Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

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 »

Sayre Gomez and JPW3

François Ghebaly / Night Gallery, Los Angeles

Sayre Gomez, 'I'm Different'

Sayre Gomez, ‘I’m Different’

Someone has cut a large hole in the chain-link fence that separates Los Angeles’s François Ghebaly Gallery and Night Gallery. Perhaps eight feet in diameter, it is large enough to drive a car through and at the opening of concurrent recent exhibitions by Sayre Gomez (at Ghebaly) and JPW3 (at Night), the circumference of the hole was dressed with burning incense sticks, like a low-fi ceremonial portal from one dimension to another. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael E. Smith

After the End

image

Untitled, 2013, pigeon pelt, plastic, 26 × 10 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, Clifton Benevento, New York, Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Detroit, KOW, Berlin, and ZERO, Milan 

At the start of Michael E. Smith’s recent monograph, published in 2013 to accompany his exhibition at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen, there is a black page with two QR codes printed in white. Underneath each are the capitalized inscriptions: ‘BEETLEJUICE’ and ‘FOR HEADS’. This is the artist’s preface to the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Becerra

LTD, Los Angeles

Becerra

Alex Becerra is a young painter who seems to value freedom over pretty much everything else, even at the expense of such musty old notions as moral responsibility or restraint. Left to its own devices, his mind goes, most often, to the naked human form: to pictures of fulsome ladies in compromising positions, up-skirt shots caught in mirrors, women with legs akimbo, examining themselves. In this exhibition, Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) is evoked more than once. Becerra makes unapologetically reckless pictures that are, at their best, thrilling to look at and, at their worst, vexing to think about. In this exhibition, there is never a dull moment. Read the rest of this entry »

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