When publisher Horace Greeley advised the youth of his era to “Go west … ! And grow with the country!” he surely had other things on his mind than contemporary art. But these days, more than ever, young artists are coming west. If the West Coast has exploded as an art center since the 1990s, it is at least partly because its institutions have become such a prolific incubator for this new generation of aspiring talents. From schools like UCLA, CalArts, and CSULB in the L.A. region and SFAI and CCA in San Francisco, to homegrown collectives like SOIL in Seattle, to emerging artist awards like SFMOMA’s SECA in San Francisco, to museums like PAM in Portland, which sponsors the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards this summer, or OCMA in Orange County, which once again hosts its influential California Biennial this fall, the West Coast has become a veritable alphabet soup of youthful creative endeavor.
Certainly, there is no age limit to the term “emerging artist.” Many top artists take years to establish a memorable voice, style, or approach, and even longer to refine it. It can be a lonely journey; the best emerging artists are often those whose have taken years to emerge. Yet there is a reason that so many gallerists stalk through MFA shows in search of new talent: young artists still in the process of discovering their own skills and inventing their own lexicon often attack their creative process with tremendous vigor and willingness to explore new terrain.
In the following pages, art ltd. sets forth a special section, profiling 15 West Coast artists under the age of 35. A few, like Amanda Ross-Ho of Los Angeles or San Jose’s Binh Danh, have already received a fair share of attention, others are still working toward their first solo show. Some earned their chops as studio assistants for better-known mentors; all of them are still in the opening act of their careers. Call them “artists to watch,” “critic’s picks,” or what-have-you, they are artists who have already gained the eye of West Coast gallerists, curators, or collectors, and who we think deserve the attention. Not despite their relative youth, but because of it.
Holly Anres, Portland
Full Crystal Archive Print
31″ x 39” Edition of 8
Photo: Courtesy of Quality Pictures, OR.
Multi-media artist Holly Andres knows what David Lynch knows: that small-town American life belongs more to Norman Bates than Norman Rockwell. The Portland, Oregon-based Andres specializes in tableaux of family dysfunction that illuminate the sinister side of Main Street, U.S.A. Now 30, Andres was born and raised in Missoula, Montana, a town in which tensions between old-timers and liberal-leaning college students collided in an environment Andres found deeply unsettling. This unease was the backdrop for her upbringing on a self-sustaining farm outside town, the youngest of ten children in a strict Catholic family. Her siblings’ sometimes cruel pranks, along with her mother’s untimely death from Lou Gehrig’s disease, added to the dark autobiographical undercurrents she currently mines in her work.
Her breakthrough series, Stories from a Short Street, put her on the map in Portland, where she earned her MFA, and earned the attentions of collectors outside the Northwest. These “psychological portraits,” the artist explains, present “a fictitious group of kids loosely based on my own family.” The series sprang from a hypnotherapy session she underwent in 2006 to confront her fear of flying. During the session, she says, she regressed to childhood, reliving in excruciating detail a traumatic episode-her parents’ discovery of lice in her hair-that happened when she was seven: “I felt deeply ashamed and ostracized-my family was running around boiling everything we owned… Looking back on it after I was hypnotized, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, it would be interesting to recreate those moments in a photograph.’”
To that end she recruited a cast of children and staged them in a photograph called Fiona I. Intensely personal, the photo was an act of pathos and exorcism, providing closure but also spurring her into deeper psychological waters. Works in this and other series have been exhibited at art spaces including DNJ Gallery in Los Angeles and Quality Pictures Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon, where she will have a solo show in June. Quality Pictures owner Erik Schneider says he responds “to how visually bracing the works are… They’re hyper-cinematic and have a feel that’s both contemporary and retro. We showed an image of hers at Aqua [Miami Beach] in December, and it was a big hit.”
Working with a large-format 4×5 view camera, Andres elaborately stages her shots, stocking room-sized installations with customized props, wallpaper, and other set dressings in the manner of Carlos and Jason Sanchez or Gregory Crewdson. She often employs dramatic lighting effects, gleaned from studying Hitchcock films and horror movies such as Rosemary’s Baby. Her next body of work finds her leaving childhood for the even more anxiety-prone territory of adolescence, in a series based on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Mirrors, chrome flashlights, and open-doored bird cages number among the props in these slightly more playful works, and although Andres says she delights in staging ever more elaborate tableaux, she says she wants to do it with a lighter hand. “I’ve always been pretty deliberate in my work,” she observes. “Now I’m trying to relinquish some of that control and let the work be looser.”
Holly Andres will have a show at Quality Pictures Contemporary Art from June 5 – July 26, 2008. 916 NW Hoyt, Portland, OR. (503) 227-5060 www.qpca.com.
Dan Attoe, SW Washington
“Wood Nymphs and Officer,” 2005
Oil on MDF Panel, “5 x 7”
Photo: Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin Los Angeles
Dan Attoe lives in the wilds of Southwestern Washington, in a small cabin he shares with his wife and his 14-year-old pet tarantula. He draws and paints in the cabin’s front room, which overlooks a beaver-dammed bend in the Washougal River. In this neck of the woods, cellphone service is so spotty that the artist has to step outside the cabin to pick up even the meagerest of signals. And yet from this mossy outpost, the artist, 33, creates artwork exhibited in far-flung locales such as London, Berlin, Athens, Naples, and Copenhagen. This reminds me of some of John Steuart Curry‘s work.
Growing up in Northern Minnesota, and in Idaho on the periphery of Yellowstone National Park-his father worked for the U.S. Forest Service-he had early exposure to both the beauty of nature and “the wackos that inhabit the woods… The woods seem to breed eccentricity and isolation-they’re a place for people who don’t like people.” At age 14 he began drawing and painting in a style he continues to evolve: a droll, lowbrow updating of Hudson River School landscapes and classic folk art, filtered through the prism of 1980s heavy metal magazines and rock album covers. Fast-forward twenty-odd years, and Attoe, a grad student studying art at the University of Iowa, was plucked out of relative obscurity by star-making Los Angeles art dealer Javier Peres, whose Peres Projects began aggressively promoting his work internationally. “When I graduated,” Attoe recalls, “Javier wanted me to move to L.A., and I flat-out refused. Having grown up in ranger stations and small towns, L.A. just didn’t appeal to me.”
