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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ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth
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at MOCA
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ICA LA
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Monte Vista Projects
Night Gallery
The Box
Wilding Cran Gallery
Boyle Heights/ Chinatown
A.G. Geiger
BBQLA
Chimento Contemporary
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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California African American Museum
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H I L D E
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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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Nino Mier Gallery
Moskowitz Bayse
Noysky Projects
Regen Projects
Shulamit Nazarian
Various Small Fires
South Bay
DMV
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The Torrance Art Museum
Elsewhere in CA
Alter Space (San Francisco)
City Limits (Oakland)
Et al. (San Francisco)
Ever Gold Projects (San Francisco)
fused space (San Francisco)
Gym Standard (San Diego)
Helmuth Projects (San Diego)
Interface Gallery (Oakland)
Jessica Silverman (San Francisco)
Left Field (San Luis Obispo)
San Diego Art Institute (San Diego)
Verve Center for the Arts (Sacramento)
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco)
Non CA
Artbook @ MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, NY)
Editions Kavi Gupta (Chicago, IL)
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Nationale (Portland, OR)
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Space 42 (Jacksonville, FL)
Spoonbill & Sugartown (Brooklyn, NY)
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Libraries/ Collections
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CalArts (Valencia, CA)
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El 123 (México City, MX)
John M. Flaxman Library at SAIC (Chicago, IL)
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Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Scholes Library, NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
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)

Us & Them, Now & Then: Reconstituting Group Material

Reconstitution (2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of LAXART.

It’s hard to make good art about flags—especially, to risk an exceptionalism, the American one. This owing to the flag’s sometimes brutal metonymy: the flag is America. Don’t burn America. America, don’t run. To wave the flag can be ironic in context, but the flag itself is never ironic; to disrespect the flag is to risk offending generations of proud, if thin-skinned, patriots.

But the American flag is also, maybe, an effective in for artists looking to take on that selfsame country through their art. The bold, graphic flag offers a formalist interface rich with mutual significance. Reconstitution, curated at LAXART by Catherine Taft and Hamza Walker, wasn’t about the American flag, it was about the United States Constitution, and yet it couldn’t resist a couple of flag pieces. On a shelf on the title wall was Sonya Clark’s Unraveled (2015), consisting of three piles of thread—red, white, and blue. Clark’s deconstruction of American patriotism turned another turn once you read the wall label and learned that these are the remains of a Confederate battle flag, Old Glory’s discredited double. In the video Flag and its Shadow (2004), by Van McElwee, an American flag waves at full mast; the shot is mirrored along the vertical, so that one flag becomes two. The left side of the frame appears in natural color and the right with the colors inverted: one positive, one negative, two opposites, tied to the same pole.

In 1987, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, Group Material (GM) mounted a show at the Temple University Gallery in Philadelphia. (1) Called Constitution, the show offered to reframe this country’s founding document as an ongoing, living structure constantly and contradictorily adapted by the plurality for which it claims to speak. In particular, the work on display took up so-called identity politics to mark the truly diverse makeup of the citizenry; a wall relief by John Ahearn joined a quartet of sepia portraits by Edward Curtis and a quilt by Faith Ringgold.

Reconstitution (2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of LAXART.

Reconstitution translated the GM exhibition forward 30 years; the show hinged on the continuity of then and now, us and them, Reagan and Trump. As with GM’s 1987 show, the LAXART curators hung works on top of walls printed with the words of the preamble and first articles—only in 2017 the text appeared in Persian. Where the U.S. Constitution is increasingly misread in the service of regressive nationalism, the LAXART show countered with a nod to Los Angeles’s large Persian community.

In the GM spirit, Walker and Taft’s show drew connections across national, linguistic, and historical limits—sometimes quite literally. In U.S. Customs Demand to Know (2016–ongoing), Gelare Khoshgozaran mails packages from Tehran to the United States and displays the stamped and taped boxes lit from within by LEDs. Lawrence Weiner’s vinyl wall text, An Object Tossed from One Country to Another (1969/2017), suggests everything from cruise missiles to bales of marijuana.

These crossings were mirrored in the exhibition design. The GM-style hang departed from white-walled modernist autonomy, abandoning the standard 60-inch center at which most paintings are hung, and stacking works four high on top of Persian script. Fine art hobnobbed with kitsch and craft; media ranged from drawings to textiles to a 16mm projection to a clothing line. This polyvalent installation put art’s critical dexterity into play; like GM’s best efforts, Reconstitution cut formal escapism with political engagement, yet cut political didactics with sex appeal.

