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Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
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
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Andrea Bowers:
An Ethos of Resistance

Leer En Español

Andrea Bowers, Disarm Rapists (Original illustration, Disarm Rapists / Smash Sexism, by Betsy Warrior, 1971) (2017). Acrylic marker on cardboard, 108 × 112 × 6 inches. Private collection, Toronto, Canada. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Beginning in 1964, almost a decade before the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade, a group of Bay Area women collectively known as “The Army of Three” (Rowena Gurner, Patricia Maginnis, and Lana Phelan Khan) clandestinely distributed resources to people seeking access to abortion care.1 At the time, letter-writing functioned as the de facto method of delivering this illicit information; as a result, The Army of Three received a steady deluge of handwritten pleas from women desperate to exert their reproductive autonomy. (Of all the unending barriers to abortion access, and in light of the virality of information today, the notion that a pregnant person’s fate could be inharmoniously tied to the fickle reliability of snail mail seems particularly egregious.) As such, the sheer urgency voiced within these letters is uniquely cutting. 

Andrea Bowers, whose work has long plumbed the methodologies of social justice movements, culls from this archive for a series of works entitled Letters to an Army of Three (2005) (works that, crucially, predate both the Trump era and the cataclysmic collapse of Roe). She displays the gathered correspondence, which she learned of during a visit with Maginnis,2 at the meeting point of two walls, with the printed letters emanating outward from the crux like an open book. A single-channel video of various people carefully reciting the contents of specific letters plays on a monitor suspended from the ceiling above; underneath, a large-scale book of additional correspondence sits splayed open on a plinth.

In Bowers’ eponymous retrospective at the Hammer Museum, which closed on September 4th, this installation occupied a large gallery space close to the beginning of the thematically organized exhibition. The aforementioned video’s first person recitations of the letters softly reverberated throughout the adjacent galleries, their resonant pleas plying attentive viewers to listen and bear witness. Lacking in expository commentary or overt artistic intervention, these works, like others across the exhibition, recall strictly summational displays of historical or anthropological evidence, a seemingly intentional conceptual tactic. By directly centering these narratives and omitting the presence of her own voice—the penultimate marker of artistic authorship—Bowers demonstrates the quiet art of empathetic witnessing, eschewing a more theatrical, egocentric performance of solidarity. In Bowers’ work, bearing witness—both as an act and an idea—can be read as its own uniquely textured creative modality. Through her earnest engagement with the pedagogies of protest and resistance (an area of research and focus that spans nearly three decades), she carves out an ethics of empathy and action from a materially robust and conceptually rigorous creative practice. In doing so, she demonstrates the ways in which an artistic ethos can enliven an activist one, and vice versa. 

In a series of drawings entitled Make My Story Count, Letters to Planned Parenthood (2011), this act of witnessing becomes devotional. Bowers painstakingly recreates handwritten testimonials penned by women who received treatment at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, dutifully rendering the heft, loop, and cadence of each individual letter with convincing photorealism. Here, drawing functions as a meditative performance of embodiment—a pilgrimage, of sorts—wherein the artist not only witnesses but also physically absorbs and retraces the lived narratives of another. These attentive, laborious gestures function as both political and artistic acts, positing the often-hermetic practice of drawing as a democratically minded device for enacting solidarity and kindling resistance. As a capstone, Bowers donated the entire proceeds from the drawings back to Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

While not a historical discipline, activism by nature deals with the history of progress, even if that progress veers into perilous terrain. An activist, then, can be conjured as a chronicler who testifies to and transcribes this forward-looking, albeit mercurial, conception of history. As an artist with activist tendencies (or the inverse), Bowers dabbles in the work of a historian, gathering and collating evidence and preserving intimate narratives that may otherwise remain unspoken. By tethering her work to the task of resistance, she allows her objects to vigorously engage in the complex sociopolitical ecosystem that exists beyond the periphery of a closed, art-centric discourse. The darkly serendipitous timing of her Hammer retrospective underscored this idea: on June 24, five days after the exhibition’s opening, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, decimating the constitutional right to abortion. This swiveling contextual framework imbued Bowers’ work with augmented layers of meaning: Letters to an Army of Three and Make My Story Count were no longer cautious remnants of a dismal past, but rather troubling harbingers of a malignant future. For a viewer, this real-time shift demonstrated the slippery precarity of progress, pointing to the continual malleability of historical perspective and illustrating how a swift change in social temperature can often augur something more dystopian than emancipatory. 

