Summertime used to mean that the galleries and museums would take it easy, presenting lackluster group shows and few, if any, challenging solo exhibitions. Not any more. Economy be damned, the Los Angeles art scene is now sizzling year round.
Two photography exhibitions at Bergamot Station turned out to be among the best of the last year. The works by Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q. Le at Shoshana Wayne Gallery focus on the ancient cultures of Cambodia and Sumer. The artist shoots black and white photographs of archeological sites and peoples' faces, and then cuts these photos into long strips. These strips are literally woven together into mysterious and melancholy mosaics that merge ancient history with the political upheavals of our time.
The exhibition of black and white photos by Japanese artist Hisaji Hara at Rose Gallery is a romantic and poignant tribute to Balthus, the Polish-French painter famous for his provocative paintings of languid, dreamy adolescent girls. Some of the photographs closely replicate the compositions of Balthus paintings. Others, including landscapes and still lives, are infused with the wistful, melancholic feeling of time past. I think Marcel Proust would easily recognize these exquisite images.
The stainless steel sculptures by Charles Ray at Matthew Marks Gallery, turned out to be less of the challenge one always expects from this well known LA artist. There are two life-size figures, one of a woman sleeping uncomfortably on a bench in a public space, and another of a naked man -- could it be a self-portrait? Master of elevating the banal to an unexpectedly complex level, this time the artist left me at a loss, trying to discover any meaning behind the impenetrable blandness of his latest sculptures.
Banner Image: Charles Ray exhibition. Photo courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.