Pick of the Week

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Sarah McEneaney & Ann Toebbe

Each painting currently displayed at Zevitas Marcus evokes the satisfyingly voyeuristic sensation of Sarah McEneaney or Ann Toebbe allowing you to peer through a window or skylight into her studio or home. This show’s compendious title, “Home Work,” bespeaks intermingled domestic and industrial spheres while dryly connoting tutelage and housewifery. The title’s apparent understatement underscores the paintings’ emphasis that an artist’s work and life are inevitably interwoven. Underlying the folksy facades of each artist’s minutely detailed, dollhouse-like pictures is an exploration of how public and personal spaces seep into one another, shaping psyche and signifying identity. McEneaney diaristically depicts herself from fly-on-the-wall perspective inside her studio, office, home and yard. In Studio Spring Summer 2017 (2017), tokens of external sociopolitical turmoil in the form of newspaper cutouts and protest signs infiltrate the creative chaos of paint-splattered floor. Spring Rain (2017) presents a simpler facet of life, with wispy raindrops palpable as McEneaney returns home to expectant pets. With flattened, topsy-turvy spatiality reminiscent of Polly Pocket, Ann Toebbe’s bird’s-eye-views inside family members’ domiciles appear as stages dressed for absent actors. In works such as Family Room (sister) (2017, pictured above), tables are set; grinning portraits adorn walls; televisions screen football games—but no one is around. Instead, stylized cityscapes insinuate themselves into living rooms; planted outdoor gardens appear as mosaic-like throw rugs. McEneaney and Toebbe’s pictures expose how interior and exterior accoutrements reveal and obscure occupants’ personalities. As within acquaintances’ abodes, you want to keep gazing in order to apprehend every peculiarity.

 

Zevitas Marcus
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Show runs through Dec. 23

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Walton Ford

It’s unique to see a distant artist delving deeply into our obscure local lore. In his current show at Gagosian, New York-based painter Walton Ford travels far back in time to the land of the Natural History Museum and La Brea Tar Pits. The exhibition’s title, “Calafia,” refers to a character in Las sergas de Esplandián, a 16th-century Castilian novel by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo that apparently provided the basis for our state’s name. In Ford’s monolithic watercolors, prehistoric legends and pre-California fantasies intermingle with totems of contemporary culture. Cursive snippets of text from de Montalvo’s novel heighten their affectations of antiquated illustration. Just as conquistadors’ cartographic misconception of California as an island seems absurd today, Ford’s bestial hybrids flirt with farcicality; but his monumental, technically adroit allusions to imperiled species are firmly serious minded. In Isla de California (2017, pictured above), an ungainly California condor with tacked-on cougar hindquarters descends clumsily upon a telephone pole; while nearby, another griffin bursts aflame after hitting the wires. Have you ever contemplated a diorama, trying to imagine it as real, only to realize that you couldn’t overpass its intricate stage set contrivance? Ford’s painted blends of real and imagined encapsulate the problem with natural history: history is a human construct, and a skewed one at that.

Gagosian Beverly Hills
456 North Camden Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Show runs through Dec. 16

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Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis‘ sculptures are motley in makeup, manifold in their evocations of natural features and visceral gestures. Variously forged of steel, bronze, polyurethane, chicken wire, handmade paper, glitter and clay, her splanchnic forms droop, lean, ooze, peel, wriggle, slither, curl, swell, drip, float, swirl, jell, and even glow. Navigating Blum & Poe‘s cavernous galleries enhances awareness of one’s own corporeality in relation to Benglis’ unnamable morphologies ranging in scale from monumental to minute. Dripping with glow-in-the-dark polyurethane and mercurial poured steel, HILLS AND CLOUDS (2014, pictured above) evokes beached mats of algae, or bald cypress treetops swathed in Spanish moss in the artist’s native Louisiana. One can imagine this colossal sculpture phosphorescing as a noctilucent cloud over a meadow at Storm King where it once was displayed. An interior geometric network of rigid rectilinear beams supports the silvery draped surface as the skeleton of a decaying hut or the underside of bleachers. Nearby, a mangled metal figure leans against a wall like a giant Giacometti. Smaller but equally evocative works include sparkly sculptures of paper stretched like skin over wire bones, and a suite of painterly ceramics. These lively pieces impart the activity of their creation. In challenging Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, sexism and other art world praxes, Benglis has carved out idiosyncratic sculptural idioms whose breadth others can only emulate.

