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jul/aug 2009
vol 3 issue 6
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LOS ANGELES

Peter Macapia at Angstrom Gallery
Peter Macapia's web of intricate hanging sculptures sweeps through Angstrom Gallery with a lightness and elegance that initially reads as whimsy. However, as we approach these delicate objects made of precisely laser-cut paper, the science and technology visibly involved in each of the artist's decisions adds weight and complexity to the exhibition.

The show is a continuation of Macapia's in-depth studies of algorithms for particle physics. Throughout the exhibition, we're repeatedly confronted with the contrast between the tightness of scientific representation and the excitement of organic beauty. Sculptures encapsulated within acrylic boxes seem a bit abrupt at first, hanging amongst the poetic installation, "Swarm," but they soon come to make sense as didactic models for the structural forms found in Macapia's painterly, relief wall pieces and installation elements.

The rhythm of forms enclosing space followed by forms expanding into space is found from piece to piece. This pattern is undoubtedly related to Macapia's studies, but is used intuitively in the exhibition. Though his research is most critically involved in the process of this work, Macapia's final execution seems to be steered more by subjective, formal choices than by aesthetically pleasing, observed phenomena — the result is attractively substantive.


R. Stevie Jones

Jeff Jamieson at David Patton Gallery
Jeff Jamieson's newest exhibition at David Patton is a crash course in the minimalist gesture. Bent pieces of plywood line the gallery walls with such supremely evasive titles as "Untitled (yellow)" and "Untitled (brown)," which is in and of itself a highly stylized impulse that fits perfectly with this cool, unemotional work. That's not to say these pieces are devoid of meaning; however, their meaning is secondary to their form. Pieces like "headphones" made from solid copper in an edition of three playfully reference literal objects, and looking at this work I was reminded several times of the work of artists such as Sean Duffy, although Jamieson's sculptures are far more elegant without that slapstick triteness that sometimes marks Duffy's work.

The ghost-like, freestanding forms scattered throughout the gallery are strangely alluring and seem to loosely reference the human body, and are also painted in bold, luminescent yellows and stark whites. All in all, this show definitely makes you think.


Eve Wood

"Nine Lives..." at Hammer Museum


Lisa Yuskavage, PieFace, 2008; courtesy David Zwirner, New York
The first piece one encountered here was Llyn Foulkes' The Lost Frontier, hovering in its own dark-walled room. Foulkes' work has an optimal viewing distance, and we seemed to be positioned in exactly the right spot. The focused lighting made the 3D effects pop — Charles Irwin also knows how to hold an audience's attention. His awkwardly acted, over-the-top faux documentary, Membrane Lane, was full of enough funny faux pas to keep one glued to the bench to the very end. The exact formal opposite was Charlie White's meticulous video, American Minor, concerning a rich, bored teenager who grew up in antiseptic surroundings. Julie Becker's work was full of diverse items, the standout being a simple drawing of a cauldron with a glittering fingerprint hanging over it (both she and fellow exhibitor Kaari Upson create "imaginings" based on people who have died). Hirsch Perlman captured the ethereal nature of the feline with some huge motion-blurred cat shots. The cat theme was also evident in Lisa Anne Auerbach's knitted feral-cat-themed ensemble. Auerbach is (among other things) a political activist, and she knits her messages into her sweaters. During the show, she ran a blog on the Hammer Website, "The Meow," which evoked the cat-centric meaning of the show's title.

Kathryn Hargreaves

Susan Sironi at Offramp Gallery
Sometimes it pays to detour off the main pathways of art, as I found recently at Offramp Gallery in Pasadena. There I came upon a wonderful exhibition by Susan Sironi, who specializes in "altered books." The artist takes vintage books and carefully cuts through the pages with a blade — sometimes leaving words, sometimes leaving pictures — and reinvents them as works of art. Her method is both meticulous and thoughtful, as she literally cuts through the layers and distills essences for us to see. In The Inner Shrine, a long-forgotten novel, the title appears on a strip of paper — what's left of the title page — while beneath are a multitude of tabs suspended from left and right featuring the word "I" and a verb — such as "I will," "I suppose," and "I know." In Southern Interior, a fantastical interior is created by cutting into pictures on the right-hand pages of the book.

