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

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
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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

Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Distribution
Downtown
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Château Shatto
Cirrus Gallery
François Ghebaly
GAVLAK
ICA LA
in lieu
JOAN
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
Night Gallery
OOF Books
Over the Influence
Royale Projects
The Box
Track 16
Vielmetter Los Angeles
Wilding Cran Gallery
Wönzimer Gallery
Chinatown/ Boyle Heights
Bel Ami
Charlie James
Human Resources
LACA
Leiminspace
NOON Projects
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
Stanley's
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Culver City/ West Adams
Anat Ebgi
Arcana Books
Blum & Poe
George Billis Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Philip Martin Gallery
Roberts Projects
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
the Landing
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Eagle Rock/ Cypress Park
BOZOMAG
Gattopardo
Odd Ark LA
Historic South Central
Sow & Tailor
USC Fisher Museum of Art
Westside
18th Street Arts
Five Car Garage
L.A. Louver
L E  M A X I M U M
Laband Art Gallery at LMU
Marshall Contemporary
Paradise Framing
Von Lintel
Westwood/ Beverly Hills
CLEARING
Hammer Museum
M+B
Simchowitz
UTA Artist Space
Hollywood/ Melrose
Bridge Projects
Diane Rosenstein
Harper's Gallery
Helen J Gallery
LACE
LAXART
Make Room Los Angeles
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
Moskowitz Bayse
Nino Mier Gallery
Nonaka-Hill
Shulamit Nazarian
STARS
Steve Turner
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The LODGE
Various Small Fires
MacArthur Park/ Pico-Union
as-is.la
Commonwealth & Council
Hannah Hoffman
O-Town House
Mid-City
1301 PE
Chris Sharp Gallery
Harkawik
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
Lowell Ryan Projects
Ochi Projects
Park View / Paul Soto
r d f a
Shoot the Lobster
Mid-Wilshire
Anat Ebgi
Craft Contemporary
David Kordansky Gallery
Hamzianpour & Kia
Kayne Griffin
One Trick Pony
Praz-Delavallade
SPRÜTH MAGERS
Pasadena/ Glendale
Junior High
The Armory Center for the Arts
The Pit
Silverlake/ Echo Park
Marta
Smart Objects
Tyler Park Presents
Non-L.A.
Angels Gate Cultural Center (San Pedro, CA)
BEST PRACTICE (San Diego, CA)
Beverly's (New York, NY)
Bortolami Gallery (New York, NY)
Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (Buffalo, NY)
Et al. (San Francisco, CA)
Left Field (Los Osos, CA)
Minnesota Street Project (San Francisco, CA)
Mrs. (Queens, NY)
Ochi Gallery (Ketchum, ID)
Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, CA)
South Gate Museum and Art Gallery (South Gate, CA)
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME)
Verge Center for the Arts (Sacramento, CA)
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco, CA)
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Fulcrum Press (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
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)

Duke Riley at Charlie James Gallery

Read in Spanish

Duke Riley, For God’s Sake, Stop Firing! (2018). Ink on canary paper, 11 × 9 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua Schaedel.

The centerpiece of Far Away, Duke Riley’s solo show at Charlie James Gallery, depicts a jumbled, teeming mass of humanity aboard a boat at sea. Pigeon fanciers wave flags to direct their flocks while figures in colonial-era garb commit acts of lust and violence on the ship and in the raging water below. A sailor performs oral sex on a mermaid with a tattoo reading ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards). Disembodied heads pierced by fish hooks bob in the waves—one wears a MAGA hat while the other sports a Klansman’s hood. The massive ink drawing is on canary paper (an off-white drawing paper favored by architects and designers), and Riley has glued the paper to a backing, giving it a wrinkled, antiqued look. The drawing, titled It’s Coming Through A Hole In The Air (2017)—lifted from the first line of Leonard Cohen’s 1992 song “Democracy”—has the palette, graphic style, and subject matter of 19th-century scrimshaw: carvings done on pieces of whalebone or tusk produced by sailors that often depicted whaling scenes. Still, the tattoo, hat, and other bits and bobs of contemporary material culture—an iPhone, a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup, a Louis Vuitton bag—place this drawing firmly in the here and now. Through his juxtaposition of this distinctly American folk art craft with modern-day references to politics and protest, Riley affirms that our current national tumult is consistent with, not separate from, that which has come before. The boisterous and visually exhausting scene paints a picture of American democracy that is messy, violent, and disorderly, challenging the false notion that there was ever a period of “greatness” to return to.

