Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Interview

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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Frances Stark

Frances Stark, still from 'The Magic Flute', 2017, ©? Frances Stark (1)

Frances Stark, still from ‘The Magic Flute’, 2017

When artist Frances Stark was invited to participate in the prestigious 2017 Whitney Biennial, last year, she was in the middle of producing an opera. She had no time for interruptions. It was her first opera: Mozart’s Magic Flute, a re-orchestrated and retranslated version of which she recorded with a group of young musicians, and then turned into a text-based video with animated subtitles in place of the sung libretto. She considers the work – which premieres at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on 28 April – an experiment in pedagogy, an educative experience both for the players and the audience. It is the most ambitious and collaborative production of the 50-year-old Los Angeles artist’s career. 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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Sterling Ruby

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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 »

James Turrell

CAPE HOPE (S. Africa) Elliptical Wide Glass, 2015

CAPE HOPE (S. Africa) Elliptical Wide Glass, 2015

 

In the Skyspace meeting room at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery in Los Angeles, James Turrell is telling me about the Antikythera Mechanism. In the spring of 1900, a group of Greek sponge divers discovered the sunken wreck of a Roman cargo ship off an island in southern Greece. Among the coins, jewelry, glass and statuary that they recovered was a corroded hunk of bronze and wood, about a foot in width. An archaeologist at the time suggested it might be an astronomical clock, but its complexity did not fit with its estimated date—a century before Christ. Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Ruscha

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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 »