Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Doug Aitken

Underwater Pavilions, Catalina

Underwater Pavilions

A sea lion swims near Doug Aitken’s ‘Underwater Pavilions’ (2016) © Shawn Heinrichs/Parley for the Oceans/MOCA

The waters around the pretty island of Catalina, 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, are colder in December than you might think. Two days after heaving on scuba gear and descending 15 feet to see Los Angeles artist Doug Aitken’s sub-aquatic sculptures, the tips of my fingers were still tingling and numb. What I saw down there, however, stayed with me long after normal feeling returned. Read the rest of this entry »

Betye Saar

Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles

Betye Saar, Museum Het Domein, Sittard, the Netherlands, 2015.

Betye Saar, Pause Here – Spirit Chair, 1996, Mixed media assemblage with metal garden chair and neon, 31.5 x 24.5 x 20.5 in

Betye Saar’s double exhibition at Roberts & Tilton coincides with the opening of her career survey at the Fondazione Prada, Milan. The first exhibition, titled Black White (which opened a month before the second exhibition), is a more concise presentation in the gallery’s project space that arranges assemblage sculptures and collages spanning from the present back to an early etching by the artist – now a nonagenarian – from 1964. Blend, the second and more generously spaced display (actually including fewer works), occupies the main gallery. Its focus is the major mixed media installation Mojotech (1987), which stretches nearly 7.5 metres along one wall and was the outcome of a residency Saar undertook at the List Visual Arts Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge. Read the rest of this entry »

Peter Shire

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Peter Shire, Scorpion, White, 1996-2015 cone 06 clay and two part polyurethane with ceramic primer, and glazed lids with metal detail 12.5 x 21.25 x 8.25 inches

The door of Peter Shire’s first ceramics studio, in Los Angeles, opened directly onto the sidewalk. He moved in three years after graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute, in 1972, and soon discovered that the corner of Echo Park Avenue where his studio was located was also where the members of the local gang – the Echo Park Locos – regularly hung out. Read the rest of this entry »

Kathryn Andrews

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Kathryn Andrews, “Hobo (The Candidates),” 2014. Ink on paper and plexiglas, aluminum, paint, mixed media. 43 3⁄4″ x 37″ x 2 1⁄4″. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Courtesy: the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

 

In Fall 2014, “Donald Trump For President” was less than a whisper on the wind. When, around that time, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, invited Kathryn Andrews to mount an exhibition for November of the following year, she hit upon the idea of using the US presidential election as a thematic narrative to structure a mini-survey of her sculptures, wall works and installations from the past five years. Clowns were to feature prominently. Read the rest of this entry »

SITElines.2016

Site Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Javier Tellez, To Have Done with the Judgment of God, 2016, digital film, 37 minutes

On the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), about a mile from SITE Santa Fe, one of Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s most important buildings is crumbling behind a chain-link fence, out of bounds to students and the public alike. The extraordinary cast-concrete Paolo Soleri Amphitheater was commissioned in 1964 by Lloyd Kiva New, the Cherokee cofounder of the Institute of American Indian Arts. New’s vision for the school was to use Native American heritage as the basis for contemporary artistic expression. Conservative Pueblo tribal leaders were skeptical of this approach, however, and in 1981 the All Indian Pueblo Council routed the school from its premises and replaced it with the more traditional SFIS, which had formerly occupied the campus and, after a complicated history (it was originally a government institution devoted to forced assimilation, for instance) and a dissolution, was being reformed under the leadership of the Pueblo tribes. Read the rest of this entry »

Ry Rocklen

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Ry Rocklen, Head Planter, 2016, Terracotta, sonotube and paint, 48 x 18 x 18 inches    Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo by Brian Forrest

Humility has been a consistently appealing quality in Ry Rocklen’s work over his decade-long career. Even when it approaches bling – as with his polished bronze cast of a punctured Humvee wheel (Untitled Hummer Flat, 2014) ­– his work is inflected with a down-home wit and a self-deprecating localism. Rocklen, an LA native who also studied in the city, is more entitled than most to call it his muse. The press release for ‘L.A. Relics’, incredibly the artist’s first exhibition in Los Angeles since 2009, curiously notes that his memories of the 1984 LA Olympics were particularly influential on the series that shares the show’s title. Read the rest of this entry »

Hanne Darboven

Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles

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Hanne Darboven, For Abraham Lincoln, 1989, 776 sheets, 29,5 x 21 cms each, mounted on 97 70 x 100 cm plates, with 8 sheets each. © Hanne Darboven Foundation, Hamburg / ARS, New York 2016; Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Crone Gallery. Photo: Joshua White, 2016

Rows of numbers instill in me a sickening panic. I got that feeling, familiar from childhood mathematics lessons and annual tax returns, in Hanne Darboven’s current exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »