Craft Contemporary Offers a Deep Dive into Sculptural Forms
Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles
through September 12
Written by Genie Davis
Three very fine exhibitions mark Craft Contemporary’s programming, now on display through September 12th. Using a wide range of materials, both the group and solo shows present a dazzling display of thought-provoking art.
The largest exhibition, the group show Making Time, occupies the third floor, featuring ten artists which the museum describes as being “instrumental in Craft Contemporary’s recent history.” The artists include Tanya Aguiñiga, Uzumaki Cepeda, Beatriz Cortez, Keiko Fukazawa, Katherine Grey, Gronk, Sherin Guirguis, Betye Saar, Timothy Washington, and Ann Weber. The collective vision of each artist shapes a larger picture, that of craft art itself. Exhibitions curator Holly Jerger notes that the show pays tribute to the relationships between these seminal artists and the museum itself.
It is difficult to select highlights: each piece leads the viewer on an exuberant, lush journey comprised of unique materials and vibrant cultural commentary. Weber’s large scale, paper-based sculptures play a pivotal role in the museum’s spatial exhibition history. With the works’ open apertures, they invite the viewer to gaze at them, and through them, at the art surrounding these sculptures. Constructed of cardboard, staples, and polyurethane, “Holy Portal” is just that; while “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Tell Which Way the Wind Blows” is an exercise in mesmerizing balance.
Washington, who also has an exhibition at Wilding Cran in DTLA, uses a wide variety of found objects and mixed media to create a sculptural world in “Final Notice,” which is part broken robot and part witty and dark commentary on oppressive society. Using mixed media on canvas, his vibrant use of color pulls viewers into very current social commentary with “Black Lives Matter” and “Cream of Wheat.”
The inimitable Saar has three pieces on exhibit, also steeped in commentary both emotional, social, and political, including the brilliantly ominous “Waiting to Serve.”
Guirguis creates fascinating, feather-like shadows, rainbow illusions created by bright under-painting that shapes art as slight-of-hand – or eye. Her technique is as magical and mysterious as an illusion performed by Penn & Teller. The six delicate mixed media on paper works here are layered and rich.
Cepeda’s “Going Backwards” is layered and immersive in a different way. The large-scale work is a scarlet installation of fake fur and found objects, including a clock half-submerged in the fur. Like the exhibition itself, this piece is truly “making time” in an original, conceptual way.
Floral and complex, Fukazawa builds white porcelain weapons, turning guns into the precious objects some believe them to be. Thus realized, the artist reshapes tools of violence as true treasures.
Treasure also seems conceptualized in the large scale, brown, leaf-like work of Aguiñiga, who uses materials from clay to horse and human hair to create a piece that seems to speak of a forest filled with secrets, or a strange musical instrument. Grey’s glass works bear a sense of the elegy and remembrance in their simple, lustrous, domestic forms.
On the second floor, Kazuki Takazjawa’s exhibition is also created from glass. The artist’s first solo show, Tomoshibi: Glass Works is haunting, mystical, and moving. A deeply personal look into Takajawa’s intimate struggles, triumphs, and anguish, the exhibition feels more like an installation piece consisting of different elements that separate pieces. These are simply stunning blown glass pieces, representing forest and flower, dark and light, as well as the artist’s challenges with mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder. Each work is both emotionally and visually gratifying. Flowing words, tangled but glorious language and twisted thoughts are evoked in the clear glass curlicues of “Brainstorm,” suspended from the gallery ceiling. A broken vessel and drops of water comprise the darkest piece, “Breaking the Silence III,” while flowers of glass rise up from the gallery floor in “Stopper-Driven,” with petals “fallen” from the blooms surrounding them in a delightful, hushed carpet. In another piece, a bright, crystal-clear “Blue Bird” rests, ready and waiting to fly. Working with Venetian glassblowing techniques, Takizawa makes infuses this classic technique with a beautifully balanced sense of both his Japanese ancestry and modern form. His deeply personal subject exposes the struggles and stigmatization, as well as the ups and downs and recovery from, mental illness. This is a brilliant, riveting series of works revealing and traversing a difficult subject with grace and light.
In the museum’s lobby, Cathy Cooper’s Dramatis Personae provides costumes for an unknown play; viewers are invited to explore a wardrobe both reminiscent of Victorian-era dress and an alien civilization. Ghostly and gorgeous, these fabric creations seem to be all that is left of the beings that inhabit them or designed to clothe invisible creatures. Layered trailing gowns and soft brimmed bonnets stand at the ready for an inhabiting body; displayed in wall niches, small, collapsed figures appear hidden beneath voluminous fabric drapes. All the world is a stage made for Cooper’s layered fabric works, which while still voiceless, appear at the ready to emote. It’s a command performance.
5814 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 90036