Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson, Portrait (Vain German), 2020–21, urethane, resin, Aqua-Resin, pigment, fiberglass and aluminium. 74.3 × 59.7 × 5.7 cm. Courtesy: © The Art Trust created under Kaari Upson Trust and Sprüth Magers; photograph: Ed Mumford

‘never, never ever, never in my life, never in all my born days, never in all my life, never’ is and is not a posthumous exhibition. Kaari Upson passed away only in August of last year; many of us are still coming to terms with her loss. But to think of this, her first solo show in Los Angeles in over a decade, only in the memorializing terms of the posthumous tribute is distracting, limiting and inaccurate. Comprising work produced between 2015 and 2021, it was planned, in part, by the artist herself, but was repeatedly pushed back due to the pandemic. It was Upson who came up with that exclamatory title.

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Marcel Duchamp

In 1959, Marcel Duchamp’s career was in the weeds. Not that he minded much. He had largely abandoned making art almost 40 years earlier and, while he still dabbled in corners of the art world, full recognition had never really arrived. Plans for a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York were shelved in the 1940s; talk of another, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a few years later, fizzled out.

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American Artist

REDCAT, Los Angeles

American Artist, Octavia E. Butler Papers: mssOEB 1-9062 I (Social Studies), 2022. Huntington Library stationary, graphite, pencil, felt, 26 x 39.5 inches (framed). Image courtesy of the artist; Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles; and REDCAT, Los Angeles. Photo by Brica Wilcox

 

About 15 minutes’ drive from the mirrored towers of downtown Los Angeles, a shady canyon throngs with oaks, willows, sycamores, and cottonwoods. Treefrog tadpoles wriggle in the creek. Snakes hunt among the rocks. Visitors to Hahamongna Watershed Park, named after the Tongvan village that once existed there, also cannot miss the adjacent white buildings of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a giant research facility owned by NASA. Read the rest of this entry »

Buck Ellison

‘Rain in Rifle Season, Distributions from Split-Interest Trusts, Price Includes Uniform, Never Hit Soft, 2003’, 2021, archival pigment print, 102 × 135 cm. All images courtesy of the artist

The handsome blonde man in the photograph reclines on a wrinkled Persian rug, an arm’s length from the camera. His smiling eyes gaze fondly into ours. Maybe he’s about to say something. But what?

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Gerald Jackson

Gerald Jackson, Untitled (Skid Painting), 1980s, spray paint on wood, 72 × 72 cm. 
Courtesy: the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

In a 2016 Bomb magazine interview with the painter Stanley Whitney, Gerald Jackson tried to explain the difficulty – for a Black artist, like himself – of accessing an authentic sense of self when his identity is a construction imposed on him by a dominant white society founded on a history of slavery. He had to reconstruct, he said, his entire subconscious: ‘I’m not a crazy person; I’m not a Black person. I’m only what I make myself up to be.’

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Larry Bell

‘Pacific Red (II)’ (2017) at the Whitney Museum © Larry Bell. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Timothy Schenk

Although he has lived in Taos, New Mexico, since 1973, Larry Bell is still chiefly associated with the Light and Space movement that emerged in southern California in the 1960s. His early works epitomised the group: semi-mirrored glass cubes that, through their fleeting reflectivity, reacted to — as advertised — the light and space around them, deft exercises in highlighting the processes of perception.

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Suzanne Lacy

Suzanne Lacy, Los Angeles, 2022. Yudi Ela for The New York Times

On a cold day last December, sitting outside her studio in Santa Monica, Calif., the artist Suzanne Lacy  talked excitedly about the coming year. In Manchester, England, exhibitions of her work were already open at the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery. She looked forward to a prestigious fellowship at the University of Manchester in the spring.

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Charles Ray

Unbaled Truck (2021), Charles Ray.  Photo: Josh White; courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery; © Charles Ray

In May 2020, the sculptor Charles Ray was driving north from his home in Los Angeles to Anacortes, in Washington state, to see a man about a boat. Locked up in the early months of the pandemic, the restless Ray got what he calls ‘Covid fever’ and, despite the entreaties of his wife Sylvia, threw a sleeping bag into the back of his car and set off for the boatyard, near the Canadian border, where he needed to make some decisions about the layout of a sailing boat that was being built for him. Ray takes sailing very seriously indeed. In 2003 he was nearly shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean when an unlit military vessel collided with him in the middle of the night; this new boat, he tells me, is designed to accommodate his wife and her friends so Ray will not have to sail alone.

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Ben Sakoguchi

Detail from ‘Towers’, 2014, © Courtesy the artist/Bel Ami

“Pop & me in front of our brand new grocery store,” reads the inscription on a small acrylic painting, part of Ben Sakoguchi’s multi-panel “Postcards from Camp” (1999-2001). In the picture, a man in a long white apron holds a toddler in front of a neat shopfront underneath the date of the scene, 1940, and the ominous words “Before camp . . . ”

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Ulysses Jenkins

A photo taken during a rehearsal for Ulysses Jenkins’s ‘Without Your Interpretation’ (1984) © Courtesy the artist

In the early 1970s, a young muralist named Ulysses Jenkins was encouraged by a friend to come down to the boardwalk in Venice, Los Angeles, to check out a videomaking workshop. The Sony Portapak — the first portable consumer video camera — had come on to the market in the late 1960s and was still very expensive. New owners often ran workshops, renting out their equipment to try to recoup some of their costs.

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