All notes written by David Bell | Notes on Looking

Untitled with Alice Wang

David Bell: Your latest show at ltd Los Angeles is a presentation of …Alice Wang, with all works Untitled. Is the show a self portrait? Alice Wang: The short answer is ltd presents… is “a dedicated space within the gallery to realize practice-based projects independent of the commercial gallery schedule and context.” That’s taken directly from the gallery website. So, I didn’t actually name the show “ltd presents… Alice Wang” if that’s what you were wondering. I never thought too much into it, but the way it’s phrased does make it seem like I’m being presented. But to answer your question, Untitled and Alice Wang are default null pointers I’ve been using since 2014 to satisfy the naming conventions of art exhibitions; one needs this type of language in order to refer to the show and the works in the show. It was a decision I happened upon after a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska back in the late summer of 2013. I was told by our tour guide that there was a moratorium issued to stop naming mountains after mountaineers. They were usually the last names of white male figures that led expedition teams through the wilderness of Alaska. There’s a kind of humor in that—naming mountains, which are just natural features in the landscape doing their own thing, also the hubris of it… I wanted to relinquish some control over my work, and allow the pieces to take on a consciousness of their own agency. D: I was walking the other day and came across a tree, with a tag on it that read “38b.” It was a beautiful mature oak...

Le Wail

  seeping and calm an absorber, a witness a fountain,  a friend grateful even   pushed around by your built replicas of me net and spear, still i care i could hide, i have worlds but i choose you migrating  through your tears   use all of me and gloat, smother me on your billboard lips cause Im as smooth as you are dull   i need no breath, and i am weightless, and that’s scary to you, i blow and you push again   and i’ll die easily to remain sacred i have nothing to...

Ragen Moss: A Rregular Shaped Tool

As a child, our shed always provided endless avenues of exploration. It wasn’t really our shed though, it was a part of the property where we lived that my mother managed. This storage room was built on top of the native Luiseño people’s land, who had lived there hundreds of years before. Rocks pock marked by holes surround the adobe structures, in which I was raised. Some of these pits are a foot deep, even to this day, I see these holes and think of a most basic tool that was used to create them, a stone, and then all I can think of is time. They are traces of women grinding acorns that fell from the same trees which stand there today; their depth a result of a repetitive, but completely necessary action. When I was young, the hills were littered with matates and other stone tools used by the indigenous people. These tools would often find their way into the shed among various other outmoded or overused instruments from the late 19th  century Spanish colonizer’s farming days. Old shovels without handles, bent sickles and rusted pitch forks, alongside new functional tools that continue the work of tending to and shaping the land, accentuating its curves and challenging the natural order, the same way the older tools, abandoned, and now reduced to objects, once did. Ragen Moss’s exhibition, A Rregular Shaped Tool, at LA><art combines writing and painting inside of bulbous lacquered plastic sculptures that merely hint at representation. Full of contained gestures, Moss’s pieces occupy two identical rooms side by side. Some pieces hang from the ceiling, gently...

EYE-DEE- QUE (Something like an Asclepeion): A conversation with Matt Wardell

David Bell: It’s funny—these new discoveries in modern medicine. It seems every month there is a new super food that suddenly nobody has ever heard of such as broccoli or kale; or some fresh scientific evidence is revealed that shows exercise is good for you, and you shouldn’t drink every night, or smoke cigarettes in bed. It’s interesting though how some of the older remedies for good health stick around over the ages, like eating broccoli and kale, exercising and not smoking in bed. Bodies have specificity to them in terms of what they need and what they don’t. One man’s daily diet could kill another. Some individuals go into anaphylactic shock at the mere sight of a crustacean, while others drag their tongues along the bottom of the ocean without consequence. Los Angeles is diverse in its healing and health practices. Among many other options you can get a massage in Thai Town, head to the WI Spa in Korea town, avoid the Westside, get your tarot reading in the Valley, or live comfortable and stress free off your family’s trust in a new loft in Downtown. A few weeks ago I met you at your show EYE-DEE-QUE (Something like an Asclepeion) at Baik Art in Culver City. We walked across the street to get lunch at Subway, but after I ordered my sandwich (Black Forest Ham on Honey Oat) you decided you weren’t going to eat anything. Do you know something I don’t? Matt Wardell: I felt a little bad about that. There is the whole Jared SNAFU, but no. Actually, during all of installation I was...

