Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Category: Uncategorized

Made in L.A.

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Huntington Museum, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino

Fulton Leroy Washington (aka MR. WASH), Mr. Rene # MAN POWER, 2011, oil on stretched canvas, 61 × 50.8 cm.
Courtesy: the artist, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Before entering the long-delayed (and now revised) ‘Made in L.A. 2020: a version’, I pitied its poor curators, whose exhibition has been kyboshed by a succession of lockdowns. Originally scheduled to open in June, the biennial – split this year between the Hammer Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino – has lain partly dormant, partly unfinished. With (almost) all works installed, museum leaders allowed in a few members of the press, who, they hoped, might grant ‘Made in L.A. 2020’ a little exposure to daylight. (The biennial is currently expected to open to the public next year.)1

Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Gaines

‘Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #6, Fetter Lane’ (2020), photo: Fredrik Nilsen; © Charles Gaines, Hauser & Wirth

When Charles Gaines was in elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1950s, he showed an aptitude for drawing. His well-meaning teacher suggested to his mother that perhaps he should be an artist. He could be the first black artist in the history of the world, she said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diana Markosian

Diana Markosian, “The Arrival” (2019) from “Santa Barbara” (Aperture, 2020)

In a soundstage on a quiet street in Glendale, Calif., a whisper passed among the crew. Svetlana, the director’s mother, had arrived.

Read the rest of this entry »

Doyle Lane

Doyle Lane, c. 1976, El Sereno, Los Angeles. Photograph: Ben Serar

One afternoon in the early ’90s, the banking consultant Rudy Estrada returned to his mansion in Pasadena, Calif., to find two members of the local sheriff’s department standing over a lightly built African-American man spread-eagled on his front lawn.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Betye Saar

cri_000000440545
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.

Saar moved to Laurel Canyon with her former husband, Richard, and three daughters in the early 1960s, shortly before the Hollywood Hills became the nexus of Los Angeles’ hippie music scene. Frank Zappa lived in a log cabin just a few doors down, and Neil Young, Brian Wilson, and Joni Mitchell were also neighbors. The Saars were a hip, artistic family: Betye was a printmaker and designer, and Richard a ceramicist and art conservator. They led a comfortable middle-class life but were far from famous. As with most Black artists of her generation—and virtually all female artists—Saar made her way outside of what little limelight shone on the local art scene. For years, she didn’t even consider herself a real artist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Still Kicking

 

Pit-2020-01-13_118

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

Ree-Morton-Don’t-worry-I’ll-only-read-you-the-good-parts-1975

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

New Note

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 »