Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Financial Times

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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Katy Grannan

 

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April and Robert on Mattress Under 9th St Bridge, Modesto, CA, 2013, © Katy Grannan Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Salon 94, New York

 

For the past five years, Katy Grannan has been driving 100 miles south almost every week from her home in Berkeley on the edge of San Francisco Bay to Modesto in California’s Central Valley. Like other cities along State Route 99 – Stockton, Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield – Modesto is one of those places that tourists driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles pass through without stopping. The Central Valley is where, in the 1930s, John Steinbeck set The Grapes of Wrath and Dorothea Lange took her famous photographs of migrant sharecroppers. Both were beacons for Grannan during the making of The Nine, her first feature-length film, which will be screened in London next week. Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Ruscha

D2015.51 - METRO MATRESS #2, 8/3/15, 3:36 PM, 16C, 5940x7576 (0+160), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2,  1/15 s, R88.6, G82.5, B104.7

One Sunday in 1966, Ed Ruscha was driving a Buick Le Sabre back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas with his friends Patrick Blackwell, a fellow artist, and the guitarist Mason Williams. With them they had an old manual typewriter, a Royal ‘model X’, its frame bent beyond repair. For a lark, they decide to heave the thing out of the passenger window, at ninety miles an hour. It exploded on the tarmac, disappearing in the rear view mirror as they sped onward through the desert. Read the rest of this entry »

James Turrell

James Turrell, Afrum (White), 1966, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

“This used to be my studio!” announces James Turrell to the customers of Starbucks in Ocean Park, Santa Monica. The coffee drinkers seem nonplussed. Little do they know that this white-haired, extravagantly bearded figure has a triumvirate of retrospectives this summer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, as well as a solo exhibition at LA’s Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery.

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First published: Financial Times, May 24 2013

Thomas Houseago

At Thomas Houseago’s studio building in east Los Angeles, which spans a full city block beside the giant concrete trench known as the LA River, the road is closed to traffic. The mechanical arm of a refuse truck is lifting metal dumpsters and tipping their contents into its hopper. White plaster dust billows across the street. Houseago’s team is cleaning up. Once a week, the piles of plaster, hessian, clay, broken sculptures and cracked casts that accumulate in the studio are swept together and cleared out. Houseago used to do this himself; then, when it began to take two days out of each week, he delegated it to assistants. Now he employs a staff of 20, and has five foundries in the US working to cast his prolific output of sculptures in high-strength Tuf-Cal casting plaster or clay into dark bronze or pale, silvery aluminium. Galleries in New York, London, Zurich, Brussels and Glasgow try to keep up with the demands of a growing network of private collectors, as well as those of museums, including the Stedelijk in Amsterdam and the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA.

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First published: Financial Times, August 17th, 2012