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

Home
at LACMA
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.
Featuring:
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
Generous
Structures
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.
Featuring:
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
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews:
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth
Mertzbau

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
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
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.
Featuring:
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
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
at LACMA
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
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
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
MEAT PHYSICS/
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
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
VESSEL // CINS and
VESSEL // PERF
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
Distribution
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Elevator Mondays
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ICA LA
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Night Gallery
The Box
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A.G. Geiger
BBQLA
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Charlie James
Human Resources
Ibid Gallery
Ooga Booga
Ooga Twooga
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
Museum as Retail Space (MaRS)
Nicodim Gallery
Venus Over Los Angeles
Eastside
AWHRHWAR
67 Steps
ESXLA
Otherwild
SADE
Smart Objects
Skibum MacArthur
Westside
18th Street Arts
Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis 
College of Art and Design
Christopher Grimes Gallery
DXIX Projects
Five Car Garage
Team (Bungalow)
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Armory Center for the Arts
The Pit
Los Angeles Valley College
Natural
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Mid-City
1301 PE
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California African American Museum
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H I L D E
JOAN
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ltd Los Angeles
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Shoot the Lobster
Ochi Projects
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Visitor Welcome Center
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Various Small Fires
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Elsewhere in CA
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fused space (San Francisco)
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Scholes Library, NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
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Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
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)

Non-Fiction at The Underground Museum

 

Robert Gober, Hanging Man / Sleeping Man (1989). Screen-printed wallpaper. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner. Marion Palfi, Wife of a Lynch Victim (1949). Gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Gift of Sue and Al Dorskind. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Robert Gober, Hanging Man / Sleeping Man (1989). Screen-printed wallpaper. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Marion Palfi, Wife of a Lynch Victim (1949). Gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Gift of Sue and Al Dorskind. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Marion Palfi traveled to Irwintown, GA in 1949, because the first reported lynching of that year happened there. Palfi, a socially-motivated, German-born photographer, sought out various members of the small community, interviewed them, and photographed them. She took a portrait of a KKK member and one of the lynched man’s wife, Mrs. Caleb Hill (the only name used in photo captions and records), who looks more apprehensive and exhausted than legibly distraught.

The photograph of Mrs. Hill currently hangs in the Underground Museum as part of the show Non-Fiction, which was planned by Noah Davis, in collaboration with MOCA, before the late artist’s death last August. The image hangs on top of wallpaper by Robert Gober, another American preoccupied with lynching, and the only other white artist in the show. Images of a sleeping white man and of a black man hanging from a tree repeat at regular intervals across the wallpaper, titled Hanging Man/Sleeping Man (1989). It’s unclear if the sleeping white man is dreaming of the lynching or altogether oblivious. But Palfi’s photograph looks great on top of those men, interrupting the pattern in just the right way. It’s a tense and singular counterpoint to Gober’s softly colored repetitiveness.

This is an interesting conundrum in navigating Non-Fiction. The show is so tastefully installed—smooth and competent—that it’s almost easy, at first glance, to undervalue the charged theme of violence against black bodies, which all of the work in some way confronts. The Palfi-on-Gober hangs in the same room as a Kara Walker black-on-white aquatint (in the style of her cutout work), in which a white man in a top hat holds a naked black girl by the throat. In typical Walker fashion, clean elegant lines make a terrifying scene appear almost decorative. Across from Walker’s piece is an installation by David Hammons, in which a gray hoodie rests in an alcove, lit from above. Suspended from the ceiling, the hoodie almost resembles a KKK cloak, pointed at the top and mysterious.

These works too are minimal, well executed, and coexist nicely with the others in the room. But again, this aesthetic unity is so pervasive that it’s almost insidious. It subsumes the violence present in so many of the works into a familiar curatorial system, which, whether intentional or not, is perhaps appropriate: systemic violence, systemic silencing, and deep, systemic bias is key to the show’s content.

Non-Fiction opened at a moment when lynching was having a surreally disturbing resurgence, in news streams and conversations about activism. In June 2016, Jasmine Richards was convicted of a dated crime, called “felony lynching.” Richards, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Pasadena, had participated in a march in August of 2015; she and her fellow marchers demanded that the Pasadena police be held accountable for the death of a 19-year-old name Kendrec McDade, unarmed and shot five times in 2012. Police claim that Richards attempted to stop them from arresting someone, leading them to charge her with a crime dating back to Jim Crow days. “Felony lynching” originally protected from mobs who came to jails to take people of color out of custody or interfere with arrests, to administer their own justice-by-lynching. Another black female activist had been charged with the crime in April 2015, leading to an online stew of confusion. Had these defiant women, exoticized in news photographs, actually lynched someone? Was a crime invented to protect from violence now being used to oppress protesters of violence?

Kara Walker, The Means to an End...A Shadow Drama in Five Acts (1995). Etching, acquatint on paper. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Gift of Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Kara Walker, The Means to an End…A Shadow Drama in Five Acts (1995). Etching, acquatint on paper. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Gift of Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction’s stated goal is to grapple with such seemingly absurd realities and to depict them differently than the media does: through art. “How we narrate that violence says a great deal about what we might be able to do to prevent it,” reads the press release, aspirationally. When Davis conceived of Non-Fiction, shortly before his death, he had already begun collaborating with MOCA. He knew he would have access to the museum’s collection and resources, which would make it easier to incorporate work by Kara Walker, Robert Gober, and other well-established artists.

