Art Insider Dec. 10: Playing with perception, off-kilter balance, and LA on fire

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This week grayscale paintings explore Americana, fabric sculptures straddle mediums, an artist plays with expressive linework, and LA artists respond to fire. 

Kara Joslyn at M+B

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Rudie Can't Fail (trickster / redeemer)
, 2019. Acrylic and polymer automotive paint on panel, 36 x 36 inches.
Image courtesy of the artist and M+B.

At M+B in West Hollywood, it may not be obvious at first that Kara Joslyn’s prime reference points are 1950s paper crafts. Her moody grayscale paintings have sharp lines and illusionistic shadows that feel aptly contemporary in our digital age. The exhibition, Tragic Kingdom, elicits the seminal No Doubt record, yet pulls us towards present day horrors. The album title itself was meant to be a play of words on Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom, and Joslyn seems to welcome these complex American references. From emo-tinged punk to mid-century crafts, these works examine a kind of American spirit. In Gatekeeper (trouble ahead, trouble behind) , a paper-craft hockey goalie is stuck in stasis. Much like our current politics or environmental collapse, finding a way forward or backward proves difficult. 

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Kara Joslyn, I’m like an exit away (2019). Acrylic and polymer automotive paint on panel, 72 x 84 inches.
Image courtesy of the artist and M+B.

Joslyn references a Marie Curie quote: “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done." Similarly, her work moves between time and modes of reflection to confuse the starting point and play with believability. Joslyn explains, “Unlike in photography, in a painting (often referred to as window, or mirror) there is an element of disbelief within the viewer. Trompe l’oeil translates to ‘fool the eye.’ I always appreciated the trickster nature of that phrase. To fool the eye. The images come from books meant to instruct on how to make something volumetric and dynamic out of something flat and shallow. If photography is the truth that tells a lie, I would like paintings to be a lie that tells the truth. Everything symbolic is everything real.” 

On view: November 16–December 21, 2019


Gabrielle D’Angelo at Steve Turner

Gabrielle D’Angelo,
Off Balance (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and Steve Turner.

Gabrielle D’Angelo’s Off Balance may seem like a literal title at first. Her vibrantly-dyed fabric works hang off-kilter on wooden mounts, and her sculptural work, held together with string, feels precariously balanced. Yet the title also alludes to the space in-between. And much of  D’Angelo’s works cannot be easily named, which adds to their appeal. Ruching and draping techniques in her hanging fiber works add a structural clothing element, yet the works remain staunchly non-functional, recalling decorative quilters like Al Loving. A brightly-hued wooden chair has been deconstructed on one wall — it too denying its original purpose. The straddling of function, craft, design, and decoration is where these works feel deliciously off balance. 

On view: November 23–December 21, 2019


Julie Mehretu at LACMA

Julie Mehretu,
Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001). Ink and acrylic on canvas, 101 1/2 × 208 1/2 in., Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; 2013.28, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Edward C. Robinson III.

A mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu at LACMA presents a timely look at the artist’s past 20 years and her progression into her unique personal style. For Mehretu, line is everything, whether structured and plotted out to demarcate architectural space, or a more intuitive line that bears emotional weight and idiosyncratic style. It is the mixing of the two (like a shift between left brain/right brain) that makes the work really sing. Much of the architectural line work points to various sites of political or social upheaval: the War on Terror, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, the Syrian refugee crisis, Arab Spring, etc. Real architectural features that mark these events and places are intermixed with fantasy landscapes, and then overlaid with Mehretu’s emotive organic marks to create a fluster of activity, as if to represent the human element amidst global catastrophe. 

On view: November 23–December 21, 2019


Artists respond to fire 

L.A. on Fire , curated by Michael Slenske (installation view). Image courtesy of Wilding Cran Gallery.

Wildfires have burned large swaths of Greater LA, so the Arts District-based gallery Wilding Cran is making fire the centerpiece of its latest exhibit. LA on Fire is a collection of work from 50 artists whose lives have been touched by fire. Some have experienced the literal effects of losing homes or studios to fire, while others explore fire’s more metaphysical and spiritual attributes, or even use fire as a medium for making their work. Listen as Steve Chiotakis and I discuss this exhibition, and how it could only happen in Los Angeles.