Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Judy Chicago

Three Faces of Man from ‘Power Play’ (1985), Judy Chicago, Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University, Pennsylvania Photo: © Donald Woodman/ARS, New York; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Judy Chicago is excited. ‘This morning my Instagram completely exploded!’ she tells me, clutching her iPhone, when we meet at her Santa Monica hotel. It is late September 2018, the day after Christine Blasey Ford’s devastating testimony, and Brett Kavanaugh’s subsequent tantrum, during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. A friend has forwarded Chicago an article on the website Bustle headlined ‘The Whole Country Just Watched What Happens When Angry, Powerful Men Don’t Get Their Way’, in which the faces of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley were shown as a triptych, contorted in what the writer described as ‘fury and condescension’.

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Darren Bader

Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

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Darren Bader, ‘character limit’, installation view, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

 

How much of Darren Bader’s art do we need in the world? The world, after all, is already full of the kinds of objects that Bader brings into his exhibitions: art, words, images, personalities, ideas. Its very fullness is arguably the condition that Bader’s work both critiques and thrives on. “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more,” Douglas Huebler famously wrote in 1970. The question of whether Bader is adding more objects to the world depends on whether you consider two existing objects placed together to constitute a new object, or just a reconstitution of what was already there. It also depends on whether you consider a near facsimile of an existing object to be a new object. It depends—crucially—on whether an object can consist of language alone.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »