Monday, December 11, 2017

ART Là-bas: A Short Statement


ART Là-bas



In French Là-bas means not only "down there" (as in a kind of hell), but "over there," "out there," "back there," "yonder." ART Là-bas, edited by Douglas Messerli, will include my essays (and others' works) on art in the U.S. and throughout the world as shown "over there," "back there," and even, if necessary, "down there."


Although this blog will primarily feature essays by me, I invite any interested art writer to send reviews, notes, essays, and commentary on art of any kind, from which I will select suitable essays to post. The copyright for such works will be protected in the name of ART Là-bas, but will revert to the author one month after its original publication.


Suggestions and responses are also welcome, but will be edited for appropriate content.


Douglas Messerli, Editor






All material (c) copyright 2014 by ART Là-bas and the authors.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Vito Acconci [USA]
"Becoming a Fan of Vito Acconci" (on Acconci's 2017 death and our short friendship) by Douglas Messerli
Carlos Almaraz [b. Mexico / USA]
"Seeking Identity" (on Playing with Fire: Painting by Carlos Almaraz) by Douglas Messerli
Eleanor Antin [USA]
"Magnificent Obsessions" (on Antin's book An Artist's Life by Eleanora Antinova) by Douglas Messerli
"On Credit" (on Antin's performance Before the Revolution) by Douglas Messerli
"Reclaiming the Past" (on Antin's Historical Takes) by Douglas Messerli
"Lives and Portraits" (on Antin's What time is it? at Diane Rosenstein) by Douglas Messerli
Arakawa and Madeline Gins [USA]
"Architectural Delusions" (on the death of Madeline Gins) by Douglas Messerli
Bahc Yiso [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Morton Bartlett [USA]
"Games of Life" (essay on Bartlett) by Douglas Messerli
Beckmann, Max [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
George Henry Boughton [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Geta Bratescu [Romania]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Andre Breton [France]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Charles Burchfield [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Chris Burden [USA]
"The Sculpture That Flies" (on Burden's Ode to Santos Dumont) by Douglas Messerli
"A Shot in the Arm, Fast Cars, and Urban Light" (on the death of Chris Burden) by Douglas Messerli
Enrique Castrejon [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Marc Chagall [Russia/France]
"Stage Struck: Marc Chagall's Theatrical Designs" (on Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage) by Douglas       Messerli [link] 
Cho Jeong-Hwa [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
William Christenberry [USA]
"A Homespun American Proust" (on Christenberry's work) by Douglas Messerli
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Cole [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Stuart Davis [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
George Deem [USA]
"Altering Time" (on Deem's book and life) by Douglas Messerli
Charles Demuth [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Alejandro Diaz [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Lecia Dole-Recio [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Otto Dix [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Ascher B. Durand [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
William Eggleston [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Merion Estes [USA]
"Pattern Recognition: Merion Estes Brings New Life to an Old World" by Douglas Messerli [link]
Walker Evans [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Sam Falls [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Lyonel Feiniger [USA/Germany]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Carlee Fernandez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Christina Fernandez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Francesca Gabbiano [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Charles Garabedian [USA]
"Geometry Moon" (on Garabedian's "re:Generation") by Douglas Messerli
"The Moment Before They Became History" (on Barabedian's "Sacrifice for the Fleet") by Douglas  
     Messerli
Frank Gehry [Canada/USA]
"How Should a Building Look?" (on the Frank Gehry show at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Régis François Gignoux [France, lived USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Gimhongsok [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Ken Gonzales-Day [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Tm Gratkowski [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Margaret Griffith [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Gronk [USA]
"Painting Theater" (on Gronk's Theater of Paint show) by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Carl Grossberg [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LAMCA) by Douglas Messerli
