Issue 36 May 2024

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.)
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)

Spiritual Coroner:
Gala Porras-Kim

Gala Porras-Kim, 31 west Mexico ceramics from LACMA collection: Jalisco Index (2017). Graphite, colored pencil, marker, ink on paper, artist’s frame, 73 × 73 × 3 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

It was raining in Nebraska. Through the phone, I could hear her car’s wipers marking time as Gala Porras-Kim drove back to Los Angeles from Cambridge, where she’d been a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard. Her residency had been cut short by COVID-19. There had been time, though, to develop a new project based on the collection at the university’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Certain of these objects included those dredged from the Cenote Sagrado at Chichén Itzá—a giant natural pool surrounded by steep cliffs in Mexico’s Northern Yucatán Peninsula—by an American diplomat in the early 20th century. “In [his] letters that I was looking at in the archive,” Porras-Kim explained, “there’s all of these references to rain. For example, ‘It was raining so hard that we couldn’t actually get anything today,’ or like, ‘Sorry, my handwriting is so bad because the water is destroying my hands.’” On other letters, the weather had splattered and melted the ink. Thus, even the colonial archive has its poetry: the cenote was the site for Mayan rituals—sacrifices of jade and gold, pottery, and other ritual objects, as well as human beings, to Chaac, the god of rain.

The story of how many of these objects came to be at the Peabody at Harvard is one of legal sleight of hand. Although the contents of man-made structures like pyramids were protected by the state, the diplomat argued that if he purchased land in Mexico, he would own whatever artifacts were buried underground or in natural formations, including what remained in the cenote. (He also smuggled hundreds of objects into the United States in official diplomatic bags.)

The original purpose of such objects is one thing; another is the shape of law, of policy, and the way objects are classified. Porras-Kim sees both aesthetic and legal conventions as almost sculptural parameters that structure the lives of the objects themselves. Her work puts pressure on these systems of classification, conservation, display, and knowledge—the contradictions that arise are already present in museum collections. Porras-Kim doesn’t answer these questions so much as push them into the exhibition space; a playful, open-ended revisionism ensues.

Take her project for the 2016 edition of Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum, for which the artist selected and displayed a range of objects from the Fowler Museum’s anthropological archive that remain unclassified: artifacts in limbo between their original purpose and their inclusion in any potential future encyclopedic context. Animal parts, pottery shards, and textile fragments appeared on blue cloth on a long white pedestal, often accompanied by the Fowler’s own terse, sometimes baffled notes. In 2017, Porras-Kim gave a similar treatment to LACMA’s Proctor Stafford collection, a group of ceramics classified broadly as “west Mexican.” Because the museum is strictly an art museum, the ceramics are somewhat arbitrarily considered not archaeological or religious objects but works of art. The artist gave them another kind of bureaucratic shorthand, separating them into three groups based on the modern Mexican states where they were found (Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit). She then drew the objects arranged by size, adding another layer of arbitrary categorization. The subjectivity of her own classifications is part of the point. “Maybe I should have talked about latitude and longitude,” she said. “Maybe I can write in the directions that the piece gets renamed whenever the state gets called something else.” The goal is not revisionism in an accurate, definitive sense, but rather a revision of a certain declarative authority to include the beautiful fact that there are things we do not, and will never, know.

At times, Porras-Kim seems to revel in the unfixity and shortfalls of our systems of knowledge. For her recent project for the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Porras-Kim addressed La Mojarra Stela 1, a glyph-covered Mesoamerican monolith that was discovered in a river in Veracruz, Mexico in 1986 and, so far, remains completely untranslated. In lieu of a linguistic, syntactic understanding of the carved text, Porras-Kim offered three alternative ways to make meaning from the mute stone. In the first, she performed an idiosyncratic, formal analysis, using color-coded transparencies to separate the markings by shape: circles, squares, squiggles. In the next, a replica of La Mojarra Stela 1 was attached to a panel covered in graphite marks, as if regarding itself in an obsidian mirror. And in the third, titled La Mojarra Stela incidental conjugations (2019), a drawing of the glyphs arranged in written order was accompanied by a rotating, water-filled disc containing plastic cutouts of the same symbols; as they tumbled, the two layers of glyphs aligned, or not, in meaningful ways— or not. The piece may seem like a parody of the self-serious discipline of anthropology. Indeed, especially at first glance, it shares some of the didactic qualities of the systems it critiques. This ambivalence would make for odd science but is completely appropriate for a work of contemporary art. Porras-Kim embraces the unknowable unknowns of anthropology as the formal unknowns of an artistic method of making meaning.

