BY Olivian Cha in Critic's Guides | 18 SEP 17

Critic’s Guide: Los Angeles

With PST LA/LA taking over the city, highlights from the corresponding gallery programme

BY Olivian Cha in Critic's Guides | 18 SEP 17

Juan José Gurrola, ‘1966–1989’, 2017, installation view, House of Gaga, Los Angeles. Courtesy: House of Gaga, Los Angeles 

Juan José Gurrola, ‘1966–1989’
House of Gaga
13 September – 18 November 2017

Presented by House of Gaga in the space they share with Reena Spaulings, three bodies of work by Mexican artist Juan José Gurrola provide a generous introduction to an overlooked yet critical figure whose trans-disciplinary practice makes for a compelling addendum to Mexico’s rich history of 20th century avant-garde art. Perhaps the most well-known of these works, Monoblock (1971), centres on a proprietary US automotive part that Mexican car manufacturers were forbidden to produce. Here, the formally elegant engine piece appears in a series of black and white Walker Evans-esque photographs and as a sculptural component inside an equally streamlined industrial refrigerator, which once served as the backdrop for a performance piece incorporating a trilingual (English, Spanish, Mime) reading of poetry inspired by Mexican mechanics. From Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire to Fluxus scores to minimalism and its industrial aesthetics, Gurrola’s expansive knowledge of modern and contemporary artistic strategies and movements often manifests in theatrical gestures, performative parody, humour, and quotation – a point further emphasized through the smart selection of archival materials that accompany the show.

Victoria Colmegna, ‘Super Senior Series: Schiller Schuller in Floral Selfhood Valley’, 2015, pastel, graphite, and pen on velvet and paper (commissioned portrait and original sketches by Jimmy Mathewuse, illustrator of the Sweet Valley High series book covers); glass, aluminium and PVC vitrine with lock-and-key, 67 x 91 x 10 cm. Courtesy: Park View, Los Angeles

Victoria Colmegna
Park View
28 October – 9 December 2017

Gen-x Angelenos will likely recall the lusty storylines and sherbet-hued paperback covers of Sweet Valley High – a Young Adult series of novels chronicling the histrionic lives of two teenage twin girls from ‘Sweet Valley, CA.’ Obsessed with the books as a child growing up in Buenos Aires, artist Victoria Colmegna initiated an epistolary relationship with the illustrator of the series, who sent her original sketches and proofs for the book covers. In turn, Colmegna sent him pictures of her life, later commissioning him to produce biographical portraits of the artist. Presented in glass-enclosed bulletin boards fashioned with lock and key sliding doors, each vitrine will house SVH sketches alongside drawings of Colmegna’s transformative experiences as a teen punk and later as an art student at the Städelschule in Germany. While the artist’s appropriative injection of self into the ideated (all white) fiction of American adolescence could be read as post-pubescent nostalgia, the strange collage might also be framed as attempts to reclaim, or subvert, historical modes of pop cultural representation for more personal, and perhaps political, ends.

Pedro Friedeberg, Tetragrammoebius, 2017, acrylic, ink and gold leaf on wood, 77 x 84 x 2 cm. Courtesy: M+B, Los Angeles 

Pedro Friedeberg,‘Tetragrammoebius’
23 September – 28 October 2017

Best known for his iconic Mano Silla – a surrealist cupped-hand chair, first designed in 1962 – Pedro Friedeberg has also maintained a prolific artistic practice that extends beyond design and furniture into visually stunning paintings, prints, and mixed media works. Born in Florence to German parents of Jewish descent, the artist fled Europe for Mexico City with his parents during World War II. While Friedeberg claims he is an atheist, many of his paintings and prints are filled with iconography and symbols evoking Catholicism, Hinduism, Aztec codices and signs of the occult in dense ornamental compositions that are hallucinatory in effect. The portmanteaux title of his exhibition – which combines the words tetragram (a word of four letters) and moebius (a surface with only one side and one edge) – hints to his cryptic, if not surrealist, approach to form and belief. 

David Lamelas, ‘Time as Activity’, 2017, installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. Courtesy: Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles; photograph: Robert Wedemeye

David Lamelas, ‘Time as Activity (1969-2017)’
Sprüth Magers
7 September – 21 October 2017

Presented in tandem with David Lamelas’s first US monographic exhibition (opening at the University Art Museum at Cal State University Long Beach) is the Argentinean artist’s ongoing series, ‘Time as Activity’. Begun in 1969, the decades-spanning project provides a cinematic record of numerous European and American cities the artist visited between 1969–2017. Sprüth Magers’ exhibition includes eleven of these works including the series’ earliest 16mm film, Time As Activity Dusseldorf (1969), and the most recent, Time as Activity, Athens-Berlin, live (2017) – a brilliant three-channel video comprised of ‘live’ television feeds depicting the parliaments of Berlin and Athens on two digital monitors that bookend a third ‘live’ stream of the Parthenon. A formal and philosophical study of time, Lamelas’s ongoing and open-ended project also conveys a profound understanding of the more nuanced technological shifts in media and the always-tenuous acts of both reception and mediation. An exhibition of Lamelas’s architectural work is also on view across town at Maccarone Gallery.

AD Minliti, Geo Mutants (eyes/legs), 2017, acrylic on wall, dimensions variable. Courtesy: Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles

Cherry & Martin
12 September – 4 November 2017

Another younger Argentinean artist, AD Minoliti, will be making her Los Angeles debut with an exhibition of paintings that continue to engage with the forms and concerns of architecture and design. Heavily influenced by the Brazilian and Argentinean Concrete Art movement of the ’40s–’60s, the underlying themes of Minoliti’s works surround questions of perception, gender, and queer theory yet the artist treats these headier subjects with an almost child-like playfulness and levity. Painted with a saccharine pastel palette, innocuous creatures and eye-adorned legs cover the walls of the gallery cohering the two bodies of work on view. Even the flat, graphic geometric abstractions that are constant motifs in her images are treated as living forms, dancing amidst the Schulman photographed interiors of iconic modernist homes, as in her series of ‘Case Study House’ paintings (2015), or anthropomorphically positioned as conscious agents in the gallery, as in the two paintings from her ‘Cyborg’ series that sit on tasseled couches ‘watching’ a video made by artist friend Zadie Ha.

ProyectosLA, 2017 installation view

1667 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
20 September – 28 October 2017

‘El Eje del Mal’
Ruberta LA
10 September – 22 October 2017

proyectosLA and Ruberta LA are two newly conceived projects responding to Getty’s PST LA/LA initiative with a collaborative approach to their exhibitions. Organized by curators and resembling an art fair model, the former boasts a 20,000 square-ft converted downtown LA warehouse and VIP tours. Lasting six weeks, the painfully topical theme cohering the works, ‘Here, the border is you,’ is also the literal directive for the exhibition’s physical installation: artworks are presented with #nowalls to separate the artists of the 20 or so galleries participating, which include OMR, joségarcía, and Nara Roesler among others.

Ruberta LA, exterior view

In contrast, Ruberta LA – which takes place in a modestly sized garage located in an alley in the industrial part of Glendale – will present a year-long programme with each of the five galleries presenting individual exhibitions during their occupancy. ‘El eje del mal’ (The axis of evil) is the space’s first offering with works by artists from all five galleries. Littered with melted ice cream cone sculptures on the floor and empty pill bottle murals on the wall, the show assimilates almost seamlessly with it surrounds. Unsurprisingly, these two distinct models seem to reflect certain trends already present in the city’s commercial art landscape: manufacturing the highly-branded shine of post-industrial spectacle or the independent necessity of exhibiting art wherever you can afford to. 

Regina Jose Galindo, Desierto (Desert), 2015, photograph, 41 x 51 cm. Courtesy: the artist

‘Bearing Witness: Regina José Galindo’
Baik Art
9 September – 28 October 2017

Internationally exhibited but virtually unknown to most North American audiences, Regina José Galindo might be considered a Latin American counterpoint to figures like Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, and Barbara T. Smith – LA artists known for exploring the physical limits of their bodies through performance. The visceral, and often unsettling, performances are presented here in an exhibition of video, photography and sculpture. Made between 2000–17, these works offer a rather brutal articulation of the central questions and themes underlying Galindo’s practice: namely, surrounding political sovereignty and its power over life and death, particularly in relation to the traumatic realities of war in her native country of Guatemala. A performance by the artist and a closing dialogue with Alma Ruiz will both take place in October. (See the website for more details.)

Pacific Standard Time: LA / LA runs across various venues and institutions in Los Angeles from September 2017 – January 2018.

For more current shows in the city, head over to On View.

Main image: Pedro Friedeberg, Espacio libre de humo (detail), 2016, ink on wood, and ink and acrylic on paper, 67 x 67 cm. Courtesy: M+B, Los Angeles

Olivian Cha is a curator and critic based in Los Angeles.