Matthew Brannon

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 West Edgewood Place
September 9–October 21

Matthew Brannon, Concerning Vietnam: Bell AH-1S Cobra, Pilot’s Seat, 2016–2017, silk-screen with hand painting on paper, 66 1/2 x 52".

Americans born in 1971, such as Matthew Brannon, have a range of astrological signs, but share a political one: Richard Nixon. Thus the artist has given himself license to base a body of work on that retrograde subject, the Vietnam War. The screen prints in the ongoing series “Concerning Vietnam” imagine symbolic centers of command and control, from the Oval Office set up for a presser (Concerning Cambodia: Oval Office, April 1970, 2017) to a Huey cockpit littered with pilots’ trinkets (Concerning Vietnam: Bell UH-1D Iroquois, Cockpit, 2016–17). Comprising dozens of intricate layers, at the scale of classical history painting, each is a full-bleed tour de force. Concerning Vietnam: Air Force One, November 1963, 2017, depicts the plane’s interior sometime during John F. Kennedy’s last days. Spread across swaths of dust blue and army gold are articles of ladies’ clothing; on the table, a cascade of vintage memos recounts the runaway war, and a halftone rendering of a self-immolating monk pops into sudden focus.

As with Brannon’s previous works, his loose, graphic statements seem charged with narrative, like the polished outline of a fantasy studded with uncanny facts. Here, the human scale and first-person perspective are enough to lend the impression of control to those searching for meaning in their own horrorscope. Concerning Vietnam: Bell AH-1S Cobra, Pilot’s Seat, 2016–17, sets the viewer at the gauges and switches. FIRE 1 PULL, FIRE 2 PULL; screen 29, ink 50; the colors would flake apart like meat from hot bone.

Travis Diehl

f. marquespenteado

Freedman Fitzpatrick
Gower Plaza, 6051 Hollywood Blvd, 107
September 7–October 14

f. marquespenteado, 
salsa 01, 2017, 
hand-embroidered dyed curtain, wool, denim, 35 x 35".

The seemingly disparate mediums that comprise f. marquespenteado’s current exhibition, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”—collage, textile, and painting—seem to commune without hierarchy. In the press release, the artist describes a fictional scenario: Lupe, the protagonist, hosts a dinner in which she asks her friends to evaluate a new crush. While this framework may seem to unify all the other elements of the exhibition, the extreme detail in the physical works and the comparatively broad strokes of the story confuse such a reading. Take the collage salsa 01, 2017, for example—the repeated square embroidery that connects the orange-and-pink dyed curtain to the dark indigo of its denim support offers much more material specificity than its appetizer title can explain.

The policing of media hierarchies has a long history, from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s 1766 polemic, “Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry,” in which the Enlightenment-era critic suggests that the intermingling of visual and literary media is aesthetic ruination, to Sol LeWitt’s 1969 “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” which subsumes differences among media to elevate the procession of ideas. Marquespenteado’s work rejects both of these extremes. The closest analogue might be the myriad effects that come together to create an opera, but unlike that expressive mode’s grand claims to totality, the open-ended, handmade show here proves that incompleteness can be a part of harmony.

David Muenzer

Awol Erizku

Night Gallery
2276 East 16th Street
September 9–October 7

Awol Erizku, “OFF THE PIG” BEAUTIFUL BLACK MEN!, 2017, house paint and silk screen on plywood mounted on pallet, 51 1/2 x 60 x 6".

The appropriated images emblazoned on the multicolor wooden-pallet assemblages in Awol Erizku’s current exhibition, “Menace II Society,” are sourced from James Teemer’s rejected 1968 proposal for a Black Panthers coloring book. Teemer’s project had an interesting afterlife: Initially presented to the Panthers’ Sacramento chapter, party leadership deemed the book’s images inappropriate for children and had the first copies of it destroyed. Nevertheless, it eventually fell into the hands of the FBI, who used the volume as evidence in their ongoing campaign to discredit the party as an organized criminal enterprise.

Unlike the Afrocentric coloring books used by Glenn Ligon in his 2000 series “Colored,” Teemer’s images presented an admixture of romanticized scenes of an imagined Africa of yore and violent revenge fantasies of death and dismemberment. To one of those compositions, “OFF THE PIG” BEAUTIFUL BLACK MEN! (all works 2017), depicting three black men hacking away with sharp weapons at the body of a policeman/pig, Erizku has added a small, tattoo-like, crossed-out “12” to the chest of one of the figures. This sigil appears elsewhere in the artist’s wall-based assemblages—alongside basketball hoops and shooting targets in works such as Fuck 12 | Good Cop, Bad Cop. In a numerology of pain and control, “12” here refers to police in general but might specifically denote the narcotics unit of Atlanta’s police force. The Anti-Defamation League also identifies it as a number associated with white-nationalist hate groups.

Taken together, the many pieces of Erizku’s installation (other than a few ready-made objects that seem to be afterthoughts) require a thinking-through of the terms on which liberation is predicated. Do the ends justify the means?

Andy Campbell

Julia Feyrer

2130 Valley Blvd
September 3–November 5

Julia Feyrer, New Pedestrians, 2017, fused glass, scissors, mirror, 15 x 12 x 7". From the series “New Pedestrians,” 2017.