Blum & Poe
2727 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Show runs through Dec. 16

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Kelly McLane

So often is the label Surrealism tacked onto fantasy art that, in descriptions of contemporary work, it’s become practically synonymous with utopian scenes or lowbrow. Kelly McLane‘s loose dystopic pictures are the opposite of such reductionistic definitions; yet she appears among the best contemporary heirs to the Surrealist movement. Unfolding like bad dreams, her free-flowing paintings excavate society’s sordid depths, discharging pain and havoc from our collective subconsciousness. The artist terms our turbulent society’s ills “cultural dementia.” Her current show at DENK, ecofeministically titled “Peckerwoods,” illustrates this diagnosis via scenes of nature and quotidian life gone awry. Here, McLane employs her signature washed-out passages blending drawing and painting, beauty and grotesqueness; but since her last solo show several years ago, she has expanded her repertoire. New techniques including ligneous scarification enhance her pictures’ incisive urgency. In Deerberry Season (pictured above; all works 2017), a giant grinning rubber duck balefully looms behind a buck whose towering, sanguine antlers contradict his gangly fawn-like physique. The artificial toy appears to be herding the animal towards the edge of a cliff. Symbolizing natural destruction, the deer’s lacerate outline is partially carved into the panel. Overt carnage in Big Bird’s Got A Gun, Birds Born Blind and several drawings piercingly evokes notorious slews of recent violence. It’s been too long since a McLane show. Those who don’t know her work should; and those who do will be impressed by its development.

 

DENK Gallery
749 E. Temple St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Show runs through Nov. 22

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Sayre Gomez

In a corridor just inside Ghebaly Gallery, a faded sign, barely legible for its low contrast, reads “Déjà Vu.” This isn’t merely a placard bearing the title of Sayre Gomez‘ show; it’s an integral painting whose dual function niftily preludes the awaiting parade of trompe l’oeil paintings. Inside the exhibition space, you’re confronted with a glass door whose commercial exterior appearance blatantly disjoins its white-walled environs. But it isn’t really a door; it’s Behind Door # 2 (2017, pictured above), a lifelike painting hung to appear as though you could open it and step inside. Furthering this incongruence, a gorgeous tropical sunset lies beyond the threshold. On this autumn afternoon, you almost wish it were real—but as you approach, trompe l’oeil inkjet dots emerge, revealing the sunset as a second layer of artifice. Such wonder followed by wistfulness pervades the total installation spiraling through three rooms. Smaller paintings depict blurry buildings beyond chain link fences ascended by vine tendrils. In a more nostalgic series, stickers proclaiming fanciful self-identifications or scholastic judgments dot wooden panels as in a child’s bedroom. Trompe l’oeil painting may be resurging, but illusionism is rarely enough; spatial and conceptual context are key to success. Gomez’ paintings are impressive not only for their technical ingenuity and clever location, but especially for their strong evocations of lack of belonging.

