It’s the time of year when your inbox fills with ‘top’ lists… top art shows you missed… top art dealers dating artists they represent… top Klaus Biesenbach selfie’s with a pop star… you name it… there’s probably a curated list tagged with ‘art’ and ‘top’ somewhere. Unlike other selections, what you won’t find here are museum shows you still have a chance to see in the New Year. I foresee LACMA’s Pierre Hugye and MOCA’s Cameron surveys nestled in 2015’s recap— Jim Hodges may even sneak in there too. As for this list… it was impossible to narrow a behemoth of Los Angeles visual experiences to 10 #WOAHPicks— so here’s to 12 artsy moments— from the first ‘whoa’ to infiltrate 2014:
Samara Golden: Mass Murder at Night Gallery (DTLA).
Jan 18 – Feb 22
Central to the artist’s immersive installation of life-size dioramic portals lay the atmospheric blue room. On a mirrored wall, projections of a sunset lit silver-drenched settees in quarters modeled after Golden’s childhood living room— complete with a faux abalone decked piano, guitar, lamp, vases, ashtray, candles and jewelry. For the opening, smoke machines shadowed a sense of surreal metallic nostalgia— where mazed couches mounted walls and the Apocalypse Now soundtrack muffled in reverse from an adjacent kitsch-clad red kitchen. Interested in uncovering ‘how we might normally perceive the world if we didn’t filter our experience so much,’ Golden’s work (including her 3D installation at Made In LA) invites viewers into a personal passage of recollection and reflection— where calculated cognitions and relationships fade to colorize a hazy, more beautiful picture of augmented reality.
Jackie Gomez: DMT at Top 40 (Lincoln Heights)
The one-off series of 40 different shows, by 40 different curators, on 40 nearly back-to-back nights, temporarily restored life back to the former nook that once was the original Night Gallery. When Jackie Gomez took the curator seat, the miniature cubic space was transformed into an exploratory aquatic vitrine. A video installation of underwater life forms by scientific art collaborative Coral Morphologic spilled onto gallery walls, while lilac-tinged lights and lavender spliffs greeted a small pool of attendees. As a synchronous DMT-infused ritual unfolded— with each unassuming guest OK with this collective requisite— Meghan Edwards performed while coral projections glistened between curtained plasticity. When you think about it… what could be more experiential than a show where you’re invited to the otherworldly?
Animal Charm: Hot Shot Tuscan II at China Art Objects (Culver City)
June 28 – Aug 9
The first solo show of object-and-projection video works highlighted the ongoing collaboration of LA artists Richard Bott and Jim Fetterley. Suspending found footage in transdimensional space, Bott and Fetterley reshape devalued media into unexpected hybrid forms and pulsating juxtapositions. Filling the gallery with projection mapped custom made objects, the pair’s video sculptures read as moving wall collages where the rudimentary floats as a first-class screen-saver. A pizza, a pineapple, gradations of color, lego patterned grids, and neon tinged fractals scroll over cut-outs of objects cast in carpet. Like the masses extend walls into incongruous terrain, Bott and Fetterley infuse relics of consumer culture with meaning through a humorous interplay of calculated presentation and opulent representation of recycled imagery.There Is No Beginning, There Is No End at Mata (Mid-City)
July 10 – 30
At the tiny Mid-city go-to noise gem that is Mata, an impressive group show of works excavating digital and natural oscillations took form. Accumulating printed and mixed media matter from Nina Hartmann, Suzy Poling, Reuben Sawyer, and Christopher Reid Martin, black-and-white compositions reveal incarnations of abstracted figures, augmented architecture, geological emblems, and textual hypnoscopes. A minimalistic palette traces infinite layers and planes of convergence in the cacophonic folds of Martin or Poling’s works, and sharpen the digitized op-art labyrinths and signs manipulated by Hartmann or Sawyer. Culling from multiple media realms, the opening was charged with the sound projects of these select, with performances from Shelter Death (Christopher Reid Martin), Pod Blotz (Suzy Poling), and Aurelius Roemer Nappa.
Mike Kelley at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (DTLA)
March 31 – July 28
The retrospective was a not-to-missed survey of the late artist’s tragic complexity and originality. I went for three multiple hour increments and still ran out of time on the final day. With rooms installed thematically according to bodies of work, the exhibit never felt separate but read as an overwhelming totality of Kelley’s remarkable consistency throughout his life. My favorite part? The dream-like apocalyptic mini-setting of the Kandors— Kelley’s small city models of Superman’s birthplace contained within glass bell jars attached to oxygen tanks.
BYOB LA III at Werkärtz (DTLA)
Sure I may be biased since I helped produce this showcase… but with my partners Shelley Holcomb and Experimental Half-Hour, I can say affirmatively that our city’s most vibrant video artists and experimental animators came together for the latest edition in the worldwide Bring Your Own Beamer series. Participatory, mind-extending visuals from Adam Ferriss, Aki Ymsht, Alex Benzer, Alex Pelly, Alex Tarrant, Globodigital, Kate Parsons, Matt Hebermehl, James Drz, Mike Harrison, Miko Revereza, Nu Speed, Sam Newell, The Great Nordic Sword Fights, Theo Trian, Tripp and Jenna Watt, Vince McKelvie, and Whitney Gibson joined live performances from sonic frequency freakers Twin Braids, Matthewdavid, and White Rainbow. Catch Experimental Half-Hour’s video broadcasts from the event in episodes I and II.
