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Back to Reviews 96

Chris Burden
Three Ghost Ships,

Lari Pittman
This Wholesomeness,
Beloved and Despised,
Continues Regardless,

Lari Pittman
A Decorated
Chronology of 
Insistence and 
Resignation #1,

Lari Pittman
Where the Soul 
Intact Will Shed 
Its Scabs (8624 A.D.), 

Lari Pittman
Out of the Frost, 

black and white photos
The L.A. Art Scene 
1955 - 1975":
William Claxton
The Ferrus Gallery
1953, with:
John Alton (on cycle)
Ed Moses (kneeling) 
Irving Blum (seated)
Billy Al Bengston


Julian Wasser
Marcel Duchamp
playing chess 
with a nude
Eve Babitz,

Ed Kienholz,

From Basquiat:
Jeffrey Wright
as Jean-Michel Basquiat
All photos by
Eric Liebowitz

Wright, David Bowie
(as Warhol), the
Gary Oldham and
Dennis Hopper as
the art dealer

Schnabel directs
Bowie and Wright

letter from L.A. 

by Jane Hart

Although Los Angeles is caught in the summer 

doldrums, a number of outstanding shows can 

be seen around town. Setting his sails at 

Gagosian, Chris Burden reconstructed his 

large-scale sculpture Three Ghost Ships in 

the gallery's space; this piece made its 

debut at the 1991 Spoleto Festival. These 

three seaworthy crafts are in fact sailing 

boats not ships, which Burden has outfitted 

with an array of high-tech gear, designed to 

enable them to sail in unison across the 

Atlantic Ocean without a pilot. The boats 

themselves, which exemplify a simple style 

and sturdy form of craftsmanship, are built 

according to the specifications of well-

known yacht designer Phil Bolger. Now the 

elaborate project is in search of a 

financial sponsor to pay for the boats' 

voyage from Charleston, S.C., to Plymouth, 

England, carrying a small but symbolic cargo 

of tea. Some additional equipment will be 

needed to successfully complete an unpiloted 

ocean crossing, of course. As it stands now, 

Burden views this piece as a "work in 


Another Los Angeles resident, Lari Pittman, 

is the subject of a major retrospective at 

the L.A. County Museum, curated by Howard N. 

Fox, through Sept. 8. At the moment Pittman 

is perhaps L.A.'s most highly regarded 

painter, and his opening drew a huge 

turnout, including many MOCA curators (a 

somewhat unusual sight at a LACMA opening). 

MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel, a 

supporter of Pittman's work well before he 

featured him prominently in the 1992 MOCA 

show "Helter Skelter", even contributed an 

informative interview with the artist to 

LACMA's handsome catalogue. The show itself 

has been beautifully installed and vividly 

displays the dazzling genius of Pittman's 

output spanning the past several years. This 

exhibition will travel in the fall to the 

Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and then 

on to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 

Washington, D.C., in early 1997.

As for summer group shows at commercial 

galleries, Craig Krull has one of the better 

ones. "Photographing The L.A. Art Scene 

1955-1975" presents nearly 200 predominately 

black-and-white images documenting L.A.'s 

vibrant, blossoming art scene, with 

particularly compelling works by Dennis 

Hopper, George Herms, Edmund Teske, Charles 

Brittin and Ed Ruscha. Both Beats and 

Beautiful People are candidly portrayed, as 

are a number of major players in the L.A. 

art world, such as Ed Moses, Ken Price, 

Robert Irwin and James Turrell. Other 

figures, notably Wallace Berman and John 

Altoon, both long since departed, are the 

subject of many of the photographs on view. 

A comprehensive catalogue of the show is 

available though the gallery and Smart Art 

Press in Los Angeles. 

By the way, as an addendum to last month's 

L.A. Letter, it turns out that James Turrell 

is the artist who will contribute to the 

redesign of the Mondrian Hotel in Los 

Angeles--a project being overseen by 

Philippe Starck. Turrell will design some of 

the hotel's public areas as well as a group 

of suites.