The Sexual Bronze Show

Ordering dinner was the worst idea; we should have just had a quick drink. We met for one reason, and it’s definitely not going to happen here. We both finger our foods, swirling the ingredients into each other on our plates, leaving us with two comminlged pools of indistinguishable goo; somehow it’s reassuring—it’s the only sign that we are on the same page. Bettina Hubby’s exhibition, The Sexual Bronze Show, at Klowden Mann left me feeling like I was on the wrong side of a joke. It can be quite upsetting to be the only one in the room that doesn’t understand what is going on; it was fitting then, that I was the only one in the room. We live with immediate remedies for ignorance; who hasn’t Google searched a term moments after pretending to understand what someone is talking about? With so much information at our fingertips, rote learning nowadays seems less relevant. Many people have replaced flirting with liking and swiping, and have created online personas for themselves that match their offline personalities as much as a lemon matches a clothespin. Do you know Daniela? Yeah, I follow her on Instagram. That’s not what I asked. Matthew Barney brought last year to a close with his bro’d out extruded bronzes forged as underwater cum shots. Bettina Hubby begins this year with life-like, wickedly twisted, diminutive bronze pairings that sit atop thirteen svelte pedestals. Each pillar stands as a separate little island, holding aloft two seemingly disparate objects, a ravioli and a gourd, or a yellow dishwashing glove and a roll of sausages. They coyly sit with...

Sweet 16

Nothing changes in the New Year; or, at least, nothing goes away and disappears on its own. It’s that time again. Make resolutions. Launch efforts to “better” our lives and fix the failures of the previous year as we enter the new one. Stop drinking. Stop smoking. Stop for the entire year or six months or just the singular month of January. Well, it’s been a hell of a week. It’s been raining, maybe a few days off will do the trick, bottoms up! Find fulfillment in new ways—a job change, a healthier diet, a revamped sex life, a vow of celibacy; or hope nothing changes (gun advocates) and look to the year ahead as a chance to find solid ground, settle down as they say, read a little more and hope this isn’t the year when an earthquake wipes out half the population of Brooklyn, I mean Downtown Los Angeles, I mean DTLA. It’s the New Year and galleries already have their schedule of exhibitions set; go online and see who is going to be showing when and where. Set your entire calendar for art outings in 2016. This isn’t to say there won’t be any surprises. There’ll be many: new galleries, pop-up shows, impromptu performances, an abundance of writing (I hope). Spaces will close. Some will expand. Certain artists will show the same old thing. So-and-so will pick up a paint brush again, Did you hear that she is working in clay now? She should have stuck to doing those portraits! Oh, the gossip is to die for. There will be shows where the work doesn’t live...

Richard Hawkins, It’s gonna be… Oh, clay?

Examination of Test # RH0815 As I entered I found her in the supine position. Upon first inspection it appeared her hands were tucked underneath her lower back, yet it was soon evident her upper limbs had been completely removed. Her skin was dark, thick and rugged with a charcoal green complexion. Her expression was placid, peering off as if fixated on a non-existent point in the room. Her hair was styled in three dramatic classic barrel curls, two stretched out from the sides and one glorious cresting wave on top of her head. Orange hair also extended from below her blue breasts. A phallic-like organ protruded from her abdomen and rested between her buttocks, which were inverted to her front. A peculiar powder grey skull with cavernous eyes was attached to the bottom of her tibias. She was a truly fascinating specimen of Dr. Hawkins. It is said that the French poet Isidore Isou, after observing the post electroshock drawings of Artaud, would follow Dr. Ferdière into the night begging him to perform the controversial, and arguably debilitating, treatment on him. Dr. Ferdière, also a poet and friend to many surrealists, aimed to “remove the various delusions and physical tics” Artaud suffered from; he believed that the late playwrights’ habits of crafting magic spells, creating astrology charts, and drawing unsettling images were symptoms of mental illness. Today, many professionals would say that Artaud suffered from schizophrenia, and that Ferdière, suffered from jealousy. Richard Hawkins’ exhibition “New Work,” at Richard Telles Fine Art and Jenny’s, excavates the post electroshock drawings of Antonin Artaud, and continues the surrealist longing for the complex incongruity...

Jiwoon Yoon: Your Country Thanks You

Hello welcome to Michael’s, it’s about a thirty-minute wait. This was certainly the first time I had ever been put on a waitlist while trying to enter an artists’ open studio, but it was also the first time I had been to Columbia University. I made my way haltingly between the rambunctious crowds in Prentis Hall and the barrage of excited introductions from my friend Iris Hu, in search of a drink. This is Ki __. I’m sorry what was your name? Oh, I want to show you my friend’s work. What was the last persons’ name? Who? Where are we? Prentis. No­, what floor? This is Ca ___n. Are you Peter’s friend? No. Has it been thirty minutes yet? It felt like I had been smelling the food cooking throughout the building for almost an hour hanging like a fog among these strangers by the time I was seated at Jiwoon Yoon’s pop up restaurant; I breathed out my exhaustion. I looked at the people already poised with their food in front of them. Two college students, replicating any typical restaurant outing experience on a Sunday night chatted incoherently. Behind them loomed tall chrome shelving units decorated with perfectly erect towers of spam, pineapple, corn beef hash, and salsa all lit with low grey light, creating a subtly scientific, yet posh, atmosphere. A long oversized black and white sash, reminiscent of those worn at a Miss America pageant, lay spread out across the table and onto the floor, it read, “YOUR COUNTRY THANKS YOU.” A woman in black gracefully stepped onto the stage that was built in-between the...

