Three Artists in a Tortured Love Affair with Los Angeles

Karen Kedmey
Apr 10, 2015 8:16PM

Storied city of glitz and glamour; environmental hazard; site of crushed hopes and dreams. Los Angeles has long held a place in the popular imagination and means many different things to many different people—including three artists with new works on view at KP Projects/MKG.

Works from "Glitterland // Thirst // Fortress L.A.," courtesy of KP Projects / MKG

In a group exhibition with a trio of subtitles, contemporary artists Glenn Barr, devNgosha, and William Wray take stock of the state of their city with various styles and media. Considered as a whole, a picture emerges—of a city at once glittery and grim, full of promise, allure, and problems.


“Glitterland,” a play on Hollywood’s moniker “Tinseltown,” is the title given to Glenn Barr’s suite of moody paintings and sketches of glamorous women. His first showing at the gallery, this suite of compositions is inspired by ’60s and ’70s cult films. Painted expressively, and in muted tones, the perfectly coiffed and made-up female protagonists are captured in the middle of phone conversations. We can only imagine who might be on the other end of the line by the looks on their faces, which range from subdued to pained, and suggest a complex inner life beyond their masks of perfection.

William Wray, who grew up seeing aspiring actors and models dressed as pop culture icons lining Hollywood Boulevard, also tries to dig beneath the surface of his subjects. In his paintings, here titled in “Fortress L.A.,” he focuses on revealing the struggle and exhaustion in the human beings behind the costumes. His canvases are filled with slumped superheroes and lonely princesses—real people in what the artist calls “their unguarded moments.”

Titled “Thirst,” the group of graffiti-inspired paintings by artistic duo devNgosha (Devon Liston and Gosha Levochkin) is centered on this theme, as both a physical and emotional experience. Linked by a painted stream of water that flows across the walls and over the surface of some of the compositions, the works feature rainbow-colored skulls, desert landscapes, and agonized faces. The artists took the droughts endemic to California as their starting point, linking the land’s need for water to its residents’ need for emotional sustenance.

Their words sum up the sentiment shared by all three bodies of work on view: “People move to Los Angeles…looking for answers and searching for meaning. Sometimes those who seek a new life here find themselves stuck in the dry, desolate existential vacuum that is Los Angeles. Others find exactly what they’re looking for.”

Karen Kedmey

Glitterland // Thirst // Fortress L.A.” is on view at KP Projects/MKG, Los Angeles, Mar. 14 – Apr. 11, 2015.

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