Category Archives: Art In Los Angeles

The Art of Seda Saar

 

Seda Saar, 1 Spheres V 20 x 36 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2019  © 2019, 2021 Seda Saar 

By Moira Cue

I never would have met Seda Saar (the second time) if I hadn’t joined the Los Angeles Art Association. I never would have joined the Los Angeles Art Association if I hadn’t been trying to help a friend, an attorney, find work with an arts-related nonprofit.

I met Peter Mays, executive director of the LAA, at the 2019 LA Art Show VIP Gala. (Peter’s impressive creds include serving as co-chair on the Education Committee for the Board of Directors for the MOCA Contemporaries.)

The lone attorney on their advisory board had just stepped down and they needed occasional help. I wound up on their email list and checked out a couple of events before I decided to join.

What stood out to me at the first LAA event I went to was that the social vibe was totally different. No social climbers or Hollywood shallow types. No one asked me “what do you do?” in a way that immediately read “what can you do for me?” Instead, I met an older gentleman who cradled his “anxiety dog,” and other introverts—people you can count on to be kind. It was truly endearing. So, when I got the call for artists, I thought, what the heck, why not?

I made it to about two LAA art events before the pandemic hit. At one event, the 2019 Open Show, I noticed one woman who caught my eye, Louisa Miller. Tall, lean, angular, with cropped hair, in her seventies, she stood statuesque, hawkishly staring at a painting. She was so immersed in the work; it was as if no one else was in the room. I immediately wanted to talk to her.

Louisa would introduce me to Frederika Roeder, the moderator for the 2020 Pasadena Critique Group. One of the best things about being in LAA is the critique groups where you get to meet with very nice people who are interested in sharing each other’s art. Our group included Louisa, a serious landscape painter; Olyessa Volk and Viktoria Romanova, both Russian immigrants with two totally unique styles; Frederika, a Southern California surfer girl down to her roots; Katherine Murray-Morse, who’d been in banking and had started painting two years prior; and Richard M. Blanchard, who also has a stunning interior finishing portfolio and celebrity clientele list (http://www.atom-zu.com/).

But THIS article is about Seda.

I first met Seda around 2012 or 2013 when she was running the MLY Gallery at the Malibu Lumberyard, which was particularly well known for a star-studded, much talked-about exhibition of a private buyer’s entire Warhol collection.

We met for the second time in Louisa’s spacious, high-ceilinged loft near a trendy Pasadena shopping district for Louisa’s critique (before Covid made in-person meetings unfeasible). Seda carried herself with confidence and authority, declaring certain paintings “successful,” and others “less successful” with an aura of finality. I was lured in by a series of works that amounted to some flirtation that Louisa had made with child-like abstraction. Everyone else was on a different wavelength. During and after the critique, I really connected with Richard and I hoped we’d become good friends.

I didn’t really start to get to know Seda until her one-person show Refractions – a Lens Through Time at the Neutra Museum Gallery (2020). She was gracious enough to make time to give me a personal tour. This was during the autumn wildfires of 2020. My friends in San Francisco and Portland filled their social media feeds with apocalyptic images of a sunless sky, a blood red moon, stories of struggling to breathe in AQI readings that were off the charts. In my own neighborhood, we were under evacuation warning. The entire city of Los Angeles was blanketed in soot and smelled like campfire. The few minutes outdoors between the car and the museum’s front door, even in a KN95, left my eyes stinging, my head pounding, and my throat sore.

 

Seda Saar, Spheres II 20 x 36 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2019 (Private Collection San Diego) ©2019, 2021, Seda Saar. 

The Nuetra is a Silverlake nonprofit, designed by eponymous architect Richard Nuetra, renowned for his influence on Southern California modernist vis-à-vis crisp, steel and glass geometric forms. I can’t imagine a better fit for Saar’s work, which is informed by her study of interior architecture. (Saar holds a BA from London Metropolitan University.) In one area of the exhibition, near a seating area of mid-century Modern sofas and chairs, earlier, smaller, black-and-white renderings on paper of Nuetra-esque architectural forms in nature seamlessly fused Seda’s work with the museum’s purpose.

Seda’s work fits into two-dimensional and three-dimensional categories that enhance each other. For example, Saar recently won a Juror’s Award of Excellence for her sculpture, Prismatic, 2019, as part of the California Sculpture SLAM at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art in 2020. The piece is created with acrylic plastic and mirror in a pyramid shape refracting various jewel-toned colors of light, like a prism.

 

These sculptural works dealing with geometry, color, and light refraction are plastic, three-dimensional versions of paintings and mixed media two-dimensional work that addresses the same formal concerns of space, light, and color. In both cases, one could argue that more is more, and be right; the moreness of three-dimensional objects in space versus the moreness, the meta-ness of a cosmic, or planetary schemata seen in pieces like Genesis.

But what made me excited enough to write about Seda’s work was the added insight that I gained through this private touring.

