Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Joan Snyder

Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, Los Angeles

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The New York-based painter Joan Snyder came to attention quite suddenly, in 1971 at the age of thirty-one, when she exhibited a body of work that she referred to as her ‘stroke paintings’. These large canvases, both abstract and expressionist, though ambivalent towards the orthodoxies of the masculine Abstract Expressionist movement, arranged discontinuous strokes of different colours on horizontal grids. Snyder’s Spring 1971 (1971), which introduces her exhibition at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, is a classic work from this pivotal moment in her career. Read the rest of this entry »

Routine Pleasures

MAK Center, Los Angeles

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Manny Farber, Birthplace: Douglas, Ariz. (1979). Oil on board. Image courtesy of the MAK Center and Doug Simay. Photo: Joshua White.

How would you like to be labeled a termite? Or rather, to cite the term that Manny Farber coined in 1962, a “termite artist”? Farber—the San Diego painter and film critic who died in 2008—was writing in the now defunct magazine Film Culture, expanding on his opposing terms “termite art” and “white elephant art.” Read the rest of this entry »

Los Angeles Reflections

Alex Israel and Brett Easton Ellis, Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Catherine Opie, MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

“West Hollywood”, AA|LA, Los Angeles

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Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis: Different Kind of Star, 2016, acrylic and UV ink on canvas, 7 by 14 feet; at Gagosian Beverly Hills. © Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis; image courtesy iStock and Gagosian Gallery. Photography: Jeff McLane.

Type “Los Angeles” into the search box of iStockphoto.com and you will see over seventy thousand images, many of which look very much the same. For the works in a recent exhibition at Gagosian in Beverly Hills, Alex Israel spent what must have been many grueling hours scouring the database, finally selecting a group of images that distill the clichés underwriting the romantic fantasy that—for some—is Los Angeles. He then UV-printed the photos on large panoramic canvases, with words by Bret Easton Ellis, his collaborator for the show, displayed across them. Read the rest of this entry »

Agnes Martin

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Agnes Martin, The Islands, 1961, Private Collection © 2016 Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Pace Gallery

 

On the very last page of Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (2015), the biography’s author, Nancy Princenthal, admits that Martin would probably have thought her book utterly worthless. She quotes her from a handwritten note reproduced  near the start of Arne Glimcher’s semi-biographical monograph, Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances (2012): ‘Almost everyone believes that art is from the experience of the artist […] They believe that it is affected by where you live and what you do. But one’s “biography”, character, abilities, knowledge – all of that has nothing to do with artwork. Inspiration is the beginning, the middle and the end.’ Read the rest of this entry »

K.r.m. Mooney

Reserve Ames, Los Angeles

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Since it is impossible to say—in the work of K.r.m. Mooney just as in the world—where one thing ends and another begins, it seems appropriate to start by considering the structure that houses this exhibition. An ancient wooden shed, it was once a garage for the large Craftsman home it sits behind, built in 1906. Wide sliding barn-like doors open onto patched timber walls and a cracked concrete floor stained from years of dripping motor oil. Weeds sprout through some of the cracks and papery pink bougainvillea petals blow in from the garden. As a concession to the aesthetic formalities of the white cube, a pristine white rectangle of wall divides the front gallery from the storage area behind. Read the rest of this entry »

Made in L.A.: a, the, though, only

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Huguette Caland, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photograph: Jonathan Griffin

One of the best things about ‘Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only’, is that – title notwithstanding – it is quite possible to forget that the work in the exhibition was made in LA. Now in its third edition, the biennial is still finding its purpose, torn as it is in different directions. Tasked with showcasing emerging and under-recognized artists, each iteration’s curators are widely expected to reflect back at the city an image of itself that is, at once, recognizably authentic but also unfamiliar, transcendent and subjective. Read the rest of this entry »

Gina Beavers

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Gina Beavers, Memphis BBQ (looks like a Gina Beavers), 2013, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Michael Benevento, Los Angeles; photograph: Jeff McLane

Modelling the surface of a picture into a 3D relief, with contours that boost the image with real shadows and highlights, is a technique so crassly obvious that it is a wonder you don’t see it more often – not only in art but in visual culture in general. Why not, in order to snag the attention of easily distracted viewers, just make images that physically pop out from the wall? Read the rest of this entry »