10 Artists to Watch at Art Los Angeles Contemporary
Art Los Angeles Contemporary kicks off its sixth edition next week in Santa Monica’s 40,000-square-foot Barker Hangar. Bringing the international art world to the west coast, ALAC welcomes over 70 exhibitors to the historic hangar (the sprawling space was once part of the Santa Monica airport), with a strong mix of blue chip and emerging galleries. With roughly one third of exhibitors based in California, ALAC places L.A. (and beyond) on the art world map. We’ve picked a group of 10 artists—many of which are showing with local galleries or hail from the region themselves—to keep on your radar as you navigate the fair.
Holding a masters in painting from the Royal College of Art, Neil Raitt creates hypnotically repetitive large-scale oil paintings inspired by Bob Ross’s public-television program The Joy of Painting. The paintings stand somewhere between figuration and abstraction, where evergreen trees, snowy mountains, and rustic cabins repeat across canvases, forming kaleidoscopic patterns set against gradient backgrounds that explore what the young artist names “the conversation around painting,” particularly within digital culture. Last spring, Raitt was the winner of the 2014 Catlin Art Prize, a £5,000 award given yearly to new art school graduates in the UK. Raitt’s work is already included in several prestigious collections, including the Saatchi Collection, the Franks-Suss Collection, and that of the Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas, where he recently finished a residency and had a solo show. Following ALAC, Raitt will open his first solo show of 2015 at L.A.-based gallery Anat Ebgi in April.
Showing with San Francisco gallery Et al., Kate Bonner lives and works in Oakland, CA, creating sculptural works through both digital and manual processes that combine photography with physical structures. Chopped up glimpses of photographs are mounted, layered, and reassembled on solid surfaces, variously bent and reaching away from the wall, or simply leaning up against it; their unexpected forms exceed the typical photographic frame, in turn making the entire wall or room the frame. Bonner had her first solo show in 2012 at Important Projects in Oakland, and has since shown work at NADA New York in 2013 and at Paris Photo LA and Untitled Fair in 2014. Last year also saw two additional solo shows from Bonner, at Luis De Jesus and Et al.
A painter and musician (she currently makes up half the experimental drum duo I.U.D., along with Lizzi Bougatsos), Sadie Laska crafts energetic assemblages with such oddball materials as bandanas, shoelaces, scraps of kites and old rugs, and pool noodles. Laska synthesizes these cast-off objects into makeshift canvases which she then electrifies with acrylic, oil, and spray paint, resulting in explosive, multi-layered paintings with tangible character. Featured in numerous group shows and musical performances from New York to Paris, Laska made her solo debut in New York City at Kerry Schuss in the fall of 2013 and has been on a roll, with works at NADA in Miami Beach selling well that same year.
Hailing from Palm Springs, Frank Selby began as a painter before migrating to drawing distinctive photorealistic images sourced from historical photographs (in his drawings, Selby takes protests, riots, and wars as theme, reworking the original photos to create chaotic monochromatic stills of conflict that seek to fill in the linguistic blanks of purely journalistic images). Seen at ALAC are several of Selby’s oil paintings, filled with muted rich tones that capture highly detailed yet still obscure subjects. Coming up this month, Selby’s work will feature in a collaborative dance performance, The Seed and the Soil, with the Charlotte Ballet (Jan. 30-Feb. 21), which was developed during his fall 2014 residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte.
L.A. native Ry Rocklen follows in Duchamp’s tradition of taking familiar objects and presenting them as readymade (often humorous) sculptures. Rocklen transforms easily discarded objects into timeless relics of the more banal aspects of our culture—think warped Yellow Pages books, deflated soccer balls, and cotton undershirts—casting them in bronze, copper, porcelain, or reassembling them into new forms. Rocklen’s work has been seen in the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.” biennial (2012) and in the Whitney Biennial (2008); last year he had two solo shows of his most recent work, at Praz-Delavallade (his first show in Paris) in the winter and at New York’s Untitled in the spring.
Travess Smalley lives and works in New York (after graduating from the Cooper Union in 2010), creating digitally manipulated works that seem to vibrate off the surface with electric ribbons of color. Using scanners, color printers, Photoshop, collage, and sometimes even clay, Smalley works and reworks images until it is impossible to tell which process came first. Works from his recent “Vector Weave” series—richly textured and layered images printed on vinyl—were exhibited last spring at Galerie Andreas Huber in Vienna. Smalley has an upcoming solo show with Foxy Production in April.
A California native with a PhD from NYU (her thesis centered on contemporary art in the post-internet age), Haley Mellin investigates painting as medium in a digital world. She employs a range of techniques—some more conceptual than others—variously using 3D printers or sourcing image files from Google to explore her fascination with the digital, originality and repetition in art, and the temporality of images (what she astutely dubs “continuously evolving fossils”). Last year, Mellin won a Rhizome Commission grant for her project “.BOT,” an algorithmic software that auto-generates a random combination of images. The artist has also curated shows around the world, at institutions including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art.
Multi-media artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s practice draws inspiration from popular culture and the entertainment industry, particularly comedy. Rafferty creates everything from video to experimental paintings, like the plexiglass pieces on view at ALAC (fresh from a solo show at Rachel Uffner Gallery this past fall)—which possess a film-like quality. Her work has been seen in multiple museums, including in a solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 in 2006 and in last year’s Whitney Biennial; currently Rafferty is participating in group shows at Galerie Andreas Huber and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. And 2015 will continue with momentum for the artist, as next month she opens “Beyond the Surface: Image as Object” at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center.
Jeff Zilm disassembles and reinvents various technologies, alchemizing old works into new—most notably in his film paintings, seen this past fall in solo shows at And Now in Dallas and The Journal Gallery in New York. Stripping vintage lengths of 16- and 35-mm film of their emulsion and dissolving the murky material into clear acrylic paint which he then airbrushes onto canvas, Zilm collapses entire films—close-ups, slow pans, fast tracking shots, high angles, medium angles, reverses, zooms, aerial shots, encoded soundtracks—into mysterious black-and-white paintings that appear to be film stills in their own right.
Tony Lewis’s minimal black-and-white drawings feature snippets of text and organic forms, painstakingly hand-drawn in pencil and graphite powder on large sheets of paper. Smudges and stray lines of graphite are allowed to remain, augmenting the ambiguity of the words or imagery. His recent works, including that seen in the 2014 Whitney Biennial (peoplecol, 2013, pictured above), were inspired by a text he composed on race relations in the U.S. Lewis’s works with Shane Campbell Gallery at ALAC appear as blurred-out pages from comic books, with bits of text and vague forms popping out of the abstracted monochromatic blotches. Following the Whitney Biennial, Lewis’s drawings were exhibited in a summertime solo show at Massimo de Carlo in London; Lewis will be subject of a show in April at Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago (where Lewis lives and works).
Art Los Angeles Contemporary is open from Jan. 29–Feb. 1, 2015, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. You can purchase tickets here.