity? For her third solo show in four years at the Box, Judith Bernstein expands her men’s-room cunt/cock motifs to cosmic proportions. Drifting through the vacuum of the canvas, angrily birthing galaxies, and gnawing on Bohr models are the cuntfaces: vagina mouth, sphincter chin, and two ejaculating dick-shaped eyestalks either pointing inward, as if self-pollinating, or glaring askance at impotent, long-lashed cockfaces. In the hippieish biophysics of these eighteen paintings, pseudomystical numerology jukes

  • picks July 26, 2013

    Neil Beloufa

    A red bandanna bears sprawling associations for subcultures from movie cowboys to gangs. For Production Value, 2013, the current Hammer project, French Algerian artist Neil Beloufa uses this simple prop to indulge in the foundational clichés of Los Angeles. The video follows an amateur cast of walking stereotypes as they converge on an apocalyptic party in the hills. Yet within their given “characters” and other constraints, the actors’ improvised dialogue takes on a convincing strangeness. Horse references range from chivalry to reverse-cowgirl, for instance; elsewhere, a weathered D-list

  • diary June 28, 2013

    Office Romance

    IF YOU’RE OVER 8' 6" TALL OR 40' LONG, roll, require a permit to move, and are habitable but not a dwelling, you are known to the State of California as a “commercial modular”—an office trailer.

    “Thanks for coming,” said Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, taking the mic of the bus PA. “I know the traffic was rough out there.”

    Sure was. I’d covered the ten miles from Chinatown to Culver City in just over an hour. Upstream on I-405, an overturned diesel tanker had blocked three lanes and an off-ramp. Well. I should have taken the Expo Line, Los Angeles Metro’s newest light

  • Dan Finsel

    Art therapy may be good therapy; it may or may not be good art. “E-thay Inward-yay Ourney-jay,” Los Angeles artist Dan Finsel’s recent solo show at Richard Telles, was a perverse gray mix of both. Extruding himself through exercises in Margaret Frings Keyes’s 1974 The Inward Journey: Art as Therapy for You, a self-help book he found at his parents’ house, the artist produced intestinal mandalas and absurd furniture, photocollages and mannerist self-portraits, all purporting to externalize an interior life. But rather than earnest psychoanalysis, this show was more accurately a backdoor act of

  • Fiona Connor

    “Bare Use,” a solo show at 1301PE by Los Angeles–based artist Fiona Connor, presented uncanny replicas of thirteen charmingly dull, awkwardly nondescript objects—a drinking fountain, a patio umbrella, a linen hamper, among other items—found at the Rancho La Puerta resort in Tecate, Mexico. These deadpan sculptures invoked not only the bare bones of a destination spa but also the bare bodies that might find escape there. A white, mineral-looking residue crept up signposts; a wooden lounge chair sat angled toward the gallery windows; five fresh towels piled on a low table on the first

  • picks March 20, 2013

    Henry Taylor

    One writer called them “slaves.” They’re not; the subjects of Henry Taylor’s five big portraits in the first gallery of this exhibition are, simply, anonymous black farmworkers from WPA-era photos—displayed around a banquet table spread with white tablecloths on a patch of hoed soil. The opulence here sure seems built on others’ labor. Yet this exhibition’s strength lies not in this anxious use of all that floor space—a garish chandelier blocks your view; the table is weirdly Brutalist—but in the paintings.

    Taylor’s caked, smeared, tough-love style renders those farmers no more faceless than many

  • diary March 17, 2013

    Billions y Billions

    THE GREYHOUND STOPPED behind a McDonald’s on the US side. Through a grubby door, around the restaurant’s dumpster and grease trap, past several guards and through a parking deck and you’re in Mexico. There, silhouetted in the dusk of the seedy Centro district, was the Tijuana Arch, a replica of the Saint Louis Gateway Arch—cruelly tripled, it seemed, by a pair of Golden Arches, looming just as large. Past stalls of drug rugs, statues, beers, and so on, after a few blocks down a semideserted Avenida Revolución and then a left on Sexta I saw a guy in a Kings cap—Los Angeles artist Keith Rocka

  • Stephanie Taylor

    By boggling the name of gallerist “Sam Freeman,” LA artist Stephanie Taylor arrived at “Swam Sea Span,” the title of her recent show at his space. These three words, in turn, generated not just a punning narrative but also a set of related art pieces—six prints and three sculptures. As an introduction, a chantey-style hymn periodically sounded from a triangular speaker cabinet, telling the tale of an ill-fated channel crossing by a swimmer bearing, among other items, an ax, a foghorn, and a bottle of brandy. Such narration seemed to offer the possibility of deciphering the surrounding works

  • picks February 27, 2013

    “The Black Mirror”

    The polished black face of a Claude glass renders “views” romantic and emotional—though this tool more accurately reflects the viewer’s projections. In “The Black Mirror,” what you see is what you see. This is an exhibition of black stuff—and it’s possible to see nothing else. Yet a sustained look can produce a show more variegated than it initially appears. The viewer first encounters Matthew Brandt’s George Bush Park, Houston, TX, 2009–11, a monochrome made of handmade paper and charcoal from wood found at its namesake, reflective only insofar as it indexes that site. Right away, this work

  • interviews February 24, 2013

    Alice Könitz

    On the empty pavement beside her studio in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, artist Alice Könitz runs a small open-air museum—what she calls a kind of “wunderkammer”—constructed from sturdy timbers and sliding panels. Known as the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the space hosted its inaugural exhibition in December 2012, featuring a sculpture by Taft Green. A project by Stephanie Taylor will open at the space on March 9 and will remain on view until April 29.

