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


January 04, 2011

Southern California's Top Ten Exhibition Picks for 2010

Presenting the third and final of our three Top Ten Exhibitions of 2010 lists, this one for Southern California. This follows publication of our picks for the Northwest and Southwest regions. For each exhibition we have republished the article about it as it originally appeared in the Visual Art Source Weekly Newsletter.  [ VISIT SITE ]

December 16, 2010


The year was filled with many good gallery shows while the museums seemed to be geared to pleasing crowds (Think MOCA’s Dennis Hopper: Double Standard and LACMA’s Renoir in the Twentieth Century) on the simplest level rather than aiming for interesting innovation. Below are my Top 10 shows of the year. I can’t bear to rank them, so they are in order according to impulse.  [VISIT SITE]

December 06, 2010

The 11 Most Original Artworks at NADA, Basel’s Most Original Art Fair... CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL featured in blackbook

Entering the Miami Convention Center during Art Basel is overwhelming, not only because of the number of artworks on display--although that alone is enough to make one’s head spin--but also because of the dollar signs attached to each piece. There must be billions of dollars worth of paint and pencil in the airplane-hangar“size venue.   more

Meanwhile, over at NADA (the New Art Dealers Alliance), nestled up Collins Avenue in the Deauville hotel (an art deco piece of art in its own right), younger gallerists and more experimental artists helped contribute to Basel’s most mind-blowing wonderland of sculpture, collage, drawing, video, and painting. Here is a sampling of this year’s standout artists.

[IMAGE] One of three prints from Christopher Russell’s Untitled Triptych, 2009.

In this work, Russell manipulated a found photograph, which he enlarged and then scratched into, creating the silhouette on a man who’s been hanged in the forest. It’s at once so pretty and disturbing that it called to mind Kara Walker’s black silhouettes of the antebellum South. Luis De Jesus in Los Angeles represents him.

By Nick Haramis [ VISIT SITE ]

November 23, 2010

Orange you glad I didn't say Biennial? Cali Bi at OCMA / David Adey, Andy Ralph, and Brian Dick in LAWEEKLY

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010 -- The California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art is a tradition dating back to 1984, when the venue was known as the Newport Harbor Art Museum and its chief curator was Paul Schimmel, now at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. The Orange County museum was renamed OCMA in the mid-'90s, and the venue's importance to the L.A. art scene has waxed and waned over the intervening decades, but the series of biennials in the new millennium ” unrivaled except for L.A.   more

Weekly's Annual Biennial ” have afforded it a new centrality, at least for a few months every couple of years.

The art boom of the last decade was reflected in the increasing ambitions of the Cali Bi, culminating in 2008's extravaganza, which featured more than 50 artists and multiple venues including outposts in Tijuana and Northern California, guest-curated by LAXART founder and director Lauri Firstenberg. Well, the boom's gone bust and Firstenberg is scheming with Annie Philbin at the Hammer Museum to steal OCMA's thunder with the Hammer's recently announced 2012 Los Angeles Biennial.

In the meantime, OCMA has scaled back its Biennial (I'm really starting to hate that word) to a more manageable 45 artists selected by in-house curator Sarah Bancroft. The show returns the focus to lesser-known up-and-comers, while retaining the expansive regionalism that allows for substantial contributions from Bay Area and San Diego art communities. As with any of these omnibus extravaganzas, the work on view is a hit-and-miss grab-bag, and the surprise quotient is crucial.

Thus the most impressive paintings in the show ” one-half of Alexandra Grant's expansive, seething six-part "Portal" series of her trademark backward word clusters on enormous sheets of paper ” lose considerable punch for having been exhibited at her L.A. gallery two years ago. In contrast, John Zurier ” a Berkeley-based midcareer monochromatic abstract painter ” materializes out of left field with a series of luminous pale-blue oils on linen that quietly steal the show. Violet Hopkins' sumptuous new Rorschach inkblots on black paper are just enough removed from both Bruce Conner's inkblot works and her own meticulously controlled illusionism to claim originality.

