November 30, 2015

Koffler Gallery – Isabel Rocamora

Yesterday was the last chance to see the Isabel Rocamora show – titled Troubled Histories, Ecstatic Solitudes – at the Koffler Gallery.  The exhibit, dominated by three large-scale video projections, opened way back on September 17, and it is utterly prescient in terms of its grave, unflinching tone and the subject matter it contains.

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Still from Body of War by Isabel Rocamora

In Body of War Isabel Rocamora probes the phenomenon of close-up brutality.  In an extended sequence the camera warily circles a fight to the death between two anonymous soldiers.  Staged on a barren runway beneath grey skies, this grim, slow battle confusingly becomes a kind of homoerotic dance from which there is no escape.  A soundtrack of medieval-like, choral chanting heightens the sense of ritual and archetype in this piece. Eventually a victor is left standing, panting and jubilant, and the camera turns away to slowly penetrate the opening of a nearby bunker.  The desultory movement toward darkness creates a truly horrifying moment.

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Stills from Horizon of Exile by Isabel Rocamora

In Horizon of Exile, a two channel video piece, snippets of monologue hint at the reasons a women must leave her home and set off into a barren, windswept desert.  Against an elegiac score and relentless wind, two women then perform a mesmerizing rolling dance, where they are carried like flotsam across a glittering salt flat in a God forsaken plain somewhere.

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Stills from Faith by Isabel Rocamora

An Orthodox Jew, a Greek Orthodox Christian and a Sunni Muslim are all engaged in prayer in Isabella Rocamora’s three channel loop called Faith.  Filmed in a craggy desert that reads “holy land” they are united in ancient transcendent practices.  The religious trappings – the robes, the gestures, the pious heavenward gazes, the fervent ritualized murmuring – are remarkably alike.  In fact not much is separating these men of God from one another, and yet, Isabel Rocamora seems to be saying, the superficial similarities are meaningless.  Tradition is terminally unique.

I really liked seeing this show: The stark graphic power, the rich soundscapes, the choreography of the camera and the subjects, and the potent imagery.  Ultimately the work struck me as very dark: The subjects are all unable to break out of age old oppression, each is condemned to endlessly repeat the rituals of the past and passively accept their fate.

Typology – Nicolas Fleming

Fortunately, it is possible to go shopping for handmade items on the third floor of Artspace Youngplace otherwise I would not have trekked upstairs and come across the tiny gallery called Typology.

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Installation shot of Moving Right Along by Nicolas Fleming

An installation by Nicholas Fleming called Moving Right Along is about to close.  I’m glad I caught this show.

Nicholas Fleming must be a very energetic guy.  He has built an entire room within the gallery, except that it is all delightfully backwards so that drywall, spackling paste, chipboard and insulation foam are on display and the smooth, white gallery walls with crisp corners and subtle lighting are hidden.  It’s kind of like putting a dress on inside out.

An unmistakable Home Depot fragrance wafts into the hallway from Typology.

I really liked looking at the “fountain” in the center of the space.  It has ghastly, poisonous look to it.  Something toxic appears to be weeping from the hardened foam to create a pool, coated in noxious sheen, at its base.

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Installation shots of Moving Right Along by Nicolas Fleming

No doubt Nicholas Fleming allies himself with Minimalism, Arte Povera and various Conceptual Art branches emerging in the 1970s but what is so interesting about this show to me is the exotic beauty created by these humble materials which leads to the whole idea of the infrastructure of our society and how it is hidden and denied and avoided, with perilous consequences.

November 20, 2015

Report from LA

Thin, fit, relaxed, tan, friendly: LA people are all that.  (So friendly: Many will launch into their life story at the swerve of a skateboard.)

The city is heaving with cars.  Red tail lights as far as you can see.

There is a gorgeous fade in the sky from blue to orange.

Malibu…..that haunting word. 

I felt particularly “LA” drinking Bulletproof coffee.  Who knew that regular coffee (ugh) is infested with mold!  The Bulletproof slogan is “Search.  Discover.  Dominate.”  I’m down.

Looking at art was not really on the agenda in LA but I did drop into Bergamot Station and wandered into a few random galleries.

It seemed that LA artists are in thrall of their city.  They get to the heart of light, air, artifice, nothingness and the dazzling fade.

Captains of the Dead Sea, the title of an exhibit at Sloan Projects, is a collection of photographs by Alia Malley.

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BS_3788 by Alia Malley

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DV_7352 by Alia Malley

Some of the photos have a seventies Conceptual Art feel.  They achieve the unadorned documentation look so prized in that era.

Alia Malley creates a book from the work and, once assembled, a layer of Hollywood is added to the work.  Are we location scouts?  Have we stumbled across an abandoned set?  We search for the elusive narrative in the title and sequence of images.  But there is no story just soft focus, like squinting into the sun on Venice Beach.

At Leslie Sacks Contemporary work by Anish Kapoor and Mark Katano are on display.

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Artwork by Anish Kapoor

The prints by Anish Kapoor joyfully capture the LA buzz.

Mark Katano’s work combines calligraphy and drip painting.  I liked reading Mark Katano’s notes about the show: “Each line represents nothing more than its own creation, and each piece finds meaning in the harmony of its own structure.”  Got it.  I am feeling very West Coast.

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Big Head by Mark Katano

Looking at Eric Nash’s paintings at Skidmore Contemporary Art made me appreciate the icon as subject.  It’s all there: the blue and orange fade, the loneliness and alienation, the endless driving and searching, the desperate longing for meaning. (Note: The Sunset Blvd painting at the top of the post is also by Eric Nash)

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Sunset 76  by Eric Nash

And then I stumbled across the Richard Heller Gallery’s show of work by Devin Troy Strother.

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Installation by Devin Troy Strother

The show is titled They Should’ve Never Given You Niggas Money and it references a comedy sketch about Rick James by Dave Chappelle.  To see the hilarious clip there are two links below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJB0BkJlbbw /

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z63dJbcl1VU /

This is an exuberant show that takes on the tropes and stereotypes that dog black youth but it also a carnival fun house and that slams the deadly smugness of the Politically Correct with humour.

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Details of Installation by Devin Troy Strother

It was another beautiful day in LA.

The Richard Heller Gallery was full of slim, blonde teenagers taking selfies and outside the sun was shining.