Ten years ago, the girl that Brooklyn-based art writer Vittoria Benzine used to be spent all the money in her college savings account to see the guy she’d pined after throughout compulsory public education in L.A., knowing deep down he didn’t want to see her. Benzine has since resolved she’ll always have problems. The mark of improvement is whether those problems are getting cooler. Last year, when she got lured back to L.A. for the first time since growing up, it turned out she still had the same fetish for abandonment, now just with a cooler shape. Art writers are also writers, artists, with practices informed by personal experience. Styles of living are like handwriting.
To break the fourth wall, though — having a hard-won, independent, adult relationship with L.A. after five weeks unwittingly alone here feels like an analogous personal victory to this writing career itself. Southern California commands a glamorous if harrowing human culture, but its rocky, sandy landscape also has agency and attitude. Its azure beauty can be oppressive — I find it impossible to work here. But even without a car last summer, I still saw galleries en masse by Ubering to neighborhoods and covering them on foot. I saw all of Downtown L.A. like that with a musician I met in the jam aisle at Erewhon. Skinny strumming arm draped around me, sweating, he laughed, “You live like this?” “Yes,” I said, “in New York, I walk miles every single day.” Both cities have their own powers. Here alone, though, has Sprüth Magers crowned by palm trees.
When I left the Hills of L.A. at the end of last summer I figured it’d take a long time to ever return. Now I know how magic works, so I should’ve known better. It’s been a blessing to be back exploring art in L.A. — this time with a Maserati and a co-pilot. Every time I return it seems more’s happening, and I gain a richer idea of why. Numerous gorgeous shows by Suchitra Mattai, Hank Willis Thomas and more closed last week. We still have neighborhoods to see. Still, these beauties remain on view.
Normally I admire the gumption of solo shows, but a cool concept and sophisticated selection of artists like the eighteen Lekha Jandhyala has curated here conjure the kind of magic that teamwork alone enables. “Strong Winds Ahead” tells a poignant human story, starting “in an exhausted city” the release says, embodied best in bold work by L.A.-based Carlos Agredano, who just left his haunting gray abstract canvases out blank in the backyard of his childhood home 35 feet from the I-105 freeway in economically antagonized Lynwood, as explained by an illuminating chunk of wall text. Velocity steadily increases into the exhibition’s second room, like an ode to motion by one of Busan-born Maia Ruth Lee’s archetypal imprints. Through September 9th.
The light famously emanates enchantment in the City of Angels, but the distinct iridescence that Vienna-based Yuma Radne immerses visitors in at Steve Turner is inspired by the Siberian republic of Buryatia, where she was born and raised amongst vibrant Mongolian culture. Through color and sometimes a bit of comedy, Radne’s scenes register as historic, mythological — yet fresh, and that coveted read: entirely of the moment. These paintings manage to play without relinquishing any of their intellect, likely due to their common roots in the universal if subterranean knowledge encompassed by ancient assumptions. Through September 9th.
Escape has proven a popular theme throughout L.A. exhibitions this summer, exemplified as well by this gallery debut from L.A.-based artist Maya Seas, who’s envisioned a series of idyllic dreamscapes both possible and not with an appropriate blend of oil stick, acrylic, charcoal, and 24 karat gold. These works don’t callously deconstruct the physical form in the throes of ecstasy — instead, they let the senses overtake all that’s corporeal so the skin’s bounds delicately fall away, with ease. “The Pink Cloud” is a standout scene of rosy chiaroscuro which shares its name with the phenomenon of potent joy that recovering addicts often experience in the first flush of their sobriety. Vague, not what I expected, and all the more beautiful for it. Through September 9th.
People think the human species ascending means spaceships, but that’s just a bandaid. To me, it means doing the work at home. I’ve read that some people think every time an individual betters themselves inside, it elevates the collective vibration. We as a human people have a lot going on right now, including learning that today’s atmosphere (literal and not) is the legacy of a long, often painful past that needs unwinding, coaxing. L.A.-based Cosmo Whyte does his artist’s duty by translating that process across disparate physical mediums from charcoal to beaded curtains so heavy they can make visitors realize the reality of what they mean — sourcing his imagery all the while from historic events and family archives alike. Neon lights repeating “don’t behave like the men who brought you here” could reasonably haunt anybody reading them. Through September 16th.
The artist is my co-pilot. I fall for people who make me want to write. That’s how I discovered this conceptual creator whose work’s made possible by blockchain. Since covering NFTs at Art Basel in Switzerland last year, I’ve wondered if any artists are actually using the technology as a medium. At last I met thr33som3s this June. For the uninitiated, there’s an explanation of his project at the entrance — but sheer painting aficionados can walk in and appreciate his love for the game, evident in the enlarged images of gouache altered baseball cards which cycle throughout the gallery for fifteen minutes. Two cases display his most recent generative paintings — a subplot populated by 100 pregnant Paul Reuschels. This show got my mom to ask what a ‘sub’ is. Through September 3rd.