Relocating to Washington instead, the artist continued his practice of making a painting a day, a practice he ceased in 2005 after seven years straight. His routine, however, has remained constant: up early in the morning, with two to three hours of doodling, drawing, and meditating on “whatever’s on my mind-from political issues to social, cultural, and personal things.” As the drawings develop, he scrawls text around them, often in cartoon-style thought balloons. This combination of image and text forms the basis for his paintings and the neon works which, with the help of a photo scanner and email, he has fabricated in London. With their cheekily vulgar imagery culled from biker and stripper culture, the pieces are among Attoe’s most engaging, flickering with busty women adorned with star-shaped pasties, surrounded by aphorisms ranging from thoughtful (“You have more freedom than you’re using”) to absurdist (“It’s all the same: potato chips, whiskey, sex abuse, Buddha, gun control, fate, cocaine, piece of ass…”).
This summer, Attoe has solo outings at Peres Projects’ Berlin gallery and the Museo de Leon in Northern Spain, as well as group shows at Saatchi (London) and the Portland Art Museum, where he is one of five contenders for a $10,000 juror’s prize, to be awarded in the first annual Contemporary Northwest Art Awards. Jennifer Gately, who curated the PAM show, says that although Attoe’s “depictions of nude women, seedy bars, and ragged male youth” may at first appear chauvinistic, “upon closer investigation, they are loaded with irony, humor, and a deep sensitivity to the human condition.”
Dan Attoe is one of five artists in the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards at the Portland Art Museum. The show will run from June 14 – September 14, 2008. 1219 SW Park Ave., Portland, OR. (503) 226-2811 www.portlandartmuseum.org
He is represented in Los Angeles by Peres Projects, 969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 617.1100 www.peresprojects.com
Dawn Cerny, Seattle
“We’re All Going To Die (Except for You)”
January 26 – April, 2008
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
Photo: Richard Nichol
Let bygones be bygones. Or so they say. But Seattle artist Dawn Cerny has made a name for herself by literally drawing the past into the present. Her installations of ink and watercolor on paper depict 17th, 18th and 19th-century figures whose traditional activities are often called into question through contemporary tongue-in-cheek subtext.
Although the 29-year-old Cerny has shied away from gallery representation, she has been generating buzz since receiving a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in 2002. She had her first solo show in Hollywood at the Harmony Gallery in 2002, then at Crawl Space in Seattle in 2004 and Gallery4Culture in 2006. Most recently she was invited to exhibit at the prestigious Henry Art Gallery, which this spring has dedicated two of its main floor galleries to Cerny’s work. Asked why she chose Cerny, Associate Curator Sara Krajewski extolled the unexpected quality of Cerny’s work: “You never know what she’s going to come up with. You put your faith in Dawn’s ability to synthesize from many disparate sources.”
For We’re All Going to Die (except for you), an installation involving American fears and fascinations with death, Cerny incorporated Victorian paraphernalia such as taxidermy owls, mourning dresses, and little-seen mid-19th century paintings borrowed from the Henry and Burke Museums’ permanent collections. Cerny then paralleled these culled objects with vestiges of contemporary culture such as drawings of Goth, Punk and Heavy Metal inspired tee-shirts adorned with emblems of death. Krajewski admires the fact that “Cerny tackles ‘large’ themes, often considered taboo by US standards and maybe too romantic for many contemporary artists’ tastes.”
“I’m committed to taking historical structures and creating narratives around them,” explains Cerny. “The age of enlightenment and the industrial revolution-with their scientific, spiritual and industrial developments-spawned Faustian deals. I tend to use systems that have come out of those structures in order to explore ideas of today. Technical and industrial advances may have allowed us to better control death and manage its aftermath. But the more we control it, the more terrifying it becomes.” In one of the two gallery spaces, Cerny has created a battlefield of paper cutout figures that stream across the floor to ascend the wall in pyramid formation, as if in search of literal and metaphoric higher ground. Nearby, the artist has created a makeshift waiting room, replete with tabloids lying casually atop a table and a bookshelf stocked with titles such as “Death, Grief and Mourning.” The effect is to make the topic of impending doom-and how to manage it-difficult, if not impossible, to ignore.
Intriguingly, Cerny’s exhibition at the Henry also functions as an open studio; the artist spends Saturday afternoons behind a small desk in the gallery, supplementing the dead and dying in her installation by cutting out additional paper figures and conversing with visitors who, she says, are often only too happy to reveal their own issues with mortality. It’s a rare opportunity to catch Cerny-who uses history as her subject matter-in real time.
Dawn Cerny’s work will be on view at the Henry Art Gallery through April 27, 2008. Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington Campus, 15th Ave. NE and NE 41st Street, Seattle WA, (206) 543-2280 www.henryart.org
Drew Daly, Seattle
“Mirror Merge,” 2007
Twelve Wood Chairs, Bondo and Lacquer
57″ x 57″ x 40″
Photo: Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle
Taking seemingly generic forms such as household furniture, 34-year-old Drew Daly deconstructs, then reconstructs, his ready-made objects to reveal an intrinsic appeal beyond that of mere utility. Using objects that he describes as “entirely without shock value, almost invisible,” Daly tests the limits of visual comprehension. Sanding work down to a shadow of its former self or fusing multiple pieces together, he toys with the transfer and readability of information as it passes through the visual sieve of cultural consciousness.
