susannah tantemsapya  ⟶  los angeles + bangkok   

Latifa Echakhch

July 2013

Interview with curator Anne Ellegood
by Susannah Tantemsapya

Teaser for Fall 2013 print issue

For our upcoming fall issue, I interviewed Latifa Echakhch during her install of À chaque stencil une revolution (For each stencil a revolution) and Illuminaire for Hammer Projects in Los Angeles. Born in Morocco and raised in France, Echakhch questions and reconstructs stereotypes through objects found in quotidian life. Since 2009, she has resided in Switzerland. This artist floats between cultures, not allowing herself to be pigeon-holed into any category. Recently nominated for the 2013 Marcel Duchamp Prize, her installation and video work is bold, understated, colorful, elegant and political. I spoke with curator Anne Ellegood about Echakhch’s work currently on view at the Hammer Museum through July 18, 2013.

WHITEWALL: How did you choose Latifa Echakhch to be part of Hammer Projects?

ANNE ELLEGOOD:  I actually saw an installation of the piece that we currently have in the lobby in Torino, Italy a couple of years ago. It’s one of those situations where I walked into the gallery and it just took my breath away. In most cases, we ask artists to make new work, especially for the lobby wall. It’s not typical that we would see an existing piece and then bring it to the museum. In some cases, that happens, especially with video. The lobby wall is usually a space where we commission new work. But, the nature of Latifa’s piece is that it shifts and adapts to its space. It’s a new installation of that work. But I just thought it would be so stunning on our lobby wall that I kind of just had to have it (laughs). I contacted her through her dealer, Francesca Koffman, and invited her to do it.

WW: Yes, her work is quite stunning...

AE:  I realized that once I saw her work on the wall, I had seen her work around a little bit, in groups shows mostly. She was in a group show in New York that I saw. That’s also what happens, right. You see a piece, you’re taken with it. You start looking into the artist and realize that you’ve seen a piece here and there. Then I did further research into her practice. I was just really taken by her approach to materials. 
The fact that through relatively simple gestures, she’s able to really conjure up extraordinarily meaningful content.The wall is incredibly vibrant and beautiful. But there’s so much talk about in relationship to those materials: what they signify; technologies and how it evolves; and the history of painting too. It’s a piece that has contemporary content that has to do with society, technology and politics. It’s also rooted in the history of painting in particular.

WW: Can you elaborate on how it relates to the history of painting?

AE:  Because it’s an abstraction... of course it looks like a giant painting. You’re not really sure what the material is. By spraying the carbon paper with the methyl alcohol, you get these very drippy sections. The drips conjure up paint. In fact, it makes you think to the history of painting, color field painting or artists who found ways to apply paint to canvas without the brush, where they would be poured or dripped or sprayed... from Pollack to Morris Lewis. Especially for the American audience, you go toward that particular American history and think about how influential that period was in rethinking how a painting might, in fact, be made. For me, what’s really important is that when we think about abstract painting, often the dialogue will revolve around formal issues. How the work was made, the experimentation with materials... 

There’s a very long and important history of abstraction being associated with social and political content. Whether you are looking at Latin America, or moments in American history when prominence in abstraction, say in the 1950s, was used as a kind of propaganda tool to promote American values around the world. These are these really poignant histories that a piece like Latifa’s can also conjure up in our minds. If there is a position within the work, it’s that abstraction can be misunderstood as being only formal with no real subject matter.  
In fact, it often does have subject matter. In her case, it’s so much about how technology figures into political activism. With her reference to basically an obsolete technology and how it was used in previous moments in the history of political activism, she’s making a very specific reference. She’s thinking about the 1960s and activism around human rights, civil rights, womens rights, student protests in the US and in France... that’s just fascinating that we can have a conversation about that while standing in this seemingly kind of just beautiful installation.

WW: Can you explain the overall concept of Hammer Projects?

