Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Feature

Judy Chicago

Three Faces of Man from ‘Power Play’ (1985), Judy Chicago, Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University, Pennsylvania Photo: © Donald Woodman/ARS, New York; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Judy Chicago is excited. ‘This morning my Instagram completely exploded!’ she tells me, clutching her iPhone, when we meet at her Santa Monica hotel. It is late September 2018, the day after Christine Blasey Ford’s devastating testimony, and Brett Kavanaugh’s subsequent tantrum, during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. A friend has forwarded Chicago an article on the website Bustle headlined ‘The Whole Country Just Watched What Happens When Angry, Powerful Men Don’t Get Their Way’, in which the faces of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley were shown as a triptych, contorted in what the writer described as ‘fury and condescension’.

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Mary Corse

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Mary Corse, Untitled (White Diamond, Negative Stripe), 1965. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 84 in. Collection of Michael Straus. Photograph © Mary Corse

I am standing in Mary Corse’s studio, a large white box with a sloping flat roof that she built two years ago beside her home in the wild landscape of Topanga Canyon, just a few minutes north of Santa Monica. She has lived on the same secluded property, first with her two sons and now alone, since 1970. One side of the studio is given over almost entirely to sliding glass doors which frame a stunning view of the Santa Monica mountains, green with chaparral and live oaks, with ochre rocks jutting in between. Corse apologises for the emptiness of the studio; it is late May, and several new works have just shipped to her solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery, London (11 May–23 June), while a long-term installation of her paintings opened at Dia:Beacon a few days earlier, following the institution’s acquisition of three works from the 1960s and ’70s and another from 2010. Many more pieces have been gathered at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where her retrospective – the artist’s first solo museum survey – opens in June (until 25 November). Read the rest of this entry »

Linda Stark

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Linda Stark, Bastet, 2016, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 5 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

Hanging in Linda Stark’s studio, earlier this year, were four square oil paintings of cats. Only one painting showed the entire animal; in the other three, feline heads floated disembodied, like portentous apparitions. In Self-Portrait with Ray (2017), the eponymous grey tabby’s head appears life-sized, inside a pink disc located at the precise centre of the canvas and also at the centre of the artist’s forehead, like a third eye. Both Ray and Stark look straight at us; Stark’s eyes are rimmed with white tears. Read the rest of this entry »

St EOM and Pasaquan

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Photograph: Rinne Allen

There are still plenty of people in Buena Vista, Georgia, who remember St EOM, as Eddie Owens Martin called himself following a feverish epiphany in 1935 that led to his rebirth as the emissary of a future race of spiritually advanced, possibly extraterrestrial beings. Until his suicide in 1986 at the age of 77, he lived alone on a mysterious and outlandish property called Pasaquan, hidden by tall bamboo and pine trees a few miles outside of town. Read the rest of this entry »

A Little Learning

Sometimes, if I get gloomy about the (ir)relevance of criticism to the wider world, I turn (or click) to the restaurant review pages. Last autumn, I caught KCRW radio host Evan Kleiman interviewing LA Weekly’s outgoing food critic, Besha Rodell – one of the city’s best critics (in any field, period). Rodell was responding to a double-barrelled question, relating to a conflagration she’d recently been tangled in over Los Angeles critics’ misunderstanding of Mexican food, about whether the food media was too white and whether she would like to see a person of colour replace her. Yes and yes, came Rodell’s unhesitating reply. Read the rest of this entry »

Jonas Wood

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Jungle Kitchen, 2017. Photo by Brian Forrest; courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky gallery.

 

In the art world I thought I knew, no one would publicly admit to an interest in golf, least of all a young painter who was just making his name. But that is exactly what Jonas Wood did, a decade ago, when he made a painting of the golf course in Glendale where he was learning to play. Now, 10 years later, he is revisiting the subject in his latest show at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, which will take over both spaces (and viewing room) of the imposing gallery in November. It does not matter to Wood that the subject of these paintings is the squarest, most buttoned-up, bourgeois weekend pastime going. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Martín Ramírez,

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Untitled (Train and Tunnel), c. 1960–63 Gouache, colored pencil, and graphite on pieced paper, 13 × 32 ½ in. Collection of Mary Lee Copp and Peter Formanek. Copyright: Estate of Martín Ramírez/courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York

We never met – you died before I was born. We would have had little in common anyway, probably, except that we both ended up in California, far from where we were born. I choose to stay here. For you, held against your will in psychiatric hospitals that were no better than prisons, there was no choice. Read the rest of this entry »