Body contorted and crouched, one marvels at Julia Feyrer’s vivid dioramic sculptures, low-lying stacks of quotidian odds and ends sandwiched between mirror and bright glass. Viewed from above, the series of works that comprise her installation “New Pedestrians,” 2017, is a curious study in reflective surfaces and rippled textures, the bulges and contours of her footprints impressed into the kaleidoscopic material. She juxtaposes the abstract, undulatory shapes of the glass sheets with familiar found forms hidden underneath. Dripping candles, open scissors, plastic pill organizers (turned vertical with dice hidden in cavities), magnifying glasses, and other curiously configured domestic objects prop up these fragile slabs that bear the artist’s corporeal mark. These small feats of gravity are stabilized only by epoxy putty. Is Feyrer implying that she stands on shaky ground?

Precarity likewise informs her 16-mm film Escape Scenes, 2014, for which the artist made recordings staging various found materials in the back of a shaky truck as she drove around Vancouver. Feyrer constructs flattened environments with trinkets and household items, framing the cityscape as much as she obscures it with her bizarre compositions. These meticulous structures, however, seem destined to shatter. In one act, a tiny wrecking ball topples a stack of fake bricks. In another, the jolt of the moving vehicle knocks the pieces out of a scenario depicting an incomplete puzzle of the Parthenon surrounded by rock formations and neon plastic sand timers. Her work, like the ancient Greek temple, lacks stability.

While frailty and destruction might masquerade as Feyrer’s constant companions, she demonstrates a singular knack for theatricality and facade. Her works are tightly choreographed constructions that, when we look closely, reveal the shapes, images, and stories in what might appear to be only smoke and mirrors.

Simone Krug

“HOME—So Different, So Appealing”

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
June 11–October 15

Pepón Osorio, Badge of Honor, 1995, two digital videos, black-and-white, sound, 19 minutes 25 seconds, prison bars, beds, steel toilet and sink, fabric, cigarette boxes, photographs, shoes, dresser, cabinet, nightstands, lamps, baseball cards, posters, reflective floor tile, trophies, air fresheners, clothes hamper, television monitor with sound system, basketballs, mountain bike, computer, plastic, watches, rings, black-and-white photographs, dimensions variable. Installation view.

And just like that, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is upon us. If this is the initiative’s opening salvo, then the portents are good. Organized by Chon A. Noriega, Mari Carmen Ramírez, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, this exhibition represents the efforts of three giants within the field of Latin American and Chicanx/Latinx curatorial practice.

The show excels in presenting intricate, and sometimes cumbersome, room-size installations. Luis Camnitzer’s Living Room, 1968, articulates a concrete poetry of domesticity, with vinyl stickers featuring words around the room where furniture and household objects would otherwise take up space. Thus, one can look out the “WINDOW” at a “TREE” or “FLOWER.” Amalia Mesa-Bains’s Transparent Migrations, 2001, is all mirror, glass, and crystal, with the exception of appropriated images of nineteenth-century casta paintings—Spanish colonial-era depictions of different combinations of mixed-race parents and their potential offspring—which appear to be deeply inset into a mirrored armoire. Nearby, Pepón Osorio’s virtuosic Badge of Honor, 1995, realizes two dissimilar spaces: a stark prison cell belonging to a father, and the exuberant bedroom of his teenage son. Two videos stage a conversation between the pair, yet a dividing wall keeps them apart.

Worth mention, also, are the videos by Raphael Montañez Ortiz. For his video Cowboy and “Indian” Film, 1958, Ortiz, according to Noriega’s catalogue essay, “chopped to pieces with a Tomahawk” a copy of the 1950 western film Winchester ’73. The fragments were then spliced together to the sounds of the artist performing what is only generically described in the video’s opening intertitle as a “Native American War Cry.” So often missing from histories of underground filmmaking, the artist’s works presciently bring together key artistic strategies that later in the twentieth century became de rigueur: appropriation, deconstruction, and the politics of identity in representation.

Andy Campbell

“Maven of Modernism”

Norton Simon Museum
411 West Colorado Boulevard
April 7–September 25

Diego Rivera, Blue Boy with the Banana, 1931, oil on canvas, 36 x 22".

Galka Scheyer thought blue was a mystical color. Her Richard Neutra–designed house, built in 1934, still stands in Hollywood on Blue Heights Drive. Her poodle was named Blue Blue. And when it came time to brand her favorite quartet of modernist painters—Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky—she went with the Blue Four.

The name caught. “Prophetess of the Blue Four,” proclaimed a November 1925 San Francisco Examiner article marking their West Coast debut. Dozens more shows would follow. A Jewish German heiress in exile since the Weimar years, Scheyer found California more receptive to her blau Bauhaus taste than chilly New York City. From Oakland to LA, she bought, sold, and boosted the likes of Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso, and Edward Weston.

Scheyer’s appetite for azure guided her collecting, too. A single blue bar anchors the churning black rectangles of Klee’s Possibilities at Sea, 1932. Blue Four? Try the watercolor Blue Shore, 1938, a birthday gift from Feininger. When Scheyer bought a painting from Diego Rivera, it had to be Blue Boy with the Banana, 1931. These are featured among more than a hundred paintings and photographs, ten vitrines of letters and ephemera, and (inexplicably) a single limestone sculpture in “Maven of Modernism” (the Norton Simon’s try at pithy branding).

Highlighting Cubists to caricaturists, Fauves to Group f/64, this portion of the Galka Scheyer bequest evinces a bohemian eccentricity tempered by good weather—and by good design. Indeed, the real finds amid the maven and her men are the exhibition announcements, business cards, and letterhead, all emblazoned by four blue lines like skinny modernist pillars: the logo of the Blue Four. Scheyer thought blue was a mystical color. It shows.

Travis Diehl