Hyung Su Kim / Hyo Jin Kim: Madame Freedom at Redcat (DTLA)
Oct 2 – 5
The Seoul-based duo presented the US premiere of their multimedia performance interweaving dance with stunning visuals. Like the coded lens of the projected image, scrolling multi-screens served as a detached interface for encoding a story of a woman’s search for self expression. Through a cinematic narrative, the protagonist’s shadow is caught in a matrix of imposing structures— a city scape, a grand foyer, in crowds of clones… a coiled silhouette strewn in a colorful koi sea. Throughout, Korea’s past and present are linked through media— clips from the controversial 1956 film of it’s namesake splice moments where dancers flicker from sight— slipping into recorded action as they mirror their movement onstage. Though deviating attention from the choreographic artistry, the spectacular video display complimented a tale of identity shaped by a conservative past and hindered by a technoculture dazzled to be limitless.
Cayetano Ferrer: Composite Arcade at Château Shatto (DTLA)
Sep 20 – Nov 7
Ferrer creates environments where civic and fictional space converge so seamlessly it’s nearly impossible to discern the origin of the frame. In Endless Columns, a column lit with flashing neon lights and a salvaged MGM ashtray illuminated a darkened mirrored room. Glowing with a sense of coded and displaced artifice, an eerie yet complimentary dissonance reflected between the glitzy image of a cavernous, kaleidoscopic Las Vegas casino, and the temporarily infinite walls of the newly established HQ for the downtown gallery.Megan Daalder: Eureka and the Biomass at 5 Car Garage (Santa Monica)
Oct 18 – Nov 10
A Beauty & the Beast set in 2100, Megan Daalder’s sci-fi musical followed a human janitor’s love affair with a synthetic organism who filters pollutants: ‘the biomass,’ a fantastic hand-crafted humanoid puppet. Performed within Emma Gray’s gallery-gone-garage (hence the name), Daalder’s 18 minute love-story sang a tale of romance rooted in synthetic experimentation. Propelling current scientific research into an audio accentuated and visual rich spectacle, Daalder played the biologist as she set the audience in it’s own self-contained environment to witness the evolution of a human’s coping mechanism—and comic romantic resolve— with bi-products inevitable to a futuristic world in ecological crisis.
Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin at Regen Projects (Hollywood)
Oct 21 – Nov 25
The pair collaborated to create a ‘sculptural theater ‘encompassing a multi-screen video installation within a tent sprawling the entire gallery. As someone growing-up with the manufactured ADD of MTV, hashtag-hyperbole, Youtube-surfing, and Oculus Rift purveying culture, Trecartin’s videos capture a sped-up emptiness that resonates perfectly with me. Quick-edits of alien-eyed, beer-drinking, white trash in drag Paris Hilton incarnates snap through never-ending narratives— left so unresolved they sit as ideal receptacles for overtly institutionalized critique. Starring in the frenetic artificial chaos themselves, the duo presented the multichannel set-up in what could be likened to a DIY Walmart-friendly version of the 1960’s Movie Drome— an idea for a spherical theatre pioneered by Stan Vanderbeek where multi-floating images invited visitors to lie down and experience movies all around them.
Rafaël Rozendaal: Almost Nothing Hardly Anything at Steve Turner (Mid-Wilshire)
Nov 21 – 29
If you’ve followed Rozendaal’s encyclopedia of interactive websites to more recent experiments, perhaps you’ll agree this survey of large format wall works synthesized user-friendly algorithms with initial holographic manifestations. Holding a diffracted lens to our interconnectivity, Rozendaal uses the possibilities of technology and digitization of experience as his canvas. His lenticular paintings are like Rothko monochromes for an aesthetic deemed ‘Post-Internet.’ Like old rubrics once equated to judging ‘effective’ painting— where the image works gradually and grows according to relations in physical space— Rozendaal’s digital compositions endlessly shift in hue and form according to vantage point. The wow-factor being these paintings are holograms(!)— an image never static, but always animated in a multi-dimensional fissure of interference and diffraction that dispels virtual viewing in favor of in-person peripheral experience.
Max Hooper Schneider: The Pound at Jenny’s (Silverlake)
Nov 7 – Dec 21
Tucked-away off our longest asphalt stretch— lies the 2014 born miniature space, Jenny’s. Painted top-to-bottom white for Max Hooper Schneider’s solo show, beaming sterility set a perfect scene for viewing vestiges brimming with absurdist academia. Often creating contained living environments for bio-organisms to spawn (as in Bathymetry, another stand-out show at other newish space, Del Vaz Projects), Schneider repurposes readymade objects into uncanny vitrines for mediation. In Aral Spring Trolley, a popcorn machine is overloaded with a precocious snail species, while a treadmill is refurbished with synthetic reptilian skin in Precor Crocodilian 9.1… next to a pelvis embalmed in a stench of human and solute modified pig’s blood. After seeing the show and reading a somewhat scattered sum in Artforum, it’s hard to merit logic in not loving the artist’s ‘goofy, pathetic, hyperbolic, and desperate’ displays. No, it’s gratefully not a cutesy take on Damien Hirst or Paul Thek, but a darkly comical and cynical, Mad Max accentuated regurgitation on Duchampian aesthetics.