The Best Shows to See During Frieze Los Angeles

From Trulee Hall's lustful science fiction at François Ghebaly to William Brickel's uncanny domestic figures at Michael Kohn Gallery

BY Claudia Ross in Critic's Guides | 29 FEB 24

Trulee Hall / François Ghebaly / 22 February – 30 March

Trulee Hall, She Shells (Painting), 2024, acrylic, oil, and collage on panel, 185.5 × 243 × 6.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery; photograph: Paul Salveson

In Trulee Hall’s absurdist universe, sad Zoomers, horny alligators, deviant popsicles and clay octopi (also horny) explore – and transcend – the discrepancies between fantasy and actuality. A quadrant of installations, each with an accompanying video work, structures the exhibition; these fantastical sets lead the viewer through a topsy-turvy beach day gone wrong – or right. In the video She Shells (2024), paired at François Ghebaly with mounted animatronic birds and a fake coastline, a teenager attempts to have an oceanside photoshoot. Foiled by bloodthirsty seagulls and itchy sand, the young heroine and her Claymation double recount their woes in autotuned song. The resulting video is self-consciously odd and comedic, like some strange mixture of The Lonely Island and Wallace and Gromit (1989–ongoing). Hall’s wall-based, multimedia works feature female figures locked in sexual embraces with nonhuman partners, each body rendered in bright, textured paint with eyes cut-out from magazines. Here, attachments to specific forms of desire can be painful, but their pursuit yields relationships and aesthetics marked by an unconventional, satisfying hybridity. 

Joseph Olisaemeka Wilson / Vielmetter Los Angeles / 10 February – 23 March

Joseph Olisaemeka Wilson, Our Masked Hero Riding ‘A Gut Feeling’ Holding a Pitchfork , 2023, oil on linen, 1.9 × 1.6 m. Courtesy: the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles

‘I am a man of war!’ The fictional Field General Wali Wallace exclaims at the beginning of the press release to Joseph Olisaemeka Wilson’s debut solo exhibition at Vielmetter. ‘Calm has flooded my neural pathways!’ The General’s distinct voice, which appears both in press materials and in a short audio work (Live from the Front Lines, 2024), establishes the frenetic and comic tone of Wilson’s dense, layered oil paintings. Here, the eccentricity and violence of war mingle: Our Masked Hero Riding ‘A Gut Feeling’ Holding a Pitchfork (2023) depicts a decorated Black general perched precariously atop a struggling horse – not helped, presumably, by the numerous medals and weapons that add to the rider’s weight. We No Longer Have Eyes (2023) shows a painful evolution of the war machine: the small canvas displays a hybrid creature – a fighter jet mixed with a shark or bird. The drone is nearly illegible amidst the artist’s frenzied brushwork, but what lies on the receiving end of its wrath is clear: Wilson sketches a city below, its windows bright with life. 

Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio / The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA / 12 November 2023 – 16 June 2024

Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio, Detail of prefossilized amber embedded with found objects, which will be used in a new artwork specially commissioned by MOCA. Courtesy: © Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles and Mexico City; photograph: Paul Salveson

A resin mass seeps across the floor of a large alcove at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary, moulded by Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio to mimic the shape of El Playon, a lava field where El Salvador’s former president, José Napoleón Duarte, famously discarded the remains of citizens assassinated during his regime in the 1980s (601 sq. ft. for El Playon, 2023). The transparent, gel-like material encases a surprising collection of artefacts: frozen alongside each other in amber-coloured goo are a small, bare bone of a dog or a goat, a Nike shoe and a nearly illegible, handwritten receipt. This emotive, ad hoc archive is an apt introduction to the research-based material processes that mark Aparicio’s work: his ‘Caucho (Rubber)’ series (2016–ongoing) features casts of ficus trees – a non-native species originally from Central America, where it was harvested by colonists for rubber – slated for removal by the city. In Aparicio’s casts, staples from old flyers, spray-paint and carved lines appear interspersed with the thin, striated bark of the ficus, forming an unconventional map of overlooked communal and ecological histories. 

