Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Launch Party August 19th at Blum and Poe
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale
by Thomas Duncan

Broken Language
at Shulamiit Nazarian
by Angella d'Avignon

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum
by Matt Stromberg

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects
by Aaron Horst

by Simone Krug

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
by Hana Cohn
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures: Alice Könitz and LAMOA Catherine Wagley
Interview with Penny Slinger Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Launch Party
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
by Jonathan Griffin

Jennie Jieun Lee
by Stuart Krimko

Trisha Baga
by Lindsay Preston Zappas

Jimmie Durham
by Molly Larkey

Parallel City
by Hana Cohn

Jason Rhodes
by Matt Stromberg
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature by Thomas Duncan
Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler by Stuart Krimko
Karl Haendel by Aaron Horst
Wolfgang Tillmans by Eli Diner
Ma by Claire de Dobay Rifelj
The Rat Bastard Protective Association by Pablo Lopez
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Catherine Wagley, Keith Vaughn, Aaron Horst, Kate Wolf, Mateo Tannatt, Evan Moffitt, Cal Siegel
We’re in This Together Lauren Cherry & Max Springer
ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth
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Boyle Heights/ Chinatown
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Chimento Contemporary
Charlie James
Human Resources
Ibid Gallery
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Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
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Nicodim Gallery
Venus Over Los Angeles
67 Steps
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Skibum MacArthur
18th Street Arts
Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis 
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DXIX Projects
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Team (Bungalow)
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The Pit
Los Angeles Valley College
The Art Gallery @ GCC
1301 PE
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California African American Museum
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Kayne Griffin Corcoran
ltd Los Angeles
Marc Foxx
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Nino Mier Gallery
Moskowitz Bayse
Noysky Projects
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Shulamit Nazarian
Various Small Fires
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USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Kenneth Tam
‘s Basement



Kenneth Tam, Video still from Sump (2015). HD video, 7:40 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist.

BOB: We’re still men.

NARRATOR: Yes, we’re men. Men is what we are.

Fight Club, dir. David Fincher

It’s the video’s most tender, too-elegant inversion: artist Kenneth Tam’s aging father rides his son like a horse. Both are shirtless. The potbellied and hunched Tam Senior rocks somberly, his hands on Junior’s toned shoulders, his bare feet hopping along the tile. The artist’s arms ripple as he arcs across the corner of a basement, from a fluorescent glow near a radiator into the shadow by a washer and dryer. The eight-minute video is called sump (2015), after a pit or depression where runoff collects, as in a basement. In the corners of this basement of his father’s house, the pair engage in silly intimacy—Tam rubs shoe polish on his father’s torso, while dad stares down the camera; they sit facing in a bathtub, blowing up balloons; they stand together under a plastic sheet with the shower head on, avoiding each other’s gaze. The lighting throughout is cool and uneven, damp-looking; the settings are cluttered hallways and racks of linens or toilet paper, disorderly storage, unsightly. Unlike, one imagines, the rooms above, the basement is raw, primordial, even animal— sub-aesthetic, and subconscious. Here in this allegorical architecture, here in the psychic puddle, Tam  upends and submits to the childhood game—patriarch as horsey, weak riding the strong—and in doing so faces that most foundational of male relations: the psychoanalytic runoff of the father.

sump is a pivot. In earlier pieces the artist inserted himself into awkward and intimate situations with a variety of individuals. The pieces that follow sump feature groups of men. In the dank silence of sump germinated the “plots” of two subsequent videos: Breakfast in Bed (2016) and The Loving Cup (2016). Icebreaker-type games, aesthetic and laughable breaches of personal space seemingly improvised with or for his father, are applied to groups of middle-aged male strangers.

The basement, too, finds a revised expression: For Breakfast in Bed, Tam constructed a simple square room inside his studio, cheaply wood-paneled, beige-carpeted. The room was set, stage, man-cave, and club; the scrutiny of larger society was suspended there—that, perhaps, the participants’ inhibitions might loosen. In BiB a group of seven men (eight, if you include Tam, although he stays behind the camera), of unknown age and background but all roughly aged 29-49 and living in Houston, held regular meetings for a total of nine weeks. Here too the men perform ridiculous, asexual yet intimate actions with or on one another’s bodies. In one scene in sump Tam’s father appears with his face and collar covered in cheerios. In BiB we see how this is done: six of the men glue cereal to the seventh’s naked torso, while talking about their girlfriends and wives, and drinking Miller Lite. The intimation of primeval scarification and ritual is no accident. Other activities include hopping in a circle, wearing bells, in a parody of tribal rite. Another has them wearing panda-colored balaclavas and lolling around like slow animals mocking yoga. In the man cave, bonding takes stereotypical forms of mutual regression.

