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Top 3 This Week

Let Lindsay Preston Zappas curate your art viewing experiences this week. Here are our Top 3 picks of what not to miss. Scroll down for Insider stories.

Installation view, “John Baldessari, The Space Between,” June 12–September 11, 2021, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. All artworks © John Baldessari 2019. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2021. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer.


John Baldessari at Sprüth Magers

At Sprüth Magers, the last body of work made by the late John Baldessari is on view. As a key figure in the conceptual art movement (often called the father of postmodernism), Baldessari helped to define a more humorous West Coast style of conceptual art-making that contrasted New York’s more self-serious tradition. The exhibition, titled “The Space Between,” adds text below found film stills that have been redacted with white or black paint so only certain parts of the image are visible.

In pieces like “The Space Between Two Cowboys,” in which two cowboys are pictured next to wagon wheels with the background erased, the text and image neatly align. Others get more esoteric, like “The Space Between Roof, Sand, Hat, Neck, and Arm,” in which oddly shaped abstract form (presumably the space between the aforementioned objects) floats in the center of the canvas, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks and create our own meaning between image and text. Baldessari’s oeuvre is all about communication — notions of perception and viewing that point to how we construct meaning in everyday life — and this final body of work is no exception.

On view: June 12 – September 11, 2021 | Open map

Sprüth Magers
LA Art Show
“Shattered Glass,” curated by Melahn Frierson and AJ Girard, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2021. Photo by Joshua White.


Nari Ward at Jeffrey Deitch 

Nari Ward’s “Say Can You See” immediately evokes themes of Americana. The artist works with found objects — shoes, clothing, bottles, oven pans, fire hoses, church pews — that embody a rich material history and symbolism. For the central work, “Still Lives with Step Ladders,” the artist took inspiration from memorials that popped up in his neighborhood in Harlem over the last year, and how the flowers, bottles, and photographs often look like Morandi-esque still lifes.

The large arrangement of bottles, suitcases, and other items has been wrapped in charred and frayed black security cloth. Some objects rest atop ladders that have been filled with cement to form pyramid-like alters. The show’s title work is a large American flag that hangs vertically down a wall, bedazzled edge to edge with plastic security tags. The work is concise, and anchors the mass consumer culture showcased throughout the rest of the exhibition, speaking to the vast disparity of class and economic experiences in our country. 

On view: June 5 – August 21, 2021 | Open map

Jeffrey Deitch
LA Art Show
Installation view of “Rosha Yaghmai: Afterimages” at Kayne Griffin, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin, Los Angeles. Photo by Flying Studio.


Rosha Yaghmai at Kayne Griffin 

At Kayne Griffin on La Brea, Rosha Yaghmai’s paintings in her solo show “Afterimages” dance with vibrant moire patterns as you walk around them. Each painting on tautly stretched organza fabric depicts a dreamy abstract field of color that bleeds and blurs, disallowing a sharp image to emerge. Though Yaghmai’s source imagery is personal, taking cues from the Persian miniatures in her childhood home, these works see the artist focusing in on sections of landscape, omitting any figure from the scene. Through this manipulation, Yaghmai also untethers us from her reference point, opening up a more psychedelic and perceptual experience. Like an afterimage seen when we close our eyes, these new works recall past memories while transforming them into new, colorful visions.

On view: July 10–August 28, 2021 | Open map

Kayne Griffin
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A Closer Look

“Shattered Glass,” curated by Melahn Frierson and AJ Girard, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2021. Photo by Joshua White.

Two versions of Americana

Last week, I joined KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis on Greater LA to talk about the themes of Americana running through Nari Ward and John Baldessari’s exhibitions. Both artists use found objects in rich and symbolic ways but with very different effects. Ward speaks to the Black American experience, building layered meaning through his objects, while Baldessari pulls film stills from American history, abstracting them to point to the process with which we create meaning through perception. 

Listen Here

Gallery Talk: John Baldessari 

Gallery talk is your insider look into the stories of gallerists, curators, and artists in the Los Angeles art community.

Installation view, “John Baldessari, The Space Between,” June 12–September 11, 2021, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. All artworks © John Baldessari 2019. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2021. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer.

The Ultimate Gemini

After the legendary John Baldessari died last year, I produced an episode of The Carla Podcast in which I interviewed friends, artists, curators, and studio assistants. Those closest to him recounted his work ethic, generous spirit, legacy within art history, and use of humor. Baldessari was a constant joke-maker and infused humor into his artwork. His art assistant Amanda McGough looked back on the levity he brought to his creative process.

“He’s one of the only artists I feel comfortable saying something like, ‘you know, you can’t take this too seriously. We’re just making art,’” McGough recalled. “But by that he understood that I meant, there’s something inconsequential to art, but at the same time, it’s everything. And I think that when it came to humor, he felt the same way. He was joking, but it meant everything. I mean, there were just so many moments of levity during those 10 years that I got to be around him. He made room for humor, and it was part of the culture of making art for him. It was also a very serious atmosphere at the same time. But always this back and forth. He’s the ultimate Gemini, you know, just two things at the same time.”


Lindsay Preston Zappas is KCRW's Arts Correspondent and the founder/ editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (Carla).

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