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Hammer Museum

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Made in L.A. 2016: Wipe Your Feet on the Way Out

by Lauren McQuade
Cracked and imperfect, resting atop a section of otherwise crisp white marble floor, is a carpet of gridded reddish dirt. At the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, in a biannual exhibition tasked with representing local creativity, a portrait of the region’s artistic practice takes shape—installed alongside the very firmament from which it was excavated. The earth, the grit, the material of the city—literal and imagined—makes its way into the museum. “It's a dynamic moment in Los Angeles,” said Hamza Walker, standing on the rough terrain. Walker is Director of... [more]
Posted by Lauren McQuade on 6/27
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We Had the Experience But Missed the Meaning

Made In LA 2016: a, the, though, only Titled by minimalist poet and writer, Aram Saroyan, as his contribution to the exhibition, the title gives a clear idea of the exhibition content. Words and ideas form the theme, to the detriment of visual experience. The sad part about this is that there is little attempt to make the ideas visual. The viewer faces rooms filled with not-very-interesting ideas and not-very-interesting reading, even to the inclusion of paintings of internet pages. There are visual artists included; Kenzi Shiokava made a room filled with carved wooden totems and boxes with (some... [more]
Posted by Susan Chorpenning on 8/7
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Me and You and Everyone We Kind of Know: Made in L.A. 2014

by Christina Catherine Martinez
Comedian Emily Joyce, dressed in a 14th-century bonnet and dress, rolls her eyes, hard. Sticking her thumb out in a gesture of one-dimensional 1990s sarcasm, she paces KCHUNGtv's makeshift set in the lobby of the Hammer Museum. The on-site camera editors are hushed. I walk in just as a big laugh is dying down. “But seriously folks," she continues, "you gotta watch out who you're makin' out with these days ‘cause we got this Black Plague going around. Nothing more embarrassing than having your nose fall off in the middle of a date, am I right?" The crowd, some bouncing babies on th... [more]
Posted by Christina Catherine Martinez on 6/24/14
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Blanking the Canvas: The image of women in fin-de-siècle Paris

by Christina Catherine Martinez
It was a very nice hospital. It had a view and a private sitting area in the room. I had tubes sticking out. Some to drain fluids, others to pump fluids in. I was given observation and pain management, modern medical euphemisms for the twin social ailments of boredom and drugs. I ended up staying an extra night. Doctors often keep business hours and no one else was authorized to release me. Either as apology or just further negligence, I was treated to an extra night of pain management, melting away creeping anxieties about the logistics of returning to everyday life, and for a while, melting... [more]
Posted by Christina Catherine Martinez on 4/15/14
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My painting is tomorrow's painting. Watch and see.

by Ed Schad
“I can close my eyes in a dark room and if there is no outside noise and attraction, plus, if there is no conscious effort on my part – then I can see color, line, patterns, and forms that make up my canvases... I have always copied these arrangements without elaboration.” —Forest Bess, 1951 I saw my first Forrest Bess at the Hammer in 2008, in Amy Sillman's room in curator Gary Garrell's Oranges and Sardines, a group show composed of artists choosing their favorite artists. Star of David, 1959, was one of three paintings I remember, the other two being a devastating... [more]
Posted by Ed Schad on 11/6/13
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An Uncomfortable Presence

by Jared Baxter
Here’s a show whose reception seems to have been preempted by the mounds of publicity preceding it. The narrative, though likely familiar from one or another of the articles touting Llyn Foulkes’ resurgence, bears repeating here, this time in line with the chronology established by the retrospective itself.  A Los Angeles artist since forever ago, Foulkes began by working through influences both global (Rauschenberg, Dalí, de Kooning) and local (notably Richards Ruben, whose imprint is unmistakable in early abstract works like 1959's Untitled). His rise to recognition came through paintings exploring... [more]
Posted by Jared Baxter on 3/18/13
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The Province of Provinces

