Arts & EntertainmentArts & CultureCulture Monster

Review: Wonders of Timothy Washington at Craft and Folk Art Museum

Arts and CultureArtistsMuseumsVietnam War (1955-1975)

Now in his late 60s, Los Angeles artist Timothy Washington is enjoying his first solo museum exhibition. Associated with the 1960s assemblage movement in South L.A., Washington is a contemporary of David Hammons, Betye Saar, John Outterbridge and Noah Purifoy, but has never quite achieved the same level of recognition.

In his joyous, eclectic exhibition at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, it’s not hard to see why. Washington was and is a far more eccentric and mystical artist, traits that haven’t always found favor in the mainstream gallery and museum world.

From his powerful early drawings on metal printing plates, to whimsical sculptures coated with a near overwhelming assortment of found objects, he has created curious, sometimes searing works that adhere to no logic but their own.

ART: Can you guess the high price?

The drawings on metal, dating mostly from the late 1960s and early '70s, are the reverse of the etching process. Washington scraped away a layer of auto primer on the surface, effectively removing the ink rather than creating a groove for it to sit in.

They depict stolid, ghostly figures emerging from mysterious black grounds. Some are relatively naturalistic, such as in the tondo “1A,” which Washington created in defiance and frustration upon receiving his draft card during the Vietnam War. Other figures have staring, round circles for eyes, giving them a slightly haunted look.

Sculptures from this time are even more bizarrely alien. “Love Thy Neighbor” from 1968, looks a bit like a Star Wars droid, an armless metal figure with a vaguely canine head and a torso studded with hundreds of nails.

The legs of “The Energy Source: First Warning” from 1970 tower over most viewers’ heads; they are topped with an upended, skeletal-looking saddle and a pair of metal wheels. The piece is part of a Bible-inspired series, but also intimates a connection with extraterrestrial life. Sun Ra, that pioneer of Afrofuturism, would be proud.

CRITICS' PICKS: What to watch, where to go, what to eat

Like his contemporaries whose practices matured in the ruins of the 1965 Watts riots, Washington is an inveterate recycler; integrating everyday castoffs into his singular, spiritual visions. In the 1980s he developed a technique in which he coated metal armatures with a gummy concoction of cotton and glue.  Embedded into this lumpy surface are myriad bits of broken plates, timer dials, doll parts, shards of glass, toys and all manner of detritus.

These assemblages mostly take the form of otherworldly figures. “Love” from 2013 includes a vitrine built into its chest that holds objects given to him by friends. “Has an Introduction” from 2011 was inspired by the sharp spines of a kapok tree but has the whimsical feel of a children’s television character. “Futuristic Animal (Harley Davidson)” from 2004 is a goat-like creature that nods towards Rauschenberg’s “Monogram” — a taxidermy goat encircled with a tire — but then so exceeds its eclecticism as to thoroughly short-circuit the comparison.

Washington is on his own wavelength, one that thrills and revels in excess and the random collisions of detritus on the street — and in one’s brain — to spawn a highly personal symbolic order.

Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 937-4230, through April 27. Closed Mondays. www.cafam.org

MORE

PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage

CHEAT SHEET: Spring arts preview 2014

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Arts and CultureArtistsMuseumsVietnam War (1955-1975)
  • Oscars 2014: The video art in '12 Years a Slave'
    Oscars 2014: The video art in '12 Years a Slave'

    The most devastating scene in “12 Years a Slave” – a movie filled to the brim with devastating scenes, and one that rightly won the Best Picture Oscar at Sunday night’s Academy Awards – comes near the end. It speaks of director Steve McQueen’s background as...

  • USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program ends
    USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program ends

    The USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program, a pioneering series of fellowships for professional arts journalists, has come to an end. Director Sasha Anawalt, an associate professor and director of arts journalism programs at USC, confirmed the closure of the 12-year-old program.

  • Obama budget: Good for D.C. museums, not for NEA and arts grants
    Obama budget: Good for D.C. museums, not for NEA and arts grants

    President Obama’s proposed federal budget for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year would lift spending 3.5% overall for the six main federal arts and culture agencies but provide no increase for the three grant-making bodies that disburse money to nonprofit groups outside Washington, D.C.

  • Los Angeles Opera comes to the beach in Santa Monica
    Los Angeles Opera comes to the beach in Santa Monica

    Giuseppe Verdi's fallen woman soared at sunset Wednesday on the Santa Monica Pier as the Los Angeles Opera staged its first live digital simulcast, with an estimated 2,500 viewing "La Traviata" on a giant screen by the beach while the action was unfolding live at L.A.'s...

  • Simon Pegg finds happiness
    Simon Pegg finds happiness

    At 44, Simon Pegg thinks he's finally found happiness. The "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible" actor has that particular achievement on his mind recently, thanks to his new film, "Hector and the Search for Happiness." The quest film, which opens Sept. 19 and...

  • 'This Is Where I Leave You' is a dramatic turn for Bateman, Levy
    'This Is Where I Leave You' is a dramatic turn for Bateman, Levy

    Between the two of them, actor Jason Bateman and director Shawn Levy have made more than 30 film comedies. So when it came time to shoot one of several dramatic scenes in their new movie, "This Is Where I Leave You," they felt far from sure-footed.

Comments
Loading