Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Art in America

Tamara Henderson

REDCAT, Los Angeles

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Canadian artist Tamara Henderson’s exhibition “Seasons End: Panting [sic] Healer” drew on journeys both geographic and psychic, and had all the dislocating strangeness of a theater wardrobe or prop room. The dense agglomeration of sculptures, installations, fabric tapestries, and paintings (all 2016) was an expansion of Henderson’s presentation earlier this year at the Glasgow International, the work for which she began developing during a residency in Arbroath, Scotland, in 2015. Material for the exhibition was also gathered in Turkey; in the sculpture Seasons End Vehicle, a ramshackle motorcar has stuffed into pockets in its trunk a map of Istanbul, in addition to a leaflet listing tourist attractions near Inverness.  Read the rest of this entry »

SITElines.2016

Site Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Javier Tellez, To Have Done with the Judgment of God, 2016, digital film, 37 minutes

On the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), about a mile from SITE Santa Fe, one of Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s most important buildings is crumbling behind a chain-link fence, out of bounds to students and the public alike. The extraordinary cast-concrete Paolo Soleri Amphitheater was commissioned in 1964 by Lloyd Kiva New, the Cherokee cofounder of the Institute of American Indian Arts. New’s vision for the school was to use Native American heritage as the basis for contemporary artistic expression. Conservative Pueblo tribal leaders were skeptical of this approach, however, and in 1981 the All Indian Pueblo Council routed the school from its premises and replaced it with the more traditional SFIS, which had formerly occupied the campus and, after a complicated history (it was originally a government institution devoted to forced assimilation, for instance) and a dissolution, was being reformed under the leadership of the Pueblo tribes. Read the rest of this entry »

Pentti Monkkonen

Jenny’s, Los Angeles

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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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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 »

Diana Thater

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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In Diana Thater’s survey “The Sympathetic Imagination,” organized by the National Gallery’s Lynne Cooke and LACMA’s Christine Y. Kim and gathering work made between 1992 and the present, the artist floods many of her exhibition spaces with colored light. This technique and its philosophical implications may remind visitors of James Turrell’s use of light in his 2013-14 LACMA retrospective. Color is fundamentally illusory;  it is humans who make the sky blue, thanks to the cones in our retinas. Further, in an environment saturated with blue light, every other perceptible color is revealed to be contingent. The absolute purity of nature is impossible, Thater shows; all is culture, or something between nature and culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Take It or Leave It

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Gober September 12

Large-scale historical shows, when done in a certain way, can be intellectual steamrollers. A museum exhibition is a powerful rhetorical device; gallery after gallery of judiciously selected aesthetic material beside didactic wall texts can make a particular hypothesis or observation seem indisputable, or a historical moment appear satisfyingly coherent. 
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