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Hard Edge Painter June Harwood Dies at 81

Abstract painter June Harwood, whose crisp, geometric compositions made her a key member of the West Coast “Hard Edge” movement, passed away earlier this month at her Studio City home at the age of 81. Her death was confirmed in an email from her gallery, Louis Stern Fine Arts, where an already-planned exhibition of her work will open on Thursday.

June Harwood, Colorform (Orange, Green, Violet), 1965, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (via louissternfinearts.com)

June Harwood, Colorform (Orange, Green, Violet), 1965, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (via louissternfinearts.com)

Harwood’s early paintings consisted of rigid, flat planes of color and interlocking forms – pure abstraction with no representational content. She often painted with acrylics (then uncommon for an artist), and used tape to define the edges of her shapes. “My paint application was uniform, that is to say that no brush strokes were evident, creating impeccable, flat surfaces. Thus there would be no distraction from the intent, which was to create an interplay of ‘colorforms.’ Jules (Langsner) used this term to mean that color and form are one,” she said in a 2011 interview on Geoform.net.

Born in Middletown, NY, Harwood moved to California in the mid-1950s, shortly after graduating from Syracuse University. In Los Angeles, she connected with a small group of like-minded painters that included Lorser Feitselson, his wife June Lundeberg, John McLaughlin, Karl Benjamin, and Frederick Hammersley. In 1959, Harwood’s future husband Jules Langsner curated what is considered the first hard edge show, Four Abstract Classicists at LACMA, that featured Feitselson, McLaughlin, Benjamin, and Hammersley. While Harwood was absent from this show, she was part of another seminal hard edge exhibition also curated by Langsner, California Hard-Edge Painting, held in Balboa, CA in 1964.

June Harwood, Network Series (blue and yellow), July 1967, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches (via louissternfinearts.com)

June Harwood, Network Series (blue and yellow), July 1967, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches (via louissternfinearts.com)

Her work evolved to include curves, loops, and networks of lines that flirted with Op-Art, sometimes painted with metallic paint to accentuate the play of light on the surface of the canvas. In the 70s, her large, discreet forms began to break apart, as she became interested in kinetics and motion. In the 90s and 2000s, her edges softened and her brushwork became more painterly in works that recalled simple landscapes. Recently, she had returned to the hard-edged forms that she began exploring sixty years ago.

Throughout her long career, similar aesthetic concerns ran through all her work. “First instilled in me long ago as an undergraduate at Syracuse University, formal, classical, structural composition has remained the consistent theme in my painting throughout these many years,” she told Geoform.net. “Much of my painting develops intuitively and sometimes accidentally or serendipitously. But in all cases, the result should be to make all of the pieces fit, that there should be a ‘sense of rightness’ about the total configuration.”

June Harwood – Splinter, Divide and Flow: Works from 1967-1977 opens on Thursday, January 22, 5-8pm, with a tribute to the artist at 7pm, at Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.

Steve Turner Hangs Out His Shingle in Hollywood

Space Program, Installation view, Steve Turner, January 2015. [image via steveturner.la)

Space Program, Installation view, Steve Turner, January 2015. [image via steveturner.la)

Like a tide of hopeful, wide-eyed actresses lured West with dreams of making it big, the migration of galleries to Hollywood’s burgeoning gallery district rolls on with no signs of stopping. The latest gallery to make the move is Steve Turner, who will be opening their new space on Santa Monica off Highland this Saturday evening. Located across the street from Regen Projects, it occupies the site of a former concrete warehouse, remodeled by architect Richard Prantis. The new location features a 2500 square foot main space, project room, viewing room, and rooftop deck.

Steve Turner's new location [via steveturner.la]
Steve Turner’s new location [via steveturner.la]

We asked Steve Turner himself why he chose to move from his former spot across from LACMA, and how he picked Hollywood over other areas, like the growing downtown gallery cluster. “We did not actually decide to move. That decision was made for us as our previous building is slated to be demolished to make way for the advancing subway,” said Turner via email. “Once we accepted that fate we looked at properties near our old space on Wilshire Blvd., in downtown and in Hollywood. Downtown was appealing in some respects, but the long daily drive ultimately was its undoing. At the same time, I found my current space…It was exactly the sort of space that I wanted. It has high ceilings and a flat roof to accommodate a roof deck. It is close to the areas where most local collectors live. Other good galleries are already here and more galleries will surely be coming as there are many other great buildings nearby.”

