Half-Time at Studio System 2018
Torrance Art Museum
By Lawrence Gipe
Studio System 2018 is the brainchild of Max Presneill, the Torrance Art Museum’s director, curator and a dynamic impresario in the LA art world. One of Presneill’s themes as an organizer is an exploration into the nature of chemistry between artists. In his (now retired) series of MAS (Mutual Admiration Society) Attacks, he and a small team organized events that lassoed hundreds of artists together into pop-up parties that, by its sheer bulk, created a “slice” of the art in our time. This June, in the Studio System program, museum-goers are added to the equation – reflecting TAM’s “desire to bridge the gap between artistic practice and the public.”
First enacted in 2015, this is the second iteration of Studio System. Along with this writer, there are 12 other artists have been working during museum hours over the course of June: Jodi Bonassi, Chenhung Chen, Tom Dunn, Huo You Feng, Anna Garner, Debby and Larry Kline, Feng Ling (Carmine Zou), Hagop Najarian, Khang Hguyen, Samualle Richardson and Tyler Waxman. On June 1st, every artist was given a designated zone within the museum to fulfill their proposals, and as halftime approached, projects were shaping up. Along with accumulating (and in some cases destroying and re-building) material in their areas, the artists have been taking breaks to chat with the public as they tour the evolving exhibition.
Thanks to Hagop Najarian and Huo You Feng for additional photographs.
Social practice meets portraiture in Jodi Bonassi’s practice. In Studio System, Bonassi creates works that balance decorative and surreal elements with observational portrait painting – her impromptu models are often subjects that are attending the show. “For me,” she says, “painting and drawing everyday is my way of defining what I see, helping others to connect with me and themselves to make sense of it all”.
Born in Beigang, Taiwan, Chenhung Chen blends the linear sensibility of chinese calligraphy and AbEx with an array of recycled materials like electrical wire and components from disemboweled computers. Working steadily during Studio Systems, her installation has gradually sprawled outwards, engaging, as she puts it, “the meditative process, human internal structures and the transitional human condition”.
Tom Dunn’s exuberant abstractions harken back to the biomorphic creations of the COBRA era. Dunn, an Australian artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, describes his work as deriving from the subconscious and… characterized by grotesque attributes such as hybridity and metamorphosis.
Huo You Feng
Huo You Feng is visiting from China, where he instructs at a school that prepares students to get acceptance into the major Beijing Art Academies. While in his China-based studio he is working on lithography and an enormous version of the I Ching, his residency at TAM has allowed him the freedom to create a metaphoric installation.
Anna Garner is a multi-faceted artist and art writer, working in photography, video and mixed media. For TAM, she is developing a series that orbits around themes of bodybuilding, using herself as a model with weightlifters in pas-de-deux combinations. So far, she has used the Studio System mainly for research, with visuals to follow…
It’s been this writer’s great pleasure to be included in Studio System TAM with a project entitled “Cold War/Hot Summer”. At half-time, a 15 ft. charcoal drawing called “All the Missiles of 1959” was slowly crawling across the wall.
Feng Ling (Carmen Zou)
In a meditation on greed in society, Feng Ling opens up her space to visitors, offering them tea and conversation to emphasize generosity and social interaction. Each participant writes their name on the wall and becomes symbolized by a mark on a scroll, created by burning incense.
A native of Beirut, Najarian creates colorful visual soundscapes inspired by musical syncopations; during his first week, he was under the influence of Sun Ra. This current series is being brought up in layers of acrylic paint and gels, with a variety of interconnecting shapes and line components that have a Matisse-like sense of transparency.
Nguyen‘s series for Studio System are delicate metaphysical geometries, painstakingly plotted with pencil and painted with acrylic on board. Dreamy, yet precise, his formations seem to exist between the conscious and subconscious.
Richardson creates mixed media hybrids in fabric and wood that are purposefully handmade and “vulnerable” looking– in this latest series she is creating a flock of self-described “angry birds”. As she remarks: “my global encounters have fostered an appreciation for the timeworn and wounded, and I feel a kinship with those who salvage, repair, and re-purpose, human activities that exert a redemptive force instilling new life — making something whole that was lost”
Waxman’s project for Studio System evinces his continued interest in process, with an emphasis on an improvisational approach that combines multiple media. At half-time in TAM, Waxman is knee-deep in an expanding ceramics project, augmented by atmospheric abstractions in watercolor on hand-dyed papers.
Debby and Larry Kline
Debby and Larry Kline take on the social and environmental issues of the day in a variety of projects including Tiny Revolutions (pictured here) – small pencil on paper works that pack a big punch. A chalkboard on site lists the myriad pieces that are underway. Most evident in their space at halftime were large graphite drawings extending their collaborative work as artists in residence at San Diego’s Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, where they are “updating” the work of 19th-century ornithologist John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” portfolio.
The Torrance Art Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 11-5pm. The closing reception of Studio Systems II is Saturday June 30th 6-9pm
Thank you Larry Gipe for this well researched and thoughtful article. It’s been a pleasure sharing the studio with you!