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
Monique Prieto‘s new paintings radiate magnetic simplicity. The abstractions in her elegantly spare show, “Luster,” glow as though lit from within. Each of the four diptychs currently on view at Chimento Contemporary features a pair of organic shapes, one on each panel. Arranged like mirror images, the members of each duo are roughly similar in form, slightly different in color. Rich black grounds diverge from Prieto’s usual light canvases; the enigmatic figures’ velvety textured jewel tones are deeper than her typical pastel hues. Separated by a narrow band of white wall, these diptychs make you feel as though your eyes are playing tricks on you. The contrast between black panel and white wall, and the shapes’ disparity in tint, give the impression of one eye needing to adjust to different lighting after having been covered. Vaguely resembling inkblots, minerals, figures, or body parts like bones or brains, Prieto’s primordial contours possess a totemic austerity that gives way to their lush inner fields of brushstrokes. Evoking stained glass, these sparse, luminous pictures offer meditative pause in a digital world, a refreshing antidote to society’s superfluities.
622 South Anderson Street, Space 105
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Show runs through Oct. 28
Linda Vallejo’s show titled “Keepin’ It Brown” affects an antique store atmosphere. Folksily arranged ceramic figurines stand atop pedestals. Walls are adorned with framed pictures of celebrities and pieces appearing as needlepoint. Embedded in this homey pop-culture veneer is sharp cultural commentary. Many of the displayed tchotchkes did come from secondhand shops; Vallejo painted their skin a few shades tanner. The conspicuousness of this relatively minor alteration highlights just how predominantly fair-skinned our cultural icons are. Vallejo’s browned versions of Elvis Presley, Bob’s Big Boy and Audrey Hepburn (pictured above) become poster children for superficial stereotyping, even as they embody it. They also bring to mind how unnaturally blanched the skin of ceramic figurines often is—a fictional colorlessness so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted. As David Batchelor observed in Chromophobia, “It is one thing not to know that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see colour when it is still there.” Whereas Vallejo colored existing figures in her “Make ‘Em All Mexican” series, she creates images from statistics in her more recent “Brown Dot Project.” Here, dark spots, whose quantities correspond to different Latino population and workforce demographics, form symbolic pictures and abstract designs on sheets of white graph paper. These recall Agnes Martin paintings and old-fashioned embroidered handkerchiefs; but Vallejo’s contemporary Chicana sensibility is clearly disposed towards emphasizing Latinos’ societal contributions.
2525 Michigan Ave., #G8A
Santa Monica, CA 91403
Show runs through Oct. 8
Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) is renowned for his landscape architecture; but 28 drawings currently on view at Edward Cella indicate that he might just as adeptly have applied his creativity towards fine art. Executed between 1943–2006, these drawings, which seem almost like pages of a visual diary, offer intimate glimpses into Halprin’s mind unfettered by architecture’s practical exigencies. He drew nearly daily, often from life but frequently adding fanciful twists that heighten his pictures’ charm, such as mask-like monster forms above forested cliffs. His diversiform drawing practice included a wide array of methods and media, ranging from refined renderings to washy abstractions to arabesque doodles. Expectedly, his primary subjects are figures, landscapes and combinations thereof. Merging of man and land appears most strikingly in the conjoined countenances of VI, Fruits of Peace series (1946, pictured above). Embodying aspects of vegetation and landscape, perhaps these faces represent some kind of struggle between personified forces of nature. In acrid dreamlike colors, a 1944 watercolor portrays people playing pool; the table appears lawn-like. Several cubist rock studies from his master-planned Sea Ranch community artificialize nature. Other pieces envisage plants as mystical characters, suggesting his penchant for parks. Ephemera and a video describing collaborations with his avant-garde dancer wife, Anna, further exemplify cross-disciplinary fruitfulness.
Edward Cella Art + Architecture
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Show runs through Oct. 28
It’s amazing how much effort, skill and intellect Neil Raitt directs towards donning the ornate trappings of kitsch. Visitors enter his installation through a painstakingly contrived threshold whose tree-shaped outline resembles that of a rearview mirror air freshener. Inspired by lowbrow landscapes and themed hotel decor, the immersing atmosphere within is suffused with affectations of tackiness. Minute detail animates a world that defies logic but somehow subsumes you. Blue-carpeted floors are punctuated by phony rocks and benches upholstered with monotonous landscape patterns. Steam-emitting lighted fountains supply auditory ambience. One slatted wall appears to belong at a thrift store. Another wall sports a striking mural depicting bosky mountains whose impossible optical-illusion superimpositions recall M.C. Escher. This backdrops canvases eliciting the superficial sensation that Bob Ross might return any minute to paint the finishing touches on his happy little trees. But Raitt’s clever juxtapositions and wallpaper-like repetition betray headier intentions. In recycling popular landscape depictions, he questions our culture’s standard modes of co-opting nature for the purposes of pure artifice. Can kitsch possibly approach sublimity? Do exalted landscapes outstrip our stereotypical views of them? Suspended between elegance and tawdriness, the completely immersing, uncanny environment of this tableau offers no answers but transcends its tinsel origins to almost awe-inspiring effect.
