Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

Dilexi

Whatever Gets You Through the Night:
The Artists of Dilexi and Wartime Trauma

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H.C. Westermann, March or Die (1966). Pine, redwood, leather, ebony, metal, felt, and ink, 30.75 × 20 × 10.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and the Landing. Photo: Joshua White.

 

If you sometimes find life in America in 2019 to be a little too much, imagine living in California in the early 1960s. Since the end of the Second World War—a conflict that, for the United States, superficially led to domestic prosperity—the world had been racked with anxiety over the possibility of atomic apocalypse, while under McCarthyism a new strain of Fascism was spreading on home soil. Then just as progressive causes—including civil rights for African Americans—seemed to be gaining some ground, Kennedy was assassinated for no apparent reason, and for many on the left, all seemed utterly lost. Read the rest of this entry »

Mary Corse

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Mary Corse: A Survey in Light, 2019 (installation view, Los Angeles County Museum of Art). © the artist and Museum Associates/LACMA

When good art looks bad in a particular exhibition space, do we fault the artist, the curator, the institution or the architect? Mary Corse’s retrospective A Survey in Light, which travelled from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is an unsatisfying tribute to the Los Angeles-based painter, who over half a century has devoted herself to a deep but narrowly focused body of work. Read the rest of this entry »

Roy De Forest

Parker Gallery, Los Angeles

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Roy De Forest, Untitled, 1996, Mixed media on paper with artist’s frame, 39.5 x 52 x 4.25 inches, courtesy Parker Gallery, Los Angeles

The categorical distinction between drawing and painting may be absurd, but it persists in both museums and the art market. (Why is a work on canvas superior to a work on paper, regardless of the medium used? Is it simply an issue of conservation?) Nevertheless, the activities of drawing and painting continue to serve distinct functions in most artists’ practices. For the Bay Area painter Roy De Forest, who produced an unparalleled body of work between the 1950s and his death in 2007, drawing was rarely a preparatory exercise for painting, but rather an autonomous, exploratory activity that allowed him to work in a freer and looser style than he could in his acrylic paintings on canvas. Which, if you are familiar with his riotously colourful, compositionally freewheeling paintings, you will understand says quite a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

David Hammons

Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

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‘David Hammons’, 2019, exhibition view. © David Hammons; courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Just inside one suite of galleries at Hauser & Wirth is a small display of material related to Ornette Coleman, the late saxophonist and free jazz innovator to whom David Hammons has dedicated the largest survey of his work to date and the first in Los Angeles for 45 years. ‘It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something,’ said Coleman, who died in 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Cooke

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James Castle, ‘Untitled (interior with piano)’ © James Castle Collection and Archive

In 2011, Lynne Cooke, then chief curator at Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia, curated a show by the autodidact artist James Castle that, for her, questioned the received narratives of American art history.

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One Day at a Time

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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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 »

Lari Pittman

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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 »