For better or worse, Minimalism and Conceptual Art have become the dominant modes of art schools, and the art world in general, for the past forty years. The artists included in this exhibition have had to mature under the long shadow of Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Frank Stella. Few of the works in this exhibition were made specifically in response to these seminal artists, but the younger artists all admit that the aesthetics and strategies of Minimalism influenced the development of their work.
Echoes of the square
Sol LeWitt famously used the cube throughout his work as it was a unit of measurement that offered endless potential and progression. The form was a literal building block for his structures and occurs repeatedly in the outside world. Rachel DuVall sees a grid in the warp and weft of her textiles and experiments with the possibilities of color and form within that system. The square appears repeatedly in the background of Tarrah Krajnak’s videos and photographs as she overlays her own personal history onto the cannon. The chainlink fence and base of Glen Wilson’s work evokes the cube as much as the combination of materials echoes the work of Noah Purifoy. The chainlink fence appears as a battered square in the paintings of Brenna Youngblood as well, but it is rendered in trails of paint squeezed out of the tube and directly onto the canvas.
Starting with simple elements such as the line, the rectangle, the dot, Sarah Cain builds nonrepresentational paintings that can be seen as Minimalism gone awry. She uses many colors in a decidedly feminine palette and incorporates decorative objects such as seashells and beads into her canvases. She works quickly and densely, allowing paint to drip as she works. This messy, improvisational approach is in contrast to the measured and deliberate paintings of Stella and LeWitt. Victoria Fu makes photographs, sculpture, and videos that implicate the viewer in a digital landscape. She began her practice with the desire to avoid representation and stayed within Minimalist conventions, but moved away from purely formal concerns to considering the body’s relationship to imagery. Also building upon and problematizing the nonrepresentational line and its relationship to the body, Kate Costello has been incorporating elements of the figure throughout her multidisciplinary practice. Recently returning to painting, she experimented with straddling the line between representation and abstraction, but then moved away from such painterly concerns. Accepting that painting was inherently loaded, she decided to embrace outright illustration and all of the associations that viewers bring to it. Similarly considering the visual lexicon, Sherin Guirguis aims to uncover the codes of abstraction by incorporating Egyptian forms into Modernist tropes. Her abstracted riffs on pottery, jewelry, and architecture remind viewers that the East influenced Western ideas of Modernism.
Aiming for a direct engagement, some artists analyze historical moments through depiction. Kaz Oshiro’s three-dimensional paintings of I-beams recall the primary sculptures that were ascendant during the 1960s and 1970s. Placed directly on the floor, his paintings illustrate the era’s interest in industrial materials and removal of hierarchies of display. Considering the role of fine arts education in this ecosystem, Dan Levenson imagines a Bauhaus-style school in Zurich and represents its fictional history through artifacts. The false relic in this exhibition is meant to embody a lesson in removing subjectivity from one’s work: each fictitious student made a monochrome painting and then was paired to create diptychs. Highlighting movements in parallel to the Minimalists of New York, Vincent Ramos’s work grows out of a West Coast strain of Conceptual Art and offers alternative views of the era. The drawings included here render favorite songs of Vietnam veterans with a Minimalist aesthetic. These songs are evocative and meaningful in the same way that instructions for a drawing can create an image in the mind’s eye.
In one way or another, each artist in this exhibition builds upon, pushes back against, or depicts the work of LeWitt and his peers. Though varied, this exhibition offers a glimpse into some ways in which the canonization of Minimalism has impacted many artists. For these Los Angeles-based artists, making artwork is a continuing dialogue across generations.
Read the review in the LA Times