Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Frieze

One Day at a Time

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Farber-Cezanne-avait-ecrit-1986-2356

Manny Farber, Cézanne avait écrit (1986). Oil on board, 72 x 72 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Quint Gallery, San Diego

Manny Farber is not an obvious artist around whom to structure an exhibition. A painter of still lives known primarily as a film critic, Farber left New York in 1970 to teach painting at the University of California, San Diego. Once there, he also picked up a course on the history of film, which suited him better, and ended up influencing a generation of visual artists, many of whom still reside in Southern California. He died in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Lari Pittman

b56729d5dd8fcd0fc47996e69b1b9ef6

Left: Portrait of a Textile (Damask), 2018, Cel-vinyl, spray enamel on canvas over wood panel 81 x 70 x 2 inches Right: Portrait of a Human (Pathos, Ethos, Logos, Kairos #14), 2018, Cel vinyl and spray paint over linen mounted on wood panel, 28 5/8 x 24 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches Courtesy: Regen Projects

Since he began exhibiting them in the early 1980s, Lari Pittman’s paintings have agitated for a principle of radical equivalency, a democratic (re)evaluation of all content as being equal in status (or, at least, potentially equal) once it manifests on the paper or canvas. In his exhibition ‘Portraits of Textiles & Portraits of Humans’, Pittman presents 12 pairs of paintings, one large and one small, one depicting an invented textile pattern and one an invented portrait. The show’s conceit, in crude terms, is that a portrait of a face and a design for a fabric are interchangeable – that a pattern can be a portrait and, inversely, a face can be a pattern, or an arrangement of patterns, in the broadest sense of that word. Read the rest of this entry »

Per Proscenia

JOAN, Los Angeles

PerProsceniaSandraVista5

Sandra Vista, Margarita Iowa, 1985, oil on unstretched canvas, 60 1/2 x 45 1/4 inches, courtesy of the artist

When people talk of theatricality in art, typically they mean the notional ‘stage presence’ that Michael Fried ascribed to minimalist art in 1967, rather than the hot lights, heavy blackout curtains and uncomfortable seating of actual theatres. Other times, theatricality alludes to a sense of contrivance coupled with a frontal mode of address: a structural dynamic rather than a dramatic tone. Read the rest of this entry »

Linda Stark

5524ee086cb4b891dae50ee96fe1e101

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 »

Robert Colescott

Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

rco44.jpg

Robert Colescott, Portrait of the Artist at 85, 1978, Acrylic on canvas, 83 7/8 x 65 3/4 x 1 5/8 inches. Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

The last work in Robert Colescott’s exhibition at Blum & Poe is a drawing that, for me, comes close to unlocking the entire show. In it, God – a long-haired, bearded white man – flanked in his throne by two jackbooted, fascistic angels, directs Martin Luther King (identifiable by the gunshot wound in his chest, and also a helpful label) towards hell, where a black-skinned Lucifer, grinning grotesquely, beckons him down. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Stories of Almost Everyone’

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 11.44.58 AM

Kapwani Kiwanga, Flowers for Africa, 2014. Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua White.

In 1997, artist and scholar Rhonda Roland Shearer published a paper alleging that each and every one of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades was in fact meticulously handmade: in other words, a fake. Though the idea of Duchamp perpetrating such an elaborate (and quintessentially Duchampian) hoax is an appealing one, Shearer’s theory gained little traction within the academic community. (‘If she’s right,’ sniffed Arthur Danto, ‘I have no interest in Duchamp.’) It came to my mind, again, in ‘Stories of Almost Everyone’, organized by Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi, which elaborates not so much on the subject of craft but of craftiness, and on the integral untrustworthiness of the readymade as an artistic form. 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 »