Daly had already obtained a BFA from Alfred in upstate New York and established himself as a successful production potter in the Northwest when he applied to the University of Washington’s graduate program in fine arts. “I was making functional pottery that was only being displayed,” said Daly, “It sparked an interest in concepts of use and uselessness.” He entered as a ceramicist but emerged a sculptor and photographer, favoring fragmentation of form over function.
Gallery owner Greg Kucera noticed Daly in 2004, when his single work Division Chair appeared in the annual MFA show at the Henry Art Gallery. “Single” is a misnomer: Division Chair, formerly Daly’s own, oft-overlooked studio chair, had been splintered into pieces and refashioned into two chairs standing side-by-side: fraternal twins both more and less than their former selves. Kucera offered to represent him before the ink had finished drying on his diploma. Kucera recalls: “Drew’s work seemed very grown up at the MFA show. It worked on a material level but it was also conceptually smart and innovative. There are a whole bunch of artists out there working with some of these ideas of construction/deconstruction, absence/presence, function/non-function,
but Drew’s work seems distinguished from the others, no matter how elevated their careers.”
For his coming-out exhibit in 2005 at Greg Kucera, Daly exhibited Division Chair along with a slew of other “ready-unmades” including Subject: Remnant, a Windsor chair that had been sanded down to near nothingness, the conserved sawdust displayed in a corner of the gallery and imprinted with the image of its former self. In 2007 Daly included self-portrait headshots that had been cut into small squares before being reconstructed. In doing so, says the artist: “The work started making sense on a totally different level.” Like his sculptural amalgamations, his photographs collapse pictorial information, transforming the familiar into the barely recognizable.
Drawing from the artist’s experiences with Photoshop, Daly’s newest body of sculptures employs a nearly seamless construction, making for a deliberately disorienting visual effect. “I’m curious to see how far information can get from its original source while still remaining readable. In trying to reassemble a work mentally you draw upon memories you don’t really have.” Mirror Merge from 2007 consisted of twelve wooden chairs pared down and bonded together. They formed a jangle of grafted limbs and angled planes in space, with no place to sit. Daly destroys as much as he creates; adding or subtracting parts and pieces until an object teeters on the brink of identification. In spite of its resulting precarious appearance, the work stands on its own.
Drew Daly’s work will be on view from September 4-27, 2008 at Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, 212 3rd Ave. South, Seattle WA. (206) 624-0770 www.gregkucera.com
Binh Danh, San Jose
“Combust,” Chlorohyll Print and Resin, 15″ x 12″
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco
Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. D.C., and you’re issued a simulated passport of one of the Final Solution’s victims. The viewer’s emotional investment similarly activates the haunting work of Binh Danh, a young Vietnamese-born Californian whose photographic likenesses of anonymous war victims infuse a medium already rich with metaphorical meaning: the leaves of tropical Southeast Asian plants. Danh makes his elegant, elegiac “chlorophyll photographs” by plucking leaves from his garden and sandwiching them with digital negatives under glass. After prolonged exposure to sunlight, the image areas blocked by the emulsion fade, creating the light areas, while the areas where photosynthesis has continued retain their dark pigment. The photosynthetic contact prints are then pressed and blotted dry and coated with several layers of resin. Framed, these calla lilies, nasturtiums, and philodendron and banana leaves magically record bygone human presences with the pathos of daguerreotypes.
But if the posed, formal images remind us of early photography, the commemorative aspect recalls the early war photography by Roger Fenton in the Crimea and Mathew Brady in the Civil War, and to contemporary Holocaust photo installations by Christian Boltanski. Born in 1977, Danh is too young to remember the Vietnamese War, but family stories and return visits spurred his interest in all of the victims, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and American; and his Buddhist upbringing imposed a philosophical view of the cycle of life, which is reflected in this art of commemoration and transcendence. “Science says we are composed of trillions of atoms that are born in stars,” Danh has written. “The atoms are constantly recycled and are parts of different objects at different times. After they are released from our bodies, they become other things, like the air, the clouds, a rock, or other life forms-even other people.”
Danh searches for photographic source material in publications and on Asian research trips. In 2004, after getting his MFA from Stanford, he returned after a quarter century to the Malaysian refugee camp of his childhood to research his family’s “boat people” history; there he found “ephemeral documents scattered throughout the deserted buildings … letters, testimonies, and government records. Some had worms eating them leaving spiral holes, while others were partially buried in the dirt with plants growing through them.” In 2006 he visited Tuol Sleng, a Cambodian prison and torture chamber where the Khmer Rouge killed twenty thousand-after methodically first taking their pictures. Danh has made works using fallen Americans’ portraits as well: a 1969 Life article entitled “One Week’s Dead” featured 242 soldiers. A new series incorporating comic book imagery deals with 9/11 and the Iraq War/Occupation.
Despite their origins in “dark history,” however, Danh’s works are philosophically beautiful. The Buddha heads and butterflies serve as symbols of grace, transformation and the karmic cycle, and war is assimilated into a larger spiritual and moral vision. As Danh observes: “The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them… History is alive and is not a past event. It is happening right now … in our blood stream and in the veins of plants.”
Binh Danh is represented by Haines Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 397-8114 www.hainesgallery.com
His work was previously included in the 2006 California Biennial, at the Orange County Museum of Art, in Newport Beach, CA.
Desiree Holman, Oakland
“Something Ain’t Right,” 2005, C’Print, 24″ x 30″
From “Troglodyte” Project
Photo: Courtesy of the Silverman Gallery, San Francisco
Like a session with a vaudeville hypnotist, to encounter Desirée Holman’s work is to engage in a series of mesmerizing spectacles. But the experience is also unsettling. When the rabbit vanishes under the magician’s top hat, the desire to believe struggles with the desire to know. Holman’s deftly crafted sculptures, drawings, installations, and videos play with the fantastic illusions behind those institutions we take to be most real: family, TV, love, therapy.
