You always have to steel yourself for the LA Art Show, with so much work to see. A full range, from the inspirational to competitors for the slacker-art award are on display. Amongst the work that is good one can find blue chip old friends, such as Frank Stella and Ed Ruscha, to new finds (for me) such as Li Huichang, whose Francis Bacon-through-the-Chinese-filter worked for me, with a satisfying elegant angst.
I really enjoy his artist’s statement:
“Haunting in the sky of keenly expanding modern city, there is a Ghost. The Ghost is satisfying the man’s desire of consuming, as well as swallowing their pure spirits. Idealism, spirit of tragedy, awareness of savior, criticism, exposure, scoffing retiring and all the feelings of these sorts are spiritual struggling when thinkers in the city facing with shadow of pressure pouring onto their heart. Li Huichang has his own spiritual orientation””to criticize wearing the transparent and detached shell, to kid world in a black and resentful way, to combine his fear, suppression and candidness into a poem. He is making his way to the hunting of the haunting Ghost. And the Oriental style hunting is backed up by his concealing worry, his deeply hidden rolling passion. Look at the crisis in the poem, which is more charming and thrilling than open exclaiming!”
While I look for the more inspired and inspirational work, I can enjoy good painting craft even if it seems like some could have been an assignment from a painting or illustration class at Art Center.
Influence and inspiration is one thing, but at a certain point it turns into eye-rolling “biting,” the contemporary term for plagiarism:
“Oh, Basquiat is still considered cool and not too hard to knock off badly, so I’ll do that!”
Or Rosenquist, or Warhol, or Schiele or so many others. Pop art as decoration sans content too often. And yes, sex stills sells.
Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios
Some work that I enjoyed included Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios, with his juicy plant forms;
the quietly weird photographs by Tami Bahat;
Kevin Cyr, whose graffiti-ed trucks actually recreated the graffiti believably;
Shang Chun’s paintings of tree rung pattern and painted counterpoint;
the painterly abstraction of Nano Rubio
and the hard-edged abstraction of Tobias Kroeger
and Cecil Touchon, not novel, but enjoyable like a good power chord;
whimsical ceramic sculpture by Duane Paul;
rag paper work by Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen;
anime-ish work by Hiroshi Mori;
odd creature-faces by Lauren Ys;
the humorous fantasy creatures and figures in Ukiyo-e style of Shiki Taira;
droll political commentary via classic tales by Lauren Holland;
political issues by Harmonia Rosales and Aldis Hodge
and Greg Auerbach.
Artists in the L.A.:LEY LINES exhibition, Presented by Cartwheel Art and Curated by AXIS
(L-R) DEFER, BIG SLEEPS, EYEONE, PRIME, SWANK, and AXIS
As someone that has been following the evolution of graffiti in Los Angeles, it is gratifying to see the professional progress of those former-rascally-kids-now-adults that have kept a focus and passion towards developing a body of work geared towards the gallery setting. In some cases the graffiti roots may be noticeable, and in others it would not be evident unless one knew the history of the artist in question. At least thirteen artists in the LA Art Show started in the streets. Six are featured in the Cartwheel Art sponsored show, “L.A.: LEY LINES,” nicely curated by Alex “Axis” Ventura.
Axis’s piece reflects his skills with calligraphic, figural and textural elements while conveying an essentially personal message;
Eyeone combines an interesting use of altered photographic images with painterly and graphic applications to show life on the street;
Prime’s bold abstractions may be enjoyed for their pure visual strength although there is underlying figurative inspiration;
Big Sleeps’ sophisticated calligraphy works beautifully against his textural backgrounds;
Defer creates the calligraphic equivalent to “field painting” with a practice that clearly approaches the meditative;
Swank, while having fine representational skills, here shows us a thoughtful example of his purely abstract abilities.
Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez
Other street-started artists that are represented at LA Art Show include Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez, whose seemingly abstract work, while highly enjoyable as purely formal constructions, are actually highly biographical in symbolic form;
Greg “Craola” Simkins
Greg “Craola” Simkins rides deservedly high in the pop-surrealism world, with his labor-intensive other-worldly creations;
Zes looks for the honest, raw, expressive mark and finds it consistently;
Retna’s letter-based paintings show the beautifully integrated influence of various cultural calligraphic traditions;
Kofie’s concerns with dynamic weight and balance always delight, with constructions that you can let your eye wander over areas of for a long time and still find interesting relationships between;
Aise Bourne creates a fine personal mix of figurative and pattern work with brush and spray paint that references traditions from the renaissance to contemporary graffiti.
Saber painting live on opening night in the booth of 1849 Wine
Saber on exhibition in the booth of Art All Ways
Opening night attendees were treated to a painting demonstration by the renowned artist Saber, a seminal member of Mad Society Kings crew. His tools included various wide custom brushes, markers, spray cans, sponges and paint-filled spray devices. Whether people could see his name as the base structure or not, they were able to see a piece evolve with great verve and focus. While the live piece he created used wide raw sprayed swaths contrasting with finer brush and spray lines, his canvas piece in the show shows just how fine a calligraphic-based architecture he can create.
Ironically, artists that started with graffiti forms but have expanded the range of their work have a high degree of craft, while many of those that did not really do any work in the streets but are trying very hard to look graffiti-inspired and “street” lack craft as well as concept. Most two-dimensional approaches from the last two hundred years can be seen at the show, with a broad continuum from insipid to truly moving.
Although it is a sensory overload, you’ll be glad you went once you recover.
Top photo: Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez