Sex, Desire, and Dictators at the LA Art Show
"Who’s happier? The girl polishing a Blow-Pop for $10 an hour, or the collector who can buy work worth a billion?”
“I believe in LA,” Ace Gallery founder Douglas Chrismas told artnet News at the preview of the 20th anniversary edition of the LA Art Show, which runs through Sunday, January 18. For that reason, he’s brought a solid cast of mainly LA-based artists. While he uses “quality” as the sole adjective that unites their work, they all seem to occupy various points of a drug-addled spectrum: the ever-changing projected compositions of Ben Jones’s DayGlo Silicon Valley II (Video Painting), (2012), lie on the stimulant end; and the concentric circles of Gary Lang’s paintings offer a psychedelic rabbit hole. For a more calming dose of hallucinogens, there are Gisela Colon’s sumptuously molded acrylic Glo Pod sculptures, which seem to ooze from the booth walls in fading gradations of fuchsia or iridescent green.
Annually, the LA Art Show covers an exceptionally broad range of time periods and media. The current edition, now housed in the 200,000-square-foot Los Angeles Convention Center South Hall, features more than 120 international galleries. There’s a strong presence of Korean and California-based exhibitors, who, like Chrismas, have put together booths that pay cultural homage to where they live.
Laguna Beach’s Peter Blake represents works of California minimal reductionism, including two pieces from two different generations of the Light and Space movement: Peter Alexander’s Blue Box, (2014), a rectangular block of immaculately pure, translucent urethane, and Steve Burtch’s No. 14017, white and grey paintings created on acrylic panels.
New York’s Unix Gallery vies for attention not only with the life-sized sculpture of Kim Jong-il encased in a Coke-branded fridge (Eugenio Merino’s Always Kim, (2014) from his series of refrigerator dictators), but a new drug-and-candy-themed suite of works by Desire Obtain Cherish: an array of giant multi-colored sculptural ring pops, a string of Valium rosary beads, and a reprise of a summer performance that features two women seated at the foot of a giant half-melted Blow-Pop made of chrome (Meltdown, 2014) polishing miniature, cast-resin versions. “People see my candy and assume that I make candy art, but my work is based on concepts and ideas,” Desire Obtain Cherish explained to artnet News. “You have to ask yourself, who’s happier? The girl polishing a Blow-Pop for $10 an hour, or the collector who can buy work worth a billion dollars?”
Far more subtle in its subversiveness are the works by Joong-Keun Lee on view at Seoul gallery Artlink. Lee specializes in transforming images of body parts—the eye, the nose, and the lips, for example—into kaleidoscopic patterns that he then turns into high-gloss canvases. Look closely at the rose-hued Sweet Tongue (2008)—what appears to be a painted floral motif is actually a composition of tongues with another human organ as a stand-in for a pistil.
Amid the bright colors and circus acts including Kazuhiro Tsuji’s oversized silicon busts of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol at Copro Gallery (which prompt visitors to ask, “Can you take my picture with that mustache guy?”), the fair offers a few zones of respite. The convention center floor features an ambiently lit Bedouin tent where figs are served. The tent is the centerpiece of a special exhibition of 13 UAE artists whose work has Emirati-centric cultural themes including large-scale photographs of marketplaces and veiled women as well as digital collages of desert architecture. Alaa Edris’s Kharareef—Fables of the Trucial States (2011), takes stills from vintage documentaries of the Middle East (images of mosques, shipyards, and dancing women) and combines them with her own contemporary footage.
For a final moment of Zen, there’s a special exhibition organized by Seoul-based galleries the Columns and Galerie Bhak of the work of six artists of the 1960s-70s who worked in the Korean monochrome painting tradition called Tansaekhwa. The soft edges of the paint applications and strict palette of greys, beiges, and blues cancel much of the visual noise happening in the rest of the fair. Most arresting was Simultananeity, (1976), by Seung Won Seuh, a key figure in the movement, depicting sheer, geometric objects floating in space.
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