Sunday, March 10, 2019

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.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

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
Richard Deacon [England]
"A Sculpture of the Small Writ Large" (on Deacon and Sui Jianguo) 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]
"Stubborn Beauty" (on Estes' show Unnatural Disasters) by Douglas Messerli
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
Alison Saar [USA]
"Bitter Earth" (on Saar's show, "Topsy Turvy" at LA Louver) 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
Phyllis Kind [USA]
"Giving the Gallery Its Due: On the Death of Phyllis Kind," 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]
"Interview with Lita Barrie"
"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
Sui Jianguo [China]
A Sculpture of the Small Writ Large (on Sui and Richard Deacon) 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
"The Science of Pleasures of What We See," (on LACMA's show "3D: Double Vision") by Douglas 
     Messerli [link]
"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
"When 'Outliers' and 'Ousiders' Are No Longer Useful Categories of Art" (on Outliers and American Vanguard Art) by Douglas Messerli

Lita Barrie | Interview with Enrique Martinez Celaya

Enrique Martínez Celaya at his Culver City studio.
Behind him, the in-process sculpture for the Havana Biennial, The Well, 2014, Bronze, 152 x 65 x 59 in.

I sat with Enrique Martinez Celaya in his studio and discussed the way his background as a physicist and interest in philosophy and poetry inform his art practice.

Enrique Martinez Celaya currently has work on view at Huntington Library, Art Collections. He was recently awarded a two-year fellowship to create two interventions with the museum’s collections. In addition to an extensive body of work in painting, sculpture and photography, Celaya also writes and has a publishing house. He is currently hosting a series of public lectures at his studio in association with the University of Southern California, which reflects his commitment to furthering intellectual inquiry about philosophical issues in art.

Lita Barrie: I’ve always believed that serious painters have similarities with philosophers, physicists, and poets. I’m interested in how your work and your background combine these disciplines.

Enrique Martinez Celaya: Yes, like you, I’ve been interested in those three things for a long time. They try to understand the way things are, to make sense of what is in front of you -- the reality as you experience it. They tend to locate discontinuities in thought, or a certain twist that requires deeper incursion. Other disciplines tend to be satisfied with a more all-around sense of things. So every time there is a small little detail that doesn’t quite fit, that becomes exactly the point of interest, as opposed to thinking, “Well, everything else fits, so let’s just forget about this.” The thinking of these disciplines is, “Well, why doesn’t this fit?” Or, “Why is this slightly twisted or slightly rotated?”

L.B.: It is interesting that innovative thinkers are never self-satisfied either.

E.M.C.: I think that the more you know the less impressed you have to be with yourself. So self-satisfaction means you must not know very much. I’m satisfied only with being in the search that merits the effort but never with anything I accomplish. I always see how short I fall from the things I respect. And that keeps me going. That quest for something that is authentic and not the first thing that comes to mind.

L.B.: Is that why you paint over your paintings so many times? Is that to go deeper and deeper?

E.M.C.: Exactly, the first thing that I start with usually comes out like a first approximation to an idea and quickly reveals itself not to be deep enough, or true enough. Then I paint it over and have no allegiance really to what I have done because I’m not satisfied.

The Landmark, 2016, Bronze, 75 x 100 x 94 in.
Collection of Bianca and Stuart Roden, London. Photo courtesy of the artist.

L.B.: You studied physics at Cornell and Berkeley and also have patented inventions. What drew you to physics?

E.M.C.: I was interested in what was around me, the order of things and how things are organized. I was also interested in literature and art but thought they were things I could do as hobbies. Originally I wanted to be a theoretical physicist but over time I got more interested in lasers and light. I loved the elegance of physics and the beautiful clarity of mathematics.

L.B.: I’ve always thought Einstein wrote beautifully like a poet. And he was a very spiritual man.

E.M.C.: He was also someone who was never satisfied with his own work, and he kept going a little further. He said, “I have no patience for scientists who drill where drilling is easy.” It is very easy to find places in any field where you can drill where drilling is easy, but you get few results that might be impressive to other people. They’re too easy.