Some of the better-known locals surprise with uncharacteristic new work. Mari Eastman'sMoonscape With Fo-Dog (2010) is the first painting I've seen of hers that seems to emphasize her strengths as a painter, which curiously enough results in a near-monochromatic near-abstraction. Carlee Fernandez, whose modified taxidermy sculptures never seemed to own up to their Ilsa Koch connotations, has produced a substantial new performance/installation work that finally and literally addresses the biological equivalency of the artist and her subjects/materials.

Other standouts include Andy Ralph's mutant lawn chair and kinetic trash-can sculptures and David Adey's poignantly hilarious Pump (2007-2010, a sort-of St. Sebastian football on life support); both artists emerged from San Diego's Point Loma Nazarene University, whatever that signifies.

The central conceit of recent USC grad Alex Israel's installation is that it's assembled entirely from rented movie props, giving it an off-the-shelf regional specificity and clever appropriationist hook that ” in tandem with Israel's attempt to pass off his line of designer sunglasses as an art project ” would normally leave me cold. Instead, I found Property(2010) surprisingly engaging both on a formal visual level (particularly the central tableau of Osiris seated between two facing mirrors above a pedestal-mounted oceanscape quilt) and for the loose, collagey narrative that emerges from the not-quite-deliberate arrangement of not-quite-random artifacts.

The recent institutional enthusiasm for relational aesthetics, collectivism, political engagement, etc., is given the nod with the inclusion of L.A. Urban Rangers' democratizing Malibu Public Beaches (2007-2010) information kiosk, Brian Dick & Christen Sperry-Garcia's ravey DayGlo custom mascots (fabricated by the artisans at Piñata World in El Monte) and Glowfitti Room, and a cluster of works collected into a coherent curatorial aside in a small supplemental gallery: David (not of the Museum of Jurassic Technology) Wilson's walking and drawing guided tourism, Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab's mobile GPS phones hacked to locate water resources for thirsty border-crossers, Finishing School's inexplicably funny interactive-cinema exploration of Biennialism titled 54 (2010-2011), and Juan Capistrano's autobiography-laced DIY house-party kit.

Overall, though, the 2010 California Biennial has a something-for-everybody feel that kind of pisses me off. And diminishes its sense of currency ” a problem compounded by work that is overly familiar if not patently derivative: Andy Kolar's pointlessly handsome homages to Monique Prieto's mid-'90s revival of '60s color-field painting tropes; Lisa Williamson's (USC MFA '08) suspiciously Amanda Ross-Ho“esque (USC MFA '06) array of black-and-white diagrammatic reductivisms; Luke Butler's fetishized, isolated scenes ofCaptain Kirk in emotionally charged scenes from the original Star Trek.
If OCMA wants to maintain its lead in the coming biennial wars, it needs to get more cranky, opinionated and idiosyncratic before it mounts its next, delayed iteration in 2013.

November 23, 2010

"Reinventing Photography: Hybrid Photographic Forms" / Christopher Russell on The Huffington Post

As a photographer, I have to deal with a great heaving load of historical baggage about photography's validity as an art form, its place among other media, and its relevance in an increasingly digital era. However, instead of being quashed by the weight of ancient history or lost in new technology, some artists are embracing everything, incorporating traditional art forms into their photographic practice. These artists are creating hybrid photographic forms -- art that combines photography with other media in interesting ways.   more

For example, they are making photographs that are combined with or made out of drawing, photographs that are cut up or gouged into, or sculptures made out of photographs.

I suspect that these hybrid forms are the result of multiple historical factors: a response to digital photography, a result of the increasing popularity of multidisciplinary work, and a desire to reinvigorate the hand, to bring a physical engagement with media back to photography. It's not that these artists are doing something that has never been done before; photographic collage, for example has been around almost as long as photography has. But I think it's important that these artists are doing what they are doing in this particular moment in history. It feels like there is a renewed interest in manipulating photographs, defacing them, and using them as a media medium. It seems to me that these hybrid forms are navigating a path toward reinventing photography, forging a new future for an art form that, paradoxically, because of its relentless, endless evolution, constantly risks extinction. Hybrid photographic forms are one way to address the baggage of the past and the shifting technological ground of the present.

