From Pangs to Pangolins at Shulamit Nazarian
Curated by Trenton Doyle Hancock
Through July 14
By Lorraine Heitzman
It should come as no surprise that Shulamit Nazarian’s group exhibition, From Pangs to Pangolins, is a comic and wry look at the world; these are the same qualities most often associated with curator Trenton Doyle Hancock’s own imaginative work. The Houston native’s affinity for cartoonish narratives is apparent in almost every selection, from those artists he knows personally to those he has admired from afar. In this diverse mix of artists culled from his private life and social media, he has also included better-known artists, such as David Hockney, Mike Kelley and Llyn Foulkes. Regardless of his or her age, fame or anonymity, each artist’s work resonated with Hancock while addressing the theme of his show.
Hancock explained his curatorial intent (and the title), saying that he was drawn towards artists who have tried to make sense of their adolescence and who playfully envision their world. Adolescence, he believes, encapsulates the time in life when you are trying to fit in, but also embodies the potentiality of growth. In his inimitable way, he sees artists as Pangolins, weird, odd creatures who make up their own worlds. The pangs they feel are real, but like pangolins, they have a system of defense. In the case of artists, that defense is found in their art.
Zoe Hawk’s paintings are vivid reminders of the pains of growing up and the feelings of isolation in forming one’s identity. Homecoming depicts a row of girls in formal dresses lined up beside a pool. One girl has collapsed in place, seemingly ignored. With the serenity disturbed, Hawk creates sympathy for all girls bordering on womanhood who are subject to expectations beyond their control. Cassiopeia, is a more forthright image of girls in a school setting, reminiscent of instructional posters. It appears iconic and stereotypical, but the details are quirky and anything but normal. All three paintings read like allegorical tales, idyllic in appearance but unsettling beyond our immediate understanding.
Nathan Margoni similarly captures the angst of adolescence. More Mad Magazine than surreal, his exacting paintings show a childhood fraught with insecurity and anger. The attention to detail is so heightened that every nerve of the young boys’ fragile psyches seems exposed. Despite the force of these feelings, there is nevertheless a comic attitude underlying these hyper-real paintings, allowing the viewer to empathize as well as identify with these universal experiences and emotions.
In contrast to the more common references to adolescent angst, JooYoung Choi’s paintings take a different tack; they are vibrant and bombastic, incorporating text, and even video, into the work. Using formats from comic books to video games, Choi layers paper cutouts and plywood shapes to create her all-encompassing world that explodes with child-like exuberance.
Also on the sunnier side, are David Hockney’s iPhone and iPad prints. These simple observations of overlooked moments look effortless but are drawn with the same clear-sighted optimism that he is known for. In the gallery installation, Christopher Chiappa’s three painted, wood sculptures speak to Hockney’s work, giving them a playfulness that might have been missed otherwise. His two colorful sculptures especially work in this context, reading like drawn lines realized in three dimensions.
Cheyenne Julien’s black and white ink drawings are deceptively simple. Her wonderfully captured characters are expressive and provide a nice segue to Mike Kelley’s ink on paper works. Kelley, always one to mine his past, is represented by four small drawings from 1983 that demonstrate his skill in mixing a messy naivety with deep, and often painful, memories. Llyn Foulkes’ He’ll Always Be Here, is a wonderful, autobiographical painting that brings out his sarcastic wit. A Los Angeles treasure, Foulkes combines his formidable painting skills with his humor to great effect.
Trenton Doyle Hancock has curated a show that is entertaining as well as meaningful. Besides serving as an introduction to some remarkable emerging talent, From Pangs to Pangolins acknowledges that art is a coping mechanism that benefits not only the artist, but the viewer, too.
Artists: Christopher Chiappa, JooYoung Choi, Llyn Foulkes, Zoe Hawk, David Hockney, Cheyenne Julien, Mike Kelley, and Nathan Margoni
616 N la Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90036
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm