Flavin Judd discusses famous childhood neighbours in Doha tell-all talk
February 24, 2024
Blum Gallery looks back on three decades of bringing Japanese contemporary art to the US
February 25, 2024
Flavin Judd discusses famous childhood neighbours in Doha tell-all talk
February 24, 2024
Blum Gallery looks back on three decades of bringing Japanese contemporary art to the US
February 25, 2024

Thirty Years: Written with a Splash of Blood

Blum Gallery, Los Angeles, until 3 March

When the gallerist Tim Blum was still a student at UCLA in 1984, he travelled to Tokyo for the first time and was drawn to the underground music, film and art scenes there. A decade later, after working in Tokyo galleries, he gave the Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara his first American exhibition, a major attention-getter at and for his new gallery, Blum & Poe. Three decades on, the dealer has co-curated (with the art historian Mika Yoshitake) a loosely organised but highly original survey of Japanese contemporary art that doubles as a 30th-anniversary show for the gallery, now known as Blum.

“I, by nature, am not nostalgic at all, am always charging ahead, but it felt like a cool way to mark the transition,” says Blum, referring to his split with his longtime gallery partner, Jeff Poe, this past summer. “I don’t put myself out there as a curator of shows, but in this case it was accurate, as we’re telling a very personal story—the Japan thing is a big part of the gallery history and my history.”

Thirty Years: Written with a Splash of Blood presents works created between 1959 and 2023 by more than two dozen artists associated with the gallery, nearly half of whom are currently on its roster. It is a sampling of recent Japanese art history, from the rugged, gesture-driven minimalism of Mono-ha to the mountainous ceramics and immersive digital work being made today. The exhibition will be reprised, with some changes, to inaugurate Blum’s new space in New York’s Tribeca neighbourhood in September. J.F.

Avtar Singh, Mata Dharat Mahat, Guru Nanak in Modern Fields, 2022

I Will Meet You Yet Again: Contemporary Sikh Art

Fowler Museum at UCLA, until 26 May

I Will Meet You Yet Again offers a look at contemporary Sikh notions of home. It is grounded in more than 40 works contemplating the culture of the world’s fifth-largest religious community, stemming from the spiritual centre of India’s Punjab region. The exhibition focuses on Sikh resilience and creativity across generations, genders and individuals, as artists respond to ongoing legacies of persecution and protest.

The show has been organised around the concepts of Sangarsh (struggle), Basera (home) and Birha (longing), and features historical markers that group works around key events in the modern history of the religion. Beginning with the 1947 partition of the Punjab region, works assess the impact of colonial rule on experiences of displacement from communities and heritage sites. Highlighted historical events—including protests, migrations and acts of state-endorsed violence—contextualise the works of Sikh artists, providing backgrounds upon which their creativity is expressed.

The exhibition includes several masterpieces of Sikh art, primarily by male artists from the late 19th century, in order to show how broad the Sikh experience has become in the past two centuries, expanding across continents and gender identities. In attempting to articulate a gentle inclusion of contemporary perspectives over an abrupt break with the past, I Will Meet You Yet Again brings together a range of forms articulating common motifs that relate to an expanding Sikh narrative. For instance, modern Punjabi poetry is included alongside visual works, with the exhibition’s title drawn from the pioneering work of the poet Amrita Pritam. “The title is not really about the poem, but the literal meaning of these words,” says Sonia Dhami, the show’s co-curator, “that these things will happen again—the struggle to have a home, building a new one and longing for that which you have left behind.” T.B.

Jean Pichore, Ecce Homo, from Poncher Hours, about 1500. Tempera colours, ink and gold on parchment

Blood: Medieval/Modern

Getty Center, until 19 May

For her 1974 work Untitled (Body Print), the artist Ana Mendieta shrouded herself in a sheet, an impression of her body in red overlaid on the draped material. In the Blood: Medieval/Modern show, the series of photographs is contrasted with Medieval depictions of Saint Veronica holding the “Sudarium”, a miraculous image of Christ revealed from the blood wiped from his face on his way to the cross.

“Seeing this as a Medievalist, I thought of the Veil of Veronica and the idea of a holy bodily substance,” says Larisa Grollemond, assistant curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The visual correspondence was so strong—the inclusion of the red pigment that Mendieta uses and the lifting of the veil—but she’s doing something totally different as a female artist than medieval manuscript illuminators. Pairing them opens up a new dialogue.”

Blood: Medieval/Modern is the first exhibition to combine Medieval manuscripts with contemporary art in the Getty’s manuscripts gallery. Grollemond says she was initially interested in organising a show examining bloodlines and genealogy, but the response to a social-media video she created about menstruation in the Middle Ages prompted a broader look at depictions of blood, from prayer books that isolated Christ’s bleeding wounds for meditation to the scarce Medieval representations of feminine blood. A.M.

