Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

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 »

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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 »

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 »