Proximity to other galleries and collectors were not the only considerations however. “It also helps that Pizzeria Mozza is down the street,” he said, referring to Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali’s top notch pizza joint.

The inaugural exhibition will be a group show featuring nine gallery artists from all over the world. The works on view range from Yung Jake’s and Rafaël Rozendaal’s explorations of technology and the internet, Maria Anwander’s institutional critique, and sculpture by Pablo Rasgado, who twisted the remains of the space’s columns after they had been removed during renovations. Instead of organizing the show around a single theme, the exhibition celebrates this new opportunity to assemble so many artists from the gallery’s program in one space, hence the title Space Program.

Steve Turner will open their new space at 6830 Santa Monica Boulevard on Saturday, January 10 from 6-9pm with their inaugural exhibition, Space Program.

The Autry Invites Submissions for Public Art Project

Your art here. [via autry.org]

Your art here. [via autry.org]

Nestled into a corner of Griffith Park, The Autry National Center of the American West keeps a low profile compared to flashier LA museums like LACMA, MOCA, and the forthcoming Broad. More than just cowboy culture, however, their singular commitment to art and artifacts of the West ranges from exhibitions like “California’s Designing Women,” a century-long survey of the prominent role of female designers in the state, to “Route 66: The Road and the Romance,” a show dedicated to Americans’ peripatetic search for freedom through movement.

The Autry is now hoping to increase their engagement with the greater LA community by soliciting submissions for a public art project, High Five Art. Artists are invited to submit designs for a 49’ x 19’ banner that will reflect or comment on contemporary notions of the American West, “whether it’s community and diversity, freeway culture and the built environment, or elements of light and space,” according to Autry Chief Curator Amy Scott. The banner will be hung on the Autry’s back wall, visible to the 5 Freeway as well as the Los Angeles River. This puts the project in line with other recent initiatives to revitalize the LA River, such as Play the LA River and SPARC’s Great Wall and Green Bridge Projects.

Submissions are due February 1, after which time a selection committee will choose three finalists. Between March 1 and April 15, the public will vote, with the winning banner being installed in May. The winner will received $2500 and the two runners-up, $500 each. The banner will be up for at least a year.

The project sounds like a promising way to increase the museum’s visibility, but the choice to install a digitally-printed banner instead of a traditionally-painted mural is curious, especially since it’s going to be up for year. The cost and difficulty of painting something this large in a high location are certainly considerations, but given California’s strong mural tradition, it would seem to be a natural fit for a museum celebrating the heritage and material culture of the American West.

New Book on Robert Irwin Finally Gets It Right

Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, all photographs by Philipp Scholz Rittermann

Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, all photographs by Philipp Scholz Rittermann

85 year-old artist Robert Irwin has been something of a chameleon over his long career. Beginning as a painter, Irwin came to prominence as a light and space pioneer in the 1960s, and since the 70s he’s focused on landscape projects and site-specific installations. What unites all his work, however, is the importance of the physical experience, not just the visual. For this reason, it has been difficult to capture the true sensation of standing before, or in, one of his works through photography alone. “For the longest time he wouldn’t allow his work to be photographed, because as he said, a photograph captures nothing that the work is about and everything that it’s not about, it captures the image and not the presence,” said Lawrence Weschler, whose classic 1982 book Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, traces Irwin’s artistic journey.

IRWIN_BOOK_MG_7618

Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, a new book published by Quint Gallery in San Diego, sets out to change that by chronicling two dense years of projects from the tireless artist. After years of being unsatisfied with different photographers, Irwin has finally found one who is able to capture his work successfully. “Philipp Scholz Rittermann is really one of the first photographers to get Bob right,” said gallery director Ben Strauss-Malcolm. In addition to Scholz Rittermann’s insightful eye, the photographs in the book are coated with a spot-varnish, which makes them seem to jump off the page, according to Weschler. Strauss-Malcolm notes that it gives them the impression of being illuminated from behind, fitting given that light is such an important part Irwin’s work.