George Grosz [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Kurt Gunter [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
James Hampton [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Ira Joel Haber [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Marsden Hartley [USA]
"How I Got It: Marsden Hartley's Portraits of Love" (on Hartley's Berlin paintings) by Douglas Messerli
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Heatherwick [England] and Heatherwick Studio
"Imagining the Ordinary: Heatherwick Studio at Hammer Museum" by Douglas Messerli
Michael Heizer [USA]
"Rock of Ages" (on Heizer's Levitated Mass) by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Hill [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
David Hockney [England/USA]
"Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney: Self-portraits and Photographs" (on a Hockney celebration at the
     Getty Museum) by Douglas Messerli
"Inside Art: Changing Perspective" (on Hockney's "Painting and Photographer" at LA Louver, by     
    Douglas Messerli
Jenny Holzer [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Edward Hopper [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Pierre Huyghe [France]
"Through a Glass Darkly" (on Huyghe's retrospective at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Susamu Ito [USA]
"Pocketful of Miracles" (On Ito's photography show at the Japanese American National Museum in
     Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Margaret Keane [USA]
"Identity Theft" ("Keane on Film," Tim Burton's Big Eyes and Keane) by Douglas Messerli
Klaus Kertess [USA]
"Believing in the New" (Kertess obituary) by Douglas Messerli
Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz
"Pounding the Television Screen" (on Kienholz Televisions) by Douglas Messerli
Soo Kim [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
KIMsooja [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Barbara Kruger [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Christopher Grant La Farge [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art," by Douglas Messerli
John La Farge [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Louise Lawler [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Jacob Lawrence [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Abram Lerner [USA]
"A Quiet Realist" (on Lerner's death) by Douglas Messerli
Wyndham Lewis [England]
"Vorticist Lewis / Vorticist Pound" (on Lewis and Pound's Vorticist movement) by Douglas Messerli
Roy Lichtenstein [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Tuten Gives Us a Look Inside His Old Friend Roy Lichtenstein's Studio" (interview with Tommaso Speretta) by Frederick Tuten [link]
Sandra de la Loza [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Anna Maria Maiolano (Italy/Brazil)
"Walking on Eggs" (on the Anna Maria Maiolano show at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angles) by Douglas Messerli
Vivian Maier [USA]
"God's Spy" (on Finding Vivian Maier and her photography) by Douglas Messerli
John McLaughlin [USA]
"The Gift to Be Simple" (on John McLaughlin Paintings: Total Abstraction at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli [link]
Robert Mapplethorpe [USA]
"Robert Mapplethorpe: Beauty, Power, and Sex from the Outside (on Mapplethorpe's The Perfect   
      Medium) by Douglas Messerli
Agnes Martin
"Moving Forward While Being Asked to Stand Back" (on Agnes Martin at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Enrique Martínez Celaya [b. Cuba / USA]
"The Vast Chasm of Life" (on Lone Star installation by Martínez Celaya) by Douglas Messerli
Michael C. McMillen [USA]
"Elsewhere" (on Outpost show by McMillen at LA Louver) by Douglas Messerli
Henri Michaux [France]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Louisa Davis Minot [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
László Moholy-Nagy [Hungary]
"Proliferation of Wonders" (on Maoholy-Nagy: Future Present at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Jim Morphesis [USA]
"Trouble in Paradise" (on Morphesis' exhibition Wounds of Existence) by Douglas Messerli
Julio Cesar Morales [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Ed Moses [USA]
"A Different Kind of Light" (on Ed Moses: Drawings from the 1960s and 70s) by Douglas Messerli
Grandma Moses [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Lee Mullican [USA]
"Dreamer of the Cosmos" (on the Mullican show at LACMA, "The Abundant Harvest of the Sun" by Douglas Messerli
Matt Mullican [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Chris Natrop [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Rebecca Niederlander [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Chris Oatey [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Ruben Ochoa [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Echiko Ohira [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Minoru Ohiro [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Georgia O'Keffe [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Claes Oldenburg [born Sweden, USA]