AE: Hammer Projects is a series of exhibitions each year. We tend to do between seven and 10 annually. They are projects that take place in a single gallery or space. The lobby stairwell being the most visible and maybe the one that people know the best. The series is meant to focus on emerging artists that our audience may be unfamiliar with. In some cases, we will do a Hammer Project with a mid-career artist that has perhaps become less recognized or visible and try to refocus some attention on their work.

The series is also intended to be both a platform for local artists, we have always a fair number of Hammer Projects by Los Angeles based artists, but also have international. It’s a great opportunity to bring artists from around the world to the Hammer to create work. In those cases, often it’s one of the first times an artist has exhibited in a US museum, not always, but they may be getting a lot of exhibitions in museums in other countries, but haven’t necessarily shown very much in the United States yet.

Jennifer Pastor 

June  2013

by Susannah Tantemsapya

Jennifer Pastor creates large-scale sculptures that delve into complicated societal constructs. Endless Arena (2009-2012), made from electroless nickel-plated steel and painted fiberglass, is informed by investigations of unregulated 'no-holds-barred' fighting events along with conversations with veteran combat artists. This high-octane environment is visually presented in a synchronized loop, repeating the cycle ad infinitum.

Whitewall spoke to Pastor about her latest show at Regen Projects in Los Angeles and her curiosity with this underground world.

Whitewall: You have spent two years investigating unregulated 'no-holds-barred' fighting events. How did this start?

Jennifer Pastor: Lack of reliable information, followed by dubious imagery and then no imagery at all, after the Bush invasion of Bagdad in 2003, media just kind of went blank.  For a long period afterward, like many others – I felt a frustration and disturbance of being unable to see

In the project “Dead Landscape” - in this malaise of feeling somewhat blind…over a 2-year period I began drawing at ‘no-holds-barred’ fighting events. I was particularly interested in small venues unregulated by the Sports Authority, –urban rec-clubs, parolees letting off steam at gyms, Indian reservations, casinos and then a couple larger commercial venues in Vegas. I was drawing mostly at night, - blind gesture drawing.
In the earlier years of the sport the interest was to exaggerate and mismatch bodies and fighting styles (so you’d have this huge wrestler with a tiny jiu jitsu fighter or kick boxer) strange just to see the cominglings. There was a huge growth in popularity through UFC and Pay Per-View around this time - but it became more regulated/regularized.

During the same time, I was traveling to Washington DC and Quantico, Virginia speaking with veteran combat artists from various campaigns and divisions of the military (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq). Viewing and photographing drawings in their possession, in personal sketchbooks, and in the odd situation of direct 'on the spot' sketches of action and stillness, found in the isolated ‘mortuaries’ of flat files in several branches of National Military Archives and storage facilities. Specifically I was looking for ‘on the spot’ (eye-witness) drawings of action – which turned out to be rare.

WW: Can you elaborate on your conversations with veteran combat artists?

JP: I spoke to a number of veteran combat artists From WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. Two very generous exchanges were with Edward Reep, who was 96 at the time we first met, and Jack Dyer, who made oddly delicate plein air watercolors while he was enlisted in Vietnam.

The project Dead Landscape orbits around a gift, a drawing by Edward Reep (WWII “German Pillbox” Anzio Harbor, 1944), which he gave me after some very personal and insightful conversations. The drawing is stamped in red on back: “Rejected by War Department” and was the only one remaining in his possession from the war. It looked very different from his other work. It is an extraordinary drawing.

Jack Dyer, led me to specific works in one of the warehouse archives that he thought were drawn ‘on the spot,’ rather than illustrations/propaganda which is most of the material.

I photographed the gesture of his hands offering these drawings, which struck me as a beautiful form of pure communication; although the subject seems to be dead the interruption of witness and the generosity of the gesture is animate, alive.

WW: How does Endless Arena weave together these stories together?