Holman’s three channel video installation, The Magic Window (2007), employs actors wearing ill-fitting sculptural masks to enact scenarios from two paragons of 1980s television sitcom, The Cosby Show and Roseanne. These families Huxtable and Connor fumble, shuffle locations, and wind up in a hallucinatory, low-impact, electro-music dance cardio workout replete with green acid trails. At Silverman Gallery, The Magic Window was recently exhibited alongside video work from the 1960-70s by Joan Jonas and Lyndia Bengalis. Curated by Larry Rinder, Dean of Graduate Studies at the California College of Art, “TV Honey” explored the medium of video as a vehicle for hypnotic absorption and free-range fantasy. Says Rinder of Holman, “Every now and then I see art that I just have to put in a show. That’s how I felt about Desirée Holman’s Magic Window. It seemed so smart and tight, fresh and fun.”
“My process always consists of a series of intuitive decisions, followed by extensive hyper-critical thinking,” Holman explains. “I’m creating deeply felt reflections on human behavior, with a specific focus on attachment and group behavior… The Magic Window explores attachment in terms of TV families, and asks how do we inform these TV shows and how do they inform us? Troglodyte also looks at family groups, although here I was more interested in the Freudian notion of the ‘primal horde’ and
how that relates to us. Apes have always been the surrogates of human beings in the lens of popular culture.”
Holman balances her soft-spoken, thoughtful approach with a charmingly goof-ball laugh as she discusses pop culture, and concedes that music videos are a source for her work. “Working with choreography and the steady cam is a very flexible way for me to make art, almost analogous to how an abstract expressionist painter might use a really intuitive brush stroke”
Born in 1974, Holman received her MFA from the University of California Berkeley in 2002, winning the prestigious Eisner award in both photography and film. She has been showing extensively lately, both nationally and internationally, with upcoming shows at Basel, Switzerland, and the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Back in her Oakland studio, the artist is at work on a new series, Reborn, about the real-life baby doll phenomenon. Assiduously collected by middle-aged women of the English-speaking world, reborn babies are the ‘in’ toy amongst the PTA set. Holman’s drawings feature reborns in tableaux appropriated from the maternal delights of Mary Cassatt. Of that ubiquitous G-rated impressionist, Holman says, “Her art is something that popular audiences can relate to, but there’s actually a lot going on there. I’m interested in what slips under the radar.”
Desirée Holman is represented by Silverman Gallery. 804 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA. (415) 255-9508 www.silverman-gallery.com
Ben Jackel, Los Angeles
“Burial” 2007, Stoneware and Beeswax (2 Elements)
Installed Dimensions: 21″ x 36″ x 14″
Photo: Courtesy LA Louver, Venice, CA
Combining his talent for ceramics and a fascination with history, Los Angeles sculptor Ben Jackel wields his proficiency in clay with the steely focus of a Samurai swordsman. Gleaning from such arcane subjects as ironclad gunships, cannons, 18th century forts and Civil War era torpedoes, his slyly concise sculptures hover between abstraction and narrative, drawing in equal share off the legacy of post-minimalist sculpture and a complex, if boyish, love/hate relationship with the tools and toys of war. “The study of weapons has kind of become a mild obsession in the last few years,” Jackel admits. “There’s so much fantastic imagery to pull upon in man’s history of warfare, it’s such rich source material… If it’s really obscure, you can push it farther.”
In fact, Jackel’s sculptures do not glorify war, nor do they condemn it. Rather they use it as a source of both aesthetic and human wonder: finding the poetry and drama in the underlying forms while leaving the viewer with a sense of lingering dread. “I feel that warrior instinct inside me, it’s undeniable,” Jackel muses. “Yet the intellectual side allows me to present it in a way to see the horror within it. There is this weapons fetishism, that’s one side of my brain, and the other is how horrible it is. I’m just trying to reconcile that for myself through my work.”
Raised in Denver, Jackel came to UCLA to study under department head Adrian Saxe, who remains a friend and mentor. Since getting his MFA in 2005, he has been working as project manager for another prominent ex-teacher, sculptor Charles Ray. Says Saxe of his ex-student, “When he started, he was very literal… He’s made that leap to the poetic and metaphorical. Now it’s free-flowing. Now that passion informs his intuition.”
In 2007, Jackel was invited to participate in L.A. Louver’s trendy “Rogue Wave” show, where he displayed three works: a sinking battleship mounted on a wall, an adult elephant standing over its dead baby, and a coiled life-sized fire hose, expertly rendered in ceramic and inset neatly into the wall. The aura of incipient
danger that infuses this piece is typical of the implicit sense of menace Jackel’s surprisingly elegant work exudes. The artist’s interest in fire extinguishers and other emergency gear feels particularly apt to L.A., where the threat of disaster is always looming just below the surface. “I want it to be relevant. People think of history as something in books… I want people to see these works and think about today.”
Signed by L.A. Louver after “Rogue Wave,” the 30-year old sculptor is already preparing for his first solo show at the prestigious gallery next winter. Among the vaguely martial subjects he will be interpreting are a phalanx of Greek warriors, a wrestling medal, destroyers from the WWII Battle of Leyte Gulf, and a Daniel Chester French statue commemorating the Massachusetts dead in WWI. “I”m not generally turned on by work that doesn’t have content outside itself,” Jackel says. “The world is too interesting.”
Ben Jackel is represented by L.A. Louver Gallery, 45 North Venice Blvd., Venice, CA. (310) 822-4955 www.lalouver.com
Adam Janes, Los Angeles
“Audio Alpine Rebirth at 50%” 2008
Wood, Steel, Fiberglass, Alpine Car Stero, Speakers, Astro Turf, Wallpaper and Rocks. One element: 97″ x 108″ Four Elements: 95″ x 30.5″
Photo” Courtesy of Roberts and Tilton
It’s hard to pin a label on Adam Janes. Bouncing between drawing, carpentry, installation, and a kind of goofy implied performance, his artwork seems at once satirical and sincere. Flaunting a hands-on Home Depot style, it seems almost ethereal in its intent. Yet taken together, as they are intended to be, his disparate elements combine to display a consistent, highly engaging voice. In his ambitious first L.A. solo show at Roberts & Tilton, entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at 50%,” Janes set forth an intriguing scenario based around a fictitious purification ritual.
