Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford, Q1, 2020 © Mark Bradford. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Joshua White / JWPictures

“I’m adjusting to life on Mars,” says the artist Mark Bradford, as he folds his frame into a chair positioned a prudent nine feet from my own, and unpeels his mask from behind his ears. Yes, he says, his glasses fog up, too.

Since mid-March, when California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, issued a statewide “stay at home” order, Mr. Bradford has kept a low profile. Throughout the nationwide unrest that flared after the killing of George Floyd, he remained silent. While Mr. Bradford, 58, is one of the more visible figures in the arts community in Los Angeles, he is not on social media. But with three new paintings on the wall in front of us, he’s finally ready to talk.

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The Breakfast Club

The multigenerational artists’ salon hosted by Derek Boshier inside a fast food restaurant
Photograph: Steven Simko

The invitation, when it comes, is invariably by email and typically consists of the entirety of the note crammed into the subject line, plus a random image.

“Can you make Ricks tomorrow Thursday at 8.30 am…….derek,” read a recent message accompanied by a photograph of a headshot of Julie Andrews adjacent to a paper Union Jack. “Sent from my iPad.”

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Betye Saar

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Betye Saar, Palm of Love, 1966 Etching with relief printing 48×66 cm. Courtesy: MoMA, New York

Betye Saar has lived in the same shingle-clad house up a winding lane in Laurel Canyon for nearly 60 years. To reach the front door, on the house’s top story, visitors ascend several flights of steps, passing the kind of thickly planted garden—filled with ornaments and trinkets—that can only be created with decades of care and cultivation.

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Still Kicking

 

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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 »

Ree Morton

Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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Don’t worry, I’ll only read you the good parts, 1975, oil on Celastic, 137×66 cm. Photo: Joerg Lohse. © The Estate of the artist. Courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York

 

Facts and suppositions about Ree Morton’s life might not be so integral to our reading of her art if she hadn’t died in 1977, aged forty, having started late, leaving behind just six or so years of work: a compact oeuvre of sculpture, drawing and installation that acquires an almost unbearable poignancy when framed by the knowledge of its sudden ending. Read the rest of this entry »

New Images of Man

Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

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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 »

Peter Saul

New Museum, New York

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Peter Saul, Donald Trump in Florida, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 120 inches. Image courtesy of Hall Art Foundation

How much is too much, when it comes to the art of Peter Saul? How about: The big high box of the New Museum’s fourth-floor gallery stacked two-deep with more than two dozen large paintings in fluorescent hues? How about: Every gallery on the floor below packed with at least as many again, dating from 1960 to the present? How about: Three paintings that feature Donald Trump? Seven of electric chairs? Countless more figures with bullet-holes spewing glossy gouts of blood? A dog barfing onto the head of Rush Limbaugh, accompanied by a speech bubble that reads “BARF”? How about: One retrospective, only the second of the artist’s career, and his first in New York? Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick Staff

The Serpentine Gallery, London

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Patrick Staff, On Venus (installation view) (2019–2020). Image courtesy of the artist and Serpentine Galleries © 2019. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

What is commonly known as Hyde Park—central London’s largest public park—is actually two parks conjoined. To the west, Kensington Gardens contains Kensington Palace, currently home to Britain’s future king and his family, while Hyde Park, to the east, was once Henry VIII’s hunting estate. Both—as with Regent’s Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, and several other of the city’s major green spaces—are officially Royal Parks, which means that the public’s longstanding access to them is courtesy of the monarchy, which nowadays does most of its animal-rearing and animal-killing on more expansive estates further afield. Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Ray

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Charles Ray, Two horses, 2019. (detail) Granite, 120 3/8 x 178 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks. Photo by Josh White

I tend to think—and this can change—that the subject of the work is the dynamic of the confrontation with the work. And by that I don’t mean that the sculpture is aggressive, but that you’re wrestling with it into the world. How is the piece in the world? And, for me to think about that, I have to ask myself, “How am I in the world? How do I think of myself? How do other people think of me?”

– Charles Ray, Three Lectures at the Menil Collection

Earlier this year, I stood in front of Charles Ray’s newest work, Two horses (2019), at Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles. The piece is hewn from a single, six-ton slab of rippling dark Virginia Mist granite, 14 feet wide and 10 feet high, mounted seamlessly on a pristine white wall. In shallow relief, a horse—unsaddled, unharnessed—is depicted in proud profile, its hind leg raised as if stepping forward into its ghost: a fainter relief, imperceptible at first, of another nearly identical horse, offset just a few inches ahead. The show was called “Two Ghosts.” Read the rest of this entry »

Alice Tippit

Grice Bench, Los Angeles

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Dress, 2019, Oil on canvas, 18 x 22 in, courtesy Grice Bench, Los Angeles

Groins abound in Alice Tippit’s exhibition of paintings and drawings at Grice Bench. They are not always easy to see, however – or rather, they disappear at second glance. What, you might ask yourself, is so crotchlike about that upside-down vase (Peer, all works 2019), that candle (Cinch), or that stick of dynamite (Safe)? Tippit is a master of the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t school of visual innuendo, of drawing-room indecency, of wordplay that seems outrageously funny even if, on reflection, you can’t exactly say why.

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