The following gallery, by no means exhaustive or complete, represents some of the artists who have inspired my own experiments with hybrid photographic forms. Christine Nguyen makes giant photomurals by drawing the negatives herself onto Mylar sheets, creating massive underwater worlds that are both photograph and drawing. Christopher Russell also combines drawing with photography, using a reductive process of scratching away at the surface of the photograph to create the drawing. Vlatka Horvat and Soo Kim both cut into and layer their photographs, creating works that are part photograph, part sculpture. Kristine Thompson also cuts up photographs, intimately interacting with the resulting figures. Cathy Akers works with photographic collage, and Matt Lipps creates three-dimensional photographic collages that are then re-photographed.

As a final note, I'm sincerely interested in artists who use photography in hybrid ways, combining multiple media, so if you have someone you think I should look at or include in a future gallery, please post your suggestions in the comments field below.

Posted: November 22, 2010 10:10 AM

Reinventing Photography: Hybrid Photographic Forms is part of a series of online galleries on contemporary art, curated by Carrie Yury.

November 16, 2010

Screw-Embedded Football ‘Breathes’ on Respirator - david adey at the 2010 california biennial

The doomed football at the heart of "Pump" has been ravaged by drywall screws. Hooked to a horse respirator that pumps it full of air in a constant, life-and-death battle against deflation, the pitiful pigskin expands and contracts incessantly.   more

The prognosis is not good, but at least the football's Phillips-head oppressors make an eye-catching display as the ball shrinks and expands.

The art piece by David Adey, a San Diego sculptor fascinated by the process of "creating something new through an object's destruction and restoration," is just one of the curious works by four dozen West Coast artists in the 2010 California Biennial, presented by the Orange County Museum of Art through March 13, 2011.

Check the gallery for more on Pump and a sampling of other work from this year's California Biennial, including a Star Trek-inspired painting and GPS-embedded cellphones that locate water caches near the U.S.-Mexico border.

David Adey says in a statement that "Pump began as a simple experiment in the destruction of a football by piercing it with drywall screws."

Adey, a New Jersey native whose work has been featured at Los Angeles' Luis De Jesus gallery, explains the Pump system: "The football's entire surface is embedded with screws that simultaneously deflate the structure and create a second layer of skin. The respirator slowly pumps air in and out of the football through an oxygen tube, mimicking the fluid motion of a respiratory organ." [ VISIT SITE ]

November 03, 2010


SINCE THE EARLY 1990s a particular aesthetic has been associated with abstract painting in the western United States, an aesthetic of over-the-top visual lusciousness that knowingly and aggressively updates ideas of "beauty," acknowledging our habituation to, among other things, synthetic materials and colors, and even the digital re-presentation of mundane reality.   more

Los Angeles, Houston, and, in particular, Las Vegas serve as the loci for this no-longer-new-but-still-pervasive aesthetic, but it should come as no surprise that one of its most persuasive practitioners should now emerge from San Diego, specifically from the University of California campus - where a similar affront to the art world's dominant "ugly-is-serious" trope had coalesced two decades earlier in the Pattern & Decoration movement.

Heather Gwen Martin began her studies at UCSD at the height of the "beautiful abstraction" tendency; according to her mentor, Kim MacConnel, even her earliest works "stood out in their commitment and sophistication." Recognizing a kindred spirit, Pattern & Decoration veteran MacConnel cultivated Martin's innate abilities and leanings, and the result is a body of work that still stands out in its commitment and sophistication - this time in the world, not just in the classroom. The tendrilous lines Martin employs, and the bulbous but brittle shapes she describes with them, appear in other contemporary painting and (especially) drawing, as does her palette, especially its almost painfully vivid chromatic levels. But nobody - nobody - else employing these now-commonplace formalisms makes them work this way, or even achieves quite this level of power, allure, and eloquence.

Martin clearly derives her intricate, tensile line from both nature and computer; but at heart it comes from her own hand, and its dogged quirkiness harks back to no less than Arshile Gorky. (The recent retrospective at MOCA provided ready comparison.) In a sense, Martin is an nth-generation abstract expressionist, devolving Gorky's branching gestures much as James Brooks and Conrad Marca-Relli and William Baziotes (and, yes, John Altoon and Jay de Feo) had. At the same time, her intense colors - and, especially, her raucous color combinations, sliding close hues and values almost painfully upon one another - owe a debt to the '60s-era hard-edge painting of such as Ellsworth Kelly, Leon Polk Smith, Jack Youngerman, Nicholas Krushenick and Deborah Remington. I have no idea whose work Martin knew previously (although, knowing MacConnel, he turned her on to at least some of these predecessors), but in this case we're not talking influences, we're talking shoulders of giants. This is the panoply of American painters in which we can already place Martin.