Created in 2020 and rife with complexity in 2022, Bowers’ colossal drawing of Kamala Harris crystallizes this deviation in political tenor. Rendered in the allegorical style of a 17th century French illustration, the wall-sized drawing depicts the now-Vice President, then Presidential candidate, as the Greek goddess Athena, feminist warrior of women’s rights. Harris’ viral soundbite from Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation hearing, a pivotal moment from her tenure as senator, valiantly adorns her shield: “Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?”3 At the time, Harris was lauded as a feminist icon for her frank line of questioning—a satisfying, performative jostle with patriarchal authority that neither swayed the outcome of the hearings nor resulted in any substantial policy change. Now, in the wake of the collapse of Roe, after being widely criticized for her performance in several lamentable interviews, Harris’ political potency on the issue has, to a certain degree, disintegrated. In this newfound context, the drawing adopts a tone of political farce, even tragedy, its initial exuberance rendered bittersweet. A more insidious truth lurks beneath: even a well-equipped, would-be warrior—a woman whose ascension to power was fueled, in part, by her fierce advocacy for reproductive autonomy—cannot shield herself from the blunt forces of systemic patriarchy. 

Andrea Bowers (installation view) (2022). Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Charles White / JW Studio.

Andrea Bowers, Soft Blockade (Feminist Barricade) (detail) (2004). Fabric, thread, and metal fencing, 90 inches × 24 feet. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Charles White / JW Studio.

Hinting at the uncanny ability of Bowers’ drawings to perpetually morph and bloom in meaning, art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson observes that, for Bowers, “drawing is multi-temporal and operates within many tenses at once, [connecting] her body—present in the act of making—with the bodies of history and with speculative viewers.”4 This engagement with the body is a crucial precept of Bowers’ work and activism. Referencing this, her large-scale sculptural work Soft Blockade (Feminist Barricade) (2004), a reaction to her research on and participation in numerous acts of civil disobedience, speaks to the nonviolent practice of using one’s body to protect or block access to another person or site, effectively creating a human shield. The sculpture—a massive, intricately woven panel of fabric and thread suspended from the lanky framework of a metal fence—reads as a geometric minimalist wall with undulating striations of violet, cerulean, indigo, and plum. White stitching resembling the interlocking matrix of a chain-link fence blankets the work’s quilted surface, reinforcing the idea that here, a blockade serves to both weave and dissever. The intensity of labor that this sculpture entails suggests the careful, collective stewardship of an object, or cause, that dwarfs any singular body, a nod not only to the cooperative tenets of activism but also to the communal, feminist roots of quilt-making. The work, much like the Make My Story Count drawings, is also distinctly reverential: through the physical, creative labor of her own body, Bowers erects a soft monument to those who have used their bodies as forms of resistance, both past and future. While Soft Blockade specifically references techniques deployed by anti-nuclear protesters in the 1960s and ’70s, viewing this Bush-era work in a post-Roe context sharply reconfigured my interpretation of it. Conceiving of a blockade as a barrier to access, I noticed in the lilting stitching of the chain-link fence forms that resembled the grim, harrowing motif of a twisted coat hanger—one of the more brutal emblems of draconian abortion bans. In this context, the body—specifically the womb itself—becomes a barrier from total personal liberation: an intimate, vulnerable organ forced to mime as its own soft blockade, a tool of dominion wielded from the inside out.

This observation extends beyond the subjugation befalling only those who have uteruses to encompass any form of oppression through which the body itself is compromised, including workers, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and immigrants— all of whom have been a focus of Bowers’ work and advocacy. It also extends to the protection of the environment, itself composed of natural bodies vulnerable to pillage and persecution. In this vein, the project of liberation begins with ennobling the autonomous sanctity of the body, an emancipatory persuasion that encompasses all living beings.

