Ruth Root

356 S. Mission Rd.
356 South Mission Road
September 15–November 12

Ruth Root, Untitled, 2017, fabric, Plexiglas, enamel paint, spray paint, 93 x 56 1/2".

From a distance, Ruth Root’s shaped paintings appear tight and formal, but up close her hand is loose, almost sloppy. Their surfaces reveal the brush’s starts and stops, where paint pooled in lumpy relief. Alternating bands of color are often done freehand, in wavering lines. The overall impression is similar to that of approaching somebody standing stiffly in a three-piece suit, only to discover he is drunkenly slurring his words, and finding everything he says to be riveting.

Every work in this show is on Plexiglas, with a fabric component attached. Root gives the lie to the old saw that abstraction is disconnected from life by fusing the two. Her forms are geometric and biomorphic, but not quite figurative; they are silhouettes of ideas about painting, space, and our relationship to the world. She designs all the fabrics, creating repeating patterns that include images of her work and Frank Stella’s, slices of pizza, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face. In one work (all Untitled, 2017), the painted portion is black with horizontal lozenge shapes entering from the left and the right, five on each side. Like patriotic pills, the lozenges are filled with red, white, and blue dots, but they also resemble fingers laid across one’s chest, the fabric above suggesting a cravat.

The artist plotted out this installation, hanging every painting on a floating wall a little wider than each piece, sharpening the figure-ground relationships. As it’s difficult to see more than one or two at a time, the works become sequential in the mind, each morphing into the next in an animated wheel of memory.

Daniel Gerwin

Los Super Elegantes

GAVLAK | Los Angeles
1034 N Highland Avenue
September 9–November 4

Los Super Elegantes, Decorating With Dogs, 2017, glazed ceramic, Martiniano shoes, dimensions variable.

Is now the right time to historicize the aughts? Milena Muzquiz and Martiniano Lopez-Crozet, who began releasing music together as Los Super Elegantes in 2001, were darlings of the art world then; they appeared numerous times in these pages (both on the Web and in print), usually in the context of extravagant parties. But their practice was weightier than all that might imply. Muzquiz, who is from Tijuana, and Lopez-Crozet, who was born in Buenos Aires, started their act in San Francisco, performing up and down the West Coast in a style that mixed improvisatory theater, performance art, and rock-star shenanigans. The duo made confounding, earworm pop at a moment when executives in the record industry were seemingly wringing their hands (but secretly filling their pockets) over the “crossover” successes of Latin American singers such as Ricky Martin and Shakira.

It is time to consider their practice anew. Since they stopped producing music (their last album came out in 2009), the two have lain low, exploring their own areas of interest—ceramics for Muzquiz and leather footwear for Lopez-Crozet. Evidence of these efforts is brought together in a stage-cum-catwalk that served as a platform for an opening-night performance. Eucalyptus, bubble wrap, a mop head, and a wine bottle, among other objects, hang above the set in delicate balance (Calder Mobile by Los Super Elegantes, 2017), and on a nearby wall Lopez-Crozet’s shoes are placed around Muzquiz’s glazed ceramic sculpture of hands (Decorating with Dogs, 2017). In the opening performance’s climax, Los Super Elegantes expressionistically painted a blank canvas and the surrounding wall, all to a pulsing dance beat. It was a parody of a parody of what many believe the creative process to be—and, if we’re to look back with a gimlet eye, maybe it always was.

Andy Campbell

Mary Corse

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 South La Brea Avenue
September 16–November 11

Mary Corse, Cold Room (detail), 1968/2017, Argon, Plexiglas, high-frequency generator, light tubes, monofilament, compressor, refrigeration panels, plaster, 50 x 50 x 6 1/2". Installation view.

It is a wonder to step inside Mary Corse’s Cold Room, 1968/2017, an installation that took the artist nearly fifty years to realize. Once you’re past the sliding door and within the small, freestanding space, a distinct feeling of solitude descends. Immediately, skin responds: every exposed inch enlivened by the temperature-controlled room. A floating plane of light (argon and tubes) flickers with inconstancy, powered from a distance by a hidden Tesla coil. (The artist has been building high-frequency generators for similarly functioning works since she took a physics class in the late 1960s.) Unlike Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored infinity rooms, which tend to drive even the most dispassionate art viewer into a social-media frenzy, Cold Room is a place of retreat and quietude, absorption and reflection.