by Jared Baxter
Los Angeles, a city of developers and opportunists, store-front mystics and varyingly legal working-class migrants, is also by some lights a city of artists. The Hammer Museum recently unveiled its first Los Angeles biennial, an inward-looking affair solely showcasing the work of locals. Can an exhibition thus conceived add up to anything more than narcissism? Sure, but whether this is possible in LA, a city with a profoundly neurotic self-regard, is a question left open by the biennial dubbed Made in LA. It's a shame, given that so much strong work by so many under-recognized artists is on disp... [more]
Posted by Jared Baxter on 7/1/12
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Other Visions

by Jared Baxter
This worthwhile, though problematic, exhibition begins simply but evocatively, in a small antechamber, with a juxtaposition of two works that manages to suggest a number of the historical and aesthetic trajectories that will unfold in the rooms to come. The first of these is a 1964 drawing by Charles White, who came to prominence as a WPA muralist before accepting a teaching position at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. The piece, entitled Birmingham Totem, was created in response to a 1963 KKK assault on a black church that killed four young girls and injured twenty-two. Depicting a crouc... [more]
Posted by Jared Baxter on 11/28/11
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The Soul of Paul Thek

by Ed Schad
Paul Thek believed in a soul. More essentially to his particular pain, he believed in its transience. Part of the brutality and genuine emotion of Thek’s work was that the soul’s peril, its ability to lose a handle on itself, was often more palpable for Thek than soul’s ability to transcend its condition. There are glimpses, premonitions, flourishes, passing brushes of air that tempt hope, but Thek’s soul (his animus, his central compelling force) most often appears as something under attack, something fragile and buffeted by the forces of Thek’s age, the wages of mortality, and the contradictions of... [more]
Posted by Ed Schad on 7/5/11
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“I Shall Have a Sense of Humor at All Possible Times”

by Jared Baxter
“Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted” is written in yellow cursive in Paul Thek's painting of the same name, a chiasmus formally echoed by the phrase's uncertain relation to the purple surrounding it, in which neither color decidedly emerges as foreground. The picture thus reveals in miniature one of the most consistently used and yet least visible structures at play in a body of work marked by contrasts: the cross. For an artist as obsessed with Catholicism as Thek, after all, the cross in its religious sense is conspicuous by its absence. Aside from Pink Cross with Green Buds, 1... [more]
Posted by Jared Baxter on 7/12/11
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Clusterfuck Infotainment: Stephen G. Rhodes

by Andrew Berardini
All the diligent historians of the world, or at least most of them, bend and curse over their papers, aspiring for the most precise and infallible histories that their faulty pens, typewriters, and computers can possibly muster. With loving use of footnotes and primary sources, these stalwart and striving historians try to pin down the surging forces of history. History (slippery fucker that it is) unfortunately refuses most moldings. The well-worn cliché “History is written by the victors,” tells us that, at bottom, we distrust historians, and given the difficult, amorphous nature of histori... [more]
Posted by Andrew Berardini on 7/19/10
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Whiteread at the Hammer

by Marcus Civin
        British-artist Rachel Whiteread’s postmodernism is deadpan realism, a return to a classical sculpture technique—casting—casting, not things, but the space under things, a contemplation of forgotten space around, under, and inside. In forming, naming, and repeating these blocky underneath spaces, setting nothingness in plaster and resin, Whiteread re-organizes our experience so that the space around a bathtub for example, appears, while the bathtub itself disappears. The space around the bathtub remembers the disappeared bathtub, but this new space stands on its own, surprising and de... [more]
Posted by Marcus Civin on 3/29/10
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Daumiere, Molière, and a Couple of Actors

by Marcus Civin
In the awkwardly halcyon days of high school, I played in Molière’s most famous play, Tartuffe. I performed as Orgon, the credulous near-cuckold, a fool duped by the falsely religious Tartuffe, who loved his seemingly pious friend while the clever fiend wrecked his family and stole his fortune, realizing almost too late his villainy. When Tartuffe opens his mouth, Orgon opens his mouth in imitation.I still have a lot of sympathy for the fool—maybe a sympathy I developed in high school, playing the unfortunate Orgon. The Hammer Museum has a small painting in its contemporary collectio... [more]
Posted by Marcus Civin on 8/30/10
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Burchfield at the Hammer

