Kori Newkirk’s most recent solo show was in 2013, at San Francisco’s Jessica Silverman Gallery; his last in LA was back in 2010-and neither offer any real clues as to what his eagerly anticipated new project will be like. A sculptor, painter, installation artist, photographer, assemblagist, and autobiographical conceptualist, Newkirk is the first to admit that his visual style is hard to pin down. From the labor-intensive to the laissez-faire, each of his solo exhibitions radically differs in genre and material lexicon from the one before, linked less by aesthetics than by a conceptual process he describes as “continually trying to mess up my own practice, to complicate my own understanding of what I make.” He does this by, among other things, letting tonnages of random objects and images accumulate in the studio and waiting for them cohere into systems of meaning, often through accidents of formal properties. “This time,” he says, “I decided to indulge my attraction to circles. I like circles as an idea, I like them as shape and form, as organic and geometric, and I’m interested in how and where we encounter them in the world.” The motif centers around a suite of bedazzled Duchampian sculptural assemblages made of “wheels and CDs and some other stuff,” plus related works on paper exploring their effects. “Kori Newkirk” runs January 9 – February 6, 2016 at Roberts & Tilton.
Stand-outs in a show full of outstanding works, East Coast-based mixed media painter Aaron Fowler’s raw, affecting contributions to the gallery’s exceptional recent group exhibition “The New New” offered an enticing preview of his imminent January solo show-his first in LA and, as a recent MFA grad (Yale ‘14), among his first anywhere. Still a young artist, this youthfulness manifests in a seductively reckless disregard of conventional understandings of materials, techniques, genres, high and low cultures, art history and commercial fiction, political context and personal experience. In one of the most impactful moments in “The New New,” Fowler-a St. Louis native-composed a striking dual portrait of Ferguson shooting victim Michael Brown and his mother. His work is also currently featured in the group show, “A Constellation,” at the Studio Museum in Harlem. But the exuberant stylistic olio and Outsider-infused spectacle of his hybrid, operatic tableaux rest on a bedrock foundation of advanced technique and obvious dedication to craft and method. His boundary-blurring, confident fluency in a range of urban and atelier vernacular modes of narrative, allegorical, depictive, expressive painting and sculpture, as well as bold architectural siting, yield an engaged, active scholarliness with shades of Noah Purifoy, Leon Golub, Barry McGee, Robert Rauschenberg, and Romare Bearden. The exhibition opens January 30, 2016 at Diane Rosenstein.
Meg Cranston has been exhibiting, writing, and showing rather prolifically for some decades now, perennially engaging, exciting, influential, and surprising. And yet, so much about her practice remains an enigma that even those closest to her are hard-pressed to predict what she will come up with next. By turns monumental, stoic, absurd, unsettling, crowd-sourced, intimate, chaotic and disciplined, Cranston’s concoctions sometimes exist on an architectural scale, encompassing sculpture, collage, painting, and other hybrid mediums. But just as often, she produces small-scale mixed media works of snaggle-toothed grace and awkward urgency. Cheekily cryptic as to the agenda for her forthcoming exhibition, not even her gallerists know what to expect. The release of a single image depicts a dual “portrait” of a pair of what appear to be pepperoni and mushroom pizzas, in a classic blue-point drawing style nestled in a bed of distressed bubble wrap and mounted on marbleized backing, made of plastic, wood, and cardboard. Though impossible to extrapolate what formulation of works for floor, wall, or ceiling this image indicates for the whole, its understated, throw-away preciousness and disarming, folksy irony signals a continuation of her project to excavate anthropological meaning from the ephemera of modern living. “Meg Cranston” opens January 23, 2016 at Meliksetian | Briggs.
A self-described “fashion psychologist,” painter Lani Emanuel’s work belongs to a salient moment in the current visual zeitgeist examining the intersection of fashion, sophisticated youth culture, the construction of feminine identity, and the nuanced conflicts between public persona and private emotion. Painters from Frans Hals to Will Cotton, Rebecca Campbell and Kimberly Brooks have employed clothing and textile patterns as opportunities for expressive abstract painting technique as well as character-driven narrative portraiture. In Emanuel’s work, a pink princess skirt is both a cloud of translucent confectionary textures and a charming, telling pairing with girl-size combat boots. But even as Emanuel’s technique contains a disciplined colorist’s regimen exploiting a limited palette of only four colors-white, yellow ochre, red and black-her vision is equally at home in the sprawling technicolor universe of fashion blogs, selfies, and everyday adolescent rebellion. Her use of minimal, generic background settings reinforces the project of constructing an overall portrait of a generation actively engaged in personal brand management, the quirky postures and inscrutable stares of her subjects keep the images anchored in the reality of the tumultuous inner lives of young women actively engaged in the search for themselves. “Lani Emanuel: She’s Becoming” will be on view from January 30 – March 12, 2016 at Lora Schlesinger Gallery.
The two-person show format is at its best when an inspired pairing across time, genre, medium, or era illuminates its components through the alchemy of unlikely allegiance. Such is the curatorial directive behind the arrangement of painter Chris Trueman and sculptor David Hicks, whose juxtaposition highlights, as the press materials gamely assert, the degree to which “Hicks sculpts with painterliness; and Trueman paints sculpturally.” Acclaimed for several recent series in which volatile, organic, palimpsestic atmospheres were punctuated by linear scoring with quasi-architectural structuralist significance, Trueman returns to a more vigorously organic mode in his newest work. Working at a scale large enough to engage the architectural space directly rather than in imagery, Trueman has also been exploring the unique properties of a Mylar-like paper mounted on board, as well as his first forays into collage. For his part, Hicks makes wall and floor sculptures in terra cotta and steel that in their bulbous, fractal anatomies and nuanced, vaguely earthen palette and agricultural cultivation resemble things grown more so than constructed. Considered together, their inverse dynamic mergers of nature and industry, abstraction and phenomenology plot different courses to arrive at common ground. “David Hicks / Chris Trueman : New Works” runs from January 30 – March 5, 2016 at Edward Cella Art + Architecture.
If there is a through line in Chimento Contemporary’s adventurous and eclectic program, it is the presentation of solo exhibitions featuring new work by beloved, established Los Angeles artists who for a variety of reasons have not shown locally in far too long. From Monique Prieto to Dani Tull, Sandeep Mukherjee, Chris Finley, and Kim Schoenstadt, not only do these longoverdue shows scratch that itch, in most cases they further delight and surprise with new, even radical evolutions in these artists’ style, scope, and format. When it comes to Roy Thurston and his iconic, established method of minimal, constructivist color field abstraction, this manifests as an update to his language of shifting hues, reflection and refraction, and planar topography, all activated by the viewer’s movement through the space the works occupy. With various and elaborate methods for disrupting pristine surfaces that put the hand of the artist back in the Light and Space discourse, Thurston is producing a 12-by-6 foot piece in adjacent panels made from silicone on fabricated aluminum, as well as smaller works executed in acrylic and polyurethane riffing on the crisp, rectangular milled aluminum familiar to fans of his idiosyncratic, fairy-dust reductivism. “Roy Thurston” opens February 27, 2016, at Chimento Contemporary.
—Shana Nys Dambrot