Art Insider Feb. 18: Decaying fruit, witches, water dancers

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Rotting fruit is made out of semi precious stones, a group show centers around witches, and paintings depict figures floating through water. 

Kathleen Ryan at François Ghebaly

Kathleen Ryan,
Bad Grapes , 2020. Amethyst, aventurine, agate, garnet, pyrite, ruby in zoisite, tektite, tigereye, turquoise, serpentine, obsidian, blackstone, Indian unakite, labradorite, Sierra agate, red agate, black agate, serpentine, quartz, marble, amazonite, rhyolite, calcite, dalmation jasper, glass, steel and stainless steel pins, copper tube and copper fittings, polystyrene. 59.5 x 90 x 54 inches (151 x 228.5 x 137 cm). Courtesy of the Artist and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.

Downtown at François Ghebaly, Kathleen Ryan’s fruit sculptures are frozen to appear as if they are perpetually rotting. A large scale grapevine looks shriveled like it’s been left in the sun. Oversized watermelon rinds are scattered around the gallery, green mold forming in spots on their surface. 

Despite the visual decay, Ryan’s forms are created by applying thousands of beads and stones to a central form. Where mold seems to sprout from her fruits, Ryan delicately shifts from ruby beads to green and white ones. The effect creates a feast for the eyes, intricate details build to create otherworldly landscape-like surfaces. 

Her idiosyncratic surfaces are mixed with found objects. The rind of her watermelon is made from the husk of an airstream trailer, and as such, the sculptures contain a delicate balance of opulence and grit that evokes an environmental commentary. While her process is meticulous and labor-intensive, the fruit’s decay is perpetually frozen on that ephemeral moment where ripeness turns rancid. 

Kathleen Ryan,
Bad Melon (Wedge), 2020. Cherry quartz, rose quartz, agate, amazonite, jasper, aventurine, rhodonite, rhodochrosite, labradorite, smoky quartz, quartz, Botswana agate, carnelian, horn, citrine, acrylic, glass, cast iron and brass flies, steel and stainless steel pins, polystyrene, aluminum Airstream. 46 x 40 x 42 inches (117 x 101.5 x 107 cm). Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.

The play between decay, growth, and opulence is an intentional throughline in Ryan’s work. She told the NY Times that “ the sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them.” 

Though the work is made up of thousands of beautiful semi precious stones, Ryan explains that “they’re not just opulent, there’s an inherent sense of decline built into them, which is also something that’s happening in the world: The economy is inflating, but so is wealth inequality, all at the expense of the environment.” 

Her lemons and watermelons always include clusters of mold forming over the fruit’s surface, and although the mold causes fruit to rot, she also explains that “it is the most alive part.” 

On view: February 15 - March 29, 2020

All of them Witches at Jeffrey Deitch

All of Them Witches , curated by Laurie Simmons and Dan Nadel. Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2020. Photo by Joshua White.

Witchy subject matter has made its way into the art world over the past several years — artists cast spells, reference the occult, and delve into ritual and fantasy. A show at Jeffrey Deitch in Hollywood groups together mostly women artists who fit the bewitching bill. 

Curators Dan Nadel and Laurie Simmons corralled a thoughtful selection of work that applies the “witch” theme more broadly to ideas of gender, sexuality, and the power of the female body. 

Some of my favorite artists — Niki Saint Phalle, Janine Antoni, Carolee Schneemann — are surprising and welcomed inclusions in this encyclopedic exhibition. The curators seem to trace a lineage of intuitive work that has paved the way for our current fascination with the mystical. 

On view: February 8 - April 11, 2020

Calida Rawles at Various Small Fires

Calida Rawles
, The Space in Which We Travel , 2019. 84 x 144 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires. 

At Various Small Fires in Hollywood, languid figures float in rippling pools of water. Calida Rawles’ large scale paintings are a potent mix of figuration and abstraction, as her figures contort and merge with the liquid surrounding them. 

Rawles is focused on intersectionality and elevating the black female body, and her subjects find peaceful respite and a sense of elevated reclamation. The water surrounding them acts as a safe buffer against the violence of the outside world, as the boundaries between liquid and corpus merge with an open fluidity. 

One of Rawles’ paintings was poignantly used for the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel The Water Dancer — in which water becomes a powerful metaphor of freedom, offering mystical powers to the enslaved black protagonist. The exhibition also contains a selection of preparatory drawings for the dustjacket.  

On view: February 12 - March 14, 2020

Art Fairs Came to LA

Sadie Coles HQ, Frieze Los Angeles 2020. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh / Frieze.

This past week, L.A. was a hub of activity as several art fairs (along with collectors and international art galleries) descended on the city. Now everyone packs it up until next year. Steve Chiotakis discussed the various fairs, and how the breakdown in ticket prices at the main fair, Frieze, tells you who the fair is really for.  

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