Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
6006 Washington Blvd. Apr. 7-May. 12, 2012
Moscow-born, New York painter Dasha Shishkin (b. 1977), whose “lapidary expressionist” paintings at Zach Feuer Gallery in Chelsea were praised by Jerry Saltz and Rosetta Stone, has a singular esthetic that combines the textures of printmaking, the sinuous draftsmanship of Egon Schiele and her own furious energy.
Her stunning show at Susanne Vielmetter presents colorful drawings on mylar, all featuring a cast of phallic-nosed females clustered together in bustling cosmopolitan contexts, liminal sites in which liberated hedonism reigns. Shishkin’s ladies gamble and smoke at the round tables of outdoor cafes, they try on shoes and hats in regal, velvet-chaired department stores -- and in between the day’s various appointments, they use their proboscises to have sprawling orgies on gorgeously printed textiles, their pink bodies Matisse-like against elaborate silks.
Shishkin’s frantic, saturated spaces are alive with wild color, but her line is intentional and precise; her work has aptly been compared to Japanese woodblock prints and even to the lithography of Albrecht Dürer and Francisco Goya. Her tableaux are wicked, mischievous and seductive.
Regen Projects II
9016 Santa Monica Blvd. Apr. 5-May 12, 2012
We all know Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965), and despite the effusive welcome her work receives from collectors and curators alike, many of us can’t stand it. Too bad. She occupies a privileged position as sketcher to the stars, filling an apparently avid demand for emo portraits of the rich and beautiful folk in her coterie -- a position she’s unlikely to be giving up any time soon.
Hence her new paintings at Regen Projects in Los Angeles, which seem exhaustingly familiar in their casual, easy esthetic. Peyton paints David Bowie, her dog Felix, and artist friends like Alex Katz and Pierre Huyghe, name-checking her subjects by first name only in the titles (last names are added in parentheses, for those of us who don’t know). It’s commonplace to say that Peyton “can’t paint,” but she clearly does exactly what she sets out to do. She has an agile, nimble touch, and is a master of textural juxtapositions -- a richly layered cheek, for instance, expressive and thick of pigment, meets a space of approximated neck, indicated with a sloppy squiggle on bare canvas.
The best painting in this show is without a doubt Klara, an oil on aluminum-veneered panel measuring just over 12 inches. In it, the sketchy outline of a young girl’s extended torso is set against a swath of richly patterned floral couch in deep purples and oranges, sumptuous and sensual. Klara’s face, rendered in shades of sandstone, is cold; her eyes -- like blue glass -- are downcast. Peyton’s fluid exchange between the lush and the living has more than a hint of the Vienna Secession, and it’s there that her works suggest a poignant ode.
3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Unit A Mar. 31-May 12, 2012
They’re strange and appealing, the colorful representational paintings of Los Angeles-based artist Jonas Wood (b. 1977), who showed last fall at Anton Kern in New York. Wood devotes his large canvases to whatever strikes his fancy, it seems, be it an interior, an object, an advertisement or a still life. And while this notion of random subject matter is not unknown (cf. Scott Reeder, for example), Wood’s work is almost perversely un-ironic.
Indeed, the paintings in his first show at David Kordansky are powerfully earnest, executed with a clean, geometric precision as if in spite of the triviality of their content. Sports figure frequently, from a poster of NBA star James Worthy to the messy art studio of a basketball fan and a BNP Paribas-sponsored tennis court, un-peopled and stark. You might think Wood aims to mine the collective American subconscious, evoking a herd mentality and the primal, sublimated draw of organized competition, but ultimately his paintings resist any conveniently summarizing logic.
Instead his touch is intentionally de-skilled and committed, and his works have the simple, satisfying, hermetic completeness of a high-school student’s art-class assignments. Hockney-like in their palettes and fractured, awkward geometry, they are filled with textures and details that provoke nostalgia for memories that aren’t our own. Paintings range in price from $15,000-$65,000.