Seda Saar, Prismatic 12 x 12 x 18 in. Acrylic and Mirror Sculpture, ©2021, Seda Saar

Here’s where I disclose my biases: I not only write about art, but I make art too. And while I have gone through phases like any artist who has been working several decades, my own work never relies on draftsman’s tools or clean lines. I love work that is childlike, expressionistic, and primitive. Typically, or historically, I’ve found work that was very crisp less interesting. The first exception to this generalization was Agnes Martin; had I not seen the work in person at LACMA, however, its delicacy would have escaped me. The work of Donald Judd’s and Carl Andres of this world still leaves me cold, while the work of the Cy Twomblys and Howard Hodgkins makes my heart sing.

As with Martin and other women working in an oeuvre descended from minimalism or post-minimalism, post-identity, and masculinity, a closer inspection of Saar’s lines and glyphs reveals their fail to establish a machine-like detachment. Her lush, indulgent use of color breaks all the rules of “seriousness” more generally associated with East Coast, rather than West Coast, artists.

And yet I had to get over my own bias of–oh this is geometry, so this is not about nature. And when we talked about the fires, global warming, and cycles of nature, and she insisted that the work was in fact, about nature, my first reaction was dismissive–that she just didn’t know how to talk about her work.

And that’s when the interesting thing happened. As I mentioned, during this discussion the whole city was blanketed in smoke. I’ve lived through fire seasons before, but nothing like 2020. The fires of 2020 taught me how primordial our fear of fire is. Because my reaction was physical and ancient: the one thing we fear as animals is fire, and the one thing that makes us human is that we tamed fire. But the animal fear is deep inside of us, ready to hatch, ready to return us to our instincts: RUN! And a few days later, I would; albeit on an airplane, rather than with my two legs.

When Seda started to talk about chakras, my chakra energy was off, I was in fear mode (well duh, we were worried our house was going to burn down). Honestly, I forget which chakra was the culprit. But she told me that she studied shamanism in Peru, and she decided to walk me through a series of breaths, orations, and gestures intended to rebalance my chakras. I’m not sure I “believe” in chakras, but I’m pretty accommodating, so I went along with it. I don’t know if it changed my chakras or not. I know that something transformed in Seda while she was acting as a shamanic leader. Her voice changed, her presence changed, and we addressed the directions and certain elements of nature. At one point I closed my eyes.

And when it was over, and I opened my eyes, for a second her work came to life. It was no longer just formalism, or what I initially saw as a confused hodgepodge of various movements and thoughts that didn’t “line up” with the finished product. (Why does she keep talking about nature when these are so—quasi hard edge?) She had had a hard time explaining the work. (And why should artists be expected to write their own jingoistic marketing blurbs is beyond me.) But experiencing the work was totally different. I realized that Nature—the nature that I see as wild, as expressionistic, as opposed to geometric forms and straight lines—that Nature at the macro level (galaxies) and micro level (cells) can be very precise, very linear, very geometric.

Seda Saar, Genesis 36 x 48 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2020 ©2020, 2021, Seda Saar 

And so, I had a shamanic experience of opening myself to another vision, another version, of reality. While it required the physical presence of the artist to pull it off, it is, undoubtedly, the highest and rarest achievement in art to break through unseen preconceptions and pull the viewer into the world of the artist.

Moira Cue is an award winning multi-media artist and art critic for The Hollywood Sentinel.  She attended the Masters Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Learn more about her and contact the author at www.MoiraCue.com 

Textual content is  © 2021, Hollywood Sentinel. Images provided courtesy of the artist.  All world rights reserved.

bG Gallery Keeping Art Scene Alive in LA

“Kirsten Fletcher, A Cut in Time”  Photograph by Rama Lee, image courtesy of bG Gallery, Santa Monica, California
bG Gallery has always been on the cutting edge of showcasing talented emerging and established artists in Los Angeles. As they state, they “specialize in accomplished artists who have crossed traditionally contentious art ideologies including expressive-conceptual, insider-outsider, high-low and figurative-abstract.”
Beyond that, they are incredibly busy, always active in the global and national art scene, and just as importantly, are very cool, kind people to work with who treat people right.
They have been one of the few LA galleries that done shows either online or safely by appointment or small groups during 2020.  Their recent show just today was an online exhibition of wearable art, featuring some very talented artists with beautiful works, as seen in just one example with the image above.
Visit their official website, support the gallery, and mention you saw them here.  www.santamonicabgartdealings.com 
2020, Hollywood Sentinel

LA Art Show 2020

From February 5-9, the LA Art Show hit its 25th Anniversary in the downtown LA Convention Center, representing 120 galleries from 18 different countries. As always, there was a strong showing of Chinese and Latin American artists, including Los Angeles based Latinos (or, Latinx, if you prefer).


Opening night was fun.  A performance artist named Miss Art World, presented by the nonprofit cooperative 825 Gallery, was one of the more colorful personalities, with a big blue bouffant, a dress like the topping of a cake, and her signature beauty queen sash that says, “Miss Art World,” of course.