2660 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Show runs through Oct. 21
While Americans condemn Mexican lawlessness, much illegal drug trade south of the border is driven by U.S. demand. In his PST: LA/LA show titled “Artempatía” (Empathy Art), Mexico City artist Emiliano Gironella Parra imports a sampling of the horrors we usually only read about in newspapers. Weapons, narcotics and anguish abound in pieces of diverse media. An assault rifle is loaded with injection needles. Flowers grow from a giant grenade vase. Methacrylate sculptures resembling ice blocks portray self-inflictions and externally enacted afflictions. In San Sebastían (2010, detail above), hypodermic needles prick a frozen Saint Sebastian, a macabre individual allegory of populational agony. In the particularly pointed Billetes 1, devil horns adorn Franklin on $100 bills beside sequential drawings of a crudely sketched beheading. Gironella Parra’s aesthetic of grisliness with a whimsical touch resembles that of Luis Estrada’s El infierno film, which also treats of cartel hellishness. His grotesque symbolism mirrors the visual language of narcoculture, while its critical implications are in the vein of Goya’s “Disasters of War.” Offsetting his work’s heavy content, his collaborations with orphans of assassinated police evince art’s therapeutic capabilities.
1452 E. Sixth Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through Oct. 14
County fairs usually aren’t noted for their art; but this year’s is an exception, with Millard Sheets Art Center hosting a fine PST LA/LA exhibition, “Judithe Hernández and Patssi Valdez: One Path Two Journeys.” Hernández and Valdez were, respectively, members of influential Chicano artist collectives Los Four and Asco; this show illuminates their parallel trajectories as individuals. In line with the title, curator Thomas Canavan placed their works on opposite walls, asserting each artist’s singularity while educing their affinities. Both explore their Chicana identities and indigenous heritage through multiplicities of strokes coalescing into eerie quasi-surreal scenes. Hernández’ haunting paintings and pastels of classical women amid plants and animals (pictured above) are suffused with foreboding and often horror. Nature and mysticism also figure in Valdez’ interiors where everyday objects embody sinister characters. Her paintings are no less creepy for their super-vivid hues that somehow avoid kitschiness. Photographs and documentaries illustrating the women’s Chicano movement connections accompany over 60 works from the 1980s to present. The imagery here is disturbing, beautiful and very memorable. Fair admission and parking fees are required through September 24.
Millard Sheets Art Center
1101 W McKinley Avenue (Fairplex)
Pomona, CA 91768
Show runs through January 28, 2018
Straddling all sorts of categories, Nick Lowe’s pictures are defined by their byzantine intermediacy between stretched canvases and works on paper, paintings and drawings, fanciful dreamscapes and pedestrian scenes. Lowe possesses an uncanny knack for agglomerating materials and techniques generally associated with either painting or drawing into dichotomous hybrids disguised as traditional canvases. The seven works displayed at Grice Bench recall Jim Dine, Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn but inhabit a world of their own. Works like Cactus and Tire (2017) and Dog in Landscape (2017) initially appear slapdash; but as one approaches, labyrinthine detail unfolds like an accordion. Idiosyncratic marks delineate generic imagery. Raw sketchy lines juxtapose painted passages of reworking and deliberation. Obliterating skeletal networks, scumbled patches alternately evoke atmospheric fog and weathered, whitewashed walls. Visible only very closely, meticulous abstracted embellishments are so small and removed that they seem practically pointless. Punctuated by scratches, blobs and hairs, Lowe’s surfaces are anomalously gritty like his urban subject matter. Yet despite their texture, they betray few brushstrokes. The bizarre absence of manual evidence speaks to the notion that great pains often leave little to show for their time and effort. In their intermediate states of completion and uncertainty, Lowe’s paintings poignantly tap the dismal banality of the urban landscape and eloquently allude to our world’s pervasive futility.
915 Mateo Street, # 210
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through September 16