Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2015
Painting can and should have an air of magic to it. There’s an element of alchemy at work when pigment, brush and gesture are applied to a ground. The result, whether representational or abstract, always has the potential to transform into a retinal epiphany. I am unapologetically an optimist when it comes to art and its potential to persuade. Now going to an Art Fair is entirely another matter. My expectations and mood often run somewhere between dread and despair. So why, you may ask, do I go to these social gatherings of rampant financial ambition and social posturing? The answer is simply that I have never walked away from an art fair without finding something of merit. And on some excellent occasions, I get introduced to something fresh, a new voice perhaps singing an old song or an entirely new song altogether.
This year’s incarnation of Art Los Angeles Contemporary proved to be an amiable affair. If the buzzword of the moment is disruptive, there was no evidence of any seismic aesthetic activity. As usual, there was no end of gee whiz technical experimentation all of which impressed those who consider This Is Colossal to be a Fine Art Website (just to be transparent, I do not.) There were several deceptively sexy (well made pieces not actually sexual) works on display each of which had the resonant half-life of a cicada. I puckishly imagined changing several gallery names to Buyer’s Remorse. Yet once again, even with my curmudgeon on full display I spied several works of art that were undeniably GOOD. Here then my Truffles for 2015:
I immediately remembered the abstract panel paintings by Alain Biltereyst at Jack Hanley Gallery from previous years. Intimate in scale but monumental in intellect, these acrylic paintings have a modernist gravitas. They might echo Albers and Kelly but they are authentic in every sense of the word. Having seen them several times at this fair in years past cements my fondness and admiration.
While most of the assembled work on display was created in the past five years, an art historical treat was offered at Alden Projects. Small and almost ephemeral, a Sol Lewitt drawing from 1971 reminded me of the groundbreaking shoulders upon which all these other artists stood. If art can indeed be anything, then some of the credit (or blame, if you wish) must be laid at the feet of Lewitt.
1301PE Gallery in Los Angeles continues to have a challenging and intelligent roster of artists. Paul Winstanley and Kristen Everberg continue to hone both their iconography and sizable painting skills. Each is represented with one large example of their work at the 1301PE booth. The Winstanley is narrative, contemplative and inviting while the Everberg verges on abstraction. Two excellent examples by two extremely talented artists.
Represented by a single medium scaled painting called Dog-Eared. Kirstin Baker was a new discovery for me. The Painting, executed in numerous layers of acrylic paint both opaque and translucent, has the tactility of the book it conjures. The colors are boldly juxtaposed into a retinal frenzy. The tight edge-to-edge composition swings with a jazzy authority. I look forward to seeing more in the future. At Acme, Los Angeles.
Shirley Irons was also a new discovery. Her empty room painting is far from a portrait of a void. Rather it is flooded with light and potential. That potential is layered by the fact that this painting, one from a series, is sly depictions of galleries. Desire and projection enter the narrative landscape while her brushstrokes are at the service of evocative architectural depiction. At Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica.
And in the arresting image category, the winner is Eric Yahnker with an uncanny charcoal portrait of Hillary Clinton exhaling a spliff. I must admit, it took me a second to recognize the ex Secretary of State, ex Senator and ex First Lady, but once the synapses fired it was indelible. It’s a great rendering and Yahnker has the technical skill set of Robert Longo in his prime with the added punch of the invented narrative. Yahnker is also a polymath since the Hillary portrait is surround by another installation of his, this time 300 baseballs with forged signatures of distinctly non-baseball celebrities. The names I saw included, Eddie Money, Truman Capote, Annie Liebowitz and T.S. Eliot. I can’t venture a guess as to the meaning however both works charmed the Dickens out of me. I think they will you too. From The Hole, New York
A final mention must be bestowed on the elegant paintings of Enrico Bach at Weingrüll, Karlsruhe, Germany. Cool abstractions are generally not my cup of tea but Bach won me over with his effective and playful use of compositional shifts. Colors push forward and recede. Planes fold and pivot. And while the larger versions are acrobatic, it was the smaller version that moved me more, both literally and figuratively. I think they would even look better in a gallery or cool home setting, away from the cacophony of the art fair aisles.
Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2015 runs through Sunday February 1st at the Barker Hanger Santa Monica
-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, January 30, 2015