IRWIN_BOOK_MG_7601

The twelve projects featured in the book jump around the globe from Italy to Austria, New York to Texas to San Diego. They also include a range of media, from fluorescent light pieces to scrim installations and landscape design. What unites the work is a sensitive consideration of each work’s relation to its site. “The book is a statement about what he’s been about his whole life, that the work is conditioned by the site,” Weschler said. “You respond completely differently at different sites, and no medium is out of bounds.”

IRWIN_BOOK_MG_7611

Art You Can Afford + Love at the 5 Car Garage Sale

5 car garage sale. Pictured work by Bari Ziperstein, Kayla Hansen, and Max Maslansky [via 5 car garage's instagram]

5 Car Garage Sale. Pictured: work by Bari Ziperstein, Kyla Hansen, and Max Maslansky [via 5 car garage’s instagram]

With the art market on a seemingly out-of-control upward spiral, the idea of collecting art may seem unrealistic for all but a select few. Santa Monica-based gallerist Emma Gray is aiming to change that with her second annual 5 Car Garage Sale.

Gray founded her gallery, 5 Car Garage – literally a converted garage – as an appointment-only exhibition space in February 2013. Her first garage sale last year included affordable works by about twenty-five artists, allowing both collectors and Gray herself the opportunity for exploration with little risk. “The garage sale is a nice way to feel out an artist’s work and it’s a way for me to feel out a new relationship with an artist,” she says.

For this year’s sale, she’s offering work by a smaller, tighter group of thirteen artists. This is also the first time that the sale will be both in the garage and online. “I feel like the online wrinkle needs to be investigated and I thought launching the garage sale is a really good way to do it. It’s an experiment. I don’t want to grow up and be a real gallery,” Gray jokes, “so the best way for me to expand is virtually.”

Some of the works for sale include Mark A. Rodriguez’s ceramic plates of spaghetti, Kyla Hansen’s found object assemblages, and Max Maslansky’s over-painted magazine pages. Prices range from $10 to a few thousand dollars, with many works available for under $1000, making it possible for visitors to acquire a “smaller version of a future very important, big artist’s work,” says Gray.

The sale will take place this Tuesday from 11am–12:30pm, and Saturday from 4-6pm, or by appointment. Although the online shop includes most of the work at the gallery, some pieces that will only be available on-site. Email the gallery for directions.

Kendrick Lamar’s m.A.A.d. Film to Screen at MOCA in 2015

m.A.A.d. still [via okayplayer.com]

m.A.A.d. still [via okayplayer.com]

Hip-hop and high art have a rich history together – from Fab 5 Freddy’s Soup Can graffiti, to Jay-Z’s Picasso Baby, to the Wu-Tang Clan’s single copy album museum tour. The latest rapper to make the jump from the street to the white cube is Compton’s native son Kendrick Lamar.

Lamar’s debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city was one of the breakout hits of 2012, signaling the arrival of a major new force in hip-hop. Last year, the rapper enlisted filmmaker Kahlil Joseph to make a short film based around the album. This makes perfect sense, since Lamar conceived of the album in cinematic terms, scrawling “good kid, m.A.A.d. city, a short film by Kendrick Lamar” on the album’s cover. The 14-minute film, simply titled m.A.A.d, premiered last August at the Ace Hotel Theatre in Downtown LA as part of the Sundance NEXT Fest. According to the Source, the film will get a longer run when it will screen at MOCA from March 21 to July 27 of 2015.

m.A.A.d. still [via okayplayer.com]
m.A.A.d. still [via okayplayer.com]

“From barbershops to marching bands, from homeboys drinking in the streets to the iconic carpet of shimmering lights, the camera in m.A.A.d sinuously glides through predominantly African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles catching a dizzying array of quotidian moments suffused with creativity, joy, and sadness,” reads the film’s official description. As with the album, the film will borrow heavily from Lamar’s life, including home movie clips from his childhood, and featuring amateur actors from the neighborhood he grew up in. Still, the Fader notes, “the film will truly be a Kahlil/Kendrick joint: autobiographical without sacrificing the enigmatic symbolism that has defined Joseph’s work to this point.”

