Issue 30 November 2022

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Issue 26 November 2021

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Issue 24 May 2021

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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
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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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Human Resources
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Lingua Ignota

Faith Wilding at The Armory Center for the Arts and LOUDHAILER

Faith Wilding, The Dream of Eating Leaves (1988). Watercolor and ink on paper, 9.5 x 13 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena.

Faith Wilding, The Dream of Eating Leaves (1988). Watercolor and ink on paper, 9.5 x 13 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena.

In the early 1970s, various groups of female artists in Los Angeles examined the role of gender in art as never before. They were spurred by a mood of general crisis. Late modernist art was perceived by many to have run its course. The bombing campaign in Vietnam was at its apex. The counterculture was foundering. These women protested the near-total absence of women from the art-historical canon and institutional exhibition circuits, but they also probed deeper, asking fundamental questions about the nature of authorship, the role of collaboration in art production, and the gendering of material and form. Debates could be intensely fractious; none of the early collectives were long-lived. They posed such questions as: Is conventional object-making simply obsolete? Is mainstream formalist criticism inherently sexist? Should female artists emulate masculine models of art making, or work in distinctly female modes? Should female artists seek out their own distinct sphere of reception and distribution, or attempt to insert themselves into existing patterns of distribution? It is important to understand that these were not merely theoretical questions, but pressing personal concerns.

Contemporary art in California has a strange, hydra-headed relationship to this local history. Feminism was decisive in extending more opportunity to women (though it’s still nowhere near parity [1]). Female artists today can take an expanded range of options for granted without bothering to directly address the mantle of feminism. For many, feminism is logged in the books as a movement, another “ism” encountered in survey literature. Meanwhile, the formal achievements of first-wave left coast feminism have ironically been assimilated into the formal vocabulary of mainstream commercial contemporary art discourse, largely through the work of male artists. These men, consciously or not, selectively employed historically feminist forms in ways that have been read as symbols of abjection, emasculation, or the pathetic. Mike Kelley (or rather the influence of Mike Kelley, which is a different thing) remains the prime example of this development. This sleight-of-history was perhaps unwittingly abetted by internal debates within feminist art of the ‘80s, in which new voices dismissed women artists who used traditional craft materials as “essentialist.”

Faith Wilding is an artist, educator, and writer whose early career was formed in the crucible of this “first-wave” movement. Her short book By Our Own Hands is the definitive firsthand social art history of feminist art in L.A. between 1970 and 1976. (Unfortunately, it’s been out of print for years.) Wilding sits in the enviable yet sometimes awkward position of having made two legendary, career-defining pieces in the very early years of her work. Both pieces were realized within the context of Womanhouse, a collaborative project in 1972 consisting of performances, sculptures, and immersive environments created by a CalArts student group in an old deserted Hollywood mansion.

Fearful Symmetries (installation view) (2015). Image courtesy of the artist and the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Fearful Symmetries (installation view) (2015). Image courtesy of the artist and the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena. Photo: Jeff McLane.

The first piece was Waiting, a first-person poem about a woman who is perpetually bound to the timelines of others. Wilding performed the poem as a reading at Womanhouse, and the chord that it struck still resonates. (She still receives fan mail regularly from young people who are discovering the work.) Waiting adapts the melancholic, existential poetics of deferral commonly associated with English playwright Samuel Beckett, and applies it to the daily experiences of women. Its critique of learned female passivity is quietly devastating.

Wilding’s second piece at Womanhouse was Crocheted Environment, a room-sized web of crocheted patterns that formed an organic, cell-like body that encompassed the viewer. The original sculpture was mysteriously stolen from Womanhouse, but when Wilding remade the work for a show at the Bronx Museum in 1995, she titled it Womb Room. I’ve never seen either the original or the remake in person, but the work was crucial to handicraft’s re-emergence in art, a major trend over the last few decades.

Wilding is 72 now, but Fearful Symmetries, at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena is, incredibly, her first museum retrospective. The Armory show was organized by Shannon Stratton, and appeared in its first iteration in 2014 at Threewalls in Chicago. The Pasadena incarnation of the show is buoyed by the significant addition of early works loaned from local private collections. Wilding’s work was also recently on view in a concurrent show of watercolors, from her Imago Femina series, at Loudhailer gallery in Culver City.