Cirque du Soleil performers looking like indigenous-inspired Super Mario brothers characters walked around on stilts, in weird color block mohawks.

Everyone wanted to take selfies or pictures of actress-model type women, and the ALPHACUBE by Lorenzo Marini (presented by Bruce Lurie Gallery) was busy all night with people taking advantage of the sculpture’s colorful interior, which made for a great wall-to-wall backdrop of blocks of letters. Give Los Angelenos a place to pose and they’ll love you forever. Or at least, they’ll post your work on social media that night.


Browsing through one of the Chinese galleries on opening night, I was offered some strawberry hard candies, which I enjoyed. “They’re popular for Chinese New Year,” the gallerist explained. We started talking about Year of the Rat, whether it was good for Year of the Rabbit people or not, and she mentioned that it was a very unlucky year for many Chinese. Only later did I wonder if perhaps she was thinking about the coronavirus.

Art brings people together from all over the world.  As one newbie wrote on Instagram, “Can I get season tickets?” There is so much to see, you literally can’t do it all.

I returned to the Show on Saturday and enjoyed meeting the proprietor of the Wyoming Working Group. They have quite a story! The group owns more than 50 canvasses attributed to Jackson Pollack. Attributed to means that, they think they were made by Jackson Pollack but can’t prove it. Their struggle to establish provenance has raged on for decades. The work has many Pollack-like qualities, but it also feels different. The patterns are similar, but the work has a different palette and much lighter touch. My first gut reaction—from a distance—was that they were fake (“Oh weird,” I thought, “there’s a booth called Pollack’s Paradigm. Looks like someone is trying to recreate the Pollack style.” I thought it was like one of those workshops museums do for kids.)

The explanation given for the work being hidden is that Pollack was going to have a major retrospective and had stashed away his “best stuff” in preparation for the show. Also, he was going through a divorce, and wanted to hide the work from his soon to be ex-wife and the dealers he no longer trusted. His untimely demise in an auto accident prevented the work from being released by the artist, the story goes. The work was allegedly gifted to an unknown girlfriend, one of several, allegedly, who sold the work cheaply. But there’s no proof a girlfriend other than Ruth Kligman existed. The work is interesting for the issues it raises about how an artist’s work is authenticated, and who gets to decide what is real and what isn’t. It’s a whole area of the art world that most artists don’t even think about when they’re alive. The Working Group has spent large amounts of money with scientific research to try to prove that the paintings are authentic. And whether they are or not, it’s a fascinating story and one they certainly seem to believe in.

But is it true? If it is, science will tell us, eventually. The Working Group claims fractal analysis backs them up; a quick Google search turns up articles both condemning fractal analysis as unreliable indicator of what is and isn’t a Pollack, and suggesting that new software is better—up to 93% accurate. The Group also claims to have one work with a fingerprint. A fingerprint, a hair, other DNA analysis would be tough to argue with. But the details of the fingerprint on the Group’s website are thin. And Pollack is the most forged post-war artist on earth. Even former members of the Pollack-Krasner Foundation’s authentication board have had public disagreements about other instances of post-humous attributions. To see the work in this collection and judge for yourself, click here: https://wyomingworkinggroup.com/book/#.Xk3ZRy2ZM_U
New discoveries, and sometimes new friendships, is what the LA Art Show is all about. At the KR Martindale Gallery, I had the fun experience of meeting an exhibiting artist, Guillermo Bert, whose work deals with complex social issues stemming from immigration, acculturation, and the Latinx community. He works with indigenous communities in Latin America as well as in Los Angeles, to create works that evoke lived experience through a mix of traditional symbols and contemporary technology (such as woven textile pieces where you can scan a QR code and hear first person narratives, or the videotaped stories of undocumented migrants projected in an installation of live tumbleweed). Most of Bert’s work is curated and displayed through museums rather than galleries; at the LA Art Show he brought smaller, collectable works like “Red States, Blue States, and White Lies,” a seemingly minimalist triptych of “laser, barcodes, and candy colors on Plexi” whose title betrays a conceptual punch.

One of my favorite sections this year was INK. With mostly Chinese and Japanese artists from foreign and domestic galleries, the section explores calligraphy rooted in both traditional and experimental forms. The important, avant-garde calligraphy artist Yuichi Inoue was presented by Japanese gallery Zeal House. Shoen Tominaga, another important avant-garde calligrapher, whose work inhabits the spaces of painting and writing, was presented by S.E.A. (Los Angeles and Tokyo).

I particularly enjoyed seeing work by Yang Xiaojian presented by the Shanghai based COSPACE Gallery. These works synthesize an Eastern, calligraphic-based sensibility with the Western painterly tradition; Chinese characters are imbued with weight and and a cartoonish heft like the objects in a later Philip Guston painting. This work, by itself, was worth the trip.

–Moira Cue

Moira Cue is an award winning artist, singer, and actress whose works are in collections worldwide.

©2020 Hollywood Sentinel