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

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Distribution
Central
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
as-is.la
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
BLUM
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
dublab
FOYER-LA
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
GAVLAK
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harkawik
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
ICA LA
in lieu
JOAN
Karma
LACA
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
M+B
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
Murmurs
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
Nonaka-Hill
NOON Projects
O-Town House
OCHI
One Trick Pony
Pace
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Praz-Delavallade
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
SHRINE
Simchowitz
Smart Objects
SOLDES
SPRÜTH MAGERS
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The LODGE
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
Wönzimer
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)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Tuning In and Dropping Out: Spiritual Frontiers in Recent Art and Curation

Leer en Español

Emil Bisttram, Oversoul (c. 1941). Oil on masonite, 35.5 × 26.5 inches. Private collection. Image courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.

At the close of the nineteenth century, the American West was not only a geographic and economic frontier but also a spiritual one. The Protestantism that so gripped the Eastern United States loosened as young settlers colonized the furthest reaches of the American continent, where institutionalized traditionalism began, for some, to wane in favor of a more individualist and heterodox orientation towards religion.1 Christian Science, New Thought, and Theosophy posed compelling alternatives to more dominant beliefs. As scholar Sandra Sizier Frankiel put it, “a diffuse California mythology arose.”2 Palpably skeptical of East coast conservatism, this mythos eschewed codified moral or ethical programs. A nascent interest in South and East Asian spiritual practices baked in the sun and sands of the region’s sweeping desert tundra and staggering cliffside beaches.3

It is not difficult to find vestiges of Frankiel’s diffuse California mythology around Los Angeles today. Some varieties are explicitly religious, like the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), a nondenominational spiritual organization with several locations spanning Hollywood and the Pacific Palisades that teaches Kriya Yoga,4 while others are scholarly, like the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Feliz, which houses a remarkable library of esoteric and spiritual texts.5 But most evidence of this spiritual heritage—from boutique yoga studios to crystal shops, occult apothecaries to manifestation studios—is more banal, part and parcel of the commercial fabric of Southern California. In many cases, these markets have commodified the more nuanced aspects of Californian spiritualism.

Such imbrications of the mystical with capital have garnered their fair share of criticism. Notably, Western adaptations of Eastern religions and the occult often overemphasize individual identity and personal freedom to the detriment of structural race, ethnic, and class-based struggles. And, while esotericism and occultism are often cozily entwined with capital, especially in Los Angeles, they have also proven to be indelibly fertile terrain for artistic pursuits that explore the friction between the mystical and the market. Recently, Los Angeles has seen a reinvigorated interest in exhibiting and historicizing work engaged with mysticism, highlighting artists who belong(ed) to a greater cultural milieu of West coasters seeking spiritual transcendence in the early twentieth century and beyond. While these earlier artists tended to refuse the art economy in favor of their individual pursuits, some contemporary artists are bridging the material and spiritual by incorporating critiques of capital into their work.

Many midcentury artists grew disillusioned with the burgeoning art market of their time, instead cultivating alternative lifestyles that enabled art-making on their own terms. One such group was recently the subject of the touring exhibition Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945, on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) this summer. In 1938 Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, this cohort of artists allied in their common desire to reject the aesthetic trends and art markets of New York and Europe in order to access their vision of the spiritual through art. The artists involved—including Emil Bisttram, Raymond Jonson, Robert Gribbroek, Lawren Harris, and Agnes Pelton (a member of the Transcendental Painting Group [TPG] in absentia, as she spent her artistic maturity living in the desert near Palm Springs6)—had varying degrees of commitment to any one religion, but they shared a distrust of modernity, an interest in the occult, and a devotion to representing that which lies “beyond the appearance of the physical world…[in the] imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual.”7 For the TPG artists, the effort to access the divine to the exclusion of the greater social world necessitated a rejection of the arts economies burgeoning in global capitals.

Through their geographic isolation from urban cultural centers, the artists of the TPG were better able to detach from visual and political conventions shaping the commercial art world at the time, most notably social realism and the proto-New York school of abstract art.8 Agnes Pelton left New York even while her career was budding in the region,9 while Jonson refused Josef Albers’ invitation to join the American Abstract Artists alliance in 1937.10 To be sure, the group still exhibited at institutions across the United States—at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (now known as the Guggenheim Museum) in 1940, for instance11—but their steadfast seclusion from the mainstream market and its rubrics of salability allowed them to take an eccentric, often polarizing approach to painting. For instance, the repeated presence of the egg, a theosophical symbol of generation, grounds many of their highly geometric compositions, evident in many of the paintings on display at LACMA. In Bisttram’s nocturne Oversoul (c. 1941), overlapping ovoid orbs are superimposed atop a blue ground with white stars, dotted like a night sky. Also unconventional for the time, the artists often favored romance and mood within their abstractions; Pelton’s Winter (1933) features a glowing rondure in the center of the composition, but is contextualized by a more sentimental—rather than punctiliously geometric—atmosphere featuring doves, soft patches of snow, and whirling flower petals.

Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945 (installation view) (2023). Image courtesy of LACMA. Photo: © Museum Associates/LACMA.

Similarly to how the artists of the TPG disentangled from their contemporary art circuits in pursuit of mediating between the physical world and that which lies beyond consciousness, painter Alan Lynch repudiated the art market in pursuit of a more isolated artistic practice alongside his study of Sōtō Zen Buddhism. Lynch was immersed with the artists of the midcentury California avant-garde, many of whom were energized by inquiries into the subconscious, developments in abstraction, and new popular forms of visual culture like comics and advertisements. In this climate, Lynch exhibited publicly for a short 10-year period, after which his artistic practice became more private, meditative, and spiritual. Lynch’s work formed the centerpiece of The Disappearance of Rituals, a group exhibition at Château Shatto this summer that marked the first public exhibition of the artist’s work since he left behind the commercial art world in 1969.12

The exhibition centered on a series of previously unexhibited protean watercolors produced while Lynch was pursuing ordination as a monk. The works are themselves meditative in their small scale and similar compositions, as though the ritualistic pace of Zen study was incarnated through his artistic work. Like the work of the TPG artists, Lynch’s framed paintings are socially disengaged and often contain curving forms that sometimes appear biomorphic, sometimes geologic. Untitled (1978) depicts six curving tentacles emanating from the lower-right-hand corner like algae. A sandy halo radiates from behind or between them, fading into an opalescent wash that merges into deep blue at the artwork’s edges. Four similar watercolors of the same scale hung to the right, iterating Lynch’s approach to painting simple, abstract forms. Here, Lynch was responding to the tensions embedded within the California mythology—the pursuit of spiritual freedom that paradoxically relies on the material trappings of capital and colonialism—by innovating spiritual abstraction, as did the artists of the TPG.

For artists working throughout the twentieth century, from Pelton to Lynch, the spiritual thrust of their practice ultimately informed their turn away from many of the trappings of modern urban life and the commercial art world. But even as their work becomes integrated into more dominant histories of contemporary art, and even as spiritual-kitsch is an increasingly present commercial category, artists working today who unabashedly speak about their alternative spiritualities can struggle to find welcome audiences. Lynch and the artists of the TPG responded to the friction between commercial art markets and their spiritual-artistic practices by dropping out. Yet, others, like British-born and Los Angeles-based artist Penny Slinger, had that decision made for them. In a 2017 Carla interview with Eliza Swann, Slinger commented on how difficult it has been to exhibit work she created after the 1970s, which is steeped in references to Tantra and the divine feminine, indicating that her use of the word “Goddess” was alienating collectors.13 A vocal feminist whose work deconstructs the aesthetics of patriarchy, Slinger’s spiritual work invites—rather than forecloses—the greater social and political world. While more palatable, minimal spiritual art in the vein of Lynch and the TPG artists becomes increasingly integrated within the institutional and commercial mainstream, confrontational work such as Slinger’s can still be met with skepticism.

A latent escapism seems to lurk in the recent invigorated interest in spirituality in art, favoring a marketable refuge in individual spiritual experience over engaging with the sticky problematics of the material world. Meanwhile, the demands of contemporary life increasingly restrict most artists’ freedom to proclaim a wholesale rejection of the arts economy. Many artists living or exhibiting in Los Angeles who engage with this matrix of issues use their spiritually inclined work as a vehicle for critiquing capitalist economies while still operating within the commercial gallery market. Los Angeles-based artist Umar Rashid’s (also known as Frohawk Two Feathers) history paintings are almost like palimpsests, juxtaposing diverse geographies, temporalities, and spiritual belief systems in his accounts of empire, especially in early America. Featuring imagery associated with the religious and cosmological beliefs of his subjects, his paintings critique the Frenglish colonial instrumentalization of organized religion while also celebrating minoritarian spiritualities.14 And jocularly self-described “spiritual garbage man”15 Moffat Takadiwa, in his 2021–22 exhibition at Craft Contemporary, Witch Craft: Rethinking Power, used the very materials of contemporary empire—post-consumer waste like toothpaste tubes, bottle caps, and zip ties—to create kaleidoscopic sculptures that populate the gallery walls with collections of refuse from out-of-sight landfills. (In Los Angeles, Rashid is represented by Blum & Poe, Takadiwa by Nicodim Gallery.) These artists are not engaging in art against art, instrumentalizing their work in rebellion against the art world, but rather are striking a more ambivalent position to the spiritual and capital—one that can covertly operate within a contemporary market while also critiquing its structures.

