The UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood is holding its third biennial “Made in LA” exhibition, titled “a, the, though, only,” showcasing 26 emerging and under-recognized but exceedingly worthy contemporary artists working throughout the greater L.A. area.
Culled from a field of more than 180 artists — far fewer than those included in the 2012 (60) and 2014 (35) exhibitions — co-curators Aram Moshayedi of the Hammer and Hamza Walker from the Renaissance Society in Chicago have filled the Hammer’s many galleries with an eclectic range of styles, substances, media and messages.
Painting, sculpture, video, dance, fashion, literature, music and film all find their way here but there are far too many artists to cover in a single review. So I’ll share the ones that stood out for me.
To my eyes, the absolute highlight was Kenzi Shiokava, whose carved and assembled wooden figures occupy the center of one gallery, filling the surrounding walls with discarded objects arrayed in cubbies.
Shiokava is a revelation to me. Of Japanese descent, born in Brazil in the 1930s, he’s the second oldest artist represented here. Why haven’t we seen more of this remarkable artist’s work before “Made in LA”? Living in L.A. since 1964, he was part of a group of artists such as the masterful Noah Purifoy, recently the subject of a LACMA retrospective, who went digging in the wreckage after the Watts Riots and assembled found and ruined objects into beautiful works of art.
Similarly, Shiokava finds discarded objects and large pieces of recycled wood, carving them into shapes and figures that take on the look of totems or ritual objects. He’s also found and used cast-off macramé in these pieces. The materials he works with have been subject to the effects of the elements and use by humans, but his assemblages and carvings imbue them with both a physical and spiritual presence.
The other elder is Huguette Caland, who was born in 1931 and is the oldest artist in the show. She was the daughter of the first president of Lebanon, started painting at the age of 16 under the tutelage of an Italian artist in Beirut, studied and worked in Paris, New York, Beirut and Los Angeles, where for many years she was part of, though less visible than, the Venice art scene.
Her work is exuberant, patterned, abstractly representational and for a time she even wore her designs on caftans. She’s collaborated with clothing designer Pierre Cardin, poets, artists and other designers.
Some of her more patterned paintings resonate with the intricate works of Gustav Klimt, others resemble abstraction in the vein of Paul Klee with a bold and childlike quality to them.
I also fell in love with Rebecca Morris’s giant wall sized, well-constructed abstract paintings, some of which look like tinfoil cutouts on a background of red or beige, made with oil and spray paint. Other paintings repeat brightly colored shapes that interlock, forms that resemble waves or shark heads, and there’s a grid painting that is intriguing, looking like a scene within a scene.
Morris is a professor of art at Pasadena City College and has been exhibited at the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Lastly, in association with Made in L.A. 2016, KCRW is hosting a series of music nights at the Hammer. DJs including Aaron Byrd, Mathieu Schreyer, Anthony Valadez and Travis Holcombe will set the beat, and musical artists ranging from Poolside, Carlos Nino and Friends, Peanut Butter Wolf, TOKiMONSTA and Ceci Bastida will be performing live in the Hammer’s great courtyard.
For more information, visit https://hammer.ucla.edu/milamusic2016.
On Sunday, William Turner Gallery presents Moses @ 90 Phase 2 featuring new paintings, done this year, by 90-year old living legend Ed Moses, one of the patron saints of the Venice art scene. His new works explode with vitality and extend the already extensive retrospective.
Don’t miss it. The Turner Gallery is at Bergamot Station. More details at www.williamturnergallery.com.
SAAR AT L.A. LOUVER
Alison Saar is one of a family of extraordinary artists, beginning with her renowned and respected mother Betye Saar, who was part of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s, and her sister Lezley.
Betye established herself as a feminist force and her two daughters did not fall too far from that tree. They, too, examine women, and traditional and spiritual African American themes in their sculptural and assemblage work.
Right now and only through July 1, LA Louver Gallery in Venice is showing her work under the title “Silt, Soot and Smut,” weaving narratives related to the Great Mississippi flood of 1927 sourcing inspiration from historical documentation, mythology, poetry and music.
The flood was a historic catastrophe that displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the American South, and had a devastating effect on the black population. Saar was also intrigued with the cultural implications that resulted from the flood and its influences on the music, dance and literature of that time
Tonight, if there is any room left (limited seating!) Alison will be hosting a listening party of 1927 flood era music that influenced the works in this show.
Be sure to let them know you plan to attend. Email RSVP@lalouver.com or call (310) 822-4955.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.