Her tour de force is the series of five books that make up "Flower Arrangements," for which she managed to locate as many volumes of Treasury of Flower Arrangements by J. Gregory Conway from 1953. She cut into each in a different way, emphasizing different colors and shapes found on the pictorial pages, thereby making her own visually arresting arrangements and handily demonstrating how the imagination can wrest diverse visions from the same DNA.


Scarlet Cheng

NEW YORK

Judith Page at Lesley Heller Gallery Although Lesley Heller Gallery's Viewing Room space is quite confining, Brooklyn-based artist Judith Page presented some of her strongest work to date in a variety of media. The most striking of the two-dimensional works, Karen (in Karbala), from The Mouseketeers in Iraq (2004) and Cubby (In Camp Babylon) (2004) have bright pink tar gel blobs resembling a toxic pox that are in sharp contrast with the dense black graphite rendering of the figures, which are little more than silhouettes. Focusing on the human condition as her subject matter for the past 25 years, with these works Page highlights the absurdity of her childhood television stars being thrust into present-day Vietnam that is former president George W. Bush's greatest folly.

Of the sculptures on view, August 2 (Sting House)(2008) was the largest and the most successful, showing a promising direction with a well-crafted assemblage of found material. Part of the series "365 Dumb Days," which is a sculptural diary put together from objects amassed throughout Page's life, consists of a fan owned by her father with a smashed teddy bear mounted on canvas covered with media in the middle of the blades. A wire spelling out the phrase "ow" upside down is attached on top of the fan, while the cord ends in a pink tar gel covered fabric flower, adding a delicate touch to the cartoony piece. Sitting on a column covered in more pink tar gel, the work begs for interpretation, but the exact nature of Page's covert narrative remains elusive.


Chris Bors

Frank Magnotta at Derek Eller Gallery Frank Magnotta's large-scale pencil drawings evoke the scale of industrial production mingled with the spectacle of advertising's daily onslaught. It's as if he drew surrealistic oil refineries festooned with billboards or spent hundreds of hours painstakingly rendering a Jason Rhodes- or Thomas Hirschorn-type sculpture in graphite rather than simply cobbling it out of junk. Stylistically, his work resembles that of architectural illustration retooled for the purpose of rendering lumpen chaos rather than rectilinear elegance. By taking this chance of appearing too illustrative, he's able to create an unexpected tension out of familiar means. Text, here, in the form of corporate logos, becomes architectonic while commerce is presented with the undulating chaos of a shanty-town. Essentially, Magnotta operates like a Pop artist mining a garbage dump and then presents the life cycle of consumer goods (from production to disposal) as a mechanized blob. There's also a jovial cynicism at work here — as if Dr. Seuss set himself to illustrating "The Society of the Spectacle." Thus, the labor-intensive quality of his work is implicated as literally just that — labor — but Magnotta remains cheerfully productive nonetheless: a worker, ultimately, but a whistling one.


Elwyn Palmerton


SAN FRANCISCO

Ulrike Palmbach at Steven Wirtz Gallery In general terms, art is the magical transmutation of reality into imperishable materials; the viewer delights both in being deceived and undeceived. Ulrike Palmbach employs the humble materials of traditional "women's work," e.g., cotton batting and muslin, to create artificial, absurd theatrical props for some surreal fairy tale: gigantic pants, packs of snarling hounds and suspended boats of faux cardboard. We find ourselves amid them as in a dream — onstage, dazed and full of anguish at having forgotten our lines.

Palmbach's previous material explorations in artifice continue here. Bundle is a sewn muslin sculpture representing rolled newspapers lashed together with twine, while Boxes is a laboriously constructed jumble of formless faux cardboard that irresistibly suggests shelter.

She adds new motifs, however. The putty-like strings of plasticine clay or Silly Putty that hang from wire loops (Ending) or over metal rungs (Dull Days, Surrender) are new devices that exult in their delicious illusionism: The ersatz clay is actually carved and painted wood. In Repose it collapses weightily and seems to ooze and liquefy; in Untitled it coats string like dipped candle wicks; in Supplies it is compressed into talon- or fanglike shapes that are bundled and molded to fill a box efficiently. Palmbach's abject copies of real objects now joined by convincing models of unreal objects.


DeWitt Cheng

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