So, my friends, if you are in the mood to be surprised and challenged, and maybe even slightly shocked, here is an exhibition for you. LACMA is presenting an exhibition by Eleanor Antin (b. 1935), a pioneer performance and conceptual artist in Southern California.
In 1972, she created an astounding self-portrait consisting of 148 black-and-white photographs. Every day, she photographed herself totally naked, facing four different directions. She called this body of work CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture, and it documented the transformation of her young body as it lost 10 pounds over 37 days. I have to admit that in spite of being familiar with this early self-portrait, it still made my eyebrows raise. How many of us will expose ourselves so fully, so courageously – even when we are still young and in good shape?
The second body of work by Antin in the exhibition is called CARVING: 45 Years Later. In 2017, at the age of 82, she recreated her iconic early piece with a new gravitas; this time, photographing herself 500 times as she lost weight over the course of 100 days. So, I am standing in front of this new Antin self-portrait, in which her old body sags, but my respect for her artistry and bravery is surging high as I respond to her philosophical acceptance of mortality.
The solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist June Edmonds at Luis de Jesus gallery is a series of multi-colored paintings inspired by the American flag. All of them, vertical, and in earth tones, evoking the variety of brown skin colors. The exhibition, Allegiances and Convictions, presents the American flag as a “symbol of ideals, promises, and identity… including race, nationality, [and] gender” (Luis de Jesus).
At the opening of the exhibition, I had a chance to talk with the artist and learn that this body of work was inspired by a dream in which she saw large, black flags. When Edmunds was interviewed by gallery owner Luis de Jesus, she emphasized the fact that her paintings were not inspired by Jasper Johns’ famous, horizontal flag paintings. She said, her flags “are standing for something,” so that’s why she keeps them standing. Knowing this, I see her flags as a series of portraits of Americans of many races and colors.
And while we’re talking about portraits, I wish I could have taken you with me to meet the well-known Los Angeles photographer Jim McHugh at his home last weekend. I brought a small group of my friends to hear McHugh’s stories about his decades-long career photographing the art world’s biggest names in their studios. Becoming friends with some of these artists, he would photograph them over the years, giving us unique, intimate access to their lives.
Take a look at three portraits by McHugh on our website – David Hockney, Allison Saar, and Bruce Nauman. They look at us, we look at them, the conversation starts, and it never ends…