Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Frieze

Alonzo Davis

Parrasch Heijnan

Alonzo Davis, King’s Peace Cloth, 1985, acrylic on woven canvas, 1.4 × 1.4 m. Courtesy: the artist and Parrasch Heijnen, Los Angeles

If you had dipped even a toe in the Black art world of 1970s and ’80s Los Angeles, you would have known the Brockman Gallery. Opened in 1967 by artist brothers Alonzo and Dale Davis, it occupied a storefront in Leimert Park, a middle-class enclave in South Los Angeles, and showed mainly Black artists. (Non-profit Art + Practice now runs its public programmes in the space.)  Canonical figures exhibited there, including David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy and Betye Saar, making the Brockman Gallery easily as important – and arguably more interesting – than the world-famous Ferus Gallery, even though it remains little known outside its community. In 1987 Alonzo Davis stepped away from the gallery – and from Los Angeles – to concentrate on his art practice. Given his contribution to the city, it’s shocking that this is his first solo exhibition in LA since 1984.

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Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson, Portrait (Vain German), 2020–21, urethane, resin, Aqua-Resin, pigment, fiberglass and aluminium. 74.3 × 59.7 × 5.7 cm. Courtesy: © The Art Trust created under Kaari Upson Trust and Sprüth Magers; photograph: Ed Mumford

‘never, never ever, never in my life, never in all my born days, never in all my life, never’ is and is not a posthumous exhibition. Kaari Upson passed away only in August of last year; many of us are still coming to terms with her loss. But to think of this, her first solo show in Los Angeles in over a decade, only in the memorializing terms of the posthumous tribute is distracting, limiting and inaccurate. Comprising work produced between 2015 and 2021, it was planned, in part, by the artist herself, but was repeatedly pushed back due to the pandemic. It was Upson who came up with that exclamatory title.

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Gerald Jackson

Gerald Jackson, Untitled (Skid Painting), 1980s, spray paint on wood, 72 × 72 cm. 
Courtesy: the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

In a 2016 Bomb magazine interview with the painter Stanley Whitney, Gerald Jackson tried to explain the difficulty – for a Black artist, like himself – of accessing an authentic sense of self when his identity is a construction imposed on him by a dominant white society founded on a history of slavery. He had to reconstruct, he said, his entire subconscious: ‘I’m not a crazy person; I’m not a Black person. I’m only what I make myself up to be.’

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Liz Larner

Liz Larner, black iris, 2021, plastic, 61 × 71 × 61 cm.
Courtesy: © Liz Larner, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin/Paris/London

Of all the plastic ever produced by humankind – over nine billion tonnes and counting – less than nine percent has been recycled. Some was burnt. Most of it went into landfill. This tally is not improving. Since 2017, when China stopped importing plastic waste, developed countries have been recycling less, not more.

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SoiL Thornton

Morán Morán, Los Angeles

SoiL Thornton, Bench/barrier (314 lbs), 2021, Aluminum foil and aluminum foil tape compressed to the combined weight of momma and deddy, 29x25x16 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán, Los Angeles

A squat, silver boulder partially blocks the entrance to SoiL Thornton’s deceptively loose exhibition at Morán Morán, Los Angeles. Bench/Barrier (314 lbs) (all works 2021) consists of a rolled ball of aluminium foil ‘compressed to the combined weight of momma and deddy’, the checklist reveals. Within the ordinarily starchy format of the gallery checklist, the fond familiarity in the way Thornton acknowledges this detail of the work’s media is jarring, cloying even. Throughout their practice, the artist prises open such spaces for vulnerability and revelation within the stringent conventions of conceptual and systems art.

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Made in L.A.

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Huntington Museum, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino

Fulton Leroy Washington (aka MR. WASH), Mr. Rene # MAN POWER, 2011, oil on stretched canvas, 61 × 50.8 cm.
Courtesy: the artist, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Before entering the long-delayed (and now revised) ‘Made in L.A. 2020: a version’, I pitied its poor curators, whose exhibition has been kyboshed by a succession of lockdowns. Originally scheduled to open in June, the biennial – split this year between the Hammer Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino – has lain partly dormant, partly unfinished. With (almost) all works installed, museum leaders allowed in a few members of the press, who, they hoped, might grant ‘Made in L.A. 2020’ a little exposure to daylight. (The biennial is currently expected to open to the public next year.)1

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Caitlin Keogh

Overduin & Co, Los Angeles

Caitlin Keogh, Waxing Year 1 and Waxing Year 2, (both 2020)
Courtesy: the artist and Overduin & Co., Los Angeles

Caitlin Keogh’s ambitious exhibition, ‘Waxing Year’, at Overduin & Co in Los Angeles – which includes a group of seven large paintings interspersed with ten small, mixed-media assemblages – is, in many respects, a tour de force. Why, then, does it leave me wanting something more? 

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Gianfranco Gorgoni

Gianfranco Gorgoni, Michael Heizer’s Circular Surface Planar Displacement, Jean Dry Lake, Nevada, 1970, 1970, photograph. 
Courtesy: Carol Franc Buck Collection, Nevada Museum of Art; photograph: © Estate of Gianfranco Gorgoni; artwork: © Michael Heizer

On Christmas Eve 1968, astronauts on the Apollo 8 Moon mission took the first photographs of the Earth by someone not on it. William Anders’s Earthrise, the best-known image, immeasurably altered humanity’s consciousness of its environment, but it also changed forever the way landscape was viewed in art.

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Still Kicking

 

Pit-2020-01-13_118

Miyoshi Barosh, Untitled (Crying Head), 2017, Steel, glass, neon, fabric, 68″x62″x12″. Courtesy: The Pit, Glendale

Last week, I was driving with my family through Malibu Canyon in southern California, on our way to the beach, when a grave motorcycle cop turned us back. An hour later, news broke that the basketball player Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. The wreckage was apparently still smouldering on the hillside above the closed road. Read the rest of this entry »

New Images of Man

Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

New Note

Enrico Baj, General Schwarz, 1961, oil, collage, trimmings, decorations and found objects on fabric, 148 × 113 cm. Courtesy: Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo

Today, figurative painting abounds, shaped – with rare exception – by concerns around identity and diversity of representation. In 1959, curator Peter Selz’s exhibition ‘New Images of Man’, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, also proposed a return to figurative painting and sculpture. Critics were upset by the show’s expansive reach and its apparent disrespect towards New York abstraction: it featured white male artists not only from the US (Richard Diebenkorn, Leon Golub, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock) but also white male artists from Europe, including Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti. Among 23 featured artists, Germaine Richier was the only woman. Read the rest of this entry »