The installation featured a wooden structure resembling a shower pump, complete with blobs of cartoony fiberglass water, a speaker emitting water sounds, and a multi-paneled photographic backdrop of a faux Alpine vista, suggesting a natural history museum. At the center of the room hung a large white spa robe boasting the slogany title of the show, bedecked in colored feathers, as if it were a shaman’s cloak. “Its sort of the WWF meets Jimi Hendrix,” Janes says. “There’s this quality of the fantastic to it, a little showmanship.” Spread out across the room were clusters of landscaping stones, some of them-like the ladder in the shower pump-painted bright primary colors, giving the gallery the feel of an upscale outdoor spa crossed with a childrens’ playpen.
Created ostensibly as blueprints for his constructions, Janes’ energetic, free-associative drawings have a life of their own. Recalling the Pop-tinged works of H.C. Westermann and semi-figurative blobs of Carroll Dunham (“I love that stuff: the splooshy, squishy feel”) these drawings are dense with liquidy swirls, blocky scrawled words, hapless cartoon characters and detailed renderings of specific figures-among them aborigines-wrought so finely as to recall period engravings. “The eye moves at a different speed through an etching; there are moments of resolution that go a little bit slower, where you can take a breath,” Janes explains. “I leave the uptightness for the making of things, that’s where the sculpture and fabrication come in. I let the drawings be the dumbest ideas I could think of … I think they should be open.”
Born in Texas, the 32-year old Janes originally came to L.A. to attend Art Center. For several years he worked doing carpentry, and as a fabricator fo
r various L.A. artists, including Richard Jackson. Although it is his drawings that have garnered him the most attention up to now-he has had drawings bought by both LACMA and MOCA-Janes’ work is clearly informed by a tactile, do-it-yourself aesthetic. With a solo show at Galerie Vallois in Paris under his belt, and an upcoming show in Belgium, Janes has finally found a chance to give his sprawling imagination free reign. “I love drawing, it’s my first interest, but I don’t think I have the temperament for [doing just] that,” he says. “I love to bash around with my hands as much as I can… I love that garage-tinkery style.” As to the evolution of his own artwork, he muses, “I think there’s a vocabulary that’s come to exist. It’s weird: it’s not-very-functional, but it’s functional.”
Adam Janes’ solo show, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff at 50%” was on view at Roberts & Tilton Gallery in Los Angeles, from February 15 – March 22, 2008, as the final show at that gallery’s old location at 6150 Wilshire Blvd. The gallery is relocating to 5801 Washington Blvd. in Culver City as of May. (323) 549-0223 www.robertsandtilton.com
Annie Lapin, Los Angeles
“The Players” 2007
Casein and Egg Temperal on Panel
56″ x 43″
Photo: Rubell Collection, Courtesy of Angles Gallery
“I really don’t like the word ‘abstraction,’” painter Annie Lapin says emphatically, in her modest studio at the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown. “I think it’s a really limited word. It only refers to the formal aspect of the painting: color, light… I think that narrative can also be an abstraction, if it’s open and fragmented and unresolved, if there’s lots of room for interpretation.”
Lapin’s smart, vivid, rigorously conceived paintings build tangibly off these thoughts. Merging oblique and overt references to the history of both abstract and narrative painting, her cryptic, sensuous works evade easy analysis, offering slivers and fragments of meaning within a shifting, uneasy framework. Their subjects vary widely, from seemingly quaint family outings and pastoral scenes to obscure historical moments. But then they begin to get blurry-both metaphorically and literally-and the more one tries to engage them the more elusive they become. That effect is quite intentional. Lapin describes her work as “kind of like these icons to illusion and perception,” adding, “I’m interested in layers of illusions, in different depths of seeing and understanding… I’m constantly in pursuit of subverting expectation.”
Like some art historical geneticist, Lapin splices freely from the recombinant DNA of traditional painterly techniques and subjects to craft florid hybrid species of her own device. “As far as my subject matter goes, these constructs of society-social mores, historical tropes-I also like to recombine those, the same way I recombine forms.” Intriguingly, people often occupy the center of her work. But the ostensibly straight-forward relationships between these figures are oddly hard to discern, and oftentimes the figures themselves seem to slip into the lush roiling surfaces of the works. “I’m interested in the intricacy, the layers, of human interaction. But,” she continues, “I always like to be removed, as if they were strangers that I saw on the street. It has to be ambiguous, but also specific. If I know what’s happening, I start to get really frustrated with it.”
Born in Washington, D.C., the 29-year old Lapin came to Los Angeles in 2004 to get her MFA at UCLA. Upon her graduation in 2007, she was quickly snatched up by Angles Gallery’s David McAuliffe, who attended one of her open studios. Already a veteran of several notable group shows, Lapin will have her first solo show at Angles this May. But in the year since she graduated she’s already had paintings purchased by such nationally significant collectors as the Rubells, who saw her work at Art Basel Miami, and Susan and Michael Hort of New York. “Her work’s a little mysterious,” Michael Hort suggests approvingly. “It makes you look at it, at all that complexity. There’s a lot going on, it’s a little chaotic,” he adds. “She’s really got her head on her shoulders.”
Lapin’s voracious sensibility extends not just to her subject matter, but to her technique: her paintings employ everything from oil on canvas to panel, graphite, pastel, casein, egg tempura, and paint pen. “I use everything I can,” she says. “I use one medium to interrupt the other media: it’s another form of subversion.”
