Critics’ Picks

  • Max Hooper Schneider, Lady Marlene, 2018, live marine ecosystem, fish, invertebrates, modeled landscape, glass aquarium, steel base, custom LED panel, 47 x 68 x 20".

    Max Hooper Schneider

    4220 Sunset Boulevard
    November 9 - December 29

    In a tiny room with walls painted an unappetizing salmon color, above an off-gassing industrial gray carpet, four weird little worlds by Max Hooper Schneider cluster like apocalyptic toy sets. A model train chugs on a track that curves around a goopy pink faux-geologic landscape of blooming hard-ons in Utopia (all works 2018). Lady Marlene is housed in an aquarium, where starfish crawl, anemones pulsate, and other aquatic invertebrates skitter over a reef of off-white lingerie that has undergone plastination, leaving it ghostly and visceral and just a tiny bit lewd. The blackened, crumbling dollhouse of Mommy & Me is overstuffed with countless little scenes of heavy-metal suicide and hoarder horror—from the pentagram poster, the hanged man, and the tar-globbed Tiffany lamp to the tiny books, bottles, and instruments. And in the second aquarium, Genesis, two hulking piles of glistening cheap jewelry poke out above the water like a pirate’s chest of dubious dime-store treasures.

    During the opening for Schneider’s exhibition, I watched a tiny fish, a fluorescent genetically modified Danio, wriggling between the knickknacks and the glass wall of Genesis. Schneider’s hobbyist theaters qua sculptural tableaux are crawling with nonhuman creatures stuck in the mess of our accumulated detritus. These glittering clusterfucks, or scenes of entrapment, allure and disturb. The only perceivable hope Schneider presents is that the world, however we’ve junked it, will keep going without us. Or, as the artist puts it in an accompanying text, “We can be hopeful about an Earth from which we have been absented, not because we are gone, but [because] on this future Earth neomorphic genesis and sempiternal beauty will continue to abound. It is almost too beautiful to imagine.”

  • Katja Novitskova, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, electronic baby swing, polyurethane resin, epoxy foam clay, wall fixtures, robotic bugs, 3-D print, 31 x 28 x 33".

    “up the river down the tide”

    Various Small Fires
    812 North Highland Avenue
    November 8 - January 12

    Winbot W830 window-cleaning robots slide across the clear glass of two framed photographs, suctioned to the picture planes. In Image Life, 2016, a man carries a young girl on his shoulders, their white face paint amplifying their joyous grins. On the opposite wall, Serenity Now, 2016, depicts a figure sinking into mud, the head nearly submerged, hands holding a DSLR aloft. These images, made by the artist collective DIS, emulate the slick finish and satisfying immediacy of stock photos, but with a disturbing, opaque edge. As the Winbots whir, Katja Novitskova’s hacked baby rocker, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, shifts back and forth endlessly––its cushioned cradle has been disassembled and replaced by a clear resin form printed with a swirling pink-and-gold pattern. What once soothed a baby to sleep now sways like a carnivorous plant from a digital planet. Serenity now, but what later? Functional camera, drowning operator.

    This is an exhibition concerned with ways of seeing the present through the lens of the marketed future. For all its techno-sheen, it plunges directly into the mainstream of art history, probing the visual and physical features of products to ask how a period understands itself and its direction. The work is spread across two rooms: a project gallery with the robots, and a main space containing a stylish living area. Homey and alienating as only showrooms can be, the latter space, complete with edible hydroponic plants that are watered by their chic modules, has been transformed by Christopher Kulendran Thomas into New Eelam, 2018, a prototype for a real estate startup that will allow globe-trotting professionals to find temporary residences in cities around the world—places for the digital placeless, homes with automatic updates. This is a smartshow.

  • Keith Calhoun, Who's that man on that horse, I don't know his name, but they call him Boss, 1980, ink-jet print, 27 1/8 x 40".

    Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

    Art + Practice
    3401 W. 43rd Pl
    September 22 - January 5

    Located about an hour outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near the banks of the Mississippi River, is the former site of the Angola plantation, named after the place where many of the enslaved Africans who worked and died there purportedly came from. Now it is a prison, and its consolidation with other nearby plantations has swelled its size beyond the square mileage of Manhattan. It is a place of sport—boasting a nine-hole golf course and a stadium for the annual prison rodeos—and a place of surveillance, where police officers patrol on horseback to maintain control over the approximately six thousand inmates who manufacture, farm, and ranch for as little as four cents per hour.

