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An Te Liu

Anat Ebgi
2660 S La Cienega Blvd.
June 9–July 15

View of “An Te Liu: Transmission,” 2017.

On the cusp of Y2K—the calendar data bug that marked our inauspicious slump into the current millennium—satirical newspaper the Onion published an article describing the Vatican’s storage problems resulting from an aging, mentally compromised Pope John Paul II “just blessing everything in sight,” which required the construction of a giant reliquary to warehouse the arbitrarily holy trash. In his exhibition here, An Te Liu carves and casts elegant hunks of ceramic and bronze into modernist-looking abstractions whose enduring materials seem at odds with the disposability of the forms on which he draws.

Domestic objects and Styrofoam packaging are amalgamated into chic sculptures with varied allusions. Cast in bronze and looking battered, a disco ball becomes a Death Star (The Party’s Over, 2017) while an anonymous packing block takes on the cinematic gravitas of an ancient alien talisman (Sentinel [III], 2016). The resemblance of Gnomon, 2014–2017, to a 1918 version of Brancusi’s Endless Column is perhaps the wryest riposte to faith in an essential truth of materials. The skewed symmetry of Liu’s modular parts suggests impending collapse, lending the affect of the cold metal shapes an odd vulnerability.

Set upon plinths, platforms, and beveled recesses on one side of the gallery, the installation perfectly mimics the theater of archeological museum display. The dais is recast as a stage (which you are welcome to walk upon if you remove your shoes), and the works pulse with clownish, deadpan brilliance. At the dawn of the next millennium (if our species makes it that far) landfills may reveal more about how we lived and what we valued than the holy trash of museums.

Christina Catherine Martinez

“Blackout”

Ibid Gallery | Los Angeles
670 S Anderson Street
April 22–July 8

Richard Hamilton, Patricia Knight II, 1982, etching on paper, 15 x 11".

Collages can be construed as a mode of time travel, as they are made from bits of material or images, usually culled from everyday life, that are put into adjacency. Those who seek to interpret collages not only keep in mind the effects a particular work might have on a viewer (surreal and uncanny are old sawhorses) but also that they must record the respective histories of the individual pieces of the whole, relaying how images and text can be repurposed, retooled, and resignified. In this way the technique has been proposed as a thoroughly modern or postmodern (pick your poison) media. It might also describe a particular kind of curatorial approach—this seems to be true of “Blackout,” which brings together three artists from three different generations who are handily more dissimilar than they are alike: Carlo Mollino, Richard Hamilton, and John Stezaker.

Hamilton’s prints look a lot like collages, while Stezaker’s works live and die by the success of their optical effects, with Shades, 2016, as an example of the artist in top form. Hamilton’s aquatints, Patricia Knight I and II, both 1982, feature the actress standing in bare, simply rendered interiors. Disarticulated from their original context—a photographic still from the Douglas Sirk–directed noir Shockproof (1949) in which Knight stands in the middle of a room, the dead body of a man at her feet—the images of the actress dodge the generic conventions of his source material, just as the etching process likewise removes some of the specificity of her facial expression. Here may very well be the blackout of the show’s title, at once a suturing of time and an elision of historical memory.

Andy Campbell

Sabrina Gschwandtner

Shoshana Wayne Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave # B1
June 3–July 22

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Teresa Li), 2017, 16-mm polyester film, polyester thread, lithography ink, permanent marker 68 x 46".

When Rosalind Krauss wrote in 1979 about grids as one of the mythic structures of modern art, she was clearly not thinking about quilts. But one of her main points—that the grid’s formal regularity represses a spiritual unconscious—is useful for considering Sabrina Gschwandtner’s quilts made from scraps of 16-mm film. The magic of these works is that the geometrical compositions of discards reveal an immanent world of human bodies laboring in tiny images, all lit from behind via light boxes or LED panels. This is no regressive return to the realm of belief, illusion, or fiction that modernism claimed to have banished, though. Rather, these pieces ruminate on film as material and the cinematic image as bearer of the real, encased in polyester and speaking from an earlier time.

The repurposed footage is mostly from educational films about sewing, arranged by color to create what from afar looks like color-blocked square or striped compositions. The entire show is concerned with reevaluating women’s crafts as art. Gschwandtner mastered her process and style for this body of work over a number of years, but two pieces, Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Roderick Kiracofe) and Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Teresa Li) (all works cited, 2017), mark a new, more gestural command of the technique. Finally, Hands at Work Video productively explores a tension between mechanical and digital reproduction. Here, the grid has been torqued into a composition of elongated diamonds, a pattern of crisply rendered shapes through which we peer into a world of analog vitality: moving images of hands at work.

