Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

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

–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
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–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
–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
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–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
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


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.
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
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.
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

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
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

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
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
Exquisite L.A.
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
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
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

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:
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
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
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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
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
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

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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1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Celeste-Dupuy Spencer
and Figurative Religion

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Darkness Is Not Dark (Light Shines As Day)(2018). Oil on linen, 65 x 50 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

The evening after Brett Kavanaugh secured his Supreme Court nomination, elite Evangelicals held a party in North Carolina. At the Westin in Charlotte, the Council for National Policy—an outfit that oil heir T. Cullen Davis co-founded after he discovered Jesus and after a jury acquitted him of double murder1—had gathered for their annual meetings. Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas’ wife, and Nikki Haley attended, among senators and strategists. They were happy that night.

Davis, who told The Intercept that at least Trump “is not hostile to Christianity like Hillary and Obama,”2 used to be an art collector. In 1982, he gave $1 million worth of his antique treasures to the televangelist Jim Robison, who’d gotten into debt. Robison drove off to sell the trove but then remembered Old Testament proclamations about graven images and the like, and brought the art back to Davis. Davis didn’t want it back.  So out came the hammers and, two years later, gawkers and collectors left a Texas auction with shards of lapis and bits of faces carved from ivory.3 Others at the CNP’s Kavanaugh party still had their figurative art intact, however. GOP policy advisor Frank Luntz hangs his specially commissioned portraits of the founding fathers in the faux oval office built into his Brentwood home. Conservative Christians have been partial to figurative work, certainly since the 1980s—when the culture wars turned so many Evangelicals into traditionalists set against avant-garde experiments—its recognizable content seemingly more honest than esoteric abstraction and conceptualism. Some like to quote Pope John Paul II’s letter, in which, citing Bernini and Michelangelo, he calls on the contemporary artist to render “visible the perception of the mystery” that makes the Church “a universally hospitable community.”4

The work in Celeste Dupuy-Spencer’s recent show at Nino Mier Gallery almost did this—it had all the right references without the right reverence. There are baptisms, worship sessions, choirs on altars, exorcisms. Indeed, the exorcism in Dupuy-Spencer’s 2018 painting, Through the Laying on of Hands (Positively Dynamic Demonism), appears to be going quite well. Three men up at the altar wear church suits, crisp white shirts and suspenders. The other men wear jeans. A woman who looks like Margaret Thatcher has her hand on the afflicted man’s shoulder. Demons of all breeds fly out of his gaping mouth—aliens, reptiles, screaming men. The painting is full of loosely rendered flesh, packed-in bodies, fast fashion, and smoke. It could be interpreted as crass, a representation of religious pageantry at its worst, or as an empathetic attempt to understand such spiritual passion.

That Dupuy-Spencer walks this line is partly why her work compels: “an inventory of white experience,” that has “new urgency in the age of Trump,” wrote Aruna D’Souza for Vice.5 Her “figurative paintings and drawings capture the zeitgeist without sacrificing soul,” wrote Margaret Wappler, for Elle.6 She can do both, be the critic and the empath. That the work is representational matters; it reads  immediately as accessible, even to non-art-worlders, its grappling with us-versus-them impulses thus legible to both the “us,” the “them,” and whoever lies between. Dupuy-Spencer is in good company, other artists working in similarly empathetic, vulnerable figuration that puts its politics—and its questions and frustrations—on the line in a way that feels more invitation than antagonism.

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Through the Laying of the Hands (Positively Demonic Dynamism) (2018). Oil on linen, 48 x 40 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

Resurgences in figurative painting have accompanied turns to the political right before. Sometimes by force (when regimes deem experiment a threat), but other times just in response to, or in an attempt to grapple with, the zeitgeist. Eric Fischl, David Salle, and Robert Longo’s ascendancy coincided with Reagan’s. The painters poked at times at whiteness, even as white people celebrated and supported them (think Fischl’s painting A Visit to/A Visit From/The Island, 1983, of white vacationers cavorting while black islanders rescue black refugees from waves of a storm). Jeffrey Deitch, dealer and former MOCA Los Angeles director, explained two years ago that figuration was of the zeitgeist again. “That’s really what most artists do,” he told ArtSpace, right after he’d put both ’80s phenom Julian Schnabel and the much younger Sasha Brauning in the same show, “and what the general public generally expects out of painting. They relate to it.” He then further peddled the myth of populist art form ignored by the establishment, saying, “there’s hardly been an ambitious exhibition of new figurative painting in any American museum in a long time.”7 (He isn’t entirely wrong, if he means group surveys.) His words echo past critics who framed figurative resurgences as repudiations of the avant-garde, returns to more traditional and thus comprehensible ways of representing life.