L.B.: You also did an apprenticeship as a painter when you were a child in Spain and a teenager in Puerto Rico.

E.M.C.: I draw on my early history quite a bit. Even though I went to graduate art school, those initial interactions with the artist I apprenticed with continued to inform my practice.

L.B.: Do you consider yourself a Latin artist, or are you uninterested in identity politics?

E.M.C.: I’m not really interested in that kind of identity because I draw my influences from all over the world. Obviously some part of who I am -- which is manifested in my work or the way I look at the world -- comes from my background: my history, my family’s history. Not just the fact of being Cuban, but being very active in exile, moving around Spain and Puerto Rico. Interestingly, a lot of people I related to in Puerto Rico were Marxists and very focused on German philosophers like Hegel and Kant. So all the Germanic interest in my work comes from the Caribbean. People in this country tend to think of Latin culture as separate from European connections.

The Gambler, 2010, Bronze, 69 x 30 x 38.5 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: Deb Miller.

L.B.: How did you transition from being a physicist to a painter influenced by a love of philosophy and poetry?

E.M.C.: When I was doing my doctorate in physics, I was painting all the time and reading philosophy and poetry as a private thing. Then I felt it was time I paid attention to the fact that I had a desire to do something else, so I did an MFA and a doctorate together for a while. Then I left everything and became a scientist for a bit. Then I went back to finish my MFA. In summary, it was a difficult transition, partly because I was so invested in physics at that time. To leave it behind and do something else as unpredictable as art seemed a huge risk. Not just a financial risk but also an intellectual risk. By the time I had patents and published papers, I had a certain confidence in my capacity as a physicist. In art, you can never be certain that you are not just a mediocre hack. Just because you can paint or draw does not mean that you have anything substantial to offer.

L.B.: Who were the artists you admired then and now?

E.M.C.: I thought a lot about Manet and Velázquez at that time. Through my twenties, Picasso was important to me, then Joseph Beuys, then I became interested in Hilma af Klint and German painting from the early seventies.

L.B.: What is it about Moby Dick that led to your recent paintings referencing Melville’s classic?

E.M.C.: The book is very ambitious emotionally and intellectually. I like the whale as a metaphor and the sweeping view. It is such a grand epic effort to hold all of the forces of the universe, while at the same time being so attentive to individual notations of human experience and small observations of character.

L.B.: There is an epic quality to your paintings because you use enormous scale. Why do you love working on such large-scale paintings?

E.M.C.: The balance between the presence of the work and the referential qualities of the work merge best when painting is large. Early on, I tried to make small paintings, just to see if I could harness those things, but it is much easier in a bigger painting.

L.B.: The experience of viewing a large painting and feeling your own body in relation to the work is very different from viewing small paintings. It makes us more aware that we don’t see from a fixed perspective.

E.M.C.: I agree. A small painting becomes too much of a window, and the engagement becomes very mental and intellectual. There is an intimacy to large-scale work because you are involved by it.

L.B.: You also make serial paintings in large scale. Is that to accentuate the epic quality of the experience?

E.M.C.: Yes. And I also construct a model for my exhibitions because it helps me think about what I’m after. I try to create a total experience as opposed to just discrete works -- even though the exhibition model consists of discrete paintings and sculptures. The idea is that when you go into the gallery, you feel the relationship between all the pieces. It becomes more than just a picture show because it is actually an experience.

L.B.: You are exhibiting at Huntington Library to coincide with Frieze Los Angeles, and you have a unique opportunity to work with the library’s collection. What does that involve?

E.M.C.: I get to move among a vast collection of very different works, and that movement really helps me. Even my own paintings all look quite different. I am not interested in producing paintings that look alike. Every painting is a new discovery and has no allegiances except to itself.

L.B.: You also have a unique position as a provost professor at USC, teaching in different departments.

E.M.C.: Yes, I teach in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and at the Roski School of Art and Design. I am interested in the idea of being able to interact with the university as a whole, and in being able to teach different courses

L.B.: So your teaching is like your artwork: you like to work in different disciplines. They must feed each other like cross-pollination, which is why you are such a Renaissance person.