Jennifer Peterson

Rosha Yaghmai

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 South La Brea Avenue
May 19–July 8

Rosha Yaghmai, Imitation Crab, 2017, silicone, cotton, pigment, tin weave, bricks, 84 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 4".

This calls for rose-tinted glasses. Rosha Yaghmai’s enchanting exhibition consists of a collection of objects that radiate mauve, periwinkle, and lilac. The assembled furniture—benches, curtains, lamp-like structures—appear still, a carefully arranged tableau. The artist envisions the gallery space as a threshold, a site of transition from interior to exterior, oscillating between public and private. On each wall, heavy silicone curtains affixed to brick resemble doors, portals into—or, perhaps, escape routes out of—her oneiric world.

Infused with pigment and bits of fabric that range from tulle to quilting cotton, her flat entryways also act as paintings displaying bright, geometric, minimalist patterns. In Imitation Crab (all works 2017), blue swirling motifs recall handprints, feeling around the material in an enigmatic trail. Dangling from steel hooks, these silicone sheets seem to pendulate between the space of the courtyard and what may lie just beyond its enclosure.

In her series “Pipe,” thick panes of hardened resin appear to drip from upright rusted plumbing formations. Each resin sheet traps bubbles, imperfections, and, most notably, varying shapes and hues of photochromic-sunglass lenses. The floating purple circles and gray ovals evoke organic forms like sea mollusks or petrified bugs enclosed in amber. These lenses assume an abstract but also ethereal quality. The summarily titled Courtyard, Fiberglass Bench whispers in the same octave, radiating a purple-hued variant of Klein Blue. Viewers are invited to sit here and peer through her opaque figures and distorted windows. Yaghmai’s courtyard becomes a site for reflection, refracting light as it fosters introspection.

Simone Krug

Bernadette Corporation

House of Gaga | Los Angeles
2228 W 7th St, 2nd floor (entrance on S. Grand View St.)
May 17–July 8

Bernadette Corporation, Heliogabalus Beer Sign, 2017, laser etching on half-clear acrylic, aluminum channel, RGB LED light tape, 16 x 13".

The three most common ways to serve in beer pong are the arc, the fastball, and the bounce shot. While the arc is the most efficient at clean entry, the fastball (or kamikaze shot) is an effective technique for wiping out multiple cups at a time, if the house rules that a fallen one be cleared from the table. However, any pro of the game will tell you that no matter the technique, beer pong is a level playing field, as disorderly arrangements of drinks can be repositioned, and experts and rookies alike are at an inebriated disadvantage.

Bernadette Corporation’s exhibition “The Gay Signs” (a wordplay on Nietzsche’s 1882 The Gay Science) teases the dominating double-team of power and class by apposing meticulously fabricated beer pong tables, featuring quotes from the philosopher Sylvère Lotringer printed on vinyl (Sylvere Stream 3 Pong [all works 2017]), with treasures culled from MacArthur Park—a major stomping ground for the Los Angeles homeless population. The scavenged finds reside in an infinity mirror, Heliogabalus Pong, near a sign incorporating the Budweiser bowtie logo and the visage of the child emperor/party animal/gender nonconformist/Artaudian muse Heliogabulus (Heliogabalus Beer Sign). The score in this anarchic arena is kept by a LED banner transcript of Kanye West’s rant at a concert in Sacramento last November, shoved into a plastic garbage bin (I love him who keeps back no drop of spirit to himself [Kanye stream]).

This show takes language, and artmaking, as a sport. The gimcrack affectation of the display confronts the highbrow concepts of the work. With all the players soused, the tactics of sense are struck from the table, and the cups come toppling down.

Meg Whiteford

Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami

Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
May 6–August 27

Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami, untitled 16, 2015, ink and digitally printed sticker on paper, 18 x 15".

It’s called “bullet hell” for a reason: In this die-hard subgenre of 2-D shooters, the player’s lone plane makes twitchy forays against radiating swarms of missiles and beams. Oliver Payne is a fan of the games, though, he admits, also very bad at them—but never mind, the goal is to mash the trigger while slipping into and through the patterned psychedelia of wave upon Voidborn wave of pullulating munitions. Payne’s present collaboration with Keiichi Tanaami—a pioneer of Japanese Pop art with, among other things, a vintage Jefferson Airplane album cover to his credit—makes a mesmerizing combo of their styles. Stickers of 16-bit missiles and bombs are superimposed onto twenty-nine of Tanaami’s drawings—blooming demigods, mushrooming courtesans, and what looks like the occasional Muppet, rendered in fleshy black lines. All untitled and dated to 2015, the works’ sprays and starbursts mostly mimic actual moments of gameplay. Tanaami’s drawings play the boss, streaming blue-hot death from eyes and crotch. In a few pieces, Payne’s embellishments take on a sense of mark-making themselves: for example, the teeth on a skeleton, like molten fillings, or a bouquet of detonations beside a skull with long lashes. In a previous 2013 series of collages, Payne stuck bullet hell stickers to photos of Greco-Roman antiquities. The Tanaami pieces, too, unlike the video games they reference, feel classically on pause. In the oval calm of this museum’s “vault” gallery, the bombs are poised and the plane is still.