Brody Albert and Kaeleen Wescoat-O’Neill: OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

I had nearly just touched the red gate to open it, when Chris jumped out from behind the wall to tell me it’s not to be touched no matter how inviting it may seem. We talked to one another from opposite ends through the matching collapsible gates, an empty space between us. Not knowing if I was going to be invited to his side of the gallery or if this was it, I began to think about my parking situation from earlier. I wonder if I have a ticket right now. I didn’t think I needed a permit during the day as long as I moved my car before two. I’m pretty sure I had two hours; or is that still only if I have a permit? Does it mean something different because that part of the sign was green? The car in front of mine didn’t have a permit in its window, but did that sticker on its back bumper mean anything? They had obviously been parked there awhile, so I think I’m good for at least another hour. But what if we both get tickets? Wait, is it Wednesday? What happens when the part that unites two sides is removed, when the middle is taken away? I often only eat the center of bread, leaving the crust. I’m not much into the head or tail of a fish, and most anyone would choose the window or aisle seat while flying on a plane. The middle child is passed over. The center of the week feels daunting. Intermission in a concert can be a good or bad thing...

Sandeep Mukherjee: Mutual Entanglements

As I sat staring at the pattern on the back of the seat in front of me during a three-hour flight from Houston to Los Angeles, I contemplated Sandeep Mukherjee’s impressive painting installation, Mutual Entanglements, at Chimento Contemporary, the last art exhibition I saw before leaving on a four-day trip to Florida to visit my family. I was without a book or a pen during the flight; all I had was the back of the seat and my mind’s wanderings. Bus, train, and plane upholstery share common features. They are designed in hideous patterns in order to complicate the eye’s perception, disallowing the passenger to recognize the dirt and grime built up over months and years of excessive use. Often multi-colored grids or complicated crossed eye-inducing patterns, public transportation seat fabric pushes the viewer’s gaze out as it holds everything in. Mukherjees’s paintings are not hideous. They are physical, finely tuned palimpsests of dignified expression. Imagine a landscape pulled apart, ripped and torn, piled up and spread flat. Ten large panels cover two adjacent walls, forming a wide V with a Serra-like effect that dwarfs the viewer and echoes the massive weight of steel from afar. I am pulled forward. Gradually, the heaviness dissipates; the thin, errant edges and misaligned contours of the individual panels reveal their independence while holding onto solidarity through color and a general schema. The deceptively thin material provides a sturdy enough surface for the rigorous but gracefully applied array of mixed media resting on top of one another. Melded markings, mulch, foliage too thick to traverse—one must find another access point. I remember sitting...

Jay Erker: Living Together

This doesn’t mean as much as you might think; or it could mean a lot, if you want it to. It’s been awhile since I have written anything so I really have to bite into this one. Literally. I bit into the wall of Jay Erker’s show. I left my bottom teeth marks on the outside of a small window cut-out and the impression of my top teeth on the inside. I could sense what she wanted: for me to not be afraid of doing what I felt like doing. I shouldn’t be uncomfortable, or feel like I didn’t belong. Therefore, there was no reason to act accordingly, as in the way I felt I needed to act at the previous four galleries I had visited earlier that day. I sank my teeth into the wall where images had been sketched by the artist and other patrons who attended the opening. I was surprised by the near lack of bathroom humor; given the artist’s anarchistic and gratifyingly crude behavior. There was some though. The other opening is a dick fest, someone scribbled confidently. Eat Pray Love, wrote another. The latter was less offensive, but perhaps that’s because I haven’t seen the end of the movie and sadly I’ve been to plenty of dick fests. Moments after sitting down with Jay, with her magnetic disposition and a demeanor that fluctuates between extremely serious and socially-conscious and carefree, articulate and bad ass (I am not sure if those are even opposites), we were drinking whiskey and talking inconclusively about community in relation to our art practices. She is studying to become...

Rebecca Bruno, a building a body. Bye Bye Broadway

“The next motha fucker that says some racist shit to me, I’m gonna cut his ass up and spray my pepper spray in his wounds,” she shouted. “Everyone is racist,” said the man wearing the reflective vest next to her. She looked at him dumfounded.  His face did not look up from the sidewalk, he just continued pulling cigarette butts between the curb and the street into his bin with his battered broom. “You, me, everyone,” he said softly. I remember having three to four bags in each hand, glass piercing through at various places, black plastic and black holes, holding them stiffly outward to avoid contact with the sides of my calves, a beer wine mixture dripping from the bottom corners; bulging pastry decoratoring tips, an evidential trail leading back to the guilty party. Halfway down the steps, the plastic overextended itself and the previous night’s debris cascaded forth in front of me in a wave of shattering bottles, gnarled cans, and limp wet cigarettes. For weeks I was reminded of the incident, my rubber soles kissing the sticky stairwell as I came and went, muah! The mysterious and wingless silver fish with a life span of up to 8 years outruns its predators; no problem with its slick zigzag movements. Yet, with appendages that lack radical escape ability on vertical surfaces, it’s best it stays horizontal to the floor. If you were to end its life, it disappears with little trace and without cleanup, simply blow the remaining pinch of dust and poof it’s gone! She asked me if I had the building manager’s number and if...