Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Sterling Ruby


Sterling Ruby, DEEP FLAG (5532), 2015, Bleached fleece and elastic, 174 1/2 × 316 inches © Sterling Ruby Photo by Thomas Lannes

I am waiting for Sterling Ruby in a supermarket parking lot on the east side of Los Angeles, and wondering what kind of car he drives. Black Range Rovers and Teslas are popular with successful artists in LA. But the 44-year-old Ruby projects something of the image of a showman, so when a custom 1980s Cadillac with chrome rims pulls in, I think for a moment it might be him. On the other hand, Ruby is a father of three, so perhaps pragmatism wins out: a Mercedes estate or even — who knows — a Volvo.

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Pentti Monkkonen

Jenny’s, Los Angeles


Pentti Monkkonen, T.R.E.A.M. (2016). Wood, sand, acrylic, and aluminum

Before there were art schools and galleries in Los Angeles, there were murals. The tradition has a long and distinguished history, dating from the city’s eighteenth-century Hispanic founders, and it continues to thrive and evolve. LA-based artist Pentti Monkkonen’s exhibition of new works (all 2016) at Jenny’s smartly engaged with this history, drawing on retrospective time frames both micro and macro.

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Carl Cheng

Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles


Carl Cheng, Erosion Machine (detail), 1969, Plexiglas, metal racks and fittings, plastic, water pump, LED lights, black light, pebbles, 4 erosion rocks and wood base, 38 x 64 x 23 cm. All images courtesy: the artist and Cherry & Martin, Los Angeles

In 1967, the year he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, Carl Cheng registered the trade name John Doe Co. and, soon after, began stamping it on his sculptures. Up to this point, much of Cheng’s work had a formal relationship to photography – he was taught by the influential artist-photographer Robert Heinecken, who was instrumental in widening the field – but, as John Doe Co., Cheng began producing objects that seem more like crackpot inventions than image-based sculptures. Read the rest of this entry »