IT’S ART FAIR SEASON
We’ve just had PhotoLA at Barker Hangar, the LA Art Show at the Convention Center, the super upscale Frieze Los Angeles will be up and running again at Paramount Studios starting this weekend, and the grassroots stARTup Art Fair opens at the Kinney Venice Beach Hotel, also this weekend. That’s where you can meet artists and buy work directly from them without gallery intervention.
It might seem obvious but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m only attracted to art that I like. When you’re confronting hundreds, if not thousands, of phenomenal photos, provocative paintings, colorful collages and stunning sculptures, you need a strategy for how not to become overwhelmed. My go-to is whatever my eyes are drawn to. Here’s some of what I loved at the first two shows; I hope it inspires you to explore the others to find what you like.
Last year and this, I was blown away by Reuben Wu’s atmospheric drone-lit landscapes, set in natural environments made to look otherworldly with white-outlined geometric circles, lines and figures imposed on, around and above them. While you might think these figures were added after processing, they’re actually made via time lapse by the drones lighting the scenes as the photo is being taken, adding a sort of sci-fi twist to the images. This set of photos is part of a series he calls “Lux Noctis,” which he’s published in book form. photo-eye in Santa Fe, NM is his gallery. He’s also co-founder of the band Ladytron.
Quite possibly the single most arresting images to my eyes were by a German-born, Philadelphia-based photographer, Shawn Theodore, showing by way of ParisTexasLA gallery in LA, whose extraordinary images of black women in brilliantly colored and patterned clothing simply grab you by the throat and make you look. The one that made me stop in my tracks was an image of two forearms and hands holding a gold rope. At first I thought it was a commentary about a noose, but I was told it is what it is: a golden rope, that’s both beautiful and provocative.
As it did last year, Susan Spiritus Gallery in Irvine drew me like a magnet. I had the chance to speak with photographer Xan Padron, a Spanish-born artist who creates an intriguing series of photos that look like linear film strips laid one upon another. He takes time lapse photos from a fixed position against a single backdrop, here dark blue and bright red, as people pass by. Each person appears in motion, the individual images are composited horizontally in a single row, then row upon row of these “strips” are “terraced” vertically atop one another to create an arresting image of humanity, multiplicity in miniature and motion.
Australian photographer Tom Blachford, represented by Toth Gallery, New York, has a special eye for architectural structures that he transforms into surreal visions. He uses only natural light; some of the images lit by the moon look like daylight shots that become dreamlike. His ability to capture the most intriguing angle, the combination of natural surroundings contrasted with man-made environments, buildings, homes, cars, swimming pools makes these photos seem like fantasies, but they’re quite real and open to any imagined narrative that you provide.
THE LA ART SHOW
Of all the galleries I toured at the Convention Center for the grand-daddy of all LA art fairs, to me the most compelling work came from those representing Spain’s contemporary artists. Sadly for me, I never received a catalog and honestly, I forgot to shoot photos of all the wall plaques and names of the galleries so I’ll just do my best to offer a roundup of my opinions.
Art Gallery Anquins in Reus, Spain featured some delicate and poignant sculptures by artist Jesus Curia. These are small, wood and bronze pieces that are representational, but feel very spiritual, like excavated icons that could be seen as little gods in human form.
Artist Fernando Palacios’s stunning abstract painting in shades of teal and grey to me represents the power of the sea. You feel the tearing and pulling of the tides. And Patricia Escutia does tiny repetitive writings that look like prayers in a foreign vocabulary, filling an entire canvas. Both were at Bea Villamarin, from Gijon, Spain.
Robert Peterson, represented by Patrick Painter Gallery in LA, is a portraitist of African-American figures, and the work is stunning. James Brown, Muhammed Ali, and others are brilliantly, photo-realistically presented.
DU Kun’s amazingly series, “Revels of the Rock Gods” represents his love of Chinese rock music (he’s a musician too). What looks initially like big portraits sitting on pedestals are actually faces composed of multiple sets of design details from Chinese temples, set on holy mountains, which become their bodies. These monumental portraits are wholly original and tremendously imaginative. He’s represented by Tokyo’s Mizuma Art Gallery.
That’s just a tiny taste of what was on offer. There’s more this weekend—so go see some art!
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.