Mercedes Dorame, Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back), 2023

Mercedes Dorame: Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back)

Getty Center, until 11 August

Mercedes Dorame, a Los Angeles-based artist of Gabrielino-Tongva heritage, engages with her ancestry to explore themes around cultural construction. Her installation Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back) (2022)—the inaugural project of the Getty Museum’s Rotunda Commission series at the Getty Center—comprises a series of luminescent suspended sculptures that evoke abalone shells and elements of the Los Angeles coastline. The work honours the Tongva, one of the tribes that originally inhabited the Los Angeles Basin and the Southern Channel Islands.

“I’ve thought about what it means to exist in a museum and own your cultural territory,” Dorame says. “I grew up in Los Angeles going to the Getty. I remember when that place was built. But there’s people who live in Los Angeles who didn’t know about the Tongva until this exhibition. I don’t want my daughter to have to have that conversation. For me, it’s been important to get the message out about who we are and that we’ve always been the original caretakers of this place.”

Dorame’s work was featured in the Hammer Museum’s 2018 Made in LA biennial and has been exhibited internationally. She received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and undergraduate degree from UCLA, which has included her in the centennial initiative UCLA: Our Stories, Our Impact. Her solo exhibition, Where Sky Touches Water, is at Oxy Arts in Los Angeles (until 20 April). G.A.

Unknown painter (French School), Enjoying Coffee, Turkey, first half of the 18th century

Dining with the Sultan: The Fine Art of Feasting

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, until 4 August

“Islamic art is an art of objects, and 75% of them are related to food or beverage,” says Linda Komaroff, curator of this visual foray into the history of cuisine in the Islamic world.

The first exhibition of its kind, it features 250 works related to food—everything from lavishly decorated bowls, spoons and flasks to illustrated manuscripts and a giant 19th-century Iranian oil painting of a group of women on a porch surrounded by food and coffee. There is even a section on dressing for dinner (all about how clothing fits into the aesthetics of a meal), QR codes to listen to the music that might accompany a feast and a “virtual meal” of six dishes based on historical recipes. Also as part of the show, the museum’s Damascus Room, a reception room from an 18th-century Ottoman home, is accessible for the first time in the US after a decade of conservation work. E.G.

Victor Theodor Slama, Vote Social Democratic!, 1932.

Imagined Fronts: The Great War and Global Media

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, until 7 July

The First World War coincided with a significant rise in visual mass media. With the increasing ubiquity of illustrated newspapers, advertising, photography and the blossoming new medium of film, propaganda was never far behind—with artists on the lookout for and keeping unbridled nationalism in check. Through 200 objects documenting the Great War, this exhibition explores the imagined and manipulated images that have historically influenced our perceptions of what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Works by artists like Käthe Kollwitz, George Grosz and Otto Dix accompany historical photographs of the front and iconic items like the 1917 Uncle Sam “I want you” poster in this exploration of the visual language of the time and the origins of the “media spectacle” of global conflict today. E.G.

Installation view of Mapping an Art World: Los Angeles in the 1970s-80s, until 10 March 2024 at Moca Grand Avenue.

Mapping an Art World: Los Angeles in the 1970s-80s

Moca Grand Avenue, until 10 March

Though Los Angeles’s standing as a major art centre is now firmly established, this exhibition looks back at the years before and immediately following the founding of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca). Pulling from the institution’s permanent collection, it looks back at the constellation of artist-run spaces, commercial galleries, university art centres and more that anchored the city’s contemporary art community before Moca’s founding in 1979. It also chronicles how the museum went about building a collection that captures the local art scene, showcasing more than 200 works and artefacts from artists indelibly linked with Southern California such as Ed Ruscha, Betye Saar, John Baldessari, Mike Kelley and others.

The exhibition “invites us to reconsider the transformative decades of the 1970s and 80s by presenting works from Moca’s esteemed collection–exploring both the artists represented in it as well as the donors whose generosity led to its creation,” says Clara Kim, the museum’s chief curator and director of curatorial affairs, who organised the exhibition with associate curator Rebecca Lowery and curatorial assistant Emilia Nicholson-Fajardo. The museum’s collection “reflects the spirit of experimentation, collaboration and the distinctive cultural and social milieu that not only shaped Los Angeles but firmly established it as a vibrant global art capital.” B.S.

Paul Pfeiffer, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (30), 2015

Paul Pfeiffer: Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom

Geffen Contemporary at Moca, until 16 June

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s survey of 25 years of Paul Pfeiffer’s wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary practice foregrounds the confluence of pop culture, identity and the spectacle. Through the precise editing and assembling of found imagery, Pfeiffer’s work turns the familiar in on itself, emphasising the desire, projection and manipulation at the heart of mass media.