Where other clubs or hangouts channel a common purpose—a task or interest, not to say enemy—with Breakfast in Bed and The Loving Cup it’s Tam’s art and Tam’s camera that provide this focus. Art is the pretext within which men might, for example, describe each other’s bodies aloud. Tam creates a safe space for the men to express sincere feelings (whether or not they do); the basement of art allows activities more or less abstracted from real life, with no other guiding principle—except that major caveat of their (presumed hetero) (cis-)manhood. They’ve brought all that baggage. Asked to make tinfoil costumes for themselves, one man fashions three phallic protrusions—one for the stomach, one for each shoulder. When another man pretends to jerk the shoulders off, the group chuckles. Here is a petri dish of a volatile masculinist culture. Homoeroticism here is an awkward joke. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s rallies are described as “safe spaces” for racists.



Kenneth Tam, Breakfast in Bed (2016) (installation view). Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only, June 12 – August 28, 2016, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

This is the dangerous game of Tam’s trio of “masculinist” works. The Loving Cup, a three channel video which premiered at Commonwealth & Council, spatializes a descent into subterranean rec-room psychology. Three flat screens, set on the floor, lead back into the gallery so that the first, the closest, is the most lighthearted: four men, Tam included, tickle each other, slow dance, and blow up balloons in a brightly-lit (living) room. In the middle channel the motions are closer to Judson school movement studies, undertaken with clear performativity in front of a black curtain. The third, furthest back, displays more naked id. The setting is perhaps a darkened and flashlit basement, possibly the enclosure used for Breakfast in Bed, now a bit soiled. Four men, including Tam, execute somersaults on a dirty carpet; take turns wrapping the same gifts, with Frankensteinian results; hold hands in close-ups lit like hard-core porn or snuff films. In this third, deepest level of male encounter is the intimation of violence, if not violation. Their activities resemble the icebreaker-ish tasks of the other videos; yet the tone peels back and suggests that just being there, together, just strange men in a heteronormative culture, is a trust fall.

The tension between the homosocial and the homoerotic provoked in these three works presents in the feedback of the participants. “How much bonding is involved?” asked a man responding to Tam’s job post on Reddit. “No weird stuff right?” asked another. Weird stuff being nudity, or sexual touching. “Everything was cool except for the male to male stuff that we did like dancing,” said one respondent of TLC—never mind that everything they did was male to male. “The absurd was an interesting facet,” says a participant in BiB, explaining why he signed up. “There’s also this pretty hot little chick I’m interested in who’s been urging me to do something creative…” Subsumed here is the nuance between intimacy, sexuality, and sex. When the men in BiB take turns paying one another compliments, they look pained. Compliments become “controlled observations,” in Tam’s off-camera phrase. “You’re pretty hairy, man,” says one. “That’s good, means you’ve got a lotta testosterone.” The men introduce jokes, or deprecate themselves, as if deflecting the vulnerability of a sincere expression—as if vulnerability, as passed down from father to son like hairlines, is a threat to manhood. Watching these men squirm at Tam’s directions can only confirm a pop version of masculinity, wherein the words, “Hey, I love you, man,” are a barely remembered beer commercial.

Tam used the message board Reddit to cast for Breakfast in Bed, which may have skewed for a particular sort of participant: tech-savvy, tipping towards nerdy, perhaps reclusive, and with possible trolls among them. Elsewhere, outside of these art games, a masculinist discourse often defines itself against; women, homosexuals, minorities, foreigners, or simply “the weak.” Masculinism at large can be leaderless and hateful, like Gamergate—or demagoguery, like Trump rallies. No longer are such “views” confined to the “safe spaces” of men’s clubs and man caves.

In the film Fight Club, a gigantically manly survivor of testicular cancer presses the narrator to his sweating, sac-like breasts—a side effect of his treatment. “We’re still men,” he says, weeping. The setting is a sickly green gymnasium. The fights, of course, take place in basements. But if society’s masochistic ills have emerged into daylight, Tam’s program pushes the touchy-feely activities of group therapy underground. Here between a coddling liberalism and a meatheaded fascism is a masculinism not stripped of its social anxieties, yet tempered in its misogyny. These men aren’t hateful, but they’re beyond being carefree. It’s a kind of reverse parenting. In the third channel of Loving Cup, two strange men ride each other like a horse—father and son both. In the first channel, a group of strange men stuff inflated balloons under their shirts like six-packs of estrogen-heavy pecs, and bounce, one into the other. It looks like healing. It looks like fun.



Kenneth Tam, The Loving Cup (2016) (installation view). 3 Single-channel HD videos, color, sound, 6 minutes; 6 minutes; 5:30 minutes. Image courtesy the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.


Originally published in Carla Issue 6