Annie Lapin’s first solo show opens on May 17, 2008
at Angles Gallery, 2230 Main St., in Santa Monica, CA. (310) 396-5019 www.anglesgallery.com
Nicholas Nyland, Tacoma
“Hammock,” 2006, Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 40″
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrimore Project
Tacoma artist Nicholas Nyland is not afraid of color. He’s the mastermind behind a series of works seen most recently at Lawrimore Project: pigment-dripping watercolors, as well as canvas floor cloths, and lumpen sculptures crafted from paper mache. The sculptures range from small, pedestal-mounted creations to an enormous walk-in piece. In early 2007, one such sculpture, a fanciful, over-big object called Time Machine occupied an entire room at Tacoma’s The Helm Gallery. “Time Machine,” Nyland explains, “was a collaboration with another artist, Ellen Ito… we wanted to create a gigantic painting that you could walk in to. Like the smaller sculptures, it gives actual form to colors and marks.”
After graduating with an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002, Nyland returned to his native Northwest, and has been showing painting and sculpture from Portland to Seattle. As a member of SOIL gallery, his work was seen at Aqua Art Miami as well. Nyland sees an easy connection between the disparate media his works embody. “What links a lot of my work is an interest in painting,” Nyland explains, “both the material and mechanics and the impulse and act of painting. There is also a playfulness that maybe doesn’t come across right away, both with formal means and historical precedents and sources.”
Across all media, Nyland is generous in his use of color: the floor cloth is layered with one pigment over the next, with lines of teal or yellow seemingly taped off, only to be overlaid and crossed by indigo or maroon. It’s a grid of visual abundance. Alternately, his paintings contain quite a bit of negative space, with many skinny, bright lines of pigment stretched across a vast whiteness. These works give the impression that they’d been crafted, not on a flat surface, but with one splotch of paint applied wet, then hung to dry, so the pigment runs down the paper to create a single line. Nyland did not paint them this way at all, though the sense of exaggerated physical movement creating a gestural feeling remains strong. “The two watercolors, Web and Bridge, and the oil painting, Hammock, are built of colors that are attached to the edge of the picture plane,” the artist explains. “Hammock, in particular, looks to me like what would happen if you shook or dropped a painting and the marks became tangled and twisted.” It’s this same sense of experimentation and playfulness that gallery-owner Scott Lawrimore points to when describing Nyland&#
8217;s work. “I picked his work,” says Lawrimore, “precisely because he was executing a version of painting that was no longer restricted to the walls. I saw in the floor cloth a nice reference to the ‘action’ painting of Pollock, while still working in a visual language and technique that was all his own.”
Nyland himself describes his adventurous work this way: “The sculptures I think of as three dimensional paintings. They are both objects and paintings: an alternate ending to modernism’s doomed quest to banish representation.”
Nicholas Nyland’s work can be seen as part of SAM Gallery’s “35th Anniversary Celebration,” on view May 8-June 7, 2008 at 1220 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA. (206) 343-1101 www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/visitRSG.asp
Work from “The Prom: A Semi-Formal View of Semi-Formal Painting” (which was on view January 10-February 23, 2008) can be seen at the Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way South, Seattle WA. (206) 501-1231 www.lawrimoreproject.com
Amanda Ross-Ho, Los Angeles
“Black Widow #10,” 2007, 84″ diameter
Photo: Courtesy of Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles
Sculptor and installation artist Amanda Ross-Ho only attained her MFA from USC (after moving from Chicago) in 2006, and, with a small number of well-received solo exhibitions to her credit, she’s already celebrating her inclusion in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Her most recent show at Cherry and Martin was exactly one year ago, and despite its cheeky title “Nothin’ Fuckin’ Matters” it represented a serious breakthrough for the artist, indicating both increasing self-confidence and expanding formal ambitions. Her work combines elements of sculpture, photography, collage and installation; among her signature techniques is leaning panels of sheet rock against the wall and hanging various objects and images off them while tucking treasures and clues into the spaces behind. These objects carry a host of symbolic meanings, and often include artifacts of her own family history. Infact, she is currently looking to the art-makers in her family for inspiration, just having finished an installation which employed among other things, her father’s artwork, imagery made by her commercial photographer uncle, and contributions from “a crafty aunt.”
In the 2007 show, her real and out-of-scale replications of tote bags full of art and drywall macramé possessed both a winsome unkempt DIY style and a dry conceptual wit. Ross-Ho came to embrace her variegated installation approach after working in photography, sculpture, and video, and then realizing that it was the blending of all the various presentation methods that was the most interesting to her and what she calls ‘material specificity.’ “Living in the material world results in relationships with matter and the by-products of existence,” she explains. “I look for instances in which the generic harmonizes with the personal. Acknowledging context is a primary concern, and so oftentimes I will try to maintain some residue from the environment in which the work was made and combine it with the space in which the work is presented. What you experience is a conflation of all these zones.”
The Whitney’s commission for a new site-responsive installation was “incredibly valuable” to Ross-Ho, “not only because it demonstrated an understanding of my practice, but also because it allowed me to develop a presentation that underscores one of the most important operations functioning within my work-contextual sensitivity. The work in many cases is literally connected to the space through architectural manipulations or responses, and framed by the temporary nature of the exhibition.”
The most salient piece in her 2007 show was her site-specific installation Mantle in which she incised and crow-barred out rectangular sections of the gallery’s white plaster walls to create a rudimentary mantle, complete with blank photographs on its shelf and a glossy picture of the planet hanging above. She executed a similarly conceived work in the same space for a previous exhibition, and when she began her excavation she discovered a photograph of the first version tucked among the insulation and metal piping she had exposed. This collision of the accidental, personal, architectural, biographical and formal is exactly the kind of conceptual nexus Ross-Ho seeks.
