Artists as Magicians and Holy Fools

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at080304b.jpgIn the heady art scene of the 1980's, with New York as its epicenter, there were several brash, young artists who ruled the day. Their paintings were big, their personalities even bigger. Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Robert Longo -- they all had become part of the fashionable crowd, their names constantly in the news. Now, a quarter of a century later, their presence on the contemporary art scene is, to put it mildly, rather modest. Today only Julian Schnabel, whose reputation was made by painting over shards of broken plates, continues to evolve as an artist. And I'm definitely not talking about his absurdly large and vacuous paintings currently occupying acres of wall space at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. In the last ten years, Schnabel has proven himself a talented filmmaker with an original voice and vision, and his latest and most ambitious film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is a marvel of artistic flourish combined with discipline and tight editing. Unfortunately, that's exactly what his latest paintings are lacking.

at080304a.jpg However, I still suggest a trip to Gagosian Gallery. There, tucked away in a small room upstairs, are five large black and white drawings filling the space with the roaring sound of big trucks. Yes, big trucks. Looking at these drawings by Richard Serra -- with their rich texture built up with layers of oilstick on paper – I had the impression that the artist simply rolled a truck over sheets of paper. Charged with energy and supremely confident in their masculinity, these drawings don't need to be huge to command attention. Only God knows how Serra can sustain for so long such a level of creativity. Try to see these works on paper and then, the same day, go to LACMA and be confronted by his two gigantic core-ten steel sculptures on the ground floor of BCAM. Filled with testosterone, Richard Serra's art is never bombastic, and at its best, it comes across as truly heroic.

at080304d.jpgWith this in mind, I invite you to visit Lauren Bon's exhibition at ACE Gallery just a few blocks east of the LACMA campus. Heroic in scale and filled with the echo of ancient mythology, the exhibition, titled "Bees and Meat," might surprise you with its rich variety of materials, such as huge piles of dried kernels of corn and hundreds of glass jars of honey from the four corners of the world.

at080304c.jpgAs you go through the exhibition, you might also want to brace yourself for the sight of suspended animal carcasses, charred remnants of domestic objects, and crumbling statues of female deities.


at080304e.jpgOne installation, consisting of a series of empty rooms with a single suspended bare bulb, is filled with the whispering voices of kids talking about their fears, and I saw adult visitors losing their composure upon confronting this powerful work of art. What impresses me about Lauren Bon's art is that it defies expectation and never tries to ingratiate itself to the viewer; it simply demands attention and, subsequently, gets our respect.

Lauren Bon: "Bees and Meat"
On view at ACE Gallery Los Angeles
through March, 2008

Richard Serra: Five Drawings
On view at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills
through March 22, 2008

Julian Schnabel: Christ's Last Day
On view at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills
through March 22, 2008

Banner image: Lauren Bon, Honey Chandelier #2 (Detail), 2007
Honey, Beeswax, Twine, Glass Jars, Electrical Wire, Bone, Incandescent Bulbs; Dimensions Variable
Ace Gallery Los Angeles, 2007