Art review: 2010 Los Angeles Juried Exhibition @ Municipal Art Gallery

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The 2010 Los Angeles Juried Exhibition at the Municipal Art Gallery is a solid show, less adventurous than simply engaging. Jurors Ali Subotnick and Franklin Sirmans, curators at the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, respectively, selected slightly more than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings, mixed-media works and one video from submitted entries. Most of the artists are represented by at least two works.

A considerable number lean rather too heavily on familiar precedents by established artists as different from one another as Karl Benjamin (geometric abstraction), Jonathan Borofsky (dream imagery), Jeanne Dunning (erotic vegetables), David Hammons (altered flags), Mark Tansey (academic art-history painting) and, especially, the late Robert Rauschenberg (all-purpose media-mixing). But derivation is a funny thing: Contemporary art is a traditional discourse among artists; so, while it is expected that a compelling new work will contain within it visible seeds of what has come before, some degree of subversion, objection or refusal is likewise anticipated.

Take the big, carefully crafted sculptures by Isaac Resnikoff. He’s been wood-working for several years, crafting geodes, maps and relief figures from carved, laminated and sometimes painted wood. The jurors chose -- rightly, I think -- his imposing, 20-foot modular sculpture of a concrete barrier as the exhibition’s outstanding work. (Other lead prizes went to Desirae Hepp, Dao Nguyen and Catherine Bennaton.) Inevitably it recalls works like 1997’s ‘Unpainted Sculpture’ by Charles Ray, a fiberglass doppelganger of a smashed-up car, which led to Ray’s 2007 tour de force, ‘Hinoki,’ a felled and rotting oak tree reproduced down to the last bare root in carved and laminated cypress by expert Japanese craftsmen.

Ray’s sculptures get their creepy frisson from ghostly surfaces whose otherworldly beauty yields impossibly perfect objects caught amid dissolution and decay. Resnikoff, by contrast, gives us something very different. His carved and laminated ‘Untitled (Jersey Barrier)’ is a rough blockade, an obstruction meant to control access for blunt reasons of security. Art’s do-not-touch status contributes to its force.


A second Resnikoff sculpture in a nearby room builds a concrete block wall from delicately carved wood panels. One work reproduces the old-fashioned look of steel-reinforced poured concrete, replicating chipped and weathered surfaces absent any sense of lost durability, while the other is as pristine as any traditional Minimalist form. Ray is a magnificent fabulist, but Resnikoff’s ‘just the facts, ma’am’ aesthetic insists on the power of physical limits.

Among other notable works is Hepp’s ‘Corazón,’ a closet-sized, walk-in environment bathed in red light, its perforated sheets of foam stretched overhead to create what look like storm clouds crossed with a bloodstream. Jeffrey Frisch’s three ‘dream vessels’ are fantasy schooners composed from household junk -- an iron, kitchen scale, chop sticks, measuring cup, etc. -- the trio’s pinstripe fabric sails splitting the difference between business-like conformity and corporate buccaneering.

The unraveling warp-and-weft in the fabric support of Chuck Feesago’s pair of paintings -- one loosely brushed with the arc of an earthly blue orb, the other of an orange sun -- are constructed from the pages of old art magazines. Bruised colors in Kristin duCharme’s hand-knotted wool rug fit the forced perspective of its radically foreshortened subject -- a yearning, wide-eyed child with subtly clenched fists. And in a handsome painting, Christine Muraczewski caricatures the ostensibly moral rigor of modern design by juxtaposing the precision-painted back of a striped modern chair with Matissean floral wallpaper, establishing a Rorschach test of subjective perception.

Perhaps the most accomplished paintings are M. von Biesen’s bright, sketchy oils of seated young men and women, alone and vaguely hapless in their style-conscious ennui. Several watch or are watched by painted portraits hanging on nearby walls, creating a private dialogue of introspection.

The show’s sole video work -- that singularity itself something of a surprise -- is Marsia Alexander-Clark’s fine ‘Lines Repeated,’ a desert landscape scanned through narrow horizontal and vertical strips. A rugged and apparently barren world, glimpsed as if through shifting vertical and Venetian blinds, becomes a meditation on nature as an alien construct. The installation could be better (light leaking from outside washes out the projected image), but the short work’s melancholic strangeness comes through.

-- Christopher Knight

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 644-6269, through Oct. 3. Closed Mon.-Wed. Free.


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