Amanda Ross-Ho’s work can currently be seen in New York through June 1, at the 2008 Whitney Biennial. She shows in Los Angeles with Cherry and Martin, www.cherryandmartin.com
Jamie Vasta, San Francisco
“As White As Snow,” Glitter, Stain on Wood, 36″ x 48″
Photo: Courtesy Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco
All that glitters may not be gold, but Jamie Vasta has a definite Midas touch with a certain crafty material. With a brush of her fingertips, glitter is alchemized from carnivalesque into uncanny and classic figurative paintings. Vasta’s most recent works continue to upend Disney’s sanitized versions of myth and fairytale. With glitter as a powdery shorthand for magic that cuts both ways, she reinstates the original, darker fables where human nature is darker and messier and endings are usually not happy. In her current Witches series, Vasta has sharpened her focus from slightly macabre staged narrative scenes to renaissance-like portraits of powerful women. Timeless and beguiling, Vasta’s subjects radically revise the cartoons of haggard crones and evil sorceresses into archetypes of strength, whose nimbleness, beauty and enchantment are embodied by their glinting and mercurial materiality.
Inspired by Buddhist sand mandalas and sequined voodoo flags, Vasta realized that glitter’s physical response to light achieved effects that even haloed oil paint could not. As an undergrad at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, many professors sniffed at her use of such a “low” material. Like the strong women she portrays, Vasta persisted: “I like having to create my own rules… working with a material that doesn’t have centuries of history to answer to. Glitter is wide open.” Fortunately, the MFA program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco (she graduated in 2006), afforded her the space and support to delve into its full potential.
Exhaustive experimentation and a shift in subject matter resulted in her breakthrough Ecstatic Landscapes (2005) which echo the transcendence of nineteenth-century Romantic painting. Un/Natural Disasters (2006) complicated pure landscape with death and destruction-fire and storms lend themselves particularly well to glitter, as do the glowing parking lot lights in the Suburban Sublime works from 2006. With each new series, humans have stepped closer to the fore and Vasta has delved deeper into their psyche. In Arcadia (2006), people-by virtue of their small scale and casual activities-were visitors in the natural environment; in Musn’t (2007) they occupied center stage, engaged in slightly sinister rituals.
Vasta’s process has also shifted to the more deterministic. Where she used to use found images as her sources, she now carefully choreographs and photographs performances for her paintings. She hires models and scouts secluded sites. On location, she dresses and directs the subjects into open-ended scenes that speak of archetypal characters and situations, and human nature. Back in the studio, Vasta edits, selects and crops the images that imagine a particular moment across myth and time. While the new Witches are less macabre than the earlier violent narrative threads she pulled from legend, the Bible, the Iliad, and Angela Carter’s feminist fairy tales, they are no less disarming or ambiguous. Framed by Vasta’s signature tangle of bare, stained branches, the witches’ formal poses and regal bearing establish that they are in control. The paintings’ shimmer of variegated color confirm that there is no black-and-white in this world, and the glitter in the witches’ eyes-along with ongoing art-world accolades-suggest that Vasta has indeed cast her spell.
Jamie Vasta is represented by Patricia Sweetow Gallery, 77 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 788-5126 www.patriciasweetowgallery.com
Taravat Talepasand, San Francisco
“The Liberal Iranian” 2007
Egg Tempera on Panel, 15″ x 12″
Photo: Courtesy of Marx & Zavattero Gallery, San Francisco
Crafting dramatic, exquisite figurative narratives, Iranian-American artist Taravat Talepasand explores cultural taboo with passionate obsession. Her tight, detailed scenes are arresting, confronting the viewer with their confident prodding at some of the issues and tensions of conflicting and mutually misunderstood East/West worldviews that dominate so many of our headlines, and are so personal to the artist.
Talepasand made a notable splash on the art scene in 2006: after getting her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute, she was recognized regionally at “Cream,” the annual exhibition curated by Arts Benicia which seeks to identify the area’s top graduates. Her talent immediately caught the attention of San Francisco galleries; she ultimately signed with Heather Marx Gallery, now Marx & Zavattero, with whom she had her first solo show last spring to much critical praise. The attention is deserved. In addition to compelling content, the work is intricately and stunningly rendered; especially fine are her works in mechanical pencil. On the heels of such a coming out, Talepasand is experiencing a new freedom to push her work even further. “Now that I’ve been introduced to the art world,” Talepasand says, “I have the power to make anything. I think, If I didn’t have much time to live, what would I create? My new works are more in your face. They are not as safe.”
This is tall order for an artist whose work is noted for its forcefulness. For instance, The Liberal Iranian (2007), which features a woman against a flat pink background who stares directly at the viewer. She sits with legs spread, adored, all in red, in high heels, panties, and a headscarf that she daintily, coyly holds beneath her chin and which drapes onto the ground and under her heels. In Amorous Couple, two women, one dressed in Middle-Eastern clothing, the other in Western attire, tensely intertwine. They appear be struggling, at once moving toward each other as well as pushing away. As is often the case, the works are personalized: all women are self-portraits. A recent series features self-portraits as a skull in various forms of headdress: from a knit cap to Palestinian scarfs. “I am interested in modes of dress,” explains Talepasand, “and how it has different meanings in different cultures.”
Done in pencil, the works are hyper realistic, beautifully haunting and luscious. Talepasand’s work has been compared to that of Shahzia Sikander for obvious reasons; both artists work from the platform of the Persian miniature. But whereas Sikander is working within the culture-she is from Pakistan and Muslim-Talepasand works from without, investigating a world that has impacted but not completely consumed or defined her, with almost childlike naivety. Indeed, she pokes at taboos precociously, with the singular interest in investigating and understanding them.
Until recently, the images were couched in the past, lending, in the artist’s mind, a comfortable distance from the more personal present. Talepasand’s most recent works remove such a veil. “I wanted to step away from Persian allegory,” she says. “I want to create more modern, more political work, and have more fun with it.”