From art world shirkers like the TPG artists and Lynch to the sometimes too-radical-to-show Slinger, negotiating the art market alongside unconventional spiritualities can appear a zero-sum game. But perhaps the gulf between heterodox beliefs and the art market is closing. Writer and curator Mark Pilkington argues that “we have entered a new new age”16 in which feelings override facts, and goals to optimize mind, body, and spirit occlude the often harsh material realities of the outside world. Meanwhile, critic J.J. Charlesworth warns that emergent “new magical thinking” in art is not only on the rise but operates as a “projection of wish-fulfillment onto a reality we’d rather withdraw from.”17 In the work of Rashid and Takadiwa, spirituality forms part of a larger critique of capital and colonialism—the outside world, in other words, becomes part of the project. Rather than tuning in and dropping out, perhaps we will see more tuning in and dropping in—critically engaging both a mystical beyond and those more tangible matters shaping our lived realities.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 34.

Alan Lynch, Untitled (Espiritu Santo) and Untitled (New York) (installation view) (1977; 1975). Water and graphite on watercolor paper, 20 × 14.5 inches and 14 × 10.25 inches. Château Shatto, Los Angeles, 2023. Image courtesy of Château Shatto, Los Angeles.

Alan Lynch, Untitled (detail) (1977). Watercolor and graphite on watercolor paper, 24 × 18 inches. Image courtesy of Château Shatto, Los Angeles.

Moffat Takadiwa, Exoticism of Africa (2019). Found plastic bottle caps and perfume stills, 144 × 104 × 6 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Nicodim. Photo: Lee Tyler Thompson.

  1. Sandra Sizer Frankiel, California’s Spiritual Frontiers: Religious Alternatives in Anglo-Protestantism, 1850–1910 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), xi.
  2. Frankiel, California’s Spiritual Frontiers, xii.
  3. Frankiel, California’s Spiritual Frontiers, xii–xiv. See also John Dart, “West Coasts’s ‘Spiritual Style’ Described,” Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1998, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-apr-25- me-42759-story.html.
  4. Paramahansa Yogananda, the Self-Realization Fellowship’s founder, moved from Gorakhpur, India to the United States in 1920. “‘He felt that Southern California was open to new metaphysical concepts and that he could put down roots here,’ (SRF administrator and minister) Satyananda explains. ‘You can imagine, during the ’20s and ’30s, America was (…) having trouble accepting new ideas and new people. Yogananda found open arms in California. It turned out to be quite a successful genesis for his operation.’” See Liz Ohanesian, “LA Icon: The Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine,” Discover Los Angeles, July 12, 2021, www. discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/la-icon-the-self- realization-fellowship-lake-shrine.
  5. Speaking about the founding of the PRS, executive director Dennis Bartok stated that “there were a lot of fascinating esoteric and religious movements that were springing up in the early part of the 20th century, particularly on the West Coast. It seemed to be a magnet for them.” See Ohanesian, “Philosophical Research Society: The Story of an LA Icon,” Discover Los Angeles, October 7, 2022, www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/philosophical-research-society-the-story- of-an-la-icon.
  6. Jonathan Griffin, “The artists who wanted to rise above it all,” Apollo, November 20, 2021, https://www.apollo-magazine.com/transcendental-painting-group-new-mexico/.
  7. Transcendental Painting Group (N.M.), Transcendental Painting Group statement of purpose, c. 1938, Agnes Pelton papers, 1885–1989, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, quoted in “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, https://www.lacma.org/press/another-world-transcendental-painting-group-1938-1945.
  8. Max Pearl, “The Curious Case of the Transcendental Painting Group,” The Nation, May 22, 2023, https://www.thenation.com/article/culture/transcendental-painting-group/.
  9. Lisa Beck, “Agnes Pelton: The Familiar Sublime,” The Brooklyn Rail, June 2018, www.brooklynrail.org/2018/06/criticspage/Agnes-Pelton-The-Familiar-Sublime.
  10. Suzanne Hudson, “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945,’” Artforum 61, no. 10 (Summer 2023), www.artforum.com/print/reviews/202306/ another-world-the-transcendental-painting- group-1938-1945-90583.
  11. Jonathan Griffin, “The artists who wanted to rise above it all.”
  12. Laura Whitcomb, “Alan Lynch,” in Dilexi: A Gallery & Beyond (Los Angeles: Label Curatorial, 2021), 104–5.
  13. Eliza Swann, “Interview with Penny Slinger,” Carla 8, June 21, 2017, www.contemporaryartreview.la/interview-with-penny-slinger/.
  14. Constanza Falco Raez, “Umar Rashid | ‘En Garde / On God’ at Blum & Poe Gallery,” Flaunt, accessed September 28, 2023, https://www.flaunt.com/blog/umar-rashid.
  15. “Moffat Takadiwa,” Africanah.org, September 26, 2014, www.africanah.org/moffat-takadiwa/.
  16. Mark Pilkington, “Art & New Age: Pyramid Scheming,” Frieze 185, March 27, 2017, www.frieze.com/article/art-new-age-pyramid-scheming.
  17. J.J. Charlesworth, “The Return of Magic in Art,” ArtReview, May 30, 2022, www.artreview.com/the-return-of-magic-in-art/.

Isabella Miller lives and works in Los Angeles.

More by Isabella Miller