Critics’ Picks

  • Fay Ray, Cans Corn Clay, 2018, ink-jet print, 36 x 54".

    Fay Ray

    Shulamit Nazarian
    616 N. La Brea Avenue
    April 7 - May 26

    Fay Ray invokes the planetary in her crisply constructed black-and-white photomontage prints, an odd solar system of surfaces. Her exhibition “I AM THE HOUSE” also incorporates hanging metal structures in which fragments of aluminum cacti, desiccated corn, and marble slabs appear affixed to chain link, hooks, and fasteners. The resulting forms resemble oversize dream catchers or intricate earrings. One such sculpture, Calipatria, 2017, incorporates queen conch shells joined to metal rods, a chic take on Poseidon’s trident.

    A similar air of the ethereal permeates Ray’s two-dimensional work. Egg Arch and Pearl Portal, 2018, a photographic work printed on aluminum, is a domed altar panel of bright gems and loudly patterned painted eggs. At the work’s center, a shiny pearl appears salaciously wedged between a pair of feminine lips agape just so. This absurdist gesture is distinctly Marxist in its critique of our worship of material objects and feminist in its send-up of the idolization of female bodies. Gaudy pearls likewise festoon the outstretched fingers of two cupping hands that extend from an otherwise hidden figure, flaunting the bling as if in a lewd hand signal.

    Other collaged prints, their compositions first assembled by hand and then rephotographed as seamless tableaux, are brimming, cacophonous fields. Some works are printed so sharply that their quality becomes paradoxically delicate, like a cut-glass vase whose delineated contours carry a warning. Cans Corn Clay, 2018, is a monochromatic study where cut-up images of crumpled beer cans, speckled eggs, furs, shells, and all manner of textures come together. Toying with luster, shadow, and patina, the artist’s work resembles the mysterious realm evoked by luxury-goods advertising, relying so heavily on sparkle. Under this magical spotlight, even her corncobs resemble crystals. In Ray’s cosmos, detritus takes on a celestial essence.

  • Maren Hassinger, The Veil Between Us, 2007/2018, newspaper, dimensions variable.

    Maren Hassinger

    Art + Practice
    3401 W. 43rd Pl
    February 24 - May 26

    Pink plastic bags, each puffed with breath and holding a small love note, cover every inch of a narrow hallway, resembling the internal linings of a body. This is Love, 2008/2018, an itinerant installation by Maren Hassinger, whose practice imbues everyday materials (wire, newspaper, bags) with the poetics of potentiality. The artist’s manipulations of both materials and space—as seen in her sculptures, installations, and choreographed works for live audiences (High Noon, 1976) or for a camera (Wind, 2013)—have been woefully understudied, and this exhibition marks an opportunity to find a common spirit among her efforts in diverse mediums across a decades-long practice.

    The entanglement of family, affect, and the larger social forces shaping concepts of race and nation is a principle leitmotif. The video Birthright, 2005, for example, begins with Hassinger recounting the knowledge she gained during a visit with her paternal uncle. She twists long strips of newspaper as she talks. What might be misinterpreted as a kind of nervousness transmitted through handy busywork is actually a key component of her sculptural language, for the twisted and knotted papers show up elsewhere in the exhibition, specifically as the primary material of The Veil Between Us, 2007/2018—a long wall-mounted waterfall of printed matter. As the video progresses, the artist presses her uncle for further details of her family’s history, and she mostly succeeds in recovering a branch of her ancestral lineage—where black, white, and indigenous people mixed, sometimes incestuously. The video ends with Hassinger turning off four red standing lamps, as if honoring, and performatively extinguishing, those who came before. Her investigations embrace, rather than illuminate, the uncertainties of the past, knowledge, and the bodies that carry the memory of both.