Taravat Talepasand is represented by Marx & Zavattero, 77 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 627-9111 www.marxzav.com
Ami Tallman, Los Angeles
“8 and 1 Fourth x 11 and 5 Eighths Inches,” 2008
Ink on Paper, 9″ x 12″
Photo: See Line Gallery
“I’m generally circling around the themes of death and power in my work, and this naturally overlaps with the topic of war a lot of the time.” This statement from L.A. artist Ami Tallman seems at odds with the florid, saturated, quirky personality of her vibrant mixed media drawings. Often using colored markers to depict the interiors of stately, 18th century Georgian mansions with their crimson rugs, velvet brocade wallpaper, oil portraits, taxidermy hunting trophies, elaborate cornices and hefty antiques, she achieves a psychedelic overall effect with mannered hand-wrought texture. Yet a closer look reveals these spectacularly rendered locations to be relatively devoid of traces of occupancy and in a state of decay. Tallman describes these images as taking place “about 100 years into the life of the estates, around the turn of the 19th-20th century, through just before the second World War. This is an historical moment when the economic world which produced them and the lifestyles they represent were on the brink of obsolescence.” The implied narratives haunting her locations whirl together threads of family trees and wartime strife, untold wealth and dirty secrets. In this framework, her use of marker, pencil and ink on paper suggests the act of writing, but it also sustains the intense energy of the hand-made and personal which lends her quasi-historical studies their animated spirit.
Tallman’s combination of beauty, emotional depth and historical realism bordering on nihilism is hard to resist, and helps explain why Janet Levy of See Line Gallery courted Tallman right out of the Super Sonic MFA show just a couple of years ago. In particular, Levy cites the “uniqueness and striking individuality of Ami’s work. At first glance she has a simplistic approach, yet as you are drawn into the work her provocative thought process and in-depth research become apparent.” Tallman’s propensity for investigation revealed itself when she was young. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a private detective, public defender, or investigative journalist …” she recalls. “Journalist drifted into novelist/poet as I got older, and then I discovered philosophy. Even after I got my degree in art from San Francisco Art Institute, I tried to study philosophy again, lasting one semester in a graduate program at the New School in New York.” Tallman’s a big fan of Laura Owens, Mike Kelley, Tom Friedman, Sara Sze, and Tara Donovan, all artists who in some way seek to fuse aspects of world history and human nature. “I think there are certain moments in history which really shape the world in ways that are measurable enough that if I could only understand them, I might be able to understand something about today. At the moment, most of the research I’m doing is on the late 60s and 1970s, which I think is another crucial point in our cultural relationship to warfare, and also a moment at which a large part of the population had an almost inconceivable amount of faith in the possibility of radical positive change.” Perhaps it is that same faith that inspires the winning, electric optimism of even her most fraught visual histories.
Ami Tallman shows in Los Angeles with See Line Gallery,
1812 Berkeley St, Santa Monica, CA. (310) 829-1727 www.seelinegallery.com. She has her first solo exhibition planned there for June 2008 and will also be featured in the upcoming exhibition “Against the Grain” curated by Christopher Russell at LACE, opening June 12, 2008. www.artleak.org.
Bari Ziperstein, Los Angeles
“Untitled (Hallway),” 2006
Light Jet Print, 25″ x 30″
Photo: Courtesy of BANK, Los Angeles
Bari Portrait: Craig Havens/Studio642.com
Standing in front of a wall in her studio that holds only a tiny fraction of the domestic objects that she uses in her sculpture, Bari Ziperstein recalls, “My father was a collector and so I grew up knowing the difference between a Haywood-Wakefield bedroom set and an Eames chair. I’d talk about these differences at the 4th grade lunch table! This pleasure in aesthetics, like knowing that a swirl in Bakelite of one color is more valuable than a swirl in another color, has really informed the hierarchy of my thinking about objects.” Dangling from a high shelf are the twisted and kinked electric cords of lamps that will be central to several of Ziperstein’s upcoming sculptural installations. In addition to plaster and Foam-core, her palette is comprised entirely of items salvaged from a thrift store near her studio in L.A.’s Glassel Park.
Ziperstein’s plans for an upcoming installation at BOX 13 ArtSpace in Houston, Texas are indicative of the turn her work has taken over the past two years. From her enormously successful solo exhibition, “(This Isn’t Happening) Popular Hallucinations for Your Home” at BANK in the spring of 2007 to a solo show at PULSE Miami, Ziperstein has expanded her scope to include sculpturally immersive environments. While Ziperstein’s earlier work focused on photographic documentation of sculptural interventions in her own home and small-scale sculptural objects in the gallery, her new work will depend upon the viewer’s interaction with her objects in a very real setting. Ziperstein’s sketch for her Dining Room Table Project describes an angular white table strewn with objects. Dominating the space are twenty lamps, hanging above and stacked in the center of the dining table. Ziperstein describes the work as a prop in the performance of a dinner party; the sculpture is designed to call attention to itself and frustrate easy communication between party-goers.
Of her collaboration with Better Homes and Gardens photographer Grant Mudford for the “Popular Hallucinations” exhibition at BANK, Ziperstein says, “I’m interested in the viewer not only seeing something familiar, but also something really hallucinatory. I’d like to inspire the viewer to think about how they would actually negotiate the space if they lived there.” Mudford’s glossy magazine aesthetic of light-filled and artfully arranged rooms makes even the bold intrusions of Ziperstein’s sculptural forms appear normal, even desirable. Pointing to a white trapezoidal object in one of Mudford’s photographs, Ziperstein says, “I feel like these are futuristic views of a time when there’s no more room for consumers to consume, but designers have still found a way to say, ‘Oh, well, this space underneath the chair? I’m going to make you buy something for that!’ Isn’t that what the Container Store is all about?”
Ziperstein sees her own work as part of this process of consumption. Rescuing a cast-off object from the thrift shop then returning it to the marketplace, Ziperstein asserts that her participation in the process revivifies the object, making what was once mass-produced and unremarkable into a unique object. “In a way,” she says, “I’m completing the cycle.”
Bari Ziperstein is represented in Los Angeles by BANK, 125 W. 4th St., #103, Los Angeles, CA. www.bank-art.com