1700 South Santa Fe: Art Gains a Foothold
Vielmetter Los Angeles and Nicodim Gallery
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
On a gritty stretch of Santa Fe Avenue, south of the Santa Monica Freeway, there are new signs of life amidst the industrial warehouses and factories. Only a few years ago, the neighborhood seemed poised to be the next art outpost with CB1, Rosamund Felsen and Durden and Ray taking up residence. But when they either closed up shop or moved in quick succession it seemed an unlikely place for redevelopment until Susanne Vielmetter relocated from Culver City to great fanfare late last year. Now Nicodim has followed suit, exchanging their Anderson Street location for this former tire factory. The renewed interest was felt on September 7 when both galleries ushered in the fall season with three well-attended shows that should bring hope to artists and gallerists, alike.
Nick Aguayo in his show, Wake the Town and Tell the People, fills the newly expanded Vielmetter gallery with his signature painted pop collages. Individually they are confident and possess a simple gusto, and collectively they resonate in harmony. Showing eighteen out of the sixty paintings that he completed over the last two years, Aguayo manages to find plenty of interest and variety within his arsenal of geometric shapes, textures and colors. His jumbled arrangements look as if they were tossed down in a game of Pick-Up-Sticks and this seemingly random quality works in his favor, keeping them fresh and playful.
Aguayo manipulates circles, stripes, emblems and grids to create an immediacy that is perhaps the paintings’ greatest attribute. This “POW!” effect is achieved partly through the use of loosely rendered shapes with unrefined edges and the use of broken color, and partly through the simulation of collage, even though they are painted rather than assembled. It is an exuberant style, especially effective in his large canvases, such as “What doesn’t add up, adds up”. With a limited palette, Aguayo emphasizes placement rather than nuances of shape and color, and although he doesn’t traffic in subtleties they are very particular in respect to composition and rhythm. He also employs a luscious matte surface by adding marble dust to his acrylic paint, and the thick, uneven textures bring the artist’s hand to the forefront. His work embraces the iconography of signage and advertising, and they never take themselves too seriously. Agauyo promotes an optimistic view and his joy in painting is palpable. Where he will take these is anybody’s guess, but in the meantime, Wake the Town and Tell the People is worth shouting about.
In a separate, adjacent space, Vielmetter is hosting a second show. The light touch is a group show featuring Math Bass, Sadie Benning, Linda Besemer, Sarah Cain, Iva Gueorguieva, Caitlin Lonegan, Yunhee Min and Monique Van Genderen. The show is organized around a quote from Helen Frankenthaler, “The light touch is often the strongest gesture of all”. A few standouts include Gueorguieva’s phenomenal painting, Placenta and Sadie Benning’s strong resin paintings, “Blow Up #19” and “Blow Up #16”. It could be argued that neither artist employs a light touch, but the strength of their work is, in Gueroguieva’s case, a hedonistic relationship to the physicality of paint and its possibilities, and in Benning’s work, a straightforward and concrete tactile experience.
Making an auspicious start next door, Nicodim features Moffat Takadiwa for their first show in the new building. The artist is from Zimbabwe and this represents his first solo exhibition in the United States. Son of the Soil is an entrancing exhibit. Takadiwa makes wall hangings from non-conventional materials, in particular the consumer waste of the West found in Zimbabwe’s landfills. His undulating tapestries of garbage have a weight and mélange of textures that comes from repurposed materials as he transforms common objects into artworks of great beauty and terrible significance.
From afar, Takadiwa’s wall hangings might be confused for textiles, as glamorous and over the top as any Bob Mackie beaded gown. They are woven and drape under the weight of their components but instead of luxurious fabrics, they are like colorful chain mail for our modern times. The colors are as varied as the refuse he integrates and range from bold primary hues to extremely subtle pinks, whites and grays. He is able to eke out an organic quality from manmade items such as toothbrushes, plastic bottle caps, computer keyboard keys and toothpaste tubes, and they are so well integrated that one notices their “provenance” only under close inspection.
Besides their undeniable visual appeal, the artist also raises awareness of the problems of excess across the globe. Takadiwa makes a case against the flotsam and jetsam of colonialism; that he can make beautiful objects from wasteful and harmful practices is a wondrous type of alchemy and at the same time, a much needed reflection upon our global and personal responsibilities.
Vielmetter Los Angeles,
1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101, Los Angeles, 90021
Wake the Town and Tell the People
September 7- October 19, 2019
The light touch
September 7- October 19, 2019
1700 S Santa Fe Avenue, #160, Los Angeles, 90021
Son of the Soil
September 7 – October 19, 2019