‘David Hammons’ / 7th Avenue Garden / 29 February – 3 March

JOAN and David Horvitz, photograph of the garden at nighttime, 2024. Courtesy: JOAN, Los Angeles

In a vacant lot in Mid City sits 7th Avenue Garden, a project that originated when a home next to artist and curator David Horvitz’s studio burned down. Horvitz approached the lot’s original owner with an idea: to build a community garden that could serve as a site for art events. This year, the garden will host works by 30 artists – including LA favourites like Carmen Argote, Asuka Hisa and Shana Lutker – assembled by Horvitz and non-profit exhibition space JOAN. Their curation is inspired by a story Horvitz heard from a neighbour: that the artist David Hammons sold Styrofoam balls on nearby Crenshaw Boulevard in the 1970s. It’s a tale which, if true, provides an LA precedent for Hammons’s well-known New York-based performance, Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983). Hammons himself is not included in the exhibition, a cheeky gesture that comes on the heels of Horvitz’s previous show in the garden, held during last year’s Frieze LA, an unsanctioned exhibit titled ‘André Cădere’, which the artist’s estate requested Horvitz shut down. (He didn’t.)

Hings Lim / Grand Central Art Center / 3 February – 12 May

Hings Lim, At Night (Santa Ana’s Chinatown), 2023, ‘Specter in the Gate’, 2024. Courtesy: the artist and Grand Central Art Center

In 1906, the Santa Ana fire department burned down the city’s Chinatown, evicting hundreds of immigrants originally brought from China to construct the city’s railroad. Little evidence of the crime – or the lost community – exists in public record, an archival gap that multidisciplinary artist Hings Lim explores in his debut institutional exhibition, ‘Specter in the Gate’. Digital technology offers an eerie solution to historical absences: At Night (Santa Ana’s Chinatown) (2023) reimagines the evening of the fire by combining painstaking research with AI-generated video. No images exist of the original, early 20th century Chinatown residents, a dearth Lim addresses in photographic collages that display ghostly, AI-generated pictures of what they might have looked like – their facial features left undefined by the glitchy tool – over found photographs of early 20th century white Santa Ana residents. Lim’s ‘false’ images and videos highlight the biases and untruths of historical record, creating an alternative archive that implies its own fallibility in the process.

William Brickel / Michael Kohn Gallery / 20 January – 2 March

William Brickel, The Pink Room, 2023, oil on linen, 2.3 × 2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

William Brickel depicts contorted male figures – mid-fist fight, dance or flirtation – in compressed domestic spaces, his muted palettes evoking restrained, artificial atmospheres that carry echoes of 16th century Italian mannerism. Brickel’s compositions conjure the emotionally illegible dramas that emerge from awkward, painful human entanglements. In Curtain Two Figures (2023), for instance, one man shoves aside a red drape to reveal another crouched behind, both figures’ postures and actions unreadable. The stakes rise in Two Figures Table (2023), in which a blonde male thrusts a boxing glove toward another huddled body, his back and head swivelled away from view. These cramped, ambiguous settings recall the realities of recent pandemic lockdowns without ceding to their cliches; here, domestic life feels appropriately violent and strange.

Kate Mosher Hall / Hannah Hoffman / 17 February – 23 March

Kate Mosher Hall, Squeeze wax, 2024, acrylic, flashe, charcoal, colour pencil on canvas, 2.3 × 2.1 m. Courtesy: the artist and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

Technically, Kate Mosher Hall’s medium is silkscreen, but that descriptor alone fails to encompass the multimedia examinations – and examinations of media – for which she is known. Paintings on view utilize film stills from Mosher Hall’s childhood videotapes, photographs of her laptop screen and found advertisements – images that she then manipulates and obscures using silkscreen, Photoshop, paint or charcoal. Narratives emerge and recede, masked behind shapes that evoke contemporary processes of looking, either on ‘the feed’ or IRL. Squeeze wax (2024) features three rectangles reminiscent of sideways phone screens that display a fragmented domestic scene, the action cut off by each square’s frame. The devices meant to illuminate our visual world are often the first to manipulate it: in Moon mesh (2024), silkscreened circles that resemble spotlights interpolate an image of the night sky, revealing only hints of the actual landscape beyond.

Main image: Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio, Detail of prefossilized amber embedded with found objects, which will be used in a new artwork specially commissioned by MOCA. Courtesy: © Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles and Mexico City; photograph: Paul Salveson

Claudia Ross is a writer from Los Angeles, USA. Her fiction and criticism have appeared in ArtReview, The Baffler, The Paris Review, VICE and others.