Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Take It or Leave It

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Gober September 12

Large-scale historical shows, when done in a certain way, can be intellectual steamrollers. A museum exhibition is a powerful rhetorical device; gallery after gallery of judiciously selected aesthetic material beside didactic wall texts can make a particular hypothesis or observation seem indisputable, or a historical moment appear satisfyingly coherent. 
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Bill Viola

bill viola

When Bill Viola talks about his art, he refers to it as ‘our work’. He and his wife, Kira Perov, have been working together since they met in Melbourne, Australia, in 1977. The first thing Viola tells me, when I sit down with him at his studio in Long Beach, California, is that it is most important that my interview include Kira. Read the rest of this entry »

Samara Golden


Like many children, when she was young Samara Golden liked to lie with her legs over the back of the sofa and look at the room upside down. She was fascinated by the space that appeared: when the ceiling became the floor, the room became strange, much bigger, more exciting – large items of furniture now dangling down from above and all the clutter lofted up there too – and though physically real, only accessible from Golden’s singular, inverted viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Liz Larner

Regen Projects, Los Angeles


Some art works are so porous towards meaning, so sensitive to atmospheric conditions and the fingerprints of discourse, that we must be careful what words we use on them. Language can indelibly tarnish objects. Liz Larner’s best sculptures have always been hard to talk about with sufficient delicacy, none more so than the ceramic tablets which dominated her seventh solo exhibition at Regen Projects since 1989. Read the rest of this entry »

Karin Apollonia Müller

Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles


There are two opposing critical interpretations of the aerial panorama. Looking at the earth from above is, on the one hand, a way to see patterns, systems or gestalts not visible at close quarters – the behaviour of crowds, for instance, or the geological growth of cities. This distanced perspective might also, conversely, be considered generalising, flattening and simplifying. From afar, everyone looks the same. People move like water or gas, and the built environment appears biological. Do these similes point to profound universal truths, or are they delusions? Personally, I lean towards the latter view. Read the rest of this entry »

Malicious Damage

The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton

by Ilsa Colsell


At first, the staff of the Islington Public Library rather looked forward to the discovery of another book, turned in by a confused patron who had realised, too late, that something was terribly wrong with its cover or flyleaf blurb. On the front of The Great Tudors, Henry VIII’s face had been mysteriously replaced by that of a chimpanzee. The plot synopsis inside the jacket of Dorothy L. Sayers’ potboiler Clouds of Witness concludes by suggesting that the reader “have a good shit”. When, in late 1961, complaints began to increase in frequency and fervour, the chief librarian decided that something must be done. Read the rest of this entry »

Paramount Ranch


Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles, Feb 1–2 2014

On a recent Saturday morning, while half of Los Angeles’s art community was shelling out ten dollars to park their cars outside the dispiriting aircraft hangar of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, the city’s preeminent art fair, and the other half was trying to find an empty meter downtown for Printed Matter’s enormously popular LA Art Book Fair at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary, I was heading west on the 101 Freeway, driving fast out of town. After half an hour or so, the houses thinned and gave way to scrubby, dry hills populated by pelotons of cyclists and nervous-looking fire crews. Read the rest of this entry »


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