Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Roy De Forest

Parker Gallery, Los Angeles

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Roy De Forest, Untitled, 1996, Mixed media on paper with artist’s frame, 39.5 x 52 x 4.25 inches, courtesy Parker Gallery, Los Angeles

The categorical distinction between drawing and painting may be absurd, but it persists in both museums and the art market. (Why is a work on canvas superior to a work on paper, regardless of the medium used? Is it simply an issue of conservation?) Nevertheless, the activities of drawing and painting continue to serve distinct functions in most artists’ practices. For the Bay Area painter Roy De Forest, who produced an unparalleled body of work between the 1950s and his death in 2007, drawing was rarely a preparatory exercise for painting, but rather an autonomous, exploratory activity that allowed him to work in a freer and looser style than he could in his acrylic paintings on canvas. Which, if you are familiar with his riotously colourful, compositionally freewheeling paintings, you will understand says quite a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

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David Hammons

Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

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‘David Hammons’, 2019, exhibition view. © David Hammons; courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Just inside one suite of galleries at Hauser & Wirth is a small display of material related to Ornette Coleman, the late saxophonist and free jazz innovator to whom David Hammons has dedicated the largest survey of his work to date and the first in Los Angeles for 45 years. ‘It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something,’ said Coleman, who died in 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Sterling Ruby

Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

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Sterling Ruby, The Cup, 2013, foam, urethane, wood and spray paint, 2.3 × 2.9 × 2.2 m. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Robert Wedemeyer

The Nasher Sculpture Center is, by many metrics, something of a paradise for art. Designed by Renzo Piano, the building’s travertine walls and barrelvaulted glass ceilings provide a warm, light-filled setting for expensive objects made of steel, stone, wood and bronze. A graceful garden, designed by Peter Walker, is home to sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Anthony Caro and Alexander Calder. Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Cooke

Castle

James Castle, ‘Untitled (interior with piano)’ © James Castle Collection and Archive

In 2011, Lynne Cooke, then chief curator at Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia, curated a show by the autodidact artist James Castle that, for her, questioned the received narratives of American art history.

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D’Ette Nogle

Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles

D’Ette Nogle, D’Ette Nogle (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist, Public Storage, and Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles.

It’s easy to forget how tranquillisingly reassuring the standard commercial gallery format is until you are obliged to seek out exhibitions in other settings. D’Ette Nogle’s exhibition, titled D’Ette Nogle 2019, is mounted not in the not-yet-refurbished 1952 Paul Revere Williams-designed modernist villa that will soon be Hannah Hoffman’s new home, but in a public storage facility down the street. Access is via the loading bay, then up an unlit stairway. The exhibition is by appointment only, and on my visit, several other viewers shuffle uncertainly through a succession of four storage units separated by dim corridors of padlocked doors. It is like visiting a jail for art.

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Judy Chicago

Three Faces of Man from ‘Power Play’ (1985), Judy Chicago, Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University, Pennsylvania Photo: © Donald Woodman/ARS, New York; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Judy Chicago is excited. ‘This morning my Instagram completely exploded!’ she tells me, clutching her iPhone, when we meet at her Santa Monica hotel. It is late September 2018, the day after Christine Blasey Ford’s devastating testimony, and Brett Kavanaugh’s subsequent tantrum, during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. A friend has forwarded Chicago an article on the website Bustle headlined ‘The Whole Country Just Watched What Happens When Angry, Powerful Men Don’t Get Their Way’, in which the faces of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley were shown as a triptych, contorted in what the writer described as ‘fury and condescension’.

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Darren Bader

Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

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Darren Bader, ‘character limit’, installation view, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

 

How much of Darren Bader’s art do we need in the world? The world, after all, is already full of the kinds of objects that Bader brings into his exhibitions: art, words, images, personalities, ideas. Its very fullness is arguably the condition that Bader’s work both critiques and thrives on. “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more,” Douglas Huebler famously wrote in 1970. The question of whether Bader is adding more objects to the world depends on whether you consider two existing objects placed together to constitute a new object, or just a reconstitution of what was already there. It also depends on whether you consider a near facsimile of an existing object to be a new object. It depends—crucially—on whether an object can consist of language alone.  Read the rest of this entry »