This is true, too, of the other works in this show, all paintings completed in the past seventeen years. In art-historical accounts, if Corse is discussed at all, she gets placed at the edges of California’s Light and Space movement. This is at once apropos and entirely beside the point. Phenomenological perception of light is certainly a major theme in her work—as evidenced by the prodigious use of tiny glass microspheres, the kind used to paint white lines on asphalt roads, which shimmer and animate the surfaces of paintings such as Untitled (White Multiband, Beveled), 2011. But there are other concerns as well: the way the spheres seem expressionistically streaked in raking light, or how the five untitled paintings from the ongoing “DNA Series,” 2017–, employ shiny black acrylic squares, as if someone had dragged a Barnett Newman painting through a Bob Mackie showroom, lifting some of the seriousness of Corse’s sparse palette.

Andy Campbell

Ariana Papademetropoulos

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 South Santa Fe Avenue, Unit A
September 16–October 26

Ariana Papademetropoulos, ‘spirit of Elvis be my sugar daddy,’ 2017, oil on canvas, 60 x 60".

Los Angeles–based artist Ariana Papademetropoulos recasts the cult of domesticity as hallucinatory fantasy: Watermarks tear Lynchian portals into her oil-on-canvas re-creations of photos depicting retro-kitsch interiors. A bedroom suffocated with royal-purple floral fabric appears in psychedelic relief in Best thing about not dating a scientologist is that I can do acid again (all works 2017). A bile-green aperture is superimposed over a bathroom with gaudy wallpaper, golden drapery, and a porcelain throne—rather unlike the one Presley died in—for ‘spirit of Elvis be my sugar daddy.’ In this lineup, Holy Water is a breath of fresh air: The watermark disintegrates the walls of a grand venue, opening it up to a misty mountainscape; chandeliers hang from the blue gauze sky; the empty theater seats are turned away from the natural splendor.

On a platform upholstered in plush magenta, Women Running Away From Houses displays an array of gothic romance novels whose covers portray women escaping from mansions, villas, and castles. A shrunken doorway in the gallery leads into a space reminiscent of a bedroom (Secret of Pale Lover), evoking the illusions of growth and shrinkage endemic to any acid trip. Here is a giant tennis racquet, a leveled bed with swan-shaped posts and mussed satin sheets, and a tiny chair. A ladder leads not to a window or an exit but to a vanity mirror, and a vintage exercise bike is poised near a TV encased in mossy plastic stone—a nod to Pippa Garner’s absurdist installation Thoughtspace, 1984. The tube plays a film of the artist exploring a mansion in a giant hamster ball. As Richard Lovelace wrote: “Stone walls do not a prison make / Nor iron bars a cage.”

Natasha Young

Jagdeep Raina

915 Mateo Street, Suite 210
September 23–October 28

Jagdeep Raina, From dawn till dusk, we watched helplessly as you drove away, leaving us with nothing more then these bitter tastes and memories, 2015, mixed media on paper, 50 x 60 1/2".

Amid the polarizing global immigration discourses currently seething, a group of Jagdeep Raina’s works on paper reassesses a historic episode among Punjabi populations living within Canadian borders. Working mostly from memory, the artist drew several archival photographs of a 1949 visit to a Sikh temple in Vancouver by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru’s role in negotiating India’s independence had drawn the ire of many Sikhs, particularly in Punjab, whose 1947 partition along religious lines resulted in immense violence and the displacement of millions when India and Pakistan became independent dominions.