"These Things" (on the Oldenberg show at the Walker Center) by Douglas Messerli
Catherine Opie (USA)
"Lives and Portraits" (on Opie's Portraits at the Hammer Museum) by Douglas Messerli
Nam June Paik [b. Korea / USA]
"What Are You Thinking Buddha?" (on a memorial tribute to Nam June Paik) by Douglas Messerli
Roland Penrose [England]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Ezra Pound [USA]
"Vorticist Lewis / Vorticist Pound" (on Lewis and Pound's Vorticist movement) by Douglas Messerli
Phranc [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Herbert Ploberger [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Astrid Preston [USA]
"Pixelation Breathes Life into Landscape Painting" (on "Upside Down World") by Lita Barrie
Noah Purifoy [USA]
"No Contest" (on LACMA show Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada) by Douglas Messerli
Robert Rauschenberg [USA]
"Screwing Things Up" (on Rauschenberg's death) by Douglas Messerli
Roland Reiss [USA]
"The Fiction of Flowers" (on Reiss' Floral Paintings and Miniatures) by Douglas Messerli
Rembrandt van Rijn (the Netherlands)
"The Rembrandt Variations" (on Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance [1648-1658]) by Douglas Messerli
Marco Rios [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Larry Rivers [USA]
"In the Mood" (on Rivers' career and his biography) by Douglas Messerli
Steve Roden [USA]
"Secret Abstractions" (on Roden's "A Year without Painting") by Douglas Messerli
"When the Body Becomes a City" (on Roden's "ragpicker" show) by Douglas Messerli
Frank Romero [USA]
"Reimagined Landscape: Frank Romero's Los Angeles" (on Romero's show Dreamland) by 
     Douglas  Messerli [link]
August Sander [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
George Scholtz [Germany]
"Art as Voyerusim" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia [USA]
"Exploring New Forms of Artistic Expression" (on Segoiva's show at CB1 in Los Angeles), by
      Douglas Messerli
Christian Shad [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Cindy Sherman [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Susan Sironi [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Joseph Stella (b. Italy/USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Paul Strand [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Do Ho Suh [Korea]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Don Suggs [USA]
"Natural History" ("Thermal Paintings and Paradise Prints" show) by Douglas Messerli
Tam Van Tran [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Rosemarie Trockel [Germany]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
James Turrell [USA]
"Beyond Light" (essay on Turrell's LACMA retrospective) by Douglas Messerli
Kent Twitchell [USA]
"Kent Twitchell’s Magnanimous Monumental Portrait of Ed Ruscha: An Iconic Landmark of L.A.’s Historic Downtown Art District" by Lita Barrie
Patssi Valdez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Carl Van Vechten [USA]
"The Camera Turned Upon the Wild Beasts" (on Van Vechten's photography) by Douglas Messerli
"Just Jolly" (on the homoerotic photography of Van Vechten) by Douglas Messerli
Grant Wood [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Tom Wudl [USA]
"Illuminated Flowers" (on art by Tom Wudl) by Douglas Messerli
Andrew Wyeth [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Peter Zumthor [Switzerland]
"Architectural Dreams--and Nightmares" (on Zumthor and other architects planning for Los Angeles structures) by Douglas Messerli
GROUP SHOWS
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
"Architectural Dreams--and Nightmares" (on Zumthor and other architects planning for Los Angeles structures) by Douglas Messerli
"Art as Voyeurism" (New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Repblic, 1919-1933 at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
"Building Art" (on Building Material: Process and Form in Brazilian Art") by Douglas Messerli
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1960 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Faith in the Arts" (on Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College: 1933-1957) by Douglas Messerli
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
"Full House: Artists from Latin America Imagine Home" (on Home--So Different, So Appealing) by Douglas Messerli [link]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
"Roman Fantasies" (on Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of Naples) by Douglas Messerli
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks at the Folk & Craft Museum, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli

