Pick of the Week

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Takako Yamaguchi

Given the fact that most spend their lives swathed in textiles, it’s amazing how dismissively cloth is viewed. Concern for one’s apparel is frequently considered a frivolous feminine purview; garments are treated as utilitarian throwaways to be manufactured in foreign factories. In a fascinating inversion of this paradigm, Takako Yamaguchi meditates on her own raiment via laboriously realistic painting. Representing five years of focus on portraying attire, each of nine paintings in her show at As Is is a cropped, enlarged close-up of a section of her clad body. Small portions of skin peep detachedly from her starring ensemble. Together as an overall installation, Yamaguchi’s pictures enfold the visitor in shrine-like simplicity. Yet larger than life and oddly truncated, each painting appears confrontational, with the artist demanding self-acknowledgment via her frontal posture while entreating the viewer to contemplate the abstract magnetism of fabric in all its geometric minutiae. Echoing their canvas surface, her depicted threads suggest stretched canvas as garments enveloping a human body. Born in Okayama, Japan, a historic hub of textile production, Yamaguchi received her MFA from UC Santa Barbara in 1978. Compellingly interweaving Eastern and Western ideals, Yamaguchi’s compositions embody the Japanese aesthetic of shibui, a kind of understated elegance, while adhering to American principles of abstraction. Fellow painter Catherine Murphy has an adage: “All abstract painting is representational, and all representational painting is abstract.” Familiarly representational and soberingly abstract, Yamaguchi’s paintings succeed on both fronts.

As Is
1133 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Show runs through Feb. 24

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Alex Couwenberg and Steve Diet Goedde

To striking effect, Finish Fetish painting binds erotic fetish photography in Alex Couwenberg and Steve Diet Goedde‘s exhibition at Coagula Curatorial. Titled simply “Collaboration,” this show tenders surprisingly fecund explorations into how brightly hued abstract painting can harmonize with black-and-white figure photography. It doesn’t seem like this coalescence would work; but it does, partly for educing the artists’ latently overlapping interests. In each intimately scaled piece, Couwenberg’s curvaceous motifs influenced by California painting movements originating in the 1960’s (Light & Space and Finish Fetish) alternately embellish, encircle and expunge Goedde’s noirishly glamorous women assuming retro poses and vintage-inspired attire. The largely male-geared aesthetics of pin-up photography such as Goedde’s goes hand in hand with that of the surf, skate and hot rod subcultures bespoken by Couwenberg’s catchy abstractions. The mannerism of the painted and collaged abstract forms echoes that of the photographed female models. Couwenberg’s linear designs frequently appear as architecture stylized and misshapen—similar to the contorted bodies of Goedde’s women with feet caged in sky-high stilettos, torsos distorted by wasp-waisted corsets. Both artists revel in surface: Couwenberg’s vibrant textures palpably protrude as bas-reliefs from Goedde’s monochromatic portrayals of shiny catsuits and gleaming bathroom sinks. In Tuula (2018), gold vectors impinging the model’s back could represent stylized decorative wings, or more sinisterly, masochistic arrows puncturing her skin. These tableaus’ intriguing imagery and surface amply reward close examination.

 

Coagula Curatorial
974 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Show runs through Feb. 11

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Xylor Jane

A must-see for abstract painting devotees, Xylor Jane‘s show at Parrasch Heijnen is aptly titled “Magic Square for Earthlings.” Adhering to logic so bizarre as to have issued from outer space, her enchanting pictures do indeed appear to possess kinetic thaumaturgy as shape-shifters. If this sounds exaggerative, see for yourself. Stand a few inches from any one of the ten paintings and study its surface. Intricate panoramas unfold, kaleidoscopically shifting, glowing, shimmering as your eyes skim across the dotty brushed expanse brimming with structured texture. Now slowly back away. Squares and triangles oscillate and stagger, morphing size and shape. Two (2017) and Magic Square for Earthlings (2017) best exemplify that from certain angles, entire canvases appear to bulge —skew —jump as you wend around them. Magic lies in the fact that these squares weren’t painted by an alien, only an earthling with ingenious methods of employing her talent. Jane accomplishes her startling effects by devising compositions from recondite systems and wearing a magnified visor while painting. She incorporates manual idiosyncrasy into patterns of machine-like precision. Her painted patchworks are technically rigorous, but never too perfect: her touch, often irregular but never careless, is always present. Bristling like occult handmade motherboards, Jane’s pictures are reminders that digital devices are devised through human dexterity, computers powered by human fingers as well as mathematical digits. If you normally disfavor abstraction, give these paintings a chance and they might pull you in.

