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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
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July 23, 2018


NATHAN GLUCK, THE WARHOL ASSISTANT WHO KNEW MORE THAN HIM (but about the wrong things)

THE WEEKLY PIC: This lovely photogram and collage was made in 1939 by Nathan Gluck, and it’s now in a show of his works at the Luis De Jesus gallery in Los Angeles, which holds his estate.

If Gluck is known at all, it’s as the man who assisted Andy Warhol in his commercial-art business for about a dozen years, ending in 1966. That standard view of Gluck as playing second fiddle to Warhol isn’t quite wrong, but it gives a false impression of how things stood when they first met, around 1951.   more

At that moment, Gluck, a decade Warhol’s senior, was clearly the more sophisticated, mature, and art-educated of the two. He made this photogram, for instance, exactly ten years before Warhol’s tried his hand at the same medium, while still in art school. This and the other early collages at Luis De Jesus show that Gluck was fully clued-in to the latest in European Surrealism at a moment when Warhol was still literally in short pants.

When Gluck first came on board as Warhol’s “assistant,” around 1955, he was an erudite opera fanatic who came with a notable cultural pedigree: He had dined with the great designer Paul Rand and also with Marcel Duchamp well before Warhol could boast of the same, and was known among New York’s dealers in modernist prints and books. He’d even had a poster selected for the MoMA collection, where Warhol wouldn’t manage to place his work until the 1960s.

In a way, you could say that Gluck’s maturity and Europeanism were his Achilles heel. He was tied to traditional, style-centered ideas about Modern art and could never quite appreciate the conceptual, anti-retinal, Duchampian ideas that Warhol deployed in his Pop.

Warhol’s Pop revolution came in making the look of something matter less than what it meant. Whereas the commercial art that Gluck worked on – often made from scratch, in Warhol’s name – needed to look absolutely fabulous. Gluck was the perfect man, with the perfect training, to make it so.  [ READ MORE ]

July 21, 2018


REVIEW: NATHAN GLUCK AND DENNIS KOCH

Dennis Koch & Nathan Gluck: Gobsmacked By Collaging

Although many artists and non-artists alike engage with the process of collaging, a successful collage is not that easy to achieve. For the merger of unrelated images and/or texts to resonate beyond the obvious, there is much to take into consideration— point of view, message, cohesion of elements, formal arrangement, etc. Juxtaposing disparate elements from various sources does not necessarily construe art.   more

Collage has a broad history and those who venture into collaging must take into consideration their historical precedents.

Popular and influential early collage artists include Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell, Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield and Kurt Schwitters — whose materials ranged from text and photographs to historical reproductions. Many artists have used collage to communicate their social and political views via the mass media. With the proliferation of digital technologies, collaging has become more commonplace as cutting and pasting is now easily achieved with software.

Though not necessarily a household name, artist and former Andy Warhol studio assistant, Nathan Gluck (1918-2008) was a dedicated collagist. For over 70 years, he created works on paper that combined original and found materials that spanned numerous genres of collage from Dada and Surrealism to Postmodernism. [ READ MORE ]

July 13, 2018


Lynching in the US: Even the mob kills systematically

A new memorial in the US focuses on the lynchings committed on African Americans. Looking more closely at the subject, another, largely unknown, history of mob violence against Mexicans comes to light.

"The worst thing we've ever done," was the reportage that an American radio station dedicated to the recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice. In addition to racist violence and slavery, the memorial site in Montgomery, Alabama, brings lynchings to America's collective memory. The numbers cited by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and driving force behind the Memorial since 1989, are impressive. More than 4,400 African Americans have been extrajudicially and often brutally killed in southern states like Alabama.   more

They are now reminiscent of 800 free-floating steel steles in the museum. [ READ MORE ]

July 03, 2018


ZACKARY DRUCKER IN THE LOS ANGELES BLADE

“DIRTY LOOKS: ON LOCATION" BRINGS QUEER HISTORY BACK TO LIFE IN L.A."

Lovers of local queer culture have a fantastic opportunity to experience it throughout July with “Dirty Looks: On Location,” an arts festival which focuses on “celebrating L.A. queer history in the streets that wrote it.”

