Pick of the Week

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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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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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