Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Made in L.A.

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Huntington Museum, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino

Fulton Leroy Washington (aka MR. WASH), Mr. Rene # MAN POWER, 2011, oil on stretched canvas, 61 × 50.8 cm.
Courtesy: the artist, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Before entering the long-delayed (and now revised) ‘Made in L.A. 2020: a version’, I pitied its poor curators, whose exhibition has been kyboshed by a succession of lockdowns. Originally scheduled to open in June, the biennial – split this year between the Hammer Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino – has lain partly dormant, partly unfinished. With (almost) all works installed, museum leaders allowed in a few members of the press, who, they hoped, might grant ‘Made in L.A. 2020’ a little exposure to daylight. (The biennial is currently expected to open to the public next year.)1

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Caitlin Keogh

Overduin & Co, Los Angeles

Caitlin Keogh, Waxing Year 1 and Waxing Year 2, (both 2020)
Courtesy: the artist and Overduin & Co., Los Angeles

Caitlin Keogh’s ambitious exhibition, ‘Waxing Year’, at Overduin & Co in Los Angeles – which includes a group of seven large paintings interspersed with ten small, mixed-media assemblages – is, in many respects, a tour de force. Why, then, does it leave me wanting something more? 

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Charles Gaines

‘Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #6, Fetter Lane’ (2020), photo: Fredrik Nilsen; © Charles Gaines, Hauser & Wirth

When Charles Gaines was in elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1950s, he showed an aptitude for drawing. His well-meaning teacher suggested to his mother that perhaps he should be an artist. He could be the first black artist in the history of the world, she said.

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Lisa Yuskavage

The Tongue Tondo (2018), Lisa Yuskavage. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner; © Lisa Yuskavage

Sometime not long ago, before the pandemic rendered such gatherings unconscionable, I met up with a few fellow critics for drinks at a friend’s house. At one point in the evening, during a boisterous discussion about artists’ personal politics, someone casually remarked that so-and-so was ‘definitely a misogynist’, and everyone roundly agreed before cantering on with the conversation.

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Robert Longo

Robert Longo, Untitled (Capitol), (2012-13)
© Courtesy of the artist and Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles

Robert Longo makes aggressive, powerful images. They are usually big. Sometimes very big. High-definition, high-contrast, high-octane. Stereotypically masculine, he’d be the first to admit. Emphatically American.

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John Cage

Cage Foraging in Grenoble, France, 1971. 
Photograph by James Klosty.
1.

In 1959, composer John Cage appeared on the popular Italian TV game show Lascia o Raddoppia? (Double or Nothing?). Specialist subject: mushroom identification. Cage was in Milan as the guest of fellow avant-garde composer Luciano Berio, and was performing a series of concerts. Berio was at that time working for Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), the state media channel that included, improbably, an “experimental studio for audio research.” Others in Berio’s circle, including writer Umberto Eco and sound engineer Marino Zuccheri, also worked with RAI, and together the cohort had finagled Cage a spot on the show. 

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Diana Markosian

Diana Markosian, “The Arrival” (2019) from “Santa Barbara” (Aperture, 2020)

In a soundstage on a quiet street in Glendale, Calif., a whisper passed among the crew. Svetlana, the director’s mother, had arrived.

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Gianfranco Gorgoni

Gianfranco Gorgoni, Michael Heizer’s Circular Surface Planar Displacement, Jean Dry Lake, Nevada, 1970, 1970, photograph. 
Courtesy: Carol Franc Buck Collection, Nevada Museum of Art; photograph: © Estate of Gianfranco Gorgoni; artwork: © Michael Heizer

On Christmas Eve 1968, astronauts on the Apollo 8 Moon mission took the first photographs of the Earth by someone not on it. William Anders’s Earthrise, the best-known image, immeasurably altered humanity’s consciousness of its environment, but it also changed forever the way landscape was viewed in art.

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Doyle Lane

Doyle Lane, c. 1976, El Sereno, Los Angeles. Photograph: Ben Serar

One afternoon in the early ’90s, the banking consultant Rudy Estrada returned to his mansion in Pasadena, Calif., to find two members of the local sheriff’s department standing over a lightly built African-American man spread-eagled on his front lawn.

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Christina Quarles

Christina Quarles, Tha Nite Could Last Ferever, 2020 Acrylic on canvas 84 x 72 x 2 in
Courtesy of the artist and Pilar Corrias, London Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

This summer, for the first time in two decades of drawing figures, Christina Quarles found out what it is like to be drawn by other people. During lockdown, she and a small group of friends and acquaintances organised socially distanced life-drawing sessions, taking it in turns to model. 

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