According to the festival’s planners:

“On Location began in 2012 in the bars and community centers that fill New York City. Putting screenings or performances in everyday spaces brought new life to the works, focusing on the social nature of art making in the city.   more

But there were other stories to tell. On Location 2018 was organized in Los Angeles by 13 local curators, artists and promoters, playing with venues and meeting places that defined queer life in Los Angeles – 31 spaces across the 31 days of July, charting a progression of culture(s) using one month’s time.”

“Dirty Looks” is a widespread program of events and “happenings” featuring local musicians, artists, cultural icons and community leaders. It aims to capture the creative and historic queer pulse of Los Angeles by “animating and activating historic sites of queer cultural exchange.” [ READ MORE ]

July 02, 2018


ZACKARY DRUCKER IN THE ADVOCATE

DIRTY LOOKS FILM FEST LIGHTS UP L.A. QUEER LANDMARKS

Dirty Looks: On Location is an exciting, alternative arts festival offering an event every night in July. The festival engages with historic queer locations across Los Angeles and brings new life and meaning to them by screening films and offering performances by artists including Zackary Drucker, Maya Deren, and Gregg Araki. The Advocate spoke with Bradford Nordeen, the founder and creative director of the event, about what makes this festival so playful, provocative, and intriguing.  [ READ MORE ]

June 26, 2018


KEN GONZALES-DAY IN EAST OF BORNEO

SURFACE TENSION: MAPPING MURALS IN LOS ANGELES

Last year, I was commissioned by the Skirball Cultural Center to make an exhibition considering the relationship between the Mexican Muralists and Los Angeles. This was to be part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, as was a second exhibit the Skirball was planning: an examination of the work of writer Anita Brenner, whose 1929 volume, Idols behind Altars: Modern Mexican Art and Its Cultural Roots, helped promote Mexican art and muralism to American audiences.   more

Thinking of Brenner’s work alongside the six months David Alfaro Siqueiros spent in Los Angeles in 1932, teaching at the Chouinard Art Institute and creating murals there and on Olvera Street, framed my thinking about the exhibition. The result was Surface Tension: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in Los Angeles, a photographic journey to map out the city through its murals, signs, and mark-making, in the hopes of making visible the larger cultural, socio-economic, and political forces that have shaped the place we have come to call Los Angeles. [ READ MORE ]

June 25, 2018


LUIS DE JESUS EXHIBITS ART BY WARHOL CONTEMPORARY

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles presents “SOMETHING ELSE: The Collages of Nathan Gluck,” an exhibition celebrating the artist’s centennial anniversary, 1918-2018, on view from June 23 through July 28. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, June 23, from 4-7 p.m.

“SOMETHING ELSE” represents the first survey exhibition of collages created by Nathan Gluck, who is recognized as Andy Warhol’s pre-pop commercial art assistant. Gluck helped shape and create many of Warhol’s most famous illustrations, ads and designs.   more

He also assisted Warhol with his early transitional pop pieces. [ READ MORE ]

June 25, 2018


ZACKARY DRUCKER IN ARTNEWS

DIRTY LOOKS ANNOUNCES CORE PROGRAMS, VENUES FOR "ON LOCATION" IN LOS ANGELES

The bicoastal art-film nonprofit Dirty Looks today detailed the upcoming edition of its “On Location” festival in Los Angeles, naming the four programs that will form the core of its month-long screening series of queer cinema in queer-oriented spaces.

“On Location” will launch on July 1 with an evening event titled “A Most Unusual Film Festival” that will seek to honor the 50th anniversary of the first homosexual film festival in Los Angeles—possibly the first in the world.   more

That festival took place in the city’s MacArthur Park at the Park Theater, which had until then screened primarily independent cinema. Instead, perhaps with the aim of bolstering its ticket sales, the press release from Dirty Looks explains, it swapped “out its calendar of hetero cheesecake for a boundary-pushing slate of male-only content.”