Douglas Messerli | "Stage Struck: Mark Chagall's Theatrical Designs" (on LACMA's show Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage) [link]

For Douglas Messerli's review of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's show Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, go here:

https://hyperallergic.com/401562/chagall-fantasies-for-the-stage-los-angeles-county-museum-of-art-2017/

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Douglas Messerli | "Exploring New Forms of Artistic Expression" (on Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia's show "Vida, Passion y muerte")


exploring new forms of artistic expression

by Douglas Messerli

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia Vida, Passión y muerte, Los Angeles, CB1Gallery / I attended the show with Howard N. Fox on September 9, 2017

The new show by Los Angeles artist Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia at CB1Gallery reveals this young artist’s endless restlessness in exploring new forms and materials, and suggests that his talents are nearly endless.

      I had previously encountered Segovia’s art in my partner Howard N. Fox’s Paper Works exhibition at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles in 2015-2016. That show displayed several of Segovia’s large, colorfully woven banners of acrylic on paper as well as woven yarn tapestries. The paper banners were woven in a kind a thatch-work-like pattern that is usually associated with basketry work; yet these banners were not meant to be seen one-dimensionally, but from both sides, each representing fully different visual landscapes.

      The banners, as Fox suggested, despite their often secular images, also carried with them Christian imagery that comes out of Segovia’s deep involvement with the Pentecostal evangelical International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founded in Los Angeles by Aimee Semple McPherson.

       In the new show “Vida, Pasión y muerte” (Life, Pasion and Death) we also see a couple of beautiful examples of these banner-like paper weavings, although here they are smaller and more abstract, but still calling attention to their sculptural qualities by turning the corners, even when placed upon the wall, to call attention to their dual natures.

Image result for lorenzo hurtado segovia      Although not my favorite of the 32-some pieces in the show, Segovia has also introduced new materials in his sand and tar paintings on linen. These works, usually in black and white only, have great significance for Los Angeles dwellers, in particular, since they have been created with tar directly taken from the famed La Brea Tar Pits. It nothing else, these impressive panels from 2017, several of the 56 x 24 inches, remind one of the banners, and once against represent tar-painted symbols (wheels, triangular forms, and towers) that hint at the kind private iconography which dominates all of his art. And it’s wonderful to imagine that the very materials of these works has seeped from deep within the earth across the street from my Los Angeles residence to become the very substance of art.

      Most interestingly, Segovia does not just delimit his religious-like iconography to his own religious practice, but brilliantly borrows from various faiths including Judaism, Catholicism, Native American Indian practices and even the Dutch-hex Signs painted upon the barns of the Amish.

     Most of these are represented through his acrylic on paper paintings, done in 2016 and 2017, which include “En menos que cante un gallo (Before the Rooster Crows),” “Pushing Daisies (Resurrection Painting),” “Reflexiones Sobre la Muerte (San Martin De Porres),” and “Trinity Vine,” (the later also encompassing oil paint). Among these gem-like works is a coffin of the show’s title, “Vida, passión y muerte,” topped by a stunningly delicate acrylic, glass bead, and metal floss on muslin shroud. If these pieces are highly eclectic in their religious sources, together they create almost a sense of an ecumenical cathedral, filled with objects of reverence and beauty.

Image result for lorenzo hurtado segovia
      But perhaps the most stunning development in Segovia’s seemingly endless exploration of new materials are from a series from this year of pecan, lemon, walnut, oak, maple and other wood inland sculptures that represent totem-like figures that extend in their sources Mexican and Latin American culture to Native American-like works. Pieces such as “Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles,” “Father and Child,” “Ave,” “Ave II,” and “Tótem” all reveal the work of a highly skilled wood craftsman, which is made even more amazing when we learn that the artist taught himself how to work in this form only in the past few years.

     Given the panoply of talents, there is no telling where Segovia will move in the next year or two; but we perceive he has already a significant body of important work.

Los Angeles, September 10, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lita Barrie | "Pixelation Breathes Life into Landscape Painting" (on "Upside Down World" by Astrid Preston)

AUTUMN SONG, 2016, Oil on canvas, 42 x 66 inches

"Upside Down World"
October 21 - November 25, 2017
Craig Krull Gallery
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, Building B3
Santa Monica, California 90404
310.828.6410

“…go to nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and remember her instruction rejecting nothing, and scorning nothing, believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth.
--John Ruskin

It takes a poet to express the truth about aesthetic emotion in painting. The great 19th -century English poet-critic, John Ruskin’s trumpet call to young artists “to go humbly to nature” was based on his belief that “Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.” As an English major Astrid Preston is not afraid of emotional feeling (unlike some art school graduates paralyzed by the semiotic virus) and she can breathe new life into the painting process by intuitively looking to nature as her great teacher -- recalling Pollock’s dictum, “I am nature.”