Mounting problems between leading L.A. art 

dealers Wayne Blank and Tom Patchett, 

partners in the successful Bergamot Station 

gallery development in Santa Monica, have 

made the papers, or at least the Los Angeles 

Times. Patchett, the collector and 

television producer (Alf) who owns Track 16 

Gallery, has filed suit Blank, who operates 

Shoshana Wayne, charging him with financial 

misconduct and fraud, and seeking to 

dissolve the partnership the two formed in 

1994 to establish the Bergamot Station Arts 

Complex. Over the past couple of years the 

complex has become a thriving contemporary-

art center, housing Rosamund Felsen and 

Patricia Faure as well as Patchett's and 

Blank's galleries. What repercussions this 

suit might possibly have, for Bergamot and 

its tenants as a whole, are not yet clear. 

The Santa Monica Museum of Art has been 

tentatively planning to relocate its 

facility to Bergamot, and according to Tom 

Rhoads, the museum's executive director, the 

discussions for this move are still under 


Speaking of LACMA, the museum recently 

announced that it was canceling its major 

fall show entitled "Hidden in Plain Sight: 

Illusion in Art From Jasper Johns to Virtual 

Reality," which was being jointly curated by 

Maurice Tuchman, senior curator emeritus of 

20th century art, and LACMA curator Virginia 

Rutledge--who has since left the museum. The 

show had been in the works for over two 

years and was planned as a survey of 

innovative work by 60 contemporary artists 

exploring different aspects of realism, and 

was to include specially commissioned 

virtual reality works by Bill Viola, Cindy 

Sherman and Jeffrey Shaw. LACMA president 

Andrea L. Rich said budgetary constraints 

did in the show, noting that LACMA funding 

requests for various projects over the next 

year were $3,000,000 in excess of projected 

revenues. Despite the funding problems, it 

is highly unusual for a museum to cancel a 

large exhibition such as this one so late 

into the scheduled season. 

In the meantime Rutledge has busied herself 

with an ongoing series of exhibitions in her 

garage only blocks away from LACMA. Most 

recently she presented a stunning selection 

of photographic work by Ukrainian artist 

Boris Mihailov. A contemporary of Ilya 

Kabakov, Mihailov is one of the more 

influential artists in the former Soviet 

Union. The images on view were 

representative documentation of two separate 

periods of performance-based pieces he did 

during the 1960s and `90s. The next show 

planned for the space will be of work by 

Mike Bidlo, who has been living in on the 

West Coast for several months now.

Tom Solomon, the first L.A. dealer to set 

up shop in his garage, permanently closed 

the doors of his West Hollywood gallery last 

month. After several years as one of the 

city's most influential young gallerists, 

Solomon said he had reached a point where he 

felt it was time to "make a change." What 

Solomon will do exactly at this juncture is 

not certain, nor has he decided whether or 

not he will remain in Los Angeles. During 

the past several years the dealer has 

championed the work of both young Los 

Angeles-based artists such as Jorge Pardo, 

Laura Stein, Eric Magnuson and Michael 

Gonzalez--as well as having given exposure 

to a number of important East Coast artists, 

including Alexis Rockman, Jessica 

Stockholder, and Frank Majore.

Marilu Knode has resigned as curator of the 

Huntington Beach Art Center to relocate to 

Seattle to work independently. Currently 

Knode has two shows of southern California 

artists traveling in the U.S.: the Llyn 

Foulkes retrospective (organized by the 

Laguna Beach Museum and now at the Oakland 

Museum, with further stops at the Palm 

Springs Desert Museum and the Neuberger in 

Purchase, N.Y.); and the Kim Dingle 

retrospective (organized by Otis, and 

traveling this fall to the Renaissance 

Society in Chicago.) Knode's final show at 

Huntington Beach,"An Embarrassment of 

Riches" will take place this fall and 

include work by Chris Finley, Jacci den 

Hartog and Terri Friedman.

Summertime means movies, and Miramax Films 

invited much of the L.A. art world to attend 

a series of special screenings of its next 

major motion picture release entitled 

Basquiat, which has been written and 

directed by Julian Schnabel, who was in town 

for each of the screenings. Reactions to the 

film, about the rise and fall of young art-

star Jean-Michel Basquiat (played by Jeffrey 

Wright), were extremely mixed-- ranging from 

deeply disappointed to highly enthusiastic. 

The movie premieres in New York on Aug. 9, 

followed by a party for 500 including the 

cast (which features David Bowie, Gary 

Oldham, Dennis Hopper and Courtney Love), 

hosted by Schnabel at his New York home. 

Jane Hart is a director of Muse X Editions

in L.A., a new contemporary art publishing

firm specializing in digital technology.