Shades of gray embedded in the artist’s source photographs fall away in his starkly contrasting compositions, limned in dense thickets of charcoal. He locates a chromatic punctum in the figural embodiment of Nehru, and the pathos of this subject’s recurring presence pulsates viscerally throughout the exhibition. In the cinematically composed From dawn till dusk, we watched helplessly as you drove away, leaving us nothing more than these bitter tastes and memories, 2015, a large midcentury-style sedan slices through the foreground of a scene outside the West Second Avenue temple. In lieu of a noirish villain, the Indian leader, crudely articulated in cherry hues, gazes outward from the back seat. Two piercing black dots and a cartoonish, parabolic frown mark his visage while a shock of flames emanates from his head.

The nimble interplay of materials within these works rewards close inspection. Inconspicuously collaged paper cutouts echo fastidiously rendered throngs of people and towering architectural structures that stand like thinly stacked facades. In all their nuanced optics, they issue a call to consider the potential for photographic documents to continually resurface, resignify, and enable new narrative slippages among contested political histories.

Jeanne Dreskin

Sowon Kwon

Full Haus
2042 Griffith Park Blvd
September 2–December 3

Sowon Kwon, Coffee Table and Escritoire (after Godwin), 1994, wood, paint, plaster, dimensions variable. Installation View.

Sowon Kwon’s current exhibition highlights the importance of punctuation in successful communication. For example: the comma, that curlicue of the sentence, was invented to accommodate written language to the process of reading out loud. The mark heralds a caesura while simultaneously conjoining words and clauses; such are the hairline semiotics of this artist’s work.

From Coffee Table and Escritoire (after Godwin), 1994, a relief-sculpture re-creation of an “Anglo-Japanese” design by Edward William Godwin, to Fiction, 2017, a relief covered in false eyelashes, to a collection of artist’s books, these works delight in the collation of disparate things, undermining legibility and singularity of authorship or identity. By freely associating artists such as Ed Ruscha, Sylvia Plath, and herself (as in the artist’s book dongghab, 2010), Kwon imagines a self-portraiture fabricated from the most diminutive of links. In her book S as in Samsam, 2017, she draws upon the droll chance of homographs, short-circuiting the relation between signal and sign—in this case, “sam,” the Korean word for teacher, and the English given name. The pieces here seem made for interior space—domestic and psychological, between and inside the subject and the predicate, the seen and the read, and in the breath taken for a pause.

Meg Whiteford

David Lamelas

Sprüth Magers | Los Angeles
5900 Wilshire Boulevard
September 7–October 21

University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
September 17–December 10

View of “David Lamelas: Time As Activity,” 2017. From left: Time as Activity Madrid, 2017; Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969.

The paragraphs-long labels that accompany the many works in David Lamelas’s retrospective at California State University, Long Beach, some on display for the first time in the US, point to an artistic career of heady investigations into visual hermeneutics. Spurred on by the works of media theorists (Marshall McLuhan), structuralist thinkers (Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss), and novelists (Marguerite Duras), Lamelas constructs pieces that unfold over time—requiring both patience and thought from a viewer. Slide projectors accompany a short film in Film Script (Manipulation of Meaning), 1972, ultimately complicating the narrative by providing a detour from the film’s seductive continuity. Works such as Los Angeles Friends (Larger Than Life), 1976—comprising forty pencil drawings and a slideshow—and the book Publication, 1970/97, showcase the artist’s dry humor and proves he is deeply embedded in international Conceptual art networks.

At Sprüth Magers, various excerpts are presented from Lamelas’s ongoing series “Time as Activity,” 1969–. Each piece is a study in film, sometimes with accompanying photographs, of the passage of time. For the initial work, Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969, the artist trained a 16-mm camera on three areas of the German city’s commercial and artistic life. He made the claim that “what occurs on the screen has no aesthetic meaning,” but, as the series progressed, aesthetics became inevitably drawn into the fray. This is also the case in Time as Activity Madrid, 2017, wherein Lamelas, working digitally this time, recorded visitors viewing Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Nearly a half century separates these meditations on daily pursuits in politically tumultuous times, and still, we find ourselves making our way—morning, noon, and night. As these two shows demonstrate, Lamelas continues to be not only an adroit deconstructionist of images but a great believer in them as well.

Andy Campbell

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

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