Made in LA 2014: The Hammer Biennial | A Review
If you're new to my blog, my website, my online presence, then let me take a second to introduce myself to you: Hi! My name is Alexia Denyce Lewis, I'm almost 32 years old, and I'm a practicing artist and a geek to the max about it. I can sit and talk for hours about contemporary art, the Los Angeles art world, my favorite artist ever (Kara Walker), and my own career goals. I hope your belly is full and that you've got your favorite drink in your hand, 'cause I'm about to wax somewhat poetic.
Yes. My middle name is Denyce. Don't be jealous.
For those of y'all who already knew, thank you for your patience. You may have noticed by now that while I'm a critical thinker and writer, I don't waste time here discussing artists, shows, shops, and styles that I don't already "like". My time is precious, and good writing about what inspires me is worth every second of it. That being said, I also do not want to contribute to the thoughtless fluff that already permeates our precious internet. So even though my review of the Hammer Biennial (several thumbs up!!!) will be a summation of my favorites, I will continue in the tradition I've started with past posts by really outlining *why* my favorite works in the exhibition tickled me so pinkly. Feel free to disagree with me; taste is a subjective thing.
I've often said that there's a certain je ne sais quoi about Los Angeles that makes it more hospitable beginning an art career than other cities are. Berlin is the only other place I can think of that compares, it's just that there's no beaches there. Because of that certain something in the air here, LA is a magnet for artists of all stripes and talents, and with that comes a lot of mediocrity. In my opinion, a good 80% of art being shown and promoted here - both "outsider" and "legit" - is complete and utter bullshit. But man oh man does that last 20% make up for it. In the Hammer Biennial, I feel that co-curators Karin Higa and Michael Ned Holte did as a complete a job that could be done with such a monumental task: the assemblage of a summary show that truly represents a range of artistic talent present LA. I visited the museum twice to really take it all in; the following are the artists/projects that made a lasting impression on me. Click on the images for more info about the projects.
Marcia Hafif: Shade Paintings
Very conceptual. Which floats my boat. Hafif's paintings are a contemplation and deconstruction of painting as a medium, and you can view four groupings at the biennial. They remind me of a painting assignment back in my "Design Essentials" class in college - lots of squares and stripes, lots of color mixing, lots of deliberate thought. Walking into the gallery that these paintings are hung in brought me back into that mental space of exploration and deliberation. Color theory is a near-obsession of mine, so being physically surrounded by the manifestations of the thoughtful use of color made me want to set up camp in the gallery, naked, with a fruity cocktail. I may not have needed to tell y'all that, but I want to be honest.
Samara Golden: Thank You
My first thought as I walked into this installation was "This is literally everything." And it is. It's mirrors and it's infinite regression and it's a videocamera looking at you and it's an old TV hooked up to the videocamera. It's paper 3D glasses that you use to look at paper 3D watches and paper 3D masks that cover dolls seated stadium-style in our 3D world. It's pretty playful, is what it is. I love it when artists are not afraid to invite viewers to interact physically with their work. It takes balls. This is an iteration of a project that's been going on for a while, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Golden shapes its trajectory over time.
Kim Fisher: Magazine Paintings
In your youth, did you ever tear or cut out your favorite models and fashion styles from Vogue and Seventeen and Glamour and Cosmo? I didn't, but I wanted to, but I couldn't because there's just something about ripping into the middle of a page that always felt too transgressive. Will kids in the future have any pages to rip into? I was struck by Kim Fisher's "paintings" because I felt like I was looking at the memorial of a dying medium: print. It's been on my mind a lot lately, and I've had conversations with people about the slow decline of printed magazines: I'm over here trying to earn money by freelancing as an editorial art director, and yet I know that no one is trying to invest upwards of $25K per shoot on fashion stories in the digital space. It's cool how that these paintings clarified for me what had been running along in the background of my brain - I couldn't quite put my finger on it at first.
Wu Tsang: A day in the life of bliss
I've been taking note of Wu Tsang's work for a while, and this video installation has had me in full fangirl mode for a month now. It's a video installation on continuous play in a dark room, with bean bags for you to flop on to properly experience the whole thing. It's a non-traditional narrative/commentary on how our "real" lives are slowly being bisected and taken over by our digital lives. I'd say more, but there really is no point because I'm just going to butcher it. "A day in the life of bliss" is an experience, and when you visit the Hammer during the biennial you should make it a point to experience it for yourself. Love love love love love.
Made in LA is showing until September 7th @ The Hammer Museum; admission is free