Riley mines a similar nautical past with Far Away (2019), a shell mosaic in an octagonal frame depicting a bottle floating on the water as if tossed by shipwrecked sailors. The collaged shells pull technique from what was known in the 18th and 19th centuries as the “sailor’s valentine.” The shell encrusted curiosities were not pieced together by the sailors, but by women in Barbados for the seamen to take as souvenirs to their loved ones after long journeys. Again, the idea of longing for home becomes a warped mythology, misremembered in the annals of Americana. 

In Far Away, the first exhibition in Los Angeles for the New York-based artist, in addition to the ink drawings and works on paper—many of which resemble bits of tattoo flash (Riley also works as a tattoo artist)—Riley presents works that document past performances using homing or messenger pigeons. With an obvious affinity for antiquated or old-fashioned art forms (scrimshaw) and bygone cultural remnants (homing pigeons, whose lofts used to dot rooftops all over New York City), the earnestness and studied engagement Riley brings to his material keeps his work from verging into the contrived or affected. Instead, it stays grounded by his sincere engagement with the past, and the proposed bearing of that past on the present. 

The Army of the Night (2017) is an embroidered and hand-painted catalog of the pigeons involved in Riley’s 2016 performance, Fly By Night, in which he outfitted thousands of pigeons with LED lights before sending them to take flight over the Brooklyn Navy Yard at dusk. Riley and other pigeon fanciers waved flags on the end of long sticks, guiding the pigeons in elegant, luminous aerial choreography. Though cheekily named and delicately rendered, absent additional context in the gallery, the pigeon portraits are evasive stand-ins for the drama of the actual performance. Similarly, two framed works that display 50 pigeon harnesses stand-in at Charlie James for a grand 2013 performance, Trading with the Enemy, for which Riley spent four years planning and eight months breeding and training pigeons to fly from Cuba to Florida. Half the birds were outfitted with harnesses to hold contraband Cuban cigars, while the other 25 carried cameras which documented the 90-mile trip from Havana to Key West. Eleven successfully made the voyage. Placed in mahogany frames and laid out in grids, the brightly-colored camera harnesses each have the name of a filmmaker who has had brushes with the law—Luis Buñuel, Ruggero Deodato, Dennis Hopper—stitched onto them, while the cigar harnesses bear the names of smugglers—drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, pirate Jean Lafitte, Civil War smuggler Minnie Burr. The project is a charming and witty commentary on our porous Southern border and the long history of traffic—of goods, people, and culture—both legal and illicit that has flowed over it. It is also an old-fashioned, semi-legal attempt to thwart the high-tech law enforcement systems that surveil the seas. Still, as with Fly By Night, video or photographic documentation of their voyage would have gone a long way in fleshing out the narrative that these objects begin to tell. 

Other drawings hint at histories without revealing their depth. For instance, For God’s Sake, Stop Firing! (2018) is a small ink drawing that depicts a bird in profile, blood dripping from its footless leg. A tag on the other leg reads “Cher Ami.” An internet search of the work’s title reveals a story about World War I Major Charles W. Whittlesey and his “Lost Battalion,” a troop who had become isolated deep within German territory and cut off from other American regiments. When American forces began shelling their position, mistaking them for the enemy, Whittlesey sent a pigeon named Cher Ami with a message reading, in part: “FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.” Despite being shot in the breast and the foot, the bird delivered her message, saving the battalion. In light of the protests against police and state-sponsored violence over the past several years, Cher Ami’s message, especially as altered by Riley, captures a contemporary urgency. 

From his sailors’ valentine to his references to scrimshaw and the lost art of pigeon fancying, Duke Riley has one foot firmly embedded in the obscure talismans of Americana. Rather than dwell in the past, however, Riley dredges up these historical antecedents to comment on the present, illustrating that the cultural and political miasma we find ourselves in may not be so unprecedented after all. Far Away touches on many threads, giving viewers ample aesthetic and historical directions to pursue, but absent additional context, it often fails to weave them into a coherent whole.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Carla, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, KCET Artbound, The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, Hyperallergic, Terremoto, Artsy, Frieze, and Daily Serving.

Duke Riley, Far Away (installation view) (2020). Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua Schaedel.

Duke Riley, It’s Coming Through A Hole In The Air (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua Schaedel.

Duke Riley, It’s Coming Through A Hole In The Air (detail) (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua Schaedel.

Duke Riley, Far Away (2019). Shell Mosaic on panel, 49.5 x 49.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua Schaedel.


This review was originally published in Carla issue 22.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Carla, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Art NewspaperHyperallergicTeremotoKCET ArtboundArtsyfrieze, and Daily Serving.

More by Matt Stromberg