Both Los Angeles shows have focused on Wilding’s two-dimensional work, a surprising turn for an artist best known for her performance and sculpture. Almost all of the work in both shows has been largely unseen until now. These exhibitions confirm Wilding as a committed object maker, determined to integrate her evolving conception of feminist practice into traditional media and exhibition circuits. Imago Femina, a numbered series of watercolors from 1978, depicts abstracted chrysalises and other womb-like floral forms. Their theme is nurture. Their interlocking webs are a formal metaphor for a biological universe of mutually supporting structures. In these pieces, she achieves an unlikely but lucid fusion of botanical drawing, biomorphic Surrealist abstraction, manuscript illumination, and flower-power hippie doodling. Valves and twisting tubes wind and weave between chambers. Tendrils and buds symbolize the first delicate moments of life. As presented at Loudhailer, vintage frames sport thin, gold-leafed inner mat boards, evoking the material richness of illuminated manuscripts. In other large drawings, like The Rising (1979) at the Armory, the gold bands are integrated into the body of the drawing itself, as a kind of latticework for the vines to navigate. Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolors of enlarged flowers are a clear point of reference, though Imago Femina is less observational, and more concerned with a negotiation between geometric abstraction and organic line.[2] Imago Femina‘s symmetric forms are also unmistakably indebted to the work of Judy Chicago, Wilding’s early mentor, and Chicago’s theory of vulvic imagery—what she termed “central core” composition—as historically central to female expression in art.[3] Ultimately, Wilding’s muted and delicate technique is in a class of its own. In these works, the student eclipses the sensei.

Faith Wilding, Imago Femina #24 (1978). Watercolor on paper in vintage frame, 20.5 x 16.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Loudhailer.

Faith Wilding, Imago Femina #24 (1978). Watercolor on paper in vintage frame, 20.5 x 16.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Loudhailer.

At the time of their making, Wilding’s early watercolors received a chilly, even hostile initial reception.[4] In the milieu of CalArts in the 1970s, her watercolors were considered retrograde. Even some fellow feminists were averse to the work’s apparent commitment to visual pleasure, detecting a suspicious overtone of conservativism. Post-studio practice and performance, epitomized by John Baldessari and Allan Kaprow, were in vogue. (As a student, Wilding found only one painting faculty member at CalArts with any interest in figural representation, who suggested without irony that she paint from Playboy centerfolds.) Today these categorical hierarchies seem outmoded, and merely quaint. In retrospect, it’s hard not to conclude that the CalArts faculty were simply afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Her next body of work, also on view at the Armory, is less successful. Pages from the Scriptorium (1983) and Hildegaard Book (1985) are one-of-a-kind artist books made with gouache on heavy paper. They are homages to Hildegarde von Bingen, the medieval German composer, author, playwright, and visionary. The draftsmanship is rushed, schematic, and indifferent, and the handwritten texts are an all-caps scribble complete with weird hyphenated breaks that appears layered onto the image after the fact. Wilding’s attraction to Hildegarde’s grand allegorical visions of female figures is palpable, but her choice of such a lofty and historically majestically illustrated subject sets her sights beyond the limits of her own technique.

In the Armory show, Wilding’s technique visibly evolves in an exquisite group of smaller drawings from the late 1980s, which flirt with Surrealism. In Godot’s Tree: The Dream of Eating Leaves (1988) a naked woman straddles what looks like a giant cactus paddle, both apparently levitating. One of its spiky thorns rises up between her buttocks. Another thorn sprouts a leaf at its tip, which the woman bends towards her mouth, as she prepares to lick it. Here Wilding’s nature worship verges on self-satire. In The Dream of Long Beautiful Hair (1989), a nude female figure huddles in a fetal position inside the skeletal carcass of a bull, itself careening through an egg-like ovoid portal . The poetic connection to Waiting—with its grown woman forever waiting to be born—is unmistakable, and the technical combination of stippling, wash, and hatching is masterful.

This period of drawings includes the one note of outright aggression in the show: the watercolor and ink piece I Dream I Eviscerated my Father (1989), which depicts a naked man, arms and legs spread, his body sliced open from neck to crotch. The pink and golden tendrils in the earlier work here become gray entrails, twisting out of the man’s torso. While the ink rendering is meticulous, the watercolor pigment, with faint pink highlights, is applied indifferently, staining the paper in no discernable pattern. The tension between these two modes of application in this piece is puzzling. This is the space of dreams, and the subject matter is as close as Wilding comes to violent revolt.

