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Bob Law at Redling Fine Art

In first several paragraphs of the text THE NECESSITY FOR MAGIC IN ART (Bob Law, May 1964, available during the recent exhibition Bob Law: Castle XXXIX, 1976 at Erica Redling Gallery and at the gallery website) I find Law writing about “the first known gestures of communicable marks” Paleolithic hand impressions. The artist sketched out possible developments from the discovery of mark making: from impressions, to marking around one’s hand, then outlining another object to be represented, and so on. This felt pertinent as I looked at Law’s painting Castle XXXIX (1976) which is a plain rectangular canvas with a pen outline just inside the edge, all around. I’m not sure what I imagine the artist to be outlining, the simplicity of the gesture was quite affecting. It might be that the inscribed line is “true” to something, maybe some other dimension, but the artist made it crooked in relation to the edge of his  canvas – it veers a bit in at the bottom right and top left, like a parallelogram. I have read since the show that earlier examples of Law’s paintings include a date, and ones that were made very early included his signature. Why he slowly eliminated these marks I don’t know. It seems the outline always leans to the right. The canvas is dirty white – I recognize now (and check the list to be certain) that white paint covers it, and the oil has texture. Looking outward from near the center, the ink pen mark fades to a haze and I think of the  vague boundaries of time, and that these nearly disappear under scrutiny. There is...

Blank Canvases and Jonathon Hornedo and Claire de lune

I called from the street at 10:05 AM, in my dyslexic way I mistook 1952 for an odd number, and so I was looking on the wrong side of Clinton for Jonathon Hornedo’s gallery/studio. Hornedo answered fairly quickly and after some confusion he met me at the grill covered door, he wore a dress jacket, a polo shirt and a pair of worn corduroy trousers – urbane and gracious, he was ready to discuss the intellectual properties of art objects, his fondness for jazz, the local bar scene, and the current exhibition in his skylit, basement rooms. Using his hands as well as his voice – in fact moving dramatically as though on stage – Hornedo led me from painting to painting, offering insights to the work, skillfully leading me to ask questions and generally representing his artists with dry wit and passion. When his performance became mannered, as in such situations with professional dealers it sometimes does, it seemed that my guide recognized this, for with a self-deprecating laugh he waved his hand as though to sweep away dust and turned the conversation to his project of being an artist playing a dealer. The panels themselves were quite well-made, I found none of the bunched layers of canvas at the corners that appear in paintings of lesser quality. The canvas was tight against the panel and the lines were sharp, not rounded, not fat. The hand-made canvas Set For Jazz Trio – made to accommodate an impromptu concert played at the opening – was also well finished and interesting, it had a pre-Modern, Constructivist feel, and – as with the...

LARA BANK AND THE PORTABLE, POSSIBLE FOREST

Plants occupy a curious space in Los Angeles, along our endless boulevards, the slippery wild spaces, in our pragmatic urban gardens. Dressed in their rugged army and sour greens, saps and dusty forests, they feel heavy here, as if enduring an unfortunate reassignment from a primordial and pleasant film set to the present catastrophe-in-waiting. They hover, necessarily detached from a place that, despite its force, can’t match their slow power. Their mystical authority resounds elsewhere. Here they seem provisional occupants, their majesty unhinged. We need them and rush by them. Without a clear right to existence, they seem, like the rest of us, touched, agitated, leaning toward the bygone. When an artist works with plant life as her primary material, she risks capitalizing on the pathos of the plant in an environment governed by reaction and speed. Their insistent presences, their fragility, are easy plots in a city in love with heroes who reaffirm life’s unalterable brutality. For Lara Bank, whose major recent projects include Tree and Space, The Portable Forest, and the beloved Sea and Space Explorations, plants are raw material, conscripts in a larger concern about power and the right to existence. Lara Bank founded and directed Sea and Space Explorations, an exhibition space that asked straightforward questions about the relationship between the artist and the art gallery. The project treated the art space as less a privileged enclave than a hub of connection and exchange. In the short span of two years, Bank hosted over 300 artists in an array of inventive, intelligent exhibitions, situated largely in conceptual or relational practice. Bank’s integrity and adamant fostering...

