reviews

  • View of “Blues for Smoke,” 2012–13. From left: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta, 1983; Kori Newkirk, Yall (detail), 2012; Kira Lynn Harris, But not the kind that’s Blue (detail), 2012; Richard Pryor, Richard Pryor Live in Concert, 1979; Beauford Delaney, Portrait of a Young Musician, n.d. Photo: Brian Forrest.

    “Blues for Smoke”

    MOCA Geffen Contemporary

    STANDING AT THE THRESHOLD of “Blues for Smoke,” one could see the following, reading from foreground to background: a video monitor playing Richard Pryor Live in Concert (1979); a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat; portraits of Jean Genet, Charlie Parker, and James Baldwin by Beauford Delaney; a row of fifty-one old-fashioned hard-top blue suitcases arranged by Zoe Leonard; a black-and-maroonish abstraction by Jack Whitten; a wall drawing by Kira Lynn Harris; and, hovering off to the left, a wall of Glenn Ligon’s black-on-gold Richard Pryor paintings, all inscribed with the same joke: “I was a

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  • Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video with CGI and hand-drawn animation, color, sound, 13 minutes 55 seconds.

    Jordan Wolfson

    Gallery at REDCAT

    Jordan Wolfson appears in his Raspberry Poser, 2012—a fourteen-minute video that premiered this winter at LA’s REDCAT—as a shaven-headed punk, his leather jacket emblazoned with the names of the Clash and the Jam, his bovver boots kicking up dust on a remarkably anodyne dérive through the streets of Paris. In one telling scene, the New York artist is shown wearing blackface while chatting amiably with an older gent on a park bench in the Sixième. A politically fraught collection of codes that would once have provoked fear and loathing in passersby fails here even to raise an eyebrow.

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  • Norman Zammitt, Diagonal 1, 1979, acrylic on canvas board, 9 x 12".

    Norman Zammitt

    Carter & Citizen

    Here’s a telling anecdote about Norman Zammitt’s large-scale paintings: His monumental North Wall, 1977, which featured prominently in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s “Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970,” was found displayed not on the walls but on the ceiling of its owners’ bedroom when it was tracked down by the show’s curators for their 2011–12 exhibition. The painting’s horizontal installation was ostensibly necessitated by its monumental size—eight by fourteen feet. But the decorative appeal of Zammitt’s big striped paintings (the very quality

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  • View of “Nikolas Gambaroff,” 2012.

    Nikolas Gambaroff

    Overduin & Co.

    Last September, Ei Arakawa commenced his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, “I am an employee of UNITED, Vol. 2,” at Overduin and Kite (Volume One preceded at Galerie Neu in Berlin), with a performance skewering the model of the peregrine, contemporary artist, who racks up frequent-flier miles en route to the far-flung venues where he carries out cultural services. The opening event involved a host of actions, including Arakawa alongside fellow New York artist and collaborator Nikolas Gambaroff and others hoisting and manipulating mannequins while slotting Gambaroff’s painting panels into

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  • View of “Stephanie Taylor,” 2012–13.

    Stephanie Taylor

    Samuel Freeman

    By boggling the name of gallerist “Sam Freeman,” LA artist Stephanie Taylor arrived at “Swam Sea Span,” the title of her recent show at his space. These three words, in turn, generated not just a punning narrative but also a set of related art pieces—six prints and three sculptures. As an introduction, a chantey-style hymn periodically sounded from a triangular speaker cabinet, telling the tale of an ill-fated channel crossing by a swimmer bearing, among other items, an ax, a foghorn, and a bottle of brandy. Such narration seemed to offer the possibility of deciphering the surrounding works

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