Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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at101109a.jpgKeep us, Lord, from losing close friends...those are the words of a Russian poet lamenting the loss of dear friends. In Russian, it goes like this: "Teryat druzei gospod ne prevedi." But somehow, when departed friends happen to be good artists, their spirit continues to live on in their art, and for those of us left behind, it's welcome consolation.

at101109b.jpgMiriam Wosk, a well known Los Angeles multi-media artist passed away a few days ago, leaving behind a remarkably diverse body of work bristling with energy, theatricality, and never, ever shy of color. Those who had the chance to see her art, to visit her home, to marvel at her large collection of photography and decorative art will never forget the restless energy of Miriam's imagination, where songs of angels collided with growls of demons.

at101109c.jpgIndeed, as the title of today's Art Talk tells us, "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis," or, in my version of it, "Life is short, but art is forever." And though art is forever, exhibitions last only so long, and we better hurry if we don't want to miss the jolt of energy the best of them provide. I was lucky enough to catch on Saturday the last day of a remarkable exhibition at Gagosian Gallery here in Beverly Hills, Masters of the Gesture. Even if you have just a glimpse of it on our website, you will probably get intrigued and inspired by the range of artists presented there and the high quality of selected works, from de Kooning, Gorky and Rothko to Clyfford Still and Joan Mitchell. For most museums, such a show would be a mini blockbuster, but for Gagosian Gallery, it's just business as usual. Any traveler interested in art would be well-advised to check out in advance the schedule of exhibitions in one of Larry Gagosian's ten - yes, ten galleries - here in the US and in various European capitols.

at101109d.jpgNow, let's change the subject. I want to ask smart and adventurous you, have you ever imagined that pink bar soap, red lipstick, and various shades of eye shadow can deliver a punch? I'm talking about the new exhibition of Los Angeles artist Rachel Lachowicz at Shoshana Wayne Gallery. Rachel made a name for herself when a decade ago, in a wonderful feminist gesture, she appropriated the iconic sculpture by Marcel Duchamps -- his 1917 porcelain urinal -- by making a replica out of red lipstick and wax. Ever since, she's been creating intriguing artworks channeling -- or if you prefer, challenging -- major artists of our time.

at101109e.jpgHer new sculptures, constructed from things like pink soap or plastic containers filled with hundreds of pounds of blue pigment, are meant to make you think about feminine identity. The artist believes that for better or worse, a woman presents herself to society through her exterior. The press release states that "Lachowicz continues to explore feminine identity through forms of packaging." It probably sounds a little bit academic and dry, but in actuality, her new works are delightfully subversive, irresistibly tactile, and as always, surprisingly restrained in spite of their overt theatricality. Go ahead, take a look at them, then come closer; explore their texture, try to guess what they're made of; smell them, which is another way to get to know these works. But no matter the temptation, please, don't touch them; it's for your eyes only.

Rachel Lachowicz
On view at Shoshana Wayne Gallery through December 24


Banner image: Installation view, Masters of the Gesture at Gagosian Beverly Hills