Grapevine: Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Michael Frimkess, John Mason, Ron Nagle, Peter Shire

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Artists using clay for sculpture, rather than craft, is a tradition in California, dating at least to the late 1950s. A number of exhibitions in recent years have tracked Peter Voulkos, Ken Price and John Mason as early practioners. Now a show at David Kordansky Gallery in Culver City adds a few other artists to the mix. Ricky Swallow, whose bronze sculptures riffing off of everyday objects were shown at the Huntington earlier this year, has organized a wickedly engaging presentation, Grapevine on view through August 17. 
He has brought together ceramic sculpture by Ron Nagle, Michael Frinkess, Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Peter Shire as well as Mason. All could be said to have been inspired by the charismatic Voulkos either in L.A. or in the Bay Area. A selection of early pieces by Voulkos, Mason, Price and Frimkess provides an instructive introduction.  As an artist, Swallow has an affinity for the detail, color and careful construction demanded by small scale sculpture. This presentation brings unexpected connections and complications to the fore. 
Courtesy of Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels, Belgium and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Photography: Don Tuttle
Nagle’s work has received a surge of attention having been included in this summer’s Venice Biennale. These pieces are mounted on little wall ledges and look especially strong in their juicy colors and funky shapes and surfaces. Johnny’s Walker (2011) is a hot-pink, spongy slab folded against itself to make a lumpy wedge. 
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Photography: Fredrik Nilsen 
The show includes vases and pots painted with elaborate, often funny, narratives made by Frimkess in the early 1970s as well as later pieces made in collaboration with his wife Magdalena. The works by Shire, the youngest in the show, were  made in the 1980s and show the influence of Ettore Sottsass and the post-modern sensibility of Memphis design. Yet, Shire always incorporated a snazzy range of Southern California color and low-end references as in Tower Rebar (1981), a white cup supported by a rosy diagonal with a triangular handle made of painted rebar. 
The pieces by Mason, the eldest in the show, are all in neutral tones and made with a geometric precision that can defy comprehension.  Trans-Orb, Light Green with Tracers (2006) appears to almost spin with implied energy. 
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Photography: Fredrik Nilsen 
Late summer is the time for group shows in most of the galleries but some offer a focused reason for their existence. Grapevine is a case in point. A catalogue is forthcoming. Plus, just for the record, I am the California curator for the Archives of American Art so I was very pleased to see that Swallow has cited oral histories with the artists that are available through the Archives at For more information, go to 
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Photography: Fredrik Nilsen
And since it always difficult to keep up with the blessed abundance of art to be seen in L.A., a couple of artists, Jody Zellen and Brian Moss, have devised a mobile friendly site that lists shows at Southern California galleries, museums and institutions by location or name. The name of their site is easy enough to remember: No caps, no gaps. This means I will spend less time pulled over in my car while looking up slow-loading gallery websites as I try to see all that is on offer. And it is free.  Thank you Jody and Brian!