Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Preparing to Live: Roger Brown in California

Rosa Californica, 1994

Rosa Californica, 1994

The tiny settlement of La Conchita, California, is one of those places that are at once utterly rational and crazily perverse. A neat oblong of ten streets perpendicular to the Pacific Ocean, it is almost as simple and idyllic as a seaside village could be—except that between La Conchita and the ocean lies the Ventura Freeway and a railroad. Until a few years ago, when a pedestrian tunnel was dug under the road, many residents chose to duck through a long storm drain instead of sprinting across six lanes of traffic when they wanted to watch the sunset on the usually deserted beach. (1)  La Conchita is hugged by mountains and is as close to the ocean as it is possible for non-millionaires to get anywhere between San Francisco and Mexico. It brought Roger Brown closer to the man he loved, whom he had lost only years before. It was the place in which he chose to draw closer to death, in an imperfect paradise of his own devising. Read the rest of this entry »

The Live/Work Gallery

Spaces is a feature of art-agenda that proposes a thematic examination of galleries based on the analysis of their physical and spatial configurations. Every two months, art-agenda publishes a new reflection on the spatial characteristics of galleries, their architecture, identity, and relation with their historical and geographical context.

The second feature of Spaces focuses on the confluence of domestic and exhibition environments.


In the first feature in art-agenda’s Spaces series, Chris Sharp enumerated the various species of apartment gallery, a family of spaces that he described as having evolved in contradistinction to the white cube. Sharp’s analysis was made largely along architectural—and thus stylistic and perceptual—lines. Wainscoting, paneling, and cabinetry are all pertinent identifiers of the apartment gallery, unless, as Sharp puts it, the room as been “white-cubified.”

Before reading his piece, I myself had been reflecting on the growing number of commercial galleries that are operated from dealers’ homes. My interest, however, was quite different to Sharp’s. What did it mean, I had begun to wonder, when the proprietor of a gallery actually lived in (or above) the space where they did business? Under what circumstances can art and life, commerce and domesticity, productively exist under the same roof?

Read more…

Josephine Pryde

CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco


We all know that Random International’s Rain Room (2012), drawing crowds most recently at MoMA, and Carsten Holler’s slides, coming soon to the Hayward Gallery, signal the end of days for art. Or at least that’s the established view amongst the cognoscenti. Hands-on experiences in art galleries, the argument goes, turn the brain off. Read the rest of this entry »

William Pope.L

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles


The sheer physics involved in keeping something like this off the ground are staggering. The flag is nearly five metres high by 14 metres long, and weighs God knows how much in polyester and reinforced stitching. It should be noted that, in American flag terms, William Pope.L’  s Trinket (2008/2015) is not an XXL or even an XL but, in the warehouse galleries of the MOCA Geffen, where it flies only a couple of metres off the ground and reaches nearly to the ceiling, it feels colossal. Four thundering Ritter fans, their blades as tall as a man, keep it perpetually roiling in the air. Read the rest of this entry »

Pedro Reyes

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Pedro Reyes1

Cynical commentators often point out that politically activist or socially-engaged art isn’t going to save the world. The position has become something of a truism, even among proponents of the genre. The question, these days, is just what can art achieve? Read the rest of this entry »

Aaron Garber-Maikovska

Greene Exhibitions, Los Angeles


When I was a kid, big-box department stores were exciting beyond words. There were so many places to hide–dark spaces under garment racks, slim gaps behind curtain displays, voids behind stacked boxes–that I would have happily played inside all day. I used to fantasize about getting locked in at night, hiding from security guards (it would have been easy) and then tearing around alone, bouncing on mattresses and skidding across polished floors, or making a den in the sporting goods section.  Read the rest of this entry »


François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles


First —just to get this out of the way—it feels so good to be writing about an exhibition of big sculptures in a big gallery made by five women. When was the last time that happened? Read the rest of this entry »


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