Of course, the 33-year-old Canadian-born artist - who did grad work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago - is a child of her time as well. In both her palette and her line, and especially in her tumultuous composition, with its eddies, zigzags, abrupt abutments and explosions - all rendered with the poised, crackling hairlines of digital rendering - you see her inherit not just from the aforementioned postwar masters but from more recently prominent painters such as Inka Essenhigh in New York and Los Angeles' Monique Prieto. The level of excitement doubles, then, looking at Martin's paintings: you experience an exhilarating eyeful, gorgeous, smart, risky and vertiginous, and at the same time you witness an American tradition coming to a head in its latest iteration.

- Peter Frank [VISIT SITE]

October 30, 2010

“Satisfyingly Shipwrecked” / Christopher Russell at Luis De Jesus Gallery, by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

Romantic literature and its predecessors are filled with shipwrecks ” Byron, Defoe, Poe, Shakespeare, Swift, etc. Even Homer's tale had Odysseus tossed about at sea by supernatural forces.   more

The ship as an emblem of life's journey through the unknown ” at once beautiful, thrilling and treacherous ” and its eventual wreckage as a necessary platform for renewal have served lots of writers well.

Shipwrecks are at the core of Christopher Russell's new work at Luis De Jesus, his first show with the gallery, in both an artist's book and a large group of quirky drawings. The collective title, “Runaway,” comes across as having several meanings. Partly it's a traditional description of the artist as fugitive from society (as romantic a notion as there is for an artist's role). Partly it's an urgent command to his audience, suggesting that they join him. And partly it characterizes the runaway torrent of imagery that constantly crashes into contemporary life, from which there is hardly any escape.
Many of Russell's drawings begin with rustic landscape photographs that are the opposite of technological ” a remote forest stream, tree limbs draped in Spanish moss, a frozen lake and especially a rocky gorge ” which he brings into the fold by manipulation in the computer. Doubled, flopped, patterned like kaleidoscope chips, the photograph becomes a color ink-jet print that, in its largest format (as much as 7 feet tall) has the creepy look and claustrophobic feel of scaly Victorian wallpaper. Russell draws on it ” not with a pencil or brush but with a sharp stylus or blade, scratching away the surface to reveal the white paper beneath.

The technique is quietly effective, at its best exuding a feral quality of clawing for release from domestic confinement. Like Robert Rauschenberg erasing a drawing by Willem de Kooning, it also acknowledges the authority of pervasive digital imagery while declining to be limited by it. The show would benefit from some editing (there's too much to take in), but the old-fashioned four-masted schooners that emerge throughout as negative spaces amid the encroaching gloom assume a ghostly quality of positive release.

”Christopher Knight

October 30, 2010


Christopher Russell’s show “Runaway” is at Luis De Jesus right now. It would be a good idea for you to see this exhibition. When I visited at the opening I became afraid to write about “Runaways.” (This happens with artists whose work I love.) With his powerful images “ what first attracted me to Christopher’s work “ Russell poses questions to which I may not want answers. And when I do (secretly, in the back of my head) envision the responses yet more questions present themselves. This work is very dark.   more

MORESome of it may come across as obsessive and neurotic: death, sex, kidnapping, abandonment and fury. These fixations express themselves in his artistic processes. Consider the hellishly repetitive motions it must take to scratch away all that image from the photos, his use and reuse of William Morris-inspired patterning on wallpaper, the essential repetitive nature of photography, his ongoing publications of murderous and scatological stories “ is the driving force abasement or intelligence?

Christopher Russell, 1. Background
Posted: October 26th, 2010

I first saw Christopher Russell’s photographs at Acuna-Hansen in xxx (some year a long time ago) installed in the back room. This was before his 2005 show with the gallery, “The Veil Trembles and is Very Thin” and I think some of what I recall may be mixed up with that later experience. There were four or five photographs “ some landscapes with things wrong about them, a photograph of a once ubiquitous Calvin Klein ad here shown dirty, water-stained and much distressed. (Calvin Klein Inc. possibly mightn’t like Russell’s misuse of the image but to my mind this was the best those sunglass-wearing, shaven and crispy clean boys could look.)

