Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Art Agenda

Peter Saul

New Museum, New York

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Peter Saul, Donald Trump in Florida, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 120 inches. Image courtesy of Hall Art Foundation

How much is too much, when it comes to the art of Peter Saul? How about: The big high box of the New Museum’s fourth-floor gallery stacked two-deep with more than two dozen large paintings in fluorescent hues? How about: Every gallery on the floor below packed with at least as many again, dating from 1960 to the present? How about: Three paintings that feature Donald Trump? Seven of electric chairs? Countless more figures with bullet-holes spewing glossy gouts of blood? A dog barfing onto the head of Rush Limbaugh, accompanied by a speech bubble that reads “BARF”? How about: One retrospective, only the second of the artist’s career, and his first in New York? Read the rest of this entry »

‘With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972–85’

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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View of “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972—85” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2019–20. Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles. Photo by Jeff Mclane.

Pattern and Decoration (P&D), a tendency which crystallized into a movement in New York in the mid-1970s, is one of the few movements of modern art to have self-designated, rather than been identified either by critical champions (think of Germano Celant and Arte Povera) or by sneering skeptics (Finish Fetish, Fauvism). Its members, though heterogeneous in their work, were united in their artistic tastes and temperament: they espoused a maximalist aesthetic that drew from global traditions and sources, also often aligned with feminist art practices that embraced domestic handicrafts. They had no manifesto, but critical allies including Amy Goldin and John Perreault have written eloquently about their work and aims. According to Perreault, “Pattern painting is non-Minimalist, non-sexist, historically conscious, sensuous, romantic, rational, decorative. Its methods, motifs, and referents cross cultural and class lines.”1 Read the rest of this entry »

Made in L.A. 2018

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, George Jones Greeting the Newest Members of Heaven’s Band, 2017

Not so much a city as an unevenly populated, multi-centered megalopolis, and not so much a year as a point in an escalating concatenation of national and global crises, there might seem to be no possible way to get “Made in L.A. 2018” right. Add to that the divisions within LA’s art community that mirror many of the historically entrenched divisions within the city itself—between east and west, north and south, white and non-white, gentrified and gentrifying, young and no longer young, left and far left. If artists, as “Made in L.A. 2018” curators Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale write, are “some of our most active citizens,” then biennial curators might be something akin to well-intentioned politicians, expected to represent a plurality of impassioned positions while trying also to retain sight of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Los Angeles Gallery Share

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D’Ette Nogle, Wardrobe Selections for Gallery (2013–2018), 2018, at Hannah Hoffman Gallery

At least Condo, in London and New York (and soon also Mexico City and São Paulo), and Okey-Dokey, in Düsseldorf and Cologne, had snappy names and branding. The latest manifestation of the increasingly popular gallery share model, hosted by three Los Angeles galleries, does not have a name. Its program, in which eight international galleries and one peripatetic “off-space” have descended on Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Kristina Kite Gallery, and Park View/Paul Soto for the month of March, seems to have evolved very organically. One might even call it ad hoc. Read the rest of this entry »

Dysfunctional Formulas of Love

The Box, Los Angeles"Dysfunctional Formulas of Love", 
Curated with Corazón Del Sol and Víctor Albarracín Llanos, at The Box Gallery, Los Angeles, 18 September, 2017

If your first associations with Colombia are cocaine, paramilitary violence, and the rapacious plunder of natural resources by neo-colonialist corporations, then you are only half right, according to this spirited, unkempt, and organizationally flawed exhibition of Colombian artists at The Box, Los Angeles. Along with all these clichés (eagerly resold to Western audiences through film and television), Colombia is a society of familial warmth and communal resilience, a place where humor, love, and magic play important roles in the survival of its people. Read the rest of this entry »

Terence Koh

Moran Bondaroff, Los Angeles

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Over the decade and a half of his career to date, Terence Koh has generated so many myths that it is now nearly impossible to begin thinking about his work without first acknowledging the tales of his personal and professional decadence in New York during the pre-crash mid-aughts, or the story of his apparent atonement when he faded from hypervisibility following his 2011 show “nothingtoodoo” at Mary Boone, New York, retreating with his partner to a mountaintop in the Catskills. The legend is threadbare from retelling; you’re at a computer—if you don’t already know it, Google him. Better, instead, to start with some facts about Terence Koh in 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

Hanne Darboven

Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles

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Hanne Darboven, For Abraham Lincoln, 1989, 776 sheets, 29,5 x 21 cms each, mounted on 97 70 x 100 cm plates, with 8 sheets each. © Hanne Darboven Foundation, Hamburg / ARS, New York 2016; Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Crone Gallery. Photo: Joshua White, 2016

Rows of numbers instill in me a sickening panic. I got that feeling, familiar from childhood mathematics lessons and annual tax returns, in Hanne Darboven’s current exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. 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 »

The Live/Work Gallery

Spaces is a feature of art-agenda that proposes a thematic examination of galleries based on the analysis of their physical and spatial configurations. Every two months, art-agenda publishes a new reflection on the spatial characteristics of galleries, their architecture, identity, and relation with their historical and geographical context.


The second feature of Spaces focuses on the confluence of domestic and exhibition environments.

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In the first feature in art-agenda’s Spaces series, Chris Sharp enumerated the various species of apartment gallery, a family of spaces that he described as having evolved in contradistinction to the white cube. Sharp’s analysis was made largely along architectural—and thus stylistic and perceptual—lines. Wainscoting, paneling, and cabinetry are all pertinent identifiers of the apartment gallery, unless, as Sharp puts it, the room as been “white-cubified.”

Before reading his piece, I myself had been reflecting on the growing number of commercial galleries that are operated from dealers’ homes. My interest, however, was quite different to Sharp’s. What did it mean, I had begun to wonder, when the proprietor of a gallery actually lived in (or above) the space where they did business? Under what circumstances can art and life, commerce and domesticity, productively exist under the same roof?

Read more…

Sayre Gomez and JPW3

François Ghebaly / Night Gallery, Los Angeles

Sayre Gomez, 'I'm Different'

Sayre Gomez, ‘I’m Different’

Someone has cut a large hole in the chain-link fence that separates Los Angeles’s François Ghebaly Gallery and Night Gallery. Perhaps eight feet in diameter, it is large enough to drive a car through and at the opening of concurrent recent exhibitions by Sayre Gomez (at Ghebaly) and JPW3 (at Night), the circumference of the hole was dressed with burning incense sticks, like a low-fi ceremonial portal from one dimension to another. Read the rest of this entry »