Explicitness sets Dupuy-Spencer and her peers apart from the likes of Fischl, Salle, Michael Andrews, and others who made a name for themselves in the mid-to-late 20th century, painting in intentionally open-ended ways. In contrast, Dupuy-Spencer makes clear in her work the stakes she grapples with. She names her context and concerns, sometimes literally, with Trump hats, hipster record collections, or captions that poke at people across political spectrums and classes. Henry Taylor, whose work hung with hers in the Whitney Biennial in 2017, has similarly done this; his references to slavery (That Was Then, 2013), police shootings (THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!, 2017), and class warfare are direct enough to leave no question as to what he’s probing. Jordan Casteel too falls into this camp, her portraits of incidental moments pregnant with context— a brown-skinned man wearing gray reading Lost Tribes and Promised Lands: The Origins of American Racism in an intimate oil-on-canvas; or, in Glass Man Michael (2016), of a guarded man selling vases and platters street-side, in front of crisp graffiti that says “Harlem not for sale—fight back.” (All this stands in stark contrast to the other strain of figuration with traction now, the Sascha Braunigs and Jamian Juliano-Villanis, which recall in a way the ’80s market surge, paintings not about relatability and empathy but about calculation, visual provocation, and seduction.)

The religious content in Dupuy-Spencer’s recent work provides particularly coherent parameters, and an intuitive recipe for blurring together poles and worldviews. In To Be Titled (2016), another of the Dupuy-Spencer paintings at Mier Gallery, a baptism plays out. The soon-to-be-redeemed stands in waist- high water, flanked by two friendly peers in “Oasis All-in Team” t-shirts (the L.A. mega-church called Oasis sponsored a star for Jesus on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). A robed figure (an apparition of Christ?) stands behind, his face cut off by the top of the canvas but reflected, ghoulishly grinning and crowned by thorns, on the water’s surface. Beneath the water, anxious horses scramble. From the water up, this is the kind of painting easily mistaken for idyllic, maybe happily pro-faith, like the early aughts rom-com Baptist at My Barbecue. Except that those ghostly horses sliding around in murky liquid and that discolored face, more like the demons in Dupuy-Spencer’s exorcism than a saint, introduce a bleaker counter-narrative, in which redemption is only an above-the-surface sort of story.

Jordan Casteel, Lost Tribes (2018). Oil on canvas 24 x 32 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Henry Taylor, THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH! (2017). Acrylic on canvas. 72 x 96 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. © Henry Taylor. Photo: Cooper Dodds.

Francis Schaeffer, the Evangelical theologian, wrote in his book Art & the Bible, that, for Christians, art can evoke the “mannishness of man,”8 all the more so because the Christian, armed with God’s truth, is particularly equipped to distinguish reality from illusion. Would this enlightened Christian see in Dupuy-Spencer’s baptismal scene the competing narratives? Or maybe the Christian would favor a more affirming interpretation, like George W. Bush in the memo he famously sent to office staff in 1995, when he was still Texas’ governor. He had just received a 1916 W.H.D. Koerner painting on loan from a friend. He told his staffers that the panting was called A Charge to Keep, after a hymn by original Methodist Charles Wesley:

When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.

Where the president-to-be got this notion is hard to say. While he believed the picture, of riders racing through brush, depicted Methodists urgently spreading gospel, Koerner had in fact painted it to illustrate a story about a horse thief escaping a Nebraska lynch mob.

