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)

The Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich

Pauline Stella Sanchez, video still from This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists (2018). Image courtesy of the artist and Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA).

A commercial sign painter by trade, for over 30 years Norm Laich has been the go-to fabricator for artists who want text painted in their work and need it done right. Although Laich downplays his role, telling me he considers himself merely a “freelance production assistant,” those he works with are more generous. In a short documentary produced by Pauline Stella Sanchez to accompany an ICA LA show of work Laich has had a hand in, Scott Grieger—whose 1995 wall work United States of Anxiety, an ominous black outline of the U.S. map with the titular phrase written inside, is in the show—notes, “I don’t think of him as an assistant at all. I think of him as another artist I work with.”

The exhibition This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich And Many Other Artists at the ICA LA highlights works that Laich has produced with artists over the past few decades (and in turn takes visitors on a sort of art historical romp, showcasing works from movements like conceptualism and appropriation art through the current moment). Yet the works on view, freed from a rigid art historical framework, instead are recast under the vibrant narrative of collaboration. This Brush features a selection of contemporary artists, mainly from L.A.—including John Baldessari, Meg Cranston, Mike Kelley, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Amanda Ross-Ho, and several others— however the show doesn’t really belong to any of them.

Curated by Cranston and Baldessari, the show does more than  recognize one of the nameless, underappreciated fabricators working behind the scenes. It challenges the hierarchical dichotomy between fine art and craft, between idea and labor. Straddling the gulf is Laich, who has been dancing between applied and fine arts throughout his career. In addition to craft and labor, art world professionalism and trade, This Brush also raises issues about originality, authenticity, and value. In structuring the show around a producer as opposed to a “creator,” the curators challenge the notion of solitary artistic genius, expanding the possible range of answers to the question, “Whose work is that?”

As a teenager growing up in Detroit in the early ’70s, Laich was told by an art teacher that artists had to have a side job. “I was looking at Artforum magazine, and I saw images of James Rosenquist. I found out he was a sign painter in Times Square painting billboards,” Laich told me in his unpretentious Midwestern drawl at the press preview for This Brush. “That inspired me to get a job in Detroit for commercial sign companies. That’s where I learned how to do signs.”

Eager to get out of Detroit (where he gripes that bowling was about the only thing to do), Laich went back to school and got a degree in arts management, thinking he could possibly run an arts organization. After graduating in the early ’80s, he was drawn to L.A.’s sun-bleached, low-slung sprawl rather than the brick and steel canyons of New York, which he felt was too similar to the industrial nature and climate of Detroit. Although Laich found Detroit creatively stifling, it was where he was first exposed to proto-punk bands like MC5 and the Stooges, inspiring an affinity for that music that would only deepen once he arrived in L.A. during that city’s punk heyday. (Mike Kelley, born the year before Laich, also emerged from the same Detroit milieu, where he started his own punk-tinged band, Destroy All Monsters!, before moving out West himself.)

Laich started working for commercial sign companies when he arrived in L.A., but was also interning at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had just opened. The sign company the museum had hired to do their exhibition graphics was too “flaky” says Laich, so they asked him to step in, hand painting exhibition titles and silk-screening curatorial didactic panels, an opportunity that would kickstart his own business.

Around that time he also began painting show titles for galleries, which is where artists first saw him working and asked him to start hand-painting text for them. It is significant and somewhat ironic that the first artists who recruited him were conceptual artists like Lawrence Weiner and John Baldessari; artists who had been at the forefront of a movement to dematerialize the art object two decades earlier were now seeking out a master craftsman to help them fabricate their works. Notably, Laich’s process—whereby he traces designs with a tool that punches small holes in a sheet of paper, then transfers the design by taping the paper to the wall and “pouncing” the design with a bag filled with charcoal dust—dates back to the Renaissance. (At an event  in conjunction with Weiner’s 2008 MOCA retrospective, Laich was asked to do a live painting of one of Weiner’s signature phrases on stage. He tells me that he recalls hecklers in the audience jeering “Down with easel painting!”, a sentiment that he attributed to students from some of the more vigorously conceptually-oriented art schools in the area.) For the conceptual artists however, employing Laich was a way to remove their hand from the work, an attempt to shift focus from the physical connection between artist and artwork. For Baldessari, using an actual “painter” was a sly way to play devil’s advocate, to challenge the rules of the game by blindly adhering to them. In Stella Sanchez’s film, he notes that when artists incorporate painted signage into their work, “it legitimizes the work  if there’s real paint there. You can say it’s a painting.”

