Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Joan Brown

Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco

Brown_Year of the tiger_JJ

In 1957, at the age of 18, Joan Brown had her first exhibition of paintings in San Francisco’s 6 Gallery, where two years previously Allen Ginsberg had first given a reading of his poem Howl (1955). It was the advent of the Beat movement, and Brown came of age at its epicentre. Despite her remarkably swift success, she distanced herself from her early expressionist technique the following decade, tackling her subsequent paintings with a renewed degree of finesse and control. As this bifurcated exhibition of works from the mid-1970s and early 1980s makes plain, Brown reinvented herself throughout her career. Read the rest of this entry »

Eric Wesley

356 S. Mission Road, Los AngelesWesley_I_Beam_U_Channel-cmyk

Ironically, perhaps, for such a wayward, unpredictable and contrarian artist, Eric Wesley has a fondness for numbers and systems. ‘Some Work’, his sardonically titled quasi-retrospective at 356 S. Mission Road, was arranged around a neat numeric structure. A map, printed on the back of the invitation card in lieu of a press release, provided a key. Read the rest of this entry »

Alma Allen

Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

AlmaAllen

An artist like Alma Allen causes certain categorical predicaments for those who try to write about the extraordinary objects he has been quietly making for over two decades. He is a self-taught artist who is far from Outsider, a craftsman who makes furniture as well as functionless objects, an artist who in 2013 was plying his trade at the Echo Park Craft Fair and in 2014 was lauded as a highlight of the Whitney Biennial, and a private figure whose troubled backstory adds gravitas to his outwardly quixotic creations. Read the rest of this entry »

Out of the Light, Into the Shadows

The History of the Photogram

Raphael-Hefti-framed-Lycopodium-ii-UK_salts_12

Rafael Hefti, Lycopodium, 2011

 

A photogram is not a photograph, not really. Sure, it is usually discussed as a subset of photography, and it was born around the same time, from similar chemistry, but is practically and conceptually only remotely related. A photogram is no more a photograph than a photocopy, an X-ray or a digital scan. Photography typically uses lenses to project light onto film, and then onto paper, in order to render an objective representation of a scene or object. It changed the world because of its reproducibility, and because of its capacity for vivid mimesis. Read the rest of this entry »

Prospect.3

Various venues, New Orleans

Paul Gauguin, Under the Pandanus (I Raro te Oviri), 1891, oil on canvas, 98 × 121 × 9 cm

It is odd to reflect that the idiosyncratic Prospect is the United States’ largest international art biennial. Its first iteration, in 2008, received an enthusiastic critical response but was still finding its infrastructural feet – as was New Orleans only three years after Hurricane Katrina or ‘the great storm’ (people in the city prefer not to humanize it with a name). Read the rest of this entry »

The Quiet Life

Artists and the Freedom of the Desert

 

A couple of miles into the unprepossessing town of Yucca Valley, in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, California, is a turn-off for the Sky Village Swap Meet. There’s a sign, but it’s almost impossible to spot from the main road. Open on Saturdays and Sundays, the swap meet has been run for 35 years by Bob Carr, who stepped back from day-to-day operations earlier this year so he can concentrate on making art. Carr is 76. His masterwork is The Crystal Cave (2004–ongoing), a freestanding grotto made mainly from expanding foam and crystals. Customers at the swap meet can peer through circular windows in the structure’s lumpy brown walls and spy a miniature landscape painted green and brown, through which running water trickles over waterfalls and rock crystals sprout like alien flora. Read the rest of this entry »

Cayetano Ferrer

Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles

Cayetano Ferrer

I was once in the house of some very wealthy people (OK, some billionaires), and the French curator of their furniture collection was showing me how a sheet of marble can be folded, with 45-degree cuts, to create the impression of a solid block. He told me that he was surprised how easy it was in Los Angeles to find the craftsmen skilled enough to achieve such seamless illusion. Read the rest of this entry »

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