E.M.C.: I find that rather than being distracting, it is enriching, because it takes me out of a linear way of thinking about things. It kind of derails you and knocks you off your regular patterns of behavior or thinking. You find yourself with an insight you never would have had if you had gone on a straight path. So I have come to depend on the accidental discovery. I need to put myself in positions where these accidental things come about.




Thursday, January 10, 2019

Douglas Messerli | "Giving the Gallery Its Due: On the Death of Phyllis Kind"


giving the gallery its due: on the death of phyllis kind

Throughout most of his career as a curator of contemporary art, both at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, my husband Howard Fox did not develop deep friendships with gallerists, which many, if not most, curators had, but rather sought to make his connections with the artists themselves.
 
     I am certain, in the eyes of other curators, that lack of deep business connections was highly commented on behind his back. Indeed, several of the major art gallerists in New York, Washington, D.C., and even in Los Angeles, was constituted of people we had never even met. Monthly, however, he took a group of happy museum collectors to the studios of artists, and he regularly visited other artist studios as well as intensely interviewing them when any occasion arose.
     Of course, there were major exceptions: we did become good friends or at least acquaintances with Henri, Nancy Drysdale (who later, with Max Protech opened a gallery in Manhattan) and Diane Brown, who had a gallery in Washington, D.C. and later in New York.
     We became friendly with Holly Soloman (who died in 2002), John Bernard Meyers (d. 1987), Bella Fishko (d. 1996) and Ron Feldman in New York.
      Rosamund Felsen, Margo Levin, Jan Turner, Douglas Christmas, Ruth Bachofner, Dan Saxon, Peter Goulds, and Clyde Beswick in Los Angeles, were company we always enjoyed and continue to (even if a couple of them went bankrupt and could no longer pay their artists), and then the wonderful Jean Fremon of Paris, two of whose books I also published.
     And there was the lovely Nina Sondabend, who now goes under the name of Nina Castelli Sundell, who works as an organizer of traveling exhibitions, who we befriended and loved. One day she realized we had no idea that she was the daughter of the major art curators, Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend and suddenly exclaimed: “You mean you love me without knowing who I am?” And yes, we certainly did.
     There were many others, of course, and I particularly recall visiting Phyllis Kind in her New York gallery (she had one in Chicago as well) with Howard; she greeted me, I who was often perceived simply as a hanger-on, with deep friendship. And I was very saddened to hear of her death this year, particularly given her involvement with some of the outsider artists I talk about in my previous Hyperallegic essay “When “outliers” and “outsiders” are no longer useful categories in art.”
     I remember her primarily for the showing of the then very avant-garde Chicago Imagists, among them Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Roger Brown, Christina Ramberg, and others. But she soon added numerous “outsider” artists to her list, including Joseph Yoakum (1890-1972), and later, figures such as Martin Ramierz (1895-1963) (whom Howard hung in a show at LACMA) and, still later, the works of the fascinating Henry Darger (1893-1973),
     Howard and I now realize, long before he was a curator, we had seen the amazing Chicago-based art show in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection of Fine Arts (now named the Smithsonian American Art Museum) in a version of The Hairy Who—which, alas, seems to have been basically whiped out of any computer memory—and, he recalls, given our admiration for that show, she took us into her office allowing for a long discussion with us. Perhaps that was the very fist time that I perceived that the seemingly aloof gallery directors were truly human beings who cared about art and wanted to share it with even those of us who hadn’t yet completely assimilated what it was all about.
      As Elsa Longhauser, the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, expressed it, “She was bold, outrageous and incredibly generous with her knowledge and contacts.” That was truly our personal experience.
     When I read of Kind’s death, I simply cried, recalling how much that early meeting meant to both of us.