Artists removed from nature observation can only make random marks, just as art critics removed from nature write words that cannot sing off the page, only reaching collectors who buy with their ears rather than their eyes because they have not learned how to feel the difference between paintings with no energy, which are as dead as any cadaver, unlike authentic art that composes space, light, reflections, and shadows to create aesthetic emotion. As Cezanne said, “A work of Art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”

Although Preston is a Renaissance woman she is mainly a self-taught artist. She is a longtime friend of Tom Wudl and Lita Albuquerque and has ongoing conversations about art with them. The inspiration for her landscapes came from close observation of the aesthetics of Japanese gardens and English parks. She has studied the history of landscape painting but the visual perception she developed from nature observation enabled her to understand that landscape painting is a cultural construction and even the idea of a “landscape” is a conventional way of seeing. This led Preston to ask questions about the way we frame nature, conceptualize beauty, and create binaries between the urban and rural.

She began to explore the way reflections in Japanese water gardens show a world upside down where clouds are reflected below and a breeze moving across the water fragments reflections and creates the appearance of moving images. Water provides an abstract element because the world is seen upside down in its water reflection.

OCTOBER, 2016, Oil on wood panel, 16 x 16 inches

Preston’s pixelation is a contemporary reference to the digital era. She incorporates both flat and textured pixelations in the paintings. Her textured pixelations add dimension, making the image seem more realistic. Even though the image is softer through this technique, the image often has more actual spatial depth, not just illusionistic depth. Painting is an analog process but Preston approaches it from a contemporary digital perspective in this body of work.

Paint is the lifeblood of Preston’s beautiful landscape painting. She paints the backgrounds realistically then combines abstract sections, blending colors in her signature pixelation overlay. Preston creates pixels of different sizes ranging from small to large in order “to have a conversation.”

Mother Nature is Preston’s art teacher which she relates to the paradox of the human comedy of political errors. Preston emphasizes that “politically we are living in an upside-down world because everyone assigned to a cabinet post is someone who hates and brings negativity to their subject.” She uses pixelation as a visually enticing metaphor for our current political upside down-ness.

In her contemporary take on the landscape genre, she might combine a bit of Turner or base a painting on a snapshot of St. James Park with Buckingham Palace behind to create a sense of history. But the pixelation brings life to an otherwise flat surface by creating more spatial depth and an illusion of receding space. She juxtaposes different types of depths from shallow to deep space in one picture to create more energy.

SKY WATER TREE, 2017, Oil on canvas, 60 x 42 inches

Many of the recent paintings are based on scenes from Japan with cloud details and beautiful blossom trees that are over a hundred years old. Preston says she is always “learning as I go along” by combining new elements and exploring new paintings techniques and perspectives.

Her unique palette of pink, turquoise, lime green, and lavender has a glowing light quality. She adds more texture to these beautiful colors to create a dream-like atmosphere. In some paintings I am reminded of Lord Tennyson’s poem of “The Lady of Shallot” and John William Waterhouse’s haunting painting of her fate drifting down the river. In others, I feel I am visiting a dream that is not mine, or a memory that is not mine, like bicycling in France along a canal. Some paintings are based on scenes from snapshots of travels in Japan, France, and England.

This exhibition at Craig Krull Gallery explores ways of seeing and framing nature. Preston will sometimes combine different perspectives in a single painting. Her painting might have different ways of seeing on either side of the canvas. Preston is deconstructing different constructions of nature in the history of landscape painting, photography, film, and poetry. She explores beauty as an idea we carry in our minds from past memories and then project onto scenes in nature.

Preston’s exhibition takes us on a journey in which we learn about ourselves and the culture that frames our vision of nature. But, in the end, she always returns to nature as both her great art teacher and spiritual teacher. Like a philosopher, Preston is more interested in exploring questions that expand our understanding of the world we inhabit -- and she is never satisfied by a superficial answer. In this way, she reaches for the sublime which is always unfathomable because it is out of human reach. But as an artist she thinks through feeling and invites the viewer to feel their own way through her deconstructed, pixelated, sublime landscapes.

