Thursday, September 26, 2013

Night Gallery, The Box, Actual Size

Parking in Los Angeles is not fun. With that said, it's worth the trouble when there are galleries like Night Gallery, The Box, and Actual Size. Our class was able to both view the galleries and speak to the people that ran them (very cool). Let's take a look at what we saw/heard:
Located on 16th Street in East LA (on the fringe of the warehouse district), Night Gallery is an alternative gallery space. The inside of the space used to be painted all black, with moody lighting and a theatrical feel. The name Night Gallery stemmed from the fact that the gallery was open late nights only, but due to both the issue with working late nights and the commercial promise that the white cube held for the gallery owners, they made the logical switch to white walls and daytime hours. With the leap into the world of the white, the gallery found itself attracting a different group of people-collectors and buyers that may not have attended the late night events. The move to a bigger space also allowed the owners to run shows with bigger works and the effects continued onto the artists themselves, who are now able to produce larger pieces and do so more often. The gallery represents artists who often help curate the shows themselves; the current show focusing on the artistic elements of Aliens. Interestingly enough, H.R. Giger (the artistic director of the film) has a piece shown at the gallery which served as inspiration for many of the other showing artists. The exhibition, titled Culm, features several of the artists represented by the gallery on and around the many labyrinth-like walls of the space and includes but is not limited to  video and sound installations, sculptures, and paintings.
The Box can be found in the Arts District of LA and is your standard (but very large) white cube gallery. The current exhibition, Birth of the Universe is a solo show by Judith Bernstein. Her giant paintings are in-your-face portraits of feminism-vaginas birthing space itself. Her florescent expressions of the Big Bang, nuclear explosions, and the rage of the vagina itself serves as a shocking and visually stunning exhibition. The energy in the paintings radiates around the entire gallery as every wall reverberates with themes of death, pain, pleasure, and power. 
The gallery itself tends to show a younger generation of artists who push the definition of contemporary art by playing with potentially problematic concepts and themes. Maura McCarthy (who runs the gallery) mentioned that she views art as education, and taking risks by showing radical and dynamic young artists is necessary, even if the work does not sell. The Box continues to show work as work rather than potential profit, which I think is admirable and daring. I look forward to seeing future exhibitions there.
The one-room gallery is located in Chinatown in a small storefront. Two artists run the space and spoke to our class about the gallery (with an awesome powerpoint to supplement). One thing they mentioned was that they try not to be too predictable with their aesthetics, constantly working to change their and their audiences' relationship with their space. Though Actual Size doesn't represent a group of artists exclusively, they do work with artists for extended periods of time in order to get their ideas across successfully. One really great aspect of the gallery is the fact that in addition to every show is an event supplementing the exhibition in some way. Their work in breaking the division between performance and the audience and artwork and objects is exemplified in their alternative events such as a "junk sale" of artist -made and found pieces, an open invitation to their neighbors to sit in chairs in the gallery, a 24 hour sound experience in which bands rotated inside and outside the gallery for an entire day, and a birthday party for the gallery itself for which artists decorated the space however they chose. The concept of a gallery as a white cube in which paintings must be shown is shattered by Actual Size and I love that about it. 

La Cienega

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to visit several of the galleries on La Cienega Boulevard, including Cherry & Martin and the David Kordansky Gallery. Cherry and Martin featured Brian Bress, Matt Connors, Mari Eastman, Nathan Mabry, and T. Kelly Mason while Kordansky focused solely on the sculptures of John Mason.
The white-painted brick front of Cherry and Martin gives an instant impression of the white cube space-highlighted by the bright, sterile neon light reading the gallery's name. There is a wall adjacent to the door and it creates a sort of hallway while you walk into the actual gallery space. Inside there is life in color-paintings and installations on every wall. The first piece that stands out to the viewer is a video on a flat screen, a window into the world of the television framed by a drawing. It's perplexing and intimate as we see a figure moving within a still figure, almost magical due to the fact that the format isn't square but instead the shape of a face, blurring the lines between drawing and video. Coincidentally, the video piece by Bress is actually titled "Window."

Brian Bress is featured again in the exhibition on the adjacent wall and there are several more artists shown throughout the rest of the gallery. Another artist that stood out to me was Nathan Mabry, whose sculptures evoke both minimalist and primitive themes. His piece "Blind as a.." is a ethnic-looking terra cotta sculpture of a bat on a wooden, angular pedestal. The play with words with his title creates a duality as the piece itself seems culturally oriented and almost sacred. The bat piece correlates with his other shown work, "Sly as a.." which again plays on the phrase "sly as a fox" by portraying the terra cotta fox statue as another sacred object on par with the bat.

Before I get too carried away with the work at Cherry and Martin, I'll rave a little about the Kordansky Gallery's exhibition.
I was blown away by the work shown at the David Kordansky Gallery.
The exhibition, titled Crosses, Figures, Spears, Torques features the ceramic sculptures of John Mason, an LA based artist with an emphasis on exploring and defining contemporary sculpture. His use of clay and glazing techniques push the borders of ceramic art and his work brings to light the versatility of the medium. With a focus on the power of geometry, his clay "figures" are both intimidating and awe inspiring. The installation itself is impressive, as the pieces are all raised on a single rectangular pedestal which rises a few inches off the floor of the gallery. The sculptures become lifelike.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Syrop & Chang

Syrop & Chang

Truth and Censorship

How does one understand truth when the truth is censored? Syrop and Chang's two person exhibition poses this question to visitors of Chapman's Guggenheim Gallery.
Mitchell Syrop explores the notions of text and the power it holds to the viewer by scribbling sometimes very personal statements on large scale surfaces. His blown-up versions of notes written hastily in composition books serve to give the viewer an emotional response that coincides with the urgency of his writing. We feel rushed, nervous, even anxious, and we almost can see him writing the words as we read them. The text is almost performative within itself.
York Chang dives into the idea of information, what it means to the public, and how it is provided to us. His pieces involve playing with the viewer by simultaneously giving and taking away information. For example, on one wall of the gallery are several large fluorescent lights, wrapped in black string so that a majority of the light is not visible. On another wall are rows of Polaroid photos, turned towards the wall so the only impression we get is of the black backside of the photographs. Again, a similar theme is displayed in the large stacks of newspapers set in the center of the gallery space, all from one day, headlines about terrorist attacks. He is both providing us the knowledge that the information is there, and showing us how he specifically took it away. With the lights, it is apparent; he has covered them in such a way that they don't do their job. The Polaroids provide us an inkling-we know there should be pictures underneath but are denied the privilege of seeing them. However, the newspapers provide two ideas in themselves. York is clearly politically motivated in choosing papers headlined with terrorist attacks, questioning whether this history is accurate or handed to us for purposes other than knowing the truth. He also is denying information by buying so many of these newspapers. When the papers were out, he would have bought so many that many people wouldn't have gotten copies. This may seem far fetched, but by providing us with the visual, he denies others the same information.
Another interesting idea of the fabrication of history is the piece on the wall parallel to the other newspapers. Two seemingly identical lithographs of newspaper clippings are framed next to each other, and each has a section of scratching. From a distance the lithographs do look the same, but when the viewer looks closer, they will realize there are two different headlines for the same date. This brings up the idea of questioning history itself and the institutions that provide truth to us.
Lastly, the entirety of the exhibition is black and white. The irony of this absence of color is the age old saying that "the truth is black and white." 
But is it?