Research, Travelogue

L.A. Looks

Between installing recent works at Tarryn Teresa Gallery and being stuck in traffic, I got to have some fun art-life in Los Angeles last weekend…

–Peeked behind the scenes of a down-low James Turrell light installation. Don’t ask where, because I won’t say!

–Experienced Richard Serra’s monumental Band and Sequence steel sculptures at LACMA for the first time, and in near solitude, to boot. I was really grateful to get them both to myself, as the experience was sensory and meditative. I was baffled, though, when I encountered an LED light piece in the corner. It was completely lacking wall text. I knew it was a work because its perimeter was demarcated with vinyl commanding, “Please do not touch,” and when I entered the throw of light, I set off a high-pitched alarm. Yet I’d never known Serra to do light-based work, and I’m sort of keen on these things. A new museum mystery remains unsolved.

–Upstairs at LACMA were a massive Barbara Kruger vinyl installation and a Koons, Warhol and Baldessari group show. The dude show was great, if not especially urgent (in fact, it was scheduled to close a year ago). Still, I hadn’t seen one of Koons’ balloon animals in the flesh in a while, and it was totally and surprisingly effective, accomplishing what I think the provocateur meant to do. That taut, shiny sculpture sort of turned me on. Awkward!

–In the other huge wing was a large survey of Beuys’ multiples. Shows of multiples, esp those tangential to Fluxus, can be wonderfully curio-esque or miserably archival and academic. I’ll admit, my art stamina was no match for the massive scope of this survey. I also had a hard time turning off my preparator brain, noticing the grey-vinyl-on-grey-paint instead of synthesizing the text, and being bothered by the lack of didactic texts in the vitrines. Still, it was cute to see Beuys’ famous sled sculpture, which Stephanie Syjuco is re-creating for 1969, a show at PS1 this fall.

–When you like a gallery, and their shows keep exceeding your expectations, you start to worry about becoming biased. This is what happens to me at Marc Foxx Gallery. I loved the Anne Collier show the last time I was in town, and I loved the group show with Jim Hodges and Frances Stark the preceding visit. This time round, I was slowly but surely impressed with a solo show by Matthew Ronay, who crafts fictionalized juju capes, hoods, staffs and other ritual objects. They’re completely engrossing.

Joel Kyack’s Knife Shop at Francios Ghebaly’s Kunsthalle LA in Chinatown was pretty great too. It’s a theatrical installation in the vein of low-brow, folky, male juvenile art, but it worked for me because it was hokey but believably dangerous. I mean, there’s a table of dozens of hand-made shanks. Anger at the world seems less pathetic (even if the work is in a ‘pathetic aesthetic’) when the artist has ground metal license plate holder and other bits of metal into long blades. These aren’t Nut N Fancy tactical knives; they’re fetishes of obsession and rage.

–The recession seems to hit Chinatown galleries especially hard, with many shops folding or moving, so it’s fantastic to see an example of rigor over sell-ability in this ‘hood. Rachel Khedoori’s installation at The Box is timely and political, and its visual interest is minimalist but nightmarish. It’s a museum-quality show at a small commercial gallery. Not sure how that happened, but it’s cool.

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