Bowers’ monumental sculpture Radical Feminist Pirate Ship Tree Sitting Platform (2013) asserts this notion as a utopian vision for the future. Built from a mélange of objects culled from environmental protest practices, the work reconstructs a tree sitting platform, a stage for disobedience typically held aloft in the canopy and continuously occupied by activists who anoint their bodies as soft blockades to protect old-growth forests from decimation by logging5, a practice that Bowers has engaged in since the ’90s. At the Hammer, Bowers’ sculpture reimagined the visual language of the platform as a self-sufficient feminist pirate ship, suspended from the ceiling and adorned with flags, ropes, hardware, books, and painted slogans. While a stage represents a stationary construct of theater—a site from which to bear witness—a ship is a self-contained, moveable vessel, a sovereign body capable of navigating the turbulence at its bow. 

Here, Bowers’ conception of piracy refutes the trope of the villainous marauder and instead points to a vision of productive usurpation, wherein conscientious pirates forge paths of liberation. Ultimately, we can interpret this meticulously-crafted assemblage as a reconstruction of our collective relationship to the surrounding world—an anti-biblical arc designed to preserve only the most redemptive qualities of humanity. As a body capable of cradling the bodies of others, it also functions as an allegorical expression of a providential future wherein communal bonds not only resist the throes of patriarchal violence but also coexist under a shared tenet of human tenderness. In an appropriate synopsis of her work and activism, Bowers adorns the plank of the ship (the threshold between what remains and what has been cast off) with a reflective creed by poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, a line decisively implicates the viewer as an active participant—or pirate—in her project of dissent: “try telling yourself / you are not accountable / to the life of your tribe / the breath of your planet.”6

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 30.

Andrea Bowers, Can You Think of Any Laws that Give Government the Power to Make
Decisions About the Male Body? Quote by Kamala Harris During Brett Kavanaugh’s
Confirmation Hearing in 2018, (Frontispiece by Unknown Illustrator from Les Femmes Illustres, Ou, Les Harangues Heroïques, by Madeleine de Scudéry, Published by Chez Antoine de Sommaville & Augustin Courbé, Paris, 1644) (2020). Archival marker on cardboard,
108 × 78 × 5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Andrea Bowers, Radical Feminist Pirate Ship Tree Sitting platform (2013). Recycled wood, rope, carabiners, and miscellaneous equipment and supplies, 80 × 294 × 60 inches. Collection of Gaby and Wilhelm Schürmann, Herzogenrath, Germany. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum.

Andrea Bowers (installation view) (2022). Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Charles White / JW Studio.

  1. Pat Maginnis. “The Army of Three,” accessed October 16, 2022, http://www.patmaginnis.org/index.php/the-army-of-three/.
  2. Brooke Kellaway, “Letters to an Army of Three: Andrea Bowers on Abortion, Then and Now.” Walker Art Center, December 3, 2012, https://walkerart.org/magazine/andrea-bowers-patricia-maginnis-abortion.
  3. “Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing, Day 2, Part 5.” C-SPAN video, 2:04:50. September 5, 2018. https://www.c-span.org/video/?449705-15/supreme-court-nominee-brett-kavanaugh-confirmation-hearing-day-2-part-5.
  4. Julia Bryan-Wilson, “Andrea Bowers: Drawn Toward Feminism,” in Andrea Bowers (New York, NY: DelMonico Books, 2021), 59–65.
  5. Drew Philp, “America’s tree sitters risk lives on the front line.” The Guardian, May 26, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/26/tree-sitters-appalachian-oil-pipeline-virginia-west.
  6. Adrienne Rich, “North American Time,” EPortfolios@Macaulay, 1983, accessed October 30, 2022, https://eportfolios.macaulay.cuny.edu/smonte10/files/2010/08/North-American-Time.pdf.

Jessica Simmons-Reid (MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; BA, Brown University) is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. She’s interested in the interstitial space between the language of abstraction and the abstraction of language, as well as the intermingling of poetry and politics. She has contributed essays and reviews to Carla and Artforum, among others.

More by Jessica Simmons-Reid