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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
2685 S La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 | T 310 838 6000


October 05, 2010

HEATHER GWEN MARTIN AT LUIS DE JESUS: Martin's "...cohesive body of work is relevatory."

Seeing Painting that really gives you a charge is a rare experience indeed. It’s not that Painting is dead--far from it. But when you witness an urgency to a painting’s very existence, well, that’s a delight and a Truffle worth broadcasting.

I first saw Heather Gwen Martin’s solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus at a jam-packed vernissage. The large color abstractions rabbit punched my retinas pretty much immediately.   more

Spectacularly illuminated by incandescent, fluorescent and natural light, the cohesive body of work is revelatory. I’ve thought of them fondly for the past two weeks and a recent revisit to the exhibition confirmed and consolidated my admiration. The reasons for my ardor are numerous and this post might best be served by a list.

1.) Aesthetic Intelligence: Abstraction can be a thorny issue. Martin’s work is unapologetic. By this I mean that several artists working within the abstract paradigm seem hell-bent on hanging their practice and intuition on conceptual underpinnings. They produce abstracted works rather than actually painting abstract work. There’s a significant difference. Martin uses line, volume and form interchangeably and they often careen off and from each other to amazing effect.

2.) Compositional Absolutes. If you’ve ever seen either Manet’s Execution of Maximilian or Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock, you’ve been set under the spell of artists who conduct the viewer’s eye like Georg Solti leading the Chicago Symphony. They are in control of your vision’s path. They never allow for cul-de-sacs or unintentional stasis. Martin’s canvases coax and cajole your eye across their planes. Your eye dances across the surface. She draws you close with heartbreaking detail and pushes you back with color and form that can
only be digested from across the room.

3.) Technique and Craft. Martin wields her materials with control and precision that serve her visual paradigm. Truly accomplished technical execution is always a pleasure to witness but it’s the rare moment when craftsmanship is at the service of such aesthetic dexterity. The surfaces bear no discernible trace of the human hand yet one recognizes that they are organic and doggedly non digital. In the hands of a lesser artist this precision might seem cool or worse calculated but Martin’s canvases are witty and conversational. They are as far from the superflat paradigms of Takashi Murakami as one could get.

4.) Tightrope Walking. And here Martin treads an elegant line. They are cheery without being saccharine. The canvases are intelligent without being dogmatic. They are bright without being garish. They exude pleasure yet have resonance. And lastly the paintings dialogue with one another but each remains autonomous. Yes, the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts but boy those parts don’t whither by themselves.

I beseech you to see these bravado paintings in person for although they pack some punch here in the digital world, this is work to be seen in person. The colors vibrate against one another. They will follow you home.

Heather Gwen Martin at Luis De Jesus through October 16th, 2010.

All images used with gracious permission by Luis De Jesus Gallery.

September 22, 2010


Heather Gwen Martin at Luis De Jesus (Bergamot through October 16). These works are not purely abstract. They are abstractions composed out of a pastiche of assembled forms that suggest a scenario of form and action. The intense color is of the computer age. The painting’s solid, cut vinyl-like opacity recalls the work of Monique Prieto from 10 years ago. I think her work resonates with contemporary Japanese anime design. Strong, very likeable work. Martin is included in the La Jolla Museum’s current show of San Diego artists.

September 22, 2010


A sculptural installation named after folk hero John Henry might lead a viewer to suspect that the theme of manual labor is to be treated on an epic scale. It is indicative of David Adey’s artistic temperament, however, that his room-sized work not only alluded to American folklore but also recalled Sol LeWitt’s “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967): “The ideas need not be complex.   more

Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple.” Adey’s premise was to create, in the main gallery of this early 20th-century library, long, crisscrossing rows of books”one 36 feet in length, the other 22 feet. Simple enough, except that the books were to remain suspended in air without the benefit of shelves.

Adapting a structural solution from ancient Greco-Roman bridge technology, Adey used ordinary carpenter’s clamps, along with simple wedges and brackets, to suspend the books. While the method is old, the style and materials conjured up a modern garage workshop. To heighten the visual drama, he also arranged a number of wooden sawhorses as if rearing like stallions, and, at first glance, they seemed to hold the rows aloft. As for the hundreds of books, their content and literary implications were irrelevant”Adey freely mixed fiction and nonfiction, ranging from thrillers to presidential biographies. Most would have never been found in the Athenaeum, with its focus on the arts. They served as mere building blocks.

