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
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
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)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Whatever Gets You
Through the Night:
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma

H.C. Westermann, March or Die (1966). Pine, redwood, leather, ebony, metal, felt, and ink, 30.75 × 20 × 10.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and the Landing. Photo: Joshua White.

If you sometimes find life in America in 2019 to be a little too much, imagine living in California in the early 1960s. Since the end of the Second World War—a conflict that, for the United States, superficially led to domestic prosperity—the world had been racked with anxiety over the possibility of atomic apocalypse, while under McCarthyism a new strain of Fascism was spreading on home soil. Then just as progressive causes—including civil rights for African Americans—seemed to be gaining some ground, Kennedy was assassinated for no apparent reason, and for many on the left, all seemed utterly lost.

This past summer, six coordinated exhibitions took place at Parker Gallery, Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, the Landing, and Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Los Angeles, and at Brian Gross Fine Art and Crown Point Press in San Francisco. The shows took a close look at the activities of the pioneering, influential Dilexi Gallery, which operated in San Francisco between 1958 and 1969—journeying from the tail-end of McCarthyism to the heady cataclysm of the Summer of Love. The endemic mistrust of government, the legitimate fear of global devastation, the growing intolerance and paranoia on the right, and the desperate desire for new social models on the left, were all common to California in the 1960s and are again echoed in our present day. Revisiting this period in history puts our current state of crisis and conflict into perspective, revealing some surprising parallels and even more surprising strategies for moving through it.

Jim Newman, the musician and jazz impresario who helmed Dilexi throughout its 12-year run, set up his first gallery, Syndell Studio, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, with Walter Hopps in 1954. Hopps went on to found the infamous Ferus Gallery, while Newman traveled north to San Francisco—at that time, the epicenter of the Beat movement—where he occupied a space above a jazz club in the North Beach neighborhood. The Beat poet and artist Robert Alexander partnered with him for the first year, until he began to find Newman’s approach too professionalized (“New York style,” as he later said1 and went off instead to found his radical secular ministry, the Temple of Man. While it is true that many of Dilexi’s artists hailed from the unkempt countercultural scenes of San Francisco or Los Angeles, what Newman offered them—which did not exist before—was a shot at sustainable careers and institutional legitimacy. Ferus and Dilexi sustained close ties, often exhibiting the same artists, and in 1962, Newman entrusted New Yorker Rolf Nelson to operate a short-lived Dilexi outpost in Los Angeles.

Virtually none of the work included in this ambitious six-venue retrospective project could be described as overtly political, still less activist. Nevertheless, what the artists who exhibited at Dilexi shared was a will to imagine an alternative reality to a present that they rejected—be that in schematic or microcosmic form. Some, like Jess or Wallace Berman, turned to mysticism or ancient esoteric beliefs; others, including Franklin Williams and Roy De Forest, devised their own aesthetic systems based on numerology or traditional handicrafts and folk art. “There are so many different formal expressions within the Dilexi artists,” Laura Whitcomb, curatorial director of the project across all six exhibitions told me. “Yet they collectively are championing the same plan, the same aspirations. It’s an overused expression but they are striving towards a post-war utopia.”2

Californian artists, in the early 1960s, “were thinking that everything they believed in was falling apart,” said Whitcomb. “By the time that Kennedy was assassinated, they just decided that they needed to drop out as a cultural resistance, that there needed to be a whole new world carved for the psyche.”3 For many artists, this entailed a turn towards solipsism. The exhibition at Parker Gallery, titled Dilexi Gallery: Seeking the Unknown, focused on artists who established hermetic cosmologies through their work, often drawing on esoteric traditions and mystical beliefs.

This aspect of the Dilexi program is of particular interest to Whitcomb, who is currently working on a book titled The Passing of the Torch: Occult Roots and Post-War California Art. In tracing this lineage, she points to the magical practices of émigré Surrealists (many of whom were influential on this later generation of Californian artists) that intended to “counterwork” the occult activities of the Third Reich. Separately, Alfred Jensen and Kurt Schwitters, influential antecedents from beyond California whose work was shown together in a 1960 Dilexi show, created numerical and alchemical systems that structured the respective forms of their art.

