SIXTY’s resident art writer Rob Goyanes is on the search for the best of what’s going in L.A., Miami, and NYC this month. With winter here, and respective temperatures dipping everywhere, there’s no better way to move through the season than with some high-brow eye candy. Herewith, your guide to the best art exhibitions in January.
NEW YORK CITY: David Hockney at the Met
English artist David Hockney is one of the most influential painters of his generation. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, his iconic works certainly will: “A Bigger Splash,” the vibrant scene of a Californian swimming pool and yellow diving board post-cannonball, is an example of the engrossing imagery that Hockney creates, the best known being the pools, backyards, and portraits of people he met while living in Los Angeles.
The artist, who is now 80 years old, is ever the experimenter. While he was applauded in the 1960s for his brightly-lit landscapes and figures, he still dared to explore abstraction. Though known primarily for his pop realism, this doesn’t mean he hasn’t delved into illusion and video. A major retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the first sweeping show of its kind in the U.S. in 30 years—presents this surprising range.
Besides pushing these formal boundaries, the artist was unafraid of addressing themes of queer identity, at a time when the stakes were far higher. Images of men embracing, shown in brilliant color yet calm repose, are some of his most tender works. At the Met, there is not only Hockney’s totally absorbing portraits, but also examples of his forays into drawing and cubism. Even as an octogenarian, Hockney paints every day, and some of these works are also on view, illustrating the his enduring energy. Through February 25, 2018.
NEW YORK CITY: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at Invisible Exports
While the Hockney retrospective is of a more traditional artistry, Tree of Life is a bit more radical. Genesis BRYER P-ORRIDGE, also an English artist, was met with far more derision by the establishment. Called a “wrecker of civilization” by the British Parliament, P-ORRIDGE is known for provocative work in visual art as well as music.
A founder of the COUM Transmissions collective, which gave rise to Throbbing Gristle, P-ORRIDGE was essential to the development of industrial music and a new aesthetic movement that cannot be adequately described with a single noun or adjective. Indeed, this is the challenge the artist poses: identity, and art, is a far more fluid process when opened up to possibility and intent. P-ORRIDGE is widely known for the pandrogeny project undertaken with he/r late partner Lady Jaye—they sought to transform into each other, physically, spiritually, and artistically.
The works on view at Invisible Exports come from the later period of the COUM Transmissions period, when P-ORRIDGE was working on a vast array of Mail Art (the artist’s pen pals included William Burroughs). These works are colorfully drafted in magic marker, reflecting he/r DIY aesthetic and obsession with returning to figures of trees and houses. Despite their simple appearance, these works are portals into a truly transgressive and love-filled world. Through February 4, 2018.
LOS ANGELES: Richard Prince at LACMA
The controversial artist Richard Prince could be defined by Picasso’s credo, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” In the early 1980s, while working at Time Inc. in the tear sheets department, Prince photographed and cropped Marlboro ads depicting cowboys, ushering in a practice of appropriation that would push the legal and aesthetic limits of art for years to come.
Prince’s most recent scandal was a show at Gagosian in 2014, which included a series of works that consisted of other artist’s Instagram photos, enlarged and with new comments underneath added by the artist. This drew quite a bit of ire from many, who derided this as outright stealing, while some artists applauded the work as challenging the idea of ownership. (One of the artists that Prince appropriated is suing him.)
A show now up at LACMA will revisit Prince’s long-held obsession with the figure of the cowboy, the mythical personage that populated the ads he was first drawn to. Two photographic series from the 2010s exemplify not just his interest in this maverick, western and masculine imagery, but also the debates swirling around originality, advertising, and theft in art. Through March 25, 2018.
LOS ANGELES: The Museum of Jurassic Technology
On Venice Boulevard in Culver City, there stands the strangest museum you will ever visit. Opened in 1994, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is a darkly lit labyrinth of oddities, arcana, and wondrous objects representing the obscurest realms of life and death. From dioramas depicting the history of L.A. mobile homes and trailer parks, to the “vulgar knowledge” obtained by Flemish bacteriologist in the 1920s, this museum is for those who savor the creepiest stories of art and history.
Shrouded in mystery, scrolling through the museum’s website will only develop new layers of confusion about the origins of the museum—it recounts the collections and writings of two gardeners/botanists by the names of Owen Thum and Owen Thum the younger. However, the museum was started by the artist and designer David Hildebrand Wilson, and his wife, Diana, based on the cabinets of curiosity that they used to tour around the country.
Objects of hypersymbolic cognition, the Stink Ant of the Cameroon, and the microminiature sculptures on pinheads by Hagop Sandaldjian are just some of the weirdly beautiful things exhibited. Describing this museum in this limited space is next to impossible, so just know it is well worth the visit. And be sure to make your way up to the Tula Tea Room for a lovely setting in which to sup tea and cookies. Exhibitions ongoing.
MIAMI: Dara Friedman at PAMM
The PAMM is currently showing the largest retrospective show to date of the Miami-based German artist Dara Friedman. Titled Perfect Stranger, the mid-career survey contains many of the experimental video works that has brought Friedman international acclaim. Her rigorous, highly intellectual approach to filmmaking is belied by the content of the films, which is often simply hypnotic.
One such film, Bim Bam (1999), shows the artist slamming a door over and over. Other films show recitations of poetry, or dancers in the street. What makes Friedman’s films stand apart is the combination of stringency and lackadaisical Miami-ness. The artist is highly particular about every aspect of the film, from the shots and editing to the type of film stock used, partly due to Friedman’s study with the highly rigorous filmmaker Peter Kubelka.
However, though the works are didactic in many ways, they often portray simple, mesmerizing scenes. In one such film, plainly titled Dancer, a dancer capers through the streets of Miami. In another film, 18 couples enact moments of intimacy. The show at PAMM reveals that even though these films don’t follow a linear narrative, each of them have a story to tell. Through March 4, 2018.
MIAMI: Tomm El-Saieh at the ICA
The Port-au-Prince-born Tomm El-Saieh goes against the grain of Haitian painting. Whereas much of Haiti’s painting history is defined by realistic, lush landscapes of people and animals, El-Saieh’s work is abstract, devoid of real-world referents. An up-and-coming painter who’s included in this year’s New Museum Triennial in New York, El-Saieh also currently has his first big solo museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.
The large paintings might suggest a bit of pointillism, but they contain much more than just thousands of identical marks. Each dab is slightly different, set against backgrounds of vivid, earthen washes. The artist is purposefully trying to avoid patterns and prevent direct images from appearing, but for the audiences who gaze, their minds can’t help but produce meaning out of the chaos.
These acrylic works owe much to the history of abstraction. However, though they buck against the tradition of Haitian art, El-Saieh can’t escape his heritage and influence: they contain a distinctly Haitian vibe, the scatterplot markings reminiscent of deeper metaphysical realities that have guided the island-nation’s history since it first broke free from colonial rule. Through October 22, 2018.