Adey, who lives in San Diego, has never before attempted anything on this scale before. In other recent works (2008), several of them on view alongside John Henry, he uses paper punches that produce various shapes (flowers, hearts, etc.), cutting up fashion and celebrity photographs, ranging in size from magazine pages to bus shelter posters, and arranging them in ghostlike webs held to the wall with specimen pins. These genuinely eerie images omit eyes and mouths and sometimes other body parts, and add up not to a person so much as a chilly echo of one. Like John Henry, they transform everyday materials into spectacle, and gain power from hundreds of units creating a single work. But while the images are tinged with social commentary, John Henry was about the pleasure of seeing a precarious contraption remain intact. And even for those who might be jaded about site-specificity, this work fit its locale so well that you felt as if it had always resided there*.
”Robert L. Pincus

*John Henry was presented the following month at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, the artist’s gallery.

September 15, 2010


One of the most exciting shows I’ve seen this year is at Luis De Jesus. The abstract paintings by Heather Gwen Martin are full of rule breaking shape and color plus a good measure of humor.

The paintings are matte and flat yet as the shapes begin to reveal themselves (the more you look the more you see), they appear to have been carefully sculpted with great precision. Like cut out body tissues or strange alien organisms, forms with tendrils float through space draping and lingering on giant gourd like spheres.   more

Brilliant colors pop out from the canvas that have an organic feel, like a vegetable garden amped up to the nth degree.

Martin’s paintings are a little like geometric designs gone Surrealist too. Some of the lines reminded me of the Arshile Gorky drawings at the recent MOCA show elegant yet perverse and at the same time I see references to Jean Arp’s playfulness and Salvador Dali’s obscure proportions. Even Alexander Calder’s mobiles come to mind because of the way shapes are connected yet floating in space.

Martin says in her artist statement “My paintings are mini battles comprised of human, alien, and machine forces. Everyday situations become funny, bizarre encounters that manifest into plans to take over the world as toys, weapons, and space invaders go to work.” This is where it becomes apparent that Martin worked as a digital artist on comics and animation. While that influence may be the most obvious in the flatness of the images, it also comes through with subtle humor. I half expected to see a bubble pop up with “Splat!” exclaimed over one of the floating bodies.

Standing in the gallery, surrounded by these brilliant alien landscapes, you are transported to an alternate universe that is full of emptiness. They are joyous travels into the unknown that are also just vaguely familiar enough that you want to luxuriate in that galaxy forever.

The show runs through October 16 at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles in Bergamot Station.

September 07, 2010


A surreptitious and quite childlike delight masquerades behind the fastidiousness of Heather Gwen Martin’s large oil paintings. Large areas of flat, bold color subvert the restrained austerities of minimal abstraction with a violent energy that is nothing if not anarchic. The wonder is how the artist pulls it off.   more

It’s a suggestive high wire act, poised over a divide between color and form, that both undermines and asserts its own seriousness with exaggerations and elisions that prove to be as truly “lowbrow” as you might at first suspect them to be. [READ ON]

August 14, 2010

Christopher Russell featured in Art review: 'Stille Post: 7 Curators 7 Artists' at Kinkead Contemporary

Summer group shows, casually drawn from inventory, often feel willy-nilly. “Stille Post” at Kinkead Contemporary embraces this randomness and takes it one step further, engaging in a curatorial game of “Telephone.” Known as “Stille Post” in German, the game involves one person whispering a message to another who then whispers it to the next and so on, usually resulting in an amusingly garbled version at the end of the chain.   more

In Kinkead’s interpretation, co-director Whitney Carter selected a single artist, Christopher Russell. Russell then selected a curator, Darin Klein, who selected another artist, Kate Barclay, who selected a curator, and so on, until seven artists had been chosen. The resulting show doesn’t make much sense, but that’s somewhat the point. The curatorial conceit encourages the viewer to search out connections, but is more interesting for the invisible lines of community it traces.  [READ ON]

August 11, 2010

SIMAYSPACE: Karen Ann Myers at Luis De Jesus (Bergamot Station through August 7)

If one assumes that the central, foreground figure in a figurative painting sets the tone for a painting’s intention - the precise introduction to the process of “entering” (viewing) a painting, then Myers’ central female figures seem haphazardly wrought. In short order and due to my disinterest in the apparent “center of interest”, I found my self going to the painting’s background. It is here that the artist’s considerable skills in rendering, pattern painting, and design reign.   more

