Incredulous Zealots: 4 Painterly Interrogations from LA
Josh Lilley is delighted to announce the opening on Tuesday 11th October of Incredulous Zealots – a group exhibition featuring work by four LA-based artists - Analia Saban, Annie Lapin, Asad Faulwell, and Jeni Spota.
Lara Wisniewski, LA-based curator and writer, discusses their contribution to the Los Angeles art scene below;
Psychologically aggressive…zealously dedicated…relentlessly driven…exuding religious fervour; all apt phrases to describe the four young Los Angeles artists participating in this exhibition. Their work is driven by an obsession to paint and then maintain control of their medium – either through the way their ideas actuate themselves, or by controlling the material itself. It appears these four artists do not take any aspect of the painting process for granted, neither its history nor its physicality.
It might seem strange that an artist from Los Angeles would be so intense, so consumed by detail and control. How does so much tension manifest in endless stretches of sunny days? Then again, when we view these four young artists’ work, we have to remember their predecessors – Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and Ed Ruscha etc – whose most innovative and outstanding works are psychologically disturbed, subtle, and sometimes not so subtle negotiations between strictures of reality and fantasy. Alternative religion also has its long history in the city; fanaticism and organisation are the earmarks of the Dianetics movement or the celebrity studded Kabbalah Centre, while smaller episodes found a voice – such as Charles Manson’s homegrown cult and its tragic, outrageous ending. It is hard to put a finger on the pulse that makes Los Angeles a home to these strange niches, as the city has always been a safe haven where outsiders become insiders by bringing dreams to their fullest expression. The eternally good weather seals their desires under a hopeful veneer that eventually cracks in the dry climate. As Los Angeles culture has proven, too many sunny days can beat shadows into the mind. LA’s dark underbelly is indeed a well-cultivated and fertile ground.
Asad Faulwell’s paintings are homage to the forgotten women of the Algerian War. When her soldiers were losing their war of independence against the French, their Muslim wives and sisters stepped outside of their prescribed submissive roles and made themselves battle ready. Faulwell’s works are intricately painted – eerie and poetic black and white portraits of these unique women, based on photographs taken during the time that they were on trial in the French courts. His paintings seem more like nest eggs where the women are finally celebrated and cradled within brightly colored, elaborate, repetitive arrangements – reminiscent both of Henri Matisse’s decorative patterning as well as Faulwell’s own Iranian/Islamic tradition of geometric design.
Jeni Spota relishes the act of manipulating the slow, stiff material of paint, organizing its excess into a painterly, dimensional image. Her small, intense works, sometimes up to two inches deep in oil paint, depict religious icons, traditional Italian Renaissance images, and compositions of hundreds of cherubic angels with haloes. These works appear complicated at the outset, but when read as personal iconic documents of Spota’s life, they take on an intimate warmth – albeit to obsessively clutch to one’s personal memories by re-inserting them into larger histories.
Annie Lapin’s work is a dynamic, grappling journey with the frustratingly immutable two-dimensional surface of painting. The formative power of primitive art – examining the initial human impulse to create images such as is seen in cave paintings, is the current focus of her work – seeking ways to convey the basic human instinct in an all encompassing image or archetype. Layers of colour fog over a distant view in some of her paintings, where perhaps Lapin herself is searching for an elusive truth. Sometimes her work has a Turner-esque effect in which colors and shapes hurtle around the canvas in a fury. Her paintings may not always yield a metaphysical epiphany but they do show the inner workings of a devoted seeker.
Analia Saban is the disciplinarian of the group. Her studio is a veritable factory of experimentations dedicated to the dissection of a painting. Saban burns, cuts and destroys her painting surfaces with lasers threatening them with annihilation but then transmuting them into their residual, final form – sometimes as delicate as paper cutouts. It is the mistakes she tries not to make that yield pulchritude, the carefully considered look of an intentional accident. The final result is a conceptual, visually minimal object in which the history of painting is brought to bear, her judgement and its verdict being the beautifully inevitable result: another painting entering into the world.
Los Angeles artists believe in the act of painting even if at times it becomes a tool of self-manipulation, mutilation, and control. Yet historically, painting at its very best has done no worse than torture its creator only to draw him into the creation of more works. The unspoken agreement in most centers of artmaking today is that painting cannot be made without a heaping dose of irony. In Los Angeles though, a painter gets emotional, obsessively passionate about his or her mode of expression, making certain that they are rigorously hunting down every stage of their process. These artists scrutinise, fervently question, delve into dark psychologies and demand that painting be something more. Yet all the while they persist with their chosen medium earnest in their scepticism, always in love with paint itself.
- Lara Wisniewski is a freelance arts writer and curator based in Los Angeles, California. She is currently finishing her first novel Notes of Passage.
Analia Saban – Born 1980 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works in Los Angeles. Saban studied at the University of California Los Angeles, LA, CA. Previous solo exhibitions include Grayscale, Thomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011, Information Leaks, Josh Lilley Gallery, London, 2010, Living Color, Galerie Praz-Delavallade, Paris, 2009, and Wet Paintings in the Womb, Galerie Spruth Magers, Projeckte, Munich, 2007. Selected group shows include Painting Expanded, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, 2011, Here Soon Now, Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, 2010-11, Gifted, Josh Lilley Gallery, London, 2010, and Baker’s Dozen at the Torrance Art Museum, CA, 2010.
Annie Lapin – Born 1978 in Washington D.C. lives and works in Los Angeles. Lapin studied at the University of California Los Angeles, LA, CA. Previous solo exhibitions include The Pure Space Animate, Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011, Parallel Deliria Iteration, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, 2009, and Parallel Deliria, Grand Arts, Kansas City, MI, 2008. Selected group shows include Five from L.A., Galerie Lelong, New York, 2011, I’ll Let You Be in My Dreams if I Can Be in Yours, Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York, 2010, and L.A. Now, Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, 2008.
Asad Faulwell – Born 1982 in Caldwell, ID, lives and works in Los Angeles. Faulwell studied at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA. Previous solo gallery exhibitions include Les Femmes D’Alger, Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York, 2011. Selected group shows include LA to Tehran: Mapping the Transitional State of Iranian Contemporary Art, The Guild, New York, 2009, and LA Art Show, Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, 2008.
Jeni Spota – Born 1982 in New York, lives and works in Los Angeles. Spota studied at the School of the Art Insitute of Chicago, IL. Previous solo museum exhibitions include Don’t Tread on Me, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, 2011 and Giotto’s Dream, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2008. Previous solo gallery exhibitions include For the Great Tally, Brennan & Griffin, New York, 2010, and Tra La La, Greener Pastures, Toronto, Canada, 2009. Selected group shows include Gaylen Gerber, Renwick Gallery, New York, 2011, Never Let Me Go, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, 2011, Stranger Than Fiction, Santa Barbara Art Museum, Santa Barbara, 2010, The Perpetual Dialogue, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, 2009, and LA Now, Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, 2008.