Several of these conceptuallybased works are included in the ICA show, most notably Baldessari’s A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation (1966–1968), a series of canvases across which various sign painters have written the venue and dates of each exhibition in which the work has been included. Despite attempts at uniformity, there is a wide range of lettering styles on view in the work, and the side-by-side canvases are slightly differing shades of taupe. Laich has painted a few of the entries over the years, including the newest one, painted for this exhibition. This meta-artwork announces itself as an object in a very specific milieu, one whose history and provenance are inscribed upon its surface, spelled out by the anonymous hired guns of the art world, as opposed to hidden in the back pages of an artist’s monograph.

Norm Laich, This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists (2018) (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). Photo: Brian Forrest/ICA LA.

Arturo Herrera, Park and Ride (2018). Image courtesy of the artist and Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). Photo: Brian Forrest/ICA LA.

Weiner’s contribution to This Brush, AS LONG AS IT LASTS (2018), is applied in large lettering across the floor, and is one of the only works made from vinyl. A linguistic vanitas, the phrase conveys a matter-of-fact acceptance of the ephemerality that goes hand-in-hand with sign painting. Signs only last as long as they are useful. Once the business closes or they become too faded, they are whitewashed or repainted. Conservation is not a priority. After they are shown, Weiner’s vinyl works are surely de-installed in crumpled wads, and escorted to the nearest trash can.

On a much more intimate scale is Daniel Joseph Martinez’s Divine Violence (2007), a series of metallic gold panels, onto which Laich has handpainted in black the names of groups that use violence to achieve their political goals, from the Weathermen and the Ku Klux Klan to the Taliban and the Sudanese Janjaweed. Rendered in casual, straightforward lettering, the names are presented without judgment, organized into a mesmerizing glowing, gold grid.

The crown jewel of the show has to be Mike Kelley’s Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Rooms (With Copy Room) For an Advertising Agency Designed By Frank Gehry (1991–1992). Initially commissioned by ad firm Chiat/Day as a design for their corporate headquarters, the work is a full-scale recreation of a five-room office space. Adorning the walls, are a series of crude, irreverent cartoons—the kind you might find hanging in a mail room or another blue collar enclave in a white collar institution blown up and plastered around the conference rooms. “If assholes could fly this place would be an airport!” reads one. Another features a child on the toilet with a roll of toilet paper above the caption, “No job is finished until the paperwork is done!” Perhaps unprepared for the way Kelley upended corporate hierarchies, the firm decided not to go ahead with the project, but the piece soon popped up in Paul Schimmel’s groundbreaking 1992 MOCA exhibition, Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s. For that show and this one, Laich and assistants painted each of the cartoons onto the cubicle walls, painstakingly replicating the look of photocopied degradation, now magnified.

In parallel with the ICA exhibition, another show in town refreshingly featured Laich’s personal work (rather than the works he’s fabricated for others). His exhibition, CONDEMNED, at the Highland Park artist-run gallery Animals With Human Rights, Humans With Animal Rights (AWHRHWAR), featured four paintings spanning almost 20 years, from 1992 to 2010. They convey Laich’s dry, acerbic take on contemporary American life, subverting the legibility and general cheeriness of commercial sign painting (or advertising) in favor of a darker, less facile message.

