All notes with the topic Reviews | Notes on Looking

Searching for Home / Leaving Yourself Behind

Our noses fill with dust. We enter the curvilinear sanctum where this immaterial soil hovers between thousands of individually labored slabs of adobe that fill a perimeter over which our eyes trace, failing to find a point to rest. The thick surface smothers the noises spawned from within, echoes have no place here. It is a space of penetrating sounds that go no farther than the moment they are contained by. S. He makes an altar out of the humble precious material. His body sublimates the space with movement that transcends affiliation. His arms fling beyond code, his back arches, stretching past the limits of his skin. From the top of his roughhewn pedestal he topples another’s sacred idol. P. His body snakes between us. Bound in stockings, a fine mesh is all that protects him from the elements, he becomes part of the dry dirt, inhaling it deeply. It covers the floor in a soft brown layer that filters through and becomes a poultice on his skin. He clings to the walls, audibly popping his delicate casement along the straws and pebbles of the adobe bricks. The walls offer protection as much as they contain us, just as walls do. Just as he anoints them with dots of blood, they reciprocate and anoint him with their matter, both are transubstantiated, two bodies becoming one, stained with the same blood, sweat, tears, and clay. It is a mother, he is an earth. He searches through us for her. Sliding between, swiping us with his unction, making us wholly aware that to step out of his way is to avoid...

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...

When we were young

When we were young is a group exhibition of early work by five mid-to-late career artists at Gallery Luisotti. There’s John Divola’s UCLA MFA application from 1970-71, when he was still an undergraduate at CSUN; spoiler alert—he was accepted to UCLA and has taught at UCR since the late-1980s. And images Christina Fernandez hasn’t shown since a fiery (read: traumatic-sounding) critique at CalArts in 1994. And photographs from the 1980s that Ron Jude forgot about for a few decades and then printed in 2010 as an appropriation of his younger-self. And, finally, Mark Ruwedel’s Evans Street Portfolio (1983) and Catherine Wagner’s California Landscapes (1972-79), a glimpse at two budding artists already in tune with themes they’ll pursue for years to come. It’s sweet without becoming saccharine, like suddenly happening upon charming pictures of a lover’s awkward adolescence and delighting in all the newfound difference and recognizable similarities between their past and present. Pencil marks ghost the matting of Divola’s MFA application—little indexes of a young artist measuring out his own framing. The images themselves are tightly cropped, flat and formal pictures of what looks like manicured gardens against the backdrop of suburban homes in the San Fernando Valley—so unlike the playful wildness of Zuma (1977), only six years ahead in some imagined linearity of John Divola’s career. When I’m in a deliberate environment with clean white walls and perfect lighting for a collector’s eye, it can be hard to remember just how messy making can be, but When we were young focuses on this messiness as a presentation of an oftentimes meandering road toward mastery—more about sustained commitment to...

These Carnations Defy Language: Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden

Only cheesy romance-novel vocabulary could possibly describe them. They were two exquisite specimens running in-place together, their perfectly chiseled bodies glistening in the 90-degree heat, curly locks bouncing sensually just above their heavenly faces. They were replicas of one another, not only in their physique, glimmer and (very little) wardrobe selection; but also in the way they moved—synchronized to perfection even as they waved to passersby with a left-handed flutter of the pinky-ring-middle-and-pointer. They practically danced in the middle of a four-way intersection, their location choice nowhere short of an accident. All lanes stopped; though clearly one of us had a green light. Red cheeks reflecting off windshields, slowly we’d have to pull ourselves away, but it was a standoff, and no one was quick to draw. Funny, I have met bodybuilder identical twins before. “Excuse me…” It was the summer I worked at a hostel in Venice Beach. “Excuse me!” They came here from Spain solely to work out at Muscle Beach; I remember cleaning their room and it smelling like meat… “Excusery, yuwu cawnt take pictuwres of the art.” I turned, “Excuse me?” “You can’t take pictures of the art,” the young woman repeated, shouting toward me. Realizing my daydream of the boys had taken me from the room, I responded, “Oh sorry, would you like me to erase this one?” “No, no,” she said, “Just don’t take anymore. You’re not allowed to take pictures of the art in here.” “But it’s my friend’s, I thought it was OK.” “What?” I explained once again, “It is my friend’s painting—I thought it would be OK if I took a picture of my friend’s painting.” “No,” she jolted, “Under no circumstances is it...

Part 2- A Lateral Wind

Étude means ‘study’ in French.  Merriam-Webster tells me that the word refers to 1. a piece of music for the practice of a point of technique, and 2. a composition built on technical motive but played for its artistic value.  My approach to the Piano Spheres event, Amour D’Etudes, featuring the hugely talented pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, was quite different than the last.  I guzzled a beer at the bar before grabbing a program on my way into the theater, and sat down with a conspicuous case of the burps in the front row, where I was on the receiving end of the open Yamaha.  The piano was perpendicular to the audience this time, placing the player in true profile.  The stage felt less atmospheric; the lighting was simple and elegant, just four bare, elongated bulbs hung on wires above the piano, giving off soft, tame light that did not change throughout the performance.  Two directional mics with cables loosely draped and pooled at their bases were aimed inside the open piano body.  Those cables looked oddly sad to me.  Casual and indifferent, like a super long and lean person slumped over the back of a low chair, arms dangling carelessly.  My own mood was somewhat dangling that evening, as well. Vanhauwaert emerged from the wings with a practiced gait and sat down on the bench ceremoniously after bowing once, his hand on the front corner of the piano.  I took few notes and followed the program closely, which was wise since Vanhauwaert played études by fifteen different composers.  Each was over in a flash.  I jotted short descriptions here...

