PRINT December 2010

Richard Hawkins

1 Larry Johnson (Marc Jancou Contemporary, New York) On the heels of his pencil-prodded jackass (leave it to Johnson to take the precedent of Max Fleischer’s “Out of the Inkwell” and turn it into the Subject’s eroticized interpolation between the Real and the Imaginary), the artist’s turn to predigital “cold type” and pasteup marks the start of an even more evocative and provocative investigation of mediation and touch. From the wax and glue in the pasteups, I immediately jumped to bodily fluids and found in Johnson’s latest work a tertiary addition to the studium/punctum matrix: sputum. And then wound up square in the lap of Warhol’s prescient use of index/image: piss paintings.

2 John McAllister (James Fuentes, New York) McAllister’s paintings are Debussyish Matisseries, particularly Innerly Innerness, 2010, with its “red studio” floating atop sweetly dissonant fields of pink, orange, and purple stripes.

3 "They Have Not the Art to Argue with Pictures” (Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles) When Hollywood screenwriters want to offer insight into the mind of a psychopath, they write a scene in which an investigator stumbles upon the deranged killer’s private praxis. It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that they never find a watercolorist but, inevitably, a practitioner of photocollage. Robert Heinecken’s own decidedly unprecious and even violently vulgar revised and compromised magazines were the standouts in this show of mostly younger artists (Erik Frydenborg, Nicolás Guagnini, Wade Guyton, Leigh Ledare, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Collier Schorr) who, in one way or another, seem rather bashful when compared to their predecessor’s brilliant depravities.

4 Mark Grotjahn (Blum & Poe, Los Angeles) No matter what Grotjahn’s detractors may say about marketability and assisted production, his new large-format oil-on-cardboard-on-linen paintings are entrancing—particularly in the scale of detailed incidental mark to surface. The works benefit from the artist’s scrupulous study of painting’s past: They take up the corner-to-corner linear entanglements of Marden and Winters and trump Richter’s microfacture with the grubby palette-knife edge of de Staël and Joan Brown. Most of all, I’m reminded of Jean Fautrier . . . but run through the most marvelous shredder.

5 Vincent Fecteau (greengrassi, London) Fecteau spends an immense amount of time banishing real-world referents from his work. Consequently, references abound. I thought of space helmets fashioned by a cargo cult, a Cub Scout cannibal’s craft store creation, fancified glory holes for two-pronged trannies, etc.

6 “Hammer Projects: Stephen G. Rhodes” (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; curated by Ali Subotnick) The confrontational mayhem and balls-out history smashing that abounds in Rhodes’s practice continues the work of, say, Douglas Huebler’s “Crocodile Tears,” 1981–, where, within a morass of interconnected allusions, meaning gets shaken and stirred (if not altogether gargled and spat out).

7 “Gauguin: Maker of Myth” (Tate Modern, London; curated by Amy Dickson, Tamar Garb, Christine Riding, and Belinda Thomson) I’m picking this for the paintings, of course, but even more for Gauguin’s rarely seen artist’s books, which conflate found photographs, hand-copied poems and texts, reproductions of woodcuts and of influential artists’ works, and Gauguin’s own drawings and writings. Though overlooked by collage historians, the artist’s investigations of juxtaposition and rupture go much further than the quaint recontextualizations of Victorian scrapbooks. They also predate by two decades the experiments of Picasso and Braque.

8 Lari Pittman (Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Regen Projects II, Los Angeles) One gallery was full of outlandish new paintings; the other was densely packed with spectacular artists’ books (made in collaboration with Dennis Cooper and Jonathan Hammer) and works on paper. Writing on Pittman, at least in the press, tends to devolve into autobiographical anecdote and dichotomized description (renewal/decay, decorative/grotesque, etc.), while completely missing the Auntie Mame politics that were so amply in evidence here—i.e., queenly exhortations to defy tragic conservatism with ever more decadent actings out.

9 Joe Goode, Purple (Artforum Name) (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) I haven’t spent too much time in galleries over the past twelve months. I’d like to say I was busy, but really I was nonplussed: Every time I did venture out I saw hardly anything but blandness chasing after Conceptualist pedigrees. Though perhaps a counterintuitive selection for my “best of 2010,” given that it was made in 1961 and has been in storage since 2008, I assert the timeliness of Joe Goode’s painting because it hovered before me like a retinal negative all year, the antithesis of so much that I saw. Had it been on view, I think it would have been a universal curative for aesthetic anhedonia, but I have my own Melanie Klein–ish reasons for liking it: phallic milk bottle; canvas (large and looming like a mother’s body, from an infant’s point of view) sucked dry and then smeared with the most glorious purple excreta. But its provenance reveals its own Conceptual pedigree: “Gift of Michael Asher.”

10 “Brion Gysin: Dream Machine” (New Museum, New York; curated by Laura Hoptman) It’s about time this radical experimenter got some exposure and some attention. And while I’m on the subject of oversights, could someone please organize a Charles Henri Ford exhibition?

Richard Hawkins is an artist living in Los Angeles. His first major museum survey, “Richard Hawkins: Third Mind,” curated by Lisa Dorin, opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in October and travels to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in February 2011