Critics’ Picks

  • Stephen Neidich, Making the rounds, 2019, steel camshaft, metal chains, urbanite, 12 x 10 x 13 3/8'.

    Stephen Neidich

    Wilding Cran Gallery
    939 South Santa Fe Avenue Unit A
    June 2–July 27, 2019

    The sole piece in Stephen Neidich’s exhibition “Making the rounds (a place to wait)” occupies the middle of the room. Dozens of chains connected to rotating camshafts hang from the ceiling. They flit above a loose rectangle of broken concrete chunks, slapping and sliding endlessly, senselessly, against the stones’ jagged surfaces. It all seems ultra-macho, industrial, coyly S and M. Yes, to all that. The swinging movement is dangerous and effete, the sashay of a giant squid idling near the bumpy ocean bottom.

    Ambivalent is the mood. The artist's adoption of a Minimalist vocabulary pairs the obstinance and violence of industrial materials with the contemplative, musical potential of repetitive mechanical movement. While the contact looks frantic and haphazard, the rhythm is regular, less like clangs than chimes. The links of the chains unfurl in a shimmering sequence; their weight steadily erodes the stone. 

    Given enough time, this movement would reduce the base to a sand pile. But that erasure, a vision of the future, would require a longer exhibition run. In tacking on the parenthetical “a place to wait” to the show’s title, the artist provides a gentle instruction: Wait and see. The concrete is sourced from a Frogtown construction site, one of many gentrifying Los Angeles neighborhoods. A question emerges: What becomes of a space, a neighborhood, a city, when it is seen as a place to pass the time, a plot of land to profit from, a mere stop along the way? Perhaps it becomes something like Neidich’s piece, where limbs scour for roots in upturned earth, a slowly disintegrating base.

  • View of “Tamarind,” 2019.

    Adee Roberson

    Women’s Center for Creative Work
    2425 Glover Place
    May 18–July 18, 2019

    In her paintings and built environments, Adee Roberson cathartically deploys colors to clear the air of white supremacy’s curses. But in “Tamarind,” her exhibition of sacralized portraits of black figures at the Women’s Center for Creative Work, she seeks more to fashion a place for remembrance.

    Within the small gallery, the walls pulsate with pink and teal paint. One wall is papered over with screen-printed menus offering items such as cucumber juice and cow foot stew; although the restaurant is unidentified, the tessellation of its offerings implies the artist’s intimacy with its dishes. Throughout the space, Roberson has hung screen-printed photographs that she processed in hues of rose and cerulean. The range of images, their titles, and their informality suggest that they are sourced from a family archive. In one of the more formal shots, sweets and shasha (all works 2019), two girls with bows in their hair are sitting in front of a backdrop and smiling at the camera. A streak of dawn pink wafts through the center of the image, as if joining the kids with the sky. In the snapshot Aunt Audrey, a large-eyed beauty in a halter top looks tenderly at the photographer; fuchsia ink veils her head. Visitors can sit on a dark carpet with four pillows to look up at the collage Sister Charmaine, of a gilt-haloed woman singing into a microphone, and the collage I’m in Love (Jennifer Lara Portrait), of a lady with a calm expression festooned with pink glitter and blue sequins.

    Fittingly, Roberson’s largest work is an altar, which takes the form of an abstract figure with its arms raised, supporting a candle and two protective crystals. Here, ancestors might be honored in an atmosphere of love and longing.

  • Kudzanai Chiurai, We Live in Silence, 2017, video, color, sound, 37 minutes.

    “Inheritance: Recent Video Art from Africa”

    Fowler Museum at UCLA
    308 Charles E Young Dr N
    February 17–July 28, 2019

    You can’t understand a whole continent from a handful of stories, but the thoughtful and smartly installed exhibition “Inheritance: Recent Video Art from Africa” offers several sustained meditations on how certain histories of Africa might be viewed through a postcolonial lens.

    In Mikhael Subotzky’s WYE, 2016, a trio of unreliable narrators delivers a cluster of stories set in an isolated coastal site in South Africa at three distinct moments in time: an early colonial past, the present, and a slightly speculative future. Each narrative pivots on the questionable use of a specific technology—a willow divining rod, a metal detector, and a computer—to try to rewrite history or commandeer resources, whether water, land, or artifacts. The striking installation of the large-scale video triptych implicates viewers in the long history of colonization by inviting them to passively witness the unfolding spectacle while seated in comfortable beach chairs, stationed in substantial quantities of actual sand that mirrors the environment of the video itself.

    Through lush, stylized scenes, Kudzanai Chiurai’s large projection We Live in Silence: Chapters 1–7, 2017, further represents the agonistic outcomes of colonial encounters but unsettles the expected power dynamics by putting the words of white male imperialists in the mouths of native black females. Their images are intercut with a series of darkened Christian tableaux vivants (for example, the Last Supper), which reference the religious context of many colonial missions.

    Zina Saro-Wiwa takes a more direct approach to describing the history of a particular locale:Table Manners, Season 1, 2014–16, and Table Manners, Season 2, 2018­–, are displayed across eight monitors, featuring individuals intimately facing the viewer and sensuously consuming traditional dishes of the Niger Delta Ogoni.

    In its emphasis on works structured around multiple perspectives, timescales, and narratives, “Inheritance” meaningfully bridges the Fowler’s mission to examine the past and present of non-Western art.