Patricia Fernández, Box (a proposition for ten years)

Patricia Fernández’s Box (a proposition for ten years) is taller than it was when I first met it on a warm Sunday in late April. Back then, in the back room of Commonwealth & Council, the blood red and brown wooden box came up to my chest. I could easily peer down at its carved and dimpled surface, lift its swinging top to inspect its patinaed hinges, and kneel as I pulled enchanting, delicate objects from their shelved home with my bare hands. But now at LAM Gallery the Box comes up to my nose.  Instead of looking down I lift myself up, balancing on the balls of my feet to peer over the top of the thing to see if anything has changed. It has. It grew. It’s growing. And it’ll keep growing until 2022. At LAM Gallery, the Box’s innards are spread out, pinned, and presented on the white walls of a narrow room. Around the original wooden carrier, Patricia has hung a medley of objects, suspended in circulation as if a soft explosion has cast a constellation of lingering memories and fragmented mementos into orbit. The woodworking insignia of Patricia’s maternal grandfather marks the box as well as segments of wooden trim, some worn and painted white from the 2014 exhibition of the Box at CW&C, are installed in a wandering succession across the surrounding walls. In this way, the exhibition history of the Box becomes embedded in the work as it is re-displayed over time. As the sculpture ages, objects accumulate within its elongating chronicle. The persistence of tradition into the present runs throughout Patricia’s...

Rosha Yaghmai: Easy Journey to Other Planets

  Receiving a $500 phone bill is an unfortunate surprise. Unfortunate because it’s like receiving five phone bills at once. It’s a consequence for not considering the future, so caught up in the moment that you are actually living outside of it. It’s important, though, because it provides a visual testament of a time of convergence, something actually is happening, and neither sender nor receiver can deny that space that has been shared; but it also solidifies a distance. Simply talking with someone, the experience of their voice, the constant entertainment and creative ways of affection keep each yearning for more; yet the actual distance can leave both parties departing with a sigh. Closing your eyes at least takes the empty room away—the act of falling asleep draws them near even if decorated with unfamiliar faces, waking up to their call, “How did you sleep?”… “Fine, how was your day?” Rosha Yaghmai’s solo exhibition Easy Journey to Other Planets at Kayne Griffin Corcoran started with a list of simple questions she sent out to multiple people. -Who is a person/some people you associate with Los Angeles? (can be from any era) -What are a few important or memorable events that occurred here? (ex: The ’84 Olympics, the new pier… Manson murders… can be major, or not) -What is your favorite place here? Please describe it. -If you aren’t from here, when you moved here what was surprising to you? (ex: there are mountains, tangerine juice) -When you travel, what do people ask you (or talk with you) about LA? -If you could move anywhere else in the world, where...

Jenny Yurshansky | Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory

Through the tall slender stalks of deer grass, and clumping masses of wild rye, she treads gently. Shadows still laying horizontally she takes shade under a California Bay inhaling the sweet smell of lavender and sage carried in from the quiet breeze. She removes her gloves revealing the dirt embedded deep in her nails, bends down takes off her shoes and begins to extract the foxtails that have woven themselves masterfully into her socks. Holding the removed seedpods in the palm of her hand while using her thumb and index to excavate the others; she draws out strings of cotton with each failed attempt. The act seems violent. She sits in the shade, feet out in the sun. Without identification, who are you? How old are you? Where are you from? Can you prove it? If you are pulled over by the police, you must present them with a card. This card states that you belong; you are identifiable. You may nervously smile, trying to simulate your photographic self, explain your situation; where you are coming from, where you are going. Has your name changed? Is this your current address? Are you wearing the glasses in which your card states you should be, are you legally blind?  Mediterranean mustard is an erect, canescent, biennial or perennial growing to some 3′ tall.   With the delicate eye of a botanist and the unique ecological perspective of California’s Invasive Plant population, Jenny Yurshansky’s solo show at Pitzer College addresses issues of permanence and belongingness, combined with sociopolitical awareness and hidden agendas.  The stems are branched both from the base and above, and...