“Well, it’s l’origine du monde,” Bradford Nordeen, Dirty Look’s founder and creative director, told ARTnews by phone. “It predicated a need for content and was a catalyst for creation. In terms of queer self-representation in film festivals, it starts at the Park Theater. It allowed for people who hadn’t been able to see themselves prior to this to go see homosexual culture on film.”

On Location’s “A Most Unusual Film Festival” will screen two films in 16mm from the 1968 festival and take place close to its original space, which is now a swap meet, at the Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth.

Also on deck for the L.A. edition of “On Location” is a survey of short films and documentation of the life of Zackary Drucker, an influential trans performance artist and filmmaker who has been a producer of the Amazon series Transparent since it premiered in 2014. [ READ MORE ]

June 22, 2018


REVIEW: ANDRÉ HEMER IN BLOUIN ARTINFO

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June 15, 2018


review: Titus Kaphar and Ken Gonzales-Day Reveal the Fictions in Depictions

WASHINGTON, DC — Titus Kaphar’s art career was born from a bad art history class. During a lecture at the National Portrait Gallery, where his two-person show with Ken Gonzales-Day, Unseen: Our Past in a New Light opened in March of this year, Kaphar recalled the art survey class that inspired his practice. When his professor announced that they would be skipping the chapter on African art, he felt insulted. As the only person of color in the room, Kaphar felt an obligation to politely express his displeasure, which was rebuffed.   more

The experience has motivated him for close to two decades of potent art making.

Kaphar adapts classical painting and sculpture to critique the whiteness of art history and create alternate narratives — not just to remember those left out of the cannon, but also to criticize a systemic process of deliberate obfuscation on the part of museums, historians, and institutions. The folded, rolled, cut, and embellished paintings that Kaphar exhibits in Unseen feel oddly prescient here, in Washington, DC. Until recent years, the museum devoted itself mainly to traditional portraiture, featuring grand images of historical leaders and famous Americans with little diversity — in short, white American propaganda.

With the recent addition of official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald at the National Portrait Gallery and a permanent collection in the Smithsonian American Art Museum section that now includes Kerry James Marshall, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, and Mark Bradford, a rush of inclusive energy has arrived. An exhibition like Unseen is the perfect vehicle to continue to push the boundaries of traditional portraiture at NPG through their Portraiture Now series of exhibitions started in 2006 to showcase and encourage contemporary portraiture. Not only does Unseen elevate and promote diverse narratives, starting to remedy a historic homogeneity in portraiture displayed here, it also critiques the role of art museums in the deliberate omission of those other stories.

As Kaphar noted in his lecture: “All depiction is fiction.” When an artist creates an image, the product is never an unbiased or historically impartial account. However, we cannot deny that the grand representation of America’s founding fathers and other wealthy, white historical figures has impacted our nation’s conception of history. Whether we like it or not, the artwork of today becomes the historical record of tomorrow. If the major stumbling block of American history is the negation of the agency of anyone but white men, it is then no surprise that museums, art history courses, and our collective consciousness includes few women and people of color, despite their numerous contributions. It is heartening to see this omission starting to change through the inclusion of works by artists of color at the NPG.

Rather than creating singular portraits, Titus Kaphar problematizes existing art historical — especially propagandistic — images. The best of his works hit like a sucker punch and make you feel history like a phantom limb: an aching, tingling sense of what we have lost, all the omissions of significance from our history books. This lack is felt directly in the work where images are cut apart and portraits are submerged in tar or covered by shroud-like swaths of raw canvas or shredded fabric clusters.

“Behind the Myth of Benevolence” (2014) is the most direct of Kaphar’s works in Unseen. The large painting layers one image over another, with Thomas Jefferson’s face recognizable but partially obscured in an accordion of folding canvas. Like a curtain, Jefferson’s face is drawn to the side to reveal another classical oil painting underneath. A nude black woman meets your gaze with powerful, yet tired eyes. All you can see is her face, shoulder, and knee, and she appears to be exotically portrayed like other “bather” Neoclassical images from Western art, wearing a gold and blue headdress with a serving pitcher in the background.

Kaphar said that this image wasn’t intended to specifically refer to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, since Hemmings was much lighter-skinned (as the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha) than the model he chose for this piece. However, he did want to point out how unlikely it was that Jefferson fathered children with Hemmings only, that it was a common practice for plantation owners to rape enslaved women.