Los Angeles, December 18, 2018




Sunday, November 18, 2018

Douglas Messerli | "Stubborn Beauty" (on Merion Estes' show Unnatural Disasters)

STUBBORN BEAUTY
by Douglas Messerli

Merion Estes Unnatural Disasters, curated by Howard N. Fox / Los Angeles, Craft and Folk Art Museum, September 30, 2018-January 6, 2019, the openings I attended were on September 29th and September 30, 2018

You must see this piece, on the artist Merion Estes' Unnatural Disasters, which opened in September at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (an increasingly important museum in a city with many great institutions), as an appreciation rather than a review, particularly since it was curated by my companion, Howard N. Fox. I already did review a smaller show of her work in Hyperallergic Weekend in March of 1917.
      As I mentioned in that earlier writing, Estes, an early participator in the Art and Decoration movement, uses store-bought patterned fabrics made in Africa, Indonesia, and Japan, applying acrylic paint to many of them, while adding collaged art, or decorating them with stencils, glitter, and other materials, resulting in wild swaths of color which almost always first present themselves as objects of utter beauty—and, no, you can’t get away from that word in observing her works! So intensively complex are her resultant images that it is truly difficult to separate the wonderful original fabrics from what she has applied upon them. As Constance Mattison describes Estes’ artworks:

                  …They are rapturously beautiful, employing dazzling aesthetics…

    Yet at the same time while the eye takes in the pleasures of these works, Estes’ art, upon closer observation, presents a kind of paradox. When we begin to make sense of what Fox calls these 

“waving flags for beauty,” we begin to perceive something else is going on, that the almost Edenic-seeming natural worlds which she presents us of that world contains something wrong. For example, in the stunning featured painting, Cooling Trend (from 2017), we perceive that the yellow, coral, red, and green patterns that make up most of this work are representations of climate heating, a landscape filled with dragons, black ravens, several suns that seem to be reproducing small microbes like a contagion of cancer. The only truly hopeful element of this work is a narrow white swath in the very center of piece, where tiny minnows seem to be happily surviving in the “cooling trend.” In short, the very vibrancy of this piece belies the sad truth of the oceans’ and rivers’ destruction.

      
     Other works are more obvious in their straight-forwardness. If one might first notice the lovely elephants marching through the veld in Desolation Row (2013), we also immediately recognize the terrifying human-like image of a dead tree that dominates the work and, even more, horrifyingly, the collage of flames into which the miniaturized pachyderms are destined. In between them lies a frighteningly black-laden cloud of footprints, bones, and other fragments that suggest the end of such former beasts’ lives.  
       Similarly, if the lovely waters of Storm Watch, with their swirling blues, reds, and yellow ochre, we quickly recognize these as noxious waters threatening the already skeletal ship in the upper right, a vessel flanked by a phalanx of ravens set across dark oranges and almost sickening yellows. Yes, this is also a beautiful work on first sight, but we realize that for any humans in this scene, the storm is nearly over, and like the crew of The Flying Dutchman, the sailors and the passengers may already be dead.
       As Max F. Schulz writes about her work, while Red Tide (2003), with its pinkish reds, bands of blue, and almost cartoonish yellow blob with black eye-like features, might at first appear a bit like a dizzying mix of sprightly imagery:

                  The painting depicts the yearly bloom of phytoplankton, a single mic-
                  roorganism, which reproduces daily through cellular division to create
                  massive populations that can stretch over thirty-miles in places. The
                  extraordinary life force of this annual explosion of algae for several
                  weeks or more each year on both California and New England coasts
                  [more recently on the Florida coast] perversely sucks up the ocean’s
                  oxygen and blocks the lower depths. The result is massive death of
                  fish trapped in waters under the bloom.
     As Fox writes of the almost electrifying Smithereens (2012):

              The surface is a visual explosion of energy: a latticework of flame-like
              reds and oranges suffuses the upper portion of the picture, as spider-
              like black spikes, evoking smoke and ash, interpenetrate the “flames.”
              The lower portion depicts bulbous, swirling waves [they are pieces of
              printed fabric collaged onto the painting’s surface], referencing the
              tsunami that destroyed the power plant and precipitated the nuclear
              catastrophe. The marine life that perished due to the disaster is repre-
              sented by the dozens upon dozens of fish eyeballs staring out from the
              painting; those ocean inhabitants might well have survived the
              tsunami of the Fukushima disaster, but they did not survive the radi-
              ation and toxins released into the habitat. Their eyes stare out at us like
              witnesses to a guilty misdeed.