JP: The sculpture Endless Arena is a sort of extruded drawing itself, an agitated hybrid constructed from some of the most peculiar situations and perceptions and the more 'impossible' drawings from those events. 
Sculpted blind, inside out. Dug/carved cavities directionally not knowing what the facing side of the sculpture would look like…synchronized movements and shifting dominances.

Drawn line in space and pushing cavities into membrane thin materials led to the material choices. A desire to push deeply into flat screen space and flatten the deep space of action.

WW: How did you choose the materials for this sculpture?

JP: These overlapping activities were an exploration of the complex situational space of the fights, the spectacle of crowds, chaos, and the mediation of time-lapse and multiple viewpoints on surrounding video screens, along with a strange pattern of relationships that evolved observing the situation of the drawings by combat artists, lying and delicately handled in the various military archives.

In many venues video cameras projected multiple points of view. Incredibly interesting/satisfying (compared to my blind state) how the fighters were able to use the mediation of their own bodies so directly, looking at a screen in front of them to see what was going on behind them, targeted.

The sculpture Endless Arena came shortly after… taken from fragments of many drawings, and distortions (that) I was sort of hyper-aware of from immersing myself in those environments for two years. I was attracted to the environments in the first place as a sculptor intrigued by the complex (and sometimes opposing) "situational spaces" of both engagements. One engagement was about intimately looking at the hidden, overlooked, and the other about sticking ones face right in the spectacle.

WW: What was it like being a woman artist researching this very male-dominated underground world?

JP: Gender is also an interesting and elastic thing.

Jennifer Pastor has exhibited in major museums domestically and internationally including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humelback, Denmark; Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany; and FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France. Pastor participated in the 1996 Sao Paulo Biennial, the 1997 Whitney Biennial and the 2003 Venice Biennale, and is the recipient of the 1995 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. Her tripartite sculpture The Perfect Ride (2003) will be shown at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam this spring.


June  2013

by Susannah Tantemsapya

Architectones is a site-specific, experimental series established during the late summer of 2012. Artist Xavier Veilhan collaborated with curator/architect Francois Perrin to create three, distinct installations in Los Angeles for its debut.

Beginning at the VDL House, Veilhan staged a sculptural intervention with Richard Neutra’s original live/work architectural design. The second was a one-night performance at Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #21 filling the entire space with ethereal, white smoke.

Xavier Veilhan
"Lautner", 2013
Aluminium, polyurethane paint; 76 x 29 1/2 x 19 1/4 inches / 193 x 75 x 49 cm
Exhibition view "Architectones, Sheats-Goldstein Residence", Los Angeles, 24/04 - 26/04/2013
Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong & Paris
photo : studio Xavier Veilhan ; © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris & Ars, New York, 2013.

Most recently, they turned the iconic Sheats-Goldstein Residence into a living dialogue between art, architecture and music (composed by Nicolas Godin of Air). Designed and built by John Lautner in the early 1960’s, this modernist home is an angular extension of its surrounding natural environment. Its flamboyant owner, Jim Goldstein, acquired the home in 1972 and has worked extensively to preserve its integrity. (Many also recognize it as Jackie Treehorn’s pad in The Big Lebowski.)

In June, Architectones is the inaugural installation at MAMO, the newly redesigned rooftop of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseilles. Conceived by Ora-ïto, this modernist gym has been transformed into an ambitious, contemporary art center.

This series pays homage to Kazmir Malevich’s “Architectons.” Concurrently, this relationship to art and Supremacist architecture is explored through the cinematic Hans Richter: Encounters exhibition on view at LACMA.

Whitewall spoke to Veilhan and Perrin during its latest rendition in Los Angeles.

Whitewall: How does the exhibition at the Sheats-Goldstein Residence further this site specific installation series?