The idea of “benevolent” slavery, which is becoming more and more common in revisionist white supremacist history, is handily attacked in this piece, which posits Jefferson as a symbol for all white, slave-owning Americans and the anonymous black woman (whose humanity is palpable) for all enslaved people. Jefferson’s self-satisfied smile and proud comportment, his reputation as an enlightened thinker and co-author of the Declaration of Independence, juxtaposed with this mysterious woman is searing, her namelessness next to Jefferson adding to its power. Her lyrically painted figure, similar to an Ingres bather, places her squarely into an art history that deliberately forgot her and transformed Jefferson into a holy deity.

What is most successful about the works in Unseen is how they question specific historical narratives as well as the general practice of portraiture. This double critique can be seen in the twin portraits of Billy Lee and Ona Judge, where each is painted in a classical style but skin and hair are rendered in a lumpy impasto of tar. By using a traditional visual language and showing that it is not a neutral practice, Kaphar extends his ideas to the entire collection at the National Portrait Gallery, infusing historic works with new questions and energy.

Where Kaphar’s narratives focus on African Americans, the other artist featured in Unseen, Ken Gonzales-Day, creates images which center around Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos, that also expose cultural bias and the inadequacy of current historical narratives.

Although it’s described as one exhibition with one title, Unseen functions more like two solo shows, since the work of the two artists are not placed in proximity, but installed in separate, side-by-side galleries. It’s impossible to view them at the same time, which is fine visually, but does not create an opportunity for much cross-pollination to occur.

Theoretically, Kaphar and Gonzales-Day balance out a vital conversation about America’s underrepresented people — each through expertly designed means. However, Kaphar’s images immediately trigger emotions while Gonzales-Day’s require gradual and intellectual processing. Kaphar’s work is a forest fire, while Gonzales-Day’s is a slow burn. In both cases, the work is strong but the timing seems off; the viewer to forced to process each exhibition through exclusive modes that encourage focusing on just one or the other.

In Gonzales-Day’s half of Unseen, elegant, oversized photos feature white classical marble statues, cropped and positioned against black backgrounds. The images subtly offer a commentary on the history of Western art, in contrast with the dominant narratives they were intended to represent. Some feature photos of statues in symbolic poses, like “America,” printed 2017 which depicts the nude female statue from behind, suggesting that she has turned her back on her people or that she has been distracted from her purpose.
Other works depict historic lynching photos, but the artist has Photoshopped the victim’s body out of the scene, leaving just a crowd of white people milling around a tree. The works are understated, and, next to Kaphar, and inside a marble institution, blend in like camouflage rather than demand your attention. In his talk earlier that evening, Gonzales-Day showed images of his photos displayed on giant billboards. Their power in a public environment, especially outside a museum, was immediate proving that context plays an essential role in the impact of his work.

Even from the structure of this essay, it’s obvious that Kaphar’s work is more direct in its message than Gonzales-Day’s, and thus easier to talk about. It can be immediately consumed, satisfyingly Instagrammed, and his images stay with you after you leave. This is in no way a criticism of Gonzalez-Day’s work, but it is an argument for a more careful consideration of curatorial strategy, especially when working with artists of color who specifically engage with an art history that has purposefully left them out.

Although both artists in Unseen critique omissions in the art historical cannon and offer compelling counter narratives, it is not enough to place their work in neighboring museum galleries and call it a show. Each artist here deserves his own title and his own curatorial materials, in order to make sure that each are considered equally and on their own terms. The goal of any two-person show is to enhance the work of artists by placing them in conversation with another artist who can elevate, expand, or challenge their work, but this is not the case here. Differences in the temperament of each could and should have been more carefully considered in order for each artist to benefit from proximity with the other.

As it is, both exhibits are well worth a visit. I suggest coming back more than once in order to allow Gonzalez-Day’s delicate works to slowly unfold within your consciousness after it’s been jogged awake by Kaphar’s dramatic declarations.

UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar is up through January 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. (8th and F Streets NW). This exhibition continues the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraiture Now series.
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