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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.

In Tandem at Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Image courtesy of the artists and Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Los Angeles.


In Tandem at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles

Last fall, multidisciplinary artist Jordie Oetken spent 13 days digging a hole in a field in Kentucky. Once the hole was deep enough, she placed an apple tree inside of it so its top was flush with the hole’s opening (the artist carved stairs into the side of the hole to climb out each day). She then refilled the hole, burying the tree beneath the churned soil. 

This action is documented in a series of 2x3 photographs in In Tandem, a two-person show with Zachary Fabri. Another work by Oetken shows the artist slamming into a wall, her body curled into a practiced fetal position to brace the impact. The works feel less about performing arduous feats than about the body’s own vulnerability — its softness against the hard elements, and its own tenacity despite them.

Fabri meets this with his own kind of roaming bodily experiments. In Mourning Stutter (2021), the artist is filmed on a rainy Philadelphia day wandering the streets and intuitively responding to park benches and steam vents — bending his body to wriggle underneath a U-shaped bike lock and drumming on bollards with a kind of Singing in the Rain aplomb. In another video (bluntly presented on a monitor laying on the concrete floor), Fabri waves his arm up and down as it distorts into wiry pixels, his body contorting and almost disappearing due to some trickery with the camera lens. 

The work’s title, Slit-scan, split-span, time displacement movement study or dodging bullets from police (2020), sets the artist’s lyric movements within themes of brutality and violence, yet the artist’s Matrix-like adaptation suggests how the body’s own flexibility might lead to its liberation. Beneath the gallery window is a waist-high vinyl text that reads “helpmehelpyouhelpme heal,” a poetic artwork by Fabri that offers communal support in the face of collective trauma. Across the small gallery, the two artists’ work feels like a call and response, each one immersed in bodily experiments that physicalize support, as if the bodily action of one might reach out to hold the other.

On view: January 8 – Feb 5, 2022 | Open map

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Installation view of Alicia Piller: Atmospheric Pressures. Image courtesy of the artist and Track 16 Gallery, Los Angeles.


Alicia Piller at Track 16

Each of Alicia Piller’s sculptures is its own delicate microcosm, complete with its own organizational logic, despite a broad slew of materials (newspaper, balloons, stiff vinyl fabrics, palm tree fiber, sunflower seed pods, geodes, glass). 

Cultivating Through Cracks. Movements Towards the Light. (2021), which includes “warehouse floor” among its materials, is an ovular wall work in which networked lines create cell-like segments and modules, like a bird’s eye view of a city plan. Others, like the floor-bound Diversity of Voices, Re-hydrating. Resisting Contamination. (2021), are more animalian or alien: Stiff strips of vinyl form leg-like bases that reach to the floor, supporting the work’s hunched backside, which is packed with thickly-gessoed newspapers and ribbons of popped balloons. 

Through form and material, Piller’s pieces offer a strange hybrid of invented sci-fi systems, post-apocalyptic visions, and a more staid type of urban or agricultural planning. With a unique visual language, her sculptures utilize what we otherwise discard, while cribbing systems and structures in order to wholly reinvent alternate realities.

On view: January 29 – March 12, 2022 Open map

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April Bey, When You're On Another Planet And They Just Fly. Image courtesy the artist and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach.


April Bey at GAVLAK

In April Bey’s When You’re On Another Planet And They Just Fly is an explosion of color — shocks of pink and green faux fur cover the gallery’s walls, softening the gallery’s archetypal white walls. This reframing of context sets the stage for the exhibition, which continues Bey’s exploration of her fictional universe, Atlantica: a place in which Black ingenuity creates a harmonious ecosystem that privileges care and mutual aid. 

Bey builds out this universe through a unique approach to portraiture oscillating between paint and photography, hard mediums and soft ones. In I'm the One Selling the Records...They Comin to See ME (2021), two men in overalls glare at the viewer. Their arms and heads, cut out from a digitally woven blanket, are hand-stitched onto their bodies, which are printed on a glittering, resin-coating panel — the patchworked material usage itself suggesting multiplicity. Another motif of elaborately manicured fists sprouting out of tropical plants is repeated across several works in the show, suggesting a harmony between humans and fauna. Through her opulent colors, textures, and mixed-media portraits, Bey suggests a world that is ripe with possibilities, a kind of utopia where its inhabitants are free to Just Fly.

On view: January 15 – March 5, 2022 Open map

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Gallery Talk

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


On Digging Holes

This is not the first time that Jordi Oetken has dug a massive hole. It’s an action that she returns to again and again, like a prayer or meditation. As far as digging goes, “I think of it as returning to a familiar place, almost like a single, physical location, though it's marginally different each time,” Oetken tells me. “These separate holes, they have their own behaviors and characteristics in really an almost anthropomorphic sense.”

Oetken also considers the act of digging as oppositional to our achievement-based culture. “I think of the antithesis of digging as something like summiting a mountain, for example, where this notion of success is attached to reaching some great height or determined physical end. The hole, however, is determined only by the intention to dig; the limitation only an eventual decision that what's been done seems like enough.” 


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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