Davis and his wife, artist Karon Davis, wanted the Underground Museum to display museum-quality work in 2012, when they first moved into their Arlington Heights storefront and began renovating. But no institutions would lend to them, for obvious reasons: low budget, lack of security, artist-run status, big front windows. Instead, for the museum’s inaugural show, Davis constructed replicas of iconic contemporary artworks—Dan Flavin’s lights, Jeff Koons’ Hoover vacuums. He called the show Imitation of Wealth, and built a bar in the galleries, imaging neighbors would wander in, look at art, and stick around to talk a bit. Sometimes this happened (a man with a guitar frequented at one point).[1] Later, in summer 2014, Davis staged an exhibition called The Oracle, which included West African sculptures from the 17th–19th centuries that were borrowed from a family friend. The sculptures coexisted in the exhibition with a video by Davis’s brother, Khalil Joseph, made to accompany Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, Maad City tour that same year. Magical in its grittiness, the video was surprisingly well matched with the sculptures; evidence of the untethered, experimental curating a small space like the Underground could pull off. MOCA’s chief curator, Helen Molesworth, visited to see The Oracle, meeting Davis and laying the groundwork for the current collaboration.

“Exotic,” Molesworth calls the space in a recently aired episode of KCET’s Artbound, referring to her initial reaction to it and its neighborhood.[2] In the episode, largely an advertisement for MOCA’s “outside-the-box” thinking, the curator also recalls Davis saying, “don’t ask us to come to you. You come to us.” She adds, “And that’s actually just better manners.”

Part of the Underground Museum’s appeal was that it did not treat its location—an area in the city where many artists have studios—as “exotic” or its mission as revolutionary. During the first few years, they barely advertised, and were slow to update their website. In truth, the Davises were struggling to keep the space afloat while raising a child and navigating Noah’s illness, but it also meant the space felt like an under-the-radar local discovery; a small operation.

Non-Fiction (Installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction (installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

 

Non-Fiction, the gallery’s first exhibition this year, has some of that original experimental energy—because the space remains non-descript and easy to stumble across—but it also has more time-honored, museum-quality seriousness than ever before. The works, made by artists with names recognizable to those who traffic in contemporary art worlds, have canonical value.

In its look and feel, the installation recalls an old-school notion that aesthetic continuity is valuable in itself. A trio of ink-jet prints by Kerry James Marshall, from his Heirloom and Accessories (2002) series, features cameo necklaces with framed faces of three white women attached to long chains. The scene of a lynching is vaguely visible in the background, the women among those in the crowd, accessories to a crime long before Marshall turned them into accessories. The prints shine, as do Deanna Lawson’s nearby photographs, sleek and full of intense contrasts.

One photograph by Lawson shows a couple seated in a field of high green grass, his hand on her stomach. Their pose and the image’s title, The Garden, Gemena, DR Congo (2016), recall an Adam and Eve narrative. Neither man nor woman looks particularly happy to be playing these Biblical roles, but their reluctance becomes secondary to the poetry. The narrative of fertility, emphasized by both the nature and nudity, subsumes them and it’s difficult not to appreciate the image’s compositional virtuosity, even if appreciating means participating in a kind of oppression.

Nearby, a painting by Henry Taylor depicts a different kind of field, a brown, dry one, and a buff farmer in blue coveralls. A fish floats in the sky as does a black dog, a telephone pole and a disembodied head. Stenciled-in black text running along the top could have been lifted from a police report post-shooting: “Warning Shots Not Recorded.” The painting’s components don’t lend themselves to any comprehensible narrative. If the show itself were more like Taylor’s painting, similarly charged and disjointed, with artworks positioned absurdly or controlled installations coexisting with uncontrolled ones, it would maybe convey more viscerally the haunting, layered, reactionary nature of racialized violence. Instead, the coloring in Taylor’s work transitions nicely into the minimal all-black Theaster Gates painting beside it.

The tension between Non-Fiction’s tightly formal curatorial approach and the uncertain, ambiguous qualities of the artwork parallel so many other forces at play—attempts by a fledgling community institution to become sustainable and secure while maintaining its freedom, attempts by a museum to leave its comfort zone and, most crucially, attempts to understand and break down an inherently problematic social system. That the expressions and explorations of injustice seem limited by their context feels about right. They are, for now. But maybe in a place like the Underground, that’s short history already includes deep loss and community urgency, those limits can eventually loosen.

 

Non-Fiction runs until Spring 2017 at The Underground Museum (3508 W Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90018).

 

[1] This information is based on past conversations between myself and Noah and Karon Davis, in early 2013 and the summer of 2014.

[2] “MOCA: Beyond the Museum Walls,” Artbound, KCET, Los Angeles. May 31, 2016.

David Hammons, In the Hood, (Gray) (2016). Athletic sweatshirt hood, wire, monofilament. Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

David Hammons, In the Hood (Gray) (2016). Athletic sweatshirt hood, wire, monofilament.
Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955, Birmingham, Alabama; lives in Chicago) Heirlooms and Accessories, 2002 Inkjet prints on paper Collection of the artist. Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Kerry James Marshall, Heirlooms and Accessories (2002). Inkjet prints on paper. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Deana Lawson, The Garden, Gemena, DR Congo (2015). Photographic print. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Collection of the artist. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Deana Lawson, The Garden, Gemena, DR Congo (2015). Photographic print. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Collection of the artist. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction (Installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction (Installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction (Installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

Non-Fiction (Installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Lubliner.

 

Carla_Quarterly_Issue5

Originally published in Carla Issue 5.