Xavier Veilhan: It's always a dialogue with the architecture, but also with the owner. Here, it's a private owner who is probably the most involved person in the architecture of his own house. Jim Goldstein has been working on it for almost 40 years. He extended the work of John Lautner–who died in the early 90's–with Lautner’s assistant at the time, Ken Nicholson, who we actually worked with on this project. Ken is still working to improve the house and maintain it. Also there's the tennis courts and the nightclub they are building on the other side, which is very crazy, so you have to take a look.
It's also devotion to the work of the architect. It's very generous and unusual to host people in this way. At first I thought it was a matter of confrontation with the architecture. Then I realized that it's about relating to people through discussion and interaction. Also, what you can and can’t do, what is technically possible. It makes the whole thing quite exciting because it's very unexpected.

WW: How did you start collaborating together?

Francois Perrin: Xavier is an old friend from Paris. At first, he was going to do this project in Marseilles, but that got postponed and the project in Los Angeles became the first project. Because I'm here, it was natural that I became the curator. I organize, but also talk about the work, the architecture and how to deal with these houses; not to be in a white cube which is a more abstract way of showing art, the classic kind of way. When you deal with architecture, it's totally different. You're not in an abstract place, you deal with something that is already there as a strong presence. So we started a pressing discussion about what should be done, what kind of piece to produce and where to put it. 

WW: Why is Modernist architecture compelling?

XV: There is a failure in the history of modernity because it was meant to be global. Most of the houses were meant as templates for other housing built with cheap material. And it never happened. These houses are unique, and turned into kind of pristine places, even if these were fabricated with very simple materials. They deserve to have a broader audience than the actual owner. We forgot about it because when they got older, the figures of (Richard) Neutra or (Rudolf) Schindler tended to be more serious. They were beatniks in the beginning. There is an idea behind it, the relation to nature and to hedonism. For example, this glass wall didn't exist during the first year of the construction of this house (Xavier points to it).

Xavier Veilhan
"Rays (Lautner)" / "Les Rayons (Lautner)", 2013
Rubber, polyester, steel ; variable dimensions
Exhibition view "Architectones, Sheats-Goldstein Residence", Los Angeles, 24/04 - 26/04/2013
Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong & Paris
photo : studio Xavier Veilhan ; © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris & Ars, New York, 2013.

WW: So it was completely open?

XV: Yes, it was like a cave. It was an air curtain, like when you go to the supermarket and there are open doors. Of course, after a while they had to block because it was too cold in the winter. As a kid, I always thought architecture should be like that: a lot of windows and a lot of air. All this architecture is not really about size. It's not like a skyscraper or a huge apartment or like Versailles. I'm attracted to the size of it.

Xavier Veilhan
"Rays (Lautner)" / "Les Rayons (Lautner)", 2013
Rubber, polyester, steel ; variable dimensions
Exhibition view "Architectones, Sheats-Goldstein Residence", Los Angeles, 24/04 - 26/04/2013
Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong & Paris
photo : studio Xavier Veilhan ; © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris & Ars, New York, 2013.

WW: You've been doing this whole series "Dialogues" - the conversations between art and architecture. How does this exhibition continue to blur these lines?

FP: Architecture is my main practice, but I grew up in the art world through my parents and then I studied at the Beaux-Arts, so I was close to artists. I have always collaborated with artists. Before moving here, I always was somehow closer to the art scene than the architecture scene. "Dialogues" is showing two parts of my life. My time in Paris when I was a practicing and working in artists, and now my time in Los Angeles. I want to connect these two worlds.
WW: The future of Architectones is expanding into Europe. Can you describe its next steps?

XV: There's an opening on June 8th on the rooftop of the Le Corbusier’s Cite Radieuse  (1952) in Marseille. It's a big show with 15 pieces. Then after that it's Ste-Bernadette du Banlay (1966) which is a very special church designed by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio in Nevers, France. Then the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavillion (1929). Possibly, we are working with the Melnikov’s House (1929) in Moscow. This house is the beginning of post-modernism. I'm not interested in a set approach. I like to interact with the environment. I don't know the word in English, but the French would say "panache." It's optimistic architecture. It's sharp and dynamic.

