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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

2019 LA Art Show: In Review

 


Photo Credit, Moira Cue, 2019, LA Art Show, 2019.
VIP GALA

I am one of the few people who has attended the VIP Gala of the LA Art Show every year since it was first held in the LA Convention Center in DTLA instead of the Santa Monica Barker Hangar. In one sense, it’s the most important night of the show. Celebrities are sighted, including hosts of the annual St. Jude Children’s Hospital Research Center Benefit—This year’s hosts were Gavin Rossdale and Kate Beckinsale. And, as the Bruce Lurie Gallery’s Instagram page reminds me, sales are made.

I wonder every year if the Gala seems different because I am not the same person I was 365 days ago. The way I dress changes, what I eat, drink, or don’t eat and drink changes. This year,  no alcohol, and no animal products. Ironically, Pink’s Hotdogs served one of the better vegan options with a full sized vegan hotdog. There was also an all-vegan bruschetta station by Vespaio, a lovely restaurant on Grand Ave, right next to The Broad.

Opening night—which certain years has had all the theatricality of an Elton John concert circa 1973—felt calm, subdued even. They say when you buy a blue Volvo, suddenly the streets are full of blue Volvos.  A normally functioning brain filters out so much superfluous information every day. But I only saw a handful of women draped in sequins, glamourous feathered headgear, and stilettos; and this year no one was wearing the equivalent of a human scale plushy onesie or full-body latex appendage.

What stood out to me was the number of attendees, male and female, wearing the same thing that I settled on: a neutral tone business suit paired with high-end, funky lifestyle sneakers. Silver sneakers, striped sneakers, neon sneakers; even a little girl in a velvet party dress with blinking lights on her sneakers. Of course, some men just wore men’s suits with regular dress shoes. Some guys never change.

There were roughly 220 galleries from 18 countries participating this year, according to the cheerful lady who introduced herself as Kim (Martindale’s) “other sister.” She lives in Alaska, and therefor rarely attends the show. Kim Martindale has been the LA Art Show owner for 23 years, and is a major figure in the exhibition of tribal art nationally.

CATEGORIES

This year’s exhibit space defines galleries as members of several different sections: Core, Modern + Contemporary, DIVERSEartLA, Featured Programming, Roots, Ink Painting, Littletopia, Dialogs LA (a slate of talks and panels), Project Space, Works on Paper, Ethnographic Art, and LUXURY pbsg. Whew. Each of these sections has its own vibe and criteria and some galleries fit more than one category. To learn more about the groups, click https://www.laartshow.com/about-the-show/.

For the purpose of this review, we’re going to talk about things I like. That may mean that great work in some categories isn’t covered because I just didn’t see it.  Some sections are more prominent than others, and sometimes great work is missed because it’s hung in an interior corner with a lot of other work, or because of traffic patterns. To make sure you don’t miss out, you really need to go more than once, ideally at different times of day, and different days of the week.

BLACK AND WHITE CALLIGRAPHY:                                                     JAPANESE ARTISTS AT KAMIYA ART

The Kamiya Art booth is the first place I was drawn to. My recent influences include calligraphic as well as black and white work, and I have always found the balance between a minimalist palette and expressionistic brushwork in more contemporary Japanese calligraphy to be very appealing.

Kamiya Art; Photo Credit, ©2019, Moira Cue; LA Art Show, 2019.

I discussed the quintessentially Japanese ideas of kanji (vertical lettering derived from Chinese character) and koan (sometimes explained as a nonsensical riddle that can expand the mind) with Kei Takahashi, while exploring the work of Morihiro Hosokawa, who also happens to be a former prime minister of Japan. During Hosokawa’s tenure as prime minister, from 1993 to 1994, he is known for statements acknowledging Japan’s role as an aggressor during WWII. According to Wikipedia, “Hosokawa’s acts toward China and Korea inspired Russian president Boris Yeltsin to apologize to Hosokawa for the Soviet detention of Japanese prisoners of war in Siberia.”