Microsoft/Acropolis (1992) juxtaposes the ancient ruin with the familiar (then new) software company logo, perhaps standing in for the tension between analog artists like himself and a new breed of digital  designers. Condemned (2000) depicts a classic California ranch house above which hover three prohibition symbols, each enclosing a dollar sign. Below the house, a stencil typeface spells out “Condemned,” a blunt criticism of the American Dream, the limits of which would become all too clear less than a decade later in the 2007 real estate crash. Black 5th of July (2002) depicts an exploding firework, painted in stark black, pressing against the edges of a round white panel. Drained of color and theatrical awe, it captures the hollowness of jingoistic revelry. The most recent work included in the exhibition was 2010 (2010), which displays the year’s numerals as decaying, distorted cyphers. Laich says that he found the source image for this work in an ad for a car dealership, in which the year was formed by clouds in the sky. “I started scanning and messing with them,” he told me at AWHRHWAR shortly after installing his show. Separated from their advertising origins and manipulated, “they started turning into bones. Whenever I see something weird like that happening, I know I should pursue it.”

In these works’ direct and pointed critique of American exceptionalism and late Capitalism, there is a connection to Laich’s punk roots in Detroit and L.A. Although his handiwork could be seen at three L.A. venues simultaneously this summer (he also worked with Gary Simmons to produce Simmons’ lobby-filling installation Fade to Black at the California African American Museum), Laich maintains a certain ambivalence towards the market in his practice. He told me that he charges the same for commercial clients as he does for artists, sometimes more for commercial clients since he enjoys working for artists more. The final value of the completed artwork—whether it’s in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars—doesn’t seem to enter the equation. When I asked him if he ever makes suggestions to clients on design or typefaces, he remarks, “that happens more with galleries.

They want to use conservative type styles because they want to look like a bank.” Still, he doesn’t seem resentful for the financial success that some of the artists he’s worked for have achieved. “That’s the game,” he says, and it’s a game he seems happy to sit out.

Alongside the biting skepticism of Laich’s work, there is a youthful energy, exuberance, and humor. The one work that bears his name in the ICA show is a small, green panel with a squiggly edge that resembles a burger stand menu, listing prices for burgers, fries, and shakes in brightly colored text. Squeezed between the items and the prices, Laich has painted vertically in black the words “Never Die,” an absurdist, almost subliminal encouragement to persevere, to kick against the pricks. One could imagine one of Kelley’s copy room staffers finding reassurance in these words.

Generations of artists have attacked the institution, the preciousness of the art object, and the cult of solitary artistic genius, only to have their attempts co-opted, canonized, and monetized by the market. By showcasing Laich’s egoless collaborations, This Brush may do more to challenge the notion of art as luxury commodity, instead privileging process and partnership. Laich’s general disregard for the market that fuels the art world can in a sense be seen as a radical attack on the system. This Brush may not present solutions to the myriad issues that exist around labor and authorship in the art world, but it offers a refreshing framework through which to view art and the work that goes into it.

The artists who run AWHRHWAR met Laich as art students, when they hired him to install vinyl letters for their thesis shows. Over the following decade, a fruitful working relationship and friendship has developed and when they opened the space last year, he designed their logo and painted a mural of a shadowy cowboy on the façade of their building. Their decision to mount a show of his work  seems less opportunistic, and more driven out of deep admiration and a sense of camaraderie. Laich’s work, and the work he does for others, reveals a parallel, horizontally structured art world, one that is not defined by networks of collectors, auction records, and jet-setting curators. This offers a refreshing perspective: maybe the rules don’t need to be imposed from the top, but can bubble up from the nexus of labor, collaboration, and kinship. The art world can be what you make it.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 13. 

Norm Laich, Eastern Skinny Poke (2017). Enamel mural on gallery façade, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist and AWHRHWAR. Photo: Jason Gowans.

Mike Kelley, Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Room (With Coy Room) for an Advertiing Agency Designed by Frank Gehry (1991-1992). Image courtesy of the artist and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Photo: Brian Forrest/ICA LA.

Mike Kelley, Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Room (With Coy Room) for an Advertiing Agency Designed by Frank Gehry (1991-1992). Image courtesy of the artist and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Photo: Brian Forrest/ICA LA.

Norm Laich, Black 5th of July (2002). Enamel on panel, 36 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and AWHRHWAR. Photo: Jason Gowans.

Norm Laich, Microsoft/Acropolis (1992). Acrylic on canvas, 28 x 72 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and AWHRHWAR. Photo: Jason Gowans.

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