Critic’s Picks: Los Angeles

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“The Grotto,” 2006, Miriam Wosk, Acrylic, crystals, pearls, beads, sequins, glitter, starfish, coral, cactus spines, organic materials, collaged paper, and mixed media on canvas, 66″ x 119″
Photo: courtesy The Miriam Wosk Family Trust / Santa Monica Museum of Art

MIRIAM WOSK
Terry Sander’s documentary, Language of the Soul, begins with Miriam Wosk stating, “I’m a visual glutton. I love all kinds of ornamentation, textiles, patterns, fabric designs and wallpapers. I have a curiosity for so many things.” As she speaks the camera pans over the studio, encompassing the palette of the artist, with rolls of fabric, bins and containers full of items ranging from cheap babbles and ribbon to animal bones, postcards, colored pencils, and books filled with anatomical drawing of humans and animals. The shot provides a glimpse at the fragmented beginnings of the artist’s surrealist-influenced collage work. The end result of these densely layered combinations of skeletal diagrams, baroque ornamentation and fragmented imagery of flora and fauna, simultaneously evoke both the exuberance and fragility of life. Wosk began her successful career as an illustrator in New York, where she worked for publications such as Vogue, Esquire, and The New York Times. She later moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s and established herself as a fine artist, working for over three decades before her untimely death in 2010, following a five-year battle with cancer. The upcoming retrospective, titled “Abundance and Devotion: The Art of Miriam Wosk,” on view January 19 — April 20, 2013, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art is the first major survey of the artist’s prolific career.

“Slave Ship Paratroops into Chaos,” 2007, Andrew Schoultz
Acrylic and collage on canvas, 72″ x 60″
Photos: courtesy Mark Moore Gallery
“Worker Intaglio,” 2012, Nano Rubio
Acrylic, enamel on canvas over panel, 35 7/8″ x 48 1/4″
Photos: courtesy Mark Moore Gallery

ANDREW SCHOULTZ & NANO RUBIO
Mark Moore Gallery opens the New Year with two solo shows by artists new to the gallery this season. “Fall Out” by San Francisco-based artist Andrew Schoultz, showing January 12 — February 9, 2013 translates the artist’s two-dimensional activities into a multimedia installation. Schoultz’s recent projects include painting the exterior of a retired airplane for the Boneyard Project (featured in the March 2012 issue of art ltd.), a mural for Art Basel Miami Beach 2011, and gallery shows on both coasts. In each, Schoultz’s aesthetic was unmistakable, the irregularity of German woodcut, filtered through the influence of urban graffiti combined with a free-wheeling approach to perspective, ranging from the diagonal recesses of Japanese printmaking to the fractured spaces of American Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton. But Schoultz’s art is not of the past, as he combines historic war-related imagery, representations of disastrous natural phenomenon, and symbols of national identity in his current work to evoke current global calamities, both political and environmental. Nano Rubio, who received his MFA from Claremont in 2011, holds his inaugural exhibition at Mark Moore concurrently in the project room. Rubio has recently gained recognition for his abstract paintings built from a series of layers, each casting unique and contradicting identities. Rubio’s laborious parallel pin stripes, which often overlay subtle abstract patterns and forms, create waves of energy pulsating in an almost topographic fashion across the canvas. Heavy swaths of paint pulled over these marks in ungainly arcs and horizontal slogs rudely interrupt the appreciation of these pathways. It is in this fight for primacy upon the surface of these paintings that his seemingly incompatible visual strategies somehow find balance and resolution, and that his works become so compelling.

“Justice League,” 2012, Jason Meadows
Installation view at Marc Foxx Gallery
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer, courtesy Marc Foxx Gallery

JASON MEADOWS
LA-sculptor Jason Meadows reaches into a tangled lexicon of 20th-century art history and contemporary pop culture on a regular basis. Meadows’ recent works combined found objects, in both pristine and discarded condition, with nostalgic characters such as Dumb Donald and Calvin recast as Huck and Jim. Equally part of the equation, is the artist’s ability to carve space and create a sense of balance through asymmetry. The current works on view at Marc Foxx through January 19, are a continuation of the artist’s relentless excavation. Here, David Smith’s totemic sculptures meet Mondrian’s palette (with a touch of purple here and turquoise there) to address a wide array of cultural references, from Damien Hirst’s infamous shark to a DC comics-recreation of the heated 2012 political cycle. The dynamic force of headlong collisions create a surge of energy in the towering Justice League (2012) in which red and blue capes rendered in angular metal violently clash atop a black, off-kilter pedestal–both champions of good set in conflict with one another. Solidly grounded by comparison, The Day After (2012) consists of two large cylindrical containers lined with purple and yellow striped tape perpendicularly askew from one another; the drums seem to carve the air, creating a current of energy flowing through the piece. Though fraught with implications of impending nuclear fallout, Meadows again achieves a sense rhythmic equilibrium.