Jess, whose intricate collages (“paste-ups,” as he called them) hung opposite a 1921 Merz collage by Schwitters at Parker Gallery, was inspired by the esoteric studies of his partner Robert Duncan, the poet who was raised as a Theosophist. In his folding triptych Variations on Durer’s Melancholia I (1960), Jess fastidiously layered a cornucopia of black and white printed imagery—from instruction manuals and technical illustrations to photographs and medieval prints— to achieve astonishing depth and an almost neurotic intensity. Jess was famously racked with guilt over his involvement in nuclear research with the Army Corps of Engineers; in 1948 he had a vivid and traumatizing dream that the world would end in 1975, a premonition that ultimately led to his enrollment via the G.I. Bill at the California School of Fine Arts and his subsequent life as an artist. While his role in the Second World War was relatively minor, especially in comparison to many other artists of this period who saw combat, Jess saw that complicity was practically unavoidable for members of mainstream society. Instead, he and Duncan sought to conceive a reality that was insulated from contemporary life at nearly every level.

Dilexi Gallery: Disparate Ontologies (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artists and the Landing. Photo: Joshua and Charles White /

While the couple’s studies of Tarot, Mayan myth, and Kabbalah were sedulous and sincere, artist Wallace Berman—who lived in the Bay Area between 1957 and 1961—was much more carefree with the Kabbalistic signs that he collaged into works such as Untitled (Sound Series) (1966), also shown at Parker Gallery. Berman’s oft-used motif of a hand holding a small transistor radio contains a smaller image of a hand with the Hebrew letter Tet (ט) on its wrist. Tarot cards, also with Hebrew letters on them, are arranged nearby. Berman’s son Tosh has written that his father was “utterly indifferent to magick and all of its off-shoots.”4 But Whitcomb contends that Berman was responding to rich intergenerational language: the “atavistic memory that runs through us, through which we respond to symbols and forms and archetypes.”5 That is to say, perhaps, that Berman may not have consciously been casting spells, but he understood the potency and broader significance of the symbols he incorporated into his art.

As with so many of the artists associated with Dilexi Gallery, Berman’s response to the social and political tumult he witnessed in the wider world involved a retreat to the past. Franklin Williams, somewhat like Alfred Jensen, created his own system of logic and pattern that borrowed the detailed stitching, beadwork, and ornamentation of domestic handicrafts (as in his untitled, stuffed canvas sculpture at Parker Gallery, bristling with tentacles  like some giant anemone). Roy De Forest’s exuberantly colorful paintings and painted wooden constructions reference both sacred artifacts of the Yakama Nation with which he was familiar from his childhood in Yakima, Washington, and Indigenous Australian bark painting and songlines—which he knew only from books and anthropological museums.

While there were a few female artists shown at Dilexi—including Deborah Remington, whose striking paintings featured prominently at Parrasch Heijnen, and Jay DeFeo, the subject of a solo presentation at Marc Selwyn— this story is largely about men, as both Dilexi Gallery: Seeking the Unknown and a sprawling all-male group show at the Landing attest. Although a few servicewomen benefited from the G.I. Bill, it was predominantly men from blue-collar backgrounds who found themselves unexpectedly able to go to college after their service in the Second World War. Artistic solipsism is a close cousin of male self-absorption, and it is clear from the work included in these exhibitions that these artists were far more concerned with grappling with their own problems than those of others.

At the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), under visionary director Douglas MacAgy, enrollment soared in the post-war period, its student body predominantly made up of military veterans. It became something of a clubhouse, filled with jazz, poetry, booze, woodwork, and camaraderie. Teachers and students worked alongside one another with scant professorial hierarchy. Whitcomb, whose great uncle attended the college at the time, says that Eastern religious study (particularly Zen Buddhism), indigenous ceremonies, experimenting with peyote, and psychoanalysis were all encouraged—“anything that could bring the war experience in a process of catharsis onto the canvas.”6

War stories abounded. Horst Trave, a German émigré who fled Europe in 1941, then returned as a soldier on the U.S. side, was reputed to have liberated his own father from a German concentration camp. At the Landing, an amorphous abstract canvas by Trave from 1960—starkly titled 12 November 1960—is rendered in blues and greens so dark they devolve into blackness. H.C. Westermann, to whom Newman was introduced by fellow Chicagoan Irving Petlin, witnessed as an antiaircraft gunner in the Pacific the destruction of the USS Franklin, on which over 800 seamen were drowned, burned, or eaten by sharks. Despite the horrors he saw, Westermann reenlisted in the Marines in 1950 to serve in the Korean War. It was after the senselessness of that conflict that he really became disillusioned with U.S. imperialism. In March or Die (1966), shown at the Landing, oddly shaped wooden instruments are strapped into the interior of a wooden box, part anatomical model and part demented tool kit: an allusion, perhaps, to the psychic baggage that a soldier carries around. Critiques of U.S. foreign policy at Dilexi came, by and large, couched in personal terms.