     If Estes’ works are, in some senses, beautiful depictions of the natural world—and they truly are—we have now come a very long ways from the 19th century male-dominated Hudson River School painters. No, Dorothy, we can never ever return to the wheat-fields of Kansas.
     This artist’s works present us with not just a paradox, but represent a kind of conundrum: how to see the beauty in the very destruction of the world around us, or, perhaps more accurately, how can we find in the complete devastation of our planet any beauty?
     Perhaps by using the very fabrics upon which she presents her concerns, Estes has found a kind of deep beauty created by human hands, minds, and visions that project a world far more wiser than the one in which we live.
     I have now been to see this show 3 times, and each time I have been immediately wowed by the stubborn beauty of her work, and yet have teared up for the messages that these amazingly- alive images convey. Why Estes’ remarkable work is not better known, I cannot comprehend. It seems necessary, almost, if we are to survive.

Los Angeles, November 18, 2018
Reprinted from Art Là-bas (November 2018)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Douglas Messerli | "A Sculpture of the Small Writ Large" (on Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo



A SCULPTURE OF SMALL WRIT LARGE

Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo, Los Angeles, LA Louver Galley / I saw this show with Howard N. Fox on September 6, 2018.

If upon entering the splendid new show at LA Louver Gallery in Venice, “Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo,” it might appear that there is something jarringly oppositional between the objects—which have been positioned throughout the downstairs and upstairs gallery to represent a kind of dialogue—upon more careful looking and thinking one quickly begins to see links in the art that become richer as one explores them.
       The British artist Deacon first encountered Sui on a visit in China to create a proposed sculpture. Sui, who had sat on the committee which had selected Deacon, quickly became friends with the visiting artist, and they bonded in that 1999 meeting, realizing their affinities despite the sometimes radically different appearance of their own works.
       As in Fold in the Fabric 7 from 2018, Deacon’s works have often involved a piecing together of wooden or metal parts that link up the works many elements, often made up of similar size, to create a broader gestural-like work, which demonstrate the very process of how the art was created. By setting these often-rough-hewn objects of wood or metal upon polished wooden tables of his own creation, moreover, Deacon frames the art within the context of their own podiums, making us even more aware of their hand-made formations.
       In one of the best works of the show, Size Is Everything #3, its title spells out in the artwork’s curvaceous-like exclamation—not unlike his famed After, the gigantic articulated wooden worm from 1998—through the method of its creation. We witness through the articulation of this beech and elm-wood construction how it must have come into existence by the assemblage of the smaller wooden struts that Deacon has skillfully epoxied together. The marvelously expressive alphabet-like figure—a bit like an emphatic emoji—is made possible only because of the lesser constituent parts.
      Similarly, the large stainless steal painted work, New Alphabet GHI (2018) is a product of various shaped metal constructions linked intricately together to create a language-in-motion and depth that becomes larger than life.
      If upon first viewing Sui’s work it might appear to consist of huge bronze abstract cuttings in the manner—without the human bodily references—of an artist like Rodin, we gradually perceive that a grand gestural piece (larger by far than most individuals) such as Planting Trace I (2014-2016) is actually based on a small clay model that shares the imprints of the artist’s hand working the material, implanting the imprint of his own skin, and then using 3D scanning that magnifies the images into cast bronze. What appears to be a gigantic gesture of winnowing away a block of metal is actually the small motion made through the very smallest elements, clay rolling across the hand,
      The smaller metal works, such as Planting Trace—Island 1 (2018), Planting Trace—Constellation 10 (2018), and “Planting Trace—Matter 5 (2018), all beginning in the same manner and cast into bronze or created from galvanized photosensitive resin 3D printing, present textures that link the human body at a the most minimal level into jewel-like objects that seem abstractly inspired. Like Deacon, Sui often constructs his own small flat, reflected metal bases which pose as a frame for the art.
      In this profound show, Sui was a true revelation for me, and shown within the context of his friend, Deacon, I gained a new comprehension how truly “size is everything,” that even the smallest gesture when writ large, can become something of amazing beauty.

Los Angeles, August 7, 2018