Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Art Agenda

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 »

Frances Stark

Marc Foxx, Los Angeles

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About three years ago, something unexpected happened in Frances Stark’s art. After two decades of making work about herself––about her anxieties and obsessions, her identity crises and motivational struggles––she started making work about other people. Stranger still, her subjects became, in most instances, young men of color.  Read the rest of this entry »

Paramount Ranch

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Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles, Feb 1–2 2014

On a recent Saturday morning, while half of Los Angeles’s art community was shelling out ten dollars to park their cars outside the dispiriting aircraft hangar of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, the city’s preeminent art fair, and the other half was trying to find an empty meter downtown for Printed Matter’s enormously popular LA Art Book Fair at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary, I was heading west on the 101 Freeway, driving fast out of town. After half an hour or so, the houses thinned and gave way to scrubby, dry hills populated by pelotons of cyclists and nervous-looking fire crews. Read the rest of this entry »

Carnegie International 2013

Carnegie Museum of Art, PittsburghCI130362_swords

“You can’t bring culture to people, you can only bring it out of them.” That’s Robert Rauschenberg, in a 1968 manifesto titled “Proposals for Public Parks” which the curators of the 2013 Carnegie International—Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski—have reprinted in the catalog for their exhibition. Rauschenberg’s assertion poses a ticklish problem for the trio, whose assigned mission it has been (as first mandated by Andrew Carnegie in 1895) to bring culture to the people of Pittsburgh. Invigorated by Rauschenberg’s paradox, they have installed an edition of the Carnegie International (last held in 2008) that is both deeply rooted in its historical and geographical situation, and expansive in its purview. Artists from Switzerland and England lure visitors into the museum with eye-catching outdoor sculptures while, inside, the first work one encounters is by Polish artist Paulina Olowska, who has borrowed a collection of puppets from a Pittsburgh theater. Elsewhere, art from New York, Tehran, Zagreb, and Johannesburg seeks to connect the far-flung with the close at hand. And—notwithstanding the peripatetic art crowd that descended on Pittsburgh for the exhibition’s gala opening—it is the local audience that the 2013 Carnegie International seems designed to address. Read the rest of this entry »

Made in Space

Night Gallery, Los Angeles
Made in Space 1

Is it possible to talk about art made in Los Angeles without crediting the city with everything that makes its art unique? Why are artists in Southern California so often asked to explain how their work is influenced by its infrastructure or climate? Is “Made in Space,” the exhibition curated by artists Peter Harkawik and Laura Owens, an antidote to these tendencies or is it a symptom? Read the rest of this entry »

Standard Operating Procedures

Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

What is the difference between a “standard operating procedure” and a formula, an algorithm, a set of instructions, a program, a system, a recipe or a run book? This exhibition, which takes SOPs as its theme, never makes it quite clear. But its curator, Piper Marshall, contends in her press release that “Today, SOPs are determining the conditions of everyday life,” through such esoteric formulations as search engines, dating sites, self-help books, and targeted advertising.

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Paul McCarthy

The Box, Los Angeles

The doubling begins immediately. An exhibition across town, organized by MOCA and James Franco, called “Rebel,” themed (incredibly) around Franco’s resemblance to James Dean, finds its evil twin in “Rebel Dabble Babble.” It began with Franco inviting Paul McCarthy to collaborate on a project based on Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and ended up with McCarthy and his son Damon creating house-sized sets in their studio, staging auditions, filming, and performing in scenes with actors (who played hybrids of cinematic characters and the actors who originally played them) and, ultimately, shooting scenes for a pornographic version of Rebel Without a Cause featuring an actor named James Deen, who, like Franco, is a dead ringer for its original tragic star. A watered-down version of the project remains in MOCA’s exhibition, but at The Box it unfurls into full exhaustive glory. Read the rest of this entry »