The potential for such slippage is partly what makes figuration so accessible and enjoyable. It reads as legible, because we all can recognize limbs, landscapes, faces, and interiors. But familiarity, as the Bush episode illustrates, is subjective. The text Dupuy-Spencer embeds into her paintings keeps her meaning from being as easily twistable (a strategy both Taylor and Casteel interestingly use as well). In her 2017 Marlborough Gallery exhibition, she included Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I’m a Liberal (2017), in which a woman with a fleshy face hides behind a flower vase with a peace sign and “flowers not bombs” painted across it. An “I love NPR” mug and a book called The Burden of Blame: How to Convince People That It’s Not Your Fault, also sit on the table before her. The woman writes letters (to the editor? Senators?). Her self-righteous liberalism comes off as embarrassing.

A drawing in Dupuy-Spencer’s previous, 2016 exhibition at Nino Mier Gallery depicted a Trump rally, the attendees posed as if for a selfie, with men in KKK hoods lurking behind. Faux Western text mixed with bubble letters waved along the top of the paper: “Trump: ‘Cause we Don’t Know What The Hell Is Going On!!!” Dupuy-Spencer titled the work Trump Rally (And Some of them I Assume Are Good People). (While on the campaign trail, Trump said “some, I assume, are good people” after calling Mexicans who come the states “rapists” who are “bringing crime.”)

Such work eschews subtlety and ambiguity, two strategies artists use to seem potent without seeming literal, crass, or naïve. Yet Dupuy-Spencer’s more heart-on- sleeve relation to content does not make her work overly blatant or flat. Even in the drawings of Trump supporters or lazy liberals, there’s diversity of personalities, expressions, and class trappings (though definitely not always a diversity of ethnicities). More notably, she combines these deep dives into political confusion and religious passion with intimate, relaxed personal imagery. In her recent show, her painting of a church service hung across from The Chiefest of Ten Thousand (Sarah 2) (2018), a large delightfully cluttered painting of the artist performing cunilingus on her partner, surrounded by a cat, a warm red rug, a skull.

Something happened when evangelists, priests, and purportedly blameless God-fearing patriarchs began openly supporting a pussy-grabber and praising a chief justice who defends his “love of beer” while badgering U.S. senators. The hypocrisy of associating morality with partisan- ship became so barefaced and indefensible that a space opened up where God, orgasms, left, right, queerness, family, church, redemption, and disaster could blur into each other, steeping together in the same confused stew. Depicting that space, as Dupuy-Spencer does so well, won’t ever erase the chasms that divide those of us living in this country, but it can render a version of America raw and contradictory enough to feel invitingly believable.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 14. 

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, The Chiefest of Ten Thousand (Sarah 2) (2018). Oil on linen, 105 x 96 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I’m a Liberal (2017). Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Marlborough Contemporary, New York and London.


Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Trump Rally (And Some of them I Assume Are Good People) (2016). Pencil on paper, 24 x 30 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, The Chiefest of Ten Thousand (2018) (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Dutchess County Border (Matriarchs of the 90’s Line) (2018). Oil on linen, 96 x 120 in. Image courtesy of the artist and Nino Mier Gallery.

  1.  After a mistrial, he was acquitted of the murder of his stepdaughter and his estranged wife’s lover, then, two years later, acquitted of the for-hire attempted murder of his ex-wife and the judge adjudicating their divorce proceedings. “T. Cullen Davis Acquitted in Murder-for-Hire Case,” The Washington Post, Nov. 10, 1979.
  2. Lee Fang, “At Secretive Event, Evangelical Celebrate Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation,” The Intercept, Oct. 7, 2018,
  3. Paul Taylor, “Asian Art Remains Sold for Cut Rate at Auction,” The Washington Post, Dec. 3, 1984.
  4. Author Robert Webber cited it in a passage about returning to aesthetics in his 2002 book The Younger Evangelicals, among other examples.
  5. Aruna D’Souza, “Painting in Black and White: Race and the New Figurative Art,” Vice, Sept. 26, 2017,
  6. Margaret Wappler, “Celeste Dupuy-Spencer’s Art is a Reflection of Her America,” Elle, Sept. 10, 2018,
  7. Karen Rosenberg, “Jeffrey Deitch on Why Figurative Art Rules the Zeitgeist, and His New Calling as a Pop-Up Impresario,” Artspace, Nov. 26, 2015,
  8. Francis Schaeffer, Art & the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973/2006), 35.

Catherine Wagley writes about art and visual culture in Los Angeles.

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