WW: Nicolas Godin (of the French band Air) composed “Lautner’s theme” which he describes as a “sensory experience” that can create a deeper emotional element to the overall exhibition. The musical piece also exists as a triangle object, can you explain how that works?

XV: It's exactly between a concept and a physical object. I'm interested in linking the lyrical power of music to an object that is very simple, a triangle record. I'm doing a series of acetates which are templates to make molds used for pressing vinyl. Of course, the triangle shape of the vinyl does not fit well on a turntable. The thing is to simply connect ideas, and not everything.

Xavier Veilhan, a Paris-based artist, has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, the U.S. and Asia. In addition to sculpture and public art, his polymathic work includes painting, digital photography, film and performance art. He has collaborated with musician Sébastien Tellier, the band Air, renowned designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and artist Daniel Buren.

Francois Perrin is an architect who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He was born in Paris where he received his professional degree in architecture and was the recipient of the Electra Grant for Young Architects. He is the author of the book Yves Klein: Air Architecture and the related exhibition has been presented at the Mak Center in Los Angeles, at Storefront in New York, and at the MAK in Vienna. Perrin has taught at several institutions including the Art Center College of Design and Sci-ARC, and he has lectured at the University of Southern California; the University of California, Los Angeles, and Columbia University, among other places. He was a board member of the Los Angeles Forum and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Sunset, Dwell, and Wallpaper. He is working on an upcoming publication on the Architecture of Climates.

Paris Photo

May  2013

by Susannah Tantemsapya
John Divola
Zuma, 1977-1978
Courtesy of Gallery Luiscotti

For the first-time outside of France, Paris Photo opened its doors at Paramount Pictures Studios from April 26-28. The general consensus is that it was a smashing success. Just the kind of cultural event to further solidify Los Angeles as a major player in the international art world.

It was a magical atmosphere, especially the New York Backlot, which became the central meeting place for 13,500 fair-goers plus guests. Primarily used for exterior shots, the interiors of the buildings were built out to house 12 publishers/booksellers and a few of the 60 international galleries participating. This unusual outdoor space gave a sun-kissed interlude between three soundstages, thus creating a spacious expanse to view the art on display.

The fair featured more than 1,000 artists working in photographic media including “Sound and Vision,” a program curated by Douglas Fogle dedicated to expanding the medium to the moving image. Experimental short films were screened, such as Chris Marker’s influential La Jetée (1962) and Bruce Conner’s Breakaway (1966), featuring 23-year-old Toni Basil dancing through the flickering cuts of the camera.

The French Embassy held an opening reception to honor Ceci n’est pas…, an ever-burgeoning exchange between artists in France and Los Angeles. As the champagne flowed throughout that evening, one could float between Paris, New York, and Los Angeles in this quintessential Hollywood setting. The preview also had neighboring fêtes with Armani, BMW, and the Wall Street Journal.

There was so much to see and experience at Paris Photo - here are some highlights:

Brachfeld Gallery exhibited the colorful and endearing work of David Armstrong, who documented his youth through various friends and lovers in the late 1970s and early 80s.

David Armstrong
Night & Day
Courtesy of Brachfeld Gallery

David Armstrong
Night & Day
Courtesy of Brachfeld Gallery

Matthew Brandt’s solo show at M+B has an exciting Night Sky series where the artist sprinkles cocaine on black velvet to create his version of a starry night.

Matthew Brandt
Night Sky NGC 3603, 2013
cocaine on photographer’s velvet*
73 x 46 inches
© Matthew Brandt, Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles

Gábor Ősz has a series of moving image works at Galerie Loevenbruck including From Pigment to Light, which investigates how color pigments transpose into light and also Blow-Up, a work inspired by the original park scene of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film by the same title.