Carmen Argote: watermelons, no catchies or bouncies at Commonwealth & Council

The blacktop of the playground ignites a very specific memory to my individual history. I grew up mostly in a small solar powered house with a well that supplied my family’s water. Washing clothing was an issue for two reasons: one, because the machine sucked all the power from the rest of the house, often forcing us to start a noisy generator in order to finish a load of clothes; and two, the water that came from the well was straight from the earth, anything white would eventually become slightly off-white, then eventually beige and sooner or later would have to be discarded. This inevitably led me to wear mostly dark colors, or black; nothing that allowed for visible stains. Unfortunately, my school provided a uniform for Physical Education, white shirt and grey shorts, as an attempt to make us all look “the same”. Most kids enjoyed getting dirty during recess; I became an expert at participation without overexertion. Anything involving a ball and the blacktop meant dirty hands, so as I watched other kids casually (or aggressively) wipe the soot on and into their clothing knowing they could take them home to their parent’s magical machines and return the next day looking fresh and clean; I caught the ball at a distance, kept my hands slightly off to the sides of the material that threatened to expose my home life. A day when I didn’t have to take my uniform home to the washer was a successful day at recess. Carmen Argote’s Painting for an Exterior Wall presents the viewer with a simple Mondrianesque arrangement caked with a...

The Permission of Mike Kelley, by Karl Erickson

The recent traveling retrospective exhibition of Mike Kelley reveals the artist’s artwork to be generous, permissive, moral and caring; though not kind, gentle nor easy. There also exists in equal measures cynicism, cruelty and negativity. Caring, in that he strove to ruthlessly expose systems of repression in our lives; unkind, in that his withering attack left few beliefs unexposed, and no sacred goats left unshorn. This permission and generosity can be experienced in three overlapping ways: 1) Mike Kelley provides an example of how to make intelligent, critically engaged work. This provides permission to artists to wholly invest in their subject matter; 2) Kelley’s drive to over-stuff his subjects with meaning to the bursting point. This is an act of generosity to the subject while damning our culture of over-analysis; and 3) Kelley’s work is generous in the sense that he served, as the well-known image of him documents, as a janitor, an astringent force working elbows deep in the pus and bile of mass culture to clear out blockages. When I first encountered Kelley’s work in the mid-1990s, l was a young artist living and attending undergrad in Detroit. I had never seen anything like his combinations of images, materials and texts. His art was a revelation that serious, smart, complex work could be made of and from the subjects he worked with: pop culture detritus, weirdos, noise, shit. To a 19-year old in the Midwest, this was mind-blowing; and a very long way from Van Gogh and Warhol. Sure, there was plenty of conceptual and pop art available, but not like this delirious assemblage. Conceptual Art, as represented...

A consideration of work by Thomas Winkler and Daniel Mendel-Black in the group exhibition “Sand in my Shoes” at Tif Sigfrids

Sand in my shoes I am cruising through the desert The wind is banging on my ear 10 000 miles away from home objects in mirror are closer than they appear There are blue flowers on the sidewalk I´m too fast to watch them grow Buy some frosted flakes and hot dogs while the sun is trying to go How am I driving? How do you do? How can I leave the past behind? Unfinished future, sad and true a bunch of questions on my mind I´m so lucky, I´ve got air conditioner, that´s great! The heat is just illusion Right in the middle of this state the system´s the solution I stop at nine at motel six The only place where i can go Take a shower, swing my hips in a room with HBO Here I am, all dreams fullfilled I am your governor´s lost son There are so many words, I can build using the letters in „Fun in the Sun“. It´s an empty time in an empty town With Ice-cream, orange-juice and white bread I met twentyeight girls in twentynine palms „Hi! My name is Manfred!“ Thomas Winkler, Twentynine Palms, Oktober 2003 © Verlag Heckler und Koch, Berlin   Sand in meinen Schuhen Ich fahre in der Wüste umher Der Wind klopft gegen meine Ohren 5 674 Kilometer weg von Daheim sind die Dinge näher als sie im Spiegel erscheinen Es gibt hier blaue Blumen auf dem Gehweg Ich bin zu schnell, sie wachsen zu sehen Kaufe mir ein paar geröstete Flocken und heiße Hunde während die Sonne versucht, zu gehen Wie finden Sie meinen...

Appreciating William T. Wiley

I saw a piece by William Wiley this weekend, at the Santa Monica Auctions preview. Wiley is a funny artist. His work is a little old-fashioned, but for reasons that are good: Wiley’s work is engaged with the world he sees and lives in. It is committed to an irony that is not self-reflexive but is evidence of a skeptical relationship to the larger world. His paintings and works on paper target political figures, environmental concerns, personal life, the art world, and culture. It seems charmingly naive right now to work the way Wiley does, to not announce in scare quotes in one’s art that with this present action, one is making Art. Wiley uses language in his paintings and drawings, in titles and in the bodies of the work. His titles are often acerbic moments of wordplay that lampoon current events, somewhat in the manner of a political cartoonist. In his drawings and paintings he will sometimes script a running commentary that, for me, disrupts my experience as a solitary viewer and places the artist himself in my face and ear and mind. It is also true that Wiley’s paintings and drawings are beautiful, for he is an amazing technician. As an artist, Wiley seems skeptical of the art world, and his work is often critical of art world pretensions. Yet Wiley is not an outsider. He’s been in a Whitney and a Carnegie International. He’s represented the US in the Venice Biennale and Documenta V. William Wiley kind of kicks...