Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: Hammer Museum

Lari Pittman

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Lari Pittman, ‘Declaration of Independence’, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

You sense his ambition right from the get-go. Not career ambition, necessarily – though that must have been a part of it, and would even have been a political position for a queer Latino painter in 1980s Los Angeles – but an ambition to cover more ground in a single painting than had hitherto seemed possible, or desirable. 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 »

Made in L.A.: a, the, though, only

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Huguette Caland, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photograph: Jonathan Griffin

One of the best things about ‘Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only’, is that – title notwithstanding – it is quite possible to forget that the work in the exhibition was made in LA. Now in its third edition, the biennial is still finding its purpose, torn as it is in different directions. Tasked with showcasing emerging and under-recognized artists, each iteration’s curators are widely expected to reflect back at the city an image of itself that is, at once, recognizably authentic but also unfamiliar, transcendent and subjective. Read the rest of this entry »

Frances Stark

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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I don’t believe it is cruel or unfair to say that a museum is probably not the natural home for Frances Stark’s work. The artworks that she has made over the past 24 years (the timespan covered by this retrospective) are many things – epistolary, diaristic, notational, self-referential, accretive, serial, slapdash, intricate – but they are not, in the main, the kinds of forms that museums are traditionally built to house. Read the rest of this entry »

Pedro Reyes

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Cynical commentators often point out that politically activist or socially-engaged art isn’t going to save the world. The position has become something of a truism, even among proponents of the genre. The question, these days, is just what can art achieve? Read the rest of this entry »

Take It or Leave It

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Large-scale historical shows, when done in a certain way, can be intellectual steamrollers. A museum exhibition is a powerful rhetorical device; gallery after gallery of judiciously selected aesthetic material beside didactic wall texts can make a particular hypothesis or observation seem indisputable, or a historical moment appear satisfyingly coherent. 
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Mark Leckey

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‘I smell things. I listen to things. I feel things. I taste things. I look at things. It is not enough to look and listen and taste and smell and feel, I have to do those to the right things, such as look at books, and fail to do them to the wrong things or else people doubt that I am a thinking being.’

Amanda Baggs’s YouTube video, In My Language (2007), shows her silhouetted against a window, fluttering her hands through the air in front of her. Her motions are repetitive: she rocks back and forth, she jangles wire around a doorknob, she passes her finger through the stream of water from a tap. All the while she is humming – singing along with what is around her, as she puts it. Read the rest of this entry »