Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Financial Times

Larry Bell

‘Pacific Red (II)’ (2017) at the Whitney Museum © Larry Bell. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Timothy Schenk

Although he has lived in Taos, New Mexico, since 1973, Larry Bell is still chiefly associated with the Light and Space movement that emerged in southern California in the 1960s. His early works epitomised the group: semi-mirrored glass cubes that, through their fleeting reflectivity, reacted to — as advertised — the light and space around them, deft exercises in highlighting the processes of perception.

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Ben Sakoguchi

Detail from ‘Towers’, 2014, © Courtesy the artist/Bel Ami

“Pop & me in front of our brand new grocery store,” reads the inscription on a small acrylic painting, part of Ben Sakoguchi’s multi-panel “Postcards from Camp” (1999-2001). In the picture, a man in a long white apron holds a toddler in front of a neat shopfront underneath the date of the scene, 1940, and the ominous words “Before camp . . . ”

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Ulysses Jenkins

A photo taken during a rehearsal for Ulysses Jenkins’s ‘Without Your Interpretation’ (1984) © Courtesy the artist

In the early 1970s, a young muralist named Ulysses Jenkins was encouraged by a friend to come down to the boardwalk in Venice, Los Angeles, to check out a videomaking workshop. The Sony Portapak — the first portable consumer video camera — had come on to the market in the late 1960s and was still very expensive. New owners often ran workshops, renting out their equipment to try to recoup some of their costs.

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Beatriz Cortez

Beatriz Cortez with Chultún El Semillero, 2021, in ‘FUTURES’, Arts and Industries Building, Washington DC © Greg Kahn

The Arts and Industries Building, built in 1881 by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, began life as a place to house artefacts from the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. It became the US’s first national museum. Over the years, its purpose was rejigged as new Smithsonian museums spawned around it, and it accrued various nicknames from “the Mother of Museums” to “the Palace of Invention”.

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Charles Gaines

‘Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #6, Fetter Lane’ (2020), photo: Fredrik Nilsen; © Charles Gaines, Hauser & Wirth

When Charles Gaines was in elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1950s, he showed an aptitude for drawing. His well-meaning teacher suggested to his mother that perhaps he should be an artist. He could be the first black artist in the history of the world, she said.

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Robert Longo

Robert Longo, Untitled (Capitol), (2012-13)
© Courtesy of the artist and Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles

Robert Longo makes aggressive, powerful images. They are usually big. Sometimes very big. High-definition, high-contrast, high-octane. Stereotypically masculine, he’d be the first to admit. Emphatically American.

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Christina Quarles

Christina Quarles, Tha Nite Could Last Ferever, 2020 Acrylic on canvas 84 x 72 x 2 in
Courtesy of the artist and Pilar Corrias, London Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

This summer, for the first time in two decades of drawing figures, Christina Quarles found out what it is like to be drawn by other people. During lockdown, she and a small group of friends and acquaintances organised socially distanced life-drawing sessions, taking it in turns to model. 

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Lynne Cooke

Castle

James Castle, ‘Untitled (interior with piano)’ © James Castle Collection and Archive

In 2011, Lynne Cooke, then chief curator at Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia, curated a show by the autodidact artist James Castle that, for her, questioned the received narratives of American art history.

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Doug Aitken

Underwater Pavilions, Catalina

Underwater Pavilions

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 »

Sterling Ruby

sterling-ruby

Sterling Ruby, DEEP FLAG (5532), 2015, Bleached fleece and elastic, 174 1/2 × 316 inches © Sterling Ruby Photo by Thomas Lannes

I am waiting for Sterling Ruby in a supermarket parking lot on the east side of Los Angeles, and wondering what kind of car he drives. Black Range Rovers and Teslas are popular with successful artists in LA. But the 44-year-old Ruby projects something of the image of a showman, so when a custom 1980s Cadillac with chrome rims pulls in, I think for a moment it might be him. On the other hand, Ruby is a father of three, so perhaps pragmatism wins out: a Mercedes estate or even — who knows — a Volvo.

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