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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.

Ashley Bickerton_Install

1. Ashley Bickerton at Various Small Fires

Ashley Bickerton, an artist who came up in the neo-geo scene in 1980s New York alongside artists like Peter Halley and Jeff Koons, has an exhibition on view at VSF titled Landscapes, Seascapes, and Interiors. His first with the gallery, Bickerton’s show is a welcome deep-dive into the artist’s new works, which utilize human refuse that washes ashore in Bali where the artist lives and works part-time. In his Flotsam series, Bickerton assembles trash — ocean-worn plastic items like flip flops, toothbrushes, forks, and lighters — in organically flowing lines, using bits of micro-plastic to guide the refuse along his created jetstreams. Behind these choreographed items are painted landscapes, which add a pastoral charm to the more ominous themes of climate change. These works are housed in substantial frames that feel like time capsules — a preservation of human activity from a specific time and place. 

His Vector series takes this further with brightly-colored flotation devices rigged to the frames on each work. Here, the painted landscapes are replaced with mirrors, so his created shadow boxes might float forever, poetically reflecting itself onto the surrounding environment. The sculptural Floating Ocean Chunk occupies a corner of the gallery, stringing together ropes, carabiners, and nautical flags with a glowing blue resin cube enclosed within stainless steel housing, like a piece of the ocean delicately preserved within a tangle of junk.

On view: September 25–November 6, 2021 Open map

Corner Store Shakedown

2. February James at Wilding Cran

It’s the last week to check out February James’ solo exhibition at Wilding Cran, (Don’t) Take Me With You. The exhibition consists of paintings, drawings, installation, and sculpture, and draws heavily on James’ personal life: the work mines her childhood, family, and current relationship with her young son. Tender portraits of family and friends utilize washy watercolor so that the faces strategically bleed and blur, heightening the emotional tenor of the work. A small peep hole installed in a gallery wall allows viewers a peek at an interior domestic scene — a composite of James’ childhood memories — where music videos and sitcoms play on a television screen. Her mother, who recently passed away, is evoked throughout the exhibition as well, particularly in Wish You Were Here, a sculptural work in which a coat similar to the one James’ mother wore is laid in a vitrine and covered with a barrage of address numbers. The work at once details the moving around that James and her family did during her childhood and acts as a delicate homage to her mother’s memory. Framed on one wall near the gallery’s office is a drawing by James’ mother, a delicate and whimsical pencil work of a pig, girl, and gnome gleefully frolicking. 

James balances these memories of her past with defiant and powerful paintings that represent her present, like Us, a playful portrait of James with her son. The painting You Are My other Me, depicts two figures in hazy acrylics that bleed into each other, denoting the porous connection between the two, a commentary on memory and familial connection. 

On view: September 11–October 31, 2021 Open map

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Tejido Cultural_Miguel Arzabe_Shulamit Nazarian_1

3. Miguel Arzabe at Shulamit Nazarian

Miguel Arzabe’s paper weavings blend exhibition ephemera, posters, show cards, and publications with traditional Bolivian weaving techniques to create intricate tableaus that explore traditional craft alongside the Western art canon. Arzabe’s techniques create an abstraction of the didactic source material, which gets pixelated into a barrage of form, color, and pattern. Still, looking across Arzabe’s works at Shulamit Nazarian, snippets of other artist’s work can be picked up. Images of works by the more canonized Frank Stella make an appearance in DeYoung (the titles denote the museum which produced the paper materials Arzabe utilizes), while younger artists like Laura Owens and Math Bass are quoted in others. Though this makes for a fun image search, the content of the images he pulls from is almost beside the point. Instead, the appropriative strategy utilizes imagery from the modern art discourse as a kind of contemporary public consciousness to create new invented languages that blend the histories of indigenous craft with the rapid pace of printed media. 

On view: September 18–October 30, 2021 Open map


Gallery Talk: Ashley Bickerton

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


The Fantastic Complexity of Human Trash

Though Ashley Bickerton’s works at Various Small Fires elicit themes of climate change and pollution, the artist says “it would be a mistake to assume these works are bemoaning the destruction of our home planet.” He told Whitehot Magazine, “I do not think of myself as an environmentalist, as being an environmentalist is to labor under the assumption that you are preserving the planet for human habitation. We as a species cannot destroy the planet, it is ever resilient and adaptive, and far bigger than us, but what we are certainly capable of is destroying its ability to support us as a species...I also do not see the billions of tons of ocean borne plastic flotsam as ugly, I see it as both beautiful, and as much a part of the natural order as the migration of Wildebeest in the Serengeti. The planet will persist long after we are gone, our human residue just one more component in a fantastic complexity.”


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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