Los Angeles: Magritte by Baldessari, Road Trips, and Rock 'n' Roll

ArtInfo’s Los Angeles correspondent takes us on a tour of some ofthe most interesting museum and gallery shows in the city of Angels,including a Magritte exhibition designed by L.A.’s own John Baldessari, a road-tripping photo show at the Getty and two separate exhibitions that examine rock music and collective experience at Blum & Poe and MC Kunst.




Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images”
Through Mar. 4, 2007

Rene Magritte’s provocative exploration of the unreliabilityof images has been his biggest legacy to contemporary art, and“Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art aims to chart just how far his influence reaches.

L.A. artist—and Magritte devotee—John Baldessari designed thecurrent exhibition, which features a carpet patterned after thewell-known clouds and sky found in several of Magritte’s works, aceiling covered in pictures of the freeway and a Surrealist doorwaymodeled on the artist’s painting The Unexpected Answer (1933). Evoking Magritte’s sense of humor, museum guards even wear the iconic bowler hats found in many of his paintings.

On the walls, 68 major works by Magritte hang next 31 contemporaryartists, who bear the influence of his art in their practices—someincorporate direct references, while others offer contemporaryperspectives on his conceptual preoccupations. The impressive list ofartists on view includes Sherrie Levine, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Vija Celmins, Marcel Broodthaers, Martin Kippenberger and, of course, Baldessari.

Despite its academic premise, the show feels more like an ongoingcelebration than a historical exercise—thanks in large part to theplayful exhibition design, but also to a related series of talks, inwhich Jeff Koons, Jim Shaw and Baldessari discuss how Magritte influenced their very different work before the show closes.

The Getty Center
“Where We Live: Photographs from the Berman Collection”
Through Feb. 24, 2007

The J. Paul Getty Trust has long had one of the most impressive photography collections in the country, but by comparison to its storied holdings, The Getty Centerhad a somewhat disappointing space in which to show it off. That allchanged when it unveiled its newly expanded photography galleries backin October, and the inaugural show is an appropriate celebration of thepostwar photography that helped create the mythology of modern America.

Drawn from the collection of Hollywood producer Bruce Berman,many of the photos document the classic American road-trip—an odysseyfrom national mythology that very often ends right here inCalifornia—showing examples of architecture, landscape, community andculture.

Walker Evans sets the course for the style and subject matterof the show, which continues through examples of American surveyphotography. While there are some well-known black-and-white images inthe show, bold color prints dominate, with artists including Jim Dow, Mitch Epstein, Karen Halverson, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz documenting their highway meanderings.

Because the images on view are so iconic, even the most recent seemnostalgic, and none of the works challenge tried and true ideas aboutAmerican national identity. Instead, they offer a picturesque renderingof open roads, family-owned businesses and the perseverance of anennobled working class, reminding viewers of what was so appealingabout that national myth.



David Kordansky Gallery
Markus Amm”
Through Jan. 6, 2007

At David Kordansky, German-born but London-based artist Markus Ammshows seven paintings and one sculpture in his first solo U.S.exhibition. Developing the approach to painting that marked Amm’searlier work, the eight pieces on view draw on Modernist geometricforms and depict rudimentary shapes such as circles and squaresintersected by parallel lines.

The paintings are large and monochromatic, with layers of newsprintadhered to the surface, then painted with enamel, which createsdecay-like patina with a slick shine.

The layered collage of newsprint creates patterns and ripplesunderneath the surface of each work, reminding the viewer that thesepainterly compositions arise from a non-traditional practice.

Amm draws on an amalgam of sources with nods to both the Bauhaus and rigorously formal 20th-century painting, referencing Piet Mondrian, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Rymanamong others. But the work is not at all austere. Amm has both a senseof humor and adventure inherent in his approach that comes through inthe show.

Blum & Poe
“Dave Muller: Piles & Globes, Like & Loves”
Through Jan. 13, 2007

The title of Dave Muller’s new exhibition at Blum & Poe,“Piles & Globes, Like & Loves,” is literal. The work payshomage to his love of music, and the show includes both text-basedworks featuring heaps of paper and images of records and reflectivedisco balls.

In main gallery, Muller shows a series of slim vertical paintings ofrecord spines mixed in with pixilated square paintings of the records’front covers. All of them are Beatles albums—the sentiment being that The Beatles are often the place to start when discussing a love of rock and roll or pop music.

Interspersed with the record paintings are Muller’s “pile” pieces,which are text-based works that ruminate on the musical terminology ofa particular eras or genres. For instance, in Big & Bang, or You Are What You Do Not Know (The Nineties) (2006),Muller paints phrases like “Grunge around the world,” “foxcore,”“jungle” and “stoner rock” on what look like strips of torn away paper.By invoking a Sex Pistols album cover or punk rock flyer, the surfacesturn into a grab bag of terminology from that decade.

Being an obviously obsessive fan, Muller has created a collectionthat builds a common ground between artist and viewer, and his showfosters that relationship by playing with the shared history to createa synthesis between disparate moments. In the one sound work at Blum& Poe, his reach is all-encompassing: a catalog of roughly 90,000songs plays on radios set throughout the gallery, where there isliterally something for everyone.

MC Kunst
Paul Pfieffer”
Through Feb. 17, 2007

In Paul Pfieffer’s newest installation at MC Kunst, titled Commander Robot (2006), aloud but muffled sound emanates from each of the three plywoodsculptures designed to look like airplane hangers or indoor stadiums.Two of sculptures require the viewer to peer into small doorways to seea video projection inside, which shows a crowd sitting on bleachers—butwe do not see why they have gathered.

The third piece answers the question. Inside the structure, Pfiefferprojects out-of-focus video from a 1986 Queen concert onto one wall.The audio captures voices in the crowd singing along at the promptingof singer Freddie Mercury, but in the distorted call and response, wenever witness the leader or discover the full context for thespectacle. At first the sound of unknown origin is haunting, but pairedwith the blurry concert footage, it becomes humorous over time.

The other work in the show also demonstrates Pfeiffer’s interest inabstracted public events. In photos from the ongoing series “FourHorsemen of the Apocalypse,” which are also on view, Pfeiffer takesimages from basketball games and digitally removes key elements,rendering the similarly familiar spectacles strange anddisconcerting—but also, in the end, humorous.