Selbstbildnis

“Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” African Proverb (Ewé, Mina) Ever since arriving in Salzburg, Austria almost two weeks ago, I have tried to find words and images that might effectively describe everything that is happening. Sure, a picture can say a thousand words, but words themselves are rather limited in their capacity to accurately translate, one-to-one, the richness of a direct or authentic experience. Anything, that I write or photograph will always fall somewhat short of the actual event. However, it is important that I attempt to transcend the boundaries of language (both written and visual) in an earnest effort to share with you what I have been experiencing here. Firstly, I have never felt more alive. The air is crisp and the views are breathtaking. Clouds blend into mountain peaks which roll into lush hills lined with trees and open fields. Somewhere between all of that, narrow roads bend between humble homes and noble abodes. The entire scene is something out of a movie. Literally. (The Sound of Music was filmed here and tourists from all over the world flock the city to take photographs of locations and landmarks used during filming). The whole thing is completely beautiful and bizarre at best. Ironically, along with the elation of being alive, comes the heartbreakingly concrete awareness of my own mortality—understanding the fact that someday, I too, will die. Perhaps this realization is simply one that develops with age. Either way, the first of only two absolute truths is this: LIFE is DEATH. Regardless of what one believes of...

Kevin Appel, “Paintings” at Susanne Vielmetter

I’ve spent twenty minutes in Kevin Appel’s Paintings show and find myself back where I started, near the entry. I need this period of just looking at an artist’s work before I can start using my mind – the process reminds me of learning hopscotch or intuiting grammar from conversations in a foreign tongue. Here I begin making  notes. (Good grief, these brushstrokes are beautiful. No wonder people paint. It’s like cheating.) Salton Sea (room 2) is masked with a large area of wide brushstrokes, these are in a shade of white. Now returning to the first painting in the gallery, Salton Sea (window), I see that the not-quite-label-dots obscuring the surface of this painting also contain brushstroke information. (One layer of information that is, for in Appel’s work there exist several layers each of visual, physical and conceptual information. There is a photographic base to these paintings – Appel takes pictures of landscapes (“in the landscape,” the artist says) and he mechanically applies them to treated canvas and then by hand he paints over them. (Here I want to keep in mind the insubstantial nature of photographic images.) Allow me to digress: looking at Salton Sea (heap), I find black, oily smears, these are veined as though they are spreading or are under pressure. (There are such colored smears on several paintings in the show.) The smears remind me of chemical mishaps that might be experienced using Polaroid cameras, when the developer would squeeze out of the pouch across the photo print. Appel’s paintings, which were begun in the camera, make reference to the photographic process again and again....

Silence, an exhibition at the Menil Collection curated by Toby Kamps (August 13 and 16, 2012)

When I cause a silence, say by turning off an appliance or music, and also when chance gives me one, as when I wander into a quiet street in a busy city, I get an immediate rush of nothing, after which another order of sound is revealed. Small noises assert themselves, and the sounds that my body makes gain presence. (The voice in my mind is always there, and while silent is never quiet.) Total silence escapes me. The exhibition Silence (at the Menil Collection through October 21 and opening at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in January) brings silence to the table as medium, as support and as inspiration for a group of historical and contemporary artists. Curator Toby Kamps kept John Cage’s 4’33” at the front of his mind as he organized the exhibition and by installing the two scores in a main gallery, he gives Cage’s piece center stage physically as well. Several of the works in this show respond directly to John Cage’s 4’33”, and at the artist’s talk the score was mentioned often. Another piece – Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting – Cage himself spoke of as an inspiration for his silent musical score. I’ve read accounts of the 4:33 experience from people who have attended a concert and often what is noted are the environmental, and ambient sounds that one hears. When I heard the piece played at the MAK Center in LA ten years ago, I too came away remembering the odd things that I heard from the surrounding city. But after a decade of thought and time, I wonder...