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FROM THIS EPISODE

Biennials, those exhibitions organized every two years to show case a range of contemporary talent, are always a mixed blessing and this year at the Hammer is no exception. In this case, the Hammer curator Connie Butler and independent and writer curator Michael Ned Holte, focused on a very real and very L.A. development: artists working as collectives. In addition to individual artists, they invited collectives to participate. The entrance lobby features a temporary studio for KCHUNG, better known for its open radio forum in Chinatown, and for Public Fiction, artists and writers present related works throughout the course of the exhibition. And James Kidd Studio has set up a stage in the courtyard for regular albeit casual performances by dancers. Among others including L.A. Museum of Art’s riff on Frederick Kiesler’s gallery designed for Peggy Guggenheim.

But what about the solitary and inspired vision of the individual artist? However out of fashion that idea is at the moment, I still found that to be the most memorable work in the exhibition.

Samara Golden’s installation, Thank You (2014),  is exceptional. You walk into a literally green room and see yourself in both a wall-sized mirror and a video monitor resting on a green couch in front of it. You put on the 3-D glasses that lay on the couch to better see the large pile of dolls wearing wigs and hats all with the faces of people who have in one way or another been involved with the evolution of her piece. The floor is festooned with green and red ribbons, stiffened empty blue jeans lean against the walls, bits of orange peel, made of ceramic, lay on the arm of the couch while glowing lamps on end tables add to the domestic aura. Eerie music plays. I mentioned Golden’s work before, when she had her show at Night Gallery, and this installation only deepens my feeling about the strength of her art. Though she works with a number of people, the result is still an original and personal sensibility. 

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Samara Golden
Thank You, 2014
Photo by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

There are a number of artists in the show who bring their own approach to abstract painting.

Kim Fisher’s installation of Magazine Paintings is stunning. One features the image of a wave, another horizontal black and white stripes, both superimposed on black rectangular supports on top of a block of magenta on the wall that appears to have the lower quarter torn away, just like torn pages of the magazines in the paintings so that the illusion builds upon itself. Super sophisticated.

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Kim Fisher
Magazine Painting, 2012
Oil on dyed linen
38 x 38 in.
Courtesy of the artist and International Art Objects, Los Angeles
Photo by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp 

Channing Hansen uses stretcher bars as a loom that supports the open weave yarns of abstract patterns. There are ruffle shapes and loose threads in a piece titled Biopoisis (2013). Seemingly improvisational yet definitely knowing, the forms, colors and diversity of materials convincingly bridge attitudes of craft and modern painting.

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Channing Hansen
Polytope Soup, 2013
Handspun and dyed Cheviot, Corriedale, Merino and Romney wools, Teeswater locks, yak down, commercial thread, cotton, holographic polymers, polyamide, silk noils, viscose, and cedar.
58 x 56 in. (147.3 x 142.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist, Photo by Joshua White

Brian O’Connell goes to great lengths to apply the techniques of gum bichromate process, usually associated with early modern photography, to achieve radiant abstractions of soft light and rainbow colors. The grid mechanism that he used to create the pieces is hung horizontally in direct relation to how the pictures were made but the pictures really speak for themselves, eloquently.

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Brian O'Connell
Photo by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

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Brian O'Connell
After Before Present/April 28-29, 2014
-64 BP (VI, Brilliant Pink, 9:26 AM), 2014
Photo by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

One of the enjoyable aspects of most Biennials is the generational integration of artists. A video screening room features the latest from veteran photographer and video artist Judy Fiskin. I’ll Remember Mama is a short chronicle of her mother’s elderly days spent in her Wilshire corridor condominium with all of the fine furniture, porcelain, silver and other essentials of good taste and a comfortable life. This work is the latest in a series that Fiskin has produced over the years examining in deft and droll fashion the ways in which mothers and daughters are inextricably connected by habits and possessions as well as love.

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Judy Fiskin
I'll Remember Mama2013
Video, color, sound. 10:33 min.
Courtesy the artist.

In the vault gallery, a series of thick square monochrome paintings by Marcia Hafif shows the artist to be convincingly pursuing a direction established in the early ‘70s. Being in that gallery of paintings is like a fresh breeze after time spent in a hot and crowded theater.

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Marcia Hafif
From the Inventory: Shade Paintings: Group 6: Scarlet Lake, Schevenengen Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Emerald Green, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxizine Purple, 2013
Made in L.A. 2014
Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
June 15-September 17, 2014
Photo by Brian Forrest

By the way, the show is dedicated to Karin Higa, the talented curator whose premature death took a toll on the art community. She had been working on this show when she died of cancer.

Collective enterprise or individual vision? Go to the Hammer and see for yourself. The show continues to September 7. For more information, go hammer.ucla.edu

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