The first time you see “Death of a Clown” by artist Liz Craft, you can’t help but want to get up close to and examine it, to bear witness to its texture in detail, as if to confirm that the woman lying on the sofa is not real. You know its not a real person, you assume she’s not real, but a part of you thinks she could be, like those street performers who pretend to be statues. It could be a real person, lying deathly still, forezen underneath a thick coat of ghostly-pale make-up and improbable orange hair. And you can’t help but think of Sleeping Beauty. And of a character in a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. Unreal, yet rendered in three dimenions, life-sized, in the actual physical space of a gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
But this is a sculpture, an object. There is no performer.
Craft is a Los Angeles-based artist who runs the Paradise Garage art space and collective in Venice Beach. Her faux-naive sculptural objects and installations have a whimsical, fantasy quality, though, as in the case of “Clown,” there’s a sense of realism baked into the layer of dreamy, fantastical imagery. The colors beguile, at once bright and muted, at once like saturated and then over-exposed like some old polaroids discovered in a shoebox at a flea market.
We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.
The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.
While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.
It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums.
The artwork of Australian-Iraqi artist Toba Khedoori leaves a distinct impression. Her works are primarily finely detailed, photo-realistic pencil drawings in monochromatic lead or color on massive sheets of waxed paper. The drawings tend to be focused on discrete, single objects set in a vast emptiness — a chair, a fence, a door — or a piece removed from its larger architectural context — rows and rows of seats from a theater or, as in the example pictured here, a fireplace. It’s one of a series of drawings of fireplaces currently on view as part of her solo show at LACMA in Los Angeles. The drawing has a trompe l’oeil quality but has none of the cheap gimmickry of that anachronistic decorative conceit. Looking at the drawing from afar, it appears as if there’s an actual fireplace recessed into the gallery wall.
This colorful flurourescent-light sculptural object at San Francisco MoMA is a minimalist classic by the late artist Dan Flavin. Regular visitors to GlobalGraphica may have noticed that we’re suckers for minimalism (it’s true). Works like this really appeal to our sense of a lean, clean, pared aesthetic and the power of empty space. Like much of the work that marked the latter and better-known part of his artistic career, Flavin’s SF MoMA installation makes use of readymade materials — tubes and fluorescent lights — and is composed within site-specific architectural spaces.
Last weekend we went to Mercado Sagrado, a two-day festival-like event showcasing music, fashion, food, art and surf films held amid the small Old West movie-set town at Paramount Ranch near Malibu, California. There we stumbled upon some beautiful surfboards shaped and designed by Australian label Dead Kooks. The boards were laid out on display at the vendor tent of super awesome surf brand Kassia, one of dozens upon dozens of mostly clothing, home and lifestyle goods makers set up on the sprawling ranch property. The longboard pictured here looks like one Dead Kooks “Nausea” single-fin logs, a fitting board for Malibu. As surfers, we’re kind of in love with Dead Kooks’ aesthetic, though we have yet to buy one of their boards. Eventually, when we’ve put aside enough scrilla to cover the costs and shipping fees from Down Under, we’ll order a board.
The artwork of the late American conceptual and minimalist artist Sol LeWitt dominates the new mezzanine-level ticket lobby of the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). This massive, painted installation is titled “Loopy Doopy” and is another example of LeWitt’s use of bold color and lines in his body of work. The artwork is fresh and exuberant and its curva-linear lines compliment the clean geometric lines of the architecture.
The work of Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh explores many themes. Among these are the African diaspora and identity. A small exhibition of this work is currently on view at the exceptionally well-curated Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles. The show includes sculpture and an installation of an African-modeled thatched hut that houses a monitor displaying a video of a choreographed dance.