Westermann’s carved wooden sculptures, along with those of the Bay Area artist and fellow veteran Jeremy Anderson, signal a rejection of the gestural exuberance of New York School Ab-Ex painting and instead a continuation of pre-war biomorphic European Surrealism. Many sculptures in this tradition at the Landing—from Anderson’s cutaway of a boat, Between (1961), to Rodger Jacobsen’s abstract Untitled (c. 1964), to photographs of William Dubin’s now lost wooden sculptures from 1964–67—recall not just abstract notions of interiority but explicit depictions of organs and viscera. As for the European Surrealists after the First World War, the trauma of seeing bodies torn open on the battlefield—a brutal and indelible education in human anatomy—must have dramatically impacted these artists’ understanding of the figure and its abstraction.

Again and again, throughout the Dilexi project, we witness artists turning inward, and casting back. For most, inward meant somewhere quiet, private—furtive, even—somewhere with deep wounds and the urgent need for healing. At best, it entailed self-reflection and self-knowledge; at worst, self-absorption and self-indulgence. Remember that many of these artists were damaged men who were not equipped by tradition with the tools to fix themselves—let alone the world—and so were grasping at alternatives new and old. This generation never did attain the utopia it sought, as we now know, but that is no reason to belittle its quest to get there, nor to undervalue the often strange and wonderful creations that emerged along the way. It is hard not to happily abandon oneself to the eccentric, off-kilter worlds conjured by De Forest, Franklin, Jess, Anderson, and their peers. They all found their own unique means of weathering the successive storms that raged across the United States in the 1950s and ’60s. Perhaps it is wisest to respond to the diverse work exhibited at the Dilexi Gallery with a mixture of empathy and skepticism, observing both examples of radicalism and conservatism in these artists’ strategies for moving through times every bit as “interesting” as our own.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 17. 

Dilexi Gallery: Disparate Ontologies (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artists and the Landing. Photo: Joshua and Charles White /

Jess, Variations on Durer’s Melancholia I (1960). Collage on paper, Art Nouveau frame, and mixed media, 38 x 24 x 20 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles. © 2019 Estate of Jess / Licensed by Artists Rights

Wallace Berman, Untitled (Sound Series) (1966). Verifax collage and transfer lettering, 8.5 × 10 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy of Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles © 2019 Estate of Wallace Berman / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Franklin Williams, Sweet Garden (1967). Acrylic, graphite, yarn, and thread on fabric, 17 × 24 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles.

Dilexi Gallery: Seeking the Unknown (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artists and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy of Pace Gallery © 2019 Estate of Alfred Jensen / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Rodger Jacobsen, Untitled (c. 1964). Steel, 54 x 36 x 72 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and the Landing. Photo: Joshua White.

Roy De Forest, Napoleon on St. Helena (1961). Wood, acrylic, polyvinyl acetate, and rattan construction, 31.5 x 19 x 6.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles. © 2019 Estate of Roy De Forest / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

DILEXI ● Totems and Phenomenology (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artists and Parrasch Heijnen Gallery.

Jay DeFeo, Untitled (1953). Tempera with collage on paper, 28 x 22 inches. Image courtesy of the artist, The Jay DeFeo Foundation, and Mac Selwyn Fine Art. © The Estate of Craig Kauffman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Dilexi Gallery: Disparate Ontologies (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artists and the Landing. Photo: Joshua and Charles White /

  1.  Sandra Leonard Starr, Lost and Found in California: Four Decades of Assemblage Art (Santa Monica, CA: James Corcoran Gallery, 1988)
  2.  Laura Whitcomb in conversation with the author, July 2019.
  3.  Ibid.
  4.  Tosh Berman, Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World (San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2019).
  5.  Whitcomb.
  6. Ibid.

Jonathan Griffin is an art critic and writer based in Los Angeles. He writes for Frieze, The New York Times, the Financial Times, ArtReview, Apollo, and others.

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