Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

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 »

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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

Castle

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 »

Robert Yarber

Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles

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Robert Yarber, Error’s Conquest, 1987, oil on canvas, 71 x 129.50 in

What I would give for a time machine that could transport me back to Venice, Italy, in the summer of 1984. That year, at the Biennale, an exhibition titled Paradise Lost/Paradise Regained: American Visions of the New Decade had been commissioned for the United States Pavilion by the New Museum’s firebrand director, Marcia Tucker. Along with figurative painters such as Charles Garabedian, Roger Brown, Judith Linhares, and the Reverend Howard Finster, it included a young Oakland- based artist named Robert Yarber, whose nocturnal oil painting of a glowing motel pool and a couple falling past a high-rise window (Double Suicide, 1983) launched him into the public eye.
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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 »