Lesley Vance & Ricky Swallow at the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino

Renown for its European art, the Huntington Art Gallery is currently hosting its’ first exhibition of contemporary painting and sculpture, showcasing the work of the Los Angeles-based artists Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow. The exhibition is a visual dialogue between the two artists who also happen to be husband and wife.

Lesley Vance, “Untitled”, 2010, oil on linen, 16 x 12″, Huntington Art Gallery

Lesley Vance is one of my favorite abstract painters so I was particularly intrigued to see her work in this context. While the conversation between the two artists is of some note, the serendipity lies in her relationship to the European paintings in adjacent galleries. Vance’s process begins with a still-life setup. Through reduction, insight and ingenuity, she transforms the shapes into pure abstraction. While passing through various rooms at the Huntington, Vance’s palette and composition find great resonance in the historical echo. It’s a lovely viewing experience, until March 11.

William Harnett, “After the Hunt”, 1883, oil on canvas, 52 x 34″, at the Huntington Galleries


January Fairs

By the time the January art fairs begin, the town has recovered from New Year’s and is ready to roll. Photo LA kicked off on January 17 at the Santa Monica Civic Center. The LA Art Show followed on January 23 at the LA Convention Center and Art Los Angeles Contemporary debuted on January 24 at the Barker Hangar. The fair organizers know well that the education and social programming surrounding the fair add an important component and a foil to the primary commercial goals. What struck me this year is the degree to which these programs have become an anchor.

“Robert Redford and Paul Newman”, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, photograph at Photo LA

Photo LA was not a particularly compelling show (although I love the photo above), but the four days of various panel discussions and presentations that coincided with it were impressive. I attended two of the Saturday sessions. In the first one, Weston Naef, Curator Emeritus, Dept of Photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum, moderated a 6-person panel that included prominent collectors Daniel Greenberg and Michael Wilson along with Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator of Photography, Nelson-Atkins Museum, among others. Another panel featured Tulsa Kinney, Editor of Artillery magazine guiding a fascinating discussion with curator and writer, Colin Westerbeck and museum-collected artist, Ken Gonzales-Day.

The LA Art Show was generally missable from my perspective. The highlight of the show was the exhibition, Letters from Los Angeles: Text in Southern California Art, curated by Jack Rutberg in association with Aldis Browne. Jack moderated a panel with Alexis Smith and other artists from the exhibition discussing the significance of text in their work. Another panel featured two of Los Angeles’ most seasoned collectors, Clifford Einstein and Blake Byrne in conversation with Bruce Helander. Despite the uneven quality of exhibitors, the fair provided a valuable opportunity to learn from the pros.

Neil Beloufa, “Untitled”, 2012, steel, electical outlet, MDF plywood, 55 x 40″, at ALAC

Art LA Contemporary, had a much edgier program of speakers and events, including an introductory presence for MOCAtv. The exhibitor offerings were lively and fresh, mostly from US and European galleries. Two artists particularly caught my eye, Dan Rees at Jonathan Viner and Neil Beloufa at Francois Ghebaly. Both artists featured work that addressed aspects of everyday consumerism and commodification. Dees showed paintings in vacuum-formed plastic recalling product packaging. Beloufa showed a minimalist painting with electrical outlets for plugging in devices, like charging an iPad. Beloufa screened five films as part of the events program. He has a current solo show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and will be doing a project later this year at the Hammer Museum. While the focus is on offerings within the booths, there is much to gain from offerings outside of them.

Llyn Foulkes at the Hammer Museum

Llyn Foulkes, “Dali and Me”, 2006, mixed media, 33 x 26″, collection of Hammer Museum

Speaking of the Hammer, the Llyn Foulkes exhibition opened February 3 and it is a knock-out. The show is so thoughtfully curated and thoroughly illuminating as to cement the artist’s career. While many pieces are drawn from institutional collections, the synergy created by the whole is what a retrospective strives to be.

Lee Mullican, “Ninnekah Calendar”, 1951, 30 x 50″, collection of Hammer Museum

In adjacent galleries, selections from the Grunwald Center and the Hammer Contemporary Collection are on view. Artists such as Mary Weatherford, Lee Mullican and Kori Newkirk add to a very satisfying visit.

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