Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Feature

Mark Bradford

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Mark Bradford, Black Venus, 2005, mixed-media collage, 330 × 498 cm. Photo: Jason Dewey. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, London & Los Angeles

 

It was a stupid question anyway. Something about having success and opportunity and yet continuing to experiment, still taking risks. Though he has made sculptures, videos and site-specific installations, Mark Bradford was first celebrated, early in his career, for his panoramic, expressively exhausted collage-paintings made from sanded strata of coloured paper, which were almost always understood as reflecting the gritty streetscape of South Central Los Angeles. A long Los Angeles Times profile from 2006, a decade after he graduated from art school, describes him as a ‘hometown boy made good on the international art scene’. His first solo show at a major commercial gallery was in 2001, at Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York, sassily titled I Don’t Think You Ready For This Jelly. Since then his work has climbed in value, shored up by solid institutional support – a professional status reflected this year in his representation of the United States at the Venice Biennale. Read the rest of this entry »

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Power to the People

 

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Pale For The Rapture, 2016, Oil on linen. Diptych: 200 x 120 x 3.7 cm each. Courtesy: Corvi-Mora, London, and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Anyone who informs you that there’s been a recent resurgence of figurative painting – especially the kind of person who says this in relation to portraiture by artists such as Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Aliza Nisenbaum, Jordan Casteel, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Njideka Akunyili Crosby – should be swiftly apprised that portraiture never went away. Throughout recent decades there have been overlapping waves of painters returning to this most traditional of genres. Read the rest of this entry »

Father Figure

Anxieties about modern American manhood played out in the bedrooms of little girls

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Martin Kersels, Tumble Room, 2001, installation, courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes and Nash

“A crock of shit” is how Mike Kelley once described what he called the “modernist cult of the child.”[1] He was talking about the idealization of children – of childhood, rather – over the past two centuries, since Romanticism exalted it as a pure state, uncorrupted by the mores and hang-ups of culture and society. In visual art, this was manifested in the self-consciously childlike styles of Picasso, Miró and Klee, and the later affectation of children’s art by Dubuffet, Jorn, and countless others who, for associated reasons, also fetishized the ‘primitive’ and the ‘insane’. “Where do the children play?” asked Cat Stevens in 1970, testifying to the persistence of that myth of purity even through late ‘60s counterculture, the era of the Flower Children.[2]  Read the rest of this entry »

Theaster Gates

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Study for Pavillion, 2017, Bricks, 16 1/2 x 24 1/4 x 21 1/4 inches. Courtesy Regen Projects

As the January rain washes the windows of Regen Projects in Los Angeles, Theaster Gates, dressed in a blue knee-length kaftan over jeans, is relaxed and buoyant, seemingly unfazed by the pressures of the year ahead. The finishing touches are being made to ‘But to Be a Poor Race’ (14 January–25 February), Gates’ debut exhibition with the gallery. In early March he will open a new body of work, ‘The Minor Arts’, in the recently renovated Tower Gallery of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The following month, in Helsinki, he will headline the IHME Contemporary Art Festival, where he will perform with his improvisational music ensemble, The Black Monks of Mississippi, part of a larger project for IHME that Gates is calling The Black Charismatic. In June, he unveils a new permanent installation for the sculpture garden of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

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Doug Aitken

Underwater Pavilions, Catalina

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A sea lion swims near Doug Aitken’s ‘Underwater Pavilions’ (2016) © Shawn Heinrichs/Parley for the Oceans/MOCA

The waters around the pretty island of Catalina, 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, are colder in December than you might think. Two days after heaving on scuba gear and descending 15 feet to see Los Angeles artist Doug Aitken’s sub-aquatic sculptures, the tips of my fingers were still tingling and numb. What I saw down there, however, stayed with me long after normal feeling returned. Read the rest of this entry »

Peter Shire

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Peter Shire, Scorpion, White, 1996-2015 cone 06 clay and two part polyurethane with ceramic primer, and glazed lids with metal detail 12.5 x 21.25 x 8.25 inches

The door of Peter Shire’s first ceramics studio, in Los Angeles, opened directly onto the sidewalk. He moved in three years after graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute, in 1972, and soon discovered that the corner of Echo Park Avenue where his studio was located was also where the members of the local gang – the Echo Park Locos – regularly hung out. Read the rest of this entry »

Kathryn Andrews

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Kathryn Andrews, “Hobo (The Candidates),” 2014. Ink on paper and plexiglas, aluminum, paint, mixed media. 43 3⁄4″ x 37″ x 2 1⁄4″. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Courtesy: the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

 

In Fall 2014, “Donald Trump For President” was less than a whisper on the wind. When, around that time, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, invited Kathryn Andrews to mount an exhibition for November of the following year, she hit upon the idea of using the US presidential election as a thematic narrative to structure a mini-survey of her sculptures, wall works and installations from the past five years. Clowns were to feature prominently. Read the rest of this entry »