International Art Objects
6086 Comey Avenue Mar. 31-May 5, 2012
New York artist Sarah Braman (b. 1970), the co-owner of the hip Canada gallery on Christie Street, makes syncopated geometric sculptures out of architectonic junk and sheets of colored lucite. In a show at Lehmann Maupin last fall, she took a chainsaw to a camper, hacking and slicing the vehicle into Matta-Clark-like cross-sections of personal space and dappling them with pools of purple and pink paint.
For her debut solo show in Los Angeles, Braman continues to subject rough materials to her feminine touch. Included here are a series of plywood compositions in which a number of discarded planks are attached to one another, hung on the wall and splashed with color, like a house-painter’s palette. The self-explanatory Your Doors seems to come directly from a lover’s bedroom. Leaned against the wall, the pair of doors are closed, and clearly lead nowhere -- a melancholy ode to the vicissitudes of failed romance.
Braman’s work references the masculine language of Minimalism and Color Field painting, and flirts with notions of transparency and opticality explored by California Light and Space artists. Her bright, candy-colored Plexiglas boxes, which she exhibits at diagonals, on their sides and at sharp angles to the ground, suggest her desire, literally, to turn those gender precedents on their ear. Whether much can be said for her method of doing so, however, is less obvious. Plywood compositions go for $18,000, Your Doors for $16,000, and larger works are around $42,000.
2640 S. La Cienega Blvd. Mar. 10-Apr. 14, 2012
Kelly Poe’s landscape photographs seem too pretty to be art, like the beatific clichés found in stock images on computer desktops. Verdant and eerily serene, these lush valleys, canyons and glens appear to be untainted by humanity’s destructive agendas, but don’t be fooled. Their generic perfection in fact belies their fraught political subtext -- they are the sites described by incarcerated environmental activists, jailed in 2005 as part of the U.S. government’s repressive “Operation Backfire,” as personal oases. During the course of that “criminal investigation,” 13 men and women were indicted for committing “destructive acts” in the name of animal rights and environmental causes.
Poe’s exhibition results from years of correspondence she initiated with a number of the “eco-terrorists,” as the FBI labeled them, in which she asked for descriptions of the places that keep them sane. She then traveled from the Pacific Northwest to the Arizona desert, from the South Dakota Badlands to the Atlantic Ocean, photographing their imagined idylls.
The result is strangely peaceful and unsettling at once, as the absence of political content within the frame powerfully alludes to an excess of it, just outside. What we can’t see and what we don’t know can’t hurt us, the photos suggest, while the context of their making aggressively asserts the opposite. Poe’s courageous embrace, and subversion, of such an art-world taboo -- the cliché -- is surprisingly provocative.
Cherry and Martin
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd. Mar. 3-Apr. 28, 2012
Brooklyn-based Canadian artist Holly Coulis (b. 1968) makes large-scale paintings with an amateurish, paint-by-numbers charm. Over the years, she has abandoned any pretense of representing subjects with lofty historical or philosophical conceits -- she tried and failed for a show at New York’s LFL Gallery in 2001, according to Roberta Smith in the New York Times -- and, as her new L.A. exhibition makes clear, decided instead to stick to what she’s good at: simple, bright still-lifes and landscapes of interlocking color planes, shot through with light.
At Cherry and Martin, flowers dominate. They fill their colorful vases, jars and cans aggressively, like giants towering over vacant expanses, and cast ominous, solid shadows. The topographical color strata of her two landscapes -- gray-blue skies and grayer-green hillsides -- are separated by streaks of a radiant, opera-pink underpainting.
Indeed, Coulis has made a practice of allowing her vibrant layers to shine through, and she develops forms and figures in confidant strokes on top of them, using their pigment as outline. This makes her subjects glow, as if lit from behind, and recalls the luminosity of Pierre Bonnard’s sunny interiors. Paintings range in price from $5,000-$10,000.
EMILY NATHAN is assistant editor of Artnet Magazine. She can be reached at