Selections from the Whitney Biennial at Santa Monica Museum of Art
Roy Lichtenstein at Gagosian Gallery
John Sonsini at ACME Gallery
Carter Potter at Angles Gallery
Reading today's New York Times once again made me jealous of things I cannot do, events I cannot attend, exhibitions that will never come to L.A. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Montreal International Festival of Films about Art. A selection of the festival's prize-winning entries and audience favorites are being shown this month in New York City. Reading about this festival, I thought how smart it is to offer New Yorkers the best films out of approximately 200 shown in Montreal every year. It's a pity that none of the Los Angeles museums are planning to bring these films here. In this respect, a small but feisty Santa Monica Museum of Art deserves a good mark for presenting a sampling of videos of six artists from the recent Whitney Biennial. Videos have become the dominating art form on the international art scene. And now the Santa Monica gives us a glimpse into what the last Whitney Biennial was all about. As often the case with most videos, these six selections tried my patience. To spend more than an hour and a half sitting through all of them is more than I'm willing to do. A common irritant in such situations is that the makeshift darkened rooms are not sound proof, so that the soundtracks of all the films confusingly collide with each other. Some videos are more interesting than others, but I could only muster spending forty minutes before developing a headache and bolting out for fresh air.
It's a double irony that one of the most intriguing exhibitions at the Gagosian Gallery in New York right now is a show about the legendary Los Angeles cultural landmark of the 1960s, the Ferus Gallery and its bigger-than-life founder Irving Blum. The exhibition catalog is an irresistible object in its own right, with numerous photographs of the young, but not yet famous, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein and a bevy of others. Believe it or not, this exhibition is not coming to L.A. either.Instead, the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills unveiled last week an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein paintings and drawings from the last decade of his life, when his paintings looked cold, decorative, and so perfect, as if produced mechanically, and not by a human hand.
John Sonsini's show at ACME Gallery, which is closing this weekend, is an exhibition that shouldn't be missed by anyone who loves the good old art of painting. The Los Angeles-based artist continues his series of large-scale figurative portraits of his friends, demonstrating an uncanny ability to bring to the surface complex emotions. More and more artists these days are returning to figurative painting with images that are rather academic and redundant. John Sonsini's portraits are the happy exception. Their air of improvisation, vigorous brushwork, and a surprisingly adventurous palette bring to mind portraits by Alice Neel and Lucien Freud, obviously strong influences on the artist.
The exhibition of Carter Potter's new works at Angles Gallery impressed me with his ability to find yet another surprising way to deal with his favorite material - strips of 70 mm film that he attaches to stretcher bars that hang on, or lean against, the wall. Call it assemblage or painting, his artwork is an ultimate homage to Hollywood filmmaking. Using leftover strips of negatives from film reels, and presenting them in their original sequence, he weaves them into a one-of-a-kind narrative we read line by line, with unexpected discoveries along either the opaque or translucent portions of the film strips. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, one can say this is stuff that dreams are made of.
For more information:
"Art and Film in the Age of Anxiety: Selections from the 2002 Whitney Biennial"
September 28 - December 29, 2002
Santa Monica Museum of Art
2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, CA
September 12 - October 19, 2002
Gagosian Gallery New York
555 West 24th St, New York, NY
Gagosian Gallery Beverly Hills
456 North Camden Dr, Beverly Hills, CA
through October 5, 2002
6150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
through October 26, 2002
2230 Main St., Santa Monica, CA