by Ed Schad
Robert Gober’s presence looms large. I’m obsessed with his work. Thus, the draw of Gober pulls on my imagination in a way that Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), a curious figure in the history of American modernism, might not have otherwise. I can’t easily decide how productive it is to the work of Burchfield to have Gober curate a retrospective of his work. This dilemma, for me, is written into the context of the show:  How does Gober interpret and present this material? Why is Gober interested in Burchfield and for what reason? Is there a connection between the two? Why should I care about Burchfield at... [more]
Posted by Ed Schad on 10/12/09
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Life with Me, This is Me, Me She Wrote

by Ed Schad
A text settled, but plangent, resides in a serene scene of stark graphic winter trees, fresh snow, and distant mountains. The loud and overbearing text screams the confession of a celebrity on the phone with his agents – everybody wants, everybody flatters, they beg to create anything and everything around him. The celebrity conveys his story in punchy, obnoxious call and response narration, punctuated over and over by the word “Me” – “Life with Me, This is Me, Me She Wrote, Me fashion creation” and ending with “Hour after hour, offer after offer it goes, I have no time to stop an... [more]
Posted by Ed Schad on 8/18/09
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Charlie White - Nine Lives

by Sasha Bergstrom-Katz
    Charlie White's video "American Minor" is a standout in the current exhibition at the Hammer, Nine Lives.  The show, curated by Ali Subotnick, shows a wide range of Los Angeles based artists, from young artists like Kaari Upson to established artists like Llyn Foulkes.  When I left the show, although so much of the work was fabulous, Charlie's video really stuck with me the most.The film depicts a teenage girl in states of perpetual boredom.  The aesthetic of it is what is most appealing at first.  It's beautiful.  Neutral, pink and soft.  You can smell how clean it is.  Stylistically, it encapsula... [more]
Posted by Sasha Bergstrom-Katz on 4/24/09
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It's all about inspiration

by Sasha Bergstrom-Katz
It’s all about inspiration and the artist’s way of working in relation to other artists. Oranges and Sardines, curated by Gary Garrels, focuses on six contemporary abstract painters and highlights the works that influenced them. Garrels selected Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline Von Heyl and Christopher Wool. Each were given a gallery space within the Hammer’s main exhibition salon to basically curate an exhibition of works that inspired them. Within each artist’s gallery space one of their works was also hung so as to give a reminder of their style and a vis... [more]
Posted by Sasha Bergstrom-Katz on 12/7/08
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Tomma Abts at the Hammer

by Jenia Gorton and Brianna Gorton
In this exhibit of 15 paintings and 10 drawings, Tomma Abts re-examines geometric abstraction in works that reveal the process as well as the final conclusion. Through both layering and erasure, she builds up the surfaces of her paintings with acrylic and oil, leaving traces of each meticulous move. She uses no external images, and therefore does not abstract from anything: the lines themselves seem to search and seek for their ultimate forms. Abts has said of her own work, "The forms don't symbolize anything or describe anything outside of the painting. They represent themselves." *Within... [more]
Posted by Jenia Gorton and Brianna Gorton on 8/3/08
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John Lautner, Architect

by Brianna Gorton
  This summer, from July 13 through October 12, the Hammer Museum presents Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner, an extensive retrospective on the Southern California architect.  Spanning over 50 years and including 50 designs from 300 projects, this show is replete with two large gallery spaces exhibiting projected videos, photography, large-scale models, quick sketches, full exterior views, immaculately detailed construction drawings, studies, floor plans, roof plans, presentation drawings, and more.  Executed with great sophistication and imagination, the exhibiti... [more]
Posted by Brianna Gorton on 8/31/08
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A Look at Mitzi Pederson

by Nico Machida
The work of San Francisco-based sculptor Mitzi Pederson is spare and conceptually transparent, and slight in a cerebral way that directly evokes Richard Tuttle and Anselm Reyle. The Reyle reference in particular speaks to her practice's timeliness: There is no denying the affinities between this small Hammer Museum show and the much more sustained argument for seemingly makeshift sculpture currently unfolding at the Whitney and the New Museum. Owing to its savvy humbleness, its embrace of everyday materials (like plywood, tape, and reflective paper) this work has a lot to prove—and a vast p... [more]
Posted by Nico Machida on 3/16/08