“My attraction to the images I use in my work comes from the fact that they have already been circulated,” Pfeiffer tells The Art Newspaper. “They’re preloaded with meaning and they’ve already proven they have a capacity to speak to an audience. I try to hack into that pre-existing economy I imagine to be out there and interact with these images which had a formative place in the psychic landscape of my youth.” T.B.

Joan Brown, The Night Before the Alcatraz Swim, 1975

Joan Brown

Orange County Museum of Art, until 2 June

This first major retrospective of Bay Area painter Joan Brown (1938-1990) spans her early experiments with abstraction while she was a student at the California School of Fine Arts, otherworldly and surrealist figurative scenes from the 1970s, to meditative, pared-down compositions of the 1980s.

Across more than 40 works the show, which was organised by and previously shown at SFMoMA, reveals how Brown developed a deeply personal style that drew from her experiences (including travels to Egypt and frequent swims in the San Francisco Bay) and and her research into modern art, ancient iconography, Hinduism and more. Throughout, the exhibition complicates any tidy categorisation of Brown. Or, as she said: “I’m not any one thing: I’m not just a teacher, I’m not just a mother, I’m not just a painter, I’m all of these things, plus.” B.S.

Elnaz Javani, My Effigies, 2020

ART IRAN: Falling into Language

Craft Contemporary, until 5 May

The nine Iranian expatriate artists in this exhibition use characters, forms and fragments from the Persian alphabet as the building blocks for their works, which range from drawings and installations to materials more typically associated with crafts, such as tiles, paper sculptures and fabric puppets.

Across all their works, characters are rendered and reproduced in ways that verge on abstraction, functioning less as letters than as non-figurative mark-making, perhaps reflecting the artists’ distance from their home country. In her site-specific installation The Written Room (1995-ongoing), for instance, the Tehran-born, Frankfurt-based artist Parastou Forouhar turns Persian text into an enveloping architectural abstraction. In Maryam Palizgir’s textile and ceramic work Threads of Consciousness (2023), threads link letters to a clay rendering of the human brain, hinting at the connections between thought, language and identity. B.S.

Anna Sew Hoy, Hard Swamp Ecstatic Return, 2022.

Scratching at the Moon

Institute of Contemporary Art, until 12 May

This group show of 13 Asian American contemporary artists, all with strong ties to Los Angeles, is the first survey of its kind in a contemporary art museum in the city. Initially inspired by recent social-justice movements and curated by the sculptor Anna Sew Hoy, Scratching at the Moon focuses on both aesthetics and the importance of these artists’ work in their local communities.

The show brings together a multigenerational group of artists from the US, as well as those who emigrated from South Korea, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canada and work in video, installation, sculpture, photography and performance. Although their media and subject matter vary widely, the thread of the immigrant experience weaves through the exhibition. A contemplation of what it might mean to be Asian American, the show also serves as a questioning of that very term. E.G.

Park Hyunki, Untitled (TV Stone Tower), 1982

Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s-1970s

Hammer Museum, until 12 May

In the aftermath of the Korean War, as a newly established South Korea struggled with authoritarian leaders and burgeoning social movements, Korean artists manoeuvred a novel landscape that was urbanising and modernising rapidly. Organising various art collectives (Korean Avant Garde Association, Space and Time, the Fourth Group), they experimented with photography, sculpture, painting, Minimalism, abstraction, performance, video art and installation, significantly contributing to the creation of a uniquely Korean contemporary art scene.

Only the Young, a collaboration between New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea, is the first touring North American museum show on Korean Experimental art (silheom misul), presenting around 80 works by more than 20 of the most groundbreaking artists of the time—including Ha Chong-Hyun, Jung Kangja, Kim Kulim, Lee Kang-so, Park Hyunki and Sung Neung Kyung. E.G.

Rita McBride, Particulates, 2017 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

Rita McBride: Particulates

Hammer Museum, until 3 March

Particulates, originally commissioned for Dia Art Foundation,has lived many lives. Its hyperboloid shape, which Rita McBride describes as mathematically “perfect” for load bearing, looms large in the artist’s practice; her best-known public work, 2011’s towering 170ft sculpture Mae West, memorialises its formal proportions in Munich, Germany. Particulates grew out of McBride’s Portal (2016), a laser installation designed for the Liverpool Biennial as a “wormhole” escape from the long shadow of Thatcherian austerity. Particulates builds further upon that speculative sense of wonder; composed of high-intensity laser beams, water molecules and dust particles dancing mid-air, its third iteration at the Hammer both reflects and charges its environment with the ambient force of a film set, glowing from the mouth of a dark, 1960s bank vault as it materialises before the viewer’s eyes.

“I was thinking about it as a corporate ruin, and what things were important to keep and what things were important to get away from as they went forward with their renovations,” McBride says.Particulates can exist anywhere—any size, any scale—so it can take on hermetic situations or, like this one, open to the street and to a more narrative space than at Dia or in Liverpool. But it’s amazing how this version is so strong.” T.A.

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