The artwork of Los Angeles-based American artist Sam Durant has often addressed social, political and cultural issues in bold ways. His work titled “End White Supremacy” was recently added to the collection of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The lettering style of this direct, unequivocal message was inspired by the hand-written sign carried by an American civil-rights protester in the 1960s. Durant put these words on the type of backlit commercial signage one sees at businesses and strip malls everywhere. The work amplifies a message of activism through the medium of business and advertising.
“Clear Air Turbulence” is Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birch’s monumental sculptural installation at his “14th Factory” exhibition in Los Angeles. The artwork is a rectangular black pool planted with the wings and tail fins salvaged from various old airplanes parked out in the Mojave desert at the so-called “airplane graveyard.” At first glance, these aircraft parts appear like the fins of giant sharks or whales lurking just beneath the surface of the water.
Pictured here is artist David Flores’s super-Instagrammable and super-cute mural depicting the classic comicstrip characters Calvin and Hobbes at the Dangerbird Records building in Los Angeles. There’s a mashup of graphic visions at play here. Flore’s work has a impressionistic illustrative style that relies on strong clean lines that organize the surfaces of his subjects into panels in various hues of a thematic color. The challenge here is rendering that style on popular characters that have an established and easily recognizable graphic identity. Calvin and Hobbes are drawn in a style by Bill Waterson, their original creator, that is distinct. Flores has managed to faithfully render Waterson’s characters and style and yet bring his recognizable aesthetic to the artwork.
Cacti, like the illustrated tri-color cactus pasted onto this dumpster, dot Southern California’s natural desert landscape from Coachella to Mexico to the coastline of Santa Barbara and e eruwhete in between. So it’s fitting that street art depicting this resilient desert plant would dot the urban landscape of Los Angeles. The one on the dumpster in the pic above is in LA’s Arts District, an area that until recent gentrification was a kind of urban desert.
Like a shiny extra-terrestrial bobble tucked into the foothills above Palm Springs, “Mirage” by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken is among the most striking contemporary-art experiences of 2017. It’s probably the unofficial rockstar of Desert X, an inaugural exhibition of site-specific artworks mostly in the form of installations and sculptural objects spread across the desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.
“Mirage” is a literal house of mirrors. Its loose architectural form is a single-story ranch house in a nod to the region’s traditional housing style. But it’s a ranch house with a shape augmented by contemporary touches – a skylight, a balcony, a window-less chamber.
All that architecture is just a platform for Aitken’s bold visual statement and its main feature: The mirrored surfaces of the house inside and out. The exterior walls, and interior walls and ceilings, are mirrors reflecting the desert landscape outside and multiplying the reflections inside like a silverlight echo chamber. It is not enough to look at it.
Walking through “Mirage” is to be entranced by the unceasing play of light from every angle and reflective pane and by the all the possibilities in reframing your view of the bright desert outside through the house’s many windows
In her body of work, Los Angeles artist Liz Craft has created some fascinating and evocative sculptural objects that have death and the human form at the thematic center. In fact, a couple of notable works from her that have been shown in Los Angeles museums the past year have “death” in the title. One is the powerful and darkly comic “Death Rider,” recently on view at the Hammer Museum and pictured in this post. The other exhibitied last year at LACMA is “Death of a Clown,” which you can see here.