Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Review

Jim Shaw

Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles

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Jim Shaw, ‘The Wig Museum’, Installation view at Marciano Art Foundation, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Marciano Art Foundation. Photograph by Robert Wedemeyer

At the dark heart of Jim Shaw’s ‘The Wig Museum’ – an exhibition presented in a former Masonic Temple repurposed by brothers Maurice and Paul Marciano for their private art foundation, and incorporating myriad improbable Masonic artefacts salvaged directly from the bowels of the building – is a story about male ambition, authority, secrecy and repression. The narrative unfurls across a series of found drawings: coursework from ‘The Famous Artist’s Correspondence Course’, which Shaw discovered among his father’s belongings after he died. In red crayon on tracing paper overlays, instructors opine on Shaw Sr.’s drawings of animals, faces and women (lots of women). ‘Heads need to be longer, prettier,’ says one. Typewritten letters, dated 1955 to 1957, critique – in detail – the artist’s technical weaknesses. Apparently, Mark Shaw never gave up his day job doing package design for Dow Chemical. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chadwick Rantanen

Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

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Chadwick Rantanen, Deer Rear, 2017, installation view Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

The pall of death hangs over Chadwick Rantanen’s exhibition ‘Alarmer’. This is ironic because many of the constituent objects in his assemblage sculptures are expressly designed to simulate life. Battery-operated hunting decoys flap their wings and wag their tails in order to attract animals that are living (though soon to be dead). Read the rest of this entry »

Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery 1959–1971

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Virginia Dwan at the exhibition Language III, Dwan Gallery, New York, 1969, photograph by Roger Prigent, courtesy of Dwan Gallery Archive

There was no way it was ever not going to be a mess: eleven years of one of the most influential American art galleries, condensed into a 100,000 square foot section of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion. Consider the fact that many of the artworks in the 134 exhibitions held over those eleven years turned out to be canonical Modernist masterpieces, and were acquired by museums or major private collections around the globe, many now unwilling or unable to lend them. Others were destroyed, or lost, or are too delicate to go on public display. Some – not all of them masterpieces – entered LACMA’s own collection, so of course they wound up in this show, whether they fully deserved to be there or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Judith Bernstein

The Box, Los Angeles

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In the Bible, Judith was a beautiful and fearless Israelite widow who saved her besieged people from the army of King Nebuchadnezzar, which was led by the general Holofernes. She prayed to God to make her a good liar, then inveigled her way into the enemy camp where she hacked off Holofernes’s head after he tried to have sex with her. Read the rest of this entry »

Jason Rhoades

Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

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Jason Rhoades, My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage…, 2004, Mixed media, Dimensions variable © The Estate of Jason Rhoades Courtesy the estate, Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

Will there come a day when Jason Rhoades’s giant lexicon of euphemisms for female genitalia – typically manifested in coloured neon letters, several inches high, strung throughout his installations – no longer has the power to offend? Will adherents of the Muslim faith one day become so laissez-faire that they no longer mind that, in Rhoades’s installation My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage… (2004), these neon words are dangled from the ceiling above a parody of a mosque, with old towels laid out on the floor instead of prayer rugs? Not to mention the sensitivities of Native Americans, who are invited to witness dubiously authentic embroideries and dream-catchers, acquired in bulk as raw material for Rhoades’s The Black Pussy … and the Pagan Idol Workshop (2005) and Tijuanatanjierchandelier (2006), tangled with Moroccan ornaments, Mexican serape blankets and ‘slippery nipple’ mugs, amongst other tourist tat.
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Olga Balema

Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles

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Olga Balema, A thing filled with evil streams, 2016, Wood, latex, Magic Sculpt, cell phone motors, batteries, 31x8x7 inches. Courtesy Hannah Hoffman Gallery

I was laughing even before I entered the gallery. Beside the door to Hannah Hoffman, a notice announced the title of Olga Balema’s exhibition: ‘On the Brink of My Sexy Apocalypse’. There was certainly nothing laugh-out-loud funny in the show, but Balema’s work has an electric material intelligence and sense of the unexpected that might be termed, inadequately, wit. Read the rest of this entry »

Question the Wall Itself

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

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Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Here and There, 1978, installation view, Walker Art Center, 2016

Do not make your way to ‘Question the Wall Itself’, the Walker Art Center’s survey of artists’ work with interior architecture and decor, if you are looking for ideas for new curtains in the back bedroom. The only fabric samples on display belong to the collection of the late Seth Siegelaub, sourced from Oceania and Africa, and are hand-painted on brown barkcloth. On second thought, actually, this is a great place to get ideas for your curtains. Read the rest of this entry »