Travis Diehl

Al Loving

Art + Practice
3401 W. 43rd Pl
April 22–July 29

Al Loving, untitled, 1979, paper collage, 40 x 30".

So voracious is the presence of the twelve works in this focused retrospective of Al Loving’s work, set as they are against the inert framing of the white cube, that they might be better described by the activities that resulted in their making: stack, weave, layer, tear, cut, drip. The five works in the first gallery are essentially collages of interwoven spirals and grids, often brightly painted, glittered, and glossed to a gaudy, reflective shine. At once galactic and crafty, they push against orthodoxies of the medium, as they are without ground or matrix onto which the various elements are placed. In other words, they are all collage, with a happy excess of sinuous exposed edges. The largest of these works, Barbara in Spiral Heaven, 1989, carries traces of the artist’s hard-edge paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as his groundbreaking quilted canvas constructions of the mid- to late 1970s. When one realizes that each work in this gallery was made in 1989, they perform the visual equivalent of placing exclamation points at the end of a sentence. 1989!!! Al Loving!!!

Some of the others in the second room trade in more representational content: the building-like Mercer Street VII, #9, 1988, the two bodies embracing in an untitled work on paper from 1979, and the barbed wire surrounding the Soweto township in apartheid-era South Africa (Soweto #1, ca. 1980). They are also remarkable, if moodier and with reservations about the state of the world. This jewel box of a show will travel to the Baltimore Museum of Art later this year, opening in mid-October. Until then, and if in LA, you should return again and again, like a spiral, deepening and expanding your appreciation for this still woefully underappreciated artist.

Andy Campbell

Mai-Thu Perret

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 West Edgewood Place
May 19–July 1

View of “Mai-Thu Perret: Féminaire,” 2017.

When Monique Wittig wrote Les Guérillères (The Guerillas) in 1969, she was already a celebrated author in France. She pioneered a mode of storytelling that put female protagonists at the epicenter, and formulated a writing style that set narrative fragments in loose coordination with one another, challenging orthodox boundaries between prose and poetry (something that fellow feminist theorist Hélène Cixous would later term l’ecriture feminine). Les Guérillères chronicles the goings-on of an army of women. Throughout the text, in which Wittig’s subjects are often referred to collectively, the women tell each other stories, argue about the cosmologies and myths most appropriate to their ideal society, play complicated games, destroy buildings, and attack enemies with rocket launchers, machine guns, and mirrors.

Mai-Thu Perret’s installation takes council from Wittig’s novel, presenting a group of nine mannequin-like soldiers (made out of a heterogeneous mix of materials such as papier-mâché, wicker, ceramic, silicone, and metal) in various states of rest. Although they look anonymous, they’re molded after the visages of some of Perret’s closest friends and associates. Some, like Les Guérillères V, 2016, carry translucent AK-47 assault rifles. This is the army of lovers that cannot fail. Yet their inert aloofness, exacerbated by a high pedestal, puts their countenance on par with more traditional memorials. Together, they face a grid of thirty-two cast ceramic wall reliefs. Some of these, such as Add where there’s lots, reduce where there’s little, 2017, feature a carefully excised, perfectly round circle, a recurring symbol throughout the book. In The mind’s eye is as bright as the moon, 2017, the edges of the ceramic slab are gathered together, fingers having dug into it like a bite, with a graphic red glaze applied so thin so as to show a deep purple underglaze—a body and its viscera, a pliable politics, a picture of action.

Andy Campbell

Camille Blatrix

Bad Reputation
2007 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 729
May 21–July 8

Camille Blatrix, Eyes, 2017, dyed resin, steel, paper, 4 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/4"

The three small dyed-resin and metal sculptures that anchor Camille Blatrix’s current exhibition call to mind the injection-molded parts that find their way into modern households as light switches, plugs, or routers. But each of the artist’s sculptures, no bigger than an average hand, imbues these anonymous forms with emotional intensity via the care of his elaborate dye treatments and the memento stuffed in each ersatz device—a ticket stub, a note, or a plastic flower.