 

Correction: This post originally listed LACMA, not MOCA, as the venue where m.A.A.d. will be screening.

 

Hungarian Researcher Watches Cheesy Kids’ Movie, Finds Long-Lost Painting

Scene from Stuart Little [via  the guardian.com]

Scene from Stuart Little [via theguardian.com]

When Hollywood takes on stories of looted or missing art, they are inevitably spiced up with action and sex. Consider this year’s The Monuments Men, set in Europe during the last days of WWII, or Entrapment (1999), which prominently featured a catsuit-clad Catherine Zeta-Jones shimmying acrobatically under a laser beam. The reality of recovering lost artworks can be much more mundane, but much stranger as well.

Gergely Barki, a researcher at Hungarian National Gallery, was watching Stuart Little with his daughter in 2009, when a painting on the Little’s mantelpiece caught his eye. (It was not immediately clear what had possessed Barki to actually watch the film.) In the background, behind Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis, Jonathan Lipnicki (the kid from Jerry Maguire), and a CGI-mouse voiced by Michael J. Fox, he recognized a long-lost painting by Robert Bereny, a member of the early 20th-century Hungarian avant-garde. The painting,“Sleeping Lady with Black Vase,” had not been seen in public since a 1928 exhibition.

Robert Bereny, Sleeping Woman with a Black Vase, 1927-28 [via viragjuditgaleria.hu]
Robert Bereny, Sleeping Woman with a Black Vase, 1927-28 [via viragjuditgaleria.hu]

Bereny was a prominent figure in The Eight, a group of artists who brought then radical movements like Cubism and Expressionism to Hungary. He left for Berlin in 1920, where he was romantically involved with Marlene Dietrich and perhaps Anastasia, the daughter of Russia’s last czar.

Barki quickly sent a number of emails to the studios responsible for the film, Sony and Columbia, but didn’t hear back for two years (presumably because he lacked an agent.) Finally, a set designer on the film told him that she had purchased the painting in a Pasadena antiques shop for $500, thinking it would make a good prop for the film. After it adorned the fictional Little’s living room, she took it home and hung it on her wall.

“Within a year, I had a chance to visit her and see the painting and tell her everything about the painter. She was very surprised,” Barki said. The set designer then sold the painting to a collector, who brought it back to Hungary. Interested parties better save their forints, as “Sleeping Lady with Black Vase” will be auctioned off on December 13th by the Virág Judit auction house in Budapest, with a starting bid of 34,000,000 Ft (around 110,000 Euros).

So how did the painting end in Pasadena 80 years after it disappeared? That remains a mystery, but Barki surmises that whomever purchased the work in 1928 may have been Jewish, and possibly fled Hungary during WWII. “After the wars, revolutions and tumult of the 20th century, many Hungarian masterpieces are lost, scattered around the world,” said Barki. Unlike those works rescued by the real Monuments Men at the tail end of the war, this painting took a little longer to surface.

Lewis Baltz, New Topographics Photographer, dies at 69

Lewis Baltz, “South Wall, Mazda Motors, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine,” 1974 from “The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

Lewis Baltz, “South Wall, Mazda Motors, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine,” 1974 from “The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

 

The photographer Lewis Baltz, one the seminal figures of the New Topographics movement of the 1960s and 70s, died on Sunday. He was 69 years old.

Baltz’s straightforward, deadpan images of the American built environment were prime examples of the new wave of American landscape photography. Along with Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel Jr. and others, Baltz was included in the influential 1975 exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape,” in Rochester, NY. “Their imagery presented American landscapes in minimal, stripped-down realities, void of notions found in previous landscape imagery that showed buildings or landscapes as symbols of prosperity or beauty,” notes Nicole Crowder in the Washington Post.

