Gallery  October 23, 2020  Paul Laster

5 Not-to-Be-Missed Los Angeles Solo Shows

© Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian

Gregory Crewdson, Redemption Center, 2018-19.

With the fall art season in full swing, we turn our lens on Los Angeles, where a 78-year-old Funk and Nut artist is enjoying a long-overdue moment in the spotlight, two polished artists show us why they have such big followings, and a ceramicist and a painter share their personal memories and histories in highly colorful and inventive ways.

Courtesy the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles 

Maija Peeples-Bright, Woof's Eternal Flamingo Flames, 1977.

Maija Peeples-Bright: beautiFOAL
Parker Gallery 
September 13 – October 31, 2020

A student of Funk artists Robert Arneson and William T. Wiley at UC Davis, where she received an MFA in 1965, Maija Peeples-Bright went on to exhibit with the group until she, Arneson, Roy De Forrest, her husband David Zack and other Bay area artists formed the Nut Art movement. Peeples-Bright is a visionary artist who has created a personal mythology centered on animals, which she calls beasties, for the past fifty-five years. One of the stable artists at Folsom’s famous Candy Store Gallery, where she exhibited annually from 1965 to 1991, Peeples-Bright showed mostly in the Sacramento area before being rediscovered and resurrected by the greater art world in the past five years.

Presenting paintings, ceramic sculptures, and works on paper from 1964 to 2020, the exhibition beautiFOAL, which is her first solo show with the gallery, offers a lively overview of the 78-year-old artist’s enchanting practice. The 1969 painting Goose Lady Godiva, which is indicative of the colorful, naïve style of creativity that she has continued to pursue, portrays the nude noblewoman covered with illustrations of ducks and swans riding through a fairy tale realm. In the watercolors Pterodactyl Tears and Jackalope Jellyfish, from 1971 and 1972 respectively, she added glitter to adorn the ancient creatures and painted the frames with imagery of playful reptiles, while in the 1977 canvas Woof's Eternal Flamingo Flames she captures a begging dog surreally surrounded by flickering flames and pink flamingos.

Courtesy the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles, Photo by Paul Salveson

Installation view of Maija Peeples-Bright: beautiFOAL at Parker Gallery.

Equally as funky—or, in Peeples-Bright case, nutty—are the artist’s quirky ceramic sculptures. Standout pieces from the ‘00s include Horse House with Red Roof, which comically depicts two horses leaving a house from opposite ends, and Corgi-Pede, that presents an elongated dog with multiple feet, while the more recent Rider on Rabbit Waves captures a cyclist on rolling seas full of bunnies. Wholly embracing the Nut Art manifesto of making witty works, which are also phantasmagorical, Peeples-Bright continues to represent a movement that’s ripe for resurrection, particularly in these troubling times.

© Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian

Gregory Crewdson, Funerary Back Lot, 2018-19.

Gregory Crewdson: An Eclipse of Moths
September 24 – November 21, 2020

Celebrated internationally for his staged, cinematic photographs of life in small-town America, Gregory Crewdson returns to Gagosian for his seventh solo show with the gallery since 2002. Presenting a new series of large-scale, panoramic photographs of forgotten people in crumbling semi-industrial settings, the artist’s spine-chilling scenarios are shot like films—with actors, staged sets, lighting and a large crew—in order to reflect the underbelly of the nation in a highly dramatic and uncanny way. 

“What I am interested in is that moment of transcendence, where one is transported into another place, into a perfect, still world,” Crewdson has said of his artistic intention. He achieves it in psychological images like Redemption Center, which shows a shirtless man staring at a puddle in a deserted parking lot opposite a lowly bottle return business, and The Taxi Depot, where two children sleep outside on a soiled mattress as their mother looks on from a makeshift seat with a TV tray by her side.

© Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian, Photo by Jeff McLane

Installation view of Gregory Crewdson: An Eclipse of Moths at Gagosian Beverly Hills.

And in Funerary Back Lot, a young man sits on the steps of a house that’s no longer there, looking at a tombstone propped against a tree, while a woman who could be his wife or sister bathes in a large metal, water trough for farm animals. Constructing twilight tableaux that are as eerie as scenes straight out of David Lynch movies and as desolate as the subjects of Edward Hopper’s melodramatic canvases, Crewdson gives us a bird’s eye view of abandoned realms and the once-proud people who have been left to inhabit ruins. 

Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Who wonders in), 2020.

Raymond Pettibon: Pacific Ocean Pop
Regen Projects
September 12 – October 31, 2020

A native of California, Raymond Pettibon came to prominence in the late 1970s as the creator of flyers, posters, record covers and the logo for the seminal L.A. punk band Black Flag. He rocketed to fame in 1992, when he was included in Helter Skelter at Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the show that exposed many to the underground California art scene. Since then, he’s channeled the dark side of American life and history with narrative drawings that have made him one of the most important artists of the past twenty years.

“Visually, I owe a lot to comic books, illustrations, and cartoons, but I never read them as a kid,” the artist shared in a 2017 Time Out New York interview. “I like cartoonists like Charles Adams and Peter Arno, but I’m also inspired by the art of Reginald Marsh, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan. I also borrow texts from literature. As I’m reading books I’m often rewriting them. And I like German Expressionist films and movies by Alain Robbe-Grillet and Alfred Hitchcock. I used to screen films on Betamax and freeze the frames to draw from them, which may be why people sometimes relate my work to film noir.”

Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, Photo by Evan Bedford

Installation view of Raymond Pettibon: Pacific Ocean Pop at Regen Projects.

Fresh off a survey show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Pettibon is back in California with a big selection of new drawings and collages that offer a sort of stream of consciousness into the American cultural landscape. Gumby and Pokey make appearances, as do Batman, Robin, and Superman. Baseball players and film stars are both glorified and used as surrogates to address social issues. Surf scenes provide a great escape from everyday concerns, while history gets reinterpreted to comment on both the past and the present. Creating social puns and visual poetry, Pettibon holds a mirror up to American society and the reflection that he presents is none too appealing, even though his art actually is.

Courtesy The Pit, Los Angeles

Jennifer Rochlin, Summer, 2020.

Jennifer Rochlin
The Pit
September 15 – October 24, 2020

Trained as a painter, Jennifer Rochlin began working with clay in 2007 and now exclusively works with the medium. Best known for her hand-built, coiled vessels that are amorphously shaped and glazed with imagery that wraps around the surface of the clay, Rochlin creates figurative narratives that evoke memories and meaningful moments in her life. Installed on plinths to present an immersive environment, the artist’s charming ceramics offer a fresh outlook for the age-old art of storytelling.

One of her colorful pots depicts musicians Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks performing in nature, as though Rochlin is mixing memories of seeing them with thoughts of listening to them when on a walk outdoors. The pots Coyote and Marmots and Griffith Park Horses capture Los Angeles wildlife in the city’s parks. And Summer recalls time spent reading in bed, biking by the water, and making love, while My Friends’ Dogs: Dolly, Denise, and Reggie lovingly portray man’s best friend in nature.

Courtesy The Pit, Los Angeles

Installation view of Jennifer Rochlin at The Pit.

“When I first moved to LA eighteen years ago, I lived in an apartment at the top of Elysian Heights in Echo Park,” Rochlin said in a 2018 Curator interview. “It was a block away from Elysian Park and I probably walked or ran in that park every day for the sixteen years that I lived there. A lot of my work deals with the memories that come from a location in time, and that park was the landscape for my life through breakups and having children. It was a real constant in my life, and it often reappears in my work.”

However, two new pots that explore the unusual technique of biting into the outer surface of the clay and then glazing it to look like sores and bruises—a process that she discovered during a residency in France a few years back—take the artist down an experimental path not previously traveled. Bites and Bruises (#4) looks as much like flower petals blowing in the winds as it does wounds to the body and Community Bites (Cal State Long Beach Ceramic Arts) makes the idea of leaving teeth marks seem like fun—where the more there are, the merrier the outcome.

Courtesy Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles

Amir H. Fallah, They Will Smile To Your Face, 2020.

Amir H. Fallah: Remember My Child...
September 12 – October 31, 2020
Shulamit Nazarian

One of the most fascinating figurative painters working today, Amir H. Fallah brings a sense of graphic design—a skill he picked up from founding, editing, and publishing the DIY lifestyle zine-turned-magazine Beautiful Decay from 1996 (when he was just sixteen) until 2013—to his rich, visual narratives. Creating biographical portraits from the things people own, he merges a knowledge of Western art and culture with the pattern-based language of Islamic art to construct something completely fresh and spirited. In his new series of large-scale paintings, the Iranian-American artist explores the immigrant experience through the personal histories of his family to construct life lessons to pass down to his young son.

“Each painting starts with a line of text and that line of text is my starting point for finding imagery—the iconography to use in the painting,” Fallah explained in a recent video for the COLA 2020 Artist Focus Series. “Everyday I started this practice of sitting down at our dining room table, which is now covered in plastic—a kind of makeshift art studio—and my son and I will have some creative projects to do. I’ll start making these small works on paper that are based on some of the sketches that I have for the larger paintings and he will do some sort of art and craft project. It’s been really interesting because so much of the work is about raising a child and passing on your values to him.”

Courtesy Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles

Installation view of Amir H. Fallah: Remember My Child at Shulamit Nazarian.

The painting Science Is The Antidote, Superstition Is The Disease is a puzzle-like piece that mixes Americana with Islamic mythology and an old map of the world, while They Will Smile To Your Face simulates the composition of an enlarged Persian miniature with imagery from science and art centered around a birdcage with one bird that is caged and another that’s free. Remember My Child, Nowhere Is Safe layers imagery of a maiden spilling wine and black and white hands holding a symbolic plant, placed in front of a floral rug that’s blocking a floor plan of a structure, which is sided by a picture of Columbus being greeted by Native Americans and an hourglass measuring time.

Three large tondos combine painting and collage to give the blended histories a global perspective that’s embellished by a rich variety of flowers and plants encircling glowing fields of color. Offering a Garden of Eden-type of paradise, they provide hope for a peaceful future, where all of the cultural elements tossed together might live in sync.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, advisor, artist, and lecturer. New York Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Laster is also a Contributing Editor at Raw Vision and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and a contributing writer for Art & Object, OculaGalerie, ArtsySculptureTime Out New YorkConceptual Fine Arts, and Two Coats of Paint. Formerly the Founding Editor of Artkrush, he began The Daily Beast’s art section and was Art Editor at Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine. Laster has also been the Curatorial Advisor for Intersect Art & Design and an Adjunct Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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