Facing the three mounted totems is a framed poster, Unview 2008/18 (all works 2017), in which a pixelated ink-jet print depicting a cap-wearing figure with crossed arms is overlaid with a three-part pie chart. Its colors correspond to those of the sculptures: rose (Skin), ultramarine (Blood), and purple (Eyes). Between the unlabeled chart (about which the press release notes only that it corresponds to an unspecified “election result”) and the portentous titles of the wall sculptures, there is a sense of pent-up energy. The metal pins near the top of each of these canisters go a step further, suggesting an explosive end.

By infusing sentiment and danger into forms that also evoke standard throwaway consumables, Blatrix’s combustible trinkets speak to a fundamental contradiction in commercial values: mass-produced products made of similar materials become desirable by representing a chance to be unique or express personal feelings. Take the perfume bottle, for instance, another vial with a pin. Along a hundred duty-free-shop shelves, year after year, row after row: “Obsession.”

David Muenzer

Lauren Greenfield

Annenberg Space for Photography
2000 Avenue of the Stars
April 8–August 13

Lauren Greenfield, Spring Break, Panama City, Florida, 2000, silver dye bleach print, 11 x 14".

This survey, titled “Generation Wealth,” is promoted as a morality tale, but it’s more of a master class in dramatic irony. For twenty-five years, Lauren Greenfield has photographed those who see money and fame as vehicles to happiness—celebrities, Ponzi schemers, wealthy teenagers, Russian oligarchs, the list goes on—while highlighting the vacancy of that pursuit. Donald Trump is exactly the sort of person Greenfield might photograph, and her artist statement included in the show plainly states that she sees his election as a symptom of such generational sickness. This exhibition sometimes suffers under the weight of its own moralizing impulse, but such acute foreshadowing makes these images vital, if not too late.

A short documentary about the photographer’s many series and own documentaries describes how she began taking pictures of privileged LA teenagers in the early 1990s—which formed her 1997 book Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood—and how she watched their obsession with consumption become a mirror of the larger world. A photograph of a woman who appears to be giving an upside-down blow job while on spring break, Spring Break, Panama City, Florida, 2000, precedes Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers by more than a decade. The cluttered frames of Greenfield’s later work give way to symbols loaded as Chekhovian guns: a Lucite pumpkin carriage at a gauche Disney World wedding; a golf club wielded in a gilded Chinese mega-mansion; a toddler’s tiny, suggestive tongue; a gaggle of designer bags. But she is most subtle, and powerful, when identifying the insecurity that an excess of information brings. In photographs from her documentary on anorexia, Thin (2006), she locates the vulnerability of people facing an overload of aspirational imagery. There is no clear moral to their struggle, and what her subjects long for is intangible.

Alexandra Pechman

Peter Shire

MOCA Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue
April 22–July 2

Peter Shire, Scorpion (Black) Teapot, 1996–2013, ceramic and steel, 13 x 31 1/2 x 12".

In an iconic 2001 essay by Jules Prown, the careful study of a teapot reveals the values of the Revolutionary War–era United States, a “symbol of the act of giving, of charity,” not to mention serving as “a structural metaphor for the female breast.” What would happen if we took Scorpion (Black) Teapot, 1996–2013, or any of Peter Shire’s many other teapots here, not only as evidence of an artistic repetition compulsion but as psychic condensations of our own cultural unconscious, soothing decanters for our postmodern hangover? The artist’s titles often index a modernist legacy, as in Early Bauhaus Teapot, 1975; Bauhaus Derrick Teapot, 1983; or Right Weld Chair, 2007, a play on the surname of De Stijl designer Gerrit Rietveld. And yet Shire’s works demonstrate a clowning fascination with surfaces, mimicry, and pastiche rather than a purist “truth to materials.” His investment in ceramics does not reveal clay’s earthy essence but rather exploits its plasticity. For Shire, the material can approximate anything: the iconic shape of kitschy cookies in Fortune Cookie Teapot, 1974; the sleek metal of Marianne Brandt’s own teapot in Hourglass Teapot, 1984; or an erotic, gravity-defying column of ceramic fruit, in Stacked Peaches Teapot, 2005.

This pantomime continues in his Memphis-style furniture, such as Harlequin Table, 1983, where white-on-black paint mimics a marble slab. In works throughout the show, such as the Obelisk Cabinet, 1981, or Right Weld Chair’s beachy gradient, a splatter paint of atomized colors makes a fetish of the object’s surface, encouraging the viewer to savor the exterior rather than investigate the core. Tirelessly translating graphic, abstract fantasies into sculptural reality, Shire’s works fly in the face of soft-spoken good taste and formal restraint, as if this were a world without precedent, convention, or oppression.

Grant Johnson

“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