    Training their eyes and camera lenses on the inmates of Angola, wife-and-husband team Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun have spent nearly four decades documenting the penitentiary. In photographs such as Two to a six-by-eight-foot cell at Angola Prison and Who’s that man on that horse, I don’t know his name, but they call him Boss, both 1980, one finds a visual reminder of the indignities of imprisoned life. The former work depicts two inmates sitting on their bedrolls on the cell floor. They're relaxing, but it looks unbearably hot. It likely was; central air and heating wasn’t installed in Angola cell blocks until the 1990s. The latter shows a mounted officer surveying a line of inmate farmers stretching to the perimeter of an expansive field. He wears a pith helmet—de rigueur for nineteenth-century European colonists in Southeast Asia and Africa. It’s a small, symbolic thing, this hat, but one that collapses temporal and geographic distance, giving visual weight to the grim and honest title of McCormick and Calhoun’s necessary exhibition: “Slavery, The Prison Industrial Complex.”

  • Genevieve Belleveau, Pressed, 2018, video, color, silent, 3 minutes 38 seconds.

    Genevieve Belleveau

    1345 Kellam Avenue
    October 27 - February 3

    Genevieve Belleveau’s solo exhibition “Circlusion” centers on a performance in which the artist vacuum-seals a participant adorned with fresh flowers inside a latex covering. At the opening, Belleveau herself was sheathed in the BDSM habit of a latex bodysuit and boots to facilitate the process, titled Vac-Bed Pressed Floral Arrangement Demo (all works, 2018). But the tone of the demo, completed with performers Iggy Soliven and Themba Alleyne, was more mutualistic than hierarchical: The seams of the bed were checked and rechecked, the air flow was tested, and decisions about the placement of angiosperms were unhurried.

    To be sealed is to be fixed in place, with both the pleasure of certainty—here I am—and the fear of death (has the device been set up properly?). The video Pressed elaborates on this spectrum of experience. From an aerial perspective, the camera repeatedly moves away from a series of human Ikebana in widening circles, expanding into a topographic view of an LA neighborhood, a man-made geography with a network of houses, freeways, and choking smog. This gyre animates the exhibition with a sense of dislocation and heightened sensuality as the freedoms and unfreedoms of aesthetic, ritual submission give way to the freedoms and unfreedoms of the city grid. As the titular term circlusion (defined on the press release as “a proposed antonym of the term penetration”) reminds us, active and passive roles are interconnected and necessarily relative, which suggests that that the reciprocity animating Belleveau’s intimate, physical performance might also liven the superorganism that is the social body.

  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mirror Ground Study (_1990600), 2016, ink-jet print in artist's frame, 24 7/8 x 21 5/8".


    Matthew Marks Gallery | 1062 N Orange Grove
    1062 N Orange Grove
    October 13 - December 22

    This five-person group show, spread across two gallery locations, has its most cogent moment in the pairing of sculptor Julia Phillips and photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya, both of whom create disorienting objects with unsettling relationships to the body. Phillips’s Intruder Study IV, 2017, is a phantasmal pseudo-tool that performs the titular action (intrusion) via a twenty-five-inch-long spiraling shaft, resembling an outsize drill bit, that at first glance appears to be made of metal. The clue to its actual composition is the jackhammer-type handle from which it hangs, an eleven-inch-wide strip of clay with indentations left by the hands that formed it. Its shiny, crackly salt glaze varnishes the tactual form with fleshy salmons, whites, and tans. Simultaneously action-oriented and inoperative, the tool’s true function seems to be stirring up sinister visions of surfaces (or skins?) pierced and penetrated.

    On the same wall hangs Sepuya’s Mirror Ground Study (_1990600), 2016, a kind of self-portrait in which the shadowy outline of the kneeling artist hovers behind a pale pink scrim. In his hand he holds a camera that pokes through a hole in the cloth, gently pulling it down to create a run of tension in the fabric from the top left corner to the lens. The stretching and puckering of the fabric render it nearly anthropomorphic, closer to latex than to skin. Its cut and quasi-bodily materiality is captured more precisely than the assumed subject of the photograph hidden behind it, perhaps indicating that a body’s surface hides more than it reveals. At the intersection of Sepuya’s and Phillips’s works, the viewer’s attention is drawn beyond the construction of the depicted objects, toward the multifarious construction of absent, obscured, and implied subjects.