“So Cute,” 2012, Victor Castillo, Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″
Photo: courtesy Merry Karnowsky Gallery

VICTOR CASTILLO
The Golden Age of American Animation, lasting through the 1930s-50s, is fertile terrain–with Technicolor whimsy and frolic, cartoons are often astute indicators of cultural values as well as shortcomings. “In the old animations,” Chilean-born Los Angeles-based artist Victor Castillo described in a 2012 interview, “you could see the cliches and stereotypes.” And Castillo mines that territory for all its worth, exploring everything from vociferous consumerism to the multifarious aspects of the human condition. The artist revives classic-era animation with some haunting alterations–empty eye sockets frame sausage/balloon noses on children with frozen, mask-like smiles. Whether the viewer is directly engaged by the cast, or given the role of voyeur, the compositions are overtly stage-like: frontal, dramatically lit, with the main characters taking center stage. Caught in moments of struggle, or in the ruins of chaos, these Aesopian fantasies offer no clear resolution, instead generating a sense of trepidation. Often set in the dark of night, Castillo transforms nostalgic Kewpie-Doll-style innocence into vivacious wickedness. In the upcoming series, the artist introduces works on paper and moves the cast into a new territory–daylight. Opening in February 2013, at Merry Karnowsky Gallery, “Under Heavy Measures” includes an installation of fiberglass sculptural works accompanying Castillo’s new works.

“Sluice,” 2011, Blue McRight, Mixed Media, 19″ x 52 1/2″ x 10″
Photo: courtesy Samuel Freeman Gallery

BLUE McRIGHT
In Blue McRight’s previous exhibition at Samuel Freeman’s former Bergamot Station location, No One You Know, the LA-based artist streamlined a 1958 Mascot Holly Travel Coach camper by cutting out the middle of the trailer, and reassembling the remaining halves back together. Circling the trailer parked in the middle of the gallery, was a collection of intimately scaled oil on torn-notebook paper paintings, unframed, hung at eye level, depicting portraits of similar trailers and displaced figures united by a surreal dystopian atmosphere replete with ironic undertones. In a side gallery, “the chapel,” mysterious birds wrapped in black and draped with ebony horsehair-like twine heightened the mystery, as though entering into some ancient ritual room frozen in time. McRight’s new works exchange the image of “the trailer” with a mysterious woman in orange who seems to be symbolically tied to water, whether standing in the ocean or transforming into a suburban spout. Man-made devices used for the dissemination of water are further explored in a series of hybrid objects; gnarled, broken and bound tree branches or hardware combined with water nozzles, hoses–both from gardening to the type used in underwater diving, each delivering the basic necessities of life. In McRight’s hands these ready-made objects assume life-like characteristics, from the anthropomorphic struggle of Bed Wetter, the willow-esque Sluice, to the alert Big Rainmaker. These works are engaging on more than one level; playful animation yet solemn in their associations of excess. The aptly titled, “Quench,” runs January 12 — February 16 at Samuel Freeman Gallery in Culver City.

“White 2,” 2012, Stephen Beal
Graphite, acrylic on wood panel, 36″ x 36″
Photo: courtesy George Lawson Gallery

STEPHEN BEAL
Inevitably, the milky white surfaces of Stephen Beal’s canvases recall the meditative works of Agnes Martin, albeit with a sort of geometric, Theo van Doesburgian twist. But the harmonic lull that Martin created through repetitive hatching of marks of graphite or acrylic on canvas, Beal achieves through the illusion of time and erosion. (Based in San Francisco, Beal also currently serves as president of the California College of the Arts.) In his Linens series, Beal creates an energetic dance, a push and pull between raw linen, graphite grids, and cool white paint. Beal’s White series, however, transcends associations with the modernist grid; instead he creates layers. The dappled quality of the individual “tiles” allows the eye to wander, not only across the canvas, but seemingly through it. What at first glance appear to be brush marks, paradoxically are removals of pigment; they become miniature biomorphic windows that reveal an additional underlying grid that seems to be grounded just below the surface of the work. Additionally, hints of yellowed hues dance across the surfaces in scumbles or off-centered striations; this not only increases the formal sensation of depth, but suggests the slow aging of the pigments. The meditative associations and formal harmonies are transformed into a memento mori. “Stephen Beal, Whites and Linens,” will be on view at George Lawson Gallery February 7 — March 9, 2013.