Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

Per Proscenia

JOAN, Los Angeles

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Sandra Vista, Margarita Iowa, 1985, oil on unstretched canvas, 60 1/2 x 45 1/4 inches, courtesy of the artist

When people talk of theatricality in art, typically they mean the notional ‘stage presence’ that Michael Fried ascribed to minimalist art in 1967, rather than the hot lights, heavy blackout curtains and uncomfortable seating of actual theatres. Other times, theatricality alludes to a sense of contrivance coupled with a frontal mode of address: a structural dynamic rather than a dramatic tone. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary Corse

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Mary Corse, Untitled (White Diamond, Negative Stripe), 1965. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 84 in. Collection of Michael Straus. Photograph © Mary Corse

I am standing in Mary Corse’s studio, a large white box with a sloping flat roof that she built two years ago beside her home in the wild landscape of Topanga Canyon, just a few minutes north of Santa Monica. She has lived on the same secluded property, first with her two sons and now alone, since 1970. One side of the studio is given over almost entirely to sliding glass doors which frame a stunning view of the Santa Monica mountains, green with chaparral and live oaks, with ochre rocks jutting in between. Corse apologises for the emptiness of the studio; it is late May, and several new works have just shipped to her solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery, London (11 May–23 June), while a long-term installation of her paintings opened at Dia:Beacon a few days earlier, following the institution’s acquisition of three works from the 1960s and ’70s and another from 2010. Many more pieces have been gathered at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where her retrospective – the artist’s first solo museum survey – opens in June (until 25 November). Read the rest of this entry »

Made in L.A. 2018

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, George Jones Greeting the Newest Members of Heaven’s Band, 2017

Not so much a city as an unevenly populated, multi-centered megalopolis, and not so much a year as a point in an escalating concatenation of national and global crises, there might seem to be no possible way to get “Made in L.A. 2018” right. Add to that the divisions within LA’s art community that mirror many of the historically entrenched divisions within the city itself—between east and west, north and south, white and non-white, gentrified and gentrifying, young and no longer young, left and far left. If artists, as “Made in L.A. 2018” curators Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale write, are “some of our most active citizens,” then biennial curators might be something akin to well-intentioned politicians, expected to represent a plurality of impassioned positions while trying also to retain sight of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Yoshua Okón

François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles

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Yoshua Okón, Oracle, 2015, courtesy François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles

Despite the dismaying evidence of recent political discourse in the US, it is still hard to believe that people like this actually exist. In Yoshua Okón’s two-channel video installation Oracle (all works 2015), we are bouncing across the Arizona desert in a pickup truck with a portly man who looks a little like George H.W. Bush, and who interrupts his own demented diatribe about the consequences of messing with him with random bursts of one-handed automatic rifle fire, blindly out of the window. “Yeeee-haw!” he whoops. Read the rest of this entry »

Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us

Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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Installation view of Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us (1974) Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, February 4–April 22, 2018 Photo: Brian Forrest

In 1972, Carl Andre wrote a note to Harald Szeemann in response to the Swiss curator’s invitation to participate in documenta 5. ‘DO YOU HAVE AN ART SECTION?’ asked the irascible artist. As it turned out, the sarcastic enquiry was not entirely unfounded. Szeemann’s radical curatorial mission, developed in documenta 5 and pursued over the next three decades of his career, was to pollute the category of art history with artefacts from the entire field of visual culture, and to subordinate the static art object to a more fluid representation of a creative individual’s interior world. At documenta 5, there were areas featuring political propaganda, the art of the mentally ill, advertising, and science fiction. (A proposed pornography section was cancelled.) Read the rest of this entry »

Linda Stark

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Linda Stark, Bastet, 2016, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 5 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

Hanging in Linda Stark’s studio, earlier this year, were four square oil paintings of cats. Only one painting showed the entire animal; in the other three, feline heads floated disembodied, like portentous apparitions. In Self-Portrait with Ray (2017), the eponymous grey tabby’s head appears life-sized, inside a pink disc located at the precise centre of the canvas and also at the centre of the artist’s forehead, like a third eye. Both Ray and Stark look straight at us; Stark’s eyes are rimmed with white tears. Read the rest of this entry »

St EOM and Pasaquan

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Photograph: Rinne Allen

There are still plenty of people in Buena Vista, Georgia, who remember St EOM, as Eddie Owens Martin called himself following a feverish epiphany in 1935 that led to his rebirth as the emissary of a future race of spiritually advanced, possibly extraterrestrial beings. Until his suicide in 1986 at the age of 77, he lived alone on a mysterious and outlandish property called Pasaquan, hidden by tall bamboo and pine trees a few miles outside of town. Read the rest of this entry »