David Bell | Notes on Looking

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...

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...

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...

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...

O captor, my captor—EJ Hill and David Bell at Grace Exhibition Space

There was a fight last week, in Brooklyn. A pair of friends, EJ Hill and David Bell, boxed for twenty minutes on a bare floor in a second story loft. O Captor, my captor it was called. Fighting is a curious way to express friendship, and yet within the structure of a boxing match much can be explored and expressed about human nature and about the nature of male friendship. Two quotes help me think about what I saw that night, both from a 2009 interview of boxing writer and novelist Katherine Dunn by Mateo Hoke: “…within the body of the human animal and the mind of the human animal, boxing as a business, as a sport, as a community unifier, as an individual meditation instrument, as a teaching tool, and probably many other things—all of those things are operative there. And you can see the very bad—the conniving and the backstabbing, the lying, the cheating, the stealing. But you can also see a very wide spectrum of extremely positive traits. And because of the simple structure of the sport, it’s very overt. It’s not fancy. What goes on there is really upfront. It’s really in your face. So it’s easy to discern.” “From the moment the bell rings and two people come together, it is a ritualized crisis. And the individuals have to respond to crisis. Just as every news pundit will say, when the flood came or when the earthquake happened, you saw people operating in a crisis and they were terrific, or they fled and bit each other in the back like cowards, or whatever. What...

She didn’t even want to play, really she didn’t. (That’s why she made the boy cry.)

  I was totally set up for failure.  Not only had every man who had already gone up against this chess player earlier in the evening faced miserable defeat, but I was told this young man, a Computer Science Engineering Masters student at UCLA, was literally unbeatable.  I didn’t even want to play, really I didn’t.  Yet somehow, last Thursday night, Daniel Lara’s chess set seemed more appealing than a game of corn hole (woodwork and hand-knit beanbags courtesy of David Bell…or was it Anthony Bodlovic?). I was still feeling a bit on edge from the performances that happened earlier in the evening at JB Jurve (some of which never seemed to end but rather continue ambiguously in an uncomfortable in-between of performance and reality).   Trying to recover from the image of Noah Spindler in pink flared pants and a baby-blue rhinestone hoodie, blasting top-40 songs over a shitty PA system bought specifically for the occasion, a rigged chili-cook-off, and the stress of watching “Chad” deliver a “press conference” after running 30 miles in an overly-ambitious initiative to charm all the gallery owners on the East Side in a mere afternoon, I somehow found myself agreeing to give chess with this young man a try. The game did not begin well.  He had already taken one of my bishops and my knights, and all I had was one of his pawns.  As we played, Chess Master X’s friends circled me drunkenly, offering prophecies of failure disguised as words of encouragement (“don’t worry, he beats everyone,” or, “dude, he kicked my ass much faster than he’s kicking yours!”)  One or...