Parrasch Heijnen
1326 S. Boyle Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Show runs through Feb. 17

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Jen DeNike and Katherine Bradford

Jen DeNike and Katherine Bradford have converted Anat Ebgi‘s small secondary space, AE2, into a mysterious bipartite chamber dominated by the theme of people at sea. Superficially, these two divergent artists’ collaboration seems surprising. Yet their palettes converge in rich violets and deep blues; their compositions jibe in figures bathing, floating and drowning. Cohesion despite contrast makes for an intriguing installation where DeNike’s slick premeditated video aesthetic counterbalances Bradford’s loose paintings that seem to have flown from streams of consciousness. Their idea for this show sprung from their mutual interest in water as stylistic device and evocative metaphor. Its title, “Being Like Water,” conjures the Tao Te Ching‘s recurrent postulation of water as a feminine principle to aspire towards. This notion seems a befitting point of departure for the duo’s imagery tinged with suggestions of mystical femininity. The dreamy mannerism of DeNike’s Queen of Narwhals (2018, above right), with sound installation by Scott Haggart, appears as that of a contemporary music video with scenes of sorceresses and animals recalling the dark surrealism of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. Beside screens in DeNike’s cobalt-painted alcove, Bradford’s small painting, Floater for Queen of Narwhals (2017), integrates seamlessly. It’s difficult to tell whether Bradford’s floaters are dead, drowning, or simply enjoying moonlit swims. Bathers’ scarlet mouths in Red Lips (2017, above left) emanate unsettlingly incongruent luminance that no waterproof lipstick could provide. Bodies of water are propounded throughout as vital forces with dangerous undercurrents.

 

Anat Ebgi (AE2)
2680 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Show runs through March 10

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Judith Linhares

Via her expressionistic brush, Judith Linhares teases latent absurdity and uncanniness from hackneyed pictorial genres. Female nudes, sublime landscapes, exotic animals and floral still lifes are jumbled and transposed into worlds of outré wildness. The Pasadena-born, New York-based artist is best known for figure paintings that have influenced younger notables; but the newest works in Linhares’ current show at Various Small Fires evince that she depicts inanimate objects and animated creatures with equal aplomb. It’s hard to imagine a humble plate of corn on the cob painted with as much frenetic pizzazz as Stack (2017). Nor is it easy to remember a bottle of liquid dish detergent ever looking so creepily silly as Joy (2017), whose banality belies its superficial titular assertion of happiness. In her figure paintings, Linhares honors the timeworn tradition of portraying au naturel women in nature. But her frolicking female protagonists appear as though enjoying themselves considerably more than the confrontational girls of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), or the stultified lady in Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1863). Instead of posing, Linhares’ impish women picnic, recline, climb trees, dig, roll logs, and play with tigers inside alien dreamscapes that they seem to have commandeered. In Cove (2010, pictured above), fruits parade as planets while a tablecloth mysteriously enshrouds a lurking figure that evokes a foreboding mood enhanced by Linhares’ expressionism and her rakish subjects’ brooding expressions. These sportive dames appear cognizant of their expropriated liberty’s precariousness.

