Artists Whose Art Bursts with Complex Stories

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Kwame Brathwaite. Untitled (Garvey Day Deedee in car), 1965 c., printed 2018 Courtesy Philip Martin Gallery.

I want to start today’s program by urging you to rush to see the exhibition by American photographer Kwame Brathwaite (b. 1938), "Celebrity and the Everyday," at Philip Martin Gallery, before it closes this Saturday, January 12. The exhibition consists of photographs of the life, beauty, and dignity of the African American community, originally captured decades ago, and recently printed just for this show.

Kwame Brathwaite. L: Untitled (Ali, Training Camp), 1975, printed 2018. R: Untitled (Grace Jones Photoshoot), 1980s c., printed 2018. Photos courtesy Philip Martin Gallery.

Brathwaite and his art helped to coin the term “Black is Beautiful,” planting the seeds for contemporary political movements like “Black Lives Matter”. Even if you’ve seen hundreds of images of Muhammad Ali and Grace Jones, their portraits by Brathwaite will show them like you’ve never seen them before: legendary and vulnerable at the same time.

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Installation shot: Farrah Karapetian: Collective Memory. Von Lintel Gallery. Image courtesy of Farrah Karapetian.

The exhibition by Farrah Karapetian at Von Lintel Gallery will make you wonder – are you in a gallery? Or, in a bar? And, what kind of bar is this? There are large photos combined with sculptural installations, recreating the spirit of LA’s now-closed lesbian bar, Club Shine.

Top and Bottom - Installation shots: Farrah Karapetian: Collective Memory. Von Lintel Gallery. Image courtesy of Farrah Karapetian.

In her text about the exhibition, Karapetian talks about giving back some of the club’s spatial and visual cues through her artworks. Viewers congregating over the course of her occupation in the gallery will make it live. There are references to mirrored walls, where ladies danced with their own reflections. The artist also recreates a stripper pole, unattached to the ceiling. All the above is lit by red spectrum lighting, so Karapetian can photogram visitors as they interact with the exhibition during its run, dealing with memory, loss, transition, and love.

Dana Weiser. Enacting My Koreanness, (self-portrait performance) in Blue, 2018. Digital photograph. Walter Maciel Gallery. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The exhibition by Los Angeles artist Dana Weiser at Walter Maciel Gallery will challenge you in its own way. Her photographic self-portraits show her with dramatic face paint and dance crowns, inspired by traditional masks sold as tourist souvenirs in Korea and memories from her childhood. Her portraits are titled, Enacting My Koreanness, in reference to Weiser being an adoptee of an American family.

Dana Weiser. Home Is…, 2018. Fabric, wood, sequins, seed beads. Walter Maciel Gallery. Photo by Edward Goldman.

The rest of Dana Weiser’s exhibition consists of meticulously embroidered artworks on Korean Hanbok fabrics that reference Korean folk paintings. She replaces traditional imagery with images of her personal possessions, pets, and elements of her home in Santa Monica to create a space of real and imagined identity. Through her art, Weiser questions her understanding of Korean culture and her identity as an Asian American.

These three exhibitions are within walking distance of each other on South La Cienega Boulevard in Culver City, so be sure to see all three in one swoop – preferably, before the end of this week.



Kathleen Yore