The gallerist explained to me that the stark black and white folding screens, very nicely installed and displayed, did not make “sense.” The word “hell” was next to the word “Buddha.” “Oh, but that’s the life. That’s the human condition,” I said. We smiled, and laughed when I mentioned that George Bush has also turned to painting, but it’s not as good. (Though to be fair, the paintings of George Bush Jr. have a certain “Howard Finster reincarnated as trust fund kid who went to art school and learned a few sloppy shortcuts” naïve-ish charm. However, I don’t expect to see them selling for six figures at an international art fair any time soon. You can, however, see them online here. https://www.designboom.com/art/george-w-bush-exhibit-painted-portraits-04-07-2014/

Kimaya Art also displayed the calligraphic art of Yu-ichi Inoue (1916-1985), who is said to be the father or liberator of modern Japanese calligraphy. For Western audiences familiar with Cy Twombly, his work would be the closest analogous example: sensitivity, great emotion, vulnerability and transcendence are concentrated into the expressive form of text. Inoue is said to have “liberated” calligraphy in the modern Japanese art world from a formal, stylized expression to a human expression of great feeling.

Kamiya Art, Photo Credit ©2019, Moira Cue.

 

 

While Hosokawa, born into one of Japans’ noble families, has an almost militant energy—Yu-ichi, who was without the financial means to pursue his art full time until his retirement from teaching at the age of 60—shows in his lines a poignant longing that only those who have endured deprivation and worked, patiently, diligently, quietly, toward their own liberation, can fully understand.

Yu-ichi Inoue was born into an impoverished family. At 19 he became an elementary school teacher, and was eventually assigned to teach an advanced calligraphy class, which inspired him to take calligraphy seriously. When attacks on the Japanese mainland began in 1944, Yu-ichi was sent to the country with 35 6th grade boys. The children were ordered to return to Tokyo with their instructor after they graduated March 3rd, despite Yu-ichi’s pleas to keep the students out of Tokyo. When they returned, Yu-ichi found his parents’ house had been destroyed, so he volunteered to serve as a night watch at the school.

On March 10, 1945, the Great Tokyo Air Raid took place, and there were around 1,000 casualties at the school, including most of his students. Yu-ichi himself fell unconscious from heat and smoke, and barely escaped death after several hours of artificial respiration. Decades later, he would create multiple-character works inspired by this memory. His single character works include, notably, letters of the name of a female teacher, 28 years his junior, with whom he developed an intense infatuation that he would later confess, with shame, to his wife.

Yu-ichi Inoue is known as a founding member of the group Bokunjinkai, who published a magazine called Bokujin, with the intention of liberating calligraphy from binding tradition to embrace the naked human spirit. Calligraphy, in East Asian culture, is said to be the highest of all art forms. But it is poorly understood in the West.

The life of Yu-ichi Inoue is filled with poignant anecdotes. In his thirties, he was evicted from an apartment for staining the floors and walls with paint. He spent his life’s savings to purchase a house, but after buying a lot, nothing was left for construction. In his forties, he garnered critical acclaim, for example, being selected for the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1957 and subsequently included by critic Herbert Read in his book, A Concise History of Modern Painting. But Yu-ichi was not able to concentrate fully on calligraphy until 1976, when he retired from teaching at the age of 60.

I have asked myself many times if, in painting, victory deferred is sweeter. I admire artists who bend the world to their will; artists who succeed; artists who are compensated for what they do. It is not an easy task. Yet the artist who faces obstacles, who is delayed acclaim, who collects energy for his art rather than expending it on a public persona, is sometimes the one who creates work that endures, work that will nourish the viewer again and again, over a long journey.

PART TWO, CRITIC’S CHOICE: LA ART SHOW 2019

CHINESE ARTISTS AT MICHAEL GOEDHUIS

I was delighted to meet Michael Goedhuis himself and his assistant from London. They were, of course, charming people. The pamphlet provided by the gallery, “Chinese Contemporary Ink Art: Why Buy Now?” is an exemplary piece of cogent marketing, and makes most of the arguments I would make in favor of purchasing calligraphic work in general and from this gallery specifically.

And so, there is little left for me to say. A critic should not simply parrot the gallery; she should add something of her own, she should not pass on inferior ideas unworthy of the art they are linked to or regurgitate specious but stylized and prolix arguments that only serve to foist off an inferior product with fireworks and trendy mental gymnastics.

But there is an exception to every rule, and this is it. Mr. Goedhuis a rare man who is as good at writing about art as he is at curating, displaying, and selling it. Just read this pamphlet.

https://www.michaelgoedhuis.com/media/GoedhuisMedia/publications/publicationsDocuments/20151022143250_8whybuynow.pdf

Goedhuis makes a clear and compelling argument in favor of buying work by a handful of contemporary Chinese calligraphic artists. These arguments include the direction of the market, the annihilation of traditional Chinese architecture, the rise of China’s investor class, and culturally-specific value that is hidden only because of the distractibility and attraction to bright shiny objects that afflicts certain minds in the West.

