Issue 36 May 2024

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Issue 34 November 2023

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Issue 32 June 2023

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Issue 30 November 2022

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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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
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
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Louis Stern Fine Arts
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)
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Eating the Self: Arnold J. Kemp’s Hungry Hydras

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Arnold J. Kemp, FUNNY HOUSE (SPEECH ACTS) (2019). Epson luster print, 60 × 40 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.

An errant internet search led artist, educator, and poet Arnold J. Kemp to the title of his recent solo exhibition, False Hydras. He came across the term while searching the web for something else, and was immediately struck by its “lyrical sound.”1 Originating in the fifth edition of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), a false hydra is a “homebrew creature,” or a player-created monster.2 The character often has pallid skin and a bulbous body with a long, serpentine neck. For D&D fans, the false hydra connotes paranoia, nervous breakdowns, dissociation, and ghostly appetites. It’s known for eating other characters and absorbing their memories, sprouting humanoid necks as it consumes its victims. Compared to other D&D characters, the false hydra’s powers are heady and abstract—not only are its victims disappeared from the life they once had, but its harrowing “mindsong” splinters the memories of all who hear it, its victims erased from the minds and hearts of loved ones.

A conceptual monster that ultimately caught on with fans, the false hydra was created by a D&D player, also named Arnold Kemp, who operates the popular D&D blog, Goblin Punch. The artist saw the coincidental doubling as a generative dare: “When I saw that the author was someone with the same name as me,” Kemp told Artforum, “I thought, I have to take advantage of this.”3 Although the literal creature didn’t make an appearance in his show, its metaphorical presence pulsed throughout JOAN’s gallery, where False Hydras was installed. Kemp found ways to absorb the multiplicitous heads and mutating forms of the character into his language, built around a grammar of referential gestures and biographic play. 

Within Kemp’s language, surrogate selves amble about, cycling through an infinite number of personas, personalities, and narratives. The exhibition presented different versions of the artist, a merry-go-round that swirled fact and fiction together to comic effect. Kemp doesn’t trust the stability of the “I,” treating subjectivity instead as a readymade material to be warped, deformed, and rewritten. To accommodate this shapeshifting “I” in his work, narrative is abandoned and appropriated, perverted and stretched into bodily experiences that tap into the humorous and philosophical. 

The exhibition underscored Kemp’s roving approach to genre and practice, threading together sculpture, photography, and print works, taking detours into conceptualism, literature, pop culture, disco, ancestral artifacts, and biomythography. Five large-scale photographs placed in corners of the industrial gallery, FUNNY HOUSE (SPEECH ACTS) (2019), set up an initial moment of obfuscation and unreadability, followed by punchline-like discovery. Each image is a close-up still of Kemp’s hands wrangling a clay-like material, and I puzzled over the photographs before realizing he was manipulating a limp Fred Flintstone mask, the iconic caveman’s visage melting like putty. 

The center of the gallery held two sculptures, each stacked on a wooden platform. Mr. Kemp (Yellowing, Drying, Scorching) (2020) appeared on the left—a black vinyl chair overstuffed with copies of the novel Eat of Me: I Am the Savior (1972) by another Arnold Kemp, this time a 1970s-era Black writer. On the right was Nineteen Eighty-Four (2020), a work that features a pair of brown shorts tailored by Kemp’s grandfather—yet another Arnold J. Kemp—placed on a craggy limestone pillar. The work also includes a flip phone from a past performance the artist staged with his father. Both sculptures function as defiant self-portraits that reflect and refract Kemp through a prism of spoken and unspoken influences. 

Elsewhere, nine monotypes comprised the INDEX (2020) series. A set of crude faces, each print was made from a sheet of creased aluminum foil pressed onto antique paper from the late 18th century. The spectral imprints hung on the west wall of the gallery, but seemed to follow my every move as I navigated about the space, perhaps an invocation of the many ghostly Kemps. On the floor—lodged in the negative space between a sculpture and a photo—lay a sheet of cardstock paper with handwritten lines that offered a moment of pause and meditation. I would survive, I could survive, I should survive (2021) makes an edit to Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 anthem, elongating the phrase into a mournful, conditional hymn. In this work and others, Kemp staged uncanny encounters between avatars of himself and the viewer. Each work slipped in and out of Kemp’s biography while looping in a myriad of other Kemps, confusing our attempt to locate a solid “I.” 

Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Bahamian parents, Kemp spent his teen years visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and taking classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts through an after-school program supported by the Boston Public School system.4 He studied art and literature at Tufts University, and his early forays into art-making were attempts to process and respond to the pain of the AIDS epidemic and the attendant right-wing misinformation campaign. In 1991, after moving to San Francisco to participate in ACT UP marches,5 Kemp began working at an experimental, artist-run nonprofit called New Langton Arts. It was through his association with New Langton that Kemp met many of the artists and writers connected to the rambunctious, experimental literary scene known as New Narrative. Alternatively referred to as a movement or practice (in line with its ethos, its exact form shifts depending on who is telling the story), New Narrative slid into consciousness in the late 1970s, emerging from writing workshops held by Robert Glück and Bruce Boone, two Bay Area poets who combined rigorous theorizing with personal vulnerability in ways that challenged the austerity of the prevailing avant-garde trends. Informed by the urgency of concurrent movements—gay rights, second-wave feminism, punk—the “I” of New Narrative writing is inhabited by wild glee, an authorial subjectivity that is stretched to fit the messy contradictions of the body, mind, spirit, and more, and buoyed by a desire to transgress formal and cultural norms. 