Gábor Ösz
From Pigment to Light, 2009
Color and black-and-white single channel HD projection 1080x1980, soundDuration: 5'02''  |  Edition of 3
Courtesy of galerie Loevenbruck, Paris

Flatland presented Looking For Alfred by Johan Grimonprez, a short film that explores the idea of false identities with a loose riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Sally Mann pays homage to early Civil War photography in Battlefields at Galerie Karsten Greve. These large format landscapes were created from the antique wet collodion technique that was developed in the 1850s.

Sally Mann 
Untitled (Antietam #23)
Gelatin silver enlargement print Printed by the photographer from the original wet-plate collodion negative. Archivally dry-mounted and finished with custom mixed Soluvar varnish Ed. 1/5 Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve St. Moritz, Cologne, Paris

Several people throughout the weekend exclaimed that this could be the best art fair they have ever been to. It seems that Paris Photo Los Angeles 2014 is already in the works.

Aïda Ruilova 

April  2013

by Susannah Tantemsapya

I’m so wild about your strawberry mouth

Aïda Ruilova’s first solo show in Los Angeles, I’m so wild about your strawberry mouth, intertwines a powerful narrative marrying sex, pornography, the male gaze, beauty, violence, crime, death and humor. Its title is taken from the German version of actor Klaus Kinski's “notorious” autobiography.

“Klaus plays an unreliable narrator in the story of his life,” explains Ruilova. “Reality seems out of proportion in his confessional voice...”

The space is encompassed by altered posters from the 1974 French softcore erotic film, Emmanuelle, including its various racial spin-offs. The 25 works on paper are partially covered up with shapes and eyes, allowing more to revealed, thus adding a sense of mystery.

“I had been collecting the posters for awhile, through posters shops and eBay,” says Ruilova. “I purposely started focusing on collecting posters that had more photographic elements in them. The black pools I painted was a way to cut up the image, add another narrative that was like a void... I've only seen a few of the Emmanuelle films, all on YouTube. I was more interested in the advertisements’ exploitation of the figure and its relationship to propagating the identity of the franchise film.”

Ruilova’s debut sculpture, Diamond Bed, sits at an angle in the middle of the room.

It’s unbelievably jarring to see this shiny, knife-like version of a bed of nails.

“The bed is considered a space for meditation, rest… but the form this bed takes, it was important to me (that) the bed (is) shifted on the viewer, it changes depending on how the light hits it.”

Finally, there is a 45-minute video project called Head and Hands featuring filmmaker Abel Ferrara, perhaps best known for making The Bad Lieutenant.

Ruilova constructs a loose narrative, jumping chronology, repeating dialogue to blur reality and fiction under Ferrara’s storytelling. He delights in a nostalgic jaunt through the gritty, underground of 1970s New York: paying homage to the drug dealers, whores, hustlers and the like. Moderated by New York art critic, Alissa Bennett, Ferrara is prompted to discuss the death of controversial polymath Pier Paolo Pasolini. This conversation eventually leads to what his own death would look like.

“I asked Abel to speak about Pier Paolo Pasolini, and coincidentally he had just finished a script that focused on Pasolini's last day and his life. Pasolini's death was a starting point for my video. Abel speaks about the events that surrounded Pasolini's death and through that he reveals more about himself... The images Abel is able to conjure with just his head and hands, he allows us to visualize within his own image. The Emmanuelle drawings also play with this idea of depth within an image - multiple frames.”

I’m so wild about your strawberry mouth is on view through May 4 at Kayne Griffin Corcoran. This is the final exhibition before the gallery moves from Santa Monica to its new Mid-City location.

Aïda Ruilova was born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1974.  Her first museum survey exhibition was organized by the Aspen Art Museum and St Louis Contemporary Museum of Art and traveled to the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Cleveland MOCA and New Orleans Museum of Contemporary Art. Her work has been included in the Venice Biennial, the Whitney Biennial and the Berlin Biennial and she was a nominee for the 2006 Hugo Boss Prize.  She currently lives in New York.

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