Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pedestal (and Other) Pieces

(for MandT)

Unusually, we stayed this past weekend in town and spent Saturday afternoon catching up with many of the art galleries in the Culver City area. Most had openings scheduled for the evening, but we had committed to break the (Yom Kippur) fast at our friend's house in the evening. And besides, we were just as happy to see the art without the crowds of people.

There were good things to see--and much that will be omitted here. I don't aim to be encyclopedic. Nor am I writing critical "reviews." The following are not by any means the only shows worth seeing, they're simply the ones that seemed to fit in some peculiar way together, and all are shows that appealed particularly to my eye. All happen to be three-dimensional work, and all use glass and/or ceramic as their medium. Two of them happen to be the result of collaborations between two artists, an interesting twist in a culture that generally celebrates the cult of the individual.

Let's start with Phillip Maberry and Scott Walker, who have been working together for a quarter of a century, creating playfully colorful ceramic objects that are at once provocative and cheerfully decorative. In "Pool Toys" at Maloney Fine Art, they use inflatable or plastic pool toys as molds for sculptural elements, which they then assemble into eccentric characters like "Lil Big Gurl"...

or "Landroid":
There's definitely something "retro" about these figures, recalling the decorative styles of the mid-20th century. There's a touch of charming innocence about them that I like, a refusal to be cowed by the mainstream's fear of having fun with pattern and color. Their optimistic energy is a welcome relief, at this moment in our history, to a social, cultural and political climate that seems to be driving us at breakneck speed toward the abyss.

By the same token... When you first step in to the Koplin Del Rio Gallery, you'll be dazzled by the glitz and gleam and the extravagant exuberance of "Animexican," a multifarious assemblage of glass works by the de la Torre brothers, Einar and Jamex...

Including both pedestal and large-scale wall pieces, these over-the-top works comprise a bit of everything, from current political satire to references to ancient Aztec deities, from the kind of Chicanismo represented by tag art, murals and low-riders to folk art, retablos, and the long tradition of Catholic hagiography. So far as I can tell, the brothers employ a whole range of media, from the multi-colored blown glass that predominates in these works to found objects and photography. It's a huge, joyful, uninhibited dance with color and energy, broad humor and polemic, eclectic form and global content, body, soul and spirit which includes the viewer in its passionate embrace of life--and art.

Here's a recent interview with the brothers by James Chute of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In Exiles & Nomads at Angeles Gallery, my friend Micaela Amateau Amato (again, these are not "reviews," so I'm free to talk about my friends) uses both glass...

Micaela Amateau Amato, "Exiles & Nomads"

Cameroon figure with yellow hands, 2010. Cast glass on welded steel base, 17 x 11 x 9-1/2 inches

and ceramics...

Micaela Amateau Amato, "Exiles & Nomads"

Ceramic figure with bent body-pink face, 2009. Glazed ceramic, 11 x 7 x 9 inches

... to create works that "symbolize people across the globe who have suffered the brutalities of war and tribal ethnic cleansing." The expressions and postures of these small heads and figurines are as eloquent as the glazes Amato employs to suggest distortion, dislocation, fracture and dismemberment. Their references to art historical precedent--from Egyptian funerary sculpture to Mexican santos, tribal African carving and Japanese butoh performers-- remind us that the human diaspora of the 21st century has become a world-wide and sometimes agonizingly problematic phenomenon, as the global climate continues to change and resources deplete. This work is about the commonality of human suffering, human survival and the dignity of the human spirit in a world where religious and cultural differences threaten to become even more destructively divisive. It reminds us that art is still one place where we all can come together.

On another front entirely, I also greatly liked Mark Dean Veca's When the Shit Hits the Fan at Western Project. Here's an installation shot:

Veca is bold in taking on politics in painting, and his slant on the current economic crisis and its effects on our society are funny, crisp, irreverent and, from my point of view, right on the money. Forgive the pun.

That's all, indeed, folks. We're fast coming to the end of this American movie.


With my attention drawn primarily by the Roland Reiss exhibits, I did skip over another show that does warrant at the very least a mention. It's called Prelude to an Apolcalypse at Pederson Projects in Pomona, and it includes a couple of paintings by each of four artists. Landscape, it seems to me, is making a significant come-back these days, as artists experiment with ways in which they can address this long-standing convention in new and challenging ways. The landscapes in "Prelude" ask us, in different ways, to consider how this artistic tradition can be viable--even compelling-- at a time when all landscape is susceptible to summary obliteration by human-made weaponry or decimated by human-made pollution. The "apocalypse" of the show's title is not some Biblical or mythical fairy-tale; it's a very real, very imminent possibility, and it could be upon us even within the course of the current century. No wonder these paintings are haunted by a sense of imminent threat, whether in explicit imagery or by implication. I'll just append them here and invite your contemplation. Here's Wendell Gladstone, Sanguine, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches:

and Lisa Adams's Privilege Entails Responsibility, 2010, oil on panel, 48 x 40 inches:

Greg Rose, Arcadia 2006, oil and alkyd on canvas, 48 x 72 inches:

and finally Amir H. Fallah's Terminated, 2008, acrylic, watercolor, ink, collage and pencil on paper mounted on canvas, 84 x 60 inches:

The raw quality of image, the sometimes garish color, the dream-like vacancy... all these contribute to the un-ease of these paintings, the dis-quiet with which they leave us. Thanks for joining me on this tour.

1 comment:

mandt said...

Exiles and Nomads---stunning, beautiful and disturbing images!