When thinking about Kemp’s kinship with New Narrative writers like Glück, Kathy Acker, Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, and others, some of his oblique strategies begin to clarify. He absorbed their habit of embracing a promiscuous collectivity that revels in the possibilities of creative, intellectual, physical, social, sexual, and political excess. In “Situations,” a 2017 essay, Kemp wrote that New Narrative writers “[suggest] identities that are as experienced as imagined and as concrete as hallucinatory.”6 Kemp, too, treats subjectivity as a vaporous substance, uninterested in adhering to labels that trap identity in “a singular programmatic stance.”7 In the same way that New Narrative writers expose language and gender as constructions, Kemp seeks out the “failures of representation,”8 as Stephanie Snyder writes, where the biographic narrative is abstracted and fragmented. For example, the FUNNY HOUSE series takes on a new dimension when considering New Narrative’s appropriation of high and low culture, its accumulation of personas and hybrids, and the way it foregrounds the performativity at the heart of living. 

At once silly and sinister, the shots of Kemp’s hands wrestling with Fred Flintstone’s collapsed face literalize the tensions between body and mask. In one photo, Kemp’s hands seem to form an L-shape, his index finger protruding from one of Fred’s eyes, while his thumb pokes out of the mask’s mouth like a tongue. During a virtual conversation with Hamza Walker and Ian Cooper, Kemp explained that some viewers might fixate on Fred Flintstone, believing the work to be a dismantling of the “dumb American” archetype embodied by fictional and real characters like Archie Bunker or even Donald Trump.9 Although he leaves room for the viewer to fill in the gaps, Kemp is more interested in a kind of “spiritual devouring”10—a phrase he uses to describe a state of transcendence. Teased out of the dramas and fantasies of selfhood, the frozen scenes attune to the constant interplay between revealing and concealing. Within this play, Kemp locates sublime moments in which we realize subjectivity is infinite and unknowable. Kemp engages with the mask, his hands disrupting traditional modes of speech and vision and replacing them with gestural fits that try to capture the incommunicable, warping our sense of who is consuming whom. 

Kemp applies this same warping logic to his surrogates. The artist Arnold J. Kemp has been mistaken for the aforementioned novelist, Arnold Kemp, on at least two occasions. Their relationship resembles an ouroboros, Kemp consuming the tail of his doubles, and vice versa. In Mr. Kemp, the artist transforms mistaken identity into a consideration of the ways we absorb others; how each of our “I’s” contains a multitude of voices. Like the Flintstone mask, the sculpture conjured a range of reactions, from bewilderment to laughter, even—as I felt while trying to connect the Kemps—a desire to unravel my own sense of self. In blurring the lines between himself and the novelist, Kemp untethered subjectivity from its singular form, his way of troubling our definitions of the self and other. Any relationship risks a degree of devourment, a sense that the boundaries between you and me are vaporous, eager for the opportunity to merge and touch. Consuming another doesn’t have to be a vampiric act; it can open pathways to deeper connections unmediated by our mechanistic and essentialist world. 

Like a false hydra hungry for sustenance, Kemp is not satisfied with one narrative, one mode, one subjectivity. His work sprouts a constellation of personas and selves, mixing lived experience, fictive flights, and the strange vortex of possibility between the two. The abstracted environments of the works at JOAN mimicked the sensation of living in our digitally-saturated world, where a simple Google or Facebook search of your own name can easily reveal the many others who embody a shared sense of “I.” Instead of feeling possessive over his identity, Kemp stretches his subjectivity to new, freakier possibilities, allowing himself to be swallowed by the many versions of his name. Though this loss of ego may elicit feelings of anxiety or terror, tapping into the mutability of identity can transport us to expansive new terrains, disrupting and delegitimizing our rigid social codes.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 25.

Arnold J. Kemp, Mr. Kemp: Yellowing, Drying, Scorching (2020). Vinyl covered chair with wooden frame and two vinyl covered seat cushions, 40 hardcover and paperback copies of Arnold Kemp’s Eat of Me I am the Savior, and thermometer, 31 × 41 × 32 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.

Arnold J. Kemp, Mr. Kemp: Yellowing, Drying, Scorching (detail) (2020). Vinyl covered chair with wooden frame and two vinyl covered seat cushions, 40 hardcover and paperback copies of Arnold Kemp’s Eat of Me I am the Savior, and thermometer, 31 × 41 × 32 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.

Arnold J. Kemp, FALSE HYDRAS (installation view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.

Arnold J. Kemp, I would survive, I could survive, I should survive (2021). Permanent ink on neutral pH paper, 7 × 5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.

  1. Huey Copeland and Arnold J. Kemp, “1000 Words: Arnold J. Kemp,” Artforum, March 2021,
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Member Spotlight: Arnold J. Kemp,” College Art Association of America, September 18, 2019,
  5. Ibid.
  6. Arnold J. Kemp, “Situations,” in From Our Hearts To Yours: New Narrative as Contemporary Practice, eds. Rob Halpern and Robin Tremblay-McGaw. (On Contemporary Practice, 2017), 51.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Stephanie Snyder, “Arnold Kemp: Foiling,” 2019,
  9. “Virtual Conversation: Arnold Kemp, Ian Cooper, and Hamza Walker Discuss False Hydras,” JOAN, May 8, 2021,
  10. Ibid.

Allison Noelle Conner’s writing has appeared in Artsy, Art in America, Hyperallergic, East of Borneo, and elsewhere. Born in South Florida, she is based in Los Angeles.

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