(The queerness I was loving went deeper in my mind than just a tingling of my gaydar.) Without being able to determine why, I was hooked. We went back and looked more, asked questions, and asked for an introduction to the artist. Several weeks of calendar and geography negotiations later we drove up one of the canyons in the Verdugo’s to visit Russell’s studio.

Let me set the scene: Russell lives on a cul-de-sac in the canyon, the house is a charming riff on 1950′s California ranch house style “ reddish stained wood with white trim and a shake roof with a nice yard. Russell and his friendly dog met us at the door, hugs-petting-hello and stuff and then he ushered us into his garage-studio and closed the door. (Stopping the inconvenient narrative and focusing on what we heard and saw) “Bedwetter” is a zine that Russell published while in grad school at Art Center and clandestinely placed around the city and in bookstores. Ultimately Skylight Books carried the publication and now 2nd Cannons is selling the few remaining issues (click on Bedwetter for 2nd Cannons link). He included photographs, stories, texts by friends, etc. and often one had to destroy of parts of the publication to open it. (Such a dilemma for the collector!)

The “Landscape” series of photographs (later compiled into a book of the same name) is a project from his undergrad days at CCAC (yes, at the time CCA did acknowledge Craft as part of the curriculum and atmosphere) while on break after his first semester bought an inexpensive camera, cut a hole in a jacket pocket and visited Golden Gate Park to take pix of men being men in nature. Cruising. Cruising and then achieving fruition in fact. (Camera-wise for Russell, otherwise for his subjects the cruising men. Nice the way that works.) I imagine he was a little nervous, concentrating on his craft to overcome his shyness and gleefully closing in on couples and groups secretly capturing moments of passion and connection on film. Everything I see online states a publication date of 2007. I think the book was published in 2007 then held by a mysterious gentleman and not released to the public until Russell’s 2009 Hammer Projects exhibition. Follow Hammer link to read essay by Amy Gerstler. (God “ don’t you find that romantic? “Held by a mysterious gentleman and not released“” it’s like something by Edgar Allan Poe.)

Artillery Magazine and John Knuth did an interview in 2009 and Russell shares the story of his “Finding Faye” book and photo’s (obsessional and possibly delusional behavior relating to stalking Faye Dunaway) and (in a delightful bitch-slap from a shy boy to cooler undergrads who disdained his “gay” work) tells of Sally Mann lecturing at CCAC during his “Landscape” exhibition and stopping her lecture to ask to meet “the person who made those remarkable photos hanging in the lab gallery.”

When I’ve spoken with Christopher about Mann’s request for a meeting he describes it as a turning point for him - as the moment whenhis private desire to be an artist is publicly stated and in fact emphatically reaffirmed by a leading figure in his field. One might say that Sally Mann “brought him out” to use an old fashioned term from the queer world. I never have remembered to ask what they spoke about. I’d like to know.

I need to wrap up a bit but I’ll return with more and Christopher Russell at thoughts on his show at Luis De Jesus Gallery in Bergamot Station. 2525 Michigan Avenue, F2, Santa Monica, 90404.

October 15, 2010

HUFFINGTON POST ARTS' HAIKU REVIEWS: Critic Peter Frank Debuts With Quick Takes Of LA Art Shows

Haiku Review: Heather Martin singlehandedly revives the “beautiful abstraction” that was so hot in the 90s, not just by bringing back all the hot colors and sexy shapes, but by drawing on the formal vocabularies of artists as diverse as Arshile Gorky, Tom Wesselmann, Deborah Remington, and Inka Essenhigh.   more

Doesn’t matter which of these artists Martin already knows, she perpetuates and amplifies their sense of line and luminosity.

Heather Gwen Martin, Recreational Systems, installation view, 2010
Courtesy of Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

(Luis De Jesus, Bergamot Station F2, Santa Monica 90404. Thru Oct. 16.)  [ VISIT SITE ]