Fearful Symmetries (installation view) (2015). Image courtesy of the artist and the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Fearful Symmetries (installation view) (2015). Image courtesy of the artist and the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Wilding’s drawing practice is in many ways close to writing, especially journaling and letter writing. Most of her drawings have accompanying texts or annotations alongside illustrations of her favorite motifs: leaf, shell, cocoon, womb, heart, and spiral. Two vitrines at the Armory display unframed, loose-leaf sheets from the course of her career. The use of text, at times singsong and exuberant, at others tentative and probing, is partly a legacy of her formal training. Judy Chicago asked her students to pay close attention to personal feelings and sensations that they might not normally consider appropriate material for art. Persistent note taking was a form of consciousness-raising, and also an homage to everyday labor.[5] Wilding’s use of text also recalls the work of William Blake, whom she claims as a feminist and quotes on occasion. Like Blake, Wilding is drawn to ancient wisdom traditions, and seeks to reconcile her own personal visions with her conservative Christian upbringing, and a evolving sexual politics. Her syntheses are less systematic in character than Blake’s; she offers no grand unified theories. One suspects this is by design, part and parcel of a critique of masculinist notions of mastery.

There are some false notes among the large works in the Armory show. The main wall of the space is painted a grayish country blue, and hung with shaped cutout oil-on-canvas paintings of leaves, twisting and turning as if tossed by the wind. The materials listed come as a surprise; from a distance, the works look like adhesive vinyl graphics. The individual pieces are competently realized, but the wall doesn’t gel as an overall composition. The colors are dark and slightly muddy, and the cumulative effect is strangely heavy handed. Wilding is capable of an extraordinary lightness of touch, and here that lightness is absent.

In the Armory’s “Vault” space (a corridor, really) in the corner of the exhibition galleries, documentary footage of Waiting plays on a loop. Where, however, are the rest of Wilding’s performances and collaborative projects? This is the show’s main lacuna, a serious gap for an exhibition that presents itself as a retrospective. The nearly exclusive focus on two-dimensional work in this survey, which from a distance could easily be mistaken for provincial conservatism, brackets away the discussions of craft, sculpture, and performance that were so crucial to early feminism. No matter—for most viewers this work will be a welcome bolt from the blue.

Canonization is just now fully catching up with Wilding. A major monograph is being published next year by Intellect Books (UK), based in Bristol. She is currently writing her memoirs. The Getty Research Institute is negotiating the acquisition of her archive. That institutions are still in the early phases of identifying, locating, and documenting feminist discourse nearly 50 years on should be taken as a sign of movement’s intense productivity. Given these developments, why does unabashed femininity in art still often have the power to raise eyebrows? The longstanding institutional mistrust of art like Wilding’s, and the millennial generation’s occasionally amnesiac relationship to early feminist history[6], suggest that there is critical work left to be done.

Faith Wilding, Imago Femina #19 (1978). Watercolor on paper in vintage frame, 20.5 x 16.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Loudhailer.

Faith Wilding, Imago Femina #19 (1978). Watercolor on paper in vintage frame, 20.5 x 16.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Loudhailer.

[1] Artist Micol Hebron recently calculated that the current spread, based on commercial galleries in Los Angeles and New York, is 70% male, 30% female. See: http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/micol-hebron-the-gallery-tally-poster-project.html

[2] Significantly, O’Keeffe was staunchly opposed to readings of her work as specifically feminine.

[3] Chicago traces the development of this idea in her first autobiography, Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist (Doubleday, 1975), pp 141-145. It should also be noted that the notion of a specifically female way of picturing met with immediate opposition. See, for example, the roundtable discussion “ What is Female Imagery?”, originally published in Ms. 3 No. 11, 1975, later reprinted in Lucy Lippard, From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art. (Dutton: 1976) pp. 81-89.

[4] Lecture by Faith Wilding at USC Roski School of Art, September 29, 2015.

[5] Wilding, Faith. By Our Own Hands. Double X, 1977.pp. 10 -12.

[6] The topic of feminism in current academic art teaching is extremely contested. Between post-feminists, intersectional feminists, queer feminists, fifth wave feminists, trans-feminists and anti-feminists, there is often little agreement. To take just a single example, in Chicago’s most recent book, she compares feminist academe in the 1970s with the current educational environment, based on her decades of teaching in dozens of schools. From her perspective, progress has been mixed, and feminism may be the last intensely polarizing, hot button issue remaining in contemporary art. See chapters 6 and 7 of Judy Chicago, Institutional Time: A Critique of Studio Art Education. Monacelli Press, 2014.

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Originally published in Carla Issue 3.