Porras-Kim’s interventions also refract the concerns of contemporary collections and museums. Part of her objective, she told me, is to challenge museums to live up to their missions. This is especially vital when a museum deals with living artists, as is the case with her recent project at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). “All the museums, they all have different personalities,” she said. “MOCA is supposed to be ‘The Artist’s Museum.’” (It was founded by artists in 1979.) “I wanted to know, how much agency do actual artists have over their work in the collection?” The project she organized at MOCA, which was originally scheduled to be on view through mid-May, is part of a series called Open House, in which the museum invites artists to guest-curate exhibitions from its vaults. Her approach shines light on the peculiar exigencies of maintaining and displaying artwork that, unlike looted pre-Columbian gold, comes to a museum collection with the artist’s directions. Some conservation issues, such as how to preserve the cellophane cigarette packages in a work by Chris Burden or the rotting polyurethane in a work by John Chamberlain, seem like provocations from the artists themselves. Others are semantically tedious, like a single, spare pink fluorescent bulb for a Flavin piece—installed at MOCA in a non-Flavin fixture with the caveat that it is, emphatically, not a work of art. Porras-Kim imagines the project as a conversation with the museum staff, an expression of their anxieties over applying best practices to such indeterminate objects. She mentioned an idea for a future piece that she would address to “an audience of one,” a conservator, working to preserve her imagined artwork a thousand years from now.

Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only (installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Art is a long game, as they say, and a lot can change in a millennium. Porras-Kim pointed out that laws and religions and cultural distinctions (between anthropology and art, say) draw their efficacy from belief: they are, in some sense, forms of consensus reality. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of human remains. In 2017, she took part in a project called the Berman Board, with fellow artists Fiona Connor, Neil Doshi, and Michala Paludan. Connor had been gifted a handful of objects from a range of cultures, assembled haphazardly by an amateur collector and displayed for decades in his home. For their collaboration, Porras-Kim focused on one piece in particular: a decorated, shrunken head. “I had this head,” she told me. “What could I actually do with it?” First, she called a coroner. “And then the coroner was like, ‘is it a victim of a crime?’ And I said, ‘possibly, yes.’ Because you know, probably it was. And then they said I had to call the police.”

Repatriation is an especially complex problem since the movement of cultural artifacts crisscrosses national, spiritual, legal, and museological lines—not to mention the temporal limit of the human lifespan—and puts those jurisdictions into direct conflict. When Porras-Kim explained that it was a shrunken head, not fresh remains— classified as an object, not a person— she was directed instead to a research museum. This bureaucratic exercise resulted in a handful of documents in file folders in which Porras-Kim detailed a number of possible options for burying, repatriating, or otherwise placing the head. She hopes to make future investigations on a larger scale about remains in museum collections in Brazil and South Korea. In some sense, repatriation of looted remains can never be properly, fully accomplished. Time has moved on, and the folks who should be consulted are dead or missing. But there are other, less official, more artistic solutions. The goal, said Porras-Kim, is “basically to try and figure out how to contact the afterlife,” and ask the dead “where they would rather be, other than in the museum.” (I offered that part of the difficulty is that you can’t just call up the spiritual coroner. She replied, “Oh, yes you can.”)

As for the Peabody’s collection of objects from the Cenote Sagrado, Porras-Kim is planning another artfully incomplete denouement. Originally, she wanted to return the objects to the cenote—the idea was to argue that the rain god Chaac still owned them, and to litigate on his behalf using both spiritual and material laws. Now, she imagines a symbolic repatriation: maybe, said the artist, she will make copies, possibly out of ice. As they melt, the repatriation will be both artistic, a metaphor, and meteorological, a physical intervention in the water cycle. Viewers will watch as Chaac’s objects return to the rain from whence they came.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 20.

Gala Porras-Kim, Whitney Biennial 2019 (installation view). From left to right: La Mojarra Stela and its shapes; La Mojarra Stela negative space; La Mojarra Stela illuminated text, and La Mojarra Stela incidental conjugations (all works 2019). Image courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo: Ron Amstutz.
Gala Porras-Kim, Polychrome skull possible futures (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and the Berman Board.
Gala Porras-Kim, Joined decouple (2017). Unglazed ceramic, linen, mahogany
15 x 37 x 6.75 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.
An Index and its Histories (installation view) (2017-18). Image courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.
Gala Porras-Kim, Polychrome skull possible futures (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and Armory Center for the Arts. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.
Gala Porras-Kim, Three joined acrobats vessel (2017). Graphite, flashe paint on paper, artist’s frame, 25.75 × 18.5 × 1.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Travis Diehl has lived in Los Angeles since 2009. He is a recipient of the Creative Capital / Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2013) and the Rabkin Prize in Visual Arts Journalism (2018).

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