Many people are frightened to buy art, because they don’t want to be taken advantage of or look like a fool or risk being seen as having bad taste. (Those who have truly awful taste are immune to this fear.) Art is expensive, art is personal, and there is a strange code that says we should tell inexperienced people that art is never to be purchased as an investment. But if you give no thought to the trajectory of the art’s value before you purchase it, you are failing to benefit from the mind-enhancing powers of art; just as Goedhuis asks the reader to  “… understand that art for the Chinese is part and parcel of their concept of morality and how to live one’s life and how to order society” I would further add, and ask, the buyer to understand that buying art is a cognitive development tool which requires deep thinking (get your mental workouts in) about the direction of human society. It is like placing your paper boat on a current.

–Moira Cue

An internationally recognized multi-media artist, Moira Cue attended the Master’s Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  A prolific artist, she resides in Los Angeles, with works in collections world-wide.

This content is (c). 2019, Moira Cue Multimedia, Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.

LA Art Show 2018

Review by Moira Cue 

Antuan Rodriguez Left or Right.

There may be a little personal bias going on, but this year—2018— was my favorite year at the LA Art Show. The modern, contemporary, art and design objects, China, jewelry and Old Masters sections were all combined into one open floor plan, with greatly widened aisles. The result was less elbow-to-elbow pushing and shoving and more room to breathe.  Additionally, gone were some of the more theatrical, over-the-top shock artists. With installations like Antaun’s “Left or Right,” and his partner Luce, there was a focus on healing.

Antuan Rodriquez is a Cuban artist whose installation of lightweight red punching bags allowed visitors to punch their favorite dictator. Along with notorious butchers, despots, serious control freaks, and murderers, the artist included the face of two recent Republican American presidents.  One of whom was extremely popular as a punching bag, in stark contrast to the many artists who were inspired in 2008 to create iconic, positive images of Barack Obama.

I met Antuan’s partner, Luce, in line near the espresso bar and again in front of two of my paintings which made a brief appearance at Bruce Lurie Gallery. I didn’t know they were part of the programming, but I was drawn to their all-white clothes and the gold temporary tattoos Luce was wearing on her face and below her clavicle. I described the positive intention of my paintings—to emanate abstract virtues and stimulate cross-cultural conversations—and Luce told me she was a medicine woman, and invited me to be a participant in a performance on Sunday, the closing day.

Participants in white chanted “om” and proceeded through the gallery to the punching bag installation, where we played Tibetan singing bowls, chanted some more, and then watched a man named Ceasar perform a Latino version of the whirling dervish dance, spinning on his head with a biker’s helmet on. The intention behind the performance was to offer an alternative to the aggression and male dominance symbolized by the punching bags.  (note: I do not believe Luce was listed separately in the programming, so I don’t know if I am correctly crediting her or her full name).  The piece was listed as a part of Antuan’s installation.

This was a year where women and people of color had a greater presence than in some previous shows, and that is definitely a positive and led to the opportunity to have some real conversations. Jane Szabo, a photographer and conceptual artist, chided me about my sky-high heels. I wasn’t even wearing them when we met, but carrying them while trekking with my flip flops. In years prior, I received odd looks for ‘not’ wearing them rather than direct comments that I should just ditch them entirely instead of soldiering on as long as possible. I’m glad she started a conversation because I was able to learn more about her work.

Szabo discussed with me photographs of objects that related to memory, aging, and loss. “I read a novel with a line that stood out to me,” she said. “The last thing your parents teach you is how to die.” Szabo is currently dealing with her parents’ aging as an emotional source of contrast in her still life. The work suggests domesticity and the passage of time with an intimate but ultimately inaccessible urgency. My favorite image is “Secrets” from the Family Matters series. It is a diary with a padlock, covered in rough grey stones. The image is iconic and powerful.