 

Various Small Fires
812 North Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Show runs through Feb. 24

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Mike Kelley

The late Mike Kelley‘s “Kandors 1999-2011” at Hauser & Wirth is literally and figuratively tenebrous. Deviating from Kelley’s typical folksiness, this show exudes a clinical coolness. “Kandors” was his final major series. It centers on the fictional metropolis Kandor, an outgrowth of the Superman comic series invented in 1933. In a 2010 essay outlining this body of work’s complicated back-story, Kelley declares the mythological miniature city as a metaphor for alienation. “Kandors” originated as part of a 1999 German museum show for which the artist’s elaborate plans were thwarted by lack of museum funding—a failure appearing symbolically suited to the work’s overall ethos of impracticality. This exhibition begins with a re-creation of Kelley’s original installation, Kandor-Con 2000 (1999/2007), a Comic-Con parody with a sign reading “Future Site of Kandor, Projected Completion Date January 419500 A.D.,” where workers create paper skyscraper sculptures at nearby desks. In subsequent galleries, darkness sets off lenticular lightboxes and huge dazzling jewel-toned sculptures of imaginary art deco metropolises inside bell jars lit from within. Sylvia Plath allusions apparently reflect Kelley’s own descent into disconsolation. Further into the show, gloom deepens, reaching a piercing crescendo in Odalisque (2010), Kandor 19B (2010, above left) and War Memorial (2011, above right).  Spectacle renders this survey as striking as a surcharged museum exhibit. It concludes with Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude) (2011), a sprawling cavern embedded with glittering gold that tragically didn’t inspirit its creator at rainbow’s end.

 

Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles
901 E. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Show runs through Jan. 21

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Caroline Larsen and Dominic Terlizzi

A pair of concurrent shows at Craig Krull features paintings that, despite firm adherence to the tradition of pigment on canvas, appear to exist as other objects. Caroline Larsen squeezes vibrantly hued paint from pastry tubes into loopy ribbons and whimsical daubs that coalesce into comely scenes of flowers, mountains, Hockney-esque Palm Springs pools and green suburban lawns. With surfaces appearing as colored thread or even plastic, her exuberant paintings masquerade as pictures created of fused beads or needlepoint. Compared to Larsen’s riotous glossy rainbows, the monochromatic canvases of Dominic Terlizzi are understated and matte. Terlizzi’s white textured rectangles look like cast plaster tiles of the sort that decoratively commemorate plants, fossils or baby footprints. Terlizzi creates these by casting items such as dog biscuits and pieces of bread in acrylic paint. Both artists’ works simulate craft or interior decor; but underneath their dazzling surfaces are vague evocations of things amiss. Moody skies, skewed perspectives, and the absence of people in Larsen’s paintings such as Skylark (2017, pictured above) suggest that something is off in the portrayed arid paradise’s Mid-century modern environs. In crudely formed figures that emerge from Terlizzi’s white textured fields, childlike appearance belies sinister undertones, as the creepy disembodied faces in Guardian (2017). Though striking for their eccentrically contrived creation, these paintings’ allusions to portent and futility veer sharply from pure formalism.

 

Craig Krull Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave., # B-3
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Show runs through Jan. 13

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Emily Counts

Emily Counts‘ sculptures appear suspended at an intriguing juncture of covetable fashion and female shamanism. Of motley materials and contrasting forms, Counts’ esoteric abstract shapes evoke mystical amulets or dreamcatchers; while their candy-hued glossy surfaces insinuate commodified desire. Titled “The Association,” her current show at Garboushian is organized around a theme of connectivity in allusion to computers, telecommunication, social networks, mysticism and mythology. Most of Counts’ sculptures consist of two ceramic focal points connected by chains, rope or wood and accented by bits of stained glass, minerals, beach rock, acrylic sheets or hardware. These composite configurations coil like shopwindow snakes and dangle like necklaces, their chained duality recalling body jewelry such as navel rings or Indian nose chains. Stoneware and porcelain elements frequently protrude from walls as though eccentric altar shelves. In Make Love (all works 2017), a painterly cone and a cylinder, appearing as bizarre medieval cookware, hang from a sawhorse. Counts’ aesthetic is reminiscent of Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel’s “Motherpeace,” a 1970’s feminist tarot deck re-popularized by a recent Dior line. Inklings of precariousness emerge as daggers in Galactic Balance and Danger Pleasure, a cobweb in The Collectors (pictured above) and a severed hand in Complicated Dream. Like “Motherpeace” and Dior’s accessories it inspired, Counts’ sculptures are pretty but edgy, their comely facades belying dangerous potential.

 

Garboushian Gallery
427 N. Camden Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Show runs through Jan. 12, 2018

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