Her painting of textures, reflectivity, and pattern are exquisite. I know from this that she is capable of painting a figure in fine style. So she must be de-emphasizing the manner in which her paintings are “entered” in favor of a more global experience of the work. That makes them more abstract than figurative/narrative. [ READ ON ]

July 20, 2010

Jet Set Saturdays: Karen Ann Myers at Luis De Jesus

“Thinking of You.” A benign statement, with a sentimentality with which we are all familiar. These moments of private female pleasure and sentimental yearning are captured in Karen Ann Myers’ remarkable show at Luis De Jesus. Myers’ work, like that of Mickaelene Thomas (recently on view at Vielmetter), invites us voyeuristically to a private place where the women are willing and the environments in which they are placed are as sensual as their bodies.   more

Where Thomas celebrates the erotic largesse of black female bodies with larger than life areas of flat paint, Myers focuses on the “blonde bombshell” as a sexual center. Meyers’ figures are expressively molded and exist in contrast to the highly patterned flat backgrounds and decorative drapery. My crew bumped into quite a few Myers döppelgangers at the Dennis Hopper opening last Saturday at MOCA (Kelly Lynch and Patricia Arquette immediately come to mind). The cult of the blonde bombshell is one universally objectified and almost taboo in the world of fine art for its ditzy associations. However, standing next to a blonde goddess (or a Myers painting) in real life is a trip down memory lane ” as the lightness of the subject’s hair truly recalls the blonde innocence of childhood mixed with the brazen knowledge of sexual power. I mean, who can’t look at Daryl Hannah when she walks into the room? Be it contempt or desire, the woman is fabulous.

Of course, the depiction of the female body as a site for sacred inspiration is as prehistoric as The Venus of Willendorf. The major difference here is that Meyers, a blonde, is presenting herself as both subject and object. Although not actually a depiction of Myer’s, she invites us to look at her sexualized images of models that turn her on. Her images such as Untitled (Striped Cot) and Untitled (Blue Room) show skinny blondies in various states of erotic repose, each one possessing an awareness of their power. These women appear to see themselves as accessories with a capital A, urging the viewer to look for the small details and naughty nuance. Their power to seduce us is somehow still appealing, even in our currently over-saturated, over-sexualized popular culture.

Also stunning are Myers’ screen prints, Come Here Boy and The Perfect Fit, which are redolent of decorative wallpaper patterns. The highly saturated colors bring to mind Indian or Islamic tessellation design. When viewed from a distance, the patterns satisfy as gorgeous color studies. But view them more closely, and one is rewarded with illustrations of couples entangled in tantric embrace (this Jetsetter observed several configurations, including the Lotus Position and doggy-style). Myers’ work fits into that uncomfortable place of propriety that befits a South Carolinian. Her work is covertly decorative ” a bit traditional and proper. But she lithely inserts her own version of sexual deviance to invert the patriarchal power-play of the oldest art form (or profession), depending on the level of prurience within the viewer’s imagination.

This post was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis [ VISIT SITE ]

July 13, 2010


Luis De Jesus in Bergamot Station is currently showing a beautiful exhibition of paintings by Karen Ann Myers. In her artist statement, Myers says: I am exploring what it means to be a woman in today’s society. While my solitary female figures are strong and confident in their sexuality, these paintings also offer a glimpse into the confusion and doubt felt by women in their moments alone.

Her paintings are a perfect blend of technique, color and emotional resonance. Be sure to stop by the gallery before the show ends on August 7. [VISIT SITE]

July 08, 2010


"...truly touched and impressed by this artists work. i feel a deep connection to her paintings and resonate with the notion of beauty, strength and confusion. in our society women are expected to be strong and determined to succeed, to prove themselves as able-minded (especially within our patriarchal social composition“) yet women are also seen as frail, and sometimes feeble in their depictions. sexuality has become a way for the modern woman to shed the fragile cloak and embrace the strength that lies inherently within them.   more

however, sexuality for women is imposed upon by social standards and regulations, thus women are objects of mens desire, thus men determine how women should comport sexually. all of these social constructs make being a woman a difficult task, especially within the realm of relationships and social interaction. thank you Karen Ann Myers for such brilliant and awe inspiring work."  [VISIT SITE]