Another super cool artist I was able to meet was Chukes, an Altadena- based sculptor who was present with his wife Rhonda. I started up a conversation with Chukes about the work of one of his friends, Tim Washington; whose work utilizing found objects and kitsch (placed on the outer parameters of the gallery) is funky, whimsical, and yet deeply spiritual. Chukes’ figurative work I was fortunate to have described to me celebrates womanhood and exposes the psychological limitations placed on African-American men culturally as illusions. That is not to say that we don’t all have cultural expectations that can be harmful; it is to say that we are free to move beyond what is expected of us. If we realize we have the choice.

More LA galleries, and more downtown LA galleries, made strong showings this year. Chris Davies, director of Fabrik Projects, is not only running an art publication (Fabrik Magazine) but also made a very strong showing with the project space and a lot of consistent, great work. BG Gallery from Santa Monica was everywhere. And the quality of downtown LA galleries, which used to be spotty with a few bright lights, is becoming an undeniable force. Gallerist Renee Warren of Ren Gallery and Luke at Cordesa Fine Art were approachable, smart, and both located in DTLA. Cordesa had a tightly curated group of artists whose work was both conceptually and technically precise; I particularly enjoyed Martin Machado’s psychological aquatic landscapes with a contemporary psyche and an antique etched feel and the brightly colored wood relief sculpture of Sean Newport.  Ren Gallery had mandala-themed works on sale that caught my eye immediately on entering the hall from an artist named Aiseborn, who was creating a mural in residence on opening night.

On Wednesday night I met a woman named Chakra who also knew Aiseborn; she met him when he knocked on the door of their loft/commune and asked if he could tag their wall. Chakra discovered that Aiseborn was homeless, and the group decided to provide housing for Aiseborn for a year and a half. The artist is now in the Getty Museum collection and doing very well. His work also has a spiritual vibe, with titles like “purity” and figures that seem influenced by Mayan and Incan artifacts. Although he is a street artist, his work looks more like the socially conscious murals of the sixties and seventies than work inspired by graffiti and urban music.

Art All Ways represented smaller scale work by hot L.A. street artist Retna, along with a very popular installation of ceramic donuts by Jae Yong Kim and giant candy bars by artist Daniel Allen Cohen, who brought his adorable bulldog to sit at the booth one evening. Performance artist Pandemonia, outfitted head to toe like a plastic doll, attracted a lot of attention.

There was texture by ceramic artist Sharon Hardy, and neuroscience-inspired projects on empathy and synesthesia, and a ballpark with a trio of alternate selves; a Skid Row-inspired cast of characters in a staged postmodern reference to the Death of Marat, also titled Death of Marat, by Daniel Joseph Martinez, who was also in attendance Wednesday night and surrounded by curious patrons.
The newly discovered Gil Cuatrecasas work was prominently represented, with a highly professional team working to give the artist the support and recognition he deserved while he was still living but didn’t receive until later. I absolutely love this work.

The work that the gallerists do on behalf of artists is not easy, and often overlooked. One quality of a great art dealer is bonhomie—a general goodwill toward people—and spending more time at the Bruce Lurie Gallery this year, I was impressed by the Lurie brothers’ openness and general good nature toward the show attendees. It’s no wonder their booth was always full of people. Pop artist Nelson De La Nuez showed some new works on custom-made paper; created by the same folks who bring us spiral bound notebooks, but in a giant size. Andrea Bonfils showed highly technical mixed media works with a floral theme that looked like candy-colored floral holograms. Michael Gorman’s colorful, expressive work elicited a lot of interest, also.

I was excited to find the Paris-based Galerie Bruno Massa, exhibiting the work of Gilles Teboul. Teboul’s work was described in the gallery’s literature “in the purest archeiropoïetic tradition …. (a) Greek term (that) means ‘not made by the hand of man, miraculously.” The artist demonstrates mastery of the surface reflection through poured resin over gorgeous, crepuscular color fields of a halcyon dream. The entire collection clearly belonged in a museum.

On a final, upbeat note, the Lincoln Navigator on display was there not only to turn heads but to support St. Jude’s. For every person who gave her personal information, the company donated $50 to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital. And then they gave you a box of truffles—a sweet reward for a simple act of kindness.

Moira Cue is Art and Literature Editor for The Hollywood Sentinel, a fine artist, singer, songwriter, and actress who has appeared on numerous TV shows and major motion picture.  Visit the official Moira Cue website at www.MoiraCue.com 
This content is (c). 2018, Moira Cue, Hollywood Sentinel.   Contact Hollywood Sentinel at 310-226-7176.