Ghebaly Gallery
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through Nov. 18

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Van Hanos

Van Hanos‘ paintings parodizing partisan preposterousness would be utterly comical if they didn’t so mordantly reflect our circusy cultural reality. Cynically dubbed “Late American Paintings,” his current show at Chateau Shatto concentrates social discord, political vagary and digital phoniness as a magnifying glass focuses sunlight. Enhancing his works’ startling effect, Hanos applies old-fashioned oil painting finesse to such newfangled pictorial idioms as GIF’s, memes and decals. No public figure, whether actual politician or fictional cartoon, is immune to flogging by his sardonic brush. A Recent History of the United States of America (all works 2017) portrays Obama, the Holy Family, The Lizardman bursting from a Hillary Clinton costume, a Trump-masked Godzilla and a skinned corpse all gambling together round a poker table doubling as ash tray. In Trumpty Dumpty (pictured above), wrathful My Little Ponies battle Frankensteinian baby-men wearing distended presidential miens. Amid the fray, cartoon light bulbs indicate infantile strokes of inspiration. The age-old semblance of academic realism sets off these provocative collage-like compositions in the same way that eminence belies outlandish proclamation. Snakes and Ladders depicts tentacles headed by Satan and Uncle Sam writhing like cyclonic vortices. Ophidian and cephalopod domination contravenes the traditional game of which Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children protagonist declared, “The solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent.” Hanos’ apocalyptic caricatures breathe droll new life into the antiquated genre of history painting.


Chateau Shatto

1206 S. Maple Ave, Suite 1030
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Show runs through Nov. 11

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Nemesio Antúnez

Nemesio Antúnez (1918-1993) possessed a remarkable talent for crystallizing the spirit of certain locations and scenarios. In his small but captivating pictorial selection currently on view at Couturier Gallery, the Santiago de Chile-born, Columbia-educated artist transports us to Atacama Desert dunes, bustling New York streets, and Andes cordilleras. He opens our eyes to fleeting moments past like silhouetted bicycle handles catching the final sunrays before dusk in Paseo en bicicleta (1965). Eerie tranquility also pervades domestic scenes such as Blue Horse (1965), where a chakra-like orb of cerulean light permeates a grazing equine. The striking divergence between these visionary paintings depicting his homeland and those set in New York evinces by contrast his South American pride. In his cityscapes, spectral uniform people scurry about like black-and-white ants amid grids and boxes. Their robotic appearance and dismal geometric surroundings reveal the artist’s view of an urban world devoid of color and character. Antúnez’ seamless blending of objective reality and subjective emotion makes his abstracted dreamscapes seem existent. Op Art checks give Mujer (1963) a digital appearance. These checkers are repeated in other paintings such as The Sleepers (1964) where white wavy parallelograms define mountain planes billowing like quilts. Colorless planes again appear in Park Avenue (1966, pictured above), where skyscrapers’ shells are stripped away to reveal blank floating floors occupied by ant-people. These powerful scenes confer the uncanny impression that Antúnez transmitted his mental images directly into one’s mind.

Couturier Gallery
166 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Show runs through Nov. 11

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Ariana Papademetropoulos

With salmon walls, magenta carpet and eccentric ornament, Ariana Papademetropoulos has transformed Wilding Cran into a life-size dollhouse where you are the doll and everything is slightly off-kilter. Her show’s title, “The man who saved a dog from an imaginary fire,” refers to an acid-tripping gent who hallucinated a neighbor’s house afire and burglarized it to save their pet. This installation suggests that society is a Frankensteinan, ersatz version of pervasive fantasies. Trompe l’oeil stains punctuate brightly painted interior scenes, insinuating dismal voids beneath cheery artifice. A theatrical church uncloaks religious rituals’ Disney-esque veneer. An in-between lenticular postcard renders a pretty woman half grotesque. Laid atop a carpeted dais, a grid of gothic romance pulp novels betrays the illustrated covers’ repetitive formula of a lass running from a mansion with one lit room. This arrangement illuminates domesticity’s dark side while questioning the romanticization of damsels in distress. Furthering the fantasia, a miniature door is portal to a Philip Garner-inspired dysfunctional bedroom where a beat-up exercise bike faces a video showing the artist inside a bubble (still above), escaping her own studio building of eerily similar appearance to the book cover mansions. Culminating here, Papademetropoulos’ installation feels subversive in its comely investigation of fantasies’ embedded cultural subtexts.

 

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 S. Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through Oct. 26

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