Lewis Baltz, “Tract House no. 17,” 1971 from “The Tract Houses.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

Lewis Baltz, “Tract House no. 17,” 1971 from “The Tract Houses.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

He was born and raised in Newport Beach, California, and the soulless, suburban terrain around him featured prominently in his work. “Coming from Orange County, I watched the ghastly transformation of this place–the first wave of bulimic capitalism sweeping across the land, next door to me. I sensed that there was something horribly amiss and awry about my own personal environment,” he told the LA Times in 1992. He captured this “ghastly transformation” first in Southern California with series like “The Tract Houses” (1969-1971) and “The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California” (1974-75), branching out later to document Northern California with “San Quentin Point” (1981-83) and “Candlestick Point” (1989), and points further afield, such as “Park City” (1978-80) and “Nevada” (1978).

Baltz’s dispassionate black and white photos shared affinities with then-dominant trends of Minimalism and Conceptual art, and he was included in the 1977 Whitney Biennial alongside Conceptual art pioneers like John Balddessari and Mel Bochner. As his career progressed, he enjoyed greater success in Europe, where he moved in the late 1980s. He was living and working in Paris when he died. Last year, his wife the artist Slavica Perkovic, donated his archives to the the Getty Research Institute, ensuring them a permanent home in Southern California, the bleak environs of which provided him with a lifetime of inspiration.

UCSB Starts 1st Undergrad Museum Studies Program in CA

MoMA's Klaus Biesenbach as the UCSB Gaucho.
MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach as UCSB’s Gaucho.

Anyone who has studied art history has at one time or another been asked, “What are you going to do with that?” by skeptical family members or friends. The presumption that an art history degree is impractical, that it will give the recipient little professional preparation, goes all the way to the top, as we learned earlier this year when Barack Obama argued that learning a skilled trade would be much more financially lucrative than studying art history. (He later apologized to the UT Austin Art History professor who criticized his remarks.)

Perhaps partially in response to this attitude, the academic discipline of museum studies has been steadily growing over the past thirty years. Most of these programs are at the graduate level, however UC Santa Barbara has just established an undergraduate major emphasis in museum studies as part of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. Carol Paul, director of the emphasis, recently told the UCSB Current that she believes it is the first such undergraduate program in California.

The emphasis aims to be multi-disciplinary, drawing “on the academic expertise in art and architectural history within the department and from several other departments and entities across campus, including art, Chicana and Chicano studies, East Asian languages and cultural studies, geography, history, religious studies, sociology, spatial studies and the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration,” according to the Current.

Although the growing emphasis in education stressing professional development often comes at the expense of intellectual exploration, Paul notes that the UCSB program will attempt to strike a balance between the two. “Our emphasis, even at the undergraduate level, seeks to integrate professional practice with a serious engagement with historical and theoretical questions to prepare our students in a particularly thoughtful way,” she says.

On the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Wende Museum Breaks Ground

[via wendemuseum.org]

Rendering of the new space [via wendemuseum.org]

LACMA isn’t the only LA Museum with big plans for expansion. As the LA Times reported, the Wende Museum broke ground on its new home this past weekend, a 15,000 square foot space in the former National Guard Armory on Culver Boulevard. This weekend also marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, serendipitous timing since the Museum’s mission is to “preserve the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy.”

Justin Jampol founded the museum 12 years ago with “artifacts, art work, personal photos, menus and other memorabilia from East Germany, the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries,” according to the Times. Some of these artifacts include the papers of former East German leader Erich Honecker, as well as 11 sections of the Berlin Wall, which will be displayed in a new sculpture garden.

The groundbreaking was also a launch party for “Beyond the Wall: Arts and Artifacts from the GDR,” a massive tome featuring 2,500 pieces from the museum’s collection, published by art book and soft porn publisher Taschen.

Adn Guardhouse (via wendemuseum.org)
Adn Guardhouse [via wendemuseum.org]

Beginning Friday night, Angelenos can see another piece of Cold War history, when the last standing East German guardhouse comes to the El Segundo Museum of Art. The guardhouse was acquired by Artist Christof Zwiener in 2013, who has transformed it into a temporary exhibition space. At ESMoA, the guardhouse will be the site for an installation by artists Evelyn Temmel and Bernhard Luthrigshausen, before moving to its permanent home in the Wende Museum’s sculpture garden.