A ‘Group Show’ Closes at L.A. Louver
By Genie Davis
The L.A. Louver Gallery just closed a stunning exhibition, simply titled Group Show. The simplicity of the title belies the importance of the artists, and the fact that each of them represents the gallery’s own history of showing them over a period that extends back 40 years. The artists include: Georg Baselitz, Tony Berlant, Wallace Berman, Tony Bevan, Kristin Calabrese, Rebecca Campbell, Alan Charlton, Tony Cragg, Toshikatsu Endo, Giuseppe Gallo, Charles Garabedian, David Hockney, Ben Jackel, Edward & Nancy Kienholz, R.B. Kitaj, John McCracken, Alison Saar, Katharina Sieverding, and Matt Wedel.
Here’s a look at a few of the standout pieces.
David Hockney is arguably the best known, or certainly the most recognizable artist in this collection. Here are two of Hockney’s “Yosemite Suite” drawings, and a recent photograph, “A Bigger Scrabble Players.” The Yosemite pieces are clean, clear images created in vibrant colors. There are more than 20 works in the artist’s full series, which he created on his iPad in 2010 and 2011. Hockney reproduced these works as large-format prints, both meditative and meticulous, yet awash in a blazing palette which almost seems lit from within. In “Untitled No. 14,” the white, skeletal form of a tree with green just starting to emerge from its branches takes center stage, with a full, thickly leafed tree to the left and a blackened dead tree to the right. It is an affirmation of life, its stages, carved from the hard-won purchase of a rocky cliff. It is well paired with “Untitled No. 3,” whose blue shadowed cliff tumbles into a sea of pine trees, another rock out cropping, and a jumble of juicy, lighter green branches. Both pieces speak to the fullness of nature, its variance.
Also in the exhibition is R.B. Kitaj, with his angular figurative painting the 1992 oil “Whistler vs. Ruskin (Novella in Terre Verte, Yellow and Red).” While the literal image references the 1924 George Bellows painting “Dempsey and Firpo,” and shows a knock-down boxing match, the title informs the viewer that it is a metaphorical piece, a visceral way to depict the libel suit between James Abbot Whistler and John Ruskin from 1878, in which old and new art aesthetics did figurative battle.
His figurative vibrance is well matched with Rebecca Campbell’s haunting 2011 “Stand and Deliver,” in which a female warrior emerges from the sea, wearing a holster and little else, three ships behind her. Hands raised as if she were holding a weapon – but she is not – she is aiming at a site unseen. Oil on canvas, this is a poetic and lush piece, bold of stroke, a storm in the sky and in the female character’s face and pose, a piece as full of curves and round fullness as Kitaj’s work is prismatic and defined.
The 1974 Charles Garabedian acrylic collage, “Adam and Eve,” depicts the two from the waist down, their upper torsos hidden in what appears to be a ruffle of cloud. Adam is turned toward Eve, Eve, legs pressed together appears to be waiting for his approach. Between them a column divides them, creating the effect of a Grecian or Roman image, rather than a depiction of the Biblical pair. Unlike Kitaj or Campbell, Garabedian’s work is not about flow or shape, but rather context.
Sculptor Toshikatsu Endo’s 1995 “Untitled (Ring of Chain)” is literally and figuratively a centerpiece of the show. Forming a minimalistic circle on the gallery floor, it serves as a metaphor for the work depicted in this exhibition overall: the art which has formed a circumference of material for the gallery, a retrospective that is inextricably linked in terms of aesthetic.
Witness monochromatic painter Alan Charlton’s “Painting in 20 Parts,” individual canvasses which together seem to form a kind of musical keyboard. Their tactile nature draws the eye and arrests the hand – a viewer wants to feel these weighty works, see if they create sound.
Equally mesmerizing and monochromatic is the work of sculptor Ben Jackel, whose 2014 helmet sculptures “Closed Burgonet”“Great Bascinet, ” created with stoneware and beeswax evoke images of warriors from Japanese samurai to Darth Vader. Jackel’s subject is war and its history, topics as weighty and weighted as his pieces, which look heavy as canon balls.
So what does this group show represent? A retrospective, yes, of L.A. Louver’s commitment to cutting edge art, an eye for the bold and the brave; but it also stands as a tribute to color and texture and emotion, feelings vibrating through every fiber of these works.
Watch for each of these artists to appear again in L.A. Louver exhibitions.