45 years of LA Louver

Edward & Nancy Kienholz, My Country Tis of Thee, 45 at 45, LA Louver; Image courtesy of the gallery

LA Louver: 45 at 45

LA Louver, Los Angeles
through January 16, 2021

Written by Nancy Kay Turner
Celebrating their 45 years as a gallery whose mission it has been to champion Los Angeles artists, LA Louver has mounted its largest exhibit ever, bringing together in a newly renovated and expanded space forty- five artists who the gallery represents, has shown or whose work is admired.

This lively wide-ranging exhibit in a clean, well-lit space makes it a joy to view the diverse artists on display here. The exhibit is a virtual smorgasbord of art history, encompassing the conceptual grandfather of them all, Marcel Duchamp, to Beat generation artist Wallace Berman, narrative painter Rebecca Campbell, conceptual sculptor Jimmie Durham, the psychologically incisive portraiture of Alice Neel, and the ever-timely politically trenchant assemblage of Ed and Nancy Kienholz, to name just a few of the artists here in the largest space in the first gallery.

The vintage, iconic “My Country Tis of Thee”, 1991, mixed media assemblage, 101 x 56 x 37, is classic Kienholz and one I must admit to never having seen before. Tightly composed, starring a quartet of older, white balding men in power rallying around the American flag while literally jerking each other off as they go round and round like a carousel. Covered with the trademark Kienholz translucent dripping gooey substance (here suggesting semen), this is as forceful an indictment of men in power doing absolutely nothing as I have ever seen and sadly is still relevant.

What is notable about the work shown here is how often it references the tide of art history and relates to seminal works by older artists. Jimmie Durham’s piece, “Untitled #2 (JD 189)”, 1995, dirt, human hair on sheep hair, 32 ½ x 27 1/2inches, recalls Joseph Beuys Felt Suit from 1995. If the suit makes the man, what to make of this jacket, covered in dirt and sheep hair? In this political and partisan time, we can all seem like sheep, following our fearless leader or trying to oust him. There are echoes of Los Angeles Light and Space artists of the sixties and seventies, especially with the ethereal blow-molded acrylic piece by Gisela Colon, “Hyper Ellipsoid (Barium Copper)”, 2019, 90 x 42 x 12 inches, which seems to glow with an iridescent interior light. It is placed opposite an open door and the bright California light streaming in dances across its surface.

There are many works in ceramics here, all quite different in style, technique and intention. Matt Wedel’s figurative sculpture, “Wonderers”, 2020, glazed terra cotta, 28 x 23 x 16, inconspicuously placed in the stairwell, is reminiscent of the Bay Area ceramicists such as Jim Arneson (surface treatment) and Ruby Neri (glaze brushstrokes and abstracted forms). Tia Pulitzer’s striking pastel lilac bunny entitled “Hesperus is Phosporous Hare”, 2020, fired clay and automotive paint, 70 x 70 x 15 ½ inches, does bring to mind the elegantly kitsch sculptures of Jeff Koons. Eduardo Sarabia, “History of the World, (Consolidated) #2”, ceramic on wood and steel shelving various sizes; overall dimensions 102 ½ x 36 ½ x 22 ½, blends stacks of traditional wheel-thrown forms decorated in the blue and white of both Ming Dynasty and Dutch Delft ceramics with contemporary narrative imagery and text, while commenting on ceramics as consumer products as well as vessels for trading.

Both dramatic sculptures by Alison Saar and Nick Cave on the second floor of the gallery steal the show with their politically provocative and visually powerful works. Saar’s life size figurative sculpture entitled “Torch Song”, 2020, wood, copper, ceiling tin, enamel paint, leather belts, and vintage piano keys 72 x 22 x 36 inches, is simply stunning and engages the viewer immediately to decode the imagery. Saar said about this piece. “As a response to all the vitriol in our nation, I looked for solace in the history of song as protest. Traditionally a torch song is a lament of lost love but in the legacy of the Blues, songs of protest were often presented in the guise of a love song…” Life size, with piano keys wrapped around her chest like bullets, she holds a burning flame in her hand. Her skirt is made of vintage rusted ceiling tins, while belt straps (I couldn’t help but think of belts as tools for whippings) crisscross her back. This charismatic and dignified statuesque sculpture is holding forth with passion and fire.

Nick Cave’s monumental installation “Platform”, 2018, mixed media installation including a chain of bronze hands, four gramophones, heads, pillow, carved eagles, dimensions variable, is a profound and poignant knockout of a piece. Birds of prey have landed on disembodied screaming heads… even while one head is resting on a pillow. Is this, then a nightmare scenario, where one is not safe even in ones’ own bedroom? Well, current events have borne that out. Forearms, with hands at both ends, attempt an escape by forming a rope that disappears into the ceiling. Fists are attached to the flaring form of a gramophone begging the disturbing question do you hear me/hear us? Gaping mouths, disembodied forms attached to a vintage mechanical speaker and birds of prey induce chills of recognition about the horrors of disenfranchisement and discrimination that persist in our world.

Then around the corner, installed in an unfortunate spot next to painting storage slots, is the magical, light hearted “A High Window”, 2020, painted mixed media construction with monitor, media payer and artist made film (silent loop) 46 x 18 x 10 inches, by Michael C. McMillen, who often works in miniature. His highly detailed trompe l’oeil façade, portrayed in loving detail here, speaks to Hollywood and the special effects from film. It is therefore entirely fitting that McMillen has created a film which blends found imagery (monochromatic and color) alongside surrealistic animation in a landscape that is paradoxically real and invented. His own works appear in this Western landscape and challenge the viewer’s perception of scale. The thin line between what is real and what is artificial is explored here, as the artist hints at a fractured narrative.

From the crusty surface of Tony Marsh ceramics to the delicate oil painted beaded surface of Liza Lou’s pieces, to the funky mixed media surface of Daniel-Crews Chubb’s collaged fabric on canvas works, to the thickly slathered oil of Jason Martin’s witty oil painting– the emphasis here on surface and materiality is exciting and visceral. It is impossible to talk about all the work but suffice it to say it is worth visiting twice to really see everything. Just a word of caution, the gallery has been remodeled and many small rooms that were offices house work on display. The viewer should make sure to enter all spaces. The first time I saw the show, I missed some rooms and the many diverse and challenging pieces in them!

The artists in the show are: Carmen Argote, Sarah Awad, Rina Banerjee, Matthew Brandt, Wallace Berman, Deborah Butterfield, Rebecca Campbell, Nick Cave, Gisela Colon, Daniel Crews-Chubb, Tacita Dean, Richard Deacon, Marcel Duchamp, Jimmie Durham, Kohshin Finley, Gajin Fujita, Sherin Guirguis, David Hockney, Frederick Hammersley, Tim Hawkinson, Elliot Hundley, Ben Jackal, Sui Jianguo, Edward & Nancy Kienholz, Leon Kossoff, Liza Lou, Tony Marsh, Heather Gwen Martin, Jason Martin, Patrick Martinez, Dave Mc Dermott, Michael C. McMillen, Jiha Moon, Alice Neel, Chhristopher Pate, Tia Pulitzer, Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin, Alison Saar, Analia Saban, Gabriella Sanchez, Eduardo Sarabia, Juan Usle, Matt Wedel, Flora Yukhnovich, John Zane Zappas.

LA Louver
45 N Venice Blvd, Venice, 90291

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