    BUILDING A MUSEUM IN YOUR YARD raises questions of institutional value. I didn’t intend my museum—the Los Angeles Museum of Art, aka LAMOA—to be a

  • picks December 12, 2012

    “For the Martian Chronicles”

    Man will probably never colonize Mars; it’s hard enough to live in Nevada. Yet if this show is any clue, human culture already crowds an imaginary Martian landscape. L&M’s west gallery occupies an old power station adjacent to the former site of the house where Ray Bradbury wrote much of his Martian Chronicles, a short story collection published in 1950. This factoid inspired curator Yael Lipshutz to launch a tribute to the Red Planet. Nearly thirty pieces settle into thematic clumps: spare and outward-looking machined art; alien junk assemblages (notably, a kind of circuit board or landscape

  • slant December 10, 2012

    Travis Diehl

    THE FIRST ARTIST was probably a trickster scratching footprints in the dirt—or so wrote British Minimalist Bob Law in his 1964 essay “The Necessity of Magic in Art.” Fast-forward to Los Angeles in 2012, where the “tricksters” of the 1960s and ’70s exerted an unusual gravity. At Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s “Ends of the Earth” at MOCA Geffen, the sound track of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson’s Mono Lake, 1968–2004, overwhelmed the industrial-scale gougings with schmaltzy piano arpeggios every fifteen minutes, while for gutsy simplicity nothing came close to Agnes Denes’s tubular map

  • Candice Lin

    Candice Lin’s latest solo show awkwardly fractured the slick, guided exploration of the typical history exhibit and awkwardly reassembled it across François Ghebaly’s two-tiered space. The sixteen sculptures and videos that comprised “It Makes the Patient See Pictures” excreted tar, silicone, even dead fish. There were no talking heads or lengthy wall labels to provide context; instead, an informational stop-action animation was projected from a pig’s asshole. Bacium Sub Cauda (Kiss Under the Tail) (all works 2012 unless otherwise noted) presents an allegory about the mass killing of the domestic

  • Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda

    Who are Jay & Q? And what have they been doing these past ten years? Nylon flags decorated the walls, each featuring a drawing of two horse heads sporting matching hats, and bearing the same rough script—10 YEARS OF JAY & Q. The gallery floor was comparatively empty, punctuated by three monitors on pedestals and the gallery’s two preexisting structural columns. Via the few artworks physically present, we were encouraged to interpret the show through the artists’ biography, which has spanned so far from their first collaboration (begun in 2002, while they were still students at the Städelschule

  • picks October 07, 2012

    Melodie Mousset

    Three videos, shot from above and projected downward onto low platforms, present the artist nude and seated on a spinning potter’s wheel. A soft lump of clay covers her head. This is how Melodie Mousset produced the series of unglazed ceramics arrayed on a table-size pedestal in her latest solo exhibition, “Impulsive Control.” Her method may seem like a labored justification for work that is, simply, beautiful. (And it’s true—Mousset’s installation is apparently meant to counterbalance the explicitly “political” Andrea Bowers exhibition in the gallery’s other rooms.) Yet a monotonous violence

  • picks September 27, 2012

    Thomas Lawson

    It has been three decades since Thomas Lawson first stated his strangely qualified case for figurative painting as a political Trojan horse. Still, his latest works are more than painted corpses. Lawson’s current exhibition contains only seven paintings—big, good-looking ones at that—but in fact they are inwardly catastrophic, scattered with witty casualties. Lithe and pressurized, the show could not withstand the amputation of even one element of one work. The impasto wildness of the werewolf head in Voluptuous Panic (all works 2012) is mitigated by the (apparent) restraint of the rest. But

  • picks June 08, 2012

    Sami Benhadj and Tarik Hayward

    In a warehouse in the Swiss Alps, Sami Benhadj and Tarik Hayward (in collaboration with Guy Meldem) spent a yearlong residency producing “Made of Concrete,” 2012, a series of sixteen massive still-life photographs; six are on view in this exhibition. The artists employed cranes and cables to poise a tractor, boulders, mattresses, a shipping container, a silo, and other modern relics in collapsing arrangements—impossible except as photos, wherein the supports have been retouched away. Made of Concrete #5 props a wheelchair on a ski gondola on a Jacuzzi on a pine coffin, accented with branches

  • Jeanette Mundt

    A large mirror faced the tinted-glass door at the entrance to Michael Benevento: the first doubling of vision in New York–based artist Jeanette Mundt’s debut Los Angeles solo show. On the mirror hung a small black-and-white painting of a living room. Toward the back of the gallery, a larger mirror leaned against the wall across from a modest side room containing a suite of grisaille canvases, Living Room (1–4) (all works 2012). The four paintings are sequential renderings of the same black-and-white photo (not on display); each painting is a copy (of a copy) of the last, showing a room crammed

  • picks May 14, 2012

    Rigo 23

    Floating in a room painted the color of outer space is a wooden rocket ship, part bird, part ear of corn, part co-op, piloted by carved snails from a balaclava cockpit. The sculpture is the centerpiece of a complex, expressive, and spiraling collaboration between Rigo 23 and over a hundred Zapatista artisans in Chiapas, Mexico. Vivid paintings, embroideries, sculptures, and a mural incorporate the iconography and slogans of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). Like the Zapatistas—armed alter-globalization revolutionaries as invested in intergalactic travel and the Internet as in

  • Brian Bress

    Self-described Abstract Expressionist painter Agnes Martin spent the last three decades of her life in the seclusion of her New Mexico studio. Though she often exhibited alongside Minimalists such as Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, Martin famously insisted that great art responds purely and unthinkingly to inspiration—a way of working only possible with a vacant mind. Such a notion may seem quaint in the context of much idea-heavy art, but it is only partially alien to the work of Los Angeles–based artist Brian Bress. In his most recent show, the requisite references, slickness, and self-reflexivity