Preston’s complex landscape paintings cut through the polemics on cultural constructions of nature and offer, instead, the enthusiasm of an artist at play sharing her experience. Her paintings become vehicles for the viewer to travel in their own minds with her. Her lifelong curiosity about nature and careful observation of the visual nuances in Southern Californian, Japanese, and English natural scenery are transformed into a dramatic play on color and scale -- resembling a zoom camera lens moving alternately between close-up focus and a distant focus. Not only is this exhibition a moving poetic statement on honoring nature and on the comedy of human politics, it is also an exploration of the art of visual perception.

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LITA BARRIE is a Los Angeles-based, award-winning, international art critic and essayist. Born in New Zealand, she gained two post-graduate degrees in philosophy at Victoria University and continued post-graduate studies in journalism at Canterbury University. Her art criticism is published in art magazines, newspapers, university essay collections, and art gallery and museum artist monographs in New Zealand, Australia, and California. Her feminist intervention in the canon of women’s art is discussed in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand and an archive of her art criticism is held in the New Zealand National Library, Te Puna Matauranga Aotearoa. Website: www.litabarrie.com

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Douglas Messerli | "Building Art" (on Hauser & Wirth's show "Building Material: Process and Form in Brazilian Art")


building art

by Douglas Messerli

 

“Building Material: Process and Form in Brazilian Art” / Los Angeles, Hauser & Wirth, September 14-October 18, 2017. Howard Fox, Pablo Capra, and I attended this show on October 4, 2017.

 

As part of the Getty Trust sponsored “Standard Time: LA/LA” program the Hauser and Wirth gallery in Los Angeles is showing a spectacular show on Brazilian artists titled “Building Material. Process and Form in Brazilian Art.” Along with the concrete art show, “Making Art Concrete: Works from Argentina and Brazil in the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros” now at the Getty, and the Anna Maria Maiolino show at MOCA (which I previous reviewed), Angelinos now begin the wonder at the remarkable diversity and originality of the Brazilian art world.

      The Hauser & Wirth show takes as its base works of art from the brilliant Brazilian painter, photographer, and designer, Geraldo de Barros (1923-1998). Also associated with the concrete art movement, de Barros created his own images in painting, collage, and photography that featured deconstructionist modes that included works in which “the ephemeral, the fragment, the time, the discontinuous, and the action are present.”

      The works in this show include a photograms from 1949/2014, a stunningly beautiful photograph consisting of lines and blocks of space in white, gray, and black from the same period, “Fotoforma”; a untitled collage on paper from 1996-1998; a beautiful painting that pairs nicely with “Fotoforma,” also untitled, from 1979; a untitled work of plastic laminate on wood with off-centered red, blue, and yellow, rectangles, each presented in slightly different angles, which creates a strange sense of dislocation and perspective; and two rectangular floating collages,

From 1980 both titled “Estudos.” Other stunning photograms and silver gelatin prints on fiber paper include city landscapes (“Untitled [Granada, Spain]”), and combines of modernist chairs (de Barros founded the furniture production co-op called UNILABOR), in “Unilabor Chair (Sâo Paulo])” from 1954/2014.

      Together these are some of strongest works of the show, and represent the heart of this small show. But what the curators describe as “echoes” are often equally strong works by later, younger artists such as Celso Renato, whose untitled acrylics on wood are stunning abstractions; Paulo Monteiro, who works with industrial materials such as iron, aluminum, cement,  stone, wood and even curtain ribbon; Ivens Machado, who works in similar materials; Nuno Ramos, whose art is created out of raw cotton, untreated canvas and calcium hydroxide; Rodrigo Cass, working in concrete and tempera on linen; Lucas Simões, also working on concrete, steel and linen; and the highly inventive Erika Verzutti, who creates works made out of papier mache, polystyrene and wax, as well as creating works, such as “Porn Star,” using concrete, stainless steel and acrylic. One of my favorite pieces of the show was Verzutti,  “Flowers,” from this year, 2017.

      In short, the title of this show says it all. These abstract artists created their abstractions using what many might describe as industrial or building materials, embracing the very substances of the architectural structures in which their works would hang. And, in that sense, it is particularly appropriate for their art to now appear, brief as it is (the show closes on October 18), in the former industrial space of Hauser & Wirth.

 

Los Angeles, October 11, 2017

Reprinted from Art Là-bas (October 2017).