Group Material, Constitution (1987). Temple University Gallery, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Group Material, New York. Photo: Gregory Benson.

Against one wall was a shop door framing a photo by Kathryn Andrews (Santa Door IV [Pilgrim’s Booty], 2014): a model in t-shirt and underwear holds a pineapple, as if in a softcore American Apparel ad. If one considers the colonial significance of the tropical pineapple, the piece turns acid. On the other side of the gallery, an untitled Rachel Harrison drawing (2011) still bore an actual bullet hole from when an enraged former museum guard shot it, among other works, before committing suicide. Where else, but in America—where two flags, two constitutions, aren’t us-and-them opposites but a whole mess of unity?

“What did this show mean 30 years ago,” ask the curators, “and what could it mean today?” Put another way, what made Group Material special? To start with the obvious, they were a group. GM approached exhibition making as a collective effort, even a democratic one. Consequently, the themes of their exhibitions are better described as issues—from the HIV/AIDS crisis (AIDS Timeline, 1989/90) to democracy itself (Democracy, 1988/89, Democracy Wall, 1989/90). From the beginning, GM treated each project as a statement of purpose. Their fourth show, The People’s Choice (Arroz con Mango) (1981), was an open platform for the gallery’s neighbors to exhibit their household art collections alongside work by GM’s members—and, implicitly, for those with more than an art-discursive interest in the subject to join in a critique of gentrification. GM exhibited a particular, collective concern for not just the art world, but the world. “Our project is clear,” they wrote. “We invite everyone to question the entire culture we have taken for granted.” (2)

Muslim ban? Women’s March? Is topicality the endgame of political art? Christine Wang’s paintings, Untitled 7 and Untitled 8 (2017), incorporate echoes of current events via Facebook dialogues; one work reads, in part, “is there space to wonder about pink pussy hats?” To rephrase: is art the space to wonder about pink pussy hats? Reconstitution joins a string of group shows post-November 9th in addressing the explicitly political question of what-do-we-do-now. Many of these exhibitions have looked to history for some guidance. But Walker and Taft’s Reconstitution is remarkable in that it doesn’t just look back to the ’80s or to Reagan but back to a group working then who had a strategy for moving forward.

Taft and Walker’s exhibition, above all, raised the question: what is important about a reiteration of GM’s diagrammatic style of exhibition making? This style is, above all, how GM reconstituted our most patinaed symbols by finding in them the fragile, shining interface between art and not-art, between culture and activism. Danh Vo’s We the People (2011), included in Reconstitution, is a wavy copper section of a full-size Statue of Liberty replica. The work is only ever displayed in sections. Like the flags, the piece participates in a metonymy wherein the symbol seems to constitute the unique attributes of a nation and its citizens—the ideals that grow into compromise.

GM had a plan: an idea to operate politically within the art world, without being concerned with making political art. Yet GM operated as and within the art world, a flawed but liberal system with raw and outdated parameters. The tattered American flag or the Constitution blown up on the walls aren’t taken for artworks, but works in progress. And alongside these grand sentiments, the odd aesthetic outgrowths of America’s political culture speak just as loudly: for Constitution, a sober, black bench designed by Thomas Jefferson; for the Reconstitution, a plastic shopping bag printed with the text, blue and red on white: “President Nixon. Now more than ever.”

 

  1. By this time, Group Material (GM) consisted of Dough Ashford, Julie Ault, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
  2. See the brochure printed to accompany the first GM exhibition at their Lower East Side space in October 1980, reprinted in Julie Ault, ed., Show and Tell: A Chronicle of Group Material (London: Four Corners Books, 2010), 21-23.

Group Material, Constitution (1987). Temple University Gallery, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Group Material, New York. Photo: Gregory Benson.

Christine Wang, Untitled 7 (2017). Acrylic and oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery.

Reconstitution (2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of LAXART.

Group Material, Constitution (1987). Temple University Gallery, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Group Material, New York. Photo: Gregory Benson.

Reconstitution (2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of LAXART.

Group Material, Constitution (1987). Temple University Gallery, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Group Material, New York. Photo: Gregory Benson.

 

Originally published in Carla Issue 9