LA Weekly's 10 Best L.A. Art Experiences of 2014: "Unsparing Quality"
by Catherine Wagley (December 17, 2014)
Dec. 20, 2014
In art, this has been the year of the gap — one version of the art world, a glitzy, market-driven one where youthfulness is a selling point, seems more and more distant from other art worlds.
It seems distant from the real world, too. When Art Basel Miami, that annual fair for which billionaires descend on Florida, opened early this month, the nation was still being rocked by protests over grand jury decisions to let off white cops who killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and asthmatic black dad Eric Garner. At Basel, as critic Christian Viveros-Fauné observed, "It was as if Ferguson and the Eric Garner verdict had never happened."
A week before, film critic A.O. Scott had asked in The New York Times, "Is our art equal to our time?" It may seem that it's not, in visual art at least, if you're looking at the paintings by the many youngish artists who say they're "excavating modernism" — i.e., recapitulating a minimal aesthetic that has proven itself desirable over the years. Or it may seem that it's not if you're looking at how many galleries are opening in L.A. or reading the many articles about hot new scenes. "Los Angeles seems to be having a New York moment," Maura Egan recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
But that version of the art world distracts from the one in which visual art is still an opportunity to explore what's possible. The exhibitions and events on this list did that by reviving exciting, overlooked histories or juxtaposing surprising objects and ideas in ways that felt provocative. Sometimes, they even connected two art worlds by bridging a gap.
"Unsparing Quality," the exhibition curated by artist Farrah Karapetian at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, included what should have been too much work, some more than half a century old, some brand new. There was quite a bit of hair. In Robert Therrien's No title (Beard cart II), a substantial white plaster beard hung from two hooks. In Mie Hørlyck Mogensen's Toothbrush, the toothbrush bristles trailing from the artist's mouth were long and unruly, like the hair on her head. The prisoner Tim Hawkinson sculpted in bronze had not hair but chains draped like hair from his wrists, arms and tongue. What was it about this show? Maybe it was the visceral momentum, the way draping and hairiness became throughlines that pulled you fluidly from depictions of self-maintenance to bondage.