Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Review

‘Stories of Almost Everyone’

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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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 »

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Puppies Puppies

Overduin & Co., Los Angeles

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It is, on the face of it, not an auspicious premise for an exhibition. The ruse of an artist living in the gallery, as art, has been done and done again over the past half century, whether by Chris Burden in Bed Piece (1972) or Marina Abramović in The House with the Ocean View (2002), or by Dawn Kasper at the 2012 iteration of the Whitney Biennial. Not to mention various installations in which only the artist’s domestic furnishings were present, from Lucas Samaras’s Bedroom (1964) to Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1998). Now add to the list Green Ghosts (2017), a performance by Puppies Puppies in which she, her husband and their dog sleep at Overduin & Co outside of gallery hours, having transported the contents of their apartment into the white cube. And yet Puppies Puppies’ smart exhibition feels anything but derivative. Read the rest of this entry »

Dysfunctional Formulas of Love

The Box, Los Angeles"Dysfunctional Formulas of Love", 
Curated with Corazón Del Sol and Víctor Albarracín Llanos, at The Box Gallery, Los Angeles, 18 September, 2017

If your first associations with Colombia are cocaine, paramilitary violence, and the rapacious plunder of natural resources by neo-colonialist corporations, then you are only half right, according to this spirited, unkempt, and organizationally flawed exhibition of Colombian artists at The Box, Los Angeles. Along with all these clichés (eagerly resold to Western audiences through film and television), Colombia is a society of familial warmth and communal resilience, a place where humor, love, and magic play important roles in the survival of its people. Read the rest of this entry »

Primordial Saber Tararear Proverbiales Sílabas Tonificantes Para Sublevar Tecnocracias Pero Seguir Tenazmente Produciendo Sociedades Tántricas – Pedro Salazar Torres (Partido Socialista Trabajador)

Regen Projects, Los Angeles

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In the large main gallery at Regen Projects, jam-packed with artworks large and small by 21 artists and pasted from floor to ceiling with colourful reproductions from an illustrated world map, the first thing likely to catch your eye on entering is a belch of orange flame at the back of the room. Indoors, especially, fire is hard to ignore. Read the rest of this entry »

Zarouhie Abdalian

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Where lies the distinction between the words ‘touch’ and ‘hit’? If you’re thinking that the difference is a question of impact, doesn’t it depend on the materials involved? Touching a butterfly’s wing with your finger